The Three-Day Challenge

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by woodman, Aug 28, 2019.

  1. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    My recent glimpse into how the Big Dogs make records was humblingI'd thought of the process as guessing right more often than not on maybe a thousand variables. Imagine my consternation to find out that at the top level, it's well into the tens of thousands. But life goes on.

    A recent outside project enabled me to afford a coupla upgrades I set my sights on a while back. The Jacquire King course convinced me that a lot of moving up even one notch is about abandoning my throw-paint-at-the-wall approach, go into a project organized with a plan, eyes wide open, build a framework, then track, edit, mix and master without getting all lathered up. IOW, invent a new workflow with a new attitude toward audio engineering.

    Thus, the Three-Day Challenge.

    When I first started in this racket with a Tascam 4-track in the mid-'80s, I liked to finish a song in one day, then move on to the next one — I was mostly motivated by the thrill of the chase! Then when I discovered Garageband in 2008, I would be dismayed when a song took several days or even as much as a week. ... Now, in Logic Pro, it's a month. Or more!

    I've always felt completed projects are the benchmark of the recording art. So my new goal is to quit dragging ass and recover that process of quick decisions, less navel-gazing, avoiding dead-ends and tail-chasing, keeping the lessons of past mistakes in mind.

    Under the terms of the Three-Day Challenge, I'll begin tracking at the starting gun tomorrow morning, hopefully have all tracks by day's end, edit and tidy up the second day, mix the third, and come out with a finished product by the end of day three (Saturday). Can it be done? We'll see. *The key will be working at a methodical, sustained pace without getting in too big a hurry!*

    I wanted a tune that was butt-simple and familiar: no songwriting angst, which can really complicate things. It's a daunting enough chore as is. ... I picked Ol' Hank's "Lost Highway," but with a half-time Levon beat that swings a little. I've mapped out the framework (track setup, routing, hardware choices, instrument choices, sample sorting etc.) and built a template, ready to rumble. I'll be turning off email and the internet except for a brief midday break and, yes, swingin' the hammer like a madman!

    I've really felt like I'm getting lazy — it's good to test yourself every so often. So, away we go!
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2019
  2. Ben Harmless

    Ben Harmless Friend of Leo's

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    Oooh. This is cool. I'm looking forward to it. I like the time constraints idea. I was once in a picked-from-a-hat band competition where we wrote a whole set in a month and narrowly won over the band that gave away free ice cream. Still my proudest achievement.

    I'm assuming you'll share. I'll be curious to hear about the process when it's complete.
     
  3. suthol

    suthol Friend of Leo's

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    Get the forge hot and swing that hammer hard Woody.
     
  4. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Hey, Woody sounds like a great learning expirience , you had ,
    I was always into looking for new approaches to recording , I found if left alone most people followed the same formula for each track or session, playing safe, but never stepped out side the box while some fine recordings were made , there was no sparkle to give the tracks life or more impotantly to separate the tracks from some one else playing the same genre.

    I dont know if you ever heard of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategy cards, its a deck of cards with instructions listed on them, that force the recording process to take a different direction when you get burdened by complacencies. hopefully to push the artist or engineer to explore out side the comfort Zone,

    if you are interested , check them out it may be some new approaches for yourself

    https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/22/brian-eno-visual-music-oblique-strategies/
     
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  5. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

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    i always start the scratch track Thursday.at home..do the drums..bass & guitars.send to my studio guy Fri & we walk in record on monday. all week end i move guitars in & out of the mix & a/b amps to see what i am taking with me.Sun nite place the words & its all on a simple sheet.i love it..live for it...going every other week till Christmas..8 in bag this year so far,. Can not wait till my company sells..building studio & no end to it..Enjoy..its fun..creating something from nothing is so rewarding
     
  6. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    7:11 a.m., coffee down, let the games begin! Gotta get my open-mike tracks down before the sun comes over the trees and the air conditioner starts coming on.
     
