Old 12-11-2009, 09:52 PM   #121
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...A great singer is a relatively rare thing compared to all the other aspects as you are either born with the gift or not, rather than an external instrument...
I think this is often a mistaken notion.

I think it is very possible for weak or bad singers to become good singers, as much as it is possible for clumsy beginning guitar players to become skilled and capable guitarists.

A lot of musicians put years and hundreds of hours of practice into their instrument, and then try to sing. If their singing then sounds bad, they chalk it up to not being born with the right voice or something.

The reality is that the human voice is the most complex, capable, and expressive instrument in existence. Expecting to deliver a good performance simply by virtue of being generally musically inclined is like expecting to be a virtuoso trombonist or French horn player just because you can play the right notes on piano.

I reject the notion of "either born with it or not", based on my own experience. Singers need practice and training at least as much as players of mechanical instruments do.
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Old 12-12-2009, 08:47 AM   #122
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I reject the notion of "either born with it or not", based on my own experience.
Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers" is an awesome read on this subject. He comes up with the theory that in order to become a master of any particular skill, you have to put in 10000 hours of practice. Some people progress more quickly, and that's pretty much where natural ability comes in, but it's not a limiting factor. If a singer practices a few hours a day *every* day, she *will* get good. All it takes is the dedication.

And all practice is not equal. Singing in the shower and taking vocal lessons are both "practice", but one is likely more valuable...
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Old 12-14-2009, 01:36 PM   #123
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I've been listening to this young chap named Paolo Nutini, particularly because his vocals are distinct and smokey yet in the upper registers.

Here's an example of a live (pre-gig rehearsal) in his dressing room with the full band. Its likely taken right off the camera mic.

A prime example that a great song, with clever lyrics and melodies transcends engineering science. In this case a cover of Arcade Fire Wake-up - likely one of the best songs I've heard in ages.

Its breathtaking how a simple three chord progression (and thats it! three damn chords for both versus and lyrics, can sound simply beautiful when the lyrics and singing are perfectly balanced.

I highly recommend watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-PRyB_B2Kc

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Old 12-14-2009, 02:21 PM   #124
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"Single mike" recordings are more likely to sound good in situations where everyone is playing LESS and listening MORE (perhaps that's more often in jazz or folk). In some contexts (maybe rock) everybody is trying to be the lead soloist - to be the "star".
But you can clearly see that everyone in the Paolo Nutini video is looking at Paolo for cues, which is as it should be. The band is arranged front-to-back in order of importance (volume and musical need), and the acoustically louder instruments (the horns) are playing towards the floor and with restraint.
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Old 12-14-2009, 02:38 PM   #125
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I didn't notice the placement of the musicians and it makes a lot of sense. Really good observation Greg and an essential point to make when it comes to arrangement and counter balance amongst the instruments.

It goes to show, even a single mic performance can be a good one if its thought out.
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Old 12-14-2009, 04:33 PM   #126
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"Single mike" recordings are more likely to sound good in situations where everyone is playing LESS and listening MORE (perhaps that's more often in jazz or folk). In some contexts (maybe rock) everybody is trying to be the lead soloist - to be the "star"...
That's a great observation.

Recording in general is a lot easier when the musicians have a sensitive and intelligent sense of accompaniment and arrangement. Recording gets a lot harder when each musician regards his instrument as his job, and everyone else's instruments someone else's job.

It's like the difference between a great conversation and a bunch of overlapping lectures. A really good musical "conversation" can often equal something much greater than any of its constituent parts.

In the video above, I think we are not so much hearing either a great production, or a great "conversation" so much as simply a great vocal performance with some light and competent accompaniment (which is often all you need). I think it would have been nearly as good with just bongos or acoustic guitar, or even acapella. The backing band is tasteful and plays with sensitivity, and a lot of backing musicians certainly could have done a lot worse, but I'm not sure that it would be my first pick of a brilliant arrangement.

Shifting gear in the same lane, I'm no great fan of Billy Idol, but when I hear his better-known tracks (e.g. White Wedding, Rebel Yell), I am very often struck by how much greater than the sum of the parts the production is. They are very disciplined, very controlled recordings in a genre that is often very UNdisciplined, and the result is stuff that is made of "hit", often in spite of being somewhat underwhelming material and musical skill.
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Old 12-14-2009, 04:55 PM   #127
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At my regular gig (a jazz open mic), you never know who's going to be in the band. But you can tell the experienced players (who know when not to play) from the inexperienced ones (who need to be reminded that they don't have to play all the time).
The songs (jazz standards) are pretty familiar to the audience, so the music will keep playing in their heads even if we stop. Which means that the band is free to play the arrangement, instead of the song. Of course, there are no charts, so we're making it up as we go. And that requires watching for cues and listening.
Treating original material in the same way elevates it almost to the level of the standards.
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Old 12-14-2009, 05:18 PM   #128
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...Treating original material in the same way elevates it almost to the level of the standards.
Brilliantly stated.

