When Good Monitor Goes Bad
A couple of nights ago I was working my way thru the re-recording of a song demo. It started with a guitar part that maybe 2 people in this town could play, me being the other one. There I was going knee deep into the studio zone of percussion. I had finished the drum parts when I started to take on adding additional epic cinematic drum hits. Midway thru the 3 track of said epic drums there was a sudden quick drop in volume and low end.
Where Did It Go
I tilt my gaze over to the left side of the studio thinking that maybe a Gremlin, or quite possibly a house elf, had taken the monitor speaker to another dimension. Alas my eyes weren’t being deceiving as the monitor speaker was still there. Dammit.
Nothing like losing half the sound right in the middle of the take.
Next up was an endless series of troubleshooting steps. First thought was, hey, maybe the power went out. Flip the switch on and off, still no sound. Maybe something went out in the monitor volume device. Nope. After switching the cables between speakers it was still showing as working out of both outputs for the remaining speaker.
Call A Friend
Pensive, not quite panicked, phone call to a fellow studio friend. Explain the problem of the monitor speaker. Words come drifting back thru the speakerphone saying “Did you check the fuse in the speaker?”
I take another gander at the speaker’s enclosure. Search high and low. Up. Down. Left. Right. Front. Back. Nada. There is no fuse for the speaker to blow. Dang it.
Knowing that the speaker is no longer manufactured, I grudgingly pull up the website to see if there’s information about getting repairs and to peruse the what-replaced-this-model version of their speaker line.
After drooling over what could replace the model I have in the studio, I make a note to Siri to remind me call the company in the morning to get a repair ticket going.
Here Come The Headphones
The disappointment of a monitor giving up soon abates. How do I proceed with my next recording session? A recording that needs to be recorded, mixed, and mastered before 11 am the following morning. Hmmm. In come the headphones. There is no other choice after a certain time of night when all normal humans have gone off to visions of sugarplums and cherries.
Producing high quality recordings via headphones isn’t the most ideal means. However, when the chips are down and the music must go on, you make do by crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
It All Works Out
I got the session done. Turned it over to the co-writer for the purposes of submission to a distant land for a commercial use. When you get feedback stating “It sounds great.” You thank your stars that you didn’t have to attempt to mix without some form of stereo sound.
The beauty of it is, the speaker company is able to repair the monitor for a price considerably less than the new alternative. The added icing on the cake is that you now have an in to chat about possible endorsement. That’s priceless.
I can’t wait for you to hear the fruits of this labor. Unfortunately you will have to wait until sometime early in the new year of 2017. There’s still more recording and production that needs to be done. Ooh, and mixing it. Finally mastering it. Its a process that will be interrupted by a little thing called Christmas and New Years.
Ever wonder how we musicians figure out how to describe a song to others so that they’ll understand what the song is before they get to hear it? It’s important to know how to describe the sound of a song to others before they hear it. The better the description, the more enticing it becomes to the uninitiated to hear it. Catch a glimpse of us working through one of the steps of understanding the song so we can approach knowing how to describe it to you, the listener. Follow George Leger III, Jesse Stern and I as we pull apart some fine points in the studio.
The debate get a little heated, or does it? There’s definitely some laughter due to the responses we give each other. It’s an awesome what to arrive at the best method to figure out a song. BTW – who do I diss in this video? Find out!
Describe A Song
I’m just trying to think. I’ve been trying to describe this song to people I’m really not sure what to tell them. You know what I mean? Touch is very easy to describe. It’s this, this, this, and this. And I’m trying to think, what is… what is Till We Meet Again? It’s like.
Exactly! It’s that kind of a song. It’s about… wanting to be with somebody.
Now, the question I have for you is this person a friend, or is this a girl?
Well Jesse and I wrote it together. So maybe it was about us. I don’t know.
Is it about friendship? Or is it about romance?
Both. I think really. The passion with somebody you have, then split.
I didn’t know he felt this way about me.
Well. You know…
I feel this way about a lot of people, I just don’t tell them.
We have bromances going on left, right and center around here. You know how it is.
So anyway. I don’t know. I was just trying to figure out what we would actually call it when I go to describe it. Of course the song is not really done. But I was kinda thinking it’s like Train meets an 80’s power ballad without the soaring vocals. And a little bit bouncy.
No no no no no. I see the more like uh, like what’s his face. The guy you mention all the time.
John Maher what’s that Your Body Is A Wonderland.
Yeah, there ya go.
I don’t want it to be that dated though.
Dude! Dated? Fuck that. It’s not dated or not dated. It’s the attitude that I’m talking about.
It’s the vibe…
No, I’m just trying to figure out what I would
[who’s David, ha ha ha]
denote it as.
So yeah. What is it? Is it a romantic thing or is it ah, not a romantic thing.
I think it’s a longing thing.
But for what?
For someone, one person.
Well. Ok. Yeah. Ok.
That’s how I’ve always… thought of it.
That’s how I’m thinking of it.
[Yearning for love]
You know maybe it’s it’s kind of like keeping the flame alive. Maybe one day…
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Back in the studio. This time some video was captured that pulls back the mystery of vocals. Where George Leger III, Jesse Stern and I were discussing the fine points of doing multiple takes of the same line, using different emotions. All in the name of creating the best vocal to tell the story. What comes out is a frank discussion between the three of us. I make fun of a movie. Then George really runs into an electric speech about vocals. Jesse (the white hat at the bottom left of the video window) provides a little comic relief along with giving George something cool. Followed by myself relating a story from a recording session with a large songwriter’s organization. Watch what we said and did. Why? Because we’re having a good time talking about what goes into a great vocal recording.
