Recording / Songwriting Updates

 
[9/14] Finished the electric guitar and guitar solo for "Human".  I recorded these parts at various times over the summer, just finished editing them.  It's been a very busy summer, but I think I can start getting back to work in the studio.  (And frankly, any time it was a nice day it just didn't make sense to stay indoors.)
  
[7/25] Now that "Overly Enthusiastic Love" has been posted on the FuMP site, it's time to submit another funny song.  There's a song in our archives, never released, that's extremely silly...so it might be right for FuMP.  It's called "(I Have a Hard Time) Getting Along with People"; musically it's got a Thomas Dolby vibe so it just wouldn't fit on a New Middle Class record (even if it wasn't so silly).  Anyway, I was able to find the original 8-track audio so I remixed it and sent it off.

Also worked a bit more on a revised approach to "Lucifer's Lament".

[7/16]  Our CD release concert was a big success (and a lot of work hauling and setting up equipment!); I'll post more about it on the blog page.

Meanwhile, as part of my ongoing songwriting self-challenge I attempted to write a song (it's called "Human") in the style of Smokey Robinson.  Not quite sure if that's exactly who it ended up sounding like, but I think it's somewhere in the ballpark.  Started writing it on piano on Thursday, got the chorus, added a verse on Friday, wrote another verse in the shower on Sunday, and finished it off with a bridge and some tweaks today and recorded a quick scratch version.  It's intended for Barbara to sing so we need to find her key and then we'll do a legitimate (simple, damn it!) recording.  The other motivation for knocking this one off now is that I like to write a brand-new song to play at the Putnam County 4-H Fair, which is in a couple of weeks (7/29).  Now we have to learn to play it.

[6/14]  "Overly Enthusiastic Love" is going to be on the FuMP site on 7/20, but the version they heard needs to be upgraded - I re-recorded the bass (originally a scratch track), added a slide guitar track and otherwise cleaned up the recording.  Still needs a bit of work on the piano and then final mix.  Also put together a new ad for upcoming Women of Substance podcasts.  Other than that...lots of rehearsal and promotion for our upcoming CD release concert (6/16).

[5/2]  Recent news: "Five Foot Four Girl" was released in the 4/27 Women of Substance podcast (#784), and "What's That Thing?" was selected to be in their podcast during the week of June 4th.  "Loch Ness Cafe" was posted on 4/27 on the Funny Music Project (FuMP) web site, and we just did an interview with their podcast host; that podcast (episode 411) will be released on or about 5/3...hope we didn't embarrass ourselves too much! On the other hand, it's the FuMP so that probably doesn't matter.

Meanwhile in the studio: Recorded acoustic guitar and some scratch keyboard ideas for "Oh, Lord!" and played with some musical ideas to make "The Choir" slightly less mournful - translated it from piano to guitar. Also, working on material to submit to a music festival song competition, so recorded acoustic versions of "She's Cool" and "Give It Back" (not happy with either of these); recorded a vocal/ guitar/bass version of "Blind", recorded an acoustic folky version of "What's That Thing?", and added a new Barbara vocal to a previously recorded version of "Exactly Where It Hurts". I'll probably post the last two on our web site in the near future.

And in preparation for our upcoming (6/16) CD release concert I figured out how I played "1999.9" - it's in a version of open C tuning, but tuned down another half step. And then figured out the chord positions and bluesy fills. All of which prompted me to pick up a clay jar in T.J. Maxx that can simulate an Udu drum. That should go nicely with my tabla and talking drum.


[4/11]  Finished my lead vocal for "Lucifer's Lament" and recorded my lead vocal for "Oh, Lord!".  And I think we found a good key for "Arguing With God".
  
Unfortunately, "Five Foot Four Girl" was not selected to pitch to Reba McEntire; it was one of nine songs under consideration, and only two of those made it through this screening... including the one with a stray dog that shows up in a thunderstorm, and "that dog didn't mind her crooked smile or the braces on her legs".  How could our song about a girl and a truck compete with that?

But I just wrote a new song for the Arguing With God project.  I was thinking about the expression "preaching to the choir", where the choir represents the most faithful members of the congregation.  Here's a somewhat different point of view:

  THE CHOIR

  I am neither unfaithful nor devout
  I am giving You the benefit of doubt
  Let the voices consume me in Your fire
  When I’m singing in the choir

  I dissolve and disappear into the air
  As I yield to the seductiveness of prayer
  And the voices, they whisper and conspire
  When I’m singing in the choir

  Draw me near You as it rises and descends
  In the presence of these strangers and friends
  The voices are all that I require
  Let the voices infuse me and inspire
  Let the voices consume me in Your fire

  When I'm singing
  When I’m singing in the choir

This one's a haunting ballad.  Or maybe it's sappy, I can't tell.  Let's see what Barbara can make of it.

Hey, all this God stuff is sounding pretty serious.  I think I'm gettin' the urge to do something fun.


[3/28]  May have an opportunity for radio airplay of an acoustic version of "It Ain't What It Ain't", so finished up my low vocal and recorded harmonies and two acoustic guitar tracks, mixed it and sent it off.  Made some demos for Barbara of "Arguing With God" to help her figure out a good key.

I don't think I've mentioned another song I wrote recently, "Oh, Lord!".  I finished all the lyrics in a couple of days but was struggling with the chords - I wanted it to be elephant-footed stomping bluesy/gospel-y, with dissonance but also a bit of a pretty chord change thrown in.  Finally got that to my satisfaction (the final solution was to just NOT GO TO the resolving chord that I was looking for, and leave it hanging instead).  It was a bit long with lots of words and maybe too much repetition of the chorus, so I had to play around with the arrangement; I think I've got it now.  Ordered some wind and storm sound effects CDs from the library, and will soon be ready to lay down some final tracks.

