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The album recording blog for my album Small Town Eyes

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This is the blog I wrote during the recording of Small Town Eyes... more for myself than anything, but someone might find it interesting...

 

Monday, 3 August 2009 - Album Blog Part 1

Hi all

Lots of people have written in and asked me to do some blogs about recording my album, so I thought I would try and do some text blogs in my down time (when my producer is mixing or comping vocals)...

I am filming bits as we go but don't have time to get it all edited as we go, so we'll probably have a video together for the release of the album. We hope to get it all recorded and mixed by the end of August, probably for release in late October or early November, at least that is the plan...

So where are we at now?

All the writing is done, I wrote about 25 tracks for the album over the last 6 months, and I'm going to include a few older tracks too that I never really felt were finished and we have selected 12 of the best to record. We'll have 13 tracks on the album, one is still to be decided from the rest.

It looks like it breaks down into 3 kinda areas at this stage: We have 5 tracks with full band, 3 instrumental guitar tunes (solo acoustic vibe, not widdley widdley) and 4 tracks with lots of stuff going on but not drums. This is of course subject to change as we continue on, the songs seem to get a life of their own...

Well we recorded the band songs in June with Henry Spinetti on drums, Tim Harries On bass and me playing acoustic guitar, all live in the same room. We used Hugh Padgham's studio which is a floor below my studio and has a great sounding room, an SSL desk and loads of great outboard and great microphones. We then had 3 weeks off while my producer Cesar finished off a project with Hugh.

So we started "tracking" (adding the overdubs) last Wednesday, and we are now full time into the recording, we work all day every day with weekends off... but I have lots to do then (like web site updates) so I really am as busy as a one legged man in an arse kicking competition...

Proposed Track List:

1. Cutting Out
2. I Pity The Rose
3. Love & Levity
4. Forevergreen
5. Falling Next To You

6. Waste This
7. Page 99
8. Imperfect
9. Turn To Tell

10. From Katie's Window (song for my sister)
11. Broken
12. Nashville (working title)

13. To be decided...

Wednesday 29th July

We started off going through all the tracks and just listening and getting vibes for them all and decided which ones we would work on in roughly what order, but it is always changing as we get new ideas.

We settled on starting with Cutting Out, a nice 6:8 feel medium tempo tune that I wrote with a girl called Emily, I had written all the chord and melody as a guitar instrumental, but knew the melody was too strong to leave it as that, it wanted to be a "proper" song and I was struggling to get the lyric right so I got Emily to come over and help me write the lyrics, which came together pretty quick. I like co-writing because it cuts out all the debate, you have someone to bounce ideas off and it makes it a lot faster than when I write on my own.

We started by recording electric guitar overdubs, little lead lines and the solo. I used by Telecaster into a 1967 Fender blackface Vibro Champ which I love the sound of. We used a borrowed Royer ribbon mic and a Sm57 blended together which sounded fat and full, surprising for such a small amp.

The solo was a first take that I played while just tracking the rhythm guitar, just played a little harder and the sound broke up just a little and it sounded right. I find trying to play solos hard sometimes because I get into thinking about it too much, but this one just happened on it's own which was cool.

Then we added some shaker to the track and experimented with loads of eggs and other shakers trying to get the right sound for the track.

Once we did that we decided to have an early night (8pm) and went to the pub to chat about the vibe of the record and plan the rest of it.

Thursday 30th July

We started by working on some vocals for Cutting Out, we want to get the vocals done as we go and not leave them all until the end and then struggle to get them all done in a few days, which is hard on the voice. I don't think we'll use much from those takes because we recorded the vocal again on the Friday and they came out a lot better...

Next we got stuck into Page 99. Tim played upright bass on this once we finished the band tracks, we were not sure if it was going to work, but it sounds fab, his note choice and groove is superb. We re-recorded the acoustic guitar (Maton Messiah with a Neumann KM86 mic into a Neve 1073 Pre) which came out way better than the demo I had recorded. Next up we did the Mandolin parts which was fun, I have a very old Gibson Mandolin made in 1908 which sounds lovely so that plays the solo sections and rhythm bits too.

After that we started playing around with percussion and ended up me playing a big old bass drum that was lent to me by a drummer mate and just doing some flabby big hits to sit under the bass, and then playing some brushes on it's rim which sounds kinda like a shaker. Quite funny...

