Thursday, February 3, 2011

That One Damn Song - "Zep" Revisited - 2.3.2011

So, my office closed early on Tuesday, and was closed completely on Wednesday. This gave me the opportunity to work on "Zep" some more. I even managed to get a sample of what I did up on

Now, before you listen, a couple of disclaimers. These should be noted and logged for any "work in progress" samples I share on this blog. I recorded this by hooking the 8-track to the monitor feeds on the 24-Track. It is an on-the-fly mix, very quick and messy. No mastering tools were employed. It's as raw as it possibly can be.

Today, we're looking at the track with the working title of "Zep," again. I've discussed the genesis, and a bit of my work on this song in this previous blog post. I thought I'd revisit it again with a sample. Frankly, the Zeppelin connections aren't as obvious with the example below, but I think there's a reason for that, other than the fact I'm no Jimmy Page.

In this particular example, you have 4 tracks of guitar, 2 clean, and 2 with a bit more distortion (though this section doesn't really get to the distorted part). These were all electric, my Fender "Fat Strat" Stratocaster through my Line 6 combo amp. I have 2 very temporary bass tracks, one clean and one with a bit more "boom" in the bass end. These were done with my (ultra cheap) Yamaha Bass, directly into the recorder, with a Line 6 POD X3 Live providing tone and amp emulation. The drum tracks are a stereo feed from my drum machine, bounced twice. So, a total of 6 tracks with drums, panned and EQ'd to give me some bit of control over the bass, mids, and treble.

"Zep" Sample by mpjedi2

My Verdict: Oy, it's a mess.

It's a classic case where, as I was putting it together, I felt like it was going pretty well. It seemed like the parts were working, but when you play it all together...sludge.

What immediately jumps out is the lack of acoustic guitar. I mean, the main E-B-A riff/progression was originally written on acoustic, and the brittle nature of the electric tones makes it feel kinda harsh. I think what's going to have to happen is an acoustic throughout, just playing chords, and then laying in the lines, runs and "twiddley bits" with an electric. It'll take some time, but the more I listen to this, the more I feel like I have to cut back. Streamline the entire arrangement.

One thing that is becoming clear, as a learning curve with the new equipment, is that I have a lot of options to play with in the mastering phase to get what I want. I layered guitars in this sample because I wanted them to feel "bigger," but applying some compression to that track in the mastering process might give me the same effect, without the "muddying" that trying to overdub can create. I mean, a perfectly synced overdub is pretty much impossible, no human can play a guitar part EXACTLY the same way twice. It just doesn't happen. Natural variations are part of the deal.

What's probably going to happen on the next pass is acoustic run for the main riff, then, as we go into the verse, proper, play the E-B-A progression in rhythm, and lay the electric over it, holding the single root notes. Then as we repeat the riff, again, rely on the acoustic but hold the A. Then I can use the clean electric to add the B - F# "twiddley bit," and the D into A run that leads into the repeating G-A, then C-G-A that ends the verse. That last section will likely be doubled on Acoustic and Electric.

I am very happy with the chorus, which I simplified for this run at it. I think it works much better than what I was doing before. It's cleaner, and it still carries a bit of power. I also really dig the alternate more driving riff as you go into verse two (near the very end of this selection), playing it just on the bass really seems to work, and gives it a new dynamic.

"Zep" is definitely a track that's going to take some work. Much of the other material (so far) is more straight-ahead rock stuff. The main riff is far more textured than what I usually come up with, with lots of ringing strings and insert notes. I think it sounds really great until I start to amplify it, then it becomes a real trick to find the right tone that will give it some oomph, but still allow those ring notes to sound clearly. By pulling back to a more acoustic sound, I think I may lick the problem.

I'm hoping to share this sort of stuff at least once a week moving forward. If you have any comments or criticism, please don't be afraid to speak up. It is a work in progress, and I hope it'll sound much better as I work through these issues.

Also, it probably goes without saying, this music is my creation and intellectual property, so please respect that.

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