Tuesday, February 1, 2011

That One Damn Song

Prepare ye all for yet another "new album update."

So, since the world of 24 track home recording entered my life, I've been engaged in a battle with the forces of perfection. I had about seven or so tracks that were worked out and recorded on the 8 track, and I felt the best course of action was to re-record all of these in 24bit, using the 4 track. No, I don;t expect to use all 24 tracks on these, but the setup allows a lot more mixing control, and mastering tools.

Anyway, I've gone over that all before.

Generally, this has gone pretty well. Although, I find myself much more apt to scuttle everything and begin again with the new system. I'll be working on a tune, and suddenly I'll get an idea about moving the drum track around, or a new arrangement, and I'll just figure "what the hell," and send what I have done to the round file. I've got Paulie C (of the world-semi-famous Hired Goons) on tap to do basslines, eventually. My plan is to run recordings of the songs as I've got him, so he can learn them, and we can get a whole slew done in fairly rapid order.

Side note: it is rather odd to have someone else set to work on this stuff. I've grown so used to just doing my own thing, and working alone. Yet, it's also exciting to have outside input and ideas, or even just someone that doesn't play like I do. I've also hatched a sorta bone-headed plan for how I might be able to get a live drummer on these tracks, but that's months down the line, a very "maybe it'll pan out" element.

Anyway, as I say, I've started really going over these songs again and again, trying to really hone them as best I can. There's two that have really just worked out pretty beautifully, so far, and a group of four I haven't really dug into yet...

Then there's "Zep."

"Zep" sprang from a progression I came up with when CByrd and I, via a Groupon deal, spent a night at the Hard Rock Hotel in the loop. Hard Rock Hotels, if you don't know, have this "check in, rock out" program, where you can rent Gibson guitars to use in your room. I had hoped to get one of the Les Paul goldtops, but, alas, all they had left was an acoustic (really nice one, but whatever). I found myself sitting in the room messing around with this guitar, and the headphone amp they sent with it. I came up with this E-B-A progression that, to my ears, sounded vaguely Led Zeppelin-esque. (I'm sure I drove CByrd nuts) I should also mention we were on the Led Zeppelin floor, and the idol/totem/sculpture thing from the cover of their Presence album was in the hall by the elevators.

Anyway, I started messing around with this progression, and worked out a little riff to go with it, as well as a chorus bit, and filed it away to work on later. I tend to do this a lot, at the moment I have two song ideas that I have to run through every time I pick up the guitar, because I haven't started recording them, or written them down. Foolish, yeah, I know. It took me a few hours of trying to remember "Zep," too.

The fact it had a Zeppelin sound, in my mind, made it really perfect for the current recording project. Which, as you've likely heard before, is inspired by a 70's hard rock sound. I don't know if I'll actually get there, but that's what's on my mind as I write and record. I have a sneaking suspicion that it'll end up more metal as I go along. Still not really sure what to call it, "Hayoth" or 'Typographic Workers Trade Union." Maybe I should put a poll on the blog.

Or this?
Anyway, "Zep" is turning into "that song," the one you work, and re-work, and re-work, and you wonder if you're not killing it slowly. The original riff I had attached to the progression ended up sounding pretty one-note, and also seemed to demand a much more aggressive, distorted sound than I really wanted to go to. I mean, the progression reminds me (and by no means do I think it's this good) of the opening acoustic part of "Ramble On," and I've tried it on acoustic a few times. I mean, it was written on acoustic, but finding the right tone and sound proved difficult. Plus, I want it to build in power, and move to a more distorted tone.

I've already made a lot of choices that do seem to work. Ejecting the riff section ended up being, I think, the right choice. I decided to use the Stratocaster over the Les Paul, and the brighter, cleaner tone is really working with the tones I'm using on the amp. The progression kinda demands the brighter, cleaner sound. There's a number of single notes, and nuanced chord adjustments that a heavier tone just buries.

that said, not I'm wondering if I shouldn't work out a more direct, heavier version of the verse and have the song switch up for one refrain of the verse. It's a technique Zeppelin used, and it certainly gives a song a dynamic burst in the middle. I'm thinking I want to play around a bit in that direction, even if it means I'll have to re-do the drum track from scratch. It'd be a lot of work, but I do have the time, my target "release date" for the finished product is my birthday, which isn't until August.

However, in all of this I can't help but hear the words of "Little" Steven Van Zandt...a song should take about six minutes. Every time I start trying to layer on guitars, and try to work in dynamics with tone and equipment, I wonder if I shouldn't just set a tone (I've found a lovely 70's phaser sound that works well), and play the whole thing through. Maybe a couple of overdubs, and just keep it simple.

Am I killing what is a nice little tune by over-thinking everything? I guess time will tell. I was going to include a snippet of the song in this blog, but I just didn't get it put together and uploaded in time. I've found a nice site, soundcloud.com, that will allow me to upload samples of what I'm working on, which I can embed in the blog. I originally was intending to keep this psudo-"band" project under wraps until it was finished, but, y'know, what the hell? I really like the stuff I've been working on, and, while I'm not going to share any complete songs until it's all done, I do what you to hear things as they come together. Sorry I didn't have my crap together for this entry.

In other musical news, I got my Les Paul studio "set up" at a repair shop over the weekend. Essentially, it's setting the intonation and string action, etc. etc. The strings are definitely lower to the fretboard, but I'm not hearing any buzzing or "fretting out," which is cool. It's different, and I'll have to get used to it. That's not a bad thing.

The tech also cleared up a problem I'd been having with binding at the nut (the plastic or bone bar just under the head that holds the strings to go down the fretboard) with the 3rd (G) string. It was catching the string as I played, and not allowing it to slip easliy back into tune after a bend or hard strum. I'm hopeful this work is gonna resolve that. It wasn't a huge problem, more of an annoyance. The intonation work ought to make it easier to tune, as well.

I love the guitar. It's got a great chunky, full, fat sound, and I'm looking forward to seeing if the "set up" helps with the little annoying issues it would give me. The process is advertised, in general, as helping with all of them.

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