Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Next Verse, Same as the First

It's amazing to me, looking back, that my first two CDs, I "released" them within two years of each other. The first Hourglass 34, was SIX YEARS ago. I was fairly prolific at the time. I still am, to a point. I have a backlog of lyrics, riffs, and other such nonsense. What I haven't been able to do is get those riffs and lyrics recorded in a way I am happy with.

This was brought home last night. I have about seven tracks in various stages of development. I listened through all of them last night, cringing all the way. Guitar tones that just do not mesh, bass that doesn't cut through, robo-drums (a fact of life I have to live with, at this point) that stand out too much. Blah, blah, blah.

So, in my grand tradition of burning my ships to motivate the crew....I'm ditching all of it, and starting from scratch. I have good stuff here, I just need to focus it, speed some of it up, and streamline what I'm doing. I also have to build a one-song-at-a-time work ethic. Right now, I have so many tracks, all in different stages of completion, or non-completion, and I can't even remember where I am with them. I feel like I've allowed myself to get lost in trying to get as much material going as I can, instead of just seeing each through until I'm happy, THEN moving on.

I have a lot of material. Thankfully, I've actually become a lot better at writing things down in a way where I can remember and execute them again, if needed. I was horrible at this with my first two CDs of material. I have tracks I recorded for those that would probably take me hours to figure out how and what I played.

Which is just stupid, seriously. What kind of an idiot am I?

Other things learned from the review:

I do not need so much distortion. Yeah, I have a few "metal-ish" tracks, that can benefit from a rather extreme thrash-style distortion setting, but most of this is heading for a more 70's hard rock vibe. That's begs for a warmer tone, with balls, but also not so brittle. It's not so aggressive.

Maybe go back to lighter strings. I've been playing with strings starting with an .11 on the high E. This is a pretty damn heavy string gage. I also do not de-tune the strings. At first, I liked the almost acoustic-feel that gave my Les Paul. Listening back, however, I think maybe it's too much. The Les already has a rather beefy tone, and the heavy strings push that even further. I may change my mind about this, but I think, before I start back into this stuff, I'll re-string with .10s or .9s.

Think about parts and dynamics. It's a hold-over from my 8-track recording days that I try to slam through the entire song in one take, one tone. I do not need to do this anymore. I have 24 tracks, I need to stop being afraid to use them. I also find myself at times thinking "how will I ever switch those tones live?" Which is dumb. The odds that I'll ever play this stuff live are pretty slim, if I'm being realistic, so I should work for the recording, and deal with the live situation if it ever actually happens.

Spend more time working with what my equipment can do for me. I have an amazing home studio unit. Mastering tools, editing, on-board effects, and I probably know how to use, effectively, about 50% of it. I need to work on that, because it'll only make me sound better, in the end. I need to take an afternoon, and just watch my instructional video all the way through, again, take notes, and treat it like a class. It'll only make things better.

Have confidence in my material and abilities. I was pretty amazed that most of the stuff that REALLY bothered me, when I reviewed this stuff, was technical. My vocals could benefit with some effect processing, my tone choices were not the best, but what I was doing worked pretty well. The stuff I've written also held up to my original gut reaction that it was some of my best writing, ever. Yeah, I could spend some time on melody lines, but it'll help to have complete backing tracks to work with.

I do confess some disappointment in this turn of events, personally. Mainly because, if I'd done what I did with my 8-track, and just hashed out a song, all the way through, right off the bat, I'd be further along now. That first track wasn't supposed to be a keeper, but a way to learn the whole process of putting a song together. If I'd done that with the Tascam, I'd probably have 4-5 completely finished track now, rather than 7-8 halfway finished ones.

At the end of the day, I know this CD is going to have duds on it, and I know it's not going to sound as good I I want it to. The drums, alone, assure that. However, I have all the tools, and material, to create something better than what I did on the last two disks, and that needs to be my goal. If I can make that adjustment, I'm sure I'll start seeing headway, rather than where I've been, feeling overwhelmed and stuck.

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