Studio weekend!

alparrott

Platinum Member
My main band has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance the past year. The personnel roster has been very volatile over the last three or four years, and eventually only the singer/songwriter/lead instrumentalist and I were left. Last year we recruited a guitarist/backup singer and a new bass player, both of whom are incredibly talented musicians on top of being nice guys. And that's when the songs started writing themselves.

To put this in perspective, I've been with this band since 2010 and we've written perhaps fifteen complete songs in all that time. In the space of one year, we wrote six. The new songs range from what I would call a 'slow tortured piano blues' to a blistering fast political punk song to a country-pop ditty. That's kind of how we do.

The bass player and I are laying down our tracks on four (possibly five) of those songs today. He is probably the best 'drummer's bass player' I have ever played with - incredibly easy to lock into a groove with, his time is impeccable, and we stay out of each other's way without very much discussion on the matter.

The car is packed and I'm up early because I couldn't sleep with the songs going through my head. To say I'm excited is a vast understatement.

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I'll hopefully be posting some BTS photos later in the day. Super excite!
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
So this is a local guy who has a basement studio that usually records punk and rockabilly bands; we chose him because we're definitely going for a rawer, more punk sound this time out. Four songs on the plate today.

First up was a country pop song, "Space Between", which is about falling out of love with the place you live. Using my aluminum 5x14 Standard snare and Yamaha toms for this. We did two full takes and I did two drop-ins on the second take. Mingo (our bass player) did his drop-ins separately. We're cooking with gas! Done bass and drums in about thirty minutes.

Our second song is called "Forever & Nowhere". This song purposely evokes early REM, specifically "The One I Love". I used the Ludwig Black Magic brass snare for this song. It has a big tom fill in the middle that just sounded huge. Two takes and a couple of drop-ins each and we're done.

The third song was "Brand New Day", which is a midtempo punk anthem a la Green Day. Switched out the Yamaha toms for the two Ludwig 3-ply toms for this one and also pulled out the crown jewel for this: my Guru stave walnut snare. We've been playing this song for about nine months now, and it's one of our very favorites. We nail it, bass and drums recording together, in one take. Felt good.

The fourth and final full song of the day is the toughest, "Alternate Facts", a very fast (185 bpm), very loud, very thrashy punk song whose content you can probably guess. Same snare. Still using the Ludwig toms on this song. This... was NOT one take. The scratch track came in off beat, so it was unusable. We tried a couple of different approaches with bass and drums to click, guitar, bass and drums to click, and it wasn't lining up the way we wanted. Finally I said, "Just me and the click." I did a few takes, just me and the click, singing it to myself in my head and Mingo watching me to make sure I didn't miss anything. It's actually a VERY tough song to get right! I ended up doing four or five takes of the second half of the song, due to a very tricky half time breakdown near the end. Then Mingo did his takes on top of my drum tracks.

We were actually way ahead of schedule, which was nice! Time enough for MC to lay down a couple of guitar tracks over the top. We actually got to hear a very rough mix of full instrumentation for one song today. Not bad at all for four hours' work!
 

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alparrott

Platinum Member
Headed back for another three songs tomorrow.

The first is a poppy number called "The Problem" for which we felt influences from all over the map, from Prince to Tom Petty. The part is snappy and syncopated, popping right along at 126 bpm.

The second will be a slowish unconventional blues in 6 (I say "unconventional" because there's an extra two bars before it heads into the V, and because the band lands hard on the quarter notes at the end of each phrase). It's been very freeform the times we've played it live, so it seems almost a shame to pin it to an actual arrangement!

The third is going to be a sprightly 80's inspired pop rocker with some Genesis inspiration (and in fact I will be using all my toms in my tom bank to quote the "In The Air Tonight" fill at one point in the song).

Having learned my lesson from last time in this studio, I am dressing very lightly (sports jersey and running shorts) and packing a LOT of cold drinks in a cooler! Plus my own headset.

Watch for pictures and (possibly) sounds!
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Here's the photos and the recap!

I got there for load-in at 11, and I was actually set up and soundchecking by 11:30. MC (bandleader) and Mingo (bass player) arrived not long after I did, and by 11:45 we started playing through "The Problem", getting monitor levels and dialing in sound. Because it was the first song and we were pretty cold (MC and I had a pitiful, disjointed arrangement rehearsal on Wednesday), it was a little while till we started getting warmed up and hearing what we wanted to hear. Since MC and I had raised the tempo in the arrangement rehearsal, his scratch track was a little loose. Still, after three runs I had a serviceable take. I dropped in the second half of the song for a slightly better take, and Mingo brushed up a few spots, and BAM, our first song done by 12:30.

Song number two, "Blue Zone", took a few minutes to figure out, since we'd rehearsed to a 6/8 click at 88 bpm; we'd be recording to a 4/4 click in a 12/8 feel at about 66 bpm. This was pretty much the same thing: I took a really good take with Mingo, we brushed up one spot in my take, then Mingo punched in his trouble spots. Later, at the end of the session, I overdubbed a mallet roll on my trash crash for a gongy wash at the end of the song. It really felt solid and I felt great about handling the click change without much hesitation.

