Where to start with Sweet Time? Well to begin, I had an agenda, my son’s birthday. As I’ve mentioned before, writing songs for a specific purpose is typically very difficult for me. Just the slight focusing of my thoughts must somehow impinge upon the free association part of my brain that’s so critical to songwriting. I don’t know. But that said, this song and Good to Grow (which I wrote for my daughter’s birthday back in May) were a lot of fun to make.
Interestingly, Sweet Time – for all of its synth sounds and electronic effects – was born at the acoustic guitar. I essentially had the structure (chord progressions and measure counts) worked out before sitting down at the computer. At that point, I started a new session in Pro Tools and laid out the song with markers. I then started on drums. I opened up a virtual drum kit and started playing around with some patterns on the keyboard. I would get one that felt right, record it and try playing along with the acoustic guitar to see if it ‘felt’ right. After a bit of experimentation, I had one that seemed to work for this song.
From there, I moved to bass and again, after some playing around, had the bass pattern that wound up getting used through most of the song. Once that was in place, the experimentation really began.
I opened up one of Pro Tool’s stock virtual instruments and started auditioning various synth sounds. If I came upon one that seemed to ‘feel’ right, I’d record a pass. In some cases, I’d be hitting one note per measure and the synth would just fill in the rest with movement. With others, I’d create some simple arpeggiated pattern myself and record that. And so on and so on. I basically spent a few hours just adding layer after layer.
While fun, this was all new for me. And there was a part of me that wasn’t quite sure that it would pan out. But after a while, there did seem to be this critical mass of a song developing. Very interesting. Once I felt comfortable that the ‘electronic’ route was going to work, I spent a few sessions fleshing out the lyrics. And to be honest, that’s probably what made Sweet Time (and Good to Grow) such fun songs for me. Finding clever ways to tease on one verse and then say something sweet on another.
As for challenges on this one, there was an interesting one that stands out. When I finally got around to recording the vocal, it wasn’t feeling right. The music had a very mechanical(?) feel to it and somehow wasn’t supporting or integrating well with my voice. This ‘not working’ feeling is not an uncommon one when I’m recording these songs, but I have to say it’s always scary. You’re at a point where it feels much too late to turn back but something’s just not working. However, the time spent figuring out why is where the biggest learning comes. The silver lining I suppose.
Once I got over the initial yikes, I decided maybe a treated vocal would sit better in the song. I began experimenting with delays, chorus effects, and others. I can’t even remember all that I ended up using but it seemed to help. I also sang along with a harmony line for the entire song – verse, chorus and bridge. I wouldn’t typically do that, but again, it seemed to help.
In the end, I have to say I’m pleased with my first real foray into the world of synths and such. Of course, there are some acoustic guitars in there. (Can’t abandon them yet!) But there was something liberating about working with these sounds generated entirely on the computer. It was also very time consuming, so as much as I can’t wait to do it again, I’ll have to plan for it on weeks where my day to day life isn’t sapping all my time and energy.
And I think that’s all there is to report on this one. I hope you enjoyed listening to Sweet Time as much as I did making it. Happy birthday TJ! It’s on to #33. Which reminds me of something I was thinking earlier this week. If 52 in 52 were a marathon – basically a half mile a week – then I just finished the sixteenth mile. That’s a big wowza! Thanks for following and for all your kind words and support. It has really kept me going through all this. Have a great week!