A site dedicated to the music and musing of Carl Strempler

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You Make Me Whole

Rheal Gauthier wrote “You Make Me Whole” as part of the Resonate 2010 songwriter course. Here is the rough track. I decided to track the initial vocal and acoustics (played by Rheal) with a Drumcore Drum Loop.

You Make Me Whole – Rough Track

On a couple of successive evenings this week I put in an hour per night to lay down the bass and guitars. The lead guitar is my trusty Jeff Beck Les Paul. The left side rhythm guitar is recorded with a Telecaster. The right side chunking is the Les Paul with some added Soapbar PRS for brightness in the middle. All tones are either direct from the Swart Atomic Space Tone amp or, in the case the more distorted lead and rhythm sounds, aided by a Fulltone OCD overdrive pedal. In the end the track rocks pretty well.

You Make Me Whole

Adding Acoustics to Welcome Home

After listening to the tune a bit on my iPod I really got the sense that the last chorus needed a lift. I thought about maybe adding an organ part or electric guitar part but that seemed a bit overbearing for the track so I decided to try some acoustic guitar. My Bourgeois Slope D is great for strummed tracks. Pick selection is also very important especially with acoustic instruments. In this case I wanted an airy quality to the sound so I selected the old standby Fender Medium celluloid pick. I had thought originally about putting acoustic guitar as the basis of the entire track but that would not have filled in too many of the holes. So, here is the acoustic guitar track I recorded. I recorded two tracks and panned on hard left and one hard right. I used an Audio-Technica AT4041 condenser mic, about 2 feet away from the upper 14th fret point back at the body. Because the track was to be a background part I didn’t want a lot of bass of fullness in the sound and putting the mic a little farther away helps. Also, I eq’ed the track with a shelf tapering off starting at around 300 Hz. Here are the acoustic tracks by themselves…

Acoustic Guitar Tracks

…and here is how they sound in the track…

Welcome Home with Acoustic

So, that’s in for now on this track. I will come back to the track to do a final mix and mastering later on but now its time to start work on another of the tunes recorded that fateful Friday in July.

<a href=”https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.47/735.12d.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/20100821Electric-Guitar.mp3″>First Guitar Track</a>

Adding Electric Guitars to Welcome Home

Time to add some guitars to the track. With vocals being the focus the tone of the guitar has to stay away from those midrange frequences. I selected my Telecaster through the Swart Atomic Space Tone. I took a quick picture of the rig before recording. The item on top of the amp is an attenuator that sounds pretty awesome and reduces the volume of the amp. Check out the Night Light from the Swart website. It’s a great alternative to having an amp with a master volume. Sweat tone. Here is a sample of the guitar sound I started with…

First Guitar Track

Here is the track with that first electric guitar in it…

Welcome Home – Rhythm Guitar Added

To balance this first guitar track a second stereo part recorded twice, one mixed far right and one mixed far left…

Welcome Home – With Additional Rhythm Guitar Tracks

Now for the intro, solo, and outro…

Welcome Home – With Intro, Solo, and Outro

The mix isn’t final and the vocals have to come up in places. Parts still need to be placed properly in the mix but something is missing in the choruses…but its late, that will have to wait until next post.

Compression on the Vocals for Welcome Home

The vocal track is very brooding and breathy on this track and so I wanted to accentuate that in the mix. There are a few notes that are slightly out of tune so I tried to AutoTune just a few spots but it just using AutoTune can sometimes kill the spirit of a track. In this case I decided to just leave it alone and instead play on the vulnerability of the vocals. I selected the Vintage Channel plug-in and set it to some relatively radical settings and turned on the DeEsser feature to take some artifacts out of the vocals that I found not as pleasant after using the compressor. Take a listen.

Matt Horner – Welcome Home – Compression on Vocals

After this step its clear to me that the vocals will have to be very much front and centre in the track. This will effect how I play the guitar parts as you will hear in my next posting.

Fixing the Keyboard Track on Welcome Home

The keyboard track was recorded using the TruePiano plug-in so the recording made was that of the MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) messages being sent to the plug in. So, I am now able to edit the keyboard playing not just the audio. This allowed me to fix the timing. The picture here shows the track prior to fixing the timing of some of the playing. I was able to remove erroneous notes and sustain notes in the intro that were accidentally played staccato. So take a listen to the fixed version of the track with the revised keyboard and hear how it locks in with the bass and drums.

Matt Horner – Welcome Home – Fixed Keyboard Track

Adding Bass and Drums to Welcome Home

The first thing I did was to find some real drummer loops to put on this track before laying down the bass. I have been using Drumcore to avoid that programmed drum sound. I choose a series of loops recorded by Lonnie Wilson. You can see Lonnie recording grooves for Drumcore on YouTube. I then added the bass sound using my trusty MusicMan Stingray Bass direct into my Presonus Firebox interface. I will tweak the tone of the bass later.

