original. acoustic. music.

New Recordings

Darrel and I spent last Saturday recording every song in our repertoire (although we very nearly forgot the two most recent ones!) over about 5 hours at Darrel's studio.

The usual quota of Bean Rock beer and Starburst sweets fortified proceedings as is customary at our practices, and we were both in fine voice and eager to make something of the evening (tainted somewhat as it was by the loss of the Wellington Lions in the rugby final).

We set up our AKG Perception 200 mic on a stand in the middle of the studio and played live without any other amplification or processing. We recorded directly to hard disk using Cool Edit Pro 2, and kept the mic open the whole time so neither of us would have to keep getting up and clicking record.

Things started off well with some of the oldest songs recorded first in, at most, two or three takes. Once we had checked levels and found the balance between ourselves and our guitars it was a real treat to just concentrate on the performance and not the recording. However, it's a strange thing playing when you know you are recording - often you can pull of a feat of brilliance in practice, but the minute you hit record your fingers turn into bratwurst!

With our set-up there was none of the stopping and starting that usually messes things up in a performance, and the fact we knew the songs pretty well having practiced and performed many of them recently, there were few bratwurst moments and some very nice happy accidents that made it onto disk that night. It got to 2am and we had recorded 12 songs. I stopped the recording and prepared to edit the massive file into separate tracks when Darrel and I realised we had both forgotten Song to Remember and Mary-Ann. I set the mic back up and hit record and we carried on until we had both in the can - luckily the levels and balance were the same.

The performances of those two songs is a little tentative as Darrel and I launched straight into them without really thinking: "Now wait a minute, how do we play this again?" Song to Remember, for example, had us looking at each other silently wondering which lyrics fit the final chorus as we recorded it, but the performance came out well enough on the recording for us to leave it there (and it was 2:30am after all). In fact, I think the only casualty the whole night was Can't Help Loving You which was one of the last songs we recorded. We had only recently changed the ending from a rather nebulous refrain to something a bit more structured but right at the top of my range (translation: I'm screaming my tits off) and I launched into another repeat while Darrel stopped playing. D'oh. Otherwise the night was a complete success.

The next day I took the tracks home to my studio and threw them into ProTools for a bit more editing. The acoustic at Darrel's place is pretty good - you can hear the room (and the gale force winds outside) but there is no noticeable flutter echo or boom at certain frequencies. Darrel's computer is pretty quiet too, so I had a pretty clean recording to work with. The wind even lent tracks like 98-3 and Release a little more atmosphere.

As we were only using one mic we had to rely on the natural balance between our voices and guitars, and for the most part the vocal blend was pretty good and rested fairly comfortably alongside the guitars. I used the Joemeek Meequaliser plug-in to EQ the tracks and added a little reverb to a few of them, enough to sweeten the spaces between the notes without being too noticeable.

I mixed with headphones, which may show up when we play the tracks on a decent speaker system, but they sounded great to me. I bounced the resulting tracks to disk and then to CD.

All in all I think we created a great record of our songwriting efforts, one I am very proud of and keen to pass on to a few people who might be able to take us a little further. From the start my attitude to this whole thing has been to put enjoyment above actual work - I spent a few years trying to mix my music and my vocation and nearly gave up on music altogether as the demand outweighed the fun. I guess it also had to do with the fact I was doing it on my own.

Darrel and I can either create great music with pretty minimal effort, or we're working really hard but having the time of our lives at the same time. Either way, it's brilliant and I'm reluctant to change things. However, it's not going to take much more effort to go to the next step - and I'd rather do that than get bored and pack it all in.