Recording Diary: Day 4 – Acoustic Guitar & Bass

Every day in the studio is huge. And every night I struggle to sleep with the excitement of what the next day may bring.

Today it was just Sean and I in the studio. We took it in turns. I’d play a few guitar tracks for recording. Then I’d take a break and he’d lay a few bass guitar parts onto the tracks I just did. We got through 6 tracks today. Epic! Bass and guitar parts, doneskies!

Recording Acoustic Guitar:

Shoes come off…. so I can stamp my feet without tapping….

Gaffa tape across the buttons on my shirt to stop them tapping against the guitar during recording (this was my genius idea, but the smarter option would be wearing a shirt without buttons to begin with).

Sean set up 2 mics. I’ll have to ask him what they are for the tech nuts reading this. One pen mic, aimed at fret 15 of the guitar, and the other just above it. I sat about a foot away from the mics. Mic positioning is one of the most important things when capturing quality sound. I remember studying that stuff in uni, and it’s interesting experimenting with different positions. I wanted a warm, yet sparkly, well rounded sound, not too much BASS, not too much sound of the plectrum on the strings. I use really heavy plectrums, but for this recording, I had to get used to playing with a flimsier pick for a softer sounding strum. All these li’l things matter ‘ay.

Sean has this really different way of recording the acoustic guitar part. In order to get a guitar track independent of the voice (so you can mix them separately), I’ve usually been instructed to sing in my head, or mime, as I play the guitar part. It feels soooo incredibly unnatural. Sean’s way is to record a guide track of you playing and singing at the same time – one mic on the voice, one on the guitar. Then record drums to that. Now in order for me to record the guitar part, he took out the guide guitar track, and left the vocals and drums in. So the vocals are there for me to follow. It’s quite a liberating way of playing actually. You don’t get lost, and ya don’t feel the need to mime and pull random faces in the studio to try and get into the vibe of where you are in the song. I just got into the guitar.

It took a few takes, with a few drop ins to re-do some parts. The rule is that you probably shouldn’t try to do more than 3 or 4 takes of a song. I remember trying to record one song some years back and did 10 takes…. After the 3rd or 4th take…. You’re getting over it, and they all go downhill from there. You get frustrated and completely struggle to get into the zone of the song. I don’t think we did more than 3 or 4 takes.

 

Doubling up:

Sean likes to record two guitar tracks, played exactly the same, so he can pan one left and one right and make choruses a bit meatier later if needed. This = a struggle for me, as I like to play things differently every time, and can’t remember what I played last. But we got through. I’d be interested to see how it sounds later.

 

Editing:

It’s amazing watching brief moments where Sean edits the songs. Like if you stuff up a bit in the middle, he can drop you in to redo that part. I remember playing with Cubase, and taking edges to cut and paste and shift things, line ‘em up and merge. But bam, Sean finds the best take, and in Protools you can just kinda merge one take into the other without too many clicks or moving. So speedy. This means we won’t have to sit there for hours at the end going through all the tracks saying “Gee was take one better, or take two?”

 

Relax:

I must admit, I was a little nervous this morning going in there knowing the tracks I was laying down were the real deal. No more guides. I had to be meticulous about tuning before we’d even started, then be conscious of timing, and yet still get feeling into the playing. In the exciting, built up part of the songs, I tend to wanna RUSH. So I’m just being aware of that as I play. The important thing is to just stay relaxed, try not to over think it. The more you over think…. Ahhh… it’s all downhill from there. I had a few moments of beating myself up. Sean’s pretty easy going. There’s no pressure. And to our surprise, we are a whole DAY ahead of schedule. So I’ve just gotta relax, and have faith that I can do it.

 

That’s deep man:

Hearing Sean add bass guitar to my tracks was amazing. Most of these songs I’ve only ever dreamed of hearing complete. I had a band a few years back. But now I just play solo. And to have bass introduced to my tunes is just jaw-dropping. It feels like you have the fullest version of the songs yet – drums, bass, guitar, and a guide vocal. It’s just FAT. Deep! Ballsy! Low!

Bass just adds so much foundation. It’s often over-looked in a band. But without it…. Yeah.

Sean is a songwriter, a producer, and a guitarist. He doesn’t describe himself as a bass player. But boy did he come up with some great bass parts. I’ve met bassists who wanna play as many notes as often as they can, like more is better. But in many cases, and certainly against my busy guitar playing, less is actually more. Sean played so appropriately. I was surprised how well constructed his bass lines were. It’s a different way of thinking – writing a bass line. Sure, it’s the same bottom 4 strings as a guitar, but just because you play guitar doesn’t mean you can think like a bass player. I certainly can’t. But I LOVED the bass parts Sean came up with. Man!! Not just root note type playing. But so befitting. It’s far better than my little brain could imagine. I’m all for appropriate, tasteful playing. Simple = effective.

 

Wavelength:

Sean is the most inspiring producer I’ve worked with. He just GETS me, and GETS my music. We’re on the same wavelength. When I say “I feel like we need shaker here…. A wooden shaker.” He says “Yes! You’re all over it Biddle.” We haven’t had a disagreement. It’s like our ideas just feel their way through the song, along the same path. That’s the right producer – someone who gets you, who gets your target audience, who listens to not only the music but the lyrics, and builds a beautiful garden around your house.

 

Choice!

 

Tomorrow, same again. Gutiar parts and bass parts for the other 6. Tomorrow will be a lot heavier in terms of guitar choices. Tomorrow we bring out the resonators, the teles and the gravelly gretsch.