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Growing a Tune: Mixing up Josh

Josh spent some time recording two new guitar tracks. One he describes as being a bit more traditional versus the other being a bit more chordal. I liked them both and decided to split the difference and mix the two tracks together. I can also tell you that Luke is working on another wicked pissa track, with a new bass line, that uses both of Josh’s tracks as well. I’m hoping to be able to post that track in the next day or so…Luke???

Also, there has been some interest by a couple of new musicians in recording some additional tracks. So, with any luck, we may soon have a fiddle track and a resophonic tenor guitar.

In the interim, I’ve created an image map of the various iterations below. This gives a nice visual representation of how much activity is happening:
Marlin Spike Map

Check it out.
The Marlin Spike (Josh mix) by baconworks

Growing a Tune: Not Finished Yet…

Luke on Bass
Luke is at it again.

This time, he has put a bass track to Josh’s first guitar track, which Josh thought of as a rough draft. Compared to my track this accompaniment has a much more jazzy feel.

Also, you will notice that the melody does not include the original flute and, instead, only features the penny whistle. This is an artifact of the impromptu process that we used to do the recording, which is illustrated in the highly technical graphic below:
Recording Process
One of the things going on here is that above all the music there is a process that we are learning about as we go. That process includes syncing and overdubbing tracks across multiple players who don’t know each other and we have learned that there are some steps that can be added to that picture to give us more flexibility in the future (as we will see in a subsequent post).

Another interesting phenomenon that I see unfolding in this collaborative recording experiment is that the distinction between what is a rough take and what is a ‘finished product’ has been blurred. Josh’s rough guitar track sits nicely with Luke’s bass and from my perspective the mix is a very listenable and arguably ‘finished’. But, I know that Josh was generally unhappy with the sound quality of the guitar track and, therefore, his perception of ‘finished’ is probably different than mine, which brings me to a very salient point: There is no such thing as ‘finished’ in the absolute sense.

The term ‘finished’ is a misleading adjective that we tend to use when describing our intentions. It is not, ironically, a very good word for accurately describing state. In other words, when I say I am finished with a tune or a painting or building a new deck, I am really saying that I have no intention of doing more work on that thing. However, given that humans are notoriously bad a predicting the future, it might not be wise to place bets on whether the state of that thing will remain stable in the future. After all, I may decide, many years later, to add more paint to the canvas. Is it finished then?

Why am I babbling on about this? Because the notion of finishing a recording, which is very often a goal of musicians, is just an artifact associated with the historically high costs of recording albums. While it is hard for many artists to get their heads around this, I’m here to demonstrate that it is time. Free yourselves from the shackles of that elusive perfect and printable recording. Instead, embrace the notion that the process, flaws and all, is just as interesting and is really the reason we play music to begin with.

The cool thing here is that the plummeting cost of recording and music distribution facilitates the phenomenon I’m describing. The Compact Disc is no longer a necessity and, therefore, does not need to be the final resting place, as it once was, for a musical idea. With the financial factors removed, the creative process, once again, can take its rightful place at center stage thereby giving freedom back to the artist to create as inspiration strikes.

I used to believe that waking up on the wrong side of the sod was the only sure measure of being truly finished. But in world where we allow others to expand on our ideas we open the doors for evolution, which is far more enduring and exciting than being finished.

The Groton Session

With Halloween approaching I thought it only appropriate to continue my trend of playing sessions in places that are haunted.
Common Ghost
So, last night I trekked up the road with Unstachio to The Stagecoach Inn in Groton, MA. Sadly, I didn’t encounter any ghosts but I’m happy to report that there was a lot of spirit. Vicky the bartender, Aisling, the woman who organized the session, Mary, Martha, Kevin, Raymond, Peter McGuire, Laurel Martin and all the other fine musicians were warm and welcoming.

One nice thing they do at their session is have monthly workshops where they bring in a seasoned musician to provide instruction during the early part of the evening. Well, unfortunately, I missed the early part. However, once the session got moving, Unstachio and I did get to have a go at backing Tony DeMarco, this month’s special guest. Tony is a universally known and respected Sligo style fiddle player from Brooklyn, NY. I can’t tell you what he thought, but I thought it was quite fun.

Here is a video of Tony with the legendary Kevin Burk. The video is not much to look at, in fact you can hardly see Tony, who is on the right side of the video. The audio is quite good however, and makes it worth a listen. Incidentally, they open their set with Paddy Clancy’s, which is the same tune I posted the other day.

Also, I should mention, that Tony has a new album that can be found on his website. Also, he will be performing this Friday, October 3rd, at the Kendall Tavern in Leominster, MA at 8pm. Apparently there is a session to follow. For more information and tickets contact Aisling. Should be a fun night.

Growing a Tune: The Sudbury Session

This is really a cross-over post. The recording came out of the Sudbury Session and is probably the last I will post from that session. However, the tune, The Marlin Spike, is the one that we have been running a collaborative recording experiment upon. As nice as it is to spend time laying tracks on a new tune, they also have to get road tested. The only way to do that is to try them out at a session. That is where you get your feedback and it is where you really learn what works and doesn’t work on a tune.

In this recording I think you can hear the tentativeness of playing together the first couple of times through the tune. But the third time through it starts to get some bite and someone yelps as if to say ‘Go-on!’. Then after the tune, a bit of good-natured session ribbing. But, the part that makes you want to keep writing is when someone asks if ‘that is one of your own compositions’.

The Sudbury Session: Garrett Barry’s

Here is a great sounding tune from Deidre on the pipe’s called Garrett Barry’s. She had some technical difficulty with the instrument about half way through and had to stop for a strain or two. It doesn’t really surprise me that someone would have technical difficulties with that instrument. The musician has to do about nine things at once and only two of them are related to pitch and tempo. Everything else has to do with harnesses, seat belts, air bags, bellows, barometric pressure, wind speed and what the current phase of the moon is. The fact that anything musical comes out of the instrument is a miracle. In my one attempt to play the beast it sounded like I was squeezing a pair of cats.

Anyhow, before I digress any further…Garret Barry’s.

p.s. I didn’t have any pictures of her playing the pipes, so I settled for this cool one of the flutes.

The Sudbury Session: The Roaring Barmaid

In spite of the weather, the turnout for the Sudbury Muster was great. After spending Friday evening and all day Saturday in the rain, the soggy brave musicians slipped into the old bar room at the Wayside Inn for some tunes and good company. Standing room only. Dinner guests, muster musicians, Sudbury Militia, a couple of session musicians, a few Swiss folk all sharing ales, stories and music. At one point most of the room was filled by the sound of patrons playing spoons, sticks and anything else they could find to make noise, and when the music stopped, the percussion didn’t. They were hooked. And we played long past closing time and left very fulfilled and satisfied that the weather didn’t drive people away, but instead, brought us together.

I put a mic in the corner of the room and recorded the whole evening. Every note. I will post a few of the highlights over the next few days. Here is the first. It is called The Roaring Barmaid. Also, the photo’s were taken by my sister Keri. In this photo you will notice that behind us, the bar has closed for the evening. And in front of the bar there is no sign of anyone leaving. Ah, good times.