Lesson two: Strive for perfection in each part

Coming from a rock background this one’s a hard one for me. The only recording I did with Rhombic Void was recording the four-piece live at the same time. I didn’t have to worry so much about every single note, though I did make a couple of mistakes which are detectable if one should listen. But with the cover of wild drumming, power-bass and my own distortion pedals, it’s more the energy you’re trying to capture.

Now I’m recording everything myself. Including shakers, keyboards, bass, both acoustic and electric guitars, and most challenging of all for me, vocals. Recording each track separately, I have to aim for perfection, for every off-note and mistake makes a difference. Having said that, I’ve never finished a recording and felt ‘yes, I did that perfect’. Each take will always have it’s imperfections. It just depends on to what extent (i.e. to make the song unusable).

It’s also a psychological challenge, because it can be nerve-racking. What if there’s a section I just can’t nail? What if my fingers stumble right at the end of a delicate five-minute finger-picking track? There are ways to touch them up with software, but I just have audacity, the freeware, rather than high-end Protools or Cubase etc. There are still ways I can try to improve the mistakes, but I’m not an expert, and I often end up spending more time twigging the computer.

So I found practising each part is key. The more you practice before recording, the less stress. Of course, in a home-recording situation, recording can be just like practising, taking as many takes as I want. But it’s time-consuming setting up all the gear, getting everything right. Best to practice comfortably a few times beforehand.

This can also get time-consuming. I may write a song simply with one acoustic guitar and one voice, but I love adding a bass part, lead guitar, keyboards, percussion and other overdubs.. That’s half the fun for me, so I often make a reference track of guitar and vocals, then jam and experiment over the top with other instruments. It may mean having to work out what scales are applicable over different chords, and working out the harmony on keyboards (which is hard for me as I’ve only had keyboards for a few months).

Back to lesson one -the more tracks, the more the challenges, and the more I need to workout each track and practice to get as tight a recording as I can. These two lessons are still a big challenge for me. Getting everything rehearsed right as much as possible, but I can’t spend two much time on each song. So, fewer tracks means more time to rehearse, the tighter the tracks will be in recording, and the easier it is to juggle in the mixing process. But I always want to make the song sound ‘fuller’ and ‘bigger’ with extra overdubs.

And often I’m not sure if the song should have acoustic rhythm guitar or electric, or keyboards,or a combination, so I’ll experiment -and this means more juggling round to get things right in the mix. And this leads to lesson number three…


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