We also started playing around with a "Chordette" an old (1940's we think) Italian keyboard that Cesar owns, it kinda sounds like an accordion which we will use to harmonise the mandolin parts. I started working out how to play it, but then it got too late so we left it for the day...

Friday 31sy July

We started the day working more on the vocal for Cutting Out which went a lot better. Even though we started pretty early I seemed to be feeling the track better. That took quite a while but we got there. I never like the sound of my voice, but I think this sounds ok, and we'll cover it up with lots of backing vocals later! ;)

We then got into recording Waste This acoustic (Maton Court Jester) which I got down in only a couple of takes.

Then we started on the lap steel part... which took quite a few hours. I used my 1941 National New Yorker and Hinton volume pedal. We had problems getting a sound that we liked, so we tried out all my amps and settles in the end on the Fender Twin Reverb going through a Roland RE-201 Space Echo tape machine. We then went through each bit of the track one bit at a time and worked out where needed what and then put it in. We had a lot of laughs and it turned out pretty good in the end.

We finished about 9pm and had the weekend off. Tried to chill a bit and get ready for this week, cos we have lots to do.

It's Monday now and Cesar has just finished comping the vocal for Cutting Out, now we're off for lunch. More in a few days...

J

 

Thursday, 6 August 2009 - Album Blog Part 2

Well it's 8pm on Thursday night, been a long day and we still have quite a lot to do. Been a busy week, got lots of stuff done but there is still so much to do... Just organised for a drummer friend (Mr. P) to come and play some drums next week on a couple of tracks. Also trying to organise a string quartet to come in late next week and percussion, backing vocals and string arrangements...

Monday 3rd of August

We started the day by comping the vocal for Cutting Out. I'm still not sure if I'm happy with it or not, but it's certainly close. That is Cesar's favourite job (not), although making stereo guitar parts mono is possibly his favorite passtime in the studio ;)

We then got busy putting and instrument called a chordette (which sounds like an accordion but is played like a piano) in Page 99. We are having strings in it too, so we may take out the Chordette if it gets too messy, but it was fun to play and the lines harmonise with the mandolin part.

Then we tackled an old tune that I have re-vamped for the album, called Imperfect. We did the guitar first take, and I stamped my foot hard on the floor like a kick drum. We had a contact mic taped to the floor and a PZM (Realistic brand el cheapo mic) sitting next to my floor, but it sounds really fat. We got the vocals done pretty quick, but the harmonica part seemed to take ages... it was all ok, but for some reason I was just not feeling it, but then something clicked and it all became easy! Really happy with the energy and vibe of that track. That one is finished now, but we may add a little tambourine to the choruses.

Tuesday 4th August

Tuesday we worked entirely on Pity The Rose. We had an assistant come in for the day, a nice guy called Scott, who came in to make us tea and coffee and place mics and stuff, and I hope he learned some stuff... maybe just that I try lots of guitars...

We tracked up the acoustic guitars in the choruses first in one take. Then worked on a strange electric part for the verses. We tried loads of different effects and guitars, in fact I think we tried just about every guitar we had in here! We settled in the end with using the Telecaster (which we started off with!!) plugged into a WEM copicat tape echo into a Univibe (original 60's one) and then into my Suhr amp. Got a pretty funky sound.

My mate Dario had lent me his early 60's Gretsch guitar which we used for the solos. On the original I had a cool stereo guitar solo thing, which Cesar this is very uncool and it's become a little studio joke... "Zere vill be no stereo guitars in zis studio". But it sounds cool now in it's new mono form :) We recorded it on a load of different amps and guitars and but decided on a relatively clean sound in the end.

It was one of my best mates birthdays that day so we had an early finish and I went home to have a BBQ. The weather was crap (as usual in the UK summer) so he ended up making a pasta dish, and we had a fun night. I was real tired so went to bed early.

Wednesday 5th August

We started the day recording the 2nd acoustic guitar part for Forevergreen. First take again, but I knew exactly what I wanted to play and it wasn't a hard part. Then we got stuck into recording the electric guitar parts, little solos and fills. I used the Telecaster into the Twin with a little Vibrato on the amp. The intonation on the Tele is out so I had to re-tune to play the high parts which was a bit of a pain, but we got some nice bits. We also had to listen to the string arrangements and give my friend Ru some points in the arrangement that we thought might be better with some little tweaks. I love the sound of this track. It really grooves along, Henry is doing a great little groove with brushes and the choruses really pick up. Still a bit to go on this track but a lot of it is done.

