Week 16 – Entre Nous (Between Us)

What do you get when you cross Romeo and Juliet with a small café in Paris?  Entre Nous, of course.  This week’s song was a fun diversion but it also threw me for quite a loop.  I’ll get to that…

First, let’s start at the beginning which would be sitting on the couch last Saturday night watching the NCAA hockey finals.  I was quietly picking away at the acoustic guitar as I watched the game with my family.  At some point, I settled into a finger picking pattern that I liked.  Not wanting to lose the idea, I muted the TV, grabbed my cell phone (it’s never far when I’m playing the guitar) and recorded it.

Sunday, I sat down to see what I could do with it, especially in terms of melody ideas.  I played with several but the one that stuck was the simple melody that forms the basis of Entre Nous.  Once I had settled on that, I began to fish for lyric ideas.  To be honest, as I write this blog entry, I’m not sure what came first.  I know I wrote for some time early Monday morning, but the tragedy in Boston later that day shook me quite a bit, so it’s all a bit of a blur.   

What I do know is that once this song started going in the direction it did (melody and lyric), the finger picking pattern stopped working as an accompaniment.  To my taste, it seemed to want a simple little strumming pattern.  And so I went with it.  Lyrically, once I figured out where the song was going – the secret little love affair - it was a fun one to write.  In fact, with a little wordsmithing I think it could also work as a duet.  (Note: I actually did go ahead and write the duet version of the lyrics.)

The biggest challenge of the week – the part that threw me for a loop - was recording the vocal part.  The song has an upbeat tempo and the lines flow into each other.  There was nowhere to breathe.  I must have tried ten takes without getting past the first verse or so completely out of breath.  I was really thrown.  Slowing it down a bit didn’t really help with the breathing and it was too late in the week to start on a new song.  (And I didn’t want to start over.  I like the song.) 

In the end, I found a solution by comping together the vocal track from multiple parts, but not in the typical way.  Normally, I’ll comp a final vocal track by choosing the best parts of several different takes and assembling them together into one ‘master’ take.  With Entre Nous, I had to do something a little different.  This might be too much information for the non-technical readers but here goes…

I would start recording the vocal and get about two lines down before I’d run out of breath.  I’d back up the record head about half a line, mark a new in point and start again.  I got through the entire song this way by recording all of these overlapping chunks.  Because this is digital recording, I was then able to go back and adjust the edit points between the chunks to points that sounded smooth.  And voila!  I had my vocals.  Now that you know that, give the song another listen and notice how the lines run together.  I couldn’t do it naturally.

The rest of the recording process was fun.  Trying out some new virtual instruments and trying to make them work in the mix.  I’m learning.  It’s funny.  I’ll often pause during the week, trying to find the ‘objectively’ best solution to something but I’m coming to realize that so much of it is subjective.  If I could own that realization a little bit more, I might start having some fun with the recording process.  (I should say more fun, because I am having some fun.)

That’s it for now.  This is a shortened week for me due to some traveling, so I want to get this out.  I hope you enjoyed Entre Nous.  It just goes to show, you never know what’s going to pop out when you set out to write and record a song.  Who knows what’ll come along for Week 17…

Thanks for following.  Have a great week!