Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ghoul Tide

So, last week I worked on this track with my buddy Joe "Covenant" Lamb. Joe resides in Dundee, Scotland and we have never met in person, but we have wound up collaborating on music projects. I'm considering it sort of an apprenticeship in songwriting and recording -- he can write original songs, and I've never done it! It's good experience for me.

This is his entry for Song Fu 5, round 3. The challenge was to write a song that sounds like a holiday song, but which is not really about the holidays. Warning: it's kind of gruesome! Funny, but gruesome!

If you like it, consider donating to Joe, or buy some of his other tracks. (Voting for round 3 is over).

Joe plays guitar himself at an intermediate level (he says he can't play barre chords), but he is having painful problems with his shoulder, so was having a terrible time recording even a simple guitar part. He was kind enough to give me credit right in the song title itself.

On this song, I'm playing the Babicz acoustic, strummed and with some very simple finger-picking of the same chords, into one of the Rode NT-5 mics. I also gave Joe a very simple bass track, in which I'm playing the Steinberger XQ-4 v2, direct into the Apogee Ensemble. I also recorded my son Isaac (age 15) playing a bass line. Isaac's more of a bass player than I am, and plays upright acoustic bass in his high school jazz band, but he's not used to recording, and his timing was a little rough. Joe says for the final mix he used parts from both our tracks.

I laid down two tracks on the 12-string Adamas as well, strummed and finger-picked, and at least one of them is in there. And, finally, I transcribed Joe's demo into notes in Logic and had it play them using some virtual instruments. I think harp and glockenspiel are the ones that made it into the final mix. That was pretty tedious -- since I'm not much of a keyboard player, and my guitar synth is on loan, I started with my DX-7 but put in most of the notes by hand. MIDI note quantization in Logic is still a bit of a mystery to me.

Collaborating this way was a pain! Joe is 5 hours ahead of Michigan. We tried using Skype, and it worked once, but then on the second try Joe couldn't hear me, I could only hear him. We finally determined that Joe's tuner had malfunctioned, which meant that everything he had recorded was based on a concert A at 430 Hz, not 440. Joe's download speed was terrible. Then he changed his mind about the track tempo after I had recorded my parts twice. This all meant it took about three times longer and required three times more aggravation and retakes than it should have for such a simple part.

If we had been in the same studio we could have nailed all the tracks in an hour or two. At one point we were reduced to arguing about which beats the chorus chord changes should fall on by using _text messages_... talk about the blind leading the blind! I'm sorry to say that at one point I may have threatened to fly to Scotland and kick his rear end... sorry Joe! But I think all the pain was worth it. Next time, assuming we do this again, I hope we can figure out how to do it a lot more efficiently!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Getting Creepy Again

I had a little quiet time this afternoon. The plan was to record guitar parts for Creepy Doll, but I decided to try a vocal track. That quickly became five or six vocal tracks. I didn't get around to the electric guitar part yet, but did a couple quick tracks using the Babicz acoustic. All the tracks were recorded with the ribbon mic. I recorded the vocals using the back side of the mic -- ribbon microphones tend to have a different frequency response from the back (they usually have a figure-8 pickup pattern). The result was interesting! I may never record vocals with a condenser mic again. I'm not really any better at singing tightly on key, and I didn't apply pitch correction, but layering the tracks seem to help this a bit. (And, after all, it is supposed to be creepy).

Video clip here.