FIRST RECORDING SESSION IN YEARS THIS AFTERNOON.

Kandinskyesque

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Off the back of my first gig in 5 years back in July, I was approached by a guy who owns a studio just 5 miles from where I live out in the middle of nowhere.

I know the guy's reputation as being very good and round where he lives has a barn conversion which he has built into a very good, well-equipped studio.
The adjacent village to where the studio is situated, is a pretty unique place. Over the decades the locals have moved out to make way for a few dozen national orchestra players, composers and BBC engineers.

The word seemed to get round after my gig and this studio owner paid me a visit a couple of weeks ago, knowing my situation with health and long periods of being housebound.
His words were "How can I help you get on with your music?"

He's offered me a few sessions in his studio putting down my own material and we'll take it from there.

Today's session will be some guitar and vocal tracks: basic acoustic versions of what I've wrote. If I get 3 or 4 of them down today, then I'll be quite happy with that.

I was never out of recording studios throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, but it must be at least 15 years since I last put something down.

I'm looking forward to this albeit with some trepidation.
 

Kandinskyesque

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How did it go?

Bob
Thanks for asking.
Apologies for the late reply and the long post...

It wasn't anywhere near as straight forward as I was thinking it would be. I feel that I let myself down. It's 17 years since I was in a studio, and I felt my skill level was on a level with the first time I was in a studio back in '81 as a 14-year-old.

We got one vocal and guitar track done that I can hardly bear to listen back to. Just the raw tracks through a UM87.

I've lost my ability to play with a click, when I used to play with them regularly; even click tracks where tempos and time signatures changed. Volumes and dynamics in my guitar playing were awful.
My voice was worse, falsetto transitions sound like puberty has arrived and my breath control was non-existent. My fatigue condition meant that my stamina and concentration were poor.

I'm way, way, out of shape for this compared to how I used to be, and it's gotten me down. I'll need to find a way of getting better prepared and get studio-fit again.

Despite that the guy with the studio seemed pretty enthused and is keen for me to come in again this week. He was asking how many songs I had written (about a dozen finished that I'm happy with and twice that still being tweaked). He was even asking what I had in mind for the songs and if I had any musicians in mind to play.

I'm determined not to let this opportunity pass.
When my major health bomb hit 2 years ago, I had to abandon some work I'd been doing with a Novello winning writer, who develops a lot of musicians and an arts organisation last year who had lined me up for a live filming session at a theatre.

While not trying to sound like a blowhard, the raw material is there, however, the health problems seem to have affected my confidence and eroded my capacity to deliver.

It can only get better from here, I suppose.
Giving up is not an option, the thought of returning to playing and recording has been what's kept me going through the last half decade or longer.
 

KeithDavies 100

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Hey Mr K. Well, there's a world of emotions in there.

I played my first gig in several years about the same time you did. It was quite stressful, and I was way out of shape for it. The gig itself was a nightmare, but that was the setting and the audience rather than anything else. But it was really depressing to set out to do something I sort of took for granted I knew how to do well, and then found that I was - by my own standards - really crap at it!! It did all come back, but much more slowly than I would have expected.

I wanted to say something here without descending into inanities, but I'm probably going to fail!

This is who you are and what you do. It's not as slick as when you were younger, but what is, for any of us? Take your time, and go at the pace your mind and body now allow. The talent and skills are all there - they just need coaxing back out and reviving.

I can hear that sadness and frustration in what you've written above, but go slower and it will all come back. Practice, but not so much you wear yourself out, and don't push too hard.

Be thinking of you.
 

Kandinskyesque

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Hey Mr K. Well, there's a world of emotions in there.

I played my first gig in several years about the same time you did. It was quite stressful, and I was way out of shape for it. The gig itself was a nightmare, but that was the setting and the audience rather than anything else. But it was really depressing to set out to do something I sort of took for granted I knew how to do well, and then found that I was - by my own standards - really crap at it!! It did all come back, but much more slowly than I would have expected.

I wanted to say something here without descending into inanities, but I'm probably going to fail!

This is who you are and what you do. It's not as slick as when you were younger, but what is, for any of us? Take your time, and go at the pace your mind and body now allow. The talent and skills are all there - they just need coaxing back out and reviving.

I can hear that sadness and frustration in what you've written above, but go slower and it will all come back. Practice, but not so much you wear yourself out, and don't push too hard.

Be thinking of you.
Thanks.
It's frustrating having these opportunities arise, three of them in 18-24 months, when I'm not currently fit enough to meet the requirements.

That said, all 3 windows remain open and they're all aware of my circumstances and backstory.

The big one for me would be to restart the work I started with the writer/producer in January 2021. He was very keen to help me develop my idea for an album.
 

