Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Song A Day 2010: Almost Viral

This is a keyboard improv with a few overdubs.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Song A Day 2010: Awake In The Dark

Wrote this one on the spot. The acoustic guitars are insanely squeaky. Oh well. I like the sound of the keyboard bass part. My next recording will be all-keyboards.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Song A Day 2010: Superbowl Weekend Part II

Finished two songs: I Am Serious and Where Is My Cool

Used the Shure SM81 as overhead on the drums, with a 414 aimed below below the snare, an AKG D112 on the kick and a Sennheiser MD421 on the floor tom.

For the bass tracks, I plugged the Rickenbacker 4003 into a '64 Fender Bassman. I used a guitar cab for I Am Serious, which sounded interesting. I tried it again for Where Is My Cool, but it developed a rattle mid-way through recording, so I switched to the Ampeg 4x10 cab. Used DI + 414 for both recordings.

Guitars were through a Dan Electro stomp box EQ to add some midrange and into the Fender Bassman, again recorded using the 414.

I had problems with the vocal sounds on Where Is My Cool. For some reason, they came out muddy and midrange-heavy, almsost as if I had sung through a cardboard tube. I didn't see too close to the mic, so it's puzzling. Attempts to repair using EQ proved fruitless. Maybe I shouldn't sing from the desktop chair. Bad resonances in that area perhaps?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Song A Day 2010: Superbowl Weekend

On Friday I had to work from home until midnight, so I didn't have a chance to write and record anything. Went to bed feeling bitter.

On Saturday, wrote and recorded tracks for two songs, but neither is completed. I figured that I might as well go for some production on these songs.

I Am Serious:

Wrote the tune on BART the previous day and wrote the lyrics today. It's a snappy-paced pop song.

REcorded two acoustic guitars, a bunch of vocals and bass. The bass recording was cool. I didn't have time to set up the SVT and struggle with getting a usable sound, so I just plugged the bass into a 1964 Fender Bassman and a 2x12 guitar cab loaded with Scumbacks. After a bit of experimentation, I came up with this setup:

Used the bridge pickup on the Rickenbacher and used my palm to mute. The real surprise was how quickly I could dial in a good bass sound in the room:

Used the guitar channel (it's brighter than the bass channel) with the bright switch on, treble maxed out on 10, and the bass rolled almost completely off. Hard to believe, but coupled with the bass DI signal, it gives a cool plinky sound with good low end. If I dialed in a touch more of bass on the amp, I could probably get a nice, fat tone as well. Mic'd with the 414 about 2 ft away, aimed at the center cone of the top speaker.

Where is My Cool:

The melody has been floating around in my head since Song A Day 2008, but I never took the time to develop into a complete song. I cranked out the lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness manner and dived into the recording. The ending section sounds jarring to me. Given time, I'd re-write it. But this is Song A Day, where it's all about capturing the first ideas for a song. The rest of the year can be devoted to refining the rough sketches.

Recorded 2 acoustic guitars, piano and a lot of vocals. There's a lot more work to do on this one, but I'm happy with the way it's turning out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Song A Day 2010: Michelin Star

As was trying to find a subject matter of my next song, I came up with the idea of a restaurant critic writing a bad review of a once-great establishment. While googling the correct spelling of 'Michelin', I stumbled across a news item announcing that one of Gordon Ramsey's award winning restaurants had just lost a Michelin Star.

Too much of a coincidence.

I performed the guitar and vocal in one live take, using only the U87 positioned several feet away. I added a bit of extra vocal on another track and the song was done.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Song A Day 2010: Nothing Part One

Part one of what is bound to be a series of songs with no lyrical content. Sometimes I just can't think of anything to say, so that becomes the subject of the lyrics.

I was interested in writing a simple folk song with a contrapuntal bass part, and this is the result. I'm learning how to mix on headphones; this one came out sounding okay.

I've have a fairly reliable setup for getting hi-fi vox and acoustic guitar. As long as the U87 is aiming down at the sound source and a good 8" - 12" away, I get a balanced sound. I add a bit of EQ (hi pass rolloff plus 2db of 10k and a touch of hi mid boost), followed by compression. Less compression yields a bigger, clearer sound.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Song a Day 2010: Stuck on a Ferris Wheel

Another song written and recorded in a couple of hours. I forced myself to stick with experimental first takes, with minimal or no punch ins on any of the tracks. And it shows.

I used keyboards for all of the instrumentation this time around. Mixed using headphones, which is probably a bad idea - but I'm really worried about waking up the family.

The idea behind this song was to write a song in a style that I've never tried before. I imagined Jack White pounding on a piano and singing at the top of his range. That's not how it turned out at all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Song A Day 2010: I Would Really Like to Rock

Song A Day

Wrote and recorded 'I Would Really Like to Rock' in a couple of hours. While singing the high harmony, Emma woke up and wandered into the living room. I escorted her back to bed, waited about 20 minutes for her to fall back asleep, then continued working.

The arrangement is about the same as the previous song ("Good Luck"), but with a DI bass part and some background vocals added.

I'm realizing how hard it is to sing in tune when I don't know the song. It would also be easier to belt out the vocals a bit more, but as the lyrics explain, the rest of the family was in bed, so I had to sing very quietly. At least the other instruments are horribly out of tune as well, so it all kinda averages out in the end.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Song a Day begins again: 2010

It's time again for Song A Day. I spent the weekend writing up some notes with ideas for songs, but this time around there is a distinct lack of material from which to forge new songs.

As I've done 2 years running, I wrote a kickoff song about Song A Day itself. The song itself is pretty ho-hum, but a few of the lyrics are funny. I recorded everything (piano, acoustic guitar, vocals) in about 70 minutes and spent no more than 10 minutes on the mix. The main vocal was done in a single take, with a single punch-in on one line. Guitar and piano were also recorded quickly, with all mistakes left in the final mix. Song A Day is all about immediacy. There's no room for craft.

Vox and guitar was recorded with the U87 into the Millenia Media HV3B as usual. I fed the vocal signal into an 88RS (hi pass filter @ 240hz + 1-2db of 10k and 5k), and finally into a Fairchild 660 at the fastest release setting. As long as the mic diaphram is pointing down at my nose - about 10" to 14" away - the sound is pretty accurate.