Also worked on "Lucifer's Lament" (are you seeing a pattern here?); recorded acoustic guitar and my lead vocal, will need to do some editing on these.  Just for fun I added scratch tracks of keyboard and sampled acoustic bass.

And today we heard that "Five Foot Four Girl (In a Ten Foot U-Haul Truck)", from our new What's That Thing? CD, is under consideration for inclusion on Reba McEntire's next album.  Who knows, maybe it will actually happen. Crossing my fingers and ordering some KFC.


[3/7]  I know what you’re thinking – in the previous post I casually said “so yesterday I wrote most of a new song…” Oh, is it that easy? Do you sit down to write and songs just come out? How does it happen?
  
I’m glad you asked.

In this case, I already knew the title and subject, Arguing With God. But now what? What do people argue with God about? I guess the big one is, why do bad things happen to good people? But should our protagonist literally be arguing with God? I started out thinking about biblical persons who did that, but that doesn’t connect emotionally here and now. Instead, our protagonist should do what we all do, i.e. rehearse arguments mentally. And who knows, maybe that actually IS the way to talk to God.
  
Thinking about those biblical arguers, though, led to the line, “I find myself both believer and doubter”, and that crystalized exactly the tone I wanted to set with both the song and the album. The Florida high school shooting was in the news; I was thinking what a nightmare it must have been, "nightmare" suggested its opposite, "daytime", and the ideas for the verse flowed from there:
 
In the daytime hours, when the nightmares come
To the innocent, to the chosen ones
I say a prayer, but I feel no consolation
There are only questions, there’s no explanation
And I find myself both believer and doubter
Does He have two faces, inner and outer?
They say He works in mysterious ways
 
Not quite as neatly as that, I had to keep rephrasing things and swapping words in and out to make it scan and rhyme, but the trick is to get the ideas down and not let the work of rhyming trap you into something that’s awkward or cliché. Instead, find the rhyme that leads to an idea that both fits and deepens the song.
 
Keep throwing out the stuff that doesn’t work, and after a while you’re left with stuff that does. It feels like doing a jigsaw puzzle, and someone I don’t see keeps handing me pieces to try. And when it’s done, it always seems to me that it was written by the one who was handing me the pieces, and there was only one way it wanted to come together. Feels like magic.

Or divine inspiration, eh?

[3/6] Survived the storm and didn't lose power!  (But another storm predicted for tomorrow.)

You would think that I'd be focusing now on promoting the new What's That Thing CD and it's true, I am slowly moving forward on that (waiting for the digital distribution to get out to all of the major players), but I keep thinking about the next CD, which will probably be Arguing With God, a themed collection of songs about, um, arguing with God.  I thought it would be a good idea to have an introductory song to set the tone, so yesterday I wrote most of a new song (called "Arguing With God").  I still need to refine the melody a bit, maybe change some chords, work on the bridge and record a rough demo.  Stay tuned.

Also, we're getting good feedback on What's That Thing? e.g. "Really enjoying your latest CD! Provocative, catchy and very well performed across the board. Congrats!"
  

[3/1]  Yes, the song level comparison that I was talking about last time did indeed turn out to be way more time-consuming that I'd expected, and the more I listened, the more I heard little things I wanted to change.

BUT... the final tweaks are done, copyrights were filed and everything has been submitted to the distributor, so as soon as they process it we'll actually be announcing the CD release.  Hooray!!!

Meanwhile, a song licensing submission deadline came up, so in a mad rush I put together a pretty good sounding recording of "Second Best", which is a song I very recently co-wrote with Rick Garcia, attempting to write a song in early Beatles style.  It was tough getting Barbara to record backing vocals since she was itching to finish recording and watch the first episode of the new season of "Survivor".  Done and submitted, just before the midnight deadline.  (But I'll have to catch up on "Survivor" via DVR.)


And this just in - "Five Foot Four Girl" (from the new CD) was selected to be in an upcoming podcast by Women Of Substance Radio.  It'll be aired in April, details to be announced.

Big storm predicted for tomorrow.  If I'm not working on the CD, what ever will I do?
 
[2/21]  So where was I?  Oh yeah, finishing up the new CD.  That's turned out to be a bit more work than I had anticipated.  In my previous post I mentioned struggling with the sound of the bass; when all else fails, check the internet.  Sure enough, there are lots of videos on this subject and, to make a long story short, turns out that I had never learned how to use a compressor properly.  Reviewed and improved the bass on many of the songs.

Next, software experiments to best amplify the songs to near-commercial song volume with minimal distortion (previously, there was clipping and slight distortion).  Then I checked again to ensure that all songs were at more or less the same volume level to each other.

That's a challenge - if they were all recorded with the same band at the same time it would have been more straightforward, but not only were the songs recorded bit by bit over several years with different players, but they span a wide range of styles: Motown, rock, blues shuffle, country, contemporary folk and - what do you call "1999.9"? - apocalyptic middle eastern folk blues?  And as I compare them all, I can see that a few more tweaks to a couple of songs will make them sound more consistent with each other.

And that's what I'll be doing today.  :-)

 
[1/19]  Well, it took a busy, intense couple of weeks but the new CD is finished!*  I went through all of the songs and made minor tweaks to the semi-final mixes and created final mixes.  But now I have a whole new appreciation for audio engineers who do mastering, because I ended up remixing everything three times, mostly trying to figure out the right level and tone of the bass, which of course sounds different on every sound system I played it on.  And thank-you to the several friends who listened to the mixes and gave their feedback.  But the final mixes were all at different volume levels, and generally lower-sounding than current commercial recordings, so I had to figure out how to best amplify the tracks given the software at my disposal (i.e. I don't have mastering software).  But in the end, I think it sounds pretty good!

