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The Fifth Course

Studio Log: More Than a Little Guitar, ch. 2

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I do need to make an amendment to my last blog.

I used a different process to record instrumental than songs. The CD track, "St Anne's Reel/Whiskey Before Breakfast," was recorded without a scratch track. I simply sat down in front of the mic setup that we used to record the guitar rhythm tracks and banged out 72 bars, using my Santa Cruz Guitar Company dreadnought as the rhythm instrument. (32 for St. Anne's Reel, 32 for Whiskey Before Breakfast, and the B part to Whiskey Before Breakfast one last time to finish)

After that I played rhythm parts the two other instruments in the piece, mandolin and octave mandolin. Then I set about playing the melodies with each instrument. I played the mandolin straight through all 72 bars. I played the octave 16 bars in St. Anne's Reel, and the guitar 16 bars in Whiskey. The 8 bar tag is all three instruments on the melody as well.

When the recording was done, I asked Chris to pull out the rhythm tracks of the instruments playing the melody, while they were in the melody. So the piece starts on St Anne's Reel with mandolin in the melody and octave mandolin & guitar in the rhythm. The melody switches to octave mandolin with guitar and mandolin in rhythm. Then the tune changes to Whiskey Before Breakfast with guitar in the melody and the mandolin and octave mandolin in rhythm. For the last pass through Whiskey Before Breakfast, the mandolin returns and the other two instruments sit in rhythm. The tag is all instruments in the melody.

The idea is to make it sound like a proper Bluegrass type of fiddle tune jam.

The one thing we did to give the track a bit more continuity than it would otherwise have was to allow the SCGC dread to run rhythm throughout. We just knocked the levels back to nearly inaudible for the 16 bars of Whiskey Before Breakfast and the 8 bars of the tag. (Full disclosure, the guitar melody parts were recorded on my RainSong OM-1000. After seven 8hr days of recoding my fingers were seriously sore and needed the respite of light Elixirs and a 1.75" nut width.)

After we felt finished recording tracks for the songs and tunes, Chris (engineer), Brooks (producer), and I reviewed our progress. We had 11 tunes in the can and we were pushing 44 minutes. It seemed like enough material, and all of it worked. So we set about adding little touches and cleaning things up.

Chris volunteered to add some light percussion to two of the tracks. And Chris and I roped Brooks into playing a little slide on two of the tracks. Likewise, Brooks added harmony vocals to a couple of the tracks.

While doing harmonies for an original called "Old Calapina," I hit upon a minor rearrangement that I think made the recording of the song better. We added a chorus with harmonies tot he front of the song. So instead of starting with me playing a mandolin intro, it now starts on the chorus, a cappella.

Old Calapina became a issue in that moment. Because I discovered in full playback that I had failed to sing the third verse way back 7 days earlier. The song was short a verse/chorus! I was so focussed on the trees that I failed to see the forest for an entire week.

The three of us discussed it as a recording. 1) It was under 4 minutes (a very good thing). 2) The arrangement as it stood was a satisfying listen. It wasn't too long and the story seemed like it wasn't really missing anything.

So I took a hard look a the lyrics and decided that the song could take the inadvertent edit. We left it alone.

After that, we dropped in fixes, re-recorded a couple of vocal parts, and then listened carefully to all of the tracks as whole songs. Chris mixed on the fly, and Brooks and I asked for a little more of this and a little less of that.

Happy with the result, Chris burned a few copies of the final mixes and we all went home.

[Next up, paperwork!]


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Updated Sep-05-2013 at 5:48am by Daniel Nestlerode

Tags: recording, studio
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