I have to be honest. This wasn’t supposed to be this week’s song. I had made a little commitment to myself not to use the acoustic guitar in writing my next four songs (36 -39). It’s part of my effort to get more familiar with new technology while also pushing the comfort zone a bit. If memory serves me, all but one of this year’s 52 in 52 songs were born on the acoustic guitar. But old habits die hard and I guess this week is case in point.
Let’s go back to Thursday night. I was making my way through a synth based #36 when I felt like taking a break. I picked up the acoustic and lo and behold, out popped If You Go. (Well, a good portion of it anyway.) Not being one to cast aside a song idea (certainly not this year), I stuck with it and finished it up in about thirty minutes. Because these synth-based songs need lots of tweaking (mostly because I’m learning as I go), I thought of this new song as a gift. It seemed to be wanting a simple production (meaning I could get it done for this week) and that would give me another week with my more ‘technologically oriented’ song. Did I mention I love to tweak?
I referenced the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions in the newsletter and that is what I had in mind as I recorded and mixed - sparse, open and spacy. I think it was the third vocal take where I leaned in close to the microphone and sang at a lower volume. Listening back, it seemed to suit the track. I did a fourth take like that but 95% of what you hear is that take 3.
I deliberately kept the guitar simple and a little sloppy. I did spend some time running the track through various amp simulators hoping to capture the sound I imagined in my head. In the end, however, it just wasn’t working and I went back to the plain acoustic. I imagine if I had more experience, I would have been able to find the right sound, the one I heard in my head. And finally, I struggled over whether to add the organ. After some debate, I decided to keep the part simple and the volume low.
The final step before I send these songs out to the world is called mastering. It’s a process of tweaking the EQ and maximizing the volume all the while trying to be faithful to the feel and needs of the song. There is a real challenge to getting a song to sound loud (comparable to what you’d hear on a commercial CD or the radio) while not ruining its dynamics. Many would argue that it’s a process best left to the pros and I’m firmly in that camp.
However, this is a DIY adventure so yours truly is handling the mastering this year. What better way to learn, right? The reason I’m bringing all of this up is because I was hearing some distortion in the louder portions of the song when listening back through my monitors. It wasn’t there on the headphones. I did a final test through my home stereo and that too seemed to be fine. We will see. Maybe I have a monitoring issue. And maybe you don’t care two cents about the last couple of paragraphs but remember, this blog is my production diary. I want it on the record.
And with that, we’ll leave #36 behind. It’s on to (or should I say back to) #37. These songs are adding up. If I’ve got my math right, only 16 left. I know that’s still a lot, but I can still remember how I felt in weeks 3 and 4 when I had to tell myself over and over, ‘Keep your head down. Don’t think about how many are left. Just one week at a time.’ We’ve come a long way together. I hope you’re enjoying it. Thanks for following and have a great week.