Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Laying Down Tracks

So I while I should have been working, I instead spent a pleasant morning recording a new version of "Woke Up Dead Blues," working in GarageBand, the Mac's music-editing software program.

It's a great toy. Gives the user the ability to record and fiddle with stuff way beyond what the best recording gear at the top studios in the world back in the Beatles' days couldn't do. (They had what? A four-track system? GarageBand will let you lay down as many tracks as you can, as long as you have enough computer memory.)

I've uploaded the result to SoundClick! but since the net is doing funny things today, probably as a result of the mega-storm back east, it hasn't shown up to replace the old version yet. 

Um. Anyway, the fun part is, I decided to try it differently. Normally, I sit in front of the Samson mike with my guitar, sing and play together, then take the resulting file and tweak it. Not much, no drum tracks, I'm not into major EQ stuff, don't want echo chambers and wah-wah EFX. My goal is to get it to sound as much like I hear it as I can. Never actually get that organic, but it's not for lack of trying ...

There are bands today who plunk a mike down and they all perform in front it, that's it.
There are other groups who never actually get together to play. They lay down their own tracks here or there, and somebody puts them together. Some of this kind of collab can sound fantastic, but I think the all-t0gether-in-the-room-playing-at-once is more satisfying, both to play and to listen to ...

What I did was, first I laid down the guitar's rhythm track, i.e. the chords. Doubled that. Left one track Acoustic Natural, made the other one Bright.  Since my guitar is a nylon stringer, the Bright setting is a little, well, brighter ...

That done, I put on the headphones and sang the vocals with the guitar part. Since I'm on the edge of a cold, my voice is kind of ragged, but hey, it's blues. 

I doubled that track, and left one No Effects and the other Female Vocals. (Dunno why Female Vocals sounds better in this case, but it does.)

Then I recorded a third track playing some small lead fills. Since I didn't want this to be too loud, I left it a single track.

So, I wound up with five tracks, though I recorded only three. 

I fiddled with the volume controls until I got a sound I liked, then exported it as an MP3, and voila! I was done. Sounds pretty good, if I do say so myself. At least better than the original version I did.

What I didn't do was use the Audio Region feature. For those of you who don't know, one of the things recorders now have at their disposal with digitized music is something called Auto-Tune™. 

Apple's version of this allows for several things: automatic tempo and pitch corrections, limiting to a key, and auto-quantizing.

What this means is, if you drift off time or sing a note flat or sharp? The computer will fix it for you. You can, with the more complicated versions, anyway, come up with a finished product that will be perfect.

Too perfect, for my taste. It has a kind of homogenized sound, and people who know music say they can always tell if somebody uses this on a commercial recording. If I drift off-key, you get to hear it.

Lucky you.

Well,  I do what I can do; and since I'm having fun? That's all that really matters ...


steve-vh said...

We're planning to do a bunch of recordings of some of our newer songs this weekend at my urging. I want to hear the before garage band version (as that's what will be heard live anyway) and the after version.
we've considered an autotune unit (lord knows it would help me) but are thrown back a bit by the price.

There is a foot pedal now called TC Helicon Voiceune for mics that will do autotune-ish stuff and reverb for $150. Unfortunately we'd need one for each mic I think.

Steve Perry said...

You're in a band; me, most of the time, I'm one guy with a classical guitar, so staying in time isn't a problem ...

With the jam group, which is usually three guitars, two ukes, a harmonica and a washtub bass, plus a couple-three singers, the main electronics consist of an iPod. The only good player we have is the guy playing the mandolin, and he doesn't show up much. When he does, we all just follow him ...