Friday, June 13, 2014

Back in the studio

The cursed truck I've been driving the past couple months broke down twice this week. The starter keeps going out. Shop keeps saying it is fixed. Then I take it out again and need roadside assistance to get going again. Luckily, the powers that be in company behemoth got wise and I am slated to be assigned a new truck by early next week.

I've used the down time to take my recording equipment out of mothballs and set up in our dining room. And after a few initial technical problems with set up, I got all the specifications to my liking and began recording, "When You Coming Home?" last night. I finished it this morning. It's a good re-introduction to recording because it's a 12-bar blues and its simple construction makes for easy construction and mixing.

I've always played this song solo, only once playing with an ensemble (and DeKalb's best lap steel guitar great D K Kolars) at The House Cafe. "When You Coming Home?" is one of the first songs I wrote. I don't know why I took this long to record it.

My studio set up is quite simple.


I use an M-Audio interface with my laptop, which has a few pre-mix dials to help get the right levels. But the real mixing occurs on my Cubase 1.01 software, which has a few bugs and is eight years old. No doubt there is better mixing software, some of it available for free online. But it took me a long time and much frustration to master Cubase, and I'm sticking with it until forced to use something else.

Despite its age and limitations, its effects and 24 tracks give me more recording options than the Beatles ever had, so I need never blame the equipment for any problems with my sound. In addition to the audio interface and mixing software, I have a suspended condenser vocal microphone and a smaller handheld microphone. The audio interface has two inputs, each accepting microphone and 6.3mm guitar jacks.

The keyboard in the above photo belongs to my friend Todd (of Tallheaded Woody fame) and he's since reclaimed it. I'd like to get another keyboard and use it to add piano and other parts. Although experience shows that keyboards add a certain artificial nature to the sound. That's something I'm trying to get away from. The less I modify my sound, the more authentic it will be.

I have a bunch of original songs, some old, some written this year, that I need to record. Expect a slew of new recordings over the summer. And although they may be just a drop in the Sargasso Sea of available songs out there, and the quality and talent may be questionable, I enjoy the creative process and and am not going to worry about the audience (or lack thereof).

May the intrepid music seeker enjoy "When You Coming Home?" I wrote the bass part as I recorded it, and also added some vocal percussion, shaker, and spoons to the mix. The challenge in this song is making sure all the disparate rhythmic elements work well together. It took many takes and much wrangling, but the song is tight and I'm quite proud of the results.

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