All those tidbits about "less is more" and "the notes you don't play are as important as the ones you do" really come out of this.

I'm not sure that it's possible for every musician or ensemble to achieve, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a purposeful goal if it's not something that is already "happening", but the very best music engages and excites the listener's imagination in really magical ways, to the point where the listener's inner ear almost furnishes the lead accompaniment.

I think any musician has had the experience of sitting down to learn some glorious piece of music and has been dumbfounded at how simple it is. It's like: "that's IT? That's all they're playing?!?". Similarly, I think most have had the experience of sitting down to learn some other piece of music and finding it to be far more complex and difficult than it "sounds". I have always been attracted to the former more than the latter.
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Old 12-14-2009, 06:17 PM   #129
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...the very best music engages and excites the listener's imagination in really magical ways, to the point where the listener's inner ear almost furnishes the lead accompaniment.
This past gig, an audience member commented that we don't just play a song, we make it a journey. What a humbling and wonderful moment.
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Old 12-14-2009, 11:33 PM   #130
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A Q on a different direction: how would you produce a project (album) that has highly varying tracks + recordings? Typical band recordings feature same drumkit/drums/guitars/mics throughout the record so it's easier to get a consistent mix and coherent master.

I am planning to embark on a project where each track will be an experiment. No wait, more like the other way around... I am planning to embark on an experiment with different instruments, sounds, recording on different setups/studios etc... and then hopefully put something together out of the best of the results.

Before I start going there, what would be good to know? And how could that work out with an acceptable (if not good) sonic result? (as well as marketing it and labeling it for a target audience).

Thanks
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Old 12-15-2009, 08:12 AM   #131
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That's a great observation.

but I'm not sure that it would be my first pick of a brilliant arrangement.
To be clear, I choose to use the above video not as an arrangement example but rather, when a song(even a simple one) is delivered well with good lyrics it can transcend engineering magic. In this case, and if my ears don't lie, it was recorded from the camera mic.

However, after thinking (and listening) about it, it does contain brillance in the fact that there's only a 3 chord repeated phrase, but the melody and lyrics (and singing) provide the illusion of multiple textures. More to my earlier point that lyrics and melody can really be the defining characteristic that makes the song and performance shine vs trying to create that effect through engineering.

I suppose a good producer would key in on those elements and help the artist find and or develop that element as a priority.
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Old 12-16-2009, 06:37 PM   #132
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...I am planning to embark on a project where each track will be an experiment...
Great question.

This is bit outside of my wheelhouse, and a bit outside the intent of the thread, which is how to produce and manage a recording when YOU are the talent and engineer, not necessarily a general discussion on producing records.

That said, I will offer that it is useful to distinguish between producing an ALBUM and producing SONGS. In any case it always helpful to have an idea of what you are trying to achieve before and throughout the process of achieving it.

The very notion of an album as anything other than filler between the singles might seem a bit quaint these days, but setting aside the question of whether anyone still listens to "albums" (I certainly do) as beginning-to-end musical presentations...

Many great and entirely coherent albums vary quite a bit in terms style and instrumentation. Examples include some of the most highly-regarded records ever made, such as Sgt Pepper's, Pet Sounds, and a lot of stuff by late 60's and 70's era rock gods. Even a lot of 80s pop albums got pretty far-reaching at time. Commercial acts these days are not often given the same creative latitude, but there are plenty of smaller examples (Stephin Merritt's stuff with the Magnetic Fields comes to mind, or maybe Tegan and Sarah's first album), and a lot of hip-hop and R&B artists still experiment pretty widely with instrumentation and style (A lot of Michael Jackson's records, and most stuff produced by the RZA vary quite a bit from one song to the next).

Maybe some of the best examples of really effective albums that vary a lot would be great movie soundtracks. Almost any film by Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese is apt to have a great soundtrack album, with a bunch of artists, but still revealing a unified progression and aesthetic.

In some respects it is almost easier to talk about what makes a bad album than a good one, and it's not always bad songs. One of the worst things that can happen in an album is to have an inappropriate or jarring mix of catchy, uptempo, hard-hitting pop/rock alongside delicate, spacey, challenging, textural music. The problem is not that one or the other is bad, the problem is that one tends to make the other sound boring, while the other tends to make the first sound stupid or fake.

It's like wearing a full tuxedo but replacing the pants with cargo shorts, or wearing Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian shirt with dress shoes. Or like serving crackers with peanut butter and foie gras, accompanied by Champagne and Dr. Pepper. It's not necessarily about bad vs good as much as about creating an immersive experience, a journey instead of a slideshow.

This is actually a fairly common problem with unsigned bands. They try too hard to show off their different sides, mixing jazz and acoustic folk with electronica and punk or whatever. A lot of "how to get signed" or "how to make the perfect demo" advice will tell you to pick a genre and stick to it. But I think "genre" might not be the right word, it's more like "gestalt" or "vibe". Artists such as Beck have never had a problem selling records without "picking a genre", but his albums still have a sense of unity and continuity. The genre is Beck, in a sense.

