To add some more character the vocal track I selected a compressor plug-in that emulates a vintage analog compressor. It adds a little bit of grind or distortion to the signal which has the effect of creating a bit more warmth in the vocal. Compressors bring out more of the sound between the notes as they amplify the lower volume points and reduce the volume on the peaks.
In this version the acoustic guitars have been replaced. Micing of the guitar is done with an Audio Technica 4041 and a Shure KSM32. The track is coming together now and is ready for a final mix down. I like to do that at a local studio where they have a number of speaker configurations including a big blaster.
As per my last posting, I was looking for a mandolin to add to the track. My friend Ari was kind enough to lend me his mandolin last Wendesday in prepartion for Thursday’s session. Well, we never did get around to tracking mandolin on Thursday. Instead we replaced the scratch vocal track. Now the acoustic guitar track had to be pulled from the mix as it has bleed in from the scratch vocal. Replacing the acoustic guitar track is a task for the next session.
Now that I had a mandolin it was time to learn how to play it. So, off to YouTube where I found this helpful video…
I printed out the chords from the related web site and found a few formation that would work. Ari’s mandolin worked pretty well but didn’t ring quite like the one in the lesson video so off to the music store I went. This is where my Gear Aquisition Syndrome kicks in. I noticed on videos that some people where playing old 1924 Gibson F-5 ($225,000) and Collings (still crazy expensive) and Eastman (hey, not too expensive). The music store I went to had a full line of Eastman mandolins. I found the one I thought sounded best and made note of it. Later that evening it was off to eBay to check on used ones. I found that these mandolins held their value pretty well, are hand made in China, and with shipping it was better for me to buy one locally than to try to buy one used from eBay. The next day, Saturday October 11, this baby was part of the fold.
The thing about this mandolin is that it rings and rings. Sounds like a harp. It was about mid price in the line but it has that special something that you know is great the moment you pick it up and strum it. So that evening, after the kids were in bed and the house was quite I tracked a rhythm track and a track of fills. The mix here as the mandolin up higher than it will be in order to feature it more.
2 AM on Sunday. Can’t resist it. Have to pickup the Daneletro and try a slide track. But which slide to use? What sound? I settle on the brass AcoustaGlide seen in the centre of the picture. This is a tapered brass slide designed by Leo Kottke. The polished finish gives a sound very similar to glass but with more sustain. I chose to play through the Swart AST with a clean sound. Not sure if I’m going to keep this track in the song yet. It is pretty laid back. It may work if I jucstaposed a bright mandolin track. I added some reverb to the track just to find some dimension to place the slide within. None of this has been reviewed by Mike so who knows, this may not make it onto the song in the final mix. In the spirit of this series of postings I’m going to continue to post whatever ideas I record.
Saturday mornings before things really get going is a good time for me to work on tracks that I can track with headphones only like Bass. This morning I first fixed up the drum loops a bit taking the kick out of the track during the breakdown section. I used some different “real drummer” loops and fills. I added a bass track rolling off the top end on my MusicMan StingRay Bass. The Bass has an active battery powered EQ on it that really delivers punch. In this case I wanted to emulate older records P-Bass sound. I tracked the Bass part. I then EQ’ed the kick drum down a little bit in the loop by dropping 60Hz.
Mike Blair has graciously agreed to allow me to post each phase of the recording process on my blog. The slow evolution of the track will unfold from one posting to the next. This song is a tribute to Mike’s grandfather. The tune take a very traditional 3/2 feel. Mike sat down with an acoustic guitar and played the tune for me. I selected a drum feel and tempo to match. Vocals are and guitar are recorded together with the drum loop. Vocals are recorded with a Shure KSM32 and the guitar with an AudioTechnica AT4041. This is the second take. When we played it back we noticed that just prior to the key change at bar 32 the kick drum was reversed on the groove. Turns out Mike has been playing a bar of 3/4 just prior to the key change. We adjusted that and slid the rest of the drum track over and we were back in sync. The tracks are completely dry and everything is going to change. This will act as a reference point.
Long lazy summer days give way to evening thunder showers on the prairies where I live. One such day I laid down this rhythm track with my Telecaster through my Swart AST. The rich tremolo effect on this amp inspired me. I left the track for several weeks while I prepared for another gig. I had forgotten all about the track. This week I finally fired up my computer again and there in the last opened list was this track. I was practicing slide late at night when I thought it might be fun to run the Love Pedal Eternity Drive (overdrive) into my Maxon Auto Wah and try playing slide through it. After a bit of tweaking I arrived at this slide sound. The wah gives it a kind of vocal quality. The Love Pedal is a bit different than other overdrives. Level and Drive work much like any other overdrive pedal. Glass is like a treble booster. For this track I used the settings shown on the pedal here. I used my Danelectro playing the neck pickup for an extra thick sound. Delay was added in Sonar. Languid and lazy, this track is meant to wash over you like a warm rain.
