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Archive for the ‘Arrangements’ Category
10 Jun

Things About Goin’ My Way

Listen: Things About Goin’ My Way

 

This is a recording from May of 2009. I was working in Garage Band and feeling I could do better. I spent about a year in Garage Band before deciding to take some classes at Berklee Online. That was the start of my switch to Pro Tools and the system I have now.

I found this song on an old Jim Croce recording. I was working with Mark Young on a Jim Croce tribute show (Mark has sound files on his site), and he had a ton of material, obscure home recordings, and unreleased studio tracks. This is an old blues tune and came from an album released after Jim’s death, I think it was called “Home Recordings.” I traced it back to a 1931 Tampa Red 78 record “Things Is Bout Comin My Way.” Maybe it originated there, I don’t have the patience to go back further.

I set this up as a form for soloing and kept solos to one chorus, so instruments switch frequently.

Categories: Arrangements, Recordings
05 Jul

Machine

Listen: Machine

Similar to The Bell

This is a sound piece I worked on in collaboration with a guy I met online. I only know him as “Dwarf”. He uploaded his piece on Groovezoo. He had the sound effects and poem up front and the bass line and beat at the end.

I added an acoustic guitar to frame the chord progression, a slide guitar for texture and lead guitar for melody. Another listen led me to add a second electric guitar part for counter melody and variety.

I like this kind of project and would like to do more. It would be fun to collaborate with a group of poets and musicians and put out an album.

This piece is very similar to my piece, The Bell. We worked this out 2011, three years after I put together The Bell.

Categories: Arrangements, Recordings
17 Aug

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

listen: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

original: Original Wreck

This week I found a song I had recorded in 2009. It was a pretty good performance, but it didn’t sound good. I decided to try to rescue the track by exporting from GarageBand and using Pro Tools to get a professional sound.

I made my first mistake exporting. I forgot to turn off the reverb and delay effects on each individual channel. I took this as a challenge. After all, I often hear guitar tracks with chorus/reverb/delay, sometimes effects not appropriate to the song. As an engineer, my job is to make it work.

So I started with the processed tracks. I imported to Pro Tools and added some eq and compression. I set up sub groups to get the instruments working together.

I was having trouble getting the slide part to sit right in the mix. The problem: settings that helped the melody stand out were too much for the backing parts on the verses. I split the slide track into two, so I could use separate settings on the bold lead and the more subtle background.

The vocal needed a lot of help. The vocal didn’t stand out enough, it just blended into the mix. I tried boost some eq settings, but the result was either boxy or hissy. I had read an article about using distortion to add some presence to a vocal line and decided to try that technique.

I pulled out my SansAmp plugin and patched it into the vocal channel. It worked. Listening back, it may be too much. I may go in and lighten up the distortion someday.

Next I needed to fix some tuning issue. I am not a fan of Autotune. Here I had a handful of bad notes in a good performance, so my tuning plugin was the right tool.

The track was in pretty good tune, but I had 5-6 notes that were more than a half step off. These I mended.

I wanted to look at the high notes, the B. Not too high for me, but in a bad spot for my voice. They sounded harsh, especially with added distortion (a compromise, I know). And they were mostly within 10 cents of pitch. Thinking I didn’t need little pitch issues compounding the harshness, I put them in perfect tune. I think it helps.

Lastly for pitch, I was surprised to find that noises like breath and consonants registered as pitched events. Sometimes on weird pitches, unrelated to the key of the song. I pulled these up/down to pitches appropriate to the key signature and zeroed them out. This helped to clean up the overall presentation.

I finished by adding some automation. Bringing out little lines and lightening backing tracks where it was needed. I especially needed to tame my Darth Vader breathing. Muting my breathing sounded creepy, so I went in and isolated each breath and pulled it down 10 db’s. It sounds more natural this way.

I think I ended up with a pretty good track. Of course, i could have gone in and re-played parts or re-sung the entire song. That wasn’t the point. The point was to fix this one. And it sounds much better.

Categories: Arrangements
22 Feb

Romance Without Finance

Here is my version: Romance Without Finance

Here is the original: Romance Without Finance Original

I thought I’d give a chance to listen to my version and the original so you can hear the difference. The original is by Big Bill Broonzy and Washboard Sam.

This song is a 12 bar blues. I like the concept of the original, but it didn’t move the way I wanted it to. I was working on slide guitar and learning open D tuning, so I started the arrangement with slide guitar. I kept the form, the chord progression (note the dominant flat six chord in both versions) and most of the melody.

I worked out the main riff as a way organize the song. Many blues tunes have this repeated musical idea- it’s a common feature of the blues. I was thinking in terms of a three piece group; guitar, slide guitar and mandolin. I had the main riff and a picking pattern worked out on slide, I added some strummed rhythms on guitar.

I didn’t want a straight chop on mandolin, that sounded too country, but I needed that 2-and-4 rhythm. I had to play around a while before I found the bend. It was a good way to get that rhythm and keep the song sounding like the blues.

One of my limitations is my vocals. I’m not a bad singer, I sing mostly in tune and I do a pretty good job in some styles, but I’m never going to be a lead vocalist. I’m not putting myself down, but if I auditioned for American Idol, I would not make it to Hollywood. I did 3 or 4 takes on this song and this is the best one. I ain’t expectin’ to make money on it.

Categories: Arrangements
21 Feb

The Bell- a mash-up

Listen: The Bell

This isn’t really a mash-up, but it’s the kind of ‘mash-up’ I like to do. It’s like assembling a mosaic when you don’t know what the final picture will look like.

From a recording point of view, it was a good chance to play with all the toys; delays, filters, flangers, chorus.

The basic drone is a bass played with an EBow (another toy). I was surprised by the nasty tone it produced. The rhythm was produced by touching the ebow against the vibrating string. I put a slow flanger and some long delay on this track.

The counter drone (it’s hard to call it a melody) was the ebow on a strat. I used a comb filter on this and got the flange sound by manually sweeping the frequencies. This gives it an irregular, psychedelic sound. The delay is called a reverse delay. It gives a little sforzando leading in to the attack. It required me to manually move the track back about 80 ms so it still sounded in time, but again, a nice psychedelic effect.

I found the poem online- http://www.sfheart.com/cohen.html. It’s called Instead Of Selling Pretzels by Allen Cohen of San Francisco. I read the poem and ran the track through a slow sweeping filter, then to a slow ping-pong delay

The song is an old klezmer tune, Oriental Melody. It probably has a yiddish name as well, but I wouldn’t be able to pronounce it.

I used a bouzouki to lay down the melody and again to set a backing track. The strat part switches to a harmony part.

I got the tabla loop from my friend Richard Wixner. (http://www.anotherplanerecords.com)

I played the harmony part on flute and drenched it in reverb. The sound effects are backwards and forwards cymbals obscured by flange and delay.

I put the whole thing together in GarageBand with an SM57 and an old Tapco mixer.

So let me summarize my kind of ‘mash-up’. I have American Buddhist poem with a psychedelic backing track leading into a Jewish song, claiming Oriental origins, played on a Greek instrument with Indian drums…

Categories: Arrangements
19 Feb

Can’t Find My Way Home

Listen:  Can’t Find My Way Home

I spent some time with this arrangement. Working off the original Blind Faith recording, I tried to write a note for note arrangement, but it was too difficult to play. I had to simplify. I wrote the solos using licks from the recording. It’s not EC’s solo but it captures the character of the song. I may go back someday and try the jam section at the end. For now, it’s a nice little filler in my finger-style repertoire.

I recorded this in my basement, using GarageBand and the micophone that came with my Mac. Really.

Categories: Arrangements