Anatomy Of A Song #11: Try, Try, Try

Yesterday evening, having reduced our work so far to glorious stereo, we began the preliminary work on the most work-intensive part of the recording process: harmony vocals. "I Could Try" is a natural for several instances of four- and five-part harmony and making these happen is a profoundly time-consuming process that requires every bit of arrangement expertise and experience I possess.

Before I began this I took care of the much less arduous task of performing the acoustic and electric piano solos that dominate the ending and fade-out of the song. The acoustic piano solos over two run-throughs of the verse structure in Db major. This instrumental section is also punctuated by short runs from the trumpet which I have guided in with an awful fake trumpet sound. During our next session I will score out all trumpet parts in concert key and give them, along with a rough mix of the instrumental "I Could Try" to our session trumpet player.

After two runs of the verse on piano the whole affair modulates back to the home key of A major with an effect not unlike a plane finally coming in to land. The soundscape is much sparser here and the bass guitar syncopates with the timpani in a very English Settlement sort of way that is extremely appealing to me. The Rhodes electric piano takes over from the acoustic with little or no pause and the effect is pretty funky as we dive right into some runs that tend towards major and tease pentatonic with a couple of rolling thirds and trills.

Time has come to pull out the staff paper and the pencil. And th' candelabra.

The first harmony sections we will attack will be the countermelodies in the choruses. These occur in a series of escalating drama as the choruses move through their keys of A, C and Db. The hypnotic, repeating lyric motif of "try...try...try..." will be a perfect medium for some pretty rich jazz harmony. We begin by scoring the main countermelody up at the top and fill in three more voices underneath. I pay extremely close attention to the chords and use the vocals to re-spell them in various inversions and with some more added tones.

The first, simplest chorus lets the "try...try...try..." phrase melt into "ooohs" to establish a platform to take off from later. Over a sequence of Amaj. 7 C#m7/F#m7 F#9(A#)/Bm7/E7sus repeated twice we hear the first iteration of the gooey stacked harmonies thus (I have solo-d up the harmony parts without instrumental backing for clarity):

Example 1

On the next chorus we permit ourselves a little cultural enrichment, eschewing the "oooohs" for an onslaught of quarternote movement, chords changing fast and furious, the motion hopefully reminiscent of a series of arcs:

Example 2

In the final example of the stacked four-part harmony arrangement we rein in our proclivities for the second-to-last chorus in the key of C, returning to the "oohs" on the closing phrase. Then, as the chorus moves to the final repeat in Db we pull out all the stops for the climax, reveling in wide open dominant 13 chords, minor 9nths and simple triads in open-closed-open chords spellings that stretch in and out like an accordian:

Example 3

During our next session we will continue painstakingly scoring out and recording harmony parts, moving through the song, redoing, scrapping sections, and hopefully finding some unforeseen inspiration that will take us to some unexpected places.


Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

This is really cool BL. Can't wait to hear the finished product. Love the harmonies!

7:52 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Bob-o, do you have testicles left after that? You must have been squeezing those puppies pretty hard to hit some of those notes...

(Great stuff, btw)

2:09 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

I actually start taking female hormones about a week before intensive high-harmony tracking. That way I can play w/ my tits between takes.

5:37 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Plus, it gives you a place to put the mic!

9:09 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Indeed; I go from mono to stereo.

10:15 PM  
Blogger roxtar said...

And here I thought you were using Jon Anderson and Geddy Lee....

clmac - singular term for a member of Climax

8:40 AM  

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