Friday, September 21, 2007

Demo - Part five - Editing

In the studio today I was reminded of that old commercial, "you can pay me now or you can pay me later."

The story goes, I heard three spots in the demo that needed help and went to the studio to fix them. I practiced beforehand, tuned up, and expecting to play and go. Instead, I watched for an hour as Ben manipulated the file making me sound like I know what I'm doing. I never picked up the guitar.

Ben made a really interesting point, he said in the old days, musicians would practice for days getting the song perfect. They'd then go into the studio, record the song a few times and select the best cut. With today's technology, you don't need to be perfect (or even competent like some singers I won't mention). You can use editing features to smooth over any mistakes. You can decide at a later time to add accompanying instruments, back-up vocals or add an introduction (like we did yesterday). The sky's the limit. However, this new technology doesn't save time, it just adds time on the back end versus time practicing.

The lesson to me is to find the balance between perfecting the song and using technology. Walking into the studio prepared will save money, however, its nice to know that I don't need to be perfect!

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Demo - Part 4 - The learning process

Back in the studio today. The first time, all the way through on time, with the guitar part for the Foundation Stands. I felt in good voice so we laid down the vocal track immediately. What was interesting was that the cut felt slow, and the vocals didn't feel natural. In concentrating on keeping to the click track, the emotion of my guitar was missing.

Ben then suggested that I record just the guitar, without the click track. On playback, I was amazed at how well I kept time and when I added the voice how much more natural it felt. While there are a few places I'd like to correct, I'm pretty excited about what we accomplished in one hour.

There has been enormous learning from the last four sessions. I'm more comfortable with keeping time, but still have a long way to go before it's 100% natural. I also have come to know my songs in a way I hadn't before. I know each pause, mini-break or place where I might skip a beat.

Eventually I'm going to have a demo, but along the way, I'm learning a lot....

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thinking as a songwriter

To get re-energized, I've started taking an on-line course at SongU titled "Thinking as a Songwriter." The course talks about being observant and using these observations to create a picture for your listener. One interesting thought was "Your ability to describe the world around you is as unique as your fingerprint."

An exercise from the class was to look around and describe what you see (objects, textures, colors ...). Then make up a story around each image: For example, some images I came up with are:

"Her dress lies crumpled up on the couch"
"Papers overflowing the trash can. "
"An old postcard tacked on the bulletin board."
"The briefcase by the front door"

While each one could become a song, I've started working with the old postcard image. Not quite sure what it will lead to, but that's half the fun of it....

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Rob Roper's Blogging

Rob Roper, a singer songwriter, just started blogging. Check out his blog at

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Steve Earle

American Songwriter magazine just did an excellent article on Steve Earle. A few points that struck me were:

The effort he put into songwriting,
"...spending 10 years in Nashville before anyone would put a record out..."
"the writers were given the keys so they could access the publishing buildings long after the other staff have gone home."
"Songwriters ... have to live in the margin"

He talks about technology and his first forays into ProTools. While its clear that he takes advantage of technology, he pointed out that "technology was getting in the way of the lyrics. They just weren't as important 'cause there were ways to compensate."
"I own couple of hundred guitars and a lot of gear, but I could get into my truck with one guitar and support myself."

There are references to his living in a neighborhood of artists. He describes Freehold, NJ as "Texas" because of all the southern people coming up there to work with Springsteen. (growing up a few miles away, this is news to me).

The article ends with him hearing one of his songs being played at a Yankee game 15 years later. "To me, that's making an impact... I think that's what you wanna go for."

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Demo - Part 3 - Practice rhythm more than chords

Today was our third demo session. We finished the guitar part on College Years and just started working on the Foundation Stands. I've come to the conclusion that one hour sessions are too short, it's taking me that long to get into the groove.

In working on the Foundation Stands, its interesting that I can nail it in practice, but during recording I tend to speed up. While I hear that this is the most common problem, it's still frustrating. Ben made an interesting comment from his teaching experience that guitar students need to focus as much on rhythm as the chords. The typical student focuses on trying to get the chord shapes and forgets about the rhythm. Playing solo guitar this doesn't become an issue until you play with a band or get into the studio.

While this has been frustrating in the studio, I'm hearing a difference in my playing. Since I can't cheat in working with a click track, I'm being forced to be perfect my rhythm. Give me a few more years and I'll be there...

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