Album Challenge: Post 11

Fashion’s where you find it. I take inspiration where I can get it. A ’70s film. Taking my daughter to City Hall. Asking for a cup a tea. And now from this youtube video by the Wing Girls. The video isn’t on youtube anymore. Find it here. It’s hard not to watch this one. Two sexy, smart, and fun girls give pointers on how to get a blow job. I thought it was funny and decided to do a response song… not video. Let me know if you want to shoot the video.

Renaissance thinking: I’ve never been a very focused songwriter. Never sat down thinking I’m going to write anything in particular. I’m all over the place. I think that’s a good thing.

I was watching the “Lost Interview” with Steve Jobs. He talked about the teams he put together. I’ll paraphrase. He wasn’t looking for people focused on technology but people who had wide ranging interests and had taken up technology. That’s something to think about as a songwriter, musician, or really anyone. Being over-focused can cut you off from the rest of the world. It can breed boring technical proficiency.

Like many, many songs of mine they get partially finished and sit around.  This one was a bit better formed. I had chords, a rhythm, a melody, even finished the lyrics.

I did my typical thing trying out different keys and meters. I decided to use a key where I have to push my voice on the high notes. I thought that might give it a more pop feel. Not sure.

Hmmm… two paragraphs of tangents. Onward.

Production Ideas: One reason I’m recording demos and then giving them a second pass weeks or months later is because of the production ideas I’ll accumulate along the way.  Here are a few things I tried on this song.

Use your own reverbs: I knew I wanted to add claps to this song. First I recorded myself clapping where I record vocals. My room is dry and so were the claps. I added reverb. Still didn’t like it. Then I dug into the samples on BFD and Kontakt. Didn’t like those. I had a hunch the space around the claps was the key.

Here they are recorded in my bathroom.

That space is very reflective. Lots of marble and glass. The room is not a box, more like an “L”. I left the door open so the sound could travel into other rooms.  But did I really want to lug my gear (tower, interface rack, mics) in there just to test out an idea? No. I thought about using my iPhone but decided my portable Zoom recorder would be best. It records in stereo, decent sample rates, wav. IMO an iPhone would be a step down in quality and phones often use a format that needs converting.

After locating the Zoom I was un-amazed and disappointed to find the battery compartment seized up with corrosion. Kids, remove the batteries! With new batteries it still didn’t power up so I had to turn into ghetto MacGyver. Success.

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Ideally I would monitor the song as I clapped. That way my clapping is musical… accents in the right place etc. But it was faster to match the Zoom’s metronome to the Song’s BPM and clap to that. I rehearsed a few times with the song so I knew the basic pattern. Since the Zoom starts recording at the top of the bar the imported files were on my DAW grid. Cool.

It’s subjective but the sound I got from clapping in the bathroom was far better then any sample I had. That got me thinking about Reaper’s convolution reverb. I know I can make my own impulses. I like some of the spaces in my house. Maybe I will collect some impulses. But you know that won’t sound the same as recording in those spaces. Could be an interesting comparison to do.

If I want to record in those spaces I have to devise an easy way to monitor and record. Using my Zoom in 4 track mode with one track being the monitor mix? Stay tuned.

BFD Humanize: The goal of this control is like many other techniques: Inject some human into a drum machine. According to the manual it varies velocity. It does not (from what I can tell) vary timing. I could check this by printing some drums with and without humanize and comparing the waveforms. But why bother? Whatever it does I like. Sounds more energetic. I’m taking note.

It appears you can get finer control if you use the sequencer and grooves in BFD. Vary the timing, velocity, and add swing grids. But I’ve already abandoned using the BDF grooves page and sequencer. It’s just easier to work with midi items on the DAW timeline. Reaper offers the same types of controls or so it seems. You know for sure when you try them.

Percussion: I typically begin with a drum kit. But percussion (things like bells, shakers, tambourines) can add some nice energy. I’ve been listening to some modern bands that do a good job of that. Of course it’s not a modern idea at all. Check out Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”.

I approach this kinda like Stomp. Anything can be musical. You just have to be able to play it. You’d be surprised (or at least I was) at how hard it is to make simple things sound musical. I’m using a promo bell from Geico Insurance.

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Since I’m not interested in joining Stomp I get the performance as close as I can. What I don’t like I try to fix in editing. Editing is not magic but it can correct some timing errors well. With obvious reverbs (like my bathroom) be careful not to abruptly edit them out. A little time stretch and additional reverb can help.

Album Direction: This album is drifting toward my “domestic life” concept. Debating if I should narrow the focus given the tight timeline.

I’m getting more interested in a hybrid approach. Mixing BFD with my drum kit. Mixing Kontakt bass with my Jazz Bass. Mostly ’cause so far it’s worked. Both add interest. Neither can sound like the other.

What’s next: Get the rough production done on “Wing Girls”. Send that off to the Girls and see what they think.

Rough edit the video for “City Hall”. After all the song is based on the video I shot.

Pick the next song.

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