Not much time available for rock and roll today. I'll try to take it where I left it yesterday; I'll listen to the session, polish a bit the things that stick out the most and try to get something printable that is convincing enough for effect in the Bandcamp placeholder. I'll move in that direction as much as I can (A snail just passed me from my left side at dizzying speed... but whatchagonnado...)
The deadline I set is gone. As these logs help my process so much I'll keep going for five days more, as a homage to Megadeth's "Five magics"...
My plan for today was to finish real quick the redux-to-normal montage of voice tracks, print the session, upload it to Bandcamp and listen to the album I have so far, kinda like the painter who takes a step backwards to watch the whole canvas. But I didn't get to Bandcamp because housekeeping has caught up with me; there was some serious tidying up needed after fighting the "guitar tone wars" of 2 weeks ago.
I didn't name consistently or usefully the guitar tracks then, so I've had to go through most of them to tell which one was which; for example, there was one called "g_vamp", as in "virtual amp". The reference was a good enough locator at that moment, with my brain more engaged in listening and experimenting, but, come to think of it, all my amps are virtual so, it hasn't been too eloquent later. Plus I still had laying around the guitar mockups of the demo stage, plus some of the tracks that were intended for experimentation turned out to be usable later, etc... Like the audio pros say, "It's all about preproduction, dude!".
What saddens me is that, although the song has turned out well, the process to get a good tone remains a bit vague, so the problems will reappear in next session: "record with different amp setups, layer them and hopefully you'll get it to sound good". If it were a chair I wouldn't sit on it.
And speaking of layering, I've found that, whenever I layer the different voice takes (a very common "reinforcing" trick) , the raspiness disappears and Paul Stanley makes a new visit. Strange, because this kind of layering has brought me good results in the past; I've also tried moving the tracks a bit to left or right, in case they were for some reason out of sync, but doesn't seem to be the case. I'll probably give it some more experimentation, but worse case scenario one vocal track will do.
Every day I hate perfectionism more and I want to move on from this song. I have to plan how to move faster from one song to the next. I would also like to balance my load so there is always something fun (singing, playing) compensating the boring bits (click, click...)
Done with the vocals. And I don't want to be overenthusiastic, but I'm certainly enthusiastic. To me artistic creation is about at some point being able to say "yeah, that's me". It's like your face is buried and sometimes, after a lot of effort, you get to unbury it and recognize your features. I feel like I AM in this song, and that's such a rare occurrence, it's a moment of growth for this little life living here.
This can sound so pompous, of course... So I do my best to stay grounded too. I remember a quote by Rilke -I quote by heart-, that went something like "we know how fragile we are by looking at how small our victories are". At the end of all the struggle, all the change you get in the world is a new song out there, yet another computer file out there, with 3-5 minutes of sound who someone hopefully will enjoy, without noticing it too much... It's easy for anyone to say "big deal", even for the same person who makes the music sometimes... but there is also another side to the story, of course...
The vocal tracking session has gone so smooth that I have even convinced myself afterwards to go through the drudgery of moving the drums from QTractor to Ardour and configure all the buses... With that out of the way, all that remains is slicing and dicing the vocal tracks from the "redux" mode to normal, some minor comping, and I can start mixing. It's incredible, at the end if you persevere you eat the fucking elephant...
New voice tracking session. All undesired vibes of Paul, Gene and company have been removed.
I have recorded 5 takes, plus a few more of a stubborn section where I think I could do something more. And I'm not hardly as beaten up as I was in the previous session.
It was expected, after all; the other session was a bit of a stubbornness case; after all the effort of setting the process, the sensible voice advised to just dismantle the whole thing, but it was just impossible to resist giving it a try.
This time, with the extra mental resources liberated, the process has matured a bit more; it has grown a separate section about getting the right headphone mix, something that up until now I've been doing winging it time after time, as with so many other things.
Regarding the singing, I entered the session with a stance of "I've done the due diligence, so now I'm going to forget all about it and just sing". My previous singing was perhaps too "academic", after learning about the raspy voice, more focused on not making mistakes than in getting a good performance. This time I think I've developed more my own style (although raspiness is not something habitual in my songs).
One of the things I was doing wrong was that the mic was placed higher than my head, and, having an unconscious live-like stance, I tried to point my voice to it directly, which implied tilting my head back, leaving the neck "in the open". To sing this song the way I wanted, I discovered, it is very important to stick my chin to my chest. The next discovery was that my chest was too "buried"; I had to pump it a little to give the sound more power and a bit more of "cockiness".
From there, listening to my body and its effects on the sound, the image that I've found is "the standing rock". The way Lemmy or Joey Ramone sang, as if they were standing in the middle of a meteor storm, firm, holding tight and yet keeping their cool, managing to have their say (how useful can be these poetic images? Well, they are useful to me. We humans can have "mechanic parts", but we're not machines; some of us have a heart too).
I'll relisten to the recording tomorrow; hopefully I have everything I need for the main vocals (I need a new session for a few unisons in certain sections).
Another good news is that yesterday I found how to turn Qtractor's Midi drumming into independent audio tracks; exporting it as a midi file and then importing it to Ardour, where I cannot edit it but I do know how to send each piece to the corresponding track. Laborious, but this situation will improve in the future, I hope, when I move from Ardour 4 to 5 (and then something else will break somewhere; ah, the joys of software...)
Yesterday's works went to adding a couple of needed guitar blings (saturated amp screaming in the intro; swarm-like background sound a la Morbid Angel during one of the slow parts). Measuring the results in terms of my own previous production, I think this thing kills; but regarding the vocals I found a surprise.
