Saturday, February 7, 2015

Song A Day 2013 2/17-2/28

2/17 Bad Art

I bashed the drums with all of my might, such that at the end of the take I was dripping perspiration and out of breath. The result wasn't particularly good in terms of sound or performance, but it was usable.

Guitar panned to the left is the Les Paul into Tremolux through the Danelectro graphic eq stomp box, cranked to ear-splitting volume and captured with the Bock and Sennheiser 906 mics in their usual positions. I'm still not capturing what I want with this mic configuration, so on future recordings I'll experiment some more.

Guitar on the right is the Jay Turner into the Tremolux through the Lemon Drop fuzz. To my surprise, both guitars sounded uncannily alike, which makes little sense considering the vast differences in the instruments and how their distorted tones are being created. This too could be a hint that the mics aren't being used properly.

For the bass part, I used the Fender Jazz fretless and cranked the SVT until it began to distort, then used the U87 mic aimed at the 15" speaker and the Bock aimed at the 10". I played in an open, non-palm-muted style, striking the strings aggressively to get a raunchy bass tone.

I added some double-tracked vocals (very quickly) and it was done.

2/18 Poverty

I wanted to do this one 'live' into one mic, but gave up after a number of failed takes. It was clear to me that it was too difficult to sing and play at the same time, so I overdubbed the vocals and doubled the acoustic guitar.

2/19 Wikileaks

Because of my failure to do a 'live' performance the previous day, I was determined to perform Wikileaks with guitar into one mic. It was difficult to do, but eventually I managed to get a usable performance. It's already a struggle for me to sing in tune when just doing vocal overdubs. It's impossible to do it while I'm also trying to play a guitar.

2/20 The Minute

I wrote this one in five minutes or less and performed it live. Ho hum, yet another song about looking forward to the end of Song A Day 2013. I'm exhausted.

2/21 (no song for this day)

2/22 Carousel by Daniel Berkman

It was time to do a cover of somebody else's song, so I chose Daniel Berkman's Carousel instrumental and re-interpreted it with lyrics and a live performance into one mic. The lyrics actually express my first impressions of what the instrumental piece was about. It struck me as being a kind of narrative about some asteroid floating around in deep space, surrounded by other celestial objects whizzing by it. There's a repeating 6 note motif that represents this asteroid. Eventually the pull of the sun's gravitational field begins to disrupt the asteroid and pull it out of orbit among the other space debri. As the other outer-space types of sounds fade away, the asteroid's 6 note theme builds in intensity. It seems to be picking up speed, perhaps heading on a collision course with the planet Earth? Exciting stuff.

Anyway, I strove for a crazed performance, something different from the usual struggles with singing the right notes and enunciating the words, or playing the right chords. What mattered was achieving the right intensity for the end of the song. I kinda screamed myself hoarse, so by the time I captured a usable take, I had lost my voice. But the intensity I wanted was there.

2/23 Me and My Thoughts

I spent some time trying to improve the drum sound and discovered that raising the Bock overhead mic nearly five feet above the drums did the trick. To keep things in phase, I moved the U87 mic away from the floor tom, which also seemed to help. Another surprise was in store! On a whim I tried aiming the Sennheiser 906 at the snare with the flat grill parallel with the batter head rather than the usual angle. This really improves the top snare sound. The new overhead configuration also seems to capture the size of the kick drum.

For the electric guitar parts (Jay Turner), I simply aimed the Bock (in 'fat' mode) at the guitar cab's treble speaker. At last, a good guitar sound!! So for future recordings, I only need one guitar track per part.

I hooked up the DI for the bass (Fender Jazz fretless), which was captured along with the Bock mic aimed at the 10" speaker. I didn't use much of the DI track in the final mix; it didn't seem to add much of anything.

The acoustic guitars were horribly out of tune, and as a result I had to re-tune the other guitar and bass parts to match. I discovered to my shock and dismay that the entire recording was out of tune with my keyboard sounds. I did my best to cover up this problem with lots of mixing tricks, such as adding modulation effects to some instruments and using (for the very first time) Cubase's pitch correction plugin on others. Lesson learned: always check the pitch center of the tracks against some piano samples to make sure they work well together.

2/24 The Bass Player

I had intended to perform this one live, but there was NO way I could play the little guitar licks while singing the unusually complicated lyrics. So I overdubbed the vocal and second acoustic guitar. I think is is a neat song that would take to a full blown hard rock treatment with drums and guitars. Oh, and also bass.

2/25 She Calls My Name

I grabbed mp3s of number station recordings from the Conet site, arranged them in Cubase, added a simple piano waltz part, sang the simple vocal part, and mixed. This was a fun one to record.

2/26 If You Should Be Afraid

This morning I read Seela's blog post about 'feeling afraid' and asking people to suggest songs for listening. I posted a comment with a suggestion that she write such a song and upload it to Song A Day. After that, it struck me as a good idea, so I wrote a song about being afraid.

This was a 'live' performance into one mic. I tried to focus on singing with some feeling, which I rarely do.

2/27 Yippee

Yet another lame throwaway song about looking forward to the end of Song A Day. I must have written about six songs this year with that theme. Had little trouble with the 'live' performance.


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