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Archive for October 31, 2014

You don’t need to record in order

This is going to be an extremely random first post in my blog’s new era, and, yes, I know that has nothing to do with the actual definition of the word “random.”

There’s a lot to be said for recording a song in the actual order of the song. It’s probably the best way to capture a valid emotional performance. If a song structure is intro + verse + chorus + verse + chorus + bridge + chorus + chorus + outro, then recording it in that order gives the best chances that verse/chorus 2 will differ a little from verse/chorus 1 in some meaningful way. I wouldn’t normally recommend deviating from that linear recording process.

But you don’t have to record that way. There are times when it’s better to record all the verses, then all the choruses, then the bridge, etc. This has worked out well for me in the following situations:

  • The song is hard to play, so the performers prefer to focus first on playing the verses, then, having successfully recorded the verses, move on to the choruses, etc.
  • The song arrangement is being developed while recording, so you literally don’t know how the choruses should sound until you’ve heard the verses.
  • Some sort of logistical problem. For example, the chorus is a duet with another singer who’s not currently available, in which case you can go ahead and record the verses without that singer.
  • The verse and chorus instrumentation are different, requiring different mic setups.

This is probably a really obvious observation, but it was something that kind of snuck up on me. I guess I’m just used to living in a world where Tuesday always follows Monday, and Wednesday always follows Tuesday. Of course, this idea of recording out of order is probably second nature to filmmakers.

Now if could only schedule all my weekends for the next year back-to-back over the next 52 days…

Relaunching My Blog

OK, everyone, I’d like to start by apologizing for it being a long time since my last blog post. I could make excuses about being super busy, but the truth is, I’m just a very slow writer. So, although I’ve had some pretty cool ideas for articles, each time I start writing one, by the time I manage to finish writing a coherent paragraph, I either lose track of where the article was headed, or I get an idea for a new article.

So I started thinking, what if I could figure out a way to write shorter articles, but still make them interesting and useful? I mulled over this question and let some time pass deliberately without writing any articles. During that time I worked hundreds of hours in my studio on a wide variety of projects. One thing I do while I work is keep a journal, in which I jot down things that I learn. A day rarely goes by that I don’t learn something, so the journal has grown to considerable length. Journal entries cover quite a breadth of topics, ranging from Pro Tools tips (“wow, I didn’t know that if you hold down Control Option Command and press 5 on the numeric keypad, but only on Mondays…”) to music arranging tips, music production tips (mic placement, reverb settings, etc.), and even advice on dealing with client personalities. That’s when it occurred to me that right here on my desktop there was a rich source of material for blogging. It wouldn’t require much additional effort to write the articles, because the journal entries were already written. And the articles would be short, because each one would focus on just one lesson learned that day.

At this point, if you’re like me, you’re probably saying “another blog of Pro Tools tips… just what the world needs… yawn.” But I want to emphasize that I’m not interested in that. Pro Tools is just a tool, a pretty insanely powerful tool, but a blog about how to use Pro Tools is potentially as exciting as a blog about how to use a power drill. Likewise with music production tips. I do subscribe to some music production blogs, and they can be interesting, but that also isn’t what I want to write. Because, for one thing, I’m not an expert in music production. But also because I think it’s extremely difficult to offer music production advice that reaches a universal audience. I read articles like “optimum mic placement for recording bagpipers outdoors,” and I think, hey, that’s really neat, but then I think, wait, am I ever going to do that?

OK, so I don’t plan for this blog to be a bunch of Pro Tools tips, and I don’t plan for it to be music production advice. Well, then, what is it? Here’s where I pitch my idea, and hopefully some of you will think this is worth exploring. The idea is to go on a journey together. I have no way of knowing what I’ll learn tomorrow. But I do know that I will learn something. Think of it as an open journal. No filtering. Don’t be surprised if you read a rant about how I wasted X hours trying to install some stupid software and eventually gave up. Or maybe I’ll write that I was too depressed by the news headlines, so I didn’t do any work that day, but I did learn more about this human race that I’m a part of. Or maybe I’ll write a detailed 15-step process for preparing to record the Spanish language version of an English instructional DVD.

Let’s give it a try. I guess the worst that could happen is that it turns out to be boring. And, as always, I’d love for this to be a two-way conversation: I’ll tell you what I’m learning, and you tell me what you’re learning.