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The Non Glamorous Parts of Producing a Song

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by matman14, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. matman14

    matman14 Tele-Meister

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    It's all about riding the line between human touches and sloppy. What's a positive addition and what takes away from the focus of the song.

    That one bass note that hangs slightly too long but pulls you into the bridge could be great. 45% of the bass notes not in the groove is sloppy and distracting.
    Catching someone on a mic after a chorus or at the end of the song saying "Alright, that was the one" could be cool if you left it in, but if it's one of 28 hot mic things that pop up in the mix it's just a distraction, and not good.

    That bass track in the earlier post was 95% perfect but I went and "fixed it anyway as a good base to start from, and have an easier time making decisions. There are already a couple of places where I'm going to drag the extra hang of the note back because it sounds better than being right on time.

    Some mistakes can make a track (some "mistakes" are deliberate to help make the track), and these days if it makes it onto a record, even if it was a genuine mistake, it was a conscious decision to keep it.
    But most of the time they're just mistakes. The trick is recognizing when you got a moment on the recording, and keeping it, vs. ending up with a production with too many distracting errors that makes the listener skip to the next track.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2021
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  2. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    Paul McCartney comes to mind.
    It is said he has normally played bass after all
    the other instruments laid down their tracks.
    I figure he might have done a scratch track
    and then being Paul, he had the luxury to
    fix or push certain elements of a song with
    his bass instincts.

    Another poster commented on the myth
    that The Beatles could do no wrong.
    I don't buy into that, and realize they put in
    just as much hard work as anyone else doing this!
     
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  3. matman14

    matman14 Tele-Meister

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    It's pretty common to see bass go down last, or second to last if the vocalist wants to hear it, when doing one at a time recording.
    For scratches we usually do guitar and vocal to a click to get the drums down right and not even have the bass in the scratch.

    For band in the room recordings, if you do a good job with mic placement and cab isolation, to cut down on bass bleed, or just put the DI in everyone's headphones and not have a cab, it's easy enough to overdub/punch in/re-do bass parts later.

    The other benefit to not letting bass notes ring into each other is your compressor(s) get to recover between notes. You get a more consistent thump from the compression because you don't run into times when the first note fires the compressor, but the next few are still inside the compression envelope which just makes the transients go away (although sometimes you might want that).
     
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  4. blackguts

    blackguts Tele-Meister

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    This thread is awesome
     
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  5. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

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    If I'm recording a song that's already written and arranged, I record vocal and acoustic guitar scratch tracks over a drum loop. The loop used to be created with a synth, but now I find its just as easy, if not easier, for me to do it with real drums. After that, it's any guess as to what I might do next, but I feel that the bass should go next, because it allows you to figure out the balance of guitars, the dynamic push-me, pull-you, and let some air into the mix. Whereas, if you go straight to the guitars, you might overdo it. And "they" say having the bass there really helps when it comes to recording the vocals.

    These days, I prefer to do most of my composing starting with the keys or bass. Guitar is my primary instrument, but I'm not particularly good or inventive. But if my base is a synth lead or a bass line, the process of figuring out a chord progression that works will force me out of my comfort zone and inspire me to come up with guitar parts that are not quite so boring and maybe even a smidge inventive.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
  6. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    Notice how modern bass playing has a very
    strong element of the top melody line in it's
    construct!

    I have often wondered which came first,
    the melody or the bass line with the
    melodic idea? I think it gives bassists
    the dignity and recognition they deserve
    from listeners of modern music.

    We often kid about bass players,
    like being the offshoot stepchild
    but that's because certain music
    with pop style in the 50's, 60's and 70's
    only wanted to hear bass in it's
    lowest common denomination.

    My vote is for more melodic bass playing!
     
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  7. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

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    Another bass note... When I was working on a new song recently -- the one I took a break on to do the one I'm almost finished with -- I happened to read about the recording of David Essex's "Rock On," and how much of what you're hearing is actually the delay. Nile Rodgers also tells a story about how the guitar hook in David Bowie's "Let's Dance" wasn't entirely played by him, per se. It was one strum that was expanded with a delay during the mix. So for the intro to the song I was working, I tried to do that with the bass and come up with pattern using a long delay that would make it kinda sorta play itself to a degree. Obviously, it limited what I could play, but I got it to work and it created something that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. When I go back to the recording, I'll probably re-record the section without the delay, because it'll be just a little bit cleaner, but I wouldn't have thought of the part without the effect. Of course, U2's catalog of recordings is built around things like this.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
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  8. Ed Driscoll

    Ed Driscoll Tele-Afflicted

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    In his 2006 autobiography, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles, the late Geoff Emerick, the Beatles' engineer on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper (part of) the "White Album," and Abbey Road wrote:

    McCartney was influenced by legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson to create fluid melodic lines, and at least from my own experience recording bass lines, you really need to have at least a scratch vocal to play off, to help tie the vocal into the rest of the rhythm instruments.
     
  9. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yes, you don't want it to be fighting the vocal.
     
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  10. loudboy

    loudboy Tele-Meister

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    This site is hours of fun, it's a catalog of all the mistakes on Beatles records. Altho some are inconsequential, there's some really big ones that they either didn't notice, or were too rushed to redo. Many of them have been fixed on the remaster/remixed editions, so someone cared.

    http://wgo.signal11.org.uk/wgo.htm

    An example - listen to the individual tracks - other than Paul's ridiculously great lead vocal, there are some really glaring punches, crappy playing and out of tune/time BG Vox. But all together, magic.

