"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Room's Been a Mess This Week: Recent Adventures in Recording

It's been one week since I said I'd start recording, but I feel like a week ago was really either a year ago or yesterday. Whatever the case, I feel like I've accomplished nothing (besides watching way too much TV and spending some time with my family).

Then I really look back.

My room's been a mess this week.

It was one week ago today that I went to an evening church service where I saw and talked with some of my friends from school. They asked about what I was doing this summer. I told them that, among other things, I was working on an EP.

It's like an album, but shorter,” I said. “I'm hoping to start recording tomorrow.”

My friends were very encouraging, supporting me in my undertaking and asking when they would be able to listen to it.

The next day, I got up an hour earlier than usual. I spent some time with God before making several trips down to the basement and then back up to my room . . .

Laptop? Check.
Microphone? Check.
Tripod? Check.
Boxy-thingy? Check.
Headphones? Check.
Gray cables? (Wait. Which ones do I need? I guess I'll take them all.) Check.

It took quite a while to hook everything up. I needed some help, as I couldn't remember what chords went where. There were also decisions. Sound quality had to be sacrificed so that I could record keyboard and vocals at the same time.

[Lesson #1 from previous experience: Keyboard and vocals need to be recorded simultaneously. Otherwise, I'll never know for sure when the vocal part's supposed to come in.]

I needed to do two songs this way. I ended up recording each one six times.

[Lesson #2 (from previous experience): It can take seven (or more) times to get one song right. This is repetitive and time-consuming, but in the end I'll be happier if I stick with it anyway.]

Later in the week, I recorded accompaniments from the computer. I would prefer not to use the computer for accompaniments, but there are certain advantages to this approach . . .

  1. The computer has some instruments that sound better than the instruments on my keyboard.
  2. The computer does not mess up. [Thus negating Lesson #2]
  3. The computer always keeps a steady tempo.

[Lesson #3: I am horrible at keeping a steady tempo. I just can't do it when I'm playing by myself.]

Another day, I recorded preliminary vocal parts for the accompaniments I pulled off of the computer. This will allow me to practice the songs before recording a final vocal part.

[Lesson #4: I can sing someone else's music much more passionately than I can sing my own. This is probably because: (A) I memorize other people's songs but not my own, and (B) I haven't listened to the accompaniment enough times to know when the vocals are supposed to come in.]

Toward the end of the week, I got some help from the resident music expert in listening to the first twelve recordings to determine which keyboard parts were best. He also helped me mix one of the songs that I had recorded accompaniment and vocals separately for.

Two more songs still need to be mixed before I'll be ready to make a practice CD or convert the .wav files into .mp3 or .m4a format. Then I'll practice . . . and practice . . . and practice.

Once I have the words memorized and (hopefully) can sing all of the songs with some emotion, I will be able to record final vocal parts for all five songs.


Of course, the work doesn't end there. I will need help mixing and possibly adding effects (the resident music expert always thinks my songs need some reverb).

[Lesson #5: The resident music expert is about as good as you can get without getting a degree in music. When he says a song needs something, he's usually right.]

And then comes the printing, burning, and uploading. The whole process can take forever.

Last time I recorded, I had planned to finish everything between May and August. I wasn't done until October.

[Lesson #6: Other people's schedules are more full than you think they are.]

Last time I recorded, I spent at least a month (but probably two or more) writing accompaniments.

[Lesson #7: Get accompaniments done and don't procrastinate. The sooner, the better.]

This time, I'm about halfway done and my summer has barely begun.

I guess I've learned a few lessons from my previous experience recording an album (and a single) last summer. I'm trying to put all of those lessons to use now. So far, it seems to be working.

My room's been a mess this week.

Maybe I can accomplish more than I think I can.

Maybe I have already accomplished more than I thought I had.

Maybe I will get more done and more done until I am done and the mess that comes with trying to capture these sounds is no longer in my room.

Maybe I have.

Maybe I can.

Maybe I will.


Just a friendly reminder (because I know you can see them in the pictures):  All lyrics and sheet music are copyrighted - ©2011 Mary Schieferstein

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