Tag Archives: collaborative-recording

Growing a Tune: Crashing

Ship at Sea
The other day Luke summonsed me into his office. He had been working feverishly on a new version of The Marlin Spike with both of Josh’s new guitar parts. Once in his office he had me put the cans on to take a listen. But before doing so, he prefaced my first listen with his impressions of the tune.

The tune, as he described, made him think of an old ship, sails full of wind making headway through the vast ocean. He could hear the waves crashing against the sides of the ship. He could imagine the sound the ship would make as it pitched up and over the swells of the sea. And with that he decided to add some percussion. I listened. His descriptions came to life. As the tune ended and I was reaching to pull the phones off, I started to say that I didn’t want it to end. Then I noticed a gleam in his eye, he raised one finger and said, ‘wait’…

The thing I love about this recording is that it has taken turns that I couldn’t or wouldn’t have done on my own. Luke does not come to this recording with the shackles of how percussion or bass is supposed to sound in Celtic music. It is just not part of his musical background. This is new material for him. Consequently, he, unknowingly, breaks some traditional rules and adds a new dimension, an entirely appealing dimension, to the music…and that is exciting.
The Marlin Spike (crashing) 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.

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’.

Collaborative Recording

In my recent post, LP – On the Mend, I talked about how the low cost of digital recording equipment brings high quality recordings into the hands of everyday musicians. An exciting idea, which I intentionally skimmed past in that post, is that the marriage of digital recording and the big pipes of the internet also makes collaborative recording ridiculously easy.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario. John Lennon is sitting at his white grand piano in his big white room at Tittenhurst. Has a brilliant thought and flips on the eight track recorder. “This song needs a string section”, he thinks to himself. He then takes the one-inch open-reel tape that he has just recorded on, packages it up in a big box and ships it off to New York. A week later, when it arrives, Phil Spector adds the string section. Phil then calls John on the phone and says, “Hey man, you gotta hop on the next plane to New York so you can hear the final results…”

Now image how things would be different if they could have emailed the recorded tracks back and forth. In fact, since we are no longer talking about physical tape, John could have emailed the recorded tracks to ten or a hundred different studios in virtually no time at all. I can just imagine the email.

Engineers around the world…
I just recorded the basic tracks for a song called ‘Imagine’. I have sent this track to a hundred recording studios with the hopes that each will bring in some session musicians and lay down a string section for me. Once your recording is complete, email it back to me and I will make a grand selection to be included on my next album. -John.

Our technology makes this sort of collaborative recording very easy. So easy, in fact, that no coordination between you and the studios of the world needs to take place at all. Simply post your music on the internet and wait for the emails to roll in with remixed versions of your tune.

Think I’m crazy? Well, I have proof. I posted an mp3 of On the Mend to baconworks.com on Monday. Less than a week later a friend sent me the following email:

…finally got my recording crap working again. So……I noodled around with your great tune. It’s got shades of Longnancy’s Jig to it. Anyway , hope you didn’t mind me Pluc’n with it.

:-{ Mustachio

That just made my week.

Below is Mustachio’s new version of On the Mend with a new bouzouki track mixed in. Hearing this makes me want to go change my guitar parts to give the bouzouki more room. Imagine all the possibilities!