     
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  11. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    Yeah, great site.

    Oh they made TONS of mistakes (wrong lyrics, chair squeaks, uneven double tracked vocals), especially when you hear their early stereo mixes, where its not easily covered up.

    They were flying at the speed of sound, and averaging writing and recording a new song like every 8 days during their first 3 years.

    They are fitting in sessions between live appearances, shows, TV appearances, movies. Writing songs like 'She Loves You' on the way to concerts in the back of a van, or hotel. Writing 'Hard days night', in 12 hours because their movie needs an extra song.

    Even when they move permanently into the studio, they produce the equivalent of like 6 albums, over like a period of 3-4 years. Some bands take that long to produce one album.

    Listen how cool, fun and wonderful they are here. The closest you can get to hanging out with them in the studio. Chatter recorded by George Martin, unbeknownst to them, for possible inclusion in their yearly Christmas Club disc handouts.

     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
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  12. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

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    When it all comes together to sound great, it doesn't matter what the individual tracks sound like. I remember that playing out on a small, insignificant scale working with my Tascam Portastudio more than three decades ago. With older, lower fidelity mediums, the mix is more likely to hide the imperfections and create a beautiful whole.

    Chasing perfection can be a dangerous, destructive thing personally and artistically. Just ask the Eagles. I once had a discussion with producer T-Bone Burnett in which he railed against it (chasing perfection, not the Eagles).

    But it takes talent to play loose and sound good. So my rationale for chasing perfection is that, if I don't, I'll simply sound like crap, and I'm not going to approach perfect, anyway.

    I think one of the biggest chasing perfection traps is the pursuit of great guitar tone. Too often, that guitar tone that sounds great on its own does not work in the mix, whereas that crappy weird sounding part works perfectly, likely John McCrea's work in the band Cake.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
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  13. FortyEight

    FortyEight Tele-Afflicted

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    I do my bass last usually too. One song I did it first. Cuz I knew what I was going to play regardless of what everything else was gonna do. I think it could work either way. And I personally liked that song.

    But at the same time, I think it might be tighter when I wait to do the bass at the end cuz then I can be more in sync with the drums. This last song I just recorded in the second half and some of the first half of the song I was wanting to do it where I was really in tune with the kick. I usually do that to a degree.... But this one I wanted to do it even more. And it turned out good I think.

    I'm not sure my drummer would do the same thing if I put the bass in first. And really, it would be a lot to ask of him. Because how I play the bass rhythm might not be exact what he wants to do. If you're doing drums yourself I think you could work all that out ahead of time. And I do sometimes give my drummer ideas of what I want to hear. But I find that the less I say, usually the tighter and smoother it all comes together. I just need to let him do his thing. cuz I can always work around it and he comes up with really good stuff so there's not usually a reason to say much.

    But we work well together and he doesn't seem to care when I got ideas for him. In fact he says he likes it.

    This probably will sound... oh I don't know, maybe uppity cuz I kind of feel like a "bass player" generally speaking. I've played that instrument in my adult life live more than any other one. But that's with me playing guitar regularly in the 90's and a a bit at church in the last few years. and drums a bit when I was younger and older. But I mostly played bass because it seems like everyone is a "guitar player". Meaning there are just more around..... A really good drummer is not an easy thing to find... IMHO.

    But I feel like a good bass player is one of the better musicians in a group cuz the mindset is to compliment and fit in with all the other parts. And I'm sure sometimes musicians that play other instruments are doing the same thing but the bass is sort of like the glue that makes it all work together. I mean obviously you can have songs without bass. But once you throw drums in, it sort of needs it. To a degree. I know The Doors didn't necessarily had a bass player but I think they may have had one when they toured? Maybe someone can correct me on that one. I've not really listened to their music much lately to know if I hear one or not in the recordings.

    Anyways... It does make sense to me to do it last cuz then you can figure out how to be really in sync with the drums and the rest of the melody of the song. But whatever works for someone is cool with e.

    I mean I've liked bands where the bass line is pretty simple. I just normally like it when it's a bit more interesting. But there is a fine line with it if there is a lot going on with the other instruments. IMHO.

    studio, I do hear also more people using the bass as sort of a... more integral part of the melody and chord structure and that is cool. I have a harder time writing on the bass cuz it sometimes lacks the higher frequencies that sort of help pull out lyric lines for me.
     
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  14. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    Agreed, "perfection is the enemy of the good"
     
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  15. FortyEight

    FortyEight Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah, but then they say good enough is the enemy of GREAT. LOL.

    I usually fall in the good enough category. Cuz it's mostly a hobby and I don't care if it's perfect and super polished. That's just me. I know that bugs some people.
     
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  16. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    Most of the great music (like a lot of great art), especially before it became a trend to be in the studios (early 70's) for months, was made quickly with limitations. I think of all the great wrecking crew stuff or early Rock and Roll and R & B.
     
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  17. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

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    Limitations can be a great asset to the artist and his or her art. I discuss this with artists all the time.
     
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  18. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    Or like Eric Clapton's lead on While My Guitar Gently Weeps:

     
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  19. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    Oh, don't get Skully started on The Doors! ;):D:p
     
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  20. Ed Driscoll

    Ed Driscoll Tele-Afflicted

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    That's why it's always good to record a DI track of the guitar. As long as your DI box has a second "through" output, you can send that one to the amp so that the guitarist has something to play against, and then afterwards, you can decide if you want to keep that sound, or re-amp it, after more elements of the song have been recorded.
     
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