My sister is visiting from Alaska and when she visits we like to set aside one night to play music. So we got a babysitter last Friday and I set up my PA and drums and guitars in the living room. However, rather than taking the organic approach of creating our own music, we just plugged in the iPod to the PA and sang along to our favorite songs. Rock -n-Roll songs were in heavy rotation. It was a total blast. I had a wicked hangover the next morning and it was well worth the misery. Then my sister took my wife and I on an 8 mile trail run as just punishment for our transgressions. It was a great 24 hours. I will miss my sister when she goes back to AK. We are having FUN.
I was terrified to start recording again because it has been quite awhile since my original flurry of activity and I had forgotten a lot of what I had learned. Still, the presence of my fancy new computer was looming, a constant reminder to get back at it and get back at it I did. I chose a song i wrote about a year ago called “Have a Nice Day”. Its a fun little ditty drenched in cynicism.
I’ve been working on the song for about a month now and it has been pretty agonizing. I started by playing the song on my acoustic to figure out a beat per minute. Once that was settled I set the metronome to that beat count and then created a very simple drum track. Then I recorded the basis of the song on acoustic guitar, which is how I wrote the song in the first place. Then I layered a couple of rhythm electric guitar tracks, a bass track, and an electric solo track. Mind you, this all took about a week of after-hours activity. Then came the vocals.
The vocals on this song are difficult because the song is conveying a certain feeling and the vocal needs to be nuanced. I sang a lot of takes before getting something passable. This was fun! My favorite thing to do is record the vocal. Other parts of the song creation can be tedious, but singing is glorious. When all the hard work of layering guitar and bass tracks is done it is so fun to just press record and sing.
I also expirimented with some background vocals and realized they created a great mood and texture. Background vocals are something I have never really used and now I am smitted with them. Back in the day of my old recorder I rarely had enough tracks to lay them down. Now I do. Hooray for background vocals. They changed my song “you dont know how good you’ve got it” from a mediocre recording to a great one.
By far the most difficult process of this song has been the drums. When I originally recorded the guitar to the metronome, I got a little bit off beat in a few places. So when I went back to rearrange the drum track to line it up with the off-timing of the guitar, it was tedious, difficult, and ultimately impossible. One night this week I spent two miserable hours mouse clicking beats into a grid and I got nowhere. And I thought to myself that this was not what I wanted to be doing at all. I started pining for the good old days of my messy, lo-fi. I was getting too cutesy and cerebral on the computer. It was time to go back to being messy and physical. Messy is fun. Messy has soul. So the next day I set up a mic in the middle of the room and started playing a live drum track. And it took about 5 takes and some cutting and pasting, but I finally got a live drum track that worked and now i am back on the live drum track bandwagon, because it is true that drum machines have no soul.
I need to tweak a few things with the song but it is almost finished. It is good but not great. But it will go on my next album. How could it not, after the tedious month I spent honing it. I will post the song shortly.