Ironically, even while the industry "insiders" will tell you "pick a genre and stick to it", modern albums frequently feature a single that is completely different in texture and tone from the rest of the album. This is an infuriating experience for the buyer, who might hear a kick-ass pop-punk song on the radio, and then pick up the album only to find the rest of it filled with introspective shoe-gazer stuff. This both turns off the potential "crossover audience" who feels like they wasted their money and also alienates the committed shoe-gazer audience who will dismiss these pop-punkers out of hand. It's not necessarily a "genre" thing, nor a matter of different instrumentation or production techniques or whatever, it's a matter of a band with a certain vision who maybe had a cover or a one-off in a more poppy or accessible style, and the label latches onto that as the "single" instead of allowing it to be a neat little extra.

Pretty much every 80's hair band album included at least one "power ballad", something slower, often primarily acoustic, with more sensitive and romantic lyrics, but the song still "made sense" in the context of the album. One need only hear such a "power ballad" to immediately envision a skinny white man with permed long hair and leather pants singing it.

Be very careful of deliberate genre-hopping. Especially with highly technical styles such as fusion jazz, speed metal, latin percussion, celtic folk, free jazz, Appalachian fingerstyle, modern classical, etc. These are genres that tend to consist of a handful of extremely dedicated and accomplished musicians, and a whole lot of bad other stuff. Every so often a pop/rock band will come along who manages to successfully incorporate one of these kinds of styles, and it sounds awesome, and it then spurs a lot of other stuff that sounds really fake and dumb. This also applies to intense styles of techno/electronic music. There is a fine line between cheesy and awesome.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: don't try to be innovative. Try to be good. If you are an innovator, then you will innovate whether you intend to or not. If you're not, you can still be a great musician who contributes a lot of value to a lot of people's lives without making an ass of yourself by trying to reinvent the cheeseburger.

This doesn't mean not to experiment. It means pursue you vision, and follow where your inner voice leads you, as opposed to trying to figure out what to do next based on charts and graphs and textbook theories. I once saw a concert poster that advertised "the next step in the evolution of reggae". The fact that I cannot remember the band's name and that I never heard of them again is telling, but I do remember thinking: why the hell should I care about the "evolution" of ANY musical genre? What does that even mean? Is this going to make all my Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh and Linval Thompson records obsolete? (NO)

I once heard one of the Marsalis brothers say something like: "There is no 'evolution' in music. We're never going to 'get beyond' Bach or Coltrane or whatever. We all just contribute to an expansion of the stuff that enriches our experience of life."

Bringing it back to "bad albums", the trick to making a great album (as opposed to making a mix CD of a bunch of good songs) is making something that takes the listener on a journey, as opposed to something that flips through a bunch of travel brochures. There is no limit to how varied that journey can be, but there might be a limit to the degree that you expect the listener to exhibit patience for musical ADHD.

An album should be set up like a live set, like a recorded concert. If it is a very ambitious and varied album, it might be something like a variety show, or a "Night at the Apollo" or a Christmas extravaganza, or superbowl halftime show, or a movie soundtrack or whatever. It doesn't necessarily need to sound the same from beginning to end, or even like the same band. But it should ideally sound like something that could be listened to by the same audience from beginning to end without making them feel like they're listening to a resume being read aloud.

On that note, one thing I like to recommend is to try to imagine, realistically, how you would play this album on tour. That doesn't necessarily mean that every single song has to consist of exactly five musicians playing the exact same instruments or whatever, but suppose that you got a small contract and a tour budget that allowed you to hire a second guitarist and a cello player or whatever. You could probably find a second guitarist who could fill in on backing vocals and plunk out some basic synth lines, and maybe you'll hold out for a cellist who can also play a little horns or who's willing to fill in on bongos or tambourine. Maybe you can find a trio of backup girls to sing at major concerts, and so on.

But seriously, suppose this album is successful, and suppose that the audience wants to hear these songs, and suppose that you do NOT become the kind of mega-star who travels with a gospel choir and a Tuvan throat-singer and a horn section and an orchestra who all fill in for one song each...? Suppose that you have to actually load in your own gear and that you have to limit the band to the number of people who can sleep on a bus and who are willing to split $500 per night?

Maybe you're willing to karaoke the whole concert... that's fine, if it's something your audience is going to accept (would you accept it, as a fan of this music?-- that's not a rhetorical question).

Maybe you could pare down the "important" parts to the core musicians... if that's the case, I suggest making sure that the "core" arrangement is still a satisfying representation of the song. Nobody wants to pay money to hear "Ring of Fire" without the horns.