* Oh, did you notice the asterisk in the previous paragraph, next to the word "finished"?  Well, before we make the official CD release announcement and send it out to be published on iTunes, Spotify, CD Baby and the rest of the world wide web, it seems like a good idea to NOT listen to it for a couple of weeks, then listen with fresh ears and make further tweaks if necessary.  So stand by just a little bit longer, world! 

Meanwhile, we flew to Fort Lauderdale last weekend to play a set on the main stage at the South Florida Folk Festival.  We had a great time, everyone in the Broward County Folk Club was super nice, and we met so many really fine musicians and songwriters.  We'll post some pix on our facebook page.
 
[1/3/2018]   Happy New Year!  I can't remember exactly what else I did in December, but bottom line is that I finished the semi-final mix of "It's All About You" and did a major remix of "Loch Ness Cafe", so all semi-final mixes are done, then probably started tweaking those mixes.  Also had recording session with banjoist Jerry Oland to record old song "No One" from Light Horse Harry days.  Then the holidays, family, house guests, boiler leak, flooding, sickness.  But starting yesterday I've entered the next phase: going through all of the semi-final mixes, making notes on what should be changed, and starting on the changes.  So far I've done tweaks to five mixes.

I should probably also mention that last month Barbara and I designed the folder for the CD package, and it's back from the printer - things are coming together now :-)
 
[12/16]  Finished "You Go First" organ tweaks and recorded a new bass track.  Also recorded a new acoustic guitar track but I expect to only use bits of that.   Finished a semi-final mix.

Currently working on "It's All About You".  I really like Barbara's scratch lead vocal so decided to keep it as final, just needed some tweaks to get the timing to lock in with the drums (which were recorded later).  Working on the backing vocals, which were also scratch, need to re-record most of them.  That's mostly done.  So probably one more day and we'll have a semi-final mix for this one too.
 
[12/2]  On to "(Let's Change) You Go First"... this one has been a challenge because I don't have the individual tracks, only a stereo mix with vocals, two acoustic guitars and (weak) bass, so I can't really change the level of any of these elements (wish I could delete one of the acoustic guitars).  We added drums and two electric guitars and some keyboard chimes and it sounds pretty good but the mix is too full of twanging guitars.  First I deleted some extra guitars that I had added at some point, then I added an organ part to have a smooth rounded sound to contrast with the jangling guitars.  Next I have to tweak the organ for timing and balance, and then I will overdub a new bass part to give it more bottom, and then will mix.

Is this more than you wanted to know?  If so, bottom line is that I have a day or two more on this song, then doing vocals for "It's All About You" and then all the songs for the new CD will have been recorded and mixed.  Next, final mixing and mastering and we're done! - just in time for our Florida festival gig.

[11/29]  Mixed "Beautiful" over the course of three days.  The most tedious part - because the sound of the kick drum was just a dull thud I decided to substitute a sampled kick sound.  If I had an actual professional studio I could have used the original kick to trigger the new sample sound and the whole thing would have taken a matter of minutes.  Instead, I had to copy and paste hundreds of individual kick hits so that they lined up exactly with the original kick hits.  Yeah, that took a while.  Other than that, the rest of the time was spent getting rid of things and adjusting levels and EQ to make everything as clear as possible.  Semi-final mix: check!
 
[11/23]  Working on the mix for "Tenth Commandment".  Everything sounded good except the acoustic guitar - no matter what EQ or effect I tried, it just sounded muddy.  So I re-recorded the acoustic guitar.  Only 42 takes.  (Take 32 was the best.)  Then I finished the semi-final mix, and it sounds good now.  Also, I finished writing one of the new songs I mentioned last time, and recorded a very rough demo.  It's called "Rule of Thumb", and is basically a play on words.  Lots of thumb references.  That's the sort of thing that amuses me.

Meanwhile, we passed the audition and will be playing at the South Florida Folk Festival (Jan 13 & 14 2018), so it's a good thing I have so much mixing done; that means we should be able to have a completed CD to bring with us. 😊

[11/17]  Getting a lot done!  Barbara was really helpful with weeding and balancing the "Five Foot Four Girl" vocals, and so now we have what I'll call a semi-final mix - meaning that it sounds as good as I can make it now so I'll set it aside for a while, then come back with fresh ears, make whatever minor tweaks are necessary to levels and EQ and do what I can to make it as loud as possible without sacrificing audio quality.

Then I worked on "Doctor Bones".  I re-recorded the intro sidestick and mandolin and decided that it needed some extra guitar parts for a fill that happens several times in the song so I recorded a high electric guitar fill and also a high and low electric slide guitar.  I also recorded talking drum for the intro but not sure if I'll use it.  Then I went on to do a semi-final mix of the song, so that's ready (though I still have to review and delete lots of unused tracks, and make a final decision about that talking drum).


I recorded a demo of an old song, "No One", and sent it to Jerry Oland, who will come over at some point to add banjo.  Wrote some new stuff: complete lyrics to one new song, lyrics and almost all the music and recorded a partial demo for another, and started working on a third. So that's all exciting. More on these later. 

 
[11/3] Took some time out from the new CD to work on an entry for the South Florida Folk Festival songwriting contest - a simple version of "What's the Matter with the Way It Was?" Re-recorded the guitar, then added new backing vocal by Barbara and a blues harp solo. Mixed, done, sent. Then on to mixing "Five Foot Four Girl", 24 tracks that need to be balanced and made to sound like they belong in the same song. And deleting whatever makes it sound too cluttered. I tell you, this mixing stuff is hard! (Especially since I saved over three gigabytes of every note I ever recorded for this song, so it's taken days to delete stuff as well.) But I think I'm pretty close now. Though I might have to get rid of some (or all!) of those five tracks of harmony vocals.

