Sunday, May 22, 2011

How the Demo Comes Together: Part 3

Hey there non-followers!

...actually, I seem to have picked up a new follower this week!  Thanks for following me!

Ok. This week we are continuing to go through my demo-ing process.  If you haven't read the other two parts in this series, I suggest you read those before you read this one, so you're up to speed.

We left last week after I had recorded the "real" acoustic guitars, edited the midi drums and bass so they would fit together, and I recorded a scratch vocal, so I can record the electric guitars with everything in place (more or less).

Arrangement and Considerations

By this point, from listening to the rough renders I have been making to put on my iPod, I have the beginnings of an idea as to what I want to do with the electric guitars--what kinds of guitars will I be using? Humbuckers or single-coils? If single-coil, Strat or Tele? 

I start to get a feeling for what kind of sound I'm looking for from listening to the song on the iPod....over...and over...and over...and over...

In fact, I listen to it and sing along so much that my son plugs his ears and runs screaming from the room every time he sees me ambling towards him, regarding him with a vacant stare, my green earbuds in my ears, and singing along with the 
track he heard me recording just a few short days ago. 

Before I record anything, I have a vague idea about what I think the arrangement should be. It's not rocket surgery, it's not brain science--it almost always goes like this:

(and yes, i realize this should probably go in part 1...apologies!)

All Instruments (to get the listener's attention) usually with a solo guitar playing some kind of variation on the chorus melody.

First verse:
Limited drums
Maybe nothing but acoustic guitars for the first half, add bass for the second half.

Prechorus (or Lift):
Add sparse electric guitars. 

Add Electric guitars. Drums change from high hat to ride cymbal...generally busier beat.

Second verse:
Drums are playing a slightly busier version of the beat they were playing in the first verse.
Acoustic guitars are like highhats with they start to act like it...playing 1/8th note-centered rhythms.
Electric guitars playing, but still sparse.
If there's a piano or organ or electric piano, I tend to add it here...lightly.

Second Prechorus (or lift):
Busier bass and drums...big drum fill into the chorus.
Everything else builds to the chorus...more note density, everything gets louder, everything ramps up to the second chorus.

Second chorus:
Everything explodes.
Most electric guitars here.
Maybe electric guitar or keyboard fills when space is left by the vocals.

Normally, in my songs at least, this is where The Big Truth Of The Song is here is where the CLIMAX of the song happens...kaboom.

Third Chorus:
Everything breaks down to one acoustic guitar (usually the one left, for me) and some "skeleton" drums...just the hats and a bass drum, maybe. least until about halfway through...when it all explodes again with everything firing on all cylinders until the end.

So naturally...I have been thinking about this "Master Plan" all when I come to record the electric guitars, I have the EMOTIONAL ARC OF THE SONG in mind, and I can tailor my guitar playing  to suit it.

Electric Guitars 

Now it's time to record. After I have listened to what I have so far and figured out basically what I want each guitar to do, and I've decided which guitar I'm going to use, I push the red circle.

For this particular example, I'll be using this Strat for both parts:

Through this amp, for both parts:

Normally, for one of the parts, I opt for a "chunky" 1/8th note type of guitar, just playing power chords and not really deviating from steady 1/8th notes. This guitar is normally using the bridge pickup.

For the second guitar, I pan it the other way and play more triads in the upper register.  Sometimes I go for a more punk-inspired "Big Ol' Messy Bar Chords" approach.  Just depends on the song. This song is using the triads, using one of the "in-between" settings for the pickup selection.

Here's what it looks like when the electrics are laid down:

After that, the next huge PITA is getting "real" drum and bass tracks.

Final Bass and Drums

See, after I'm finished with the electric guitars, I like to go in and add unique, custom drum fills for between each of the section, tighten up the relationship between the bass and the kick drum and the bass and the guitars.  After I have the bass part pretty much figured out, I render it as a new take, so I can start treating it like audio and not MIDI.

So here's the bass before the render:

And after the render:

Then we do the same with EVERY INDIVIDUAL DRUM TRACK....the definition of tedium....

Before the render:

After rendering each instrument of the drum kit as a separate instrument:

And after exploding each instrument to its own track:

And naming them:

Now I can treat the drums as if they were an actual drum kit and not just MIDI ones and zeros!

Better end it here. Vocals are a completely different can of worms...whole new levels of tedium....stay tuned (hint, hint).

This Week:

New song...started recording it...started hating it....don't know whether it's destined for the scrap pile or it a couple of days before I listen again and make the final determination. 

Danny Malone
Darrell Scott
Hoyt Axton
Jimmy Buffett
Alan Parsons Project-Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Jodi got her CD's!!! Woohoo!!! If you want to purchase one, and listen to what it is I do, download it here:

or get a physical cd here:

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