The reason to think in "live" terms is not purely practical. Focus and discipline have a way of honing artistry, and limitations have a way of making everything count. We have all heard big, sprawling, spare-no-expense productions that suck and that could not be saved by guest composers and the London Symphony Orchestra and the Harlem Gospel Choir.

None of these are rules, just suggestions. The Beatles and Glenn Gould both famously quit playing live because they decided the studio was a better way to communicate their vision. And the more truly "experimental" you get, the less advice there is to give. But even stuff like John Zorn or Bill Dixon or Kronos Quartet albums tend to have a certain consistent vibe or vision.

Don't know if that helps, but that's what I got.
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Old 12-17-2009, 01:56 AM   #133
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It helps immensely thank you. You've covered just about every one of my 100 questions that stemmed from my original question (including that). And stuff that have been troubling me for many years. So yeah, thank you!

btw, I was indeed asking about my own music/production, not about producing bands and albums in general.
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Old 12-17-2009, 09:05 PM   #134
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Once again, a very insightful contribution Yep.
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Old 12-18-2009, 10:38 PM   #135
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It helps immensely thank you. You've covered just about every one of my 100 questions that stemmed from my original question (including that). And stuff that have been troubling me for many years. So yeah, thank you!

btw, I was indeed asking about my own music/production, not about producing bands and albums in general.
Glad to hear it was helpful.

Something I can't believe I forgot to mention:

Broadly speaking, I know of two ways to approach recording an album:

1. Artist comes in with an "album" number of finished songs, and you record them all as best you can.

2. Artist comes in with a massive quantity of ideas, and you hammer them into songs as you go, gradually weeding out the ideas that aren't working (regardless of quality-- it's just a matter of keeping the stuff that is making progress and setting aside the stuff that's just spinning wheels).

I have heard tell of a third type of album project, one where the artist comes in with a small handful of unfinished "ideas" and a general vision to work out in the studio. I have never actually seen such a thing all the way through to completion, but my impression is that they tend to either be extremely high-budget, or extremely unsatisfying projects, or both.

In all cases, it's always good to come into the studio with an excess of material. If the goal is a 10-12 song album, it's good to have 15-20 songs. Chances are that one or two of them will have a hard time coming together-- maybe they are a bit too ambitious, or too simple, maybe the guitar player or the drummer can't quite figure out a good part, or maybe everything they're trying to play is a bit beyond their current abilities.

Often some of the songs will either sound too similar to something that's already on the album, or just won't have a good "place" on it-- those make great B-sides or "extras". Examples might include one ballad too many, a song in a similar key with a similar melody and riff as the main "single", an "offbeat" song that just doesn't seem to fit anywhere, a neat little acoustic/vocal number that nobody has developed any accompaniment for, and so on.

It might be great material, but that doesn't mean that Hamlet would be improved by having a lightsaber fight and a death star in the background, nor that Star Wars would be better if Luke Skywalker sat down and gave a soliloquy on "Alas, poor Wedge, I knew him well...".

The natural progression of a real touring live band often makes album construction fairly obvious-- the band's gradual evolution from playing together every night leads to its own obvious vibe and gestalt. A solo musician trying to fabricate an album out of whole cloth may have a bit more work to do on the particulars.
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Old 12-22-2009, 06:43 PM   #136
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PS-- I feel the need to re-emphasize the fact that I am not a producer, and that I never meant to set this thread up as general advice for producers. There are probably better resources for aspiring producers out there.

My intent was to address the specifics of keeping oneself motivated and making forward progress in a DIY recording, as a spinoff of a home recording thread.
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Old 12-23-2009, 02:58 AM   #137
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yep, a brilliant post which covers about everything that might be said about this topic! Thanks!

But one thing i discovered in the last years during several productions: most artists don't know *enough* music. Their musical horizon doesn't exceed the genre they write their music in, and maybe the genre they like to dance to when they go out clubbing.

This makes it extremely difficult to find "different" or "outstanding" solutions for an otherwise cheesy arrangement.

In this case, there was me, the producer, but when you're working alone, no one will tell you: "This part is too boring, I've heard it a thousand times before, let's look for something better!"

All I wanted to say is: be open for all kinds of music! It can only enrich your inner musical pool and give new impulses when you're stuck or bored by your own stuff! And don't try to imitate the latest musical fashion. Remember: the music you hear NOW was recorded at least half a year ago, so it's already at the verge of being fashionable Try to come up with something original. Something that reflects YOU!
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Old 12-24-2009, 09:34 PM   #138
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New yep Folder is up!


You Can Grab It Here!


This includes the STS updates & the Producing Yourself thread up to post # 136

Enjoy, and we hope you all have a GREAT Christmas!
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:22 PM   #139
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...This makes it extremely difficult to find "different" or "outstanding" solutions for an otherwise cheesy arrangement...
I actually think that even fairly limited musicians can, should, and will benefit from putting some effort into arrangement.

