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08 January 2012

EGBDF - The Album - The Answer Song

My old friend Jim Sturdivant posted an overly-gracious review on Facebook of my six-song album, EGBDF. He noted that he wouldn't mind hearing more about how it was done. Thinking back over that brought a smile to my face, so I've decided to post notes about each song -- what went into it, what kind of equipment I used, etc. I doubt it'll be of interest to many people, but in the off-chance that there's a gear-head from the early 90's who couldn't afford nice recording equipment, it may bring back memories.

I'll start with the first song (the link will take you to the song, which you may purchase for the bargain price of only $0.89)...

The Answer Song
This one was recorded around 1993, I think. I don't know why I decided to do a rap track. This one's terrible. I didn't want to try to have "soul" or anything like that, because not only do I not have a cool rap accent, I sound very white. So I figured it would be very unusual and surprising, even amusing, if I just used my regular old voice.

You may notice that the first line of the chorus and the first sung line in each verse have essentially the same melody. The verse is in the relative minor key of the chorus so I thought using the same melodic hook for both would be cool. Don't know if it wound up being cool, but I did it, and there you have it.

My biggest regret on this song is the intentional artificial-sounding drum machine pattern on the chorus. Wish I'd stayed with a drum part that sounded more like what a drummer might actually play. I usually obsess about that.

Instruments used:
My trusty Roland R-5 "Human Rhythm Composer" (a drum machine; not an "instrument," really) provided the drums and percussion. I always tuned the hi-hats down a few cents because I thought they sounded a little less artificial that way.

I played a T. Shepard Strat-style guitar -- a yellow one -- with a graphite neck. It belonged to my friend Paul Proffitt, whose home studio I used. The strings were ruuussssty, and I had no extra sets of strings so I used steel wool on them so they wouldn't cut my fingers. It worked but as you might imagine, they sounded quite dead.

I ran through an old Ibanez distortion pedal and went directly into the board. That pedal was unusual because it didn't sound absolutely horrible when running direct, like most stand-alone distortion pedals do. (On second listen, I believe I may have used a Rockman headphone preamp on this song. Not the more awesome Rockman Soloist, but the cheaper one, before the Guitar Ace came out)

I used a cheap, cheap Steinberger bass copy. Ran it directly into the board; no direct box.

Recording gear:
The mixing board was a Fostex model 454, purchased from a pawn shop. All the pots were dirty so I had to sweep the knobs and faders back and forth frequently to get the crackly trash out of them.

The recorder was a Fostex R8, a 1/4" reel-to-reel machine that had eight tracks. Because of the limited number of tracks I had to "bounce" (combine) the drums and bass to a pair of tracks, then as I added each vocal I had to bounce them down, as well, to leave an open track for the lead guitar.

I ran out of tracks quickly on this one. I believe there are seven vocal parts going on at once during the chorus. Notice that the lead vocal and lead guitar don't overlap. That's because I ran out of tracks and had to put the lead guitar on the lead vocal track.

I used a Yamaha hand-held vocal mic (also found at a pawn shop; didn't even know Yamaha made microphones until I saw that one. Really liked it.), used a Yamaha GC2020BII rackmount compressor -- easily the worst compressor I've ever used, but it got the job done -- and a Yamaha SPX-90 II and budget-line R100 for effects.

Used my own reference monitors, Peavey (yes, Peavey) PRM308S. Possibly the best product Peavey ever made.

The mix was done directly to... cassette tape. Only the highest quality would do. :-)


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