KeithDavies 100

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I would never advocate overly taking advantage of anyone's generosity, but if it's offered in full knowledge of the difficulties and so on, and if it appears that people making the offer are fully aware of what this potentially involves, perhaps just accept it and let go of any guilt or whatever about the fact that you're unable to work as quickly or smoothly as you think they might expect.

And/or, as ever, a candid discussion about expectations, limitations, boundaries and so on perhaps gets your concerns out on the table, allows them to understand them and acknowledge them. It gives them the opportunity, should they want to, to say "okay, thanks, didn't realise that - how about we limit my offer in the following way?". Or, alternatively, for them to say "yeah, I get all that. Don't worry about it." That allows you to put anxiety about it to one side and just get on with it.

I know if anyone tries to help me out with something, I feel like I'm being a burden to them. I therefore never really properly take the benefit that's being offered.

The other way round, though, if I offer help it's because it's something I'd really like to do, or I wouldn't offer it, and I feel a bit deflated/rejected if someone doesn't take full advantage of what I've offered to them. In other words, if someone responds to my offer of help the way I would generally respond to theirs, I'm really disappointed!

Perhaps you've found yourself feeling the same in the two different positions? Perhaps, then, worth thinking about how you would actually be feeling in their position, and be sure you're not projecting your own frustrations with how slow you're finding it onto them? That might not be their experience/perception of what's happening at all.

No idea whether any of that helps. I can waffle for days, as you know!!
 

Kandinskyesque

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Are you considering having other artists perform and or record your materials?
Things change a lot in 17 years.
I'm wanting to do the songs myself due to their biographical nature.

I made a decision in early recovery that after how things turned out for me with music and life in general in the 90s/00s, that I'd do this album just for me, whether anyone else listens to it or not.

It might appear as a bit of a vanity project on the surface, but the thought of getting what I've been writing over the past decade on to a tangible format has been what has kept me going during a period beset with some major health events.
 

old soul

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I'm wanting to do the songs myself due to their biographical nature.

I made a decision in early recovery that after how things turned out for me with music and life in general in the 90s/00s, that I'd do this album just for me, whether anyone else listens to it or not.

It might appear as a bit of a vanity project on the surface, but the thought of getting what I've been writing over the past decade on to a tangible format has been what has kept me going during a period beset with some major health events.
I get it. There's things that nobody else can really convey.
Good luck with your project
 

Kandinskyesque

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Perhaps, then, worth thinking about how you would actually be feeling in their position, and be sure you're not projecting your own frustrations with how slow you're finding it onto them? That might not be their experience/perception of what's happening at all.
I never thought of that.
Thanks.

Perspective has always been one of my deficits.
At the risk of coming across a bit Victor Frankl, I've considered that the struggle to do this is possibly part of the reasons that make it all the more worthwhile.
 

Headless Axeman

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What I hear from your story is that (a) you’ve been through a whole lot, (b) an opportunity arose and you went for it, (c) it went about as expected, all things considered, and (d) it was well received.

While I’m sure your criticisms are valid, I’m pretty confident that they are overly harsh. The studio guy may be doing you a bit of a favor, but I wouldn’t disregard his enthusiasm, especially given his desire to keep going and expanding the project.

You’re getting a second chance at this, and you’re going for it (something that many would not be brave enough to do). Bravo.
 

Bob Womack

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I am a recording engineer/producer and sound designer for film and video and play sessions for the material I work on. I live in the studio. Two notes that you probably know of but probably also forgot:

1. Smoothness and metronomic accuracy are perishable skills. Interestingly, they are necessary for studio musicians but not for singer/songwriters. I've just had a month off from playing guitar sessions before I was scheduled to a group of sessions this last week. I was appalled at my metronomic playing and my dynamics. However, the next note bears upon this note:
2. Remember, once you play a part and stop to hear it back, the only activity your mind is called upon for is analytical criticism. You WILL be appalled, because your mind is firmly lodged in the mechanics of what it took to make the music happen. In your head, what prevails is a comparison of what you were aiming for and what you accomplished. Thank goodness the memory of the mechanics typically quickly fades. This is why time distance from the session is so important. Even when I am involved in wall-to-wall sessions a little distance from the session greatly improves my comfort with my recorded product. Wednesday I played the first session on a product. That night I took a scratch mix home and played it back and was horrified. In my spare time Thursday I touched up a few timing issues via editing. Friday I went back in for overdubs on the same project. I was already far more comfortable with the whole of Wednesday's playing and I played better on the overdubs.

