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Mostess writes a song

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:51 am
by Mostess
Just in case anyone finds this useful, we will present our writing and recording of "Stay In Your Lane" as it happens until the deadline.

After reading the title, we spent a day or so humming some lines. We sat at the piano and picked out some minor key riff and settled on a general mood. Then we sat with the guitar and the whole piano riff disappeared because it was too hard to play on guitar and we have some other guitar licks that we are comfortable with already. Then we went to work and didn't think about it.

Monday afternoon (9 days until deadline!) we decided to give it a shot. We'd borrowed a wah pedal from the public library (because our library is awesome) and it was due back the next day. So we decided to use it. We recorded one track of strummed electric guitar all the way through and 3 noodly electric guitar solo tracks. We will likely remove almost all of the noodling in the mix but we'll keep the better licks around to add some spice to the sound.

We used a metronome because we plan on adding drums, probably live drums but maybe some loops or samples, and it's easier to do that stuff when the tempo is set. We may also use quantization (though we rarely do) and that's impossible if the recording doesn't match the software tempo.

Here is the mix at the end of Monday, 1/26/15.

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 4:38 pm
by iVeg
Very cool. Thanks for sharing your progress and process. It's way different than mine, and will be interesting to see how it all comes together.

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:19 pm
by Lunkhead
I really like this thread and hope you keep posting as you go. Awesome!

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Wed Jan 28, 2015 4:52 am
by Mostess
We have some melody! Not recorded yet, but we can sing along to the track in the car. Most of the words are mumble mumble, hunting for rhymes here and there and finding little word combinations that sound good in various places. We won't record vocals until we are ready.

The middle parts, which we have decided to call bridges are the farthest along. They set the theme of the song and will be done as a call-response type thing. Here's how it will start:

A: Those aren't the words that you (used/said) last time
B: (something with a rising melody that justifies the odd chord change)
A: I simply asked you to speak your mind
B: (something with another rising melody)

The theme will be the singer asking someone to be more consistent for the sake of their relationship. The car metaphor will likely be tortured.

I also borrowed a bass sequencer from the library when I returned the wah pedal. (I loooove my library!) I'm not sure if I'll use it; I want to play with it a bit to see what it can do. I don't have a bass guitar so often I will play a bass line on my electronic piano that has some decent synth sounds or just tune the low E on my electric guitar way down and do that: that only works for rock-n-roll, very simple bass lines because the tone stinks and it's never quite in tune. I used to have MIDI capability but since M-Audio decided to discontinue my Omnistudio unit and take all of its (proprietary!) drivers off their website I find myself unable to use it as an A-to-D converter anymore, just as a decent mixer/preamp with XLR inputs and phantom power. I have a separate small box that takes RCA in and sends it to the computer via USB. Sadly, there is no MIDI control between the computer and the Omnistudio.

I've also decided to try to do all the drums live. We'll see. I'm a terrible drummer but if I keep the pattern simple and give myself a couple hours to record, I can do something passable. I'll plan on spending some time on it over the weekend; hopefully my wife will duck out to get some work done and I can set the kids up with a movie.

I did manage to go through the guitar noodles and take out the ugly ones. I used the "automation" feature in Logic where you manually draw the fader ups and downs on the track waveforms. Who else here is over 40 and remembers using an actual mixing board for recording and having to choreograph the fader ups and downs for a good mix? Sometimes it took more than one person and was a kind of performance all by itself. Anyhow here's what the guitar tracks sound like now.

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:13 pm
by Mostess
Ah Saturday. You can always count on Saturday.

I recorded some bass using the Korg bass sequencer box I borrowed from the library. That thing makes some funny noises but I kept it mostly normal bass tones. That was pretty cool.

I added 2 acoustic guitar tracks to run through the whole song. The electric is a bit naked and out of tune and it was bugging me so I got the acoustic tuned up to sort of fill out the sound and make it more full and correct. Then I backed everything off a bit and silenced a few more of the electric guitar licks that I didn't like as much.

Then I recorded the vocal line that I'm sure of: just that bridge part that I like the best. I did 3 vocal tracks in unison and took the opportunity to do some 3-part background vocals for the coda at the end.

Then I tried a drum track. It's very, very simple since I'm crap at drums but it has a decent sound, I think so unless I really hate it later I'll probably keep it even though it has some bad moments.

Anyhow, with 4 days to go, I have everything except the main vocals. Maybe I'll add some keyboards if I'm inspired. But then it's a matter of getting rid of the ugly stuff and leaving only what I like.

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 5:06 pm
by fluffy
Wow, you can check out synthesizer gear at your library? That's awesome!

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 7:35 pm
by Lunkhead
Yeah, that is awesome.

It's definitely shaped a lot since the last installment. I'm enjoying this thread a lot!

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 2:31 pm
by Mostess
Yes our library is true awesomeness. Not just synth equipment and effects pedals, you can borrow metal detectors and lawn games and solar conversion kits and thermal leak detectors. Pretty great.

We are doing no recording today but we've listened to the mix a few times on different speakers to come up with ideas. First, the bass sounds are mixed way too high and that must be done away with. Also, there is so much breathing room in the progression and the slow tempo (apparently we are channeling Pink Floyd this week) that it would be a shame to not fill it out with soulful lyrics. I'm not proud of my soul singing skills so I'm doing some practicing in my head and in the shower.

If so, though, it's going to want more drums. And lyrics. It's going to need lyrics. Time is getting short for these kinds of things. Drum playing and recording is especially time consuming and difficult for us.

But we have a lot of local brew beer and non-local fried chips and a Superbowl and my better half is blasting the new Prince albums and pan-searing tuna steaks in teriyaki and ginger. Excuse me if we put SongFight! out of our mind for the rest of the day. Hooray for amateurs!

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 7:23 pm
by Mostess
My goodness the deadline is tomorrow morning? Alright. The kids are in bed, the wife is watching TV, I can sneak upstairs and record some vocals. One track: it took two takes. I wrote the lyrics quickly. They are nothing special but the capture the mood I was going for. It's actually a lot spookier than I had planned and I let myself break the rhyme scheme at one point for super-creepy atmosphere: I'm supposed to sing something that rhymes with "lane" but the written line is "I've got my eye on you" and then I just repeat that for no reason except spooooky.

The mix was already pretty good so not a lot to fiddle with. I tried to make the vocals sit in the mix on the low end (spoooooky) which involved backing the bass sequencer sound off. I also upped the kick drum mic. It's always hard for me to judge the bass end of a mix through headphones and there's no way I'm blasting it through speakers at this hour. I can't even go out to the car (which is a great place to test a mix) because it's under 2 feet of snow right now and there's no way in hell I'm dealing with that at this hour.

So I bounced the mix to a PCM wave file and will now master it over headphones, being very gentle so it doesn't end up all muddy. Then I'll submit it in the morning. I won't post the mix just yet since it's pretty much the final version. But I will once the fight is posted. Along with some more notes on what I was thinking while the song was written.

Re: Mostess writes a song

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:34 am
by Mostess
We woke up early and had a final listen and hated the sound of it. We have learned over time to always sleep on it and hold off on the submitting until the last minute. Regret sucks.

So we opened it back up in Logic and jiggered the lead vocals effects settings to make the delay less intrusive and to sit it better in the mix. Also more reverb. Remastered it and bounced it to a new mp3 file. It is submitted. We got the confirmation email. Fingers crossed.

We'll post more detail on the writing and recording process once the songs are up.