Let's imagine a very crude garage-rock trio. They have a very "static" song which consists of two parts: a verse and a chorus. Each part consists of one guitar riff, doubled by the bass, and one vocal melody. They alternate verse and chorus three times. Let's stipulate that the vocalist might have very limited range and ability, and that the drummer is basically playing the same beat throughout, with a fill every eighth measure, or every transition. This is about as simple as a song gets.

So here is how we might approach arrangement, without requiring any lessons in theory, or any string sections, or any significant musical skill:

- Create an intro: the guitar plays the most memorable riff from the song, reinforced by the bass and big drum hits.

- First verse: guitar drops out, just bass and drums playing the verse riff. Singer whispers the the lyric instead of singing it.

- First Chorus: Guitar riff joins the other instruments, and singer switches to full-voice.

- Second verse: Band plays normally

- Second Chorus: Band plays normally, EXCEPT the guitar player, instead of playing the chords, plays only the high-E string (maybe at double-speed) AND the singer whispers the lyric

- REPEAT Second Chorus, as above, except with the singer singing full-voice AND the guitar player adding a second track of sustained power chords (not strumming the riff) to the high-E ringing.

- Third verse: Start drums and vocals only for two measures, then drums, bass, and vocals for two measures, then full band playing normally to finish the verse (you could change this to any breakdown/buildup, e.g. guitar only, then guitar+bass, then drums. Or whatever.)

- Third Chorus: Played normally, except guitar is playing sustained power chords (as above) instead of strumming the riff.

- Repeat third chorus normally or with high-E ringing or whatever.

Now you have turned a static, flat song into a dynamic arrangement where no section sounds the same as any other. Focus, attention, and energy is constantly moving, with ZERO improvement in musicianship. And I daresay this band would have no trouble at all turning this into a live arrangement. Even the Ramones could do stuff like this.

If the band is capable of playing any caliber of fills, lead licks, substitutions, or harmonies, then the possibilities explode.
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Old 01-01-2010, 07:03 AM   #140
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Default a good recording procedure...?

I realise that this has (in general) been covered already, but I feel like I have a specific case that I'm unsure how to best approach.

I record everything myself, overdubbing to record the audio and program the MIDI. A problem I have is that of timing. I really like having a somewhat open/flexible time (ie. I don't generally use a metronome), because I think it makes the music more compelling. However, this makes getting the timing of later overdubs very difficult. To try to get around this, and make things more tightly knitted I sometimes record the guitar and vocals at the same time. This has two problems though - first, the vocals suffer, and second I get bleed from the guitar into the vocal mic so that correcting vocals becomes difficult/impossible.

I suppose I could program the drums beforehand, and introduce tempo changes prior to recording, but I feel it would still sound programmed and contrived. I have however added drums later to already-cut vox and guitar with reasonable results, but it never sounds really _tight_.

Does anyone else try and do this kind of thing? Any good solutions out there? I have an album at anguswallace.com (the last two songs are examples of what I'm talking about - recorded initially just guitar and vocals (separate takes), all other parts layered).

Ideally, I'd rehearse these songs with a band, and record them with band-feeling (much like that great youtube vid that was posted earlier) -- but I don't have a band ;-). How do I fake it?!?

All advice appreciated!
Cheers..
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Old 01-01-2010, 07:27 AM   #141
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Quote:
I suppose I could program the drums beforehand, and introduce tempo changes prior to recording, but I feel it would still sound programmed and contrived. I have however added drums later to already-cut vox and guitar with reasonable results, but it never sounds really _tight_.
I would take a hybrid approach: Record the guitar part once the way you want it and then put your drums/clicks in with tempo changes, ritards etc where they should fall when you play freely. Then replace the original guitar part - yes, delete or at least mute it. Play and sing all the parts following the drums. Every free performance is unique, so it may take a bit of practice to be able to nail it. But I think you'll be happier in the end.

That said, others on this board are more experienced than I with beat-and tempo mapping. There may be an easier or more precise way of approaching this.
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Old 01-01-2010, 10:16 AM   #142
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I do exactly what Captain Damage outlined. As a guitarist, I will typically come up with the main riff or concept on guitar. This will get tracked first, then I will write the rhythm section. Over that, I will nix and then rerecord the guitar synced to the drums and bass. And lastly, the vox or other instruments.
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Old 01-01-2010, 11:03 AM   #143
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This has two problems though - first, the vocals suffer, and second I get bleed from the guitar into the vocal mic so that correcting vocals becomes difficult/impossible..
Those are 2 major reasons *not* to do it this way.
Concentrate on 1 thing @ a time.
And one of the reasons in a live performance a lead singer that plays guitar at the same time often isn't as good as a lead singer without.
(and the added performance factors)

The drums lay the beat/tempo, so everything should sync to those.
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Old 01-01-2010, 12:58 PM   #144
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Captain Damage is exactly on the right track.

