Week 5 – I’ll forget where you’ve really been (DEMO)

I know this is up super early BUT I’m out of town (back to Sydney) straight after work tomorrow night and won’t be back in Brisbane (where I live, look at us getting to know each other) till next week SO here we are.

This week was super fun, quick, but fun. I managed to have a play with a few different things because I had the drums finished by Monday night as originally this song was meant to be last weeks, explanation in the previous post if you’re interested. Plugins, buses, and bass lines were the accidental main focus this week. After being stoked about my “bouncing drums out and pulling them back in” method I’d developed, a friend of mine showed me an even easier, better, and annoyingly simple way to gain the same effect: setting all the ‘outputs’ for my drum tracks (I have different audio tracks for different samples [kick/snare/etc]) to the same “Bus” (no idea why an audio bus is called an audio bus, but it is), then create a new ‘Aux’ track, set it’s ‘input’ to what you set the drums ‘output’ to and viola! You now have a cheeky master track for your drums. Makes it super simple to play with plugins on the entire virtual drum kit while still being able to adjust the drums as you go. E.g. if you are listening and realise you want a double kick into the chorus rather than a single you could just add it in rather than adding it in, re-bouncing the drums out, re-pulling them back in… hopefully that makes sense.

Speaking of plugins, they’re freakin’ incredible. There are a thousand plugins that all do a thousand different things and I have no idea how to use any of them, but, it’s fun. With the drums this week I used both a ‘Drum Comp’ and ‘Drum Room Air’ preset on a compressor on the master for the drums which made the drums sound more real and less sample-y then started playing with EQ and Comp plugins for the kick and snare, you could kill an entire day getting the perfect sounding kick, it blows my mind. So that’s a fun journey I’ve started (not just the kick thing, plugins in general, so many possibilities).

Something that both worked well and not at all was the way I wrote this song. I had the chord progression recorded on my iPhone from ages ago and decided to use it this week. I recorded a scratch guitar track, did the drums, re-did the guitar, recorded bass then added a second guitar. I did all this before humming a melody or writing any lyrics. On one side it worked well in that I think the instrumental of this weeks song are really great, I actually really like it (especially that moving bass line in the chorus, a step up from my usual “follow. the. guitar. chords.” method) BUT I kind of shot myself in the foot because as you may hear, it’s a little out of my comfort zone vocally. God that sounds wanky, I mean I can’t sing it no good (you may notice I’m just a little off the majority of the song, which is quite painful to listen to and I’m sorry). The two songs where I’ve written and recorded the instrumentals before the lyrics/melody are Week 1 and this weeks, both of which have pretty sub-par vocals. I think my voice sounds okay when I’m singing a song I’m comfortable with/in a style that works for it, unfortunately this weeks isn’t really either of those. If I had more than tonight to finish it, I would have dropped it down a tone (maybe two, whatever) and re-recorded the vocals, that way the verse melody could be higher (easier to sing) and the chorus could be lower (easier to sing). Not sure if that will make sense to anybody not in my head.

Main lesson this week is to write a song before you start recording a song… super simple stuff. Best way for me to write a song is sitting down with an acoustic and nutting out the chords/melody/lyrics while everything’s still at it’s most basic form. In future I’m going to stick with doing it like that before I even think about getting close to ProTools.

Cheers,
52WeekProject

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Week 4 – The One (Acoustic)

Full disclosure: this is not what I was intending to upload this week. I had planned to write/record another “proper” track (multiple guitars/drums/bass/etc) but unfortunately my work life consumed most of my waking hours during the week because we had some issues, I had a heap of social commitments over the weekend and before I knew it I was out of time (again). That being said, I put in a heap of hours instead of sleeping over Fri/Sat/Sun so the song I was going to upload this week will definitely be ready for next Sunday.

So what do we have here..? An extremely rough “one take and move on” type-o deal. This is actually a song I wrote about a year ago (yep, that’s how out of time I was) and never did anything with. I actually don’t mind the song and at some point in future I’ll re-record it as a “proper” track, but for this week, acoustic it is! I pulled this together in a couple hours Sunday afternoon while torrential rain made lagoons in my backyard (you can hear it in the song), so it’s very very rough. It features my guitar playing swinging in and out of being in time which is pretty annoying, playing in time has never really been my forte and I’m hoping playing to a click every week is going to help that with time.

I didn’t learn a great deal this week as I didn’t have the opportunity to spend time exploring/playing around with… well anything really. I’m going to invest a lot more of my time on this project during the coming working week. I really love putting in the time and having the chance to spend hours playing around with everything, from the song structure/melody/lyrics/chords, working out multiple guitar parts, finding nice tones for the instruments, programming drums, playing around with plug-ins, layering different stuff. That’s when I start to figure stuff out, learn how to do different things, when I can actually spend time doing it all.

Silver lining: this is Week 4, I’ve officially hit a month which I’m actually pretty proud of. Before starting this project I wouldn’t touch my guitar for months at a time, I’ve played, written, and sung more in the past four weeks than the past four months combined. I’m nowhere close to where I want to be with anything (writing/playing/singing/recording/producing) but I’m finally taking steps in the right direction, and that’s f***ing exciting.