  7. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    These are super-helpful ideas. Setting time constraints is an excellent way of increasing focus. Our composition have a "24 Hour" concert every semester. The composers write for 24 hours, then hand off to performers, who will rehearse them for 24 hours, then a concert. The pieces sometimes resemble other music the students have written. If composers begin to panic under the tight deadline, they can always fall back into their old ways, and possibly learn something from the attitude readjustment.

    Using procedures or games to randomize various activities. John Zorn's Cobra comes to mind.

    Can I be excused from this exercise? It's difficult for me to sit up straight and use my arms for long, and chronic pain interferes with making longterm plans. I did a ton of these in the 70s-80s. While most were done on a Friday night after getting home from teaching, I would usually mess with them over the next few weeks, months, years. I would often beef up the percussion part, create a chorus, and do a lot with reverb and eq.

    Here's one from 1976-77:

     
  8. Ben Harmless

    Ben Harmless Friend of Leo's

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    In the spirit of motivating creation, can I offer two things?

    I know there are a lot of Reaper users here. I recently downloaded the .js plugin Stochasticizer after seeing a tutorial on YouTube. It's a stripped-down sequencer that's sole purpose is to introduce randomness in a set of defined parameters. It's been really cool to have it roll the dice for me.

    Similarly, if you prefer the hardware version, one can roll dice. Last year in a holiday "secret snowflake" event, I was given Musician's Dice, which are fun to mess with. One of my neighbors is a Berklee instructor, and we messed around with them on the piano for a bit - though I'm terrible at piano...
     
  9. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted

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    It's a great idea, but not being retired, it's hard for me to join. I can say that I did almost complete a new tune from scratch in about a week while on vacation recently and not thinking about work.

    I also exist in a realm of very half baked ideas when I start recording since I never do covers, so I do something and see if it spawns something else. This is fun for me. I can peck out a melody on keyboard, then learn it on guitar. Wow, it wasn't something I would normally play. etc. etc.

    Of course, as a result my ratio of completed to uncompleted works is about 1:30.
     
  10. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    Guys, I wasn't exhorting everybody to jump into a 3-day marathon! It's just my way of breaking out of the doldrums. I understand that most of you have actual lives! :D

    Bear in mind that this isn't great art, it's an exercise in quick decision-making and putting some new production techniques to work on the fly. Truth be told, it's a corny old country song retreaded to have an actual beat but nothing special artistically.

    Today was the first 12-hour day I've put in since my vascular surgery two summers ago, but in spite of the fatigue it was oddly exilarating. Got the vocals in — spent about 4.5 hours tracking, editing, tuning and editing again. Acoustic guitar's all but done. Got 90% of the drum track whipped, maybe 70% of the bass, some scratch keyboards, and zero electric guitars.

    It was a nice cool morning (for the southern US) so I used it for my open mike tracks, before the sun gets over the trees and starts to beat down on the Woodshed roof. It's a 12 x 20 barn with a gambrel roof — no ceiling, so although it's insulated to R25, it can really heat up by early afternoon. During the summer, the air conditioner is a pain in the keister (56-57 dB!)

    On the acoustic, I'm splitting the signal between the LCD and with the pickup — I've had luck in the past mixing in just enough pickup to compensate for my lackluster mike technique. So far, so good. The vocals, yow, I'm never fond of my voice, but we'll see. Drums, it's labor-intensive to cobble up a Levon-like track that swings (not a lot of MIDI patterns available with dotted eighths in the right places). But I'm still optimistic I can make my deadline, even if the final product's, uhhh, not Grammy material! :eek:
     
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  11. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    Love it, Larry!
     
  12. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    About 15 years ago, my wife and I stayed a week at a B&B near Albuquerque. At breakfast, the owner told us that a famous musician stayed for two weeks, writing a song a day. He told her that most of the time they don't pan out, but sometimes you wind up with a jewel.

    For me and another guy at the table, it was imperative that we learn the identity of this person. The other guy thought it could have been Nine Inch Nails' owner/operator, Trent Reznor.

    The woman's teenage daughter knew the person and was very excited to hear of this, if after the fact.

    For reasons that escape me now, I remember feeling dubious about it being Trent Reznor. There was some kind of logical issue with positing the guy as Reznor, but I forget what. Nothing to do with artistry or style, though. Could have been something like tour schedules or something.

