Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And so it begins...

...the all-out war between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix.

In other news, we began overdubs for the record today.

I usually think of overdubs as the icing on the cake, where we sit around listening to the song in its nearly completed form, dreaming about what fun sounds we can slather on top of what's already there; this was just tracking the guitars.

We showed up at Gullahorn's home studio, which is this cozy apartment-over-a-carport that's the envy of most of Andy's friends. He's got everything from a desk full of recording gear to Hatch Show Print posters for James Taylor and Sufjan Stevens at the Ryman to a remote controlled whoopee cushion.

We got there at about ten and pulled up the file for the tracking session from a week ago, and I once again marveled at the vast difference between recording now compared to just a few years ago. When I made Carried Along in 1999, it was a big deal that we were using this big clunky state-of-the-art RADAR machine. It was basically a big hard drive that cost about a zillion bucks and was much more complicated than ProTools. Now, thanks to modern technology, Ben, Andy G. and I can do everything with basically a computer and a few pre-amps in a living room. I don't know what all those knobs and stuff do, but I can get around in ProTools enough to know that it's a genius of a program.

So our weeks' worth of work was all on Ben's external hard drive, and with a few clicks we were able to listen to the tracks for I've Got News. They set up mics in the bathroom and I sat there with my geetar and spent the first three hours recording the guitar part.

I've played this song probably a hundred times, and still, playing it with a click track is nigh unto impossible for me. I always feel like I'm completely incompetent and that a real player like Gullahorn should just come in and do the durn song. When I play live, I'm always slowing down and speeding up so that I can sing it like I want, but playing to the click is different. That metronome is like potbellied, whiskery viking beating a drum, and I'm a slave chained to the oars.

Ben is a patient fella, and we took the song literally a measure at a time. I'd play until my timing was off (usually a few seconds), Ben would stop me, then we'd punch in on the next measure. Somehow, by the time we splice all those attempts together, the song sounds like I know what I'm doing.

After lunch (at a questionable establishment called Silvan Park) I doubled the guitar part. Doubling an acoustic guitar part puts some meat on its bones, gives it a chorus-type feel, as well as smooths out some of the rough parts. Usually you pan the doubled parts to the left and right speakers, but we'll see what the mixing engineer decides sounds best.

Gullahorn played his parts in about a third of the time that I did mine, because as I said, he's good. It also helps that we've been playing this song on the road for several months so we already have our parts worked out.

Finally, I sang the song. Usually the vocals come later in the game, but we decided to go ahead and get this one out of the way. I sang the vocal about eight times through, then once Ben thought I had enough to comp it together, he went home. I stayed by myself and comped the part.

Comping is when you piece the best parts of each performance into one uber-track. I listened to each phrase in each pass, grabbed the best one and slid it down to the comp track, so the final deal is lots of bits and pieces that are glued together so in the end you'd never know it just by listening.

That was our day. It's 11:27 here at the Warren, and Harry Potter is calling my name. We took some video of today's work, so I'll upload that tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,



eiszoe said...

Wow, that's been the most helpful post yet for me. I imagine a lot of you veterans are rolling your eyes at all my naive questions, but this is pretty important to me. Getting into Pro Tools, I've only recently discovered that I don't have to play through a whole song perfectly. I guess I thought I could play in parts with an engineer recording me. But, it's pretty freeing to see that I have the potential to do it myself. It's tough so far figuring out how to patch it all together (cross-fades, getting the levels of each region to match, etc.), but if I could actually create a seemless whole, it's definitely worth it. And, weirdly, before AP mentioned it, I was just thinking I could do that for an instrument, but not vocals. It may seem petty, but I'd really appreciate your prayers that I learn how to do this well. Thanks, AP and Ben. This has been a real blessing so far. :)

Dan said...

Wow...My favorite songwriter records in a bathroom. But thats what I love about you guys! Your so hardcore:)

Kat Kamin said...

Do you really pronounce "accio" like axeeyo?

Oh, and the different guitar in each speaker thing is life-changing. Well, recording-changing. Thanks for this awesome post!

Travis Prinzi said...

Yeah, I think "axeeyo" is the correct pronunciation, though I've heard it two other ways. Jim Dale, who reads the US audiobooks, says "assio" (Italian for backside?), and in the movies, Daniel Radcliffe says "akkio."

Matthew said...

Out of curiousity, what brands/models of pre-amps do you use?