Friday, March 5, 2010

Home Recording

We've set up a recording studio in our dining room.  Well, not a full recording studio, but a mic, a computer, a couple of preamps and a mixer.  And we didn't set it up; Dave set it up. But we both use it.

We recorded most everything that needed to be recorded over at Bismeaux Studio.  Like I've said before, we recorded entire takes with no fixes...or should I say only a couple of fixes.  But mostly it's a "what we played is what you get" situation.

But there were a couple of things I wanted to re-record and add to those tracks. Mostly my vocals. Because I wasn't as confident of my own performances as I was with those of my comrades.  I'm not as seasoned in the studio as they are.

Studio playing and/or singing is like anything: a learned skill.  And though I've done a fair bit of studio singing, I haven't done a ton. Not nearly as much as I have live singing.

The difference between live performance and recording is the difference between the broad and the specific.  In live performance is all about connecting through ephemeral moments.  You're better off shooting for emotion over perfection.  You try and hit your mark, but if you should falter -- hit a bad note or lose your place-- you have to keep going.  Do-overs are rare.  Immediacy is everything.

Recording, on the other hand is like a close up. Since it is a permanent record, every breath, every note, counts.With studio recording you're often trying to create something that feels real and immediate by taking things that were recorded at different times and in different places and piecing them together.  With modern recording technology you can literally create a drum track from individual drum beats (anyone seen "Some Kind Of Monster"?).  Most vocal tracks these days are created by comping. A method by which you sing and re-sing a song and whomever is mixing uses the best parts of all those different takes to construct the final vocal.

I've used comping on pretty much every project I've ever worked on. I mean, why not, right?  That way you get rid of your bum notes and your weird phrasing.  You might as well make your permanent record as awesome as possible.

But we're taking a different approach for this record, I want to take a different approach with my vocals. Sure, I'll allow myself some re-sings, but no comps.  Instead of deciding between notes, I'll decide between takes. That means singing the track the whole way through.  And it also means that there will be no perfect takes.  Each one will have it's high and low points.

What I've found is that when I stop striving for absolute perfection and allow for a flat note here and there, it's really hard to beat those original tracks.  There were songs that I was sure needed another try, but after I tried, I realized that while I might have a track that was less technically flawed, it often just doesn't have the right emotion and feel for the track. The original track - the one that I actually sang in the moment and the one I thought didn't work - actually works much much better.

I have done a couple of re-sings that beat the original track.  One only because I simply sang too far off the mic during the original recording (lesson to self: always sing the scratch track like it could be the final track). But we're keeping a lot of original vocals.

I guess our experiment worked better than I thought it would.

Pleasantly surprising.


Gtwodagee said...

Oh, you're not foolin' me lady; you're accumulating "bonus tracks" for the box set to pay for your daughter's college tuition!! Plus, you probably sing better with a sopply of those fancy donuts right there in your kitchen if you need one.....

EMQ said...

Why is it that you always figure out my devious schemes...