Week 41 - September

So… A boy and his guitar reunited.  That pretty much sums up this week.  Sort of.  As I mentioned in this week’s email, my four week synthesizer binge left me with very little time to play the guitar.  It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve played my acoustic guitar fewer than thirty minutes in the last month (prior to this past week of course). 

September came from my first session back at the guitar.  I was happily getting reacquainted but I was also fishing for ideas.  I don’t remember exactly how it popped but I do remember the opening lines of the song coming (‘Lately I’ve been showing signs of far too many starting lines…’)  By the end of the session, I had the chord and melody ideas in place for the verse and chorus.  The beginnings of a sweet little love song.

With that set, I really spent most of the week on lyrics, tweaking the imagery and such.  Much of it is personal, references to when I first met my wife.  It’s always fun playing with real memories.  I think the bridge came sometime Thursday and then again, more wordsmithing.  It’s amazing how many hours I can while away tweaking lyrics.

I didn’t start recording until early Saturday morning.  I knew I was going to keep it simple which allowed me to procrastinate a bit.  (Heaven forbid I finish a song ahead of time.)  I used my early morning raggedy vocal technique, edited my sloppy guitar playing and added a quick organ bass part before wrapping up the mix.

In my email this week, I mentioned my intention to keep it simple for the next few songs and I do have some specific reasons for this.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the year and what my hopes were for it.  On the recording and engineering side, I really had two primary goals.  The first was to come out of this year with the ability to make professional vocal/guitar recordings in my home studio.  While it’s fun playing around with virtual instruments and synthesizers and programming drums, I realize (now more than ever) that if you want professional results, those things are best left to the pros.  I’m not saying that I won’t be doing more of that going forward, but as a singer/songwriter, having the ability to make professional vocal/guitar recordings in my home studio will be key.  I believe it really has to precede the other stuff.

Closely related to this, is the second goal of developing my hearing.  The skilled ears of professional engineers and producers are unbelievable.  They’ve developed their hearing to such a level where they hear things you and I never could.  And more than that, they have the related ability to make adjustments - based on that hearing - to such things as EQ, compression and reverb to get the sound they want.  I’ve definitely improved in those areas this year, but it’s difficult working in a vacuum.  (What I would give to sit over the shoulder of some of the really talented professionals out there.)  As for my improving in this arena, I’ve found it difficult to hear subtle differences when mixing songs that are dense with a lot of instrumentation.  Keeping things sparse will force me to focus and really hear the subtle tweaks as I make them. 

Beyond these two engineering goals are a couple of others things I should mention.  During the weeks when I keep the production simple, I spend much more time on the songwriting.  I think that’s important, especially as I prepare to move forward.  The turnaround time of a week is tough for me given my other commitments.  Oftentimes, the songwriting feels unfinished.  I want the songs to be as complete as they can be. 

Finally, as I think about my musical life beyond this year, I’d really like to make an effort to get out and play live.  And when I do that, it’ll just be me and a guitar.  In anticipation of that, I need to start playing my acoustic more often.  The thirty minutes in the last four weeks comment in my email was no exaggeration.  I’ve been losing the calluses on my left hand fingers!  So by keeping my song production simple, writing and recording on guitar, I support the need that I see to be ready for the next step.

There you have it, a few rambling reasons why the production might be a little simple over the next few weeks.  I suppose there was really no need to go into all this detail, but as I’ve mentioned in past entries, this blog is a sort of production diary for the year.  Sometimes I just feel like getting some thoughts on the record.

And with that, let’s get ready for #42.  Eleven songs left.  Hard to believe.  It will be over before we know it.  I hope you enjoyed September.  As always, thanks for following along.  Have a great week!