I’m writing this in the morning, before the day begins, because I’m going to be leaving right after the session this afternoon to go out of town for the weekend to attend my nephew’s wedding. I’m so excited for them!
I want to talk about listening today. Every single time I record an album of songs, I am amazed at how much more acutely I can hear by the end of the process than I do at the beginning. Inevitably, I think I should start another record right away, because I could save time and be so much sharper in making decisions about the project. For this reason alone, I would recommend anyone use a professional producer who does this all the time – they can hear what we cannot, because they practice all the time.
It’s like going for a walk in the woods. At the beginning, we’re so used to not listening, that we don’t hear the snap of a branch beneath a raccoon’s foot, or the beautiful birdsong above. We don’t hear the lap of waves on the shore until we extend our attention to it and listen. It’s the same when laying down music tracks. We’re listening for all kinds of things. A distant lawnmower. An exhaled breath that passes over the very sensitive microphones. A chord in the wrong place. An electronic buzz because a cable isn’t grounded, or isn’t properly plugged in. A flat note in the vocals. Each instrument requires slightly different listening. Is that noise when I change chords okay, a natural part of playing the guitar, or should we get rid of it?
And the most amazing part of all of this — we can fix a lot of things without re-recording! These days, we record onto computers. In the old days, I recorded onto 2″ wide tape, which could handle 24 tracks. If you made a mistake, you either had to start again (and wait for the tape to rewind. Every time.) or a guy with a razor blade would sit at the console, find the place the blooper happened, and cut it out by hand. I’m not making this up! Remember the word processing term: “Cut and Paste”? When I first worked as a secretary we used to do that by hand, too!!!
So now, the recording process has come along just like word processors have. From manual typewriters to laptop computers. From recording the whole band at once, and (like Elvis did in Nashville) send the sound into an echo chamber and record it as it’s coming out — to having the ability to change the guitar part, beat by beat, so it’s actually with the click track (something Paul was doing yesterday afternoon to my blues guitar track). You can also “pitch correct”, which means when the singer (we’ll say the singer, because it’s usually done on us – including Celine Dion) hits a note that isn’t exactly on the pitch (hardly ever happens with moi, of course…… lol) you can fix it!
I love recording onto computer. We save so much time, not having to wait for the tape to rewind, for one thing. We can make practice CDs from what we’ve recorded already (we sent John his bed tracks yesterday via email). It has also made it possible for people to set up studios in their homes, like Paul. It’s more relaxed and comfortable. But the other reason to work with Paul is that he has the ears.
So, here’s your challenge for the day: go out somewhere and listen. Hard. For at least 10 minutes. See what you can hear.
Okay – time for me to meet the bass player, Russ Boswell. We have already recorded the foundation – the song on guitar, with my vocals. The bass player is going to be building the basement. I’ll report on this on Sunday, when we get back from the wedding. Have a great weekend!