Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Recording a new song - how the sausage is made!

So this morning I set out to record a song. I tuned my guitar, and checked it by playing some lines. I played a slow, bluesy riff and was hooked. This riff was smokin'! I forgot all about the song I was going to record - I was all set up in my DAW for that song, this one was slower and the beat I had for the other song was all wrong for this riff = and set it up clean. I was going to make it an ostinato - a 'stubborn' riff that repeated throughout the new song. I recorded the riff through many times to a click track - this is a metronomic 'tic' that keeps you on the beat when recording. The sound I wanted was reminiscent of the main riff in Spirit in the Sky - a crackling, heavily distorted guitar riff played on the low strings. messing around with amp and fuzz tones, I got what I wanted!

Then I put together a drum loop. I played around with different rhythms and kits, none of which worked, then laid one down that seemed ok. It was a bit... plain. Then I remember Adam Ant's version of the Burundi Beat, a complex polyrhythmic beat from the African nation of Burundi. Adam's band The Ants performed the Burundi Beat with two drummers in full kit, with lots of rolling toms, and was behind some wicked songs like Goody Two Shoes and Antmusic. So I superimposed a second loop over the first, this one with lots of tom tom action. The interaction between the two was what I was looking for!

Now I had to sing it! I played back the riff with the new beat in a loop itself and improvised sounds to it, which gradually began to morph into coherent phrases, so I used these phrases as key phrases and wrote the rest of the lyrics around them - this is a method I have used many many times, and always seems to work well! The song turned out to be a song about a space ship leaving one star system and jumping to another, eventually to a cloud city on a gas giant. Cool! I love surprises!

I recorded the new lyrics, but they were meh... I tried different amounts of roughness and smoothness, different tonalities, and different phrasing. What finally clicked was a full on Sinatra phrasing with a smooth, deeper voice, though the song was in moderately high in my range - when I was 20 I could easily pack two octaves on top of my current range if I needed to, but that was long gone. It was exactly right!

Now for the final guitar overdubs. So far this was a lotta drums, that Spirit In The Sky-ish riff, and the single Sinatra vocals over all. I had some nice ideas, but I was curiously reluctant to add anything more. I sent the song as it was to my son Klaxon - who is always my first bounce listener - and he agreed. Add nothing. It was fine as it was. He recommended a few small changes, which I incorporated, but nothing was added. And I was happy! This almost never happens the first day! Everything worked and sounded RIGHT!

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