Starting a recording with anything other than the drums as the first track is always asking for trouble. Never say never, but it's *very* unusual for everything to fall into place if the drums are being recorded after the other instruments.

So the simple solution is to use everything recorded *before* the drums as a "scratch track". Once the song is knocked roughly into shape, record the drums. Then expect to go through and re-record all the other tracks. The obvious implication of this is not to waste too much time on anything until you have a real drum track.

There are also some very cool ways to tempo-map in REAPER so that you can line up measures and beats to match a "free"-time recording. Bevoss gives brilliant instructions here:

http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=14737
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Old 01-02-2010, 03:18 AM   #145
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Default Re: a good recording procedure...?

Thanks to all who replied to my question -- that was a bit of an aha! for me :-)

Just an extra query: say you were recording a song where the drums only played sporadically, or only entered part-way through the song. Would you do a similar thing, but fill-in time-keeping drums in the other parts, re-cut the guitar/voc and then remove those drum bits? Is that the best way, do you think?

Just an additional thanks to all the contributors to this thread and the WDYRSLA thread -- they've been really helpful and informative.
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Old 01-02-2010, 06:31 AM   #146
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Would you do a similar thing, but fill-in time-keeping drums in the other parts...?
That's exactly right. Put an extra track above the drum track to use as your click track. Wherever the drums aren't playing in your song put something in the click track to keep time. It could be metronome ticks or maraca shakes, whatever - I usually use a backbeat pattern. When you want to hear the song without the click track, just mute it.

You can also use your click to help you keep time when you want to make the real drum track more interesting - make it sound improvised or more complex or minimalistic - to the point where it might be hard to follow without a lot of extra practice time.
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Old 01-02-2010, 10:43 AM   #147
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make it sound improvised or more complex or minimalistic - to the point where it might be hard to follow without a lot of extra practice time.
Good workflow discussion.
Becomes even more important when you start double/triple tracking parts etc.
You've got to have a steady base to record each part.

Here's my workflow:

1) create a track. Turn on metronome to 'play' and 'record' with 2 or 4 bars intro.
2) press play, play guitar part, adjust the project tempo until mentronome/beat is just right.
3) arm track, play 30 sec. scratch guitar to metronome
4) change metronome to intro only when record. Drop a simple, basic beat that is in the same 'groove' as the song to a new track from DrumCore (or whichever VSTi)and drag it out.
5) Delete scratch guitar and re-arm. Record full rythym guitar part to drum track.
(first setup markers on your project for the intro/verse/chorus/lead etc. so it's easier to keep track of where you are in the song)
6) record all other parts to the drum track/guitar track.
7) go back and spice up/tweak/add variations/polish the drum track.

(having 4 measures or so of 'extra' intro that you will delete to play to to get 'into the groove' is helpful too)

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Old 01-02-2010, 09:26 PM   #148
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Thanks to all who replied to my question -- that was a bit of an aha! for me :-)

Just an extra query: say you were recording a song where the drums only played sporadically, or only entered part-way through the song. Would you do a similar thing, but fill-in time-keeping drums in the other parts, re-cut the guitar/voc and then remove those drum bits? Is that the best way, do you think?...
First off, the more unusual your project, the harder it becomes to offer any "right way" to do it.

That said, the point of recording drums first is that the drums are generally the instrument that holds the rest of the timing together. If you think in terms of pitch instead of timing, the reason NOT to record vocals first is because it is typically a lot harder for the other instruments to follow the pitch of the vocals than vice-versa.

Just as a singer is generally singing to either a real or imagined pitch reference, so are all the instruments generally playing to either a real or imagined "beat". The hard part about trying to lay drums on top of a pre-existing instrument track is that the *real* beat now has to try and fit the unheard, imaginary beat that was in the player's head.
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Old 01-03-2010, 03:11 PM   #149
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I sometimes had to add sequenced synth tracks (actually Fairlight) over live tracks. The first thing was to create a click track - me whacking a cowbell along with the playback and the engineer recording it on track 16. If needed, we fixed the timing with a few punch-ins.

Then we fed the click track into a sync box (Roland SBX-80), which generated a pitched sync tone and DIN sync. The tone varied according to the tempo, and it was fed through a Garfield Electronics Mini Doc time-base converter into the Fairlight and any other gear.

The same method could be used today, by simply tapping on a mic, and then tempo-mapping that in Reaper.
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Old 01-04-2010, 02:13 PM   #150
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Even the Ramones could do stuff like this.
The Ramones perfected stuff like that

(sorry Yep, couldn't resist Gabba Gabba Hey)
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Old 01-13-2010, 11:12 PM   #151
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Default A Final Yep File Is Up!

Yep First Year Collection

This is the entire collection of the threads "Why do your recordings sound like ass?" & "Producing Yourself" Threads by yep.

This collection covers 12-02-2008 to 12-24-2009 and includes all the graphics & miscellaneous stuff. This is only yep's parts, not the entire thread!