[10/25]  The rough mix of "Loch Ness Cafe" sounded pretty good, but there were two things that I've always intended to fix: the acoustic guitar (including the opening fill) was always a somewhat sloppy scratch track, and the harmonica solo was enthusiastic but had some notes I didn't like.  Over the last two days I re-recorded both of these parts.  The new acoustic guitar especially improves the track; it is crisper and has a better sound.  The new blues harp also sounds better but is it too clean now?  Added delay and that's much better, but I still have to decide which to use, or combine them.  But bottom line is that all recording for this song is now done and it's ready for final mix.
    
[10/7]  Finished all recording and editing of parts for "What's That Thing?" and created a rough mix, which I submitted to this year's U.K. Songwriting Contest.  I also added cymbals and kick drum to a demo of "Softer Than Bullets" and submitted that too.  At this point I'm not sure if the new version is better or worse than the previous version (just vocals, acoustic guitars and bass) but what the hell.  When playing the high hat and cymbals I experimented with brushes, drumsticks and two different kinds of chopsticks to see what got the best sound.  Chopsticks weren't bad. :-)  Just finished adding an electric guitar track (subtle parts to add fill and tone) to "Five Foot Four Girl".  Next I need to tweak the piano part, fix some backing vocals, and mix it.
 
[9/21]  Another couple of grueling sessions going over the instrumental tracks for "What's That Thing?" to make sure that everything's exactly on the beat, getting rid of unnecessary stuff and punching in several changes.  I think it finally grooves and sounds good!  Next, review the backing vocals...
 
[9/8]  Spent another summer hiking and paddleboarding and in general being outdoors instead of in the studio, but now it's studio time again.  Wrote a new song, "Radio", sort of country-ish, and recorded bass and lead vocal.  But concentrating on final mixes for new CD songs so we can get this thing done.  In general I'm reviewing my notes, re-recording little bits here and there that were originally scratch takes, getting the best sounds on all tracks and balancing levels, also trying to get the maximum volume for master mix without compressing too much.  And all of the songs have lots of saved additional tracks and alternate takes that I need to listen to and almost always delete.  Worked on "10th Commandment" and "Beautiful".
 
[7/11]  That was easy - I sent a mix of  "It's All About You" to studiopros.com and they sent me back a stereo mixed drum track in 48 hours.  Voila!  (Ok, it wasn't quite that simple; I asked them to change a bunch of kick hits and a couple of drum fills, but they turned that around in  a couple of days too.)  Spent some time working on the mix, getting rid of stuff, which generally makes things sound better.  Still need to record final vocals.  Also worked a bit on the mixes for "What's That Thing?" and "Doctor Bones".
 
[5/27]  Lots of progress on "It's All About You" - finished bass, two acoustic guitars, electric and lead guitars, organ and piano.  Next, need to add drums and final vocals.
 
[4/17]  Spending more time in the studio: Recorded Dan vocal for "If I Ever" and submitted it for a possible sync opportunity.  Also tweaked the vocal for the version where I sing the lead myself and mixed that too.  Recorded a final version of my high lead vocal for "It Ain't What It Ain't" (there will be a low lead vocal as well, plus some backing vocals).  But I spent the most time recording bass for "It's All About You" - the plan is to get it sounding solid and then send out the tracks for a drummer to record remotely.  And as I may have mentioned, bass is fun but always a challenge for me because aside from having to be played exactly in time and locking with the drums, as a guitarist I always seem to play parts that are too complicated, so then I need to go back and keep simplifying.  That might also be a lesson in life for me.  :-) 
 
[3/3] Wrote two more new songs: "It Ain't What It Ain't", written in reaction to the new scary post-election world. I recorded a quick demo of this; it's supposed to sound like The Clash though the demo sounds more like a cross between The Clash and Squeeze. I want to re-record the vocals and replace the acoustic guitars with electric guitars and then I'll put it on our web site. Also, to go in the opposite direction, I wrote "Overly Enthusiastic Love" which is upbeat, very silly, and in the musical style of Dan Pelletier (though he may deny it). Dan came over last weekend and recorded a piano part for this song, and I laid down a bass part for one of his songs ("Grand Apology").
 
Nashville drummer Steve Goodie recorded drums for "If I Ever". That recording is pretty much done, needs a ride cymbal and I might tweak the vocal a bit, and then need to mix it. Also might record a version with Dan singing the lead vocal, if he can sing it good. :-) And I've been working on mixing "Five Foot Four Girl".


[12/18]  Since the last entry we finished (I think) the backing vocals for "Five Foot Four Girl".  Also decided that the two acoustic guitars were too messy and so replaced them with a single acoustic guitar.  But that was too simple so I added mandolin, which also turned out to be a nice counterbalance to the piano.  In fact, it just might be that the whole song is finally done and ready to be mixed... although maybe it needs a little electric guitar in the bridge.  Or maybe not.  Will do a rough mix and then decide.
 
[7/10]   It turns out that paddleboarding in nice summer weather is more fun than working in the recording studio... so between hanging out at the lake, a trip to Chicago and rehearsing for our upcoming show at the Putnam 4-H Fair, not much recording happening.  But I did lay down some backing vocals for "Five Foot Four Girl".
 
[6/9]   Ok, since the last entry I wrote two new songs.  The first one, "If I Ever Get Another Chance", is actually about 60% recorded already, which (for me) is pretty impressive.  But it's so depressing that I felt a pressing need to write a catchy up-beat song, "It's All About You".  For that one I just threw together a quick scratch demo, but I really like the feel of it.  If you're wondering why I would write a depressing song, it's not because I'm feeling depressed...the title came to me in a dream, along with the thought that I could sell it for lots of money.  Then I woke up.

