Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Girl #134 Recording - Fischer Studios North

Feb 18, 2008 – Recording Girl #134.

Executive Summary: Overall results of this brief recording session were good. Not excellent, but good. Only the bass track remains. The most problematic part of the recording was the drum track. Not only is Munson relatively new to drumming, but this beat proved particularly challenging. The “money” track proved serviceable, despite some subtle flaws.

Detailed Description: The day started on a not-so-innocent note as Munson threw himself into full blown “Geek out” mode with a visit to “Star Trek: The Tour”. Currently being housed in the old Spruce Goose dome in Long Beach, this is a traveling exhibit of costumes, props and miniatures from all Star Trek incarnations. Highlights included a chance to sit in a full sized replica of the bridges from the classic Enterprise, and the Next Generations Enterprise “E”. Thirty bucks well spent. Munson departed Long Beach at just after 3:00, to arrive in Torrance under an hour later. A brief stop at Costco was joyfully interrupted by a call from Fischer indicating that he was on his way home. The Black and Blue dev team were reunited at about 4:30 PST. (Stardate: unknown)

Munson and Fischer quickly got to work, after a brief photo shoot featuring the Fischer Family. A slight re-org of the studio was in order. Wooden planks had to be moved from behind the drum set, and some furniture had to be procured. Since no Sr. VP level approvals were needed to expedite these processes, they were executed without delay. Will joined in on the fun, setting up his own drum kit and collapsible chair. As the clock struck 5:00, the duo were ready for some practice.

A review of a couple different recordings of Girl #134 was in order. Fischer busted out the iPod and played the Anthill live version, and the original B+B sessions recording. I had the drum beat in my head, and played along a couple of times. The drum beat was a significant departure from the two drum beats I already know, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. Fischer and I plunked down and rehearsed the song about 10 times, some of them being recorded.

Munson got to a point where he was comfortable playing it, though the final beat was a hobbled sub-set of the fills and beat that Master Drummer Varner deployed. Fischer records will need to indicate precisely which recordings were keepers. Each take proved to be better than the last, though a peak was eventually reached, with the associated trough soon to follow. Munson was comfortable making it through the entire song, but blew four or five takes literally on the last 5 seconds of the song. Frustrations grew, and a break was taken.

It was decided that an insert overdub could be used to fix the trailing seconds of the song. This ultimately proved successful, but not without challenges. Technical difficulties aside, Munson’s apparent fatigue was beginning to show. Munson later expressed anxiety at playing drums so late into the evening in suburban Torrance. He felt that it would start to aggravate neighbors, and this distracted him from his performance.

That aside, once the final take was deemed “workable”, the duo retired to the living room for some red vines and good times.

The guitar track left something to be desired, as there was a Fischer identified flub near the end. An insert over-dub was attempted, but proved ineffective. It turns out that the bleed over from the drums into the guitar mic was significant, rendering recordings sans drums useless. The decision was made to completely re-do the guitar track. Fortunately, B+B had two things going for them: Bills guitar wizardry, and Munsons’ simple song. Though nailed on the first take, Fischer completed another take with an additional microphone added in for unknown reasons. Note: as producer, it was Munson’s job to squash any move on Fischers behalf to resort to his “knob turning ways”, though he chose the path of least resistance and allowed Fischer this one conceit. Next time, “the Hammer” will be more liberally applied.

That said, the duo decided guitar was done, and it was time to move on. A quick track of chicken shake was added, though without the traditional shakers deployed. The take fell apart half way through due to a slight rhythm variance, but a single insert overdub rectified the problem.

Two vocal tracks were done by Munson. The first was fine, but a second was suggested to “push the envelope”, as B+B is prone to doing. The second track was equally as nice, but enjoyed some more emotional “spunk” towards the end. Sadly, said spunk will force the use of dynamic volume adjustment during mix down, as the volume levels become inappropriately high.

Fischer contributed two vocal tracks, though the first one missed the end harmony. The second one got it right.

By this point, it was just past 9:00 PM, and it was decided that recording was done for the day. The only remaining track is bass.

A few more listenings of a rough mix down revealed a few shortcomings of the song to Munson, though Fischer remained oblivious. It has been suggested that this is simply part of assuming the mantle of “Producer”. One tends to be more obsessive. But in adhering with the B+B guiding principle of “Better to have a song finished than perfect”, it was decided that moving on was the order of the day.

As 9:30 rolled around, the necessary trip to Carl’s Jr. was embarked upon. Discussion/obsession on the song followed, with both congradulations and lamentations peppered therein.

One more recording session is required to complete this song, and it must happen by the end of the month in order for B+B to maintain their breakneck pace of one song per month.

Munson Thoughts: I’m on the fence about the recording. I think overall it sounds good, but there’s a part in the middle where I hear the rhythm fall apart. The drum ding at the end isn’t that big of a deal, and I can live with it, but I’m not sure I feel the same way about the middle part. Vocals are OK, but those only take a second to fix. I think the position I find myself in is this: do I want to start again from scratch at our next Saturday session. I really don’t, as I’m a strong proponent of moving ahead, but this particular song is so dear to me, I want to see it perfect. But those are the words of a band who spent 4 years on an album, and that’s not where I want to be. So perhaps I will stick with my original advice to myself, which is to move on. If at some later date, my drum skills have improved, and the desire is there, we can always revisit the song. Seeing as how Bill and I are now at a point where we can realistically bang out a complete song in one day, it’s really not that big of a deal to think that we might re-visit after some time has passed.

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