I, too, have been doing this for a while. My first session was in 1979. Over the interim I've adopted an active practice of "forgiving myself" for my lack of perfection. I literally laugh at myself when I screw up. Out loud. Why? I've screwed up. Everyone knows it. I own it. There are two basic paths to follow when pursuing perfection: serious and light-hearted. The serious path often leads to frustration which leads to further screw-ups. The light-hearted path is more comfortable to everyone around you AND helps you overcome the problems. You've heard it said, "A job worth doing is worth doing well. I've been known to say, "If a job is worth doing well it is worth laughing about."

We are what we are l limited, frail. You likely stared this right in the face when you were doing sessions. When I come back to playing my first thought is, "Why isn't this as natural and easy as I remember?" I've got a friend who likes to joke, "The older I get the better I was." The further we get from a task the less of the toil and struggle we tend to remember.

Forgive yourself. Laugh. Shrug off the stress. Try again. Enjoy the process.

Bob
 

Kandinskyesque

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Do you record at home?
Not at the moment.
The chaos of life means my DAW laptop is needing an overhaul so all I use is my phone or tablet to record live song ideas as and when they come.
Over the past few years with being bed/house bound for long periods of time (but still playing and writing daily), everything I've been doing has been geared towards song writing.

The writing has exceeded my expectations, but the downside has been my studio skills have suffered. The health bomb left me with some cognitive deficits but not permanent ones and I've had to relearn a few things. Even some basic stuff like central heating timers.

Relearning to work a DAW is something I haven't attempted yet. I'm considering going back to a 4 track and drum machine for a few months, just to get the neural connections refiring.
 

StoneH

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Not at the moment.
The chaos of life means my DAW laptop is needing an overhaul so all I use is my phone or tablet to record live song ideas as and when they come.
Over the past few years with being bed/house bound for long periods of time (but still playing and writing daily), everything I've been doing has been geared towards song writing.

The writing has exceeded my expectations, but the downside has been my studio skills have suffered. The health bomb left me with some cognitive deficits but not permanent ones and I've had to relearn a few things. Even some basic stuff like central heating timers.

Relearning to work a DAW is something I haven't attempted yet. I'm considering going back to a 4 track and drum machine for a few months, just to get the neural connections refiring.

I have only used one DAW . . . Studio One. YT has "Studio One Minutes" (tips and tricks in "60 seconds or less") which helped me get up to speed quickly (I'm impatient). If it weren't for recording, especially my originals, I probably would have fizzled out by now, but I am coming up on a full year of playing daily (after a 40 year lay-off).

Good Luck!
 

Kandinskyesque

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Remember, once you play a part and stop to hear it back, the only activity your mind is called upon for is analytical criticism. You WILL be appalled, because your mind is firmly lodged in the mechanics of what it took to make the music happen. In your head, what prevails is a comparison of what you were aiming for and what you accomplished. Thank goodness the memory of the mechanics typically quickly fades. This is why time distance from the session is so important.
You're absolutely right with that one. It's taken nearly a week for your point to land but now I understand what you mean.

I was emailed a version of the guitar and vocal last night where the tempo had been kicked up from 102 to 114 bpm.
I didn't realise that this degree of time stretching/compression could be done without affecting the quality like it used to when I played about with samplers 20 years ago.

The result is that the vocal now sounds lethargic but can be easily redone, it's just a guide after all.
However, I can also see where the song needs trimmed.
The engineer also added a 6/8 brush kit (a rough guide) which oddly seems to give the intricate picking pattern more space.

My original vision for the song having a Brecht and Weil flavour to it has suddenly become clearer.
To draw a parallel with my training as a civil engineering draughtsman (no pun intended) I think I'm going to enjoy the process of rubbing out these pencil lines and applying the ink with a better performed guitar and vocals.
 

Skyhook

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Off the back of my first gig in 5 years back in July, I was approached by a guy who owns a studio just 5 miles from where I live out in the middle of nowhere.

I know the guy's reputation as being very good and round where he lives has a barn conversion which he has built into a very good, well-equipped studio.
The adjacent village to where the studio is situated, is a pretty unique place. Over the decades the locals have moved out to make way for a few dozen national orchestra players, composers and BBC engineers.

The word seemed to get round after my gig and this studio owner paid me a visit a couple of weeks ago, knowing my situation with health and long periods of being housebound.
His words were "How can I help you get on with your music?"

He's offered me a few sessions in his studio putting down my own material and we'll take it from there.

Today's session will be some guitar and vocal tracks: basic acoustic versions of what I've wrote. If I get 3 or 4 of them down today, then I'll be quite happy with that.

I was never out of recording studios throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, but it must be at least 15 years since I last put something down.

I'm looking forward to this albeit with some trepidation.
Envious right here!
 

Old Verle Miller

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Old rule of thumb was 1 day warmup/prep/practice for each hour of a live, paid performance, and at least a couple of hours with a vocal coach. New rule of old vocal chords is 2-3 weeks for just about anything. ;)
 




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