Studio Vocal Mystery
Sometimes it reminds me the movie La Bomba. Dude that sounded great twenty takes ago.
That’s you know. No I’m not arguing that I know you gotta do and every little bit and piece, I’m, I’m fully there. I just think it’s funny that the brother was like he had no concept of like, it sounded the same man. It’s like, no it didn’t.
I sometimes joke when I’m comping vocals and like go in between a few different takes, how about this one, and this one. and I just look at ’em and they’ll say, they all sound exactly the same to me. I don’t know.
We all comp different, right? Like I could give you the same data, you would come up probably… well maybe we will come up with the same. Cause it seems like we’re thinking the same way I can… sense that. But some people I mean I’ll give them a track, you comp it and I’ll comp it. I’ll come back and their comp will be totally different. You know either I go for one that has a lotta little bitty edges and stuff. Little character bits and I’ll fix, I’ll tune it if I have to. But, try to get the character stuff that makes, to me makes a vocal personable; have personality, right? And I have people that just absolutely like want the note to be perfect. That’s what they’re after. That’s all they look for. Yeah. It’s like, there’s no… Cause you can fix… today we have the technology it makes it really easy to fix the note. You can fix the pitch. But you want to get that, you know you just started to do it. Your voice broke up a couple times in the first two lines. Which is exactly what I wanted to get.
Okay. So, anyways. I go for the feel like whatever makes me feel something. Yes!
Or what makes me kinda feel like I, I don’t have words anymore. Yes. And you get that little buzz too, I get a buzz when it happens it’s like I can feel it.
Well, you’re a really good producer. It’s fun to watch you work. Oh, thank you. That’s why I like doing vocal with the man. Yeah, I wanna do vocals with him.
I, I love working. I just love producing. It’s great fun. One of the things I was actually gonna say back to the vocals n something and stuff from movies and TV shows. In Canada, when they did We Are The World here. We had a song in Canada that was produced by David Foster. You know who David Foster is right Okay, do you know who Anne Murray is? yes she’s like… She’s a Canadian superstar, right? Exactly! She’s the Canadian Stevie Nicks. Yea. Sorta. She’s an… This woman has been singing her whole fucking life. She’s a perfectionist. And she can usually do it on the first take. She’s just that good. Well he goes and the same thing kinda happened with him. She got in the first two, first or second take, but he missed it. And they had this on the video that they did of the making of the thing, right? And, in the end it was like he he basically turned to her after he went 20 takes in. Listened to the first two takes and went: I’m so sorry. You did it already, I’m didn’t even hear it. And he was embarrassed.
And it was just like… Wow. It happens. Yeah. Even to the best of the best. I mean Foster is…
You’ve heard heard of Harold Payne right? Do you know who Harold Payne is? He’s a big time songwriter. And he helped write a song for Just Plain Folks. Which is a songwriters organization. Cause they did like a We Are The World. They brought in a bunch of different artists to sing different lines. And they had Alan O’Day producing, in the studio. Who’s no slouch of a writer. He’s had a couple of #1 hits. And Harold was sitting right, standing right next to me in this vocal booth. You know, to go over my line, do all this stuff. I go in. I do the first take. And I do it kinda bluesy. That’s how I thought it came across. And Allan is just going take after take and I hear Harold pull my thing back and he goes. Dude, you nailed it on the first take. I’m sorry.
Stay tuned for more peeks on the inside.
Come in the studio with me as I work with George Leger III at his Utopia Parkway studio to record the final vocals on my upcoming new single “Touch”. Get a sneak peek of what it’s like in the studio and working with a good friend from Canada who helps create some awesome magic.
Find out who I got one of the guitars used on the song from. Figure out a particular guitar riff I play while waiting for George. Hint, it’s from an amazing guitarist out of Texas.
Enjoy the video:
With some steps forward, there are some steps backwards. Such was the case this past week. Despite the setback, I’m happy to relay that the seventh song finalized is “Love Takes A Holiday”.
Yes, I had managed to spend a little time away from my release to work on a film trailer track in a dubstep style. I mentioned in the last post that initial reaction was awesome. Even the client finally got back to me stating I nailed it. That’s enough to put a smile on the face. Still awaiting word from the studio…
LTAH – for short, required a fairly good amount of thought. The original demo was a little on the dragging it’s feet side. That doesn’t stop it from being a really good song, but it did stop it from being a great song, or even a possible hit. Thus I reworked it with a faster tempo. This gives it a livelier vibe that bounces a little more – without taking out the nature of stomp it has. I also reworked the lyrics, shifted the verses around and gave it a more focused perspective.
In the re-recording of the track, I reconfigured some of the guitar parts and added more elements to it. One of my favorite new bits is a “talking bass” sound that I picked up from doing the dubstep track. I think it’s going to add some cool character to compliment the Clavinet I have in it.
You’re probably wondering, what the hell was the setback? Well… I have a really nice microphone that I’ve been using to record the demo vocals with. It decided that right now, or rather last Tuesday, was the perfect time to crap out and stop working. That’s rather unfortunate for such a pricey mic to do. Good thing I’m on good terms with the company. They’re going to give it a checkup and get it back to good health. In the meantime, I’m picking on songs that I need to tweak with more than just vocals – gives me time to really think through the arrangements. That’s always a good thing.
Even LTAH got a slight change in the arrangement of things too. Added some cool stops to two parts and also gave the intro riff and reprise. Keeps the song from motoring too fast through the parts now that the tempo has made a pretty good jump. These changes signal that the seventh song finalized is “Love Takes A Holiday”. Stay tuned. I’ve got another 11 more to tweak before studio performances and perfection are up to bat.