Cheers,
52WeekProject

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Week 3 – Close (Acoustic)

I knew heading into this week I wouldn’t have a lot of time to focus on the project (was in Sydney a few days for work among other things) so I decided to strip it back and keep it simple, rather than try to make something big (drums/bass/multiple guitars) and risk not getting something up. Also a great chance for me to attempt recording acoustic guitar with the microphone I bought in week one (Rode NT-USB if anybody’s interested). Firstly, for a USB mic it sounds fantastic! Unless you’re doing high-end studio work this microphone seems to cover all bases. I’ve used it for vocals the last few weeks and it did well, but in my very little experience acoustic guitars always seem to sound “not quite right” so managing to get the guitar sounding half-decent this week was a big win in my eyes.

I need to give a massive thank you to my beautiful fiance for helping me out this week! I wanted to have both sides of the story in this song and need a female voice. My fiance, who isn’t a singer (I’ve heard her hum around the house occasionally and sing properly in the car maybe twice!), graciously lent me her voice for an evening. I think she did an absolutely brilliant job, especially considering I’ve never heard her sing before! So thank you my love, I really appreciate your help.

My main struggle this week was singing. As I’ve mentioned previously I never really sang in my past musical endeavors so I’m still trying to work out exactly how to make my voice do what I’d like it to. It’s also still very strange hearing my voice through headphones while trying to record. I find it quite a drawn-out process trying to get the balance right of how much of me I hear verses how much of the song I can hear. Continued playing around with plugins and such this week. Compression and leveling on the vocals to make them even across the board, etc. I wanted to add a touch of “oldness” to the vocals, like singing through an old microphone, but not too much. There’s a preset in Sans-Amp that models a 147 (old mic) but it’s a tad too intense so I duplicated the vocal tracks, added the effects but brought that tracks volume down, I’m sure there’s a more “proper” way of doing that but I couldn’t work it out and that seemed to do the trick, a light dusting of oldness.

The biggest thing I learnt this week is that I really enjoy writing/playing/recording the bigger rockier songs. I also think my voice suits that style of music a little better (e.g. last weeks). I still have a long way to go in finding “my style” but something tells me it won’t be acoustic… or folk (can’t play banjo).

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m excited to program drums again next week.

Cheers,
52WeekProject

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Week 2 – Get Away (DEMO)

This week is a great example of why I started this project in the first place, keeping myself accountable. I spent hardly enough time working on this the past week BUT it’s Sunday so I had to get something up.

When I first sat down to write/record this week’s song I was greeted with an overwhelming feeling of “holy shit, not again”. There were soo many frustrating painstakingly time consuming learning curves last week that the first night I sat down to start this track after a long-ass day at work I ended up saying “nope, f*** it, I’m watching House Of Cards”. I’m glad I did because I’m now writing this post, uploading a song I’m not very happy with, and have learnt a valuable lesson early into this project – put in the goddamn time. I’m frustrated at past-me for being lazy because I’m not happy with this weeks song. The song itself isn’t too horrible but it doesn’t sound how I wanted it to (production wise, better vocal takes, guitar solo, etc.) and I think with just a little more time (maybe 3ish House Of Cards episodes) I could have it at a place I’m happy with. Anyway… biggest lesson this week is if I don’t want to feel ergh with what I’m uploading this time next week, put in the time.

The main struggle this week (on top of running out of time) was not feeling motivated. Last week programming the drums took so goddamn long that this week it felt overwhelming to start it all again. That being said I learnt a fantastic trick. Now, this might seem obvious to anybody who’s spent more than 5mins playing with a DAW before but when programming the drums I swapped ProTools from ‘slip’ mode to ‘grid’ in the upper left hand corner. Not sure what it’s technical name is but it made anything I copy/pasted (e.g. a kick sample) snap to the grid/beat. Holy shit it’s time saving. I also found a workflow that seems to work: record a dummy guitar track to a click (to get the layout of the song and BPM) then program the drums. Recording guitar/bass to the drums gives it a much more “real” feeling than recording to the click and programming the drums after I believe.

I also started to have a play around with some plug-ins. I absolutely LOVE the way Alex Turner’s (Arctic Monkeys) voice is produced so started mucking around with slap delay and slight distortion but alas I didn’t have enough time to make it sound nice, so it sounds… like it does. Also, because I left everything so last minute I completely ran out of time to record vocals properly so what you’re hearing is a shitty once-through I did about an hour ago. Side note: I’ve been sick the last few days so my voice really wasn’t playing nicely this evening. Oh! I found the volume automation thing (changing the display from waveforms to volume) which meant I could adjust the vox through-out the song rather than them being super loud the entire time like last week, that was rad.

Another trick I was shown this week was once the drums were finished, I bounced them down and re-pulled them back into ProTools (I know you can do an ‘internal recording’ but I have no idea how, this was the next best way). That way they were on one track as opposed to like 8 (one for every drum thing [kick/snare/toms] yes ‘drum thing’ is the technical term), meaning I could throw on some compression and muck around with that.

The main gains this week were learning I really do need to spend a chunk of time each evening on this, the bouncing down of drums, snap-to-grid for programming drums, and that plug-ins are awesome. I’m very keen to learn more about using plug-ins to affect/effect/whatever different types of audio (vocals/drums/guitar).

Jesus this was a long winded post, apologies, I’m quite tired. I’ll see you next week.

Cheers,
52WeekProject

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