Next up we tried to record Nashville (working title), a funny little instrumental I play in an a strange Nashville tuning. I re-strung the guitar right before we started recording and I didn't have any spare strings of the right gauges so I put on some slightly heavier strings. Bad idea. The strings were too think and pulled really tight and after about 4 or 5 plays through my fingers were shredded - most of them just while we got the mic's set up, I think Scott filmed one on video. We tried out a cool microphone technique I had not seen before using 2 x U87 on top of each other, one with a figure 8 pattern, and then some strange panning trick that gives the guitar a cool stereo effect. It sounded pretty cool, but I was struggling on the guitar and it sounded like it, so we eventually gave up and we'll come back to that one once I have re-strung the guitar with lighter strings.

Last thing for the day was to get the vocal recorded for Page 99, which we did. The song is very special to me and I really wanted to get the feeling in the voice that I had when I wrote it so had to spend a bit of time getting into the right space in my head. I think we got it in the end. We got nailed and all that is left is for the strings to go on and that one is done too. Felt really emotional after that track and was glad to get home and get some sleep.

Thursday 6th August

Today we looked and getting some sketches of two songs that I have not arranged yet into some kind of form, so that Mr P can come and lay down some drums on them next week. We looked at Into The Blue which had some tricky little bits in it, a song I wrote a long time ago with a very cool young lady called Polly Scattergood (look her up on Spotify, she is proper awesome). I'm hoping she will come in and do the vocal with me, but have to see if EMI will let her. We got that one in the bag pretty quick but it was it only a sketch for the drummer to get a groove on, nothing but guitar and voice, just so he can get a vibe on it.

Next in the firing line was I Know You Know which is a kinda environmental tune that I wrote the words to a couple of years back but made a new arrangement of the chords and arrangement. Got a shuffle kinda vibe and I started with a fingerstyle thing. After I'd recorded that I wanted to try playing the choruses with a pick and ended up doing all the song with a pick because it seemed to feel better.

I'll get these two tracks off to Mr P to start learning tonight, really looking forward to playing with him again, he one of my favorite players and loves much of the same music as me. Gonna be fun +

Last thing on the agenda for today is to get the vocals done for Forevergreen, which Cesar is comping as I write this. I found it hard to get this one in tune cos many of the notes are too low for me.

STUDIO TIP - get the key of your songs right! Forevergreen started really high, like WAY too high for me, but I struggled on and tried to get it right, but it always sounded strained and not very good. One of the first things Cesar did when he came on board as producer was told me to change the key of a couple of songs. Made a big difference and I felt a bit stupid that I had not realised it myself. But then I found out that many singer / writers don't write in the correct keys for their voices and often have to be told! So I didn't feel as bad, but these days I am really careful about picking my keys.

I've been getting a lot more filmed the last few days so looking forward to compiling a "making of the album" video once it's done.

At the end of tomorrow we will have only spent 10 days on the recording of the album and we have got a lot done. We have to get it all recorded by the end of the month which is going to take some super late nights next week, but Cesar and I have booked holidays the last week of this month and we have booked Hugh's studio downstairs to do the mix in early September, so we don't have any choice but to get it ready!

Well Cesar is nearly finished with this track so I better get back to listening to it, I think we are going to record the Mbira (Thumb Piano) tonight too. I came in really early this morning to get it in tune (with a hammer and screwdriver!) so it would be good to get that recorded too if it doesn't get to late...

We better get back to it... no rest for the slightly naughty :) J

 

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 - Album Blog Part 3

Ok, I have sinned and left it over a week since my last blog post, but I've been busy and lazy and well... to tell the truth I'm not sure if there are many people actually reading this or not!! So it's hard to get motivated. So if you dig on this then please comment so it vibes me up to make another asap...

So I have detailed in previous blogs up to last Friday so here's what I've been up to since...

Friday 7th August
Project: Turn To Tell... this was going to be fun. I wrote this song quite some time ago and it was covered by Katie Melua and I know I didn't want to do a similar arrangement, but I was planning on doing some kind of strange electric guitar version, but Cesar suggested that I try playing it on Werlitzer. I can play piano ok, but not great and thought it could be fun. So we set it up, going from Cesar's old Werli into a Roland Space Echo and then into Pro Tools (via 1073 Pre). We got a pretty trippy sound going with lots of echo and vibrato and then I just went for it. I was a bit scared because I had not played any piano at all for a year or more!! but after a few goes it seemed to come together and started to sound pretty interesting. We did a few takes and eventually got one going.

