Still riding that learning curve…

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!


About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. For now, I labor at a fairly interesting administrative job in order to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
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