Shuyler String Quartet session – Tuesday, April 10, 2007

At this point, things are a little more unpredictable and aren’t going day to day, so I’m just going to do some regular updates as I go, focussing on a few songs. There’ll be a few days where no work happens, and then I’ll do a bunch of stuff at once, so it’s a little less regular now that we’re out of the factory.

Shuyer came back to Vancouver last week so that we could record vocals at my place (the henhouse). Shuyler was doing alot to prepare – practising with the tracks I sent that are posted in the last blog, and only chomping on certain foods. I think there’s a cool tape-op article about getting ready to sing, and he was following that. I think he rally dug this regimen, because it allows you to continue drinking and smoking! Anyway, due to our crappy canadian weather, his flight in was delayed and our first day was a write-off. Shuyler changed his return flight so we could still have 2 days to work on the vocals and a few guitar parts he wanted to do.

Making records gets pretty interesting now because it’s a bit more of a blank slate. The song is laid out, there’s lots of good tracks and now there’s lots of fun overdubbing and manipulation to do. First, however is the vocals.

We spent the first day diving right in and doing a number of passes of each tune. The regimen seemed to pay off, as his vocals were coming out really strong and confident. My studio only has one large room without much isolation, so both of us use headphones for the tracking. Me to listen, and him to hear the tracks he’s singing to. We tried a few different setups, but I preferred to use (for any geeks out there) a Neumann TLM 103 microphone into an API pre-amp, with the tiniest bit of compression as well. But pretty open and natural sounding. However, it didn’t translate too well through headphones to shuyler. He’s been a road-dog for much of his life and as a result of doing so many gigs in bars has really become accustomed to the sound of a Shure SM58 for his vocals, which is a relatively cheap mic, but does have a few interesting sonic characteristics.

So, I set up the neumann and the 58 side by side, recorded them both, but played him the 58 through his headphones so he was only hearing that one. I actually tracked it though because who knows, it might actually work well for some tunes. By default however, for now, I will just mute those tracks and just use the neumann track.

We plowed through about 5 tunes that day and felt pretty good, so we packed it in, leaving us 7 more to do the next day.

On day 2 of the vocals, it also went pretty well, and we sort of settled into a groove of going verse by verse until we felt pretty good about it, and then we’d move on, and i’d piece a final track together out of the different takes. Everyone’s different about this. We want these vocals to be really good, so it’s cool doing it this way. Some artists just keep the live takes and are cool with that. It just depends. Kelly Joe Phelps is the ultimate example of that – I’ve worked on 2 albums with him, and he has never fixed one word of any vocal take. He’s definitely the exception though. Anyway, this techniquer of going verse by verse was really efficient for shuyler and I and I would take 5-10 minutes at the end of the song to do a quick “comp” of the track and on we went.

Day 2 went until about 1AM – we definitely underestimated a bit, but we still got it all done. So now I can post some tracks. These are the exact rough mixes from the last blog with the new vocals on them. Still nothing is mixed, and there will be a few vocal things changed from here.

What we have left is:
– sonic manipulation – messing with sounds, sending them through amps, effects, etc
– some keyboard and guitar overdubs (I will do all those)
– strings. Not sure yet – probably a quartet
– BG vocals

and then it’ll be done.
Tracks coming soon….

Currently listening:
My Name Is Buddy
By Ry Cooder
Release date: 06 March, 2007
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~ by stevedawson on October 6, 2008.

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