Recording Mic

On Recording and Preproduction

I have been helping a few friends record a couple of demos. One individual wanted to record a several songs in a single Saturday afternoon.  And by several, I mean he wanted to record as many as he could because he wants to do 15 song record. Now, I am not opposed to the idea but a challenge like that would be for a seasoned individual.

The idea of recording music is romantic. Every musician wants to be one of those kids in the music video. We could just pump out your vocals in 1 take.

I wish this was true but sadly, this is not the case. What you don’t see is when the vocalist breaks down in frustration trying to get a perfect take.

Personally, I would rather take my time creating/recording a really great song and dress it properly, over racing through several songs just to have them on tape.

Often a quick dump to tape is great for a demo but if you want to create a song that will stick with you, then you need some patience.

Below is a list of suggestions I give to others who are recoridng their opus. I don’t expect the list below to be definitive. But if this list helps you prepare or overcome any minor molehill, then it was worth the time.

  1. Know your song. Know everything about it. Know what key you are in. Know how many beats per minute you are rolling. Know the structure of your song and be ready to present it. This is your child know it.
  2. Click Click Click. Practice against a click track/metronome. Record your song against the click and listen to see if you stay in time. You might think this is a petty detail. But if you decide to add bass in the future or have a friend do a remix. Then you might want to be sure you use a click.
  3. Practice with your band. Make sure everyone is on the same page.  Know your changes and talk about any sounds that you think don’t fit and know why.
  4. Keep everyone informed. Inform your engineer/producer of the direction you want to go. Tell them about the sounds you hear in your head. And don’t be afraid to reference other artists.
  5. Tune, tune and then tune again. When I record I try to tune my instrument 3 times before I commit to tape. I tune once. I go to the restroom. I come back. I tune a second time. Then I play along to the song to remind myself where I am in the recording and if I am in tune with the other instruments. Then, I tune a third time. Now I am ready to commit to tape.
  6. Knowledge of weakness and strength. As a musician, you know where the weakest spot of the song is. You know were your strong parts are and where the hook probably is. Whether your paying some to record you or you are using a friends studio, time is moving and someone is helping you. But this move smoother when you know where the troubled waters are.
  7. Remember, the tape does not lie. When you play back song, you will hear every buzz, cling and out of tune vocal.
  8. The mixing fable. If you think you are going to be able to fix something in the mix, you are lying to yourself. Very few things can be fixed in the mixing process. You can fade items in and out. You can add effects or compression. It’s best to get it right. Plus you will become a better musician through this exercise.
  9. Can I live with this? When I finish a track, I try to ask myself, “Can I live with this performance? 15 years from now, will I be embarrassed to share this with my family?”
  10. Is this what is best for the song? I ask myself this repeatedly. Sometimes, I get to recording leads and I go crazy. After it is all said and done, I ask, ” Is this what is best for the song?” If I answer, then I keep it. If I answer no, then that idea in a song idea folder for later. Just cause something doesn’t fit today, does not hinder that idea for future songs.
  11. Break It Up. Take a break. Step outside. Make Coffee. Eat. This will keep you mentally fresh and it is more important than you think.
  12. The 24 hour test. Give everything you record the 24 hour test. You spend to much energy recording, that sometimes it is nice to step a for a day and listen with new ears. Be attentive. And ask your self, “Is this what I want to represent me when I am not around.
  13. Be patient. This might be the most important of them all. Your vocals might take longer than expected. But it’s no need to stress. Be patient. Take a deep breathe. It will all work out.

The recording process is a wonderful battle. It tells you if you have a great song. And you will know immediately. You create a song that you want to listen to and will represent you when you are not around.

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On Recording – A Cover Song

I had received a note from my friend Caitlin a few weeks back. She was working on a super secret project for her man Zack for Valentine’s Day. She wanted to get several covers done of their song, “I Can Change” by LCD Soundsystem.

I was honoured and delighted that she asked me to be apart of her gift to Zack.

I had heard the song several times before and saw LCD Soundsystem at ACL in 2010. But there is nothing like recording a song to find what James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem went through to capture that moment.

Recording a cover song is always interesting.

As an artist, you want to have your own interpretation of the track. But when you record a track that you respect or love, you find out a number of things about the artist.

As a listener, I took for granted a number of things in this song.

  1. James Murphy only uses 2 chords. The entire song is in the key of G# and uses a G# and a C#. That is it.  The entire song is carried by that beautiful keyboard melody to separate the verse and the chorus.
  2. James Murphy has an amazing voice. He effortlessly lands falsetto notes easily and does it repeatedly. My voice isn’t like that at all. Thus the need to improvise.
  3. James Murphy sells you on 2 chords for 6 minutes. He does this with very for changes and you take it. Willingly. When your dancing to the beat, do you even notice?
  4. James Murphy gives you singable simple lyrics. I always feel like I am making thing far to complicated lyrically.  He give you an easy story and you want to sing along.
  5. James Murphy gave me a lesson in how a simple song could be captivating.

 

With that, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. More than anything, share love and grace!

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Kacy Liles – ATX

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Dead Black Hearts – ATX

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Royal Forest – ATX

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Little Radar – ATX

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Your Friendly Ghost – ATX

JavierDelgado

On Remembering Javier Delgado

February 2nd is always a really emotional day for me.

Today is the birthday for Javier Delgado. He was my uncle. Not just any uncle. But he is the uncle that could do anything and loved you dearly.

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Javi was 5’11″.  This is uncommon in the Delgado clan as most males in my family are around 5’4″ to 5’6″. Rumor has it that we had a Native American uncle on the Ortega side of the family who was tall. Or at least tall in comparison to us.

Javi was strong and he shared a gym in the backyard of his friend Orly. He had a full-size poster of Marilyn Monroe on the door of  of the gym. Javi would look over at me and tell me, “look over there.” He pointed at the poster and continue, “she is my inspiration!” This was a ritual he would do every time we went to the gym together.

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I completely attribute my love for the arts to my uncle. My dad always filled the house with music and Javi did same.

Javi sat down next to me on his bed and talked to me and philosophize about art and music.

I will never forget the first time I ever heard U2.

It was 1987 and I was 9. He said, “Tony, you have to listen to this. These guys are Christians and they are making great music. Few Christians do and do it well.” At the time, Javi was not a believer in Christ. I knew this was a big statement for him to make. He did not have an affection for modern Christian art. He felt that most of it was cheesy. He was right.

He then continued on about how important art is to culture. He took the cover of ‘The Joshua Tree‘ record and read them aloud as the record played. He was excited. He loved U2.

I remember everything about that moment. I remember the smell of my grandfathers house and the way the sunlight fell in his room. It is a moment I will never forget.

It was one of those defining moments every artist has that navigates their art. And this was that moment!

now, every time I hear U2, I can’t help but think of U2.

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Javi supported me in all the things that I loved. He would come to my soccer games. As I started to play in bands, he would come out and watch me play. Choir concerts, he was there. School plays, he was sitting in the audience with a smile on. Regardless, he showed up and smiled for everything.

A few years ago, I heard someone say, “All that matters is that you show up.” Javi showed up and to me, it mattered.

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Javi died on March of 1996. He passed away of a cold while was battling AIDS. Javi was a fighter and never complained. I am sure he was in pain. He never muttered a word about it. I am sure he was tired but he never let his eyes show it. He had a strength that amazed me.

I could continue on… and I will. I want to continue telling the story of the Javi. I want to share his smile with everyone I meet.