February 21, 2010

RPM Day 21 - Learning the Hard Way

My transition from writing to recording has not been enjoyable. First, I couldn't find my headphones. Then I realized my drum machine power cord is dying, plus, it's annoying to program when I'm in a hurry. And I forgot to bring my guitar and effects pedal home from the studio.

I went back to the studio to see if I could find my headphones (I couldn't) and grab my guitar and other crap. I decided while I was there that I would record with real drums instead of the machine. No, I'm not really a good drummer, but I don't want to deal with programming for hours when I could just play a half-assed version for real in half the time. I also decided that I would record with my electric/acoustic because I've written almost all of the songs that way, and I've never recorded with it before. Electric/acoustic needs love too.

I didn't have the structure of the songs hammered out yet, nor did I have guide tracks recorded, so I decided to concentrate on the guitars first instead of drums. I am holing myself up at the RoBeastress Fortress for the weekend to accomplish this. Last night I bought some Sennheiser headphones and set up shop. Then I realized the headphones were open air, so I went back and exchanged them for some Shure headphones that were more my style. After that, eating dinner, and ebaying (I finally got an mp3 player!), I felt it was too late to start recording. So I played Tetris instead.

I played around with sounds this morning, but ultimately I decided against using the effects pedal with the acoustic/electric. I couldn't settle on any good distortion, and since I never record anything clean, I figured this experiment would be the time to try it. Another potentially foolish decision I made today was to not use a click track. The click that is on the digital 8 track I'm using isn't so hot and I didn't want to waste time futzing with the drum machine again, so I'm just going to wing it. This will be trouble if I fail at real drums and have no steady tempo to insert the drum machine track, but it's the risk I'm taking. As they say, Fuck it, I'm doing it live.

I recorded a track and a half of doubled acoustic rhythm parts and decided to take a food break. The food break ended up becoming food, a movie, and a nap break. The nap ended up being 6 hours long. Thanks Claritin. I eventually finished off the half track, and did a third before deciding it was too late at night to be playing guitar. In retrospect, I probably should have used the electric after all because it's not as loud to play, but I've already committed to this acoustic deal, so I'm sticking it out for better or for worse. I'm also realizing that acoustics probably sound better mic'd and not plugged in, but again, too late.

Oh, another idiot move I've made during this project is recording myself playing songs, but not writing down the chords. Because I basically wrote each song fairly quickly, I immediately forgot how to play them, and I've had to relearn each one by ear instead of memory. I think I'm picking them up accurately, but it's yet another time waster.

Tomorrow, I need to finish recording the rhythm guitar for the rest of songs or else. I'm debating whether or not to put leads on there with the electric, or if I should even bother with leads at all. Or if I should just let the bass track take over for any melodic lead I was imagining. And oh yeah, I need a bass.

I think what I'm really doing here is just putting a simple demo together, far from the solo album of my dreams. I just don't have the time or resources to accomplish that in only 28 days unfortunately. At least I'm learning a lot about this process (though most of it is through trial and error) so I can go into it next time better prepared. And not waste so much time playing Tetris and sleeping.

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