A week ago I had the opportunity to record a bass line for one of the tracks on a forthcoming church album. The experience inspired me to make a bit more of an effort to finish off some of the many recordings I have started over the years but never finished.
I have been thinking about what the factors are that cause my recording projects to flounder.
- Inadequate planning – Only after hours of recording do I decide that it should have been in a different key or tempo, or that the song structure should be dramatically different. I then lose enthusiasm to go back and re-record the base material.
- Mediocre takes – Rather than keeping going until I have a well-performed part, I often get bored and move on to another instrument, leaving a take containing some subtle mistakes. The motto should be “get it right”, even if this means playing something slightly less demanding, or spending a whole evening getting one part to disk. This also means carefully listening to takes that you think went well to make sure that they actually are as good as you imagined.
- Vocals – I can sing in tune (most of the time), but to be honest my voice isn’t up to scratch for released material. But unless you’re a good singer living in the Southampton area who would just love to come round to my house for some unpaid recording sessions, I just need to make the best of what I’ve got and get on with it. Either that or do lots of instrumentals.
- Drums – Although I have an acoustic drum kit, I don’t have the facilities to record it adequately (and in any case it is a very cheap kit and I don’t play it that well), so I have to rely on drum programming. Loops are of course an option, but loops rarely just fit a song – you’re better off composing or arranging around a loop rather than searching for ones that fit an existing song. The range of fills is very limited too. But drum programming is tedious, especially if you want to get human timing and dynamics into the performance, and there are some things you can do on a drum kit (flams, chokes etc) that are difficult to program convincingly.
- Hurried mixing – By the time you’ve got good base material, you’ve already listened to this track hundreds of times. Now you have to listen to it hundreds more times, each time subtly different. Especially if, like me, you are a complete novice with compressor, EQ and reverb settings, this part of the process can be very time consuming and requires great patience and perseverance.
So I have decided to revisit a few of my old recording projects and take a disciplined approach to completing them. Hopefully this will be a good learning experience for me, and maybe help to speed up the process for future tracks. I’m almost finished my first one and already I have noticed myself making some of the old mistakes again. Expect a new track on my site shortly.