I’ve been doing so much tracking for this country project I thought I might break out a little. I found this heavy drum loop and right away knew it would do. I threw down the rhythm guitar track just fooling around. Its not perfect but I liked the intensity of it. Inspired by word that Satriani is coming to town I came up with this little lead hook. Then, I made the mistake of watching a DVD of Daniel Lanios called Here Is What Is (thanks Kevin). Later that night I added some slide by plugging in direct adding effects later to give the track depth. Underneath you will hear guitar figure played with delay. It comes in and out like a pad. It is actually recorded direct with my son’s little Vox practice amp. I thought I would try the line out on this battery powered amp. The lead track is played on Les through the Fuchs TDS.
I’ve just finished mixing this song. Mike brought this tune in and I knew it would be fun. This is just a good old twang fest. On this tune the Telecaster through the Swart Atomic Space Tone amp is pitted against a Fralin Blues Special equiped Stratocaster into the Fuchs TDS. The open room sounds were recorded in a local tavern one night with the father-in-law of composer in tow. Fortunately, we were requested to turn off the recorder by one of the employees of said establishment only after we captured enough sound for this little intro. I played if for Mike and I recorded a bit of tuning for it. Mike added some band chatter and we where off to the races. The only pedal used on this recording is a Keeley Compressor.
Over the last month I’ve been working with Mike Blair on some Country tunes for his band Mike Blair and Rafter B. Check out his website at www.rafterb.net. I’ve enjoyed our initial sessions. Mike has given me the go ahead to share samples of the tunes we record. This first one is Alone Under The Stars. The process started with Mike playing and singing the song with some different rhythm grooves and tempos until we found something we could settle on. He then tracked a scratch vocal and acoustic guitar track. I laid down the bass part and we left it for a week. Over the weekend I was fooling with my Danelectro looking for haunting parts that would accent the loneliness of the song. Picking harmonics on and then using a brass slide slathered with reverb and delay was just the ticket.
We retracked the acoustics splitting the fingerpicking part from the strumming. Fingerpicking is recorded stereo with two microphones using the Colling OOO-3 guitar. Vocals were retracked. I added volume swell tracks with the Stratocaster and a volume pedal into my Swart amp to put a bit of icing on the cake. Special thanks to Jordan Jackiew for lending me the Wunder Audio microphone. The vocals were recorded with this fantastic tube mic. This mic has a beautiful warm sound to it.
Last week the weather looked like it was going to warm up, then on Saturday we were hit with a spring snow storm. What to do when it’s snowing and sleeting outside? Get the Tele out and crank it, of course.On Friday night I received a shipment of some more great drum loops for DrumCore (www.submersiblemusic.com) including some by Zoro (drummer for Lenny Kravitz among others). One of the drum grooves was called ZBluz. It’s a draggy kind of blues groove that just inspired me. So I set out to do a track with no digital touch enhancement. All tracks are recorded with the Swart Atomic Space Tone amp (www.swartamps.com) at various levels of crankedatute. The reverb is the amp reverb, the tremolo is the amp tremolo, and the overdrive is all 6V6 tube sweetness. No overdrive pedals were used in the recording of this track.
The bridge pickup on the Tele is a custom wound O.C. Duff “Nancy” pickup and it really delivers that twang. “Nancy” is what Roy Buchanan called his Telecaster. This pickup is potted so it’s not microphonic like Roy’s was. It has little bit more output to increase the midrange as well.After I recorded the basic tracks it seemed that it was missing something. This was confirmed by a compatriot (who probably wants to remain nameless). He suggested some organ shots. Well…I have a keyboard and I have organ patches…but that would violate my concept. So I borrowed Jordan’s Hughes and Kettner Rotosphere. Jordan warned me that the tube was going. I plugged it into the Fuchs TDS and the Atomic Space Tone in stereo mode and sure enough that tube was cutting out and making all kinds of funky grinding sounds. COOL! Although it meant that half the time I couldn’t finish recording a guitar part with it. I thought about fixing it but…why? In terms of musical influences on this track, aside from Roy, approach is influenced by Danny Gatton. By the end of the song, my propensity for Albert King’isms definitely comes through.