In addition to the above projects, I'm also in the middle of editing the "Five Foot Four Girl" lead vocal I mentioned last time.  Should be finished with that in a day or two, if day job, commute and my swinging social life don't eat up all of my time.  (Actually, if the weather's nice I will probably rather be cruisin' the lake on my new stand-up paddleboard than be holed up in my studio.)
 
[5/22]   Finished up a demo recording of "What's the Matter With the Way It Was?", also remixed an old recording of "Wrong Side of the World" and added harp solo to an old live recording of "Loch Ness Cafe" and sent 'em off as an entry to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artists Showcase, where I fully expect to be passed over for the 15th time.  But what the hell, maybe someday they'll slip up and let me in.  Also, Barbara just sang a few more lead vocal takes for "Five Foot Four Girl", need to listen back and do some editing and then hopefully we will be ready to add the harmonies.
 
[4/23]  But since I haven't been able to get Barbara to do backing vocals on "Lazy Me", moved over to working on "What's That Thing?"  Re-recorded the bass, which improved the sound tremendously, added electric piano, then started going through the tracks getting rid of everything that I don't need, to unclutter it.  Finished reviewing the acoustic guitars; I think I'm going to have to replace the electric guitar.  And we need backing vocals for this too.  Meanwhile, I wrote a new song, "What's the Matter With the Way It Was?", and started recording it.
 
[2/6]  "Lazy Me" lead vocals are done, and I've gotten rid of most of the clutter.  Just need to finish the backing vocals and mix!

[1/17/2016]  Jonathan sent the drum tracks, and after a session of Pro Tools (software) magic the drums sit nicely in the track and sound great.  I'll take a little virtual drumming credit as well, since I had fun constructing some tom fills in the bridge from extra sample bits that Jon provided.  Now we just need to record final vocals, deferred due to holidays, house guests, sore throat and need to rehearse.  Also I've been spending lots of time premixing "Lazy Me", which has grown into a monster with hundreds of tiny bits and alternate takes that I have to finalize and consolidate and get down to 24 tracks.  But it's finally starting to come together.
 
[11/30]  Another long stretch of time when for one reason or other I couldn't get into the studio.  But I finished tracking instruments (except drums) for "Five Foot Four Girl".  Used my new Roland GT-100 guitar effects unit to play electric guitar solo with some nice reverb/delay, added two mandolins, re-recorded the cowbell - that was fun; I ended up playing it halfway up the stairway leading to our upstairs to get the hallway echo effect.  Working with Jonathan Mele who will remotely record the drums.
 
[8/30]  Catching up... what have I done?  Wrote new song "Exactly Where It Hurts" and recorded a demo in record time - all tracks recorded in no more than three takes, except the electric guitar solo which took maybe 20 minutes or a half hour to get right (using new guitar effects box Roland GT-100).  Recorded MIDI piano for "Five Food Four Girl", will need a bit of tweaking to get some of the timing more exact but it's pretty good as is.  Circling back and replacing a few spots of the bass where I had gotten too fancy.
 
[3/29]  Finished "Five Foot Four Girl" bass, and working on additional guitar parts.
 
[2/18/2015]  Update: Recorded all of the acoustic and electric guitar fills and solo for "Lazy Me", and currently working on improving the drum track - replacing kick drum and reinforcing the snare.  Also started recording "Five Foot Four Girl", finger-picked acoustic guitar.
 
[12/13]  Done with the bass!
 
[11/30]  Bass still in progress - got a nice funky part for the bridges.
 
[11/22]  Working on "Lazy Me" bass - nothing final, just trying to find the right balance of simple and complicated, fingers or pick, etc.  I think I've got the first verse and chorus.  Only took four or five hours.  Oh, and I have most of the lyrics for "Upgirl" - very odd.
 
[11/20]  Working on and off over the last week, finished keyboards.  It's all stored in MIDI, so I can go back and tweak in a couple of spots once the rest of the arrangement is final.  Then this morning while zoning out in a half-awake half-sleep state some strange phrases came into my head, including "frame your upgirl".  What it could mean?  I'm thinking of working it into a trippy song with unusual sounds and time signatures.
 
 [11/8 - 11/9]  Working on keyboards, including organ and vibes.  Also laid down some scratch slide guitar, high hat, working on percussion arrangement.
 
 [11/2]  Finished the main acoustic guitar edits.  Next will start thinking about keyboards and other pads to fill out and vary the sound palette.
 
[10/29]  A couple of weeks ago I finished the edits for "Lazy Me" kick drum, but now not sure if I will use the tracks.  Meanwhile, I recorded the main acoustic guitar part.  I thought that would be easy because it's basically what I usually play when we perform the song, but the tempo is fast and there's some intricate picking parts that have to be clean, so it took me most of the day and I have to edit some parts - about halfway done with the edits.

[7/21]  Still haven't finished edits to "Lazy Me" drums.  (Lazy, I guess.)  But I wrote a new song, "Devious Kisses" - inspired by a poster advertising the TV show Devious Maids.  (I watched a couple of minutes of the show afterwards...godawful!)  Recorded a quick demo of the song, then later recorded another demo in a different key so that Rachel can sing at our 4-H Fair show.  Then Barbara and I worked out and recorded some cool-sounding and sort of soulful backing vocals.

Also, Rich Benson dropped by and we recorded a test of of him playing bass on "What's That Thing?".  As mentioned below, I had spent a while working out new bass parts for this song because there were technical problems on the original recording, plus I wanted to change up some of the parts.  But I didn't like the sound of my Precision bass for this song.  Rich's Fender Jazz bass sounds cleaner and I liked a lot of his ideas, so at some point I hope to bring him back to replace the part for real.