Once we had a take we then "re-amped" the sound - sent it out of Pro Tools via a "Red Eye Re-Amp" box and fed the signal into a Rotsphere pedal, a leslie cabinet simulator. We then fed the stereo outs into two Fender Amps, my silverface twin, and the prosonic. After fluffing about with EQ for ages we eventually got it sounding cool, we set up the mics and off we went. I stayed in the room to hit the breaker switch and control the amount of "spin". I think in the end it sounded well cool...

After recording that we got into doing the vocal for the same tune, and got 4 great takes right off the top, so comping was quick and easy. Got the whole song done in a day, which was cool, and I like it a lot.

Weekend off

Monday 10th August
We had planned to record the solo acoustic guitars and we set up all the microphones using this fancy stereo mic technique, but the music school next door were being too noisy and we couldn't record anything. I was none too pleased to say the least. I filled the air with foul language but there was nothing to do. Our building is taking legal action to try and get them to sound proof their rooms properly, but so far it's done sfa.

So we decided to crack into the lap steel parts for Falling Next To You, which was lots of fun. We tracked up the acoustic guitars and added a few other bits too. All went pretty smoothly, that tune is sounding cool now, I nearly dropped it just before we started but it seems to have taken on a good vibe so I'm glad I kept it in.

Then we realised how many vocals I have left to do and got stuck into a vocal for Page 99. We were working late on it, it took me a while to find the right "place" to let it come out properly, but we got there and it was easy once I was there. Vocals are really about getting your head into the right space and letting the feelings out, which can be hard, but feels great when you open up and let it out.

Tuesday 11th August
Today we had my great friend John Prynn come in to play some drums on Waste This, I Know and Into The Blue. He bought in some lovely old Gretsch drums which sounded fantastic. We recorded in Hugh's room downstairs and got an amazing sound with just two old "Coles" ribbon microphones. We close mic'ed the whole kit but the two Coles mics (one in front of the kick drum and one overhead) sounded just fab. Was great to hang out with JP again, it had been ages since we had seen each other and he's a great drummer and wicked guy. We worked together in The Counterfeit Stones for many years, and he looks just like Charlie Watts :)

Wednesday 12th August
We started the day working through the drums we had recorded the day before. Waste This sounded great but we realised that we had some of the "tempo mapping" of Into The Blue wrong and I Know was too fast and was missing some of the energy and fills that we would have liked. So we had to get those drums done again, we called up a guy called Evan Jenkins to come in the next day. I was sad because I love John, but the magic just wasn't there that day, and I have to get it just right...

We then got stuck into the electric guitar overdubs for Love and Levity, which went well, lots of fun playing with effects pedals and different amp combinations. This took most of the day, and then we decided to crack the vocal for this one so we worked late on getting that vocal done. Was pretty exhausted by the end of the day but we got there...

Thursday the 13th August
Evan showed up at 11 and we got stuck into the two tunes. Into The Blue is evidently pretty tricky, Evan described it as patting your head while rubbing your tummy, kinda hard to get it all happening independently. But he got there. After lunch we hit I Know. JP had done fine on this but we just wanted to get the groove a little more solid and add some fills and stuff, which we did. We then roped Evan into doing all the percussion too - something I think he regretted after lots of tambourine playing and a sore hand. But we got there in the end, was long day for us all, but we got lots done. And we still had a little left in us so we kept working...

Cesar then did a comp for the vocal for Love and Levity. I had done one the previous night, but mine was just crap and Cesar did it far better. When people record a vocal they usually do multiple takes, and comping is compiling the best bits from all the takes. Sometimes it is the best verse from one and the best chorus from another, sometimes we'll get in there and pick a better word from another take if there is just one word out of tune or that was better in another take. We are not using the Auto-tune plug in, I would rather go back and sing again if there are out of tunes. It speeds things up a lot, and used properly is hardly noticeable at all, but then I emotionally feel like I didn't sing it. It's silly but I really would rather just go back in and sing it again! Auto-tune can be very useful but I really try and avoid it on a record, but for demo's it can save a lot of time...

