Gentlemen Songsters: Studio Diary Session 3

21 Feb The whole process of recording and mixing music is a paradox of balancing two domains: one is filled with creative freedom surprise and possibility, the other about a series of delicate and crucial decisions which will determine the output of the whole project. Divergence and convergence. Both are desirable. The technology gives us more options perhaps, but time is very limited and I suspect it’s always been the case.

Tom and I are  snatching a morning to add some more uke parts and scratch vocals. There’s certain tunes we can’t work with because there’s no consensus yet on which one’s ‘the best’.

ukes on the floorIt’s funny how a ‘run through’ goes well, and then you muck it up when you’re actually recording it. Some call this red-light fever, when your nerve cracks under the imagined scrutiny of the recording device.  Today I overdub some ukulele solos and 2nd parts – for some I use the old faithful Bruko,  for others the 1950’s Harmony uke with plastic fretboard, and I even bust out the Banjolele,  which has the sonic qualities (I’ve been informed)  of rubber bands stretched over a tissue box. Actually it’s an old broken Banjolin which I crudely re-skinned and strung. It did the job on a choppy part or two.

Also some harmonica for ‘No Harm in Trying’.

We worked very quickly with little or no ‘listening back’. We finished by doing some scratch vocals,  studio parlance for takes done quickly over the backing to lend further structure to the emerging song. Today the priority is to sing enough for Sam to be able to add his backing vocals and harmonies in my absence if necessary.

recordinglightThe hope is that maybe some magic will be captured at this moment – a one take wonder. When I open my mouth to sing,  rarely does magic issue forth,  but perhaps it did today. I’m not sure. I didn’t listen back, but Tom assured me we had enough (two takes) to do a compile if necessary.

Singing live onstage is different to singing in the studio. Maybe it’s like the difference between acting for stage and acting for screen. Some of these songs I know well (and have played live) and feel like I can put them over as a set of thoughts, something to sing for an imagined audience. There are other balances to be struck here in the moment of singing as well: to push the song out towards an invisible listener, or to rest back into a more natural approach. I try not to think about it and scurry across the tightrope, trying to concentrate, as Tom suggests through the headphones, “..on the performance rather than the technique.”

Songs: All Dressed up (uke solo & scratch vocal) Gentlemen Songsters (uke solo & scratch vocal) No Harm in Trying (harmonica) Kedron Brook (2nd uke & & scratch vocal) Stairing (2nd & 3rd uke & & scratch vocal) True Collars (scratch vocal) Thankyou (scratch vocal) RSVP (crap vocal) The Day You Vend Away (scratch vocal)

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