 
[4/10]  Various personal issues, general busyness plus tendonitis in my shoulder kept me out of the studio for a while, but recently I spent time working on Gene’s "Lazy Me" drum tracks.  First I had to comp together the best parts into a single track.  The kick drum sound is somewhat mushy and not clearly defined, so I have been painstakingly adding a sampled kick drum that needs to be lined up manually EXACTLY for each and every hit.  A hundred edits later, I am up to the last verse.  Not fun - but it does really make a difference (to my ear).
   
[1/29]  Finished recording scratch tracks for "Lazy Me" (had fun playing drums) and sent them off to Gene Lewin, for him to record the real drum tracks.
 
[1/24/2014]  Finished re-recording a few backing vocal bits for "Doctor Bones" and have moved on to final editing and preliminary mixing.  In addition to getting the sounds and levels of the tracks right, I also need to simplify the mix as much as possible, which means getting rid of fills here and there that sound cool but are not necessary and which compete with the vocal or other tracks.

Also getting back to "What's That Thing?", which has always sounded cluttered and didn't groove well.  Got very useful feedback from Barbara on various parts to get rid of.  I'm currently in the process of listening to the bass and drums, then adding the two acoustic guitars and listening to see which of the guitar fills are slightly off rhythm and fixing this, and which fills should be removed.  After that, there will be a lot of pruning and shifting on the electric guitar track.  And I'm planning on replacing the bass part.  But it's already starting to sound much better.

We decided to remove "Ten Rooms in the House of Love" from the CD track list and replace it with "Lazy Me", which needs to be recorded from scratch.  The first step will be to get tracks from drummer Gene Lewin - we're very excited to be working with him!


[12/30]  So let's see, what have I been doing since the last entry?  I finished the bass on "Doctor Bones".  The song needed a bit more sparkle so I thought I'd add some harpsichord, to go with the 12-string guitars, but that was too over-the-top, so I added piano and just a few touches of harpsichord.  (All keyboard parts played on my Yamaha synth.)  Given my limited keyboard skills, the best way for me to work is to record the parts with MIDI, then use Pro Tools to edit the notes until the timing and feel of the part is right.  I think I still need to go back and tweak the timing of some sections.

Next, I circled back to the lead guitar.  Rick Garcia had laid down a few quick takes at the end of the session where we recorded "Loch Ness Cafe", so I selected the best parts and then worked on getting an electric guitar sound that matched Rick's, so I could add a few more parts that would blend with his.  It's always interesting to do this because I learn a lot about how to play guitar by listening to how he plays.  Lead guitar is now done - hooray!

Dan Pelletier has released his new CD "My Freakin' Heart", which includes the song "Emily" (see below).  I thought that a lot of nice stuff got buried in the mix, so I got the master tracks from Dan to play with.  I replaced his keyboard bass with real bass and started working on a remix, to be continued.

Recorded a demo of "Church On Synagogue".  The objective was to see how fast I could do this.  A couple of hours - not bad (for me).

We also spent a little while in the studio yesterday recording a "liner" - one of those audio snippets like "Hi, this is <your name here> and you're listening to <radio station>".  Turns out that an internet radio station (Women of Substance Radio) will be playing "I Was Born" starting next month, and they requested a liner.  Barbara worked on her sexy voice. 

[10/6]  Unbelievable, but I haven't been in the studio in almost three months!  Anyway, my notes from last listening said that the bass for "Doctor Bones" is boring, so I spent much of the day working on the choruses, to make them interesting but not distractingly so.  A bit more work will be required.  Sounds better, though.
  
[7/10]  Finished recording and comping my backing vocal for "Doctor Bones".

[ 6/29]  Finished comping the "Doctor Bones" lead vocal and started recording my backing vocals.  Also started playing around with ideas for re-doing the bass for "What's That Thing?".
 
[5/19 - 5/21]  Several recording sessions:  Barbara & I recorded backing vocals for Dan Pelletier's song "Emily".  Barbara added some backing vocals to the chorus of  "Beautiful".  We re-recorded Barbara's lead vocal for "Doctor Bones".  And we started adding backing vocals for "What's That Thing?", which is finally starting to sound properly Motown-ish.

[4/30]  After playing the new song a few times I've come to the conclusion that it's just too darn long.  Maybe Dylan was able to get away with seven minute songs back in the day, but I'm not Bob Dylan so I should try not to strain people's attention spans.  I cut out a verse...still a long song but maybe not quite as painful.  For the record, here's the lost verse:

    She was just a mom who loved her son, he was her ungrateful child
    But after tears and the passing of years they finally reconciled
    And somewhere there’s a shepherd who looks out for all black sheep
    They wait for him to find them in the church on Synagogue Street

[4/24]  I just finished writing a new song, “Church On Synagogue”.  In May we’ll be performing in a concert to benefit the Reform Temple of Putnam Valley, which is on Church Street, and I thought it would be fun to come up with a Dylanesque song based on the inverted name/address.  (e.g. Dylan wrote “…but he just smoked my eyelid / and punched my cigarette” – heck, I can do better than that!)  So this new song is in the general style of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”, lots of verses and of course a harmonica break. 
 
For inspiration I looked at my bookshelf and built several lines around selected titles, including This Perfect Day (Ira Levin), Anthem (Ayn Rand), No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy), Moses (Anthony Burgess) and others.  One of the big challenges for me was that I didn’t want to write obscure and cryptic lyrics like Dylan, but I also didn’t want to be so specific that it become a story-song.  Another challenge was to find chords and melody that were similar to Dylan but not too close a copy to any particular song.  And, as often turns out to be the case, even though the song started out as a not-very-serious throwaway, I ended up with a number of lines that I really like, with a good conceptual and/or emotional punch.