"Why do your recordings sound like ass?" - 316 Page PDF

"Producing Yourself" - 37 Page PDF

I will not be adding to this one & will start a new one for the new year.

Enjoy!
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Old 01-15-2010, 04:10 PM   #152
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Several of you guys have written about the importance of tracking the drums first, to the extent that everything recorded before the drums should be re-tracked once the drums are done.

Would you still recommend re-tracking guitar/bass tracks even if they were recorded to a click track? Or, to put it another way, does a click track count as a good-enough drum track?
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Old 01-15-2010, 08:50 PM   #153
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Would you still recommend re-tracking guitar/bass tracks even if they were recorded to a click track? Or, to put it another way, does a click track count as a good-enough drum track?
This is where it gets a little more situationally dependent. There are two conflicting principles that here: 1) Performances will usually be better when you're playing the way it's supposed to sound. I.e., when you're playing the part in context. 2) If everyone is playing tight to the click and it sounds on, it should be good to keep. Which one of these principals rules depends on a huge number of factors - the type of material, how well you know the song, how much caffeine you've had, if you're having a good day etc.

So what I would do is keep the old tracks and lay down new tracks and go with whatever sounds better. Or maybe it'll be a combination like the old bass track and the new guitar track.
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Old 01-16-2010, 08:51 AM   #154
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What has worked FOR ME is to select just 1 loop the fits the "feel" of what I am recording as close as possible, not worrying about breaks, etc until the guitar-bass is done. I then ill go back & tweak the drums until I am happy.

If using just a metronome, do yourself a favor and find some softer sounds for the "2-3-4" counts so your ears don't hurt & your brain shut down because for it!

Just a IMHO moment.....
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Old 01-16-2010, 03:23 PM   #155
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I'll second that.

I will come up with a basic beat for the drums to play, that isn't as elaborate or shiny as the final cut will be, but still captures the feel of the song and the tempo/dynamics changes (if any).

Then I'll record to that as my click track, and work from there.
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Old 01-16-2010, 10:39 PM   #156
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...Would you still recommend re-tracking guitar/bass tracks even if they were recorded to a click track? Or, to put it another way, does a click track count as a good-enough drum track?
Ordinarily I would say that tracks cut to a click are okay to exactly the degree that everything fits once you introduce the drum part.

It really all comes down to the "one" beat, and then to how everyone reacts to everything from there. Everyone, always, has to known where the "one" is. As long as everyone is playing the same tempo, and as long as everyone can land on the one, individual variations don't matter all that much.

The first and most common problem of timing is people introducing extra beats of leaving out beats in a measure. The most common source of this is a drummer who plays fills without clearly and cleanly leading up to and landing on the "one" beat. Maybe he throws in a couple of triplet rolls, or a half-time slowdown, or a fast alternate passage or whatever. Next thing you know, the main song riff doesn't "fit" and everyone (listener included) has to stop and regroup and figure out what's going on.

The second most common problem is players having a different feel for the "swing". Try this: say the word "culminating" over and over again, tapping your hand on the 1st and 3rd syllables ("cul" and "nat(e)"). Now, without stopping, change to saying the word "overbearing" and keep tapping on the 1st and 3rd syllables ("Ov-" and "bear-"). If you pronounce english the way that most people do, there will be a noticeable difference in how you accent and time the same four "beats".

Go ahead and swap between them, back and forth: "culminating overbearing culminating overbearing..." That itself almost changes the meter from 4/4 to 4/8 (or 2/4 to 4/4 or whatever).

If you have any doubts about whether there is really a difference in metric feel, try only clapping/tapping on the "upbeat" syllables (i.e. "min" and "ing" for culminating, and "er" and "ing" for overbearing). I think the distinction will be obvious for anyone used to English pronunciation.

It's not that recording drums first has some magic importance, it's that all the instruments should have a clear sense of whether they are supposed to be "culminating" or "overbearing" (so to speak) and when (since it may change through the course of a song).

In many cases, if you've been recording to a click, the revelatory moment happens when you try to fit a drum beat to a bass that is saying "culminating" while the lyrics are saying "overbearing", so to speak. And so on. Nothing's "wrong", per se, it just doesn't quite fit together. And you may find that the guitar is playing a line that hits the same four beats, but whose accents and note duration sounds more like "BURNING BACON BURNING BACON" while the organ sounds like "meadows and trees, meadows and trees"...

Each of the above phrases consists of four syllables, more or less evenly-spaced, and would typically be notated as even quarter-notes. But if you spoke them all to a click individually and then mixed them together, the accents and transients and tails would be all over the place, and it would sound quite sloppy and out-of-time, even though it wasn't.