Friday 14th August
We had Kenny Dickenson in to play some Werlitzer on a bunch of tracks today. Kenny is a great guy, who's regular gig is playing with KT Tunstall. He played exactly what we were looking for and gave the song Cutting Out a new life with a really cool part that seemed to lift it really well. We spent pretty much the whole day working on the keyboard parts and we had an early finish because Cesar had tickets to see U2 at Wembley and wanted to get off.

I had not been sleeping well, so I took the night off and had an early night. I had Saturday off but came in on the Sunday.

I got nothing done all afternoon and had a very strange day, everything I played was rubbish. I had quite a few things to do but really I just had to get the solo done for Love and Levity. I planned to do it on Lap Steel, but it sounded pants. I then tried it on slide guitar. That didn't seem to work either. Then got out the Telecaster. Still no vibe. I tried the Uni-Vibe, a wah-wah, the rotosphere... every pedal and every guitar through every amp and just ended up getting more and more frustrated that I could not find the sound or the vibe at all. I played so badly in fact that I had a temper tantrum at myself and had to get out of the studio before I broke something!! I really lost it. Pretty rare that kind of thing for me. I was such a bad mood that I went and played Tennis with my house mate, just so I could smash the ball around and let some steam out. I guess we all have days like that. Glad the next week went a lot better...

But I'll get into the the next week next entry.

Laters, J...

 

Monday, 24 August 2009 - Album Blog Part 4

Today it's Monday and I have a break while Cesar comps my vocal for Into The Blue so I thought I would try and catch up with last weeks business ;) Thanks for all the comments, nice to know that there are people reading!

Monday 17th August
Cesar was away today so my good friend and co-writer Pete Cunnah came by to help me record the vocal for one of the tunes we wrote together called Pity The Rose. Pete is the singer and for the dance band D:Ream and is a fantastic singer and producer so it was great to have him in to help me get the vocals sounding good, cos it's a hard one for me to sing. His band is about to release a new record - if you are into dance (though I think it is more complex and cool than regular house) then you ought to go check his band out - http://www.d-ream.co.uk.

Took us pretty much all day to get it right because is was a kind of vocal coaching session as well as recording session and he really helped get my voice working. Big thanks mate!

Tuesday 18th August
Today Cesar was back and we started tracking for the track called I Know. We started by re-recording the acoustic guitar parts. We had recorded a very rough acoustic guitar and vocal for the drummer (Evan) to play to and then we had to play it again. It didn't take long at all, the vibe was on and it only took one take!

We then got out the Chordette (the thing that sounds like accordion but plays like piano) and we planned to play the bass on that instead of a proper bass player. We recorded that and it sounded pretty cool. I then put down some chords too and we were getting a really good vibe on the track. Originally we thought it was going to be a simple acoustic folky protest song. but the arrangement was growing and we were liking it.

We got into layering some electric guitars (my Telecaster into a memory man delay pedal and then into the fender twin) and they sounded very jangly and cool. Bought the chorus up. We then did a rough vocal because the plan was to get some solo violin put on the next day when the string section came in... but things developed a little more.

Wednesday 19th August
I was so excited. First time I had a professional string section (quartet) in to play on one of my tracks. We recorded downstairs in Hugh Padgham's room. We got in for 10am and got all the mics in place (well Cesar and Scott the assistant did). The Quartet showed up at 11 and we were recording by 11.30, and finished by 1pm!

The "leader" of the quartet was Nell Catchpole who I also asked to arrange the strings for Forevergreen. She had been recommended by Tim Harries, and I can see why. Her arrangement was top class and she and the other 3 players she booked were all top class and the session went as smoothly as I could have hoped. Nell played Viola, Alison and an Aussie called Andrew played Violin and Laura played Cello.

The recording of Forevergreen did not take too long at all, even the first take was great, but we did about 5 takes and I think we used the 4th one in the end. Then I needed string on the song I Know, which we had prepped the day before only I had not had time to get any strings arranged and couldn't afford to get Nell to do the arrangement for that tune. But the group came to the rescue. They all sat and asked what the chords were and they arranged themselves. I was so happy that they could do that, they were not "old stubborn union player" that would only play the page, they were vibey and fun and up for playing. :) We added strings to all the choruses and some swells in the Verses and it sounded well cool. The once the others had packed up we got Nell to do some improvised lines on fiddle, which sounded great but at this stage we have not gone through and added then into the recording! But we plan to.

