Before I started documenting my music making processes, I have found myself time after time reinventing the wheel. Given that recording, production and the like is not my cup of tea, but something that I will gladly hand over to someone else as soon as I can, I tend to forget what I've learned from one time to the next.
The consolation, then, is that this effort of documentation is the last one. At last I have learned how to accumulate the knowledge, the achievement and the failures, in a way that adds up. The stakes will stay there, put in a way in which they are good reminders, even if some time goes by between session and session.
The part of this struggle that has taken my attention last week has been recording electric guitars. One of the notorious mistakes I've made along this process has been succumbing in excess to the temptation of technique. Just one more experiment that I had to run, in a way.
My initial rationale was "cranking out stuff as quick as possible". To do that, I decided to abandon the "live musician" mindset that perhaps was still dominant in my mind, and rather think of a way of producing finished tracks quicker, no matter what it took. The final customer, in the end, finds no additional value in listening a song that has been recorded, say, by copypasting or speeding up sections instead of stubbornly rehearsed to get it right in one take.
Or does he? The answer to this question was a bit ambivalent, and implied to dig a bit deeper in my guiding values.
Firstly, this is not an "I would know it" kind of thing. The tradition with which I feel most identified is the punk movement, which was based in DIY and pretty much anything goes as long as you get something done, put new real stuff of any kind in front of actual human beings. So, in a way, all that technical shortcuts that previously would have looked "dirty" to me, would be fully justifiable. What is not justifiable is letting yourself drag by old prejudices, living in a world that is like a sinking ship, and being a person with a say on the situation, not getting the word out because of poorly understood "authenticity".
The material conditions for musicians are currently far from ideal in these times of readjustment, but we can compensate it with a bigger capability to get the music done, and access to a wider audience.
So for the song I'm working on, I recorded slow and then sped up the bass and drums tracks, and the results were good. I have also found that for voice, under certain conditions, it can do the trick. But then I moved to record guitars, and the result was not acceptable. There's something about the "hairyness" of distortion that does not accept well the speed manipulation, and sounds fake and boxy.
I did several tests, and finally I noticed there was no way out: I had to rehearse those guitar tracks and get them right, at the right speed. I had this stupid fear that I couldn't but of course I could, I've done it thousands of times before.
The music genre of my liking is a tough one. Punk hardcore, or other of its tough cousins. It's the way I like it, and its energy cannot be faked. This implies a different way of working, there are no shortcuts. The rehearsal days must be put together so that the skill accumulates.
Under such premises, I developed a system for recording easily track after track after track, as usual taking as much waste out of the equation as possible. I got a process to help me record easily track after track, but within each of those tracks, where the music happens, there are no standards. It's the musicianship, the training and intuition, the emotional expression on its own. But it is the standards which protect that music, give it a home, make it happen and flourish more often. Make a more fertile ground for the miracle to happen. Invariably, in every thing that I've ever recorded, I always find stuff later that I cannot explain: "what did that came from?", "when did that happen?". I know by using standards, by taking the boring bits out of the way, I can make more of those moments happen. Maybe that's the big reward for someone who makes music: at some points, you get to have a different, unexpected glance of yourself.