Also, our friend Dan Pelletier asked me to add some guitar to a recording of a new and delightfully tuneful song, “Emily”, and I had a great time laying down an acoustic slide guitar solo with two- and three-part harmonies. 

[2/18]  While looking for three songs for our Free Songs web page, I found an old recording of a song idea called "Unbelievable" and did a quick mix to make it sound a bit better - mostly put effect and EQ on the drum machine and added vocal reverb.  I also mixed a few tracks from "Monty's Room" - I'm actually not sure where the original tracks are.  The faux pedal steel guitar part sounds nice.  I created it by playing my strat with the volume pedal - hit strings with pedal off, then swell the sound, sometimes playing chords and sometimes single notes.  Multi-tracking it made it lush and steely.

[through 2/14]  Desperately trying to finish mixing and create the video in time for Valentine's Day.  Just barely got it done on the day.  Most of the mixing time was spent removing piano parts, editing the djembe track and adding talking drum.  Then I ended up mixing the hand drums down quite low.  I'm quite happy with the way the final mix sounds; I think I'm learning a little something about this audio engineering stuff.  Barbara was very helpful with feedback and art curating for the video...which, as usual, took far more time than I had expected.
 
[2/2 - 2/3]  Recorded acoustic guitar (Martin D-35) for "Anatomy of Love".

[the next week]  A couple of days comping the various drum takes into one.

[1/19/2013]  Drum recording session in our home studio, with Bill Morris.  This was the first time I ever tried to record a drum kit live.  (In the past I've played drums on recordings, but always recorded each drum separately - combining the twin disadvantages of piecework and amatuer musicianship.)  We worked on "Anatomy of Love", which I am (once again) hoping to finish by Valentine's Day.  First we recorded Bill on djembe (hand drum), then we recorded the drum kit.  I used what's called the "recorderman" technique - see details on the internet - which allow recording of the whole kit with only three or four mics.  Major thanks to Emile Menasche for the loan of some nice mics and a tube preamp!  I was really pleased with the drum sound - it's amazing how well it turned out.

[10/14]  Another month when I didn't get to use the studio at all!  Anyway, I started comping the excellent piano and organ parts recorded by Cary Brown back in December 2011 (see below) for "Loch Ness Cafe".  These parts really give the song life and make it all hang together.  I plan to finish the mix this week and submit to the U.K. Songwriting Contest.  The song has been played on BBC Scotland; hope they like it over there across the pond. 
 
(Note: the song was mixed by the deadline and went on to win semifinalist in two categories: Jazz/Blues and Open.  Of course, this was not the "final" mix - I still want to re-record the acoustic guitar and maybe the harmonica solo, and simplify some of the parts in the mix.  But it's pretty darn close.)
 
[9/3]  Listened back to the recent changes, and the acoustic guitar fills don't really add the sparkle I'm looking for, so will definitely need to play with adding keyboard.  I did a rough mix because I think I'll submit this song to the International Songwriting Competition.
 
[8/20]  Has it really been so long since I did work in the studio?  Maybe I forgot to keep this log up to date.  Anyway, determined to move forward, I figured I'd pick something that was close to completion and finish it up. 
    The state of "Let's Change" was: I had an old, mixed basic track of vocals, acoustic guitar and bass, and we had recorded additional drums and electric guitars.  Bill Philbrick EQ'd the the tracks and we had done a mix, but I wasn't happy with the balance.  I thought all I would need to do was change the level of the drums and the sound of the electric guitars, but now that I listen to it again, I see that it needs the rhythm track to be beefed up, and other instruments, probably more acoustic guitar and maybe keyboard, and I might want to add another backing vocal and double the bass.
    I added high hat in a couple of spots, which really helped, and I'm working on some acoustic guitar fills.
 
[4/3]  Taking a break from my own stuff; did some work producing "My Bravest Smile", a song by Dan Pelletier.  This weekend I recorded bass, guitar and drums, and did a rough mix.

[3/10]  Ok, I declare the "Anatomy" bass part finished.  I started playing with acoustic guitar for this track, got some ideas, but I can see that in order to play simple parts that don't step on the other tracks I'm going to have to compose it section by section (like I did with the bass).  I'll come back to this later; I get tired of working on the same song forever.  Started to play with revising the bass on "Truest Kind of Lie", to make the song sound lighter.

[2/2 to 2/14]  Continued composing and recording "Anatomy of Love" bass parts, whenever I can find the time.  More to do, still working on getting the right feel.
 

[1/23]  Played the new songs last night at the BeanRunner,  including "Five Foot Four Girl in a Ten Foot U-Haul Truck"  Our friend J. had sent us a change-of-address email; she was down-sizing, and signed it as "Five foot four person in a ten foot U-Haul truck".  I replied, "Sounds like a great song title ... but what rhymes with truck"?  She responded, "Luck".  So I wrote the song, didn't tell her, and we surprised her with it at the concert.  And now the story can be told.

[1/16]  Finished writing a new song, "Now That I Have You", and recorded a guitar/vocal demo so that Barbara can learn it.  (Barbara didn't like the verses, and actually I wasn't too happy with them either, so I re-wrote the words and music, and now we both like them.)  We'll be playing at the BeanRunner Cafe on 1/22, and I like to have new songs - which often means a last-minute rush to finish something I've been working on and then teach it and rehearse it.  Unfortunately, now Barbara is sick and can barely speak.  When we're rehearsing, she has to whisper the lyrics.

[1/10 - 1/15/2012]  Sick... watched a lot of TV.

