So, once upon a time (back in February 2013), I took up the February Album Writing Challenge (sort of), and I wrote and recorded a bunch of songs. Most of them were, well, meh. There were one or two, though, that I’ve been itching to re-record and improve, especially now that I’ve had the chance to play them live with a full band. I’ve also learned a little more about recording and mixing, and I’ve got some ideas about improving the recordings themselves, so I figured now might be the time to try it.
The first “improved” recording I’ve done is of one of the first new songs I recorded in February, “The Breakup.” The original was short and spare — it began with a sort of silly idea about relationships and gravity and flight, and ended up being something I liked, but couldn’t quite figure out what to do with. The original recording features nothing more than voice, acoustic guitar, and improvised DulciBongos (i.e., I used the back of my dulcimer for a drum). Here’s how the first version went:
It’s not too bad, really, but it plainly needed a lot of work (both in terms of the recording and the structure of the song itself). When I played it for Josh, he suggested that the chorus needed to go around twice (as well as giving me some recording hints). Once I figured out how to understand the recording hints, I turned my attention to the song structure, and came up with some new lyrics to expand the chorus and changed the beginning so it didn’t start so abruptly. I also wanted a fuller sound — the guitar/vox/bongo combo seemed really thin to me, and it didn’t drive the song much. I found a jazzy 12/8 drum loop in GarageBand that seemed right (groovy!) and then started filling out parts. Adding the bass wasn’t too hard, once I figured out a simple part to add. Then I threw two different guitar bits in: one of the acoustic/electric guitar with no alterations (simultaneously recording the guitar both via a dynamic mic and by plugging it in through the board) and one of the same guitar run through one of GB’s guitar amp and pedal simulators. I left the vocals (mostly) unchanged, but this time I used a condenser to record, added reverb, and left the clipping in for a little flavor. I tweaked a few things in GB for mixing it all together, and then I let it go (although it probably still needs either a guitar or some other instrument doing a solo in the break).
I think I like the result better:
I am slowly inching towards figuring out enough of how these things work to take off the training wheels (i.e., doing all of my work in GarageBand) and start working in a more powerful program. Whee!