So the Quartet left at 1pm and we went and had some lunch, and next up was to record two of my solo songs, Broken and From Katie's Window. Ahhh. Solo songs are so hard. Because I am so exposed every little nuance has to be right and I was getting myself into quite a state trying to get it just right. It's kinda frustrating.

But I will tell the rest of that - and the solution - next time!

I'm exhausted and I have to go to bed now... vocals to do tomorrow and I need my sleep or I sound bad. Tomorrow is the last official tracking day and Wednesday at 3am I am off for 5 days in Croatia with my lady to get some sun and clear my head. We planned to be finished by now, we are close but not quite... guess I kinda expected that...

Well will finish all this off when I return

Take care my friends and thanks for your interest!, J.

 

Friday, 4 September 2009 - Album Blog Part 5

Well it's Friday the 4th of September now and as usual I get time to write blog stuff when Cesar is working on the tracks and doesn't need me...

So the last album blog I was just starting to talk about recording the solo guitar songs on

Wednesday the 19th August (continued)
So after the string quartet left we started work on recording two of the solo acoustic guitar songs, From Katie's Window and Broken.

Recording solo acoustic guitar songs is hard work. Emotionally, technically and musically. There is so much to think about, so many variables that have to be right and they all have to come together in a single moment. "Comping" various takes together into one is very hard and usually sounds pretty rubbish so the pressure is on to get it 100% right on one take. But there is more than that. As well as getting the piece "technically" correct (right notes in the right order) there are dynamics to think about (loud and soft) and most importantly (and hardest) is getting into "THE ZONE" while still getting the music right.

For me, getting into the zone is probably the most important aspect of recording. Getting in touch with the feeling that inspired the song in the first place and letting them out freely is hard at the best of times, but put up a collection of microphones in a nice studio and add time constraints and you have a sure fire recipe for nerves and blocking your pull expressive potential.

The best and most practical way to get around these nerves is to have practiced the songs until they are so instinctive that you can perform them without thinking about the technical stuff at all. Only then do I feel I can really let go and just let the emotional aspect out. In this case I found it quite hard because I have been working on so many other aspects of the record, it had been a while since I had given either of these tunes a lot of time. I wrote the songs over a year ago so they have been around for a long time so the arrangements are fairly instinctive, but some of the technical performance aspects were a little challenging for my fingers and as soon as I felt a struggle it pulled me out of the zone and back into the room...

It took a few goes, I think I did more than 10 takes of each tune before I got them right and from a space where I felt like I was expressing something. But I am not 100% convinced that they are as good as I can play them... Both I feel that they could have technically been better... so I may even end up re-recording them next week... have to see how they sound once we've worked a bit on the EQ...

So that was most of the afternoon gone...

The strings that we put on I Know had turned out really well and the vibe of the tune was sounding really up and quite exciting. But we decided that it would be worth trying to add a little bass. Hugh had a bass in the studio so I grabbed it and started experimenting with lines, just to see. I had intended on getting my mate Dave Marks to play the actual part, but after a few jams through we decided that the part I had played was right and it didn't need anything more than what I had done, so we kept it in there and that is the take we'll use on the album.

After that we just packed up the big room and moved ourselves back to my studio upstairs. We were on a great vibe from hearing the strings, was such a buzz and I was really happy with the arrangement that Nell had done for Forevergreen. So called it a day and went home.

Will continue later, I have to go and track up a guitar solo for Love and Levity...

J

 

Wednesday, 16 September 2009 - Album Blog Part 6

Ok where was I...

Thursday 20th August
The day started well working on acoustic guitar parts for Into The Blue. All pretty painless. But after lunch we started working on the vocal for Falling Next To You. I'm not sure what was going on but it was a lousy day. My vocals were not sitting right and I sang it a whole load of times but it just didn't feel right. I was starting to get grumpy, so was Cesar (I think) and we both ended up pretty miserable. After a while we just wrote it off as a bad day and went home!

Friday 21st August
Maybe I just needed a good sleep, cos the vibe was back today! We got stuck into the parts for Into The Blue, doing the electric guitar bits and experimenting with vocal ideas and stuff. Went out and had sushi for lunch in Chiswick.

When we came back we got into doing the vocal for I Know. We wanted a pretty crunchy sound for this one so we went for a dynamic mic, a SM7, a posh version of a SM57, into the 1073 mic pre and the 1176 compressor. Dynamic mics have a very different sound to condensers (that we used on all other vocal tracks) and it really worked in the track.

