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Recording Thoughts...


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As I understand it, the way John wants to record the songs on the album is to (1) record a “scratch track” of himself (bass), Chris (drums), and me (rhythm guitar and vocal), then (2) record on separate tracks each of us playing (and in my case, also singing) to the scratch track, then (3) add lead instruments, and (4) mix the tracks, using his fancy computer program—and eliminating the scratch track in the process.

I don’t know for sure if this is how it’s done in commercial studios, but it sounds like it should work. It is a little complicated, but it ought to produce just about perfect results. Then comes mastering, which I believe is both making the volumes of the individual songs consistent with each other and consistent with the volumes one gets out of commercial recordings, so you can pop the CD into any CD player and not have the listener running for the volume control. Might send that part out—I know at least three people who do that commercially (though I don’t know what they charge, and what they charge is going to be important).

Recording the scratch tracks may or may not be a simple process. From the band’s end, it’s a snap; John and Chris are both very good, and the songs on the album are all ones we’ve played a lot. I would expect we could do each one in one take. Scratch tracks for the whole album—an hour’s worth of music—would be part of an afternoon’s work, if the recording equipment can handle it. It may not be able to—I know John’s portable unit is better than my Tascam (which can only hold one song at a time), but I’m not sure how much better. The alternative to spreading the scratch recording out over two, three or four days would be to migrate Chris’s drum set up to John’s living room, so tracks could be dumped to the computer quickly.

Probably another afternoon or evening to overlay each of the individual instruments—rhythm guitar, bass, drums, lead guitar, blues harp and vocal. (Re-recording the dums would entail Chris’s drum set being in John and Sara’s living room one more day.) Might add (or substitute) Bruce’s piano on a couple of the songs, if he’s interested (I think he might be); we could have me playing lead on the simpler stuff, but I’d really rather have Mike doing all the guitar leads if he would—he is many times better a lead player than I am. And with all that work done, John could mix at his leisure.

Next step: a SCHEDULE. Right now, everybody’s got a little free time, but it’s not going to last.

I think I need a revised setlist for the album. I need to eliminate the two co-writes, substituting songs wrote entirely by me, so I can avoid the expense of paying copyright royalties up front. I hate to do it—“Dead Things in the Shower” and “Un-Easy Street” are among our best crowd-pleasers—but I can’t afford it. I’m doing this album for no money, because no money is what I have.

I can substitute “Crosses By the Roadside” for “Un-Easy Street” easily. “Crosses” is a good song (despite having been panned by a Nashville publisher)—it’s more serious and sad, but almost exactly the same tempo, and a two-step, even. (That’s why I won’t play the two songs together.) What can I substitute for “Dead Things”? Just as in a live performance, one wants to lead off with the almost-best stuff. Do I know what that is, any more?

Joe

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