[12/29 - 12/30]  Started composing the bass part for "Anatomy of Love".  Recorded a new lead vocal for "Truest Kind of Lie" and recorded the lead vocal for "Doctor Bones".  We're struggling with demo-itis on "Truest Lie"... the demo version sounded better than the final version, which seemed plodding and heavy.  That's why we went back and re-recorded the lead vocal; I think we're on the right track now.  Also, thanks to Bill's custom pre-amp, the sound quality is much better, beautiful and clean.
 
[12/17]  Recorded the 2nd acoustic guitar for "Five Foot Four Girl in a Ten Foot U-Haul Truck".
 
[12/11]  Excellent session with keyboardist Cary Brown!  We laid down tracks for "Doctor Bones" (organ), "Loch Ness Cafe" (organ and piano) and "Ten Rooms" (organ and piano).

[12/4 - 12/6]  Things are moving along again.  I finished editing the lead vocal and two acoustic guitar tracks for "Ten Rooms" and started composing the bass part.  Also, we're tracking the lead vocal for "Doctor Bones".  It's a hard song to sing, and Barbara hasn't performed in a while, so we've been laying down several takes each day, and it keeps getting better, but it's not there yet.  It reminds me of something I read about the Beatles'  "Abbey Road" sessions: McCartney wanted a knock-your-socks-off screaming vocal for "Oh, Darling!" and he couldn't seem to get it to his satisfaction, so he showed up early to each recording session and laid down a couple of takes.  Eventually he got the one he was happy with.  Well done, Paul!
     Also, Bill Philbrick (who engineered our first CD and co-wrote "She's Cool") was kind enough to loan us a high-end microphone and pre-amp to play with, so we've been doing various recording tests.  The pre-amp sounds great so we're trying to squeeze in some real tracking before we have to return the equipment.

[11/7]  I wanted to post three more songs from the archives on our Free Songs page; I couldn't find a mix of "I Don't Understand Boys", so I went back to the original tracks (from ADAT) and remixed it - sounds cool!  And I was also able to improve a really old recording of "Cowboy Song", but lead vocals, guitar and two fiddles had all been bounced to one track so I couldn't really balance or EQ the song properly.

[10/29 - 10/31]  Storm - no power!
        
[10/27]  Final mixing of "Monty's Room" and "Guilty (With An Explanation)", with Rob.  Hooray! - it's only been five years (!) since we started mixing these.  I think they sound really nice.
 

[9/25]  Finished "Monty" recording.  Now I'm preparing the tracks for mixing, doing the final editing and setting levels etc. so I won't have to spend time doing this in Rob Morsberger's studio when we mix in a couple of weeks.

[9/5]  More "Monty" faux pedal steel guitar.  Finished 3rd verse; still need to do the outro. 

[8/30]  More work on "Monty" faux pedal steel guitar.  It will probably take one more session to complete this part.
 

[8/13]  Finished "Monty" MIDI piano tweaking (which made a big difference).  Started working on the final touch: by playing my stratocaster with a volume pedal, sometimes blending two tracks of this, I'm getting a sound that's very close to a pedal steel.  It's really sounding nice.

[8/2]  Mostly finished "Monty's Room" piano; need to tweak the MIDI file a bit on account of all thumbs.  

[7/21]  Editing lead vocals for "Ten Rooms" and re-recording piano for "Monty's Room".  (The original piano track was recorded a long time ago using a really awful-sounding sample and a non-velocity-sensitive keyboard.)  Finished the melody for the new song and started recording a demo.

[7/11]  Comp'd the acoustic guitar for "Waiting On You" - there will be two acoustic guitars, one hard left and the other hard right.  Met with Rob Morsberger to prepare for final mix of two songs, "Monty's Room" and "Guilty (With an Explanation)".  Met with keyboardist Cary Brown to plan piano and organ parts for three songs, "Ten Rooms", "Doctor Bones" and "Fullness of Time".  Mostly finished the music for "Five Foot Four Girl in a Ten Foot U-Haul Truck", will need to finalize the melody.  Recorded lead vocals for "Ten Rooms".

[6/26]  Recorded acoustic guitar for "Waiting On You" (see 5/11 below).  The rest of the song is sketched out with scratch tracks.  Parts of the song sound to me like Steely Dan meets "Brandy You're a Fine Girl".

[6/16]  Finished the lyrics to another new song, "Five Foot Four Girl in a Ten Foot U-Haul Truck"... no music yet.

[5/11/2011]  Just finished a new song, inspired by overhearing a guy on 34th street on his cell phone saying, "What the f#ck you doing while I'm standing here waiting on you?"  Clearly destined to be a hit.  The process was pretty much as usual: I started with some words and an idea of the melody/feel in my head, fleshed out the words and got some feedback from songwriters Joe Giacoio and Dan Pelletier, made a few revisions, ignored some advice, then worked on finalizing the melody and chords. 

The music for the bridge was not happening, but I returned to it on a different day and a very nice one came to me.  (This is always a challenge, but a bridge that's as tuneful and hooky as the chorus is a delight...as any Beatles fan knows.)

Fired up the studio (had not used it for a while) and started to record scratch tracks, to work out the parts.  My goal once again is to try to get this thing tracked without taking forever - good luck!  And I believe it's time to put the air conditioner in the studio window.

* * *

Since we came up with the idea of posting songs from our archives, I've been going back through my tapes again, to identify what's been digitized as opposed to what's decaying on reel tapes or cassettes.  My current resolution is to spend some time on a regular basis transferring songs from reel tape to the computer. 
  
Does anyone actually want to hear this stuff?  I don't know.  Maybe my descendents.  But someone will have to reconvert the recordings so they play on the quantum computer.