    Anyway, whoever it was had recommended writing a song a day, whether crap or not.
     
  13. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    A song a day is impressive but not impossible. I used to do that in San Francisco in the late '60s — wake up in the morning and decide what I was gonna write about, then go at it! But of course there was lots of mind fuel in them days. :rolleyes: ... And before you ask, nope, no Grammy winners!

    At least three survived that I reworked in the Woodshed into actual tunes over the past decade — The Red Hot Karma Shuffle, The Sun Always Shines in the Plutonium Mines, and Mondo Bizarro (written many years before the Ramones record of the same name). All are on my Soundcloud page.

    It's a quarter past 6 on Day 2 of the Challenge, so I'd better get to work!
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
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  14. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    That was awesome Larry!
    That low end is sounding beautiful
    through my subwoofer.
    Some material I've heard from that era,
    without knowing if it has been remastered
    seems like low end wasn't a priority.

    My buddy Carlos and I used to have similar challenges
    within our songwriting/recording sessions. We would write
    and record a song in about an hour.

    Carlos wrote some mighty fine esoteric lyrics kinda like Woody's
    song titles from that cosmic era!

    Plutonium Mines........ LOL!
     
  15. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    Making my self-imposed deadline is looking dubious, but anything's possible. This evening, guitar parts were front and center, and I thought, well, maybe a couple of pain beers! Of course you know how that goes.

    Fatigue was kicking my ass today, but one more day won't ruin me. I'll have something ready or not by this time tomorrow, but it may sound like a troop of mandrills mud-wrestling.
     
  16. suthol

    suthol Friend of Leo's

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    Now there's a left field theme for an esoteric song

    Not sure what the medication is today but I think I want some :D
     
  17. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Anticipation...

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
  18. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    DEADLINE!!!

    And I'm just under the wire. Got a second wind today and cruised through to a rough but hopefully hanging-together mix. I didn't have time to experiment with many of my dazzling newly learned production techniques, but the commitment to organization paid off — at about 2 this afternoon, I came out of my trance and realized, this thing is almost done! I laughed out loud! There's lots to clean up and some glaring errors I'm sure you fine folks will discover and point out, but that's sort of the raison d'etre of this board, after all, ain't it?

    The main thing I learned is that anybody else's formula is for the birds. What got me through was my own production classroom work done right here in the Woodshed. Make no mistake, I got a huge boost from the pricey 30-hour class, but everything I really needed to know, I learned in kindergarten right here. Trust your instincts, folks, and keep expanding them as you move along. Grammy-winning producers don't know much about my world, and as much I'd like to sample theirs, I haven't gotten a single invitation.

    Let's face it, I'm just who I am, where I am right now, and it's up to me figure out how to make this stuff work. I'll take all the help I can get, but I don't have any illusions that somebody else is gonna slip me the magic key to fabulous audio! So I'll keep the hammer at the standing ready.

    Here's the thing, or actually two things:

    This sounds kind of alien to me, because I'm using some brand-new plugins I'm not totally familiar with yet. It sounds loud! Or maybe 40 hours of studio time in three days has driven me stark raving mad. But this sound is gonna take some getting used to.

    For reasons I don't understand at all, this 3:28 song insists on being a 4:19 file. This is my fourth attempt bouncing/rendering it ... I've saved as new file, quit and restarted, rebooted my machine, all the standard tricks, but it keeps adding on that extra 50-odd seconds. So when the music stops, it's over, folks — no 30 seconds of silence and then an easter egg reveals the true meaning of life!



     

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  19. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like it.

    But the mandrills on the left need to come up half a dB in the break.

    Wow, lotta vocals. Nicely done.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
  20. suthol

    suthol Friend of Leo's

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    Ya know I loves me some decent vocals Woody and I love what you have done right here.

    I'm away from home for a few days listening through headphones on the laptop with the lappy sound card looking out to sea with the sound of the surf in the background so not the best listening environment.

    I'd consider the challenge met and a cleansing ale well deserved even if there are a few ribbons yet to be trimmed.
     
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