From the Studio - Take 1

So we finally got rolling, starting the recording process on the worship album we had been planning to cut this year. A couple of months of preparation and planning, and now the rubber hits the road, so to speak.

Originally, we had thought to record the instruments in the church itself. After all, that's where they all are. Not having to break everything down, drag it downtown to the studio, set up, break it down, drag it back to the church... seemed like a good idea. So Thursday night, our recording engineer brought all his equipment, we set it all up... and found an unbearable hum from the building's eighty-seven year-old wiring. Scratch day one.

Saturday night we packed everything up and brought it down to the studio in Read's Artspace. Built inside the former Read's department store, the Artspace is a collection of over sixty live/work creative spaces. The artist there - sculptors, painters, photographers, musicians - live in their studios. It is an amazing community.

We had decided to track "Tell the World" first. We began the initial setup with electric guitar, drums and bass. The recording process was surprisingly challenging. In the first place, all of us are basically "live" musicians. None of us have recorded as musicians in a studio setting. This created some challenges, the hardest of which was no one was singing! So here we are, isolated from each other by headphones, no vocals, and trying to get through the songs together.

We had mapped out each song in terms of structure - so many bars of intro, so many bars of verse, etc... But in a song with a lot of parts, it became a challenge for the three of us to all be at the same place at the same time. Finally, we worked out some signals - we could see each other, if not hear each other.

Another change from a live setting is hearing every little mistake. On stage, you are programmed to move past minor flubs - miss a chord change, bumble a drum roll, flub a lyric. Just keep playing, no one noticed. But when you play back that track on the studio monitors - you wince and shudder when you hear them. Did I play that? Ewww!

The cool part is going in an fixing stuff. Picking up from a certain measure, two bars of overlap, boom. Fixed. Also, tracking more instruments. Playing live, I need to choose which guitar part to focus on. Many of the songs we play were written for multiple guitars, and in some cases, multiple keyboards. We have one of each - so it's usually "Do I play the lead part, or the rhythm part?" Usually it's a little of both. But here I was able to play the lead part, then go back and track an acoustic rhythm part right on top of it. It was very cool listening to the playback, and hearing both parts.

In the end, we decided we didn't like the way the second half of the song sounded. So we scrapped everything after the second chorus, re-recorded the solo, the bridge and the outro. Three hours for three minutes and forty-seven seconds of music, and we still have to redo the acoustic track and the piano. We'd better step it up!

We'll be back in Thursday to finish those parts (one take, I hope) and do (hopefully) two more songs.


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