February 23, 2010

RPM Days 21-22 - The Crying Days

I have almost given up this challenge several times in the past few days. Not because I don't have it in me to write and record all these songs, but because I'm becoming more and more aware of better ways to do everything. I've been making so many mistakes and doing things the hard way, that I just want to start it all over. From the beginning I knew that what I was going to have on March 1st was not going to be the best, but now I'm struggling with the reality of it. I am still passionate about what I've written, but it's getting hard to push through when I know it's not all it could be.

Day 21

On Sunday I finished structuring whatever songs I had written earlier in the month.  Getting to the end of the day was a real pain in the ass, and I came close to smashing my guitar, smashing my skull, or smashing my guitar into my skull numerous times. For all the parts I'd written and recorded on camera, I'd hardly written any of them down. As someone who likes weird chords and rhythms, but has little musical theory knowledge, this was the stupidest thing I could have possibly done. I spent the majority of the day staring at myself on YouTube trying to figure out what my fingers were doing. On a number of videos, I was focused on the wrong hand, which meant I had no choice but to figure out the chords by ear. The RoBeastress reasonably argued that the songs were all works in progress anyway, so even if the wrong chords sounded good, they'd still be mine. Unfortunately, when I'm in music mode, obsessive often trumps reasonable; not getting them exactly right would invalidate the time I spent coming up with the parts in the first place. I think ultimately, I figured out all the chords (and yes, wrote the difficult ones down).

Another problem was that one of my acoustic guitars (the one with the slutty schoolgirl sticker) was tuned a half step lower than standard, but that was a little easier to solve. I just downtuned my acoustic-electric, then retuned it up to record. So a few of the songs that you may have heard before won't have the extra flat of heaviness.

Oh! Yet another issue. Like I mentioned in the last post, I'm recording with the acoustic-electric exclusively here. I've haven't had it that long and I've never recorded with it, so I learned the hard way about one of its quirks. A few hours into the day and I thought my playing was getting shittier, but it turned out that the battery was dying and it affected the sound quality of the chords. I don't know how much was recorded before I changed the battery, but it's probably not too noticeable.

By the end of the day I had 8 tracks of doubled acoustic guitar recorded. I have no idea if it's 35 minutes of material. I believe most of the songs average about 4 minutes, so I am probably looking at the possibility of having to squeeze out one more track. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Day 22

Yesterday I started plotting out exactly what I was going to do with the rest of days and how I was going to accomplish things on the digital 8-track. I decided that I would go for broke and do drums first since they will be the hardest. I bought some sticks and went to the practice space. Nobody was there, so I jumped into the driver's seat.

After recording two tracks of guitar the previous day, I had two slots left on the 8-track without having to bounce or make any other concessions, so I decided that I was just going be economical/lazy and use only two mics. I tried a couple different setups and was never really crazy about any of them, but I also didn't have all fucking night to dick around with precise microphone placement. I'd always wanted to try the Recorderman setup, but I completely forgot about it that technique until about 5 minutes ago. Fortunately, what I did last night was actually pretty close, minus the fine tuning.

There is a serious lack of kick drum presence on the recordings, but I'm starting to think that it's a result of the either my 8-track (and it's obscene lack of EQ) or the kick drum's quality itself. When we recorded our band demo a few months back, we had a similar the same problem. I'm sort of OK with this because my kicking is weaksauce, but at the same time, if I'm going to have sore leg muscles the next day (which I do) I want those beats to register, goddammit.

I started right in on my favorite track and quickly realized that I:
  1. Was not in shape
  2. Should have used a click track 
  3. Had no idea what I was going to play on drums
  4. Still wasn't incredibly familiar with my own song structures
  5. May have made a horrible mistake in thinking that I was better off with real drums
I basically made up drum beats for each part as I came to it, which is nothing unusual. But recording to the 8-track is better with fewer punch-ins on drums, so I still had to be able to put the parts together. When you're not really a drummer, the fuckups are aplenty, so any time I screwed up, I immediately erased the whole take and started from the beginning again. Whenever I was completely frustrated I used punch-ins. It took me hours and hours just to finish the first song, and that was one I thought would be the easiest!

The next one took a while too, but I do think I got a little better at playing. With my arms at least. My right leg revolted by the third song. I would stare at it and try to move it with my mind, but it just wouldn't do what I wanted anymore. I think it was jealous because my left didn't do much of anything the whole time. I tried to throw in some toms for variety, but the longer the night went on, the less complex my beats got.

On the fourth song, the 8-track froze while I was attempting to undo a part I recorded. This is normally a simple operation with the quick touch of button, only this time "Please wait" stared at me for 5 minutes. None of the buttons gave any response, so I had to pull the plug and restart. I was on a roll with the drum parts for that song, so I turn it back on as fast as I could and immediately hit record again. Suddenly, a different song was playing.

I backed out to the menu to switch songs, and the entire track was missing. CC1, CC2, CC3, CC5... What the fuck? I am confident that the track has not been deleted, but it would completely ruin whatever momentum I had if I were to boot up my laptop, hook it up to the 8-track, then try to recover the files. I had no choice but to move on the next song. When I was working on Song 6, the same exact fucking thing happened. It's not like the machine is running low on memory. There's about 68 hours of recording time left on the thing. I guess I was pushing it to the limit with all of my takes?

At about 1 am, my body said it was time to go home. I was smelly, sweaty, and tired. I could feel a blister forming on the thumb, no thanks to the stick I cracked and then continued using upside-down  for the last three hours. All in all, I got 4 or 5 songs finished completely. 2 are missing (though I had come up with most of the parts for them), and I think there's one that I just don't have any good parts for yet (the song I thought would be the second easiest, of course).

I have regular band practice tonight, so I'm going to try to recover those lost tracks during downtime, then stay another 4 hours or so after we finish. I got about 4 crappy hours of sleep last night, so doing it again tonight is going to suck, but I don't really have a choice. I still have to do a bass track (Wednesday/Thursday?), then vocals for lyrics that I haven't even written (Uh, Friday/Saturday/Sunday?). By noon on Monday, March 1st, this needs to be on a CD, in an envelope, at the post office. I think the only thing that can break my spirit now is if these two missing tracks can't be recovered. I'll get my guitar and skull ready.

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