Perils of the click track

I’m enjoying regaining all those lovely shimmering high frequencies my audiologist says are gone forever. All I have to do is wear these smart hearing aids that adjust automatically to zoom in on what they think you’re listening to – like the person opposite you in a noisy coffee shop. That was interesting, working in the studio yesterday. You have to listen to a click track and try to follow it. It gets harder later when you over-dub a vocal. I was doing OK until we did one of my songs that slows to half-time at the beginning of verses and picks up the tempo on the third line. That is so easy to do when you’re playing live. But recording a guitar track first then trying to make the vocal fit – that’s an entirely different process. We got there in the end. My producer Pix then wasn’t all that happy with my next guitar track as it didn’t sound “awesome” like my home demo. Thinks: why not produce the home demo then? It’s not that easy. My home recording system is incompatible with software based programmes like Pro Tools and QBase. Nevertheless I now have to extract my two guitar tracks from the demo and we are going to try to replicate that in the studio (next week). It’s all to do with the “feel” or the “vibe.” As all songwriters know, turning out an ambient, cruisy version of your newest song at home, when you’re still all excited about it and it shows in your voice, changes quite a bit when you’re alone in a sound booth, trying not to think about what a wasted hour costs in a professional studio when you’re not completely prepared.
All producers and sound engineers will do their best with all your songs, but when one particular song excites them, they will be so far into the detail you’ll be sick to death of it the time you’re done. That’s how it is for Bed 27 – Pix loves it and I’m glad he does because the few people I have played the demo to have given me the “It’s a bit much, isn’t it?” raised eyebrow look.
So now I have to revisit my multi-tracked home demo from six months ago and work out what the hell I was doing. I’ve never played the song live, so in a way it is like giving birth when nobody knew you were pregnant.
Meanwhile we now have 12 songs “bedded down” which means other musicians can come in and add their creativity to the songs with no issues about tempo or out of tune instruments. My Maton six-string has a serious intonation problem so I have been borrowing other people’s guitars for this project, although my Yamaha 12-string is getting a work-out. We’re off on a three month road trip in a couple of weeks* so there won’t be time to do the other three songs – maybe some vocals and harmonies on the others. So we’ll come back in late September and take up where we left off. You can’t rush these things!
Whether you have done a lot of studio recording or none at all, I hope you find these insights useful. Songwriters tend to be too controlling about their material. I was lucky in a way that a 25-year career in journalism where editors are sometimes literally looking over your shoulder and saying “That’s boring as bat-shit, Bobby,” makes you less precious about changing lyrics. If you meet a sound engineer/producer you feel right about working with, you’re half-way there. Now go home and spend six months doing home demos and knocking those half-done songs into shape.
*lucky house-sitters!

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Jan Lobban
Jan Lobban
June 8, 2014 6:19 am

Am loving the blog online Bob. Keep them coming. Will you keep sending it out weekly? I think I need the reminder for a little while. Life being super busy and all. It is really, I’m not being sarcastic……