My raspy efforts of the day before yesterday seem to have been in vain; with the vocal tracks aligned and with reverb, the raspiness does not come through. What sticks out the most is my high pitched voice, in a very melodic way that, surprise surprise, made me think immediately of Kiss; to be preciser, of the song "Love Gun".
At that moment, the following inner dialogue took place in my brain:
--Ehm... Kiss is a great band...
--Don't give me crappy excuses you lazy bastard! You know you have to redo the vocals...
So well, I'll have to experiment and record more. Should be easier now that I have a well defined process...
Today I cannot record anything, so maybe I'll give it a rest until tomorrow.
Haven't done the music part yet, but I figured I'd take this entry out of the way first in case I'm too tired later.
Perspective for today: first, check vocals' validity. I think they will do. Fingers crossed.
Second, a lot of tiny confusing things. I'll try to be diligent and maybe finish the song today (I think I'm being fooled by Hofstater already...). Meaning, finishing the tracking part, after which it will be so good and healthy for my psyche to work in some different song and come back later for the production part with fresh ears...
The main hurdle I see is how to make QTractor's midi output be received by Ardour as several tracks (one per Drumgizmo instrument). I've researched this thing several times and never found the way to do it, or even (yikes) if it can be done. Maybe QTractor is more in beta than I thought? I hope it's just a case of the confusing documentation. Worse case scenario, the battery goes untouched, as a one track thing. Given that it sounds so good, the loss wouldn't be terrible (although there would indeed be loss. For example, the kick gets lost in the mix during the final crescendo, bummer).
In addition to that, there's more amusing stuff, like adding sweeteners (which given my genre I've gone in the tongue-in-cheek habit of calling "bitterners"...)
The whole day I've felt a bit melancholic and confused ("clearly confused", as David Allen says). I don't feel like doing much with music, but I hope it becomes one of those cases when after the first resistance time starts to fly. If not, at least I get to check the box...
Recorded vocals today. Tomorrow I'll listen to them and if they sound authentic that's it.
I've sung really comfortably, in terms of sound. Just a little bit of delay effect in the headphones, and everything has melted together nicely.
Info I've gathered from the internets on singing raspy:
1) It's better to start with a clean voice (aaaaa) and then add raspiness gradually (ajjjjjjj). Otherwise you might strain your voice --I forgot to do this, and, being new to this style, after the third take I was gasping for my life.
2) A good starting point is thinking you're holding your breath.
3) A definition that I loved: "you use less air and more power".
The "redux" system has also contributed to make the session a short, tremendous blast. After the recording session I was in a state of "eustress", a word I once read online, ugly but very useful: it is the kind of stress you get for a good reason, when you're euphoric. Also, I've lost a lot of fluids and I never had yearned so much for a yerba mate in my life... Hmm...
In the physical arrangements I have also upped my DIY game with the pop filter, which now is detachable and simpler (for the paper I tried using a coffee filter instead of toilet paper). I could have maybe added some kind of anti-reflection on my back, but it will have to wait for upcoming iterations.
Feeling kinda chewed so I'm going to give it a rest today. I could get down to it and get some stuff done, but I think it's better to just rest and get to it tomorrow more renewed.
Finished the "lightning mode" software setup. Funny how the process is similar to what you do in audio production; you fire it up, see where it derails, fix it, go back to the beginning, fire it up again, see where it derails now... Everything is a process. I've corralled it to 3 clicks+3 keypresses between boot and being singing. Everything documented so that the improvement stays.
Another innovation today that is a keeper is what I'm going to call "redux version"; as the song has long instrumental interludes, I've created a version that skips them gracefully; that way my verses will be more consistent among them, my voice won't cool down with the waiting, and also I'll finish every take quicker. Editing was a bit boring (the song has 2 tempo changes; that's what I call hitting the road running with Drumgizmo...), but the result is well worth it.
Additionally, pops are being filtered, room reflections are being killed, and today I even got to the fun part, the simplicity that must result out of all these intricacies; I recorded a few goofy takes, experimenting with my voice's degree of raspiness, the intonation... I'm aiming for something like "you make me more bored than angry, but don't push your luck". I always thought that being a singer is a lot like being an actor...
Prep work for the vocal tracks. Last summer I instituted a concept called "lightning mode", which seems to stick. It is simply setting the software so that the singer (me but with a different hat) can get to the session, to be recording voice, in as few clicks as possible.
That way you take the software factor and its horrible stops out of the equation. After that is set, I also have a list for the hardware setup, and everything is orchestrated so that I can go in and out as quickly as possible (here I have to explain that I don't have a recording space of my own where I could leave my stuff in a stable manner...)
Preparing this lightning mode has taken more than I expected because it has forced me to advance in the computer configuration, something that I've been procrastinating as much as possible, giving preference to creating stuff and also to this nasty stuff I've recently had with the guitar tone.
Funny how you find this same dichotomy no matter what you're doing; cranking out stuff with what you already have, vs improving the machine, for the promise of better results, but while nothing gets through the door. In my Tony Stark life I have the same challenges of allocation of resources...
I will probably still have one prep session tomorrow to get the lightning mode stable + hardware setup, and then the next day I'd be recording the vocals.
Listening to the song today in a casual manner, "zooming out from the microscope", so to speak, I've suddenly surprised myself by going "holy shit" (to be more precise, the expression's equivalent in my native tongue) by how the thing rocked. The multilayered guitars quite do the trick, although the song still sounds a bit too demo-ish (unproduced, and using new programs in a new computer, what do you expect... But the song comes through, and this makes me so happy...)
Today ends a new deadline for these posts. I'll do a bit of a stretch and extend to #39, in honor of Queen's song of the same name.