Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Blissful Floating

I've been a member of the Six String Bliss community for a few years since I discovered the podcast. It's small compared to some other guitar sites, but very friendly. I've met several of them and regularly chat with others. One of the fun features is the production of an album twice a year. A topic is chosen and people can submit songs either individually or in collaboration with others. I've been on a few of these now. One was a collaboration with several others on a Slade song, but the others have been solo efforts. Previously I have not done full song recordings with multiple parts, so these have been good opportunities to learn about the process.

Previously I've used a MIDI file I downloaded for the backing, but this time I wanted to do it all myself. The topic was 'Songs released in 1987' and I chose She Drifted Away by Hüsker Dü from the Warehouse: Songs and Stories album. It seemed fairly simple and achievable. Then I found myself thrown by the 3/4 time signature. I wrote a bit about how I worked around this previously. Once I had the drums I did the main guitar part with my Roland Cube 80x running direct and recorded in Ardour. I managed to accidentally slightly change the feel of the intro riff, but I don't worry about exactly copying the original. I think I did the first vocal take next, but slipped up slightly. I was monitoring on headphones, but didn't realise I'd left the PC speakers on! You can hear it on the track, but I didn't think it worth re-doing just then. Then I added bass. I'm no bass player, but I've got a Peavey Milestone bass from a friend which I ran that through my Zoom H4 to use one of the bass amplifier models. I need to experiment more with those as I wasn't hearing much difference between them.

I added a couple more vocal tracks to give a bigger sound on the choruses. It wasn't intended, but the result has a bit of a sea shanty feel to it. I also doubled the main guitar part and added some high parts where the intro riff is repeated using a different model with more gain on the Cube.

I asked my friend JMan to have a listen and offer his opinion on what effects I should add to make the mix work. He had a few hints about use of reverb and compression. The bass in particular needed something to make it more consistent. The compressor settings I ended up with gave it a grittier feel that I liked.

Trying to mix was not helped by having blocked ears at the time. That's what prevented me re-doing vocals and the deadline was looming, so I sent it off as it was.

The album was launched in a special show. It's fun to hear the details of each song and the opinions of the hosts Clint and Alicia. Alicia has said before that she's a fan of my singing (!) and was disappointed that I did an instrumental last time. I think she actually said that this track was her favourite on the album. Comparisons were made to They Might Be Giants and Steve Howe, which I'll take as compliments. As always I am stunned by the quality of tracks that others put out. Mine sounds distinctly amateur by comparison, but I'm really happy to be accepted as part of this community. I'm looking forward to the next project.

You can download the album for free. Reviews are posted on the forum.

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