Matt Horner – Welcome Home -Added Bass and Drums

Once the drum track was in the tune you can really hear the push pull of the tempo. Next step will be to modify the keyboard track to synch up more with the groove.

Resonate 2010 – Rough Tracks

Mary MacLean has been holding a 3 week intensive course in worship and song writing called Resonate 2010. On Friday I recorded the rough tracks for 12 songs from the participants in this course. I’m going to blog the evolution of one of those tracks into a more complete song.

The first tune I’ve selected to do this with is Matt Horner’s Welcome Home. Since I only had 9 hours to record 12 songs we did not have a lot of time to be picky. Matt was not super confortable with playing the keyboard part. Dispite the fact that this was recorded at around 8 am I think it has some real potential. Here is the rough track.

Welcome Home – Rough Track

HP (unsanctioned, non-official) Party Bands

HP Bands

I work for HP as the manager of the Microsoft Practice for Canada. This year is our second annual employee funded work party for HP in Winnipeg. Last year I put together 3 bands and worked for 6 weeks to whip them into shape. I played bass in two of the bands and guitar in the last band of the night. The party was a huge success and the bands did great. This year we got a bit more of a head start and a few more band members. I’m the musical director but the bands are a lot more independant. I only play in one of the bands and I’m leaving the bass playing to someone else in the other bands. The bands are sounding great. We have been recording the practices first with a Zoom H2 and now with a laptop loaded with Cakewalk Sonar. This week we introduced a new song to the band I play guitar in, Kat and the Soul Dogs. This is a bit rough as its just a direct recording of the practice but I love the spirit of it. This really captures the party atmosphere these guys are creating.

Love Shack

My Favorite Top 3 Recordings of 2008 – #2

If you have never paid attention to Ry Cooder it is well past time you did. A quick browse on YouTube will show you evidence of his pure artistry. One of the greatest perveyors of slide guitar that has ever walk the face of the earth. He’s the hidden man. He’s the seminal figure in roots rock music. Follow this link on Ry Cooder and read up on his exploits in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. He has been a pioneer recording one of the first all digital recordings “Bop Till You Drop”. That recording demonstrated his deep gospel influences. On Mavis Staples’ 2007 recording “We’ll Never Turn Back”, Ry produced the record and again showed his deep understanding of earthy black gospel music. Ry’s playing has always had a roughness about it. Like hands that have worked a hoe. This deep connection with nuance and regional music has always drawn me to his playing. It’s never about flash. It’s always about substance…and humour. He plays all styles of music with an heir of respect.

And so I come to my #2 favorite recording of 2008. Ry Cooder’s, “I, Flathead”. This is the third in Ry’s California Trilogy of concept records. Ry uses the backstory of drag racing culture on the salt flats of California to explore Bakersfield influences, Bob Wills and the Texas Cowboys,

The hilarious tune, “Spayed Kooley”, is about a dog that will attack you if you sing out of tune. This is a not so subtle reference to Spade Cooley the notorious (for good reason, read his wiki profile) fiddle playing band leader. Steel Guitar Heaven harkens back to Bob Wills and the Texas Cowboys. Interestly, Spade Cooley didn’t make it to Steel Guitar Heaven. It is easy to think about music as fitting into clear catagories, such as Rock, Country, Blues, Jazz, and Bluegrass. This is not how music evolved in North America. This is a oversimplification designed to help marketing. It has nothing to do with how musicians play music or how the music of today has evolved. North America is a melting pot of influences. Musicians play all styles. Check out the jazz influences on “My Dwarf is Getting Tired”. In fact, just check out this whole recording. It is my #2 pick for 2008.

My Favorite Top 3 Recordings of 2008 – #3

Being in a retrospective mood I thought I might share my top 3 favorite recordings of 2008. These are albums that I’ve found hard to take off of my MP3 player and keep going back to for inspiration. The choices may surprise you.

#3 Al Green – Lay It Down

The Reverend brings it on this album. Sure his instrument isn’t what it used to be but true artistry is about getting the most out of what you’ve got. The mellow thick guitar tones bring to mind Eric Gale’s guitar work in the late 70’s and early 80’s when he held court in New York’s session scene (check out Paul Simon’s One-Trick Pony). Rich grooving bass lines throughout. The drum sounds are played with nothing but feel, then run through outboard analog compressors, amp farm (on the hats believe it or not), and then compressed again. This combination forms a subtle backdrop keeping your focus on one of the greatest voices in R&B. Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson produced this great example of how an album can take on  distinctive analog sound in this modern age of pristine recording techniques. Recorded direct off the floor with the song writers, band, and vocalists all in the room together give this record a vibe somewhere between Memphis and Motown.

Many guitar players listen to guitar players for inspiration. For me its Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Al Green. If you can capture just a bit of that soul in your playing you’ve got something worth listening to.

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