Anatomy Of A Song #9: My Brown Guitar

I've lived and breathed "I Could Try" for dozens upon dozens of hours and this evening I promise myself I'll take it easy. No such luck. This afternoon and evening session comprise another 8 hours of effort as I attempt to get my instrumental tracks close to done. Another exhausting Soulfinger mini-tour awaits as well as another set of sessions on the Jack Douglas project this weekend. The sessions should be interesting but the Soulfinger thing is becoming an intrusion that I resent. It's beginning to reek of clock-punching and I've come to look at it as something I'll ride through the busy season.

Tonight we sit down and plan out and record "The Broken Music Box". I use various filters and effects to make the music box part sound lo-fi and I pull some sound effects off the web from this cool site to put together my little collage.

The music box does its music-boxy thing with the first three chords of the fake chorus. During the third chord a grinding begins which escalates in volume until a spring breaks. Then a short running-down sound occurs and the notes go random as a short drum fill ushers in the final chorus. It's extremely subtle. The music box plays for about 4 seconds and the breaking takes place in about 2 seconds. No sense getting all War And Peace with this kind of shit- it has to be over almost before you know it to be effective.

Yeah, this will be nutty in the final mix.

Next up we fire up the Yamaha electric guitar and use a nice clean amp tone to track. At this point in the game further instrumental overdubbing has truly become a fight for real estate and taste must (hopefully) be exercised to a great degree.

The approach I take is to roll through the song and bolster other rhythm parts, i.e. piano, Rhodes or organ passages. I do this very sparsely with maybe three or four little passages. I don't allow any of the voice leading, counterpoint or contrary motion that I've so carefully set up to become obscured. I then spin through the song again and select a few ad libs in sections that can support them. I record in mono with a mind to pan the guitar opposite wherever the organ end up for the sake of clarity and separation.

I print a few ad libs and decide to keep about a third of them. I will make a rough mix of the instrumental tracks and listen to it over the next couple of days to decide which I like and which I can live without.

Now all that remains for instruments at this stage are a few stereo touches with the guitar run through the Leslie rotating speaker simulator. These will be informed by the stereo acoustic piano the way the electric converses with the mono organ and will, again, be very sparse. I imagine I will wind up with 4 or 5 passages throughout the course of the song.

After the vocals are done the final concern will be horn passages on the instrumental section and an acoustic piano solo yielding to a Rhodes solo over the playout. With any luck I'll start vocals early next week; I will have to wait for my voice to recover from the fatigue of gigging which, as I say, I resent somewhat. I don't like to have my important work interfered with.


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