Everyone needs to know where the accents are, where the beats fall (especially the one), and what the note duration "feels" like. They don't all need to play the exact same way, but they need to know what they're working with. The easiest way to do that is to have a great drum part, and then everyone play to the drums.
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Old 01-17-2010, 02:27 PM   #157
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You bring up a good point. I'm comfortable playing to a click (I almost always practice with a metronome), and I'm not worried about adding or skipping beats. But you're absolutely right that I can't predict how much the drummer (or EZDrummer) is going to swing its eighth notes. Thanks for bringing that up!
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Old 02-01-2010, 05:40 PM   #158
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I record everything myself, overdubbing to record the audio and program the MIDI. A problem I have is that of timing. I really like having a somewhat open/flexible time (ie. I don't generally use a metronome), because I think it makes the music more compelling. However, this makes getting the timing of later overdubs very difficult. To try to get around this, and make things more tightly knitted I sometimes record the guitar and vocals at the same time. This has two problems though - first, the vocals suffer, and second I get bleed from the guitar into the vocal mic so that correcting vocals becomes difficult/impossible.
You've nailed the two big problems there, and I think people are right that another approach is in order. I assume that if you're asking about it, that means it's really interfering with your vision, and isn't the kind of quirk you can just embrace.

I did want to chip in for a second, though, and mention that this reminds me of a Syd Barrett album called "The Madcap Laughs" -- specifically songs like "Octopus." I might have my history completely wrong about the recording process, but I'll tell the story the way I remember hearing it. Since Barrett was, let's say, "mentally unreliable," and a bit weird, they tried to save trouble by recording him first, playing acoustic guitar and singing. (Then they could bring in players to add arrangements around that, sparing themselves the hassle of getting an unreliable/weird guy to play well with a whole band.) And those basic recordings sounded great, except for the fact that Barrett had an INCREDIBLY loopy sense of rhythm -- it mostly makes sense to listen to, but it's full of all kinds of lurches and drags and skipped beats in completely counter-intuitive places. But this is a lot of what makes Barrett so fascinating to listen to, so things went ahead -- and there are a few songs on that record that feature a rhythm section hanging on for dear life, doing their damndest to follow all those weird loopy sways in the rhythm.

And to a lot of people, that sounds terrific -- the sound is loopy, off-kilter, woozy, loose and stumbling. It's unique and interesting.

Like I said, if you're asking about the timing issue here, that probably means it's messing with the way you want things to sound -- it's a problem you want to eliminate, not embrace. But when you said you liked the timing flexible, I couldn't help thinking of that Barrett record.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:19 PM   #159
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You bring up a good point. I'm comfortable playing to a click (I almost always practice with a metronome), and I'm not worried about adding or skipping beats. But you're absolutely right that I can't predict how much the drummer (or EZDrummer) is going to swing its eighth notes. Thanks for bringing that up!
You are exactly right about those differences. However, one thing that I think is extremely important (forgive me if its old news) is you may not need to "predict" where the drummer is going to hit based on a mental grid created by a metronome. Not that you are but I used to be very concious of how a person played compared to the perfect grid I had been practicing to, all the time thinking I should maintain that grid when I play with the drummer and we'll both end up on that grid once we lock in but it always felt stiff and/or out of whack.

In my humble experience that almost always results in bands that don't sound cohesive, they sound like several musicians playing at once to their own "perfect grid", none of which line up musically. So, imagine the drummer naturally hits the snare a tad late.... If instead of mentally comparing that snare to a grid, I now use that snare as my queue of where my next hit goes, it will groove much more and be more organic and like one big locked in unit that is bigger than the sum of the parts. So I guess the moral of the story is that it is great to practice with a metronome as much as possible but its not great to play like a metronome when playing with people. Thats somewhat how the term "playing off of each other" comes from. It makes things sound real good.

A good exersize to test this out is to look at the part you are playing rhytmically and notice one of the spots you "hit" the chord, lets say its a down beat on the 3. Now, find out what the last thing the drummer hits just before the 3 count and use his hit to time your upcoming hit regardless of where a metronome thinks the 3 should land. Rinse and repeat for each part of your rhythm. Its a great way to find a groove with other players.


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Old 02-02-2010, 02:31 PM   #160
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...To try to get around this, and make things more tightly knitted I sometimes record the guitar and vocals at the same time. This has two problems though - first, the vocals suffer, and second I get bleed from the guitar into the vocal mic so that correcting vocals becomes difficult/impossible....
You need a pair of good quality figure 8 or switchable pattern mics. The figure 8 pattern has the deepest, cleanest null of any mic pattern. By aiming the null at what you don't want to hear you can get remarkable separation between two sources even if the mics are only a few inches apart.

I did a little blog post about this, including a video demonstration:

http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/2009/...figure-8-mics/

I've continued to work with this technique and discovered that the figure 8 pattern is also useful for recording several acoustic sources in one small room. Once again the trick is to aim the null first, then aim the sensitive area. By arranging the musicians side by side it's not too hard to aim the mics so you get remarkable separation.

Naturally this works better if the room has decent treatment for early reflections, and some gobos never hurt <grin>.

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