The first two songs were on my four-piece Ludwig set with the 5x14 aluminium snare, the only difference being that I played 17" and 18" crashes for "The Problem" and 18" and 19" crashes plus a 20" china for "Blue Zone". After "Blue Zone" was in the can, we took a few minutes for some drumset surgery - my five Yamaha toms for "Big City". Neither of the guys had ever seen me pull out ALL the toms before, and we'd never had a chance to rehearse with this full setup, so I don't think they were fully prepared for this experience. I also added thicker A Custom hi-hats and my 6.5" deep Black Magic snare tuned low, and took down the ride cymbal as it wouldn't be used. A few minutes to get drum sounds set and we were ready to go - that is, until the headphones I was using broke! Chad, our engineer, brought out another pair, but they seemed to be on the fritz and the signal was really quiet. Oh well! On with the show.

The song is just a 4 on the floor rocker similar to Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell" but with a big drum fill after each chorus. The first fill was the "in The Air Tonight" quote fill, which I somehow nailed on the first take. Leading into the solos, I did a simpler three-tom deal. The final fill between the end choruses is an every-tom, kitchen-sink fill that I absolutely NAILED. How do I know I nailed it? MC and Mingo were so struck with awe, they forgot what to play next and had to punch in the last chorus! (I'm seriously not kidding. Mouths were wide open in the studio.) Such a fun song, I know it'll get 'em dancing when we do it live.

When we got done, I wiggled the headphone jack and I had all the full sound I wished I'd had recording the last song 🤨

A dubbed shaker part for "Big City" and a few guitar parts and we were done by 4, right on schedule. Tight and professional, just how we like it!

Hope to share some of these tracks with you very soon.

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Here's the photos and the recap!

I got there for load-in at 11, and I was actually set up and soundchecking by 11:30. MC (bandleader) and Mingo (bass player) arrived not long after I did, and by 11:45 we started playing through "The Problem", getting monitor levels and dialing in sound. Because it was the first song and we were pretty cold (MC and I had a pitiful, disjointed arrangement rehearsal on Wednesday), it was a little while till we started getting warmed up and hearing what we wanted to hear. Since MC and I had raised the tempo in the arrangement rehearsal, his scratch track was a little loose. Still, after three runs I had a serviceable take. I dropped in the second half of the song for a slightly better take, and Mingo brushed up a few spots, and BAM, our first song done by 12:30.

Song number two, "Blue Zone", took a few minutes to figure out, since we'd rehearsed to a 6/8 click at 88 bpm; we'd be recording to a 4/4 click in a 12/8 feel at about 66 bpm. This was pretty much the same thing: I took a really good take with Mingo, we brushed up one spot in my take, then Mingo punched in his trouble spots. Later, at the end of the session, I overdubbed a mallet roll on my trash crash for a gongy wash at the end of the song. It really felt solid and I felt great about handling the click change without much hesitation.

The first two songs were on my four-piece Ludwig set with the 5x14 aluminium snare, the only difference being that I played 17" and 18" crashes for "The Problem" and 18" and 19" crashes plus a 20" china for "Blue Zone". After "Blue Zone" was in the can, we took a few minutes for some drumset surgery - my five Yamaha toms for "Big City". Neither of the guys had ever seen me pull out ALL the toms before, and we'd never had a chance to rehearse with this full setup, so I don't think they were fully prepared for this experience. I also added thicker A Custom hi-hats and my 6.5" deep Black Magic snare tuned low, and took down the ride cymbal as it wouldn't be used. A few minutes to get drum sounds set and we were ready to go - that is, until the headphones I was using broke! Chad, our engineer, brought out another pair, but they seemed to be on the fritz and the signal was really quiet. Oh well! On with the show.

The song is just a 4 on the floor rocker similar to Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell" but with a big drum fill after each chorus. The first fill was the "in The Air Tonight" quote fill, which I somehow nailed on the first take. Leading into the solos, I did a simpler three-tom deal. The final fill between the end choruses is an every-tom, kitchen-sink fill that I absolutely NAILED. How do I know I nailed it? MC and Mingo were so struck with awe, they forgot what to play next and had to punch in the last chorus! (I'm seriously not kidding. Mouths were wide open in the studio.) Such a fun song, I know it'll get 'em dancing when we do it live.

When we got done, I wiggled the headphone jack and I had all the full sound I wished I'd had recording the last song 🤨

A dubbed shaker part for "Big City" and a few guitar parts and we were done by 4, right on schedule. Tight and professional, just how we like it!

Hope to share some of these tracks with you very soon.

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Nice ! It’s been fun reading and sounds like you’re having a blast and enjoying the whole process ! Good stuff !!!!!!
 
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