Sunday, April 18, 2010

Adventures in overdubbing

Before you read any further, if you have a high speed connection, please open a new browser window, go to my new MySpace page, and listen to the uploaded song while you read the rest of this post.

Today was one of those wonderful musical days when one thing leads to another, and before I knew it I was in the midst of my biggest recording projects ever. It started innocently enough, with some intense arpeggio practice on mandolin. Then I happened to turn to the page in my music notebook that had the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song I really like, "Tomorrow Is A Long Time". I put down the mandolin, picked up the guitar, learned the chord pattern, and decided to do an impromptu recording of myself singing and playing the song on guitar, just a rough draft so I could work out a mandolin accompaniment later. My arrangement is based on Nickel Creek's recording of the song, and I did my best to sound somewhat like Sara Watkins. :)

The rough draft came complete with Sally's toenails on wood floor, and even a rawhide bone drop in the last chorus. But the guitar playing was pretty even, and I liked what I heard in the vocals. That's a rare thing; usually I have a hard time appreciating my own voice. So I kept the track. Then, in the early afternoon, I moved out to my new recording studio:

The Hermit traded for this camper trailer that's nearly as old as I am, and in almost better shape. Since Mr. Attitude was watching TV in the house and Calvin was video gaming in the cabin, this was the only choice for a quiet place (the flickers and sapsuckers were making way too much joyful spring noise outside). And quiet it was; with the door and windows closed it blocked out most outside noise.

I set up inside with my flute and mandolin, a glass of iced tea, and my Tascam GT-R1 portable recorder, on top of the cabinet in the middle. I spent a lot of time practicing flute with the base track, recorded one take, then found out I had set the input level so high the flute was overpowering everything else. So I adjusted levels, did a couple practice takes of about ten seconds each to make sure the levels were right, then I recorded the flute track. Right after I turned the recorder off, Mr. Attitude appeared and wanted to be my sound man. :)

The mandolin track took a lot longer, due to the need for iced tea refills, and interruptions from Calvin and Starflower. Not to mention my own developing sense of perfectionism; even if this was purely for my own recreation, I wanted this song to sound somewhat professional. So I practiced the mando with the dubbed guitar/vocal/flute track until I had an idea where I was going with it. I noticed the battery on the recorder was getting down a bit, so I hoped I could get something good recorded in one take. The first take sounded good enough for me.

I can now appreciate the process of audio recording. While this is a rough demo by any standards, I have learned what it takes to put a song together. My inner perfectionist would still be out in the camper, going for the perfect mix, and I know this song will evolve a bit as I work with it. But it's a big step for me, putting it up on MySpace for the world to see!


webb said...

An afternoon well spent! Brava. It all hangs together and sounds very professional. Keep doing it!

Sue said...

Beautiful! Well done.

Jayne said...

Oh Deb! That is AMAZING! You go girl! I am so impressed that you even attempted this project. Wow. So, when will your single be on iTunes? :c)

cherylhotton said...

I really enjoyed listening to you and I could have sworn I was listening to a young Emmy Lou Harris . Very well done .

Jim said...

Peggy & I loved it Deb, but I can't figure out how to save it for my iTunes database.

Deb said...

Thanks all! Half of the fun of creating this was being able to share it with you.

Jim- I don't know either. MySpace is mostly still a mystery to me, and it doesn't seem as user-friendly as Facebook. Let me know if you figure anything out!

Clare said...

Very nice Deb, I quite enjoyed it and can't wait for you to release a full album on iTunes.

I found the volume very low on the recording, even with my computer's volume cranked.

Very nicely done.

barefoot gardener said...

Awesome job, m'dear!

lectric lady said...


Your kids are so lucky to see you doing this. So complicated, so competent. Even if it does not seem evident in the moment, you are giving them the notion that they can be whatever they want. To watch Mom being so creative, priceless!

Pablo said...

I love your new sound studio. Looks like a good place to write, too.

Deb said...

Clare- It did sound better in my headphones (off the original track) than it did off my computer. I'll have to look into that.

Barefoot- Thank you, my'lady!

lectric lady- thank you. Of course, I get a lot of creative inspiration from my kids. They are always so into stuff, so going! But I know that what I show them in my life is important, so I try to show them the best.

Pablo- It is a nice quiet place. I should spend more time there!