Once we had done the main vocal line, we then tracked it. This means that I sang exactly the same thing again, as close as possible.

Hints on tracking a vocal
I used to find tracking quite difficult but I have been experimenting and think I have come up with some good tips for you. Pan the original vocal (LV, Lead Vocal) to one ear (I use left) and then pan the live mic to the other ear. This way you can hear the new and old clearly and make sure that you end the notes right and when they are perfectly in tune and time, they really blend in your head. The panning separates them and for me makes it a lot easier to hear if I'm getting it right.

It is also important that you know what you have to sing, and trying to do a whole song is usually too hard. So we did one of two approaches. Sometimes we would record a whole section (either a verse of chorus) in one go and then go back in a overdub any bits that were not right. For harder bits we would do it one line at a time. Listen to the line and then track it. If it wasn't right we'd listen again, then record, until we got it right. So make sure you know what you have to track to or it won't happen!!

That went really well and we left with a good vibe!

Saturday 22nd August
Day off.

Sunday 23rd August
Today I was in the studio to record a vocal for I Pity The Rose, with Pete Cunnah (my great mate and co-writer of this song) at the desk. Pete is a great singer and really helped me get my vocals together. He's also a very experienced producer and we really wanted to get a great vocal on this track. So we spent most of the day working on the vocal parts. It was all pretty smooth sailing really, good fun day. After the LV was done we tracked it in the choruses and then we got to work on the BV (Backing Vocal). Pete did a lot of the BV's and I did some too.

We worked on it until my voice gave up. Great day.

Monday 24th August
I had to get into the studio early to get my LV comped in Forevergreen. Really happy with the way it came out. I stayed late in the studio and just sang it until I got right into the zone and was really feeling it, and I think I got inside it in the end. So doing the comp was pretty painless.

When Cesar got in we started working on Into The Blue, we recorded some very cool parts on the Wurlitzer, I just played some simple notes and we put them into the Space Echo to get them sounding all strange. Love the sound we got especially at the end of the track.

Then we got into doing the harmonies which was came pretty quick and easy!

Tuesday 25th August
Lots of tidying up to do, this was supposed to be the last day recording, but we had not got it all done, nearly but not quite.

Emily Phillips came in to do some backing vocals on this one for me. She co-wrote the lyric with me and we had worked out some rough harmonies when we wrote it. We experimented a bit and we came up with some very interesting harmonies for the track, sounds very cool. She's great at finding interesting harmonies and it was lots of fun.

Once all that was done we made rough mixes of the tracks to take with us on our respective holidays. Cesar was off to NYC for a week, and I was off to Croatia. Not much to go now...

26th - 31st August
Holiday in Trogir, Croatia. Awesome.

Tuesday 1st September
This was a planning and tidy up day. Listening to all the tracks and working out what needed doing and when it was going to get done. I finished off the LV comp for Forevergreen. But I must admit I was struggling to get into gear after the holiday and didn't get as much done as I would have liked...

Wednesday 2nd September
Had to take a day off to get admin stuff done, emails, bills, accounting all that boring stuff...

Thursday 3rd September
Started off the day trying to get the solo sorted for Levity, but well... it didn't go well. We spent ages experimenting with sounds and vibes and styles and well it just wasn't happening. I started to get grumpy and we decided to leave it and get into other stuff that needed doing.

We tracked he LV in the chorus of Cutting Out and Pity The Rose and found a very cool harmony for I Know, which stays on the same note for the whole song!! It's not very loud in the mix, but you can hear it if you listen closely, makes the vocal sound a little odd, but it's hard to tell why. Like it :)

That was the whole day.

Friday 4th September
More tidy ups today. Trimming parts checking everything was in the right place. I don't seem to have written down exactly what we did that day to be honest, not sure why! But it was all good!

Saturday 5th September
Day off.

Sunday 6th September
Had Pete Cunnah back in today to help me record the vocal for Love and Levity, the other track on the album that we co-wrote. It was a bit of a slog, Pete had a flu and I was feeling a little rough too, but we dug deep and got and 2/3 of the track done. Early night though...

Monday 7th - Friday 11th September
Mixing in Sofa Sound... more on all that in next post, I have to get to the studio...

 

and that was as far as I got!!! :)

 

One day I'll try and remember the last bit ;) ha ha


Lesson ID: RT-521