I’m getting even better in the studio….

… and I am very pleased.

I have detailed some of the experiences I’ve had while recording (and in some cases attempting to record) my latest album project balance. While I have refined my setup and technical skills for recording, I actually took on the challenge to return to a previously recorded duo version of an original piece and track a new guitar part to replace the original one.

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My composition How Many Times Will We Say Goodbye? was featured in demos for a duo in which I performed with vocalist JayKatz . We had decided to work together several weeks beforehand and needed recorded music to demonstrate the music we were creating together. She and her husband had assembled a recording studio in their home (essentially a personal studio, suited for one or two people, maximum), and she was anxious to get some experience producing product.

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We recorded all of the tracks live, without overdubs. We went through a few tunes, staying at one or two takes each. Very simple approach, one track for her voice, one for the guitar. I then took the raw files and pulled them into my studio setup. My studio is physically wherever I set it up in my house.

We were both pleased with five of the tunes and I proceeded to mix and master the tracks. No overdubs — the take either worked or it didn’t. I did notice in several spots there was some extraneous noise, barely audible on most speakers I previewed on, but these were demos, not to be released for sale. (We did agree that for a release we’d do a completely different session.) I minimized the offending noise for the most part and produced a very professional master.

Recently, I have been submitting the song for repertoire consideration to a number of female vocalists — I considered the track to be fine sonically. However, I had minor issues with my playing and I had included a guitar solo on the original, of course, as it represented our duo. However, I considered the fact that it was the song that should be the focus of a submission, the lyrics, the melody, etc. and not the capability of the guitarist. I decided to edit the solo out and present only the structured part of the tune. When I returned to the track I immediately heard a scratchy presence that, though very subtle, drove me crazy. I pulled up the original takes and attempted to filter the track — no luck. I ended up with a massive impact on the track itself. So the next option: re-record the guitar track from scratch.

Easier said than done…. When two individuals perform as a duo and really connect there are natural tendencies to speed up and slow down. This isn’t a bad thing and it is part of the special magic that makes for fantastic performances and recordings. Here I was, attempting to go back and recreate the guitar part that fit together so beautifully, realizing that we were, indeed, altering tempo subtly in several spots.After two less-than-successful tries I decided to sit down with Jay’s solo vocal track and listen to and internalize the way things stretched or shrank, tempo-wise, and where the accents and musical interactions actually took place. I also wanted to use an acoustic guitar this time.

Third time was the charm! I focused entirely on her voice, her breathing, her phrasing, and got it right. To top it off, I used an AKG D8000M dynamic mic to record the guitar – I was picking up some sort of radio interference with the condenser mics. What a wide-open sound!

I did a bit of EQing and, of course, mixed and balanced things. I liked it. And here it is:

 

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