Tuesday, September 29, 2009


oy vey.

i approach my pseudo-recording-studio-work-station with dread for the first time in the project. And i resist, the urge to just move onto another song and leave this one unfinished for later. But i know it will just gnaw at me until it's done so....unto the breech, as Billy says.

as per my previous "Monument Song" post...
I am on the prowl for something musically that can fulfill the 'wail' like quality of a pedal steel guitar.

I've exhausted all my garage band and yamaha keyboard patches--
and by exhausted, I mean excema-sausted.
and I am not optimistic at my prospects.

I believe so much in the beautiful rain-on-a-foggy-day like flavor of this song that the pedal steel guitar brings, that i am tempted to scrap the entire song if i can't do the original arrangement justice.

I look at the clock.
Prime acoustic instrument recording time.
Well, that's a plus at least.

I put my flute together....
i play some of the pedal steel guitar lines.
I try to use the rolling in and out of the emboucher (mouth piece) to get that sort of falling in and off of the note sound. 


I try to finess the ever living shit out of it on garage band.

double meh.

I try to make it sound 'electric', by putting it through all sorts of 'amp' patches.

double dog meh.

i try even 'distortion' patches...
oh good Christ, it sounds like the Daleks from Dr Who.

meh to the power of balls.

the flute option is out.


I'm really hesitant to use the accordion because i've already used the accordion on the friggin accordion track. And I was so pleased to even HAVE a chart that was originally intended for an accordion that i don't want to...ya know make it jealous. Like siblings when it's only one kid's birthday. It's tough on the other kid, ya know? I like to keep my instruments happy.

Screw it.
What other options do i have?
There is absolutely no one i know who plays the goddamn pedal steel guitar, and even if i do, i certainly don't know them well enough to ask them to play it for free.

I strap on the beast.

I play a few lines of the pedal steel guitar track.
it kinda sounds like ass.

it's too, 'full'.
it's too......low.

wwaaaaaiiitttttt a minute....
i click the reeds out and up into the clarinet region*.

*for those of you unfamiliar with the accordion, it's a reed instrument. Inside the piano keys and the buttons are a bunch of reeds similar to clarinets, oboes, bassoons, etc. So it's pretty much like a mobile reed section- which is why it was so integral to our production of SWEENEY TODD.

ooooohhhhhhh, yes.
much more plaintive sounding.
if i manage the bellows...i can get a very very slight falling off of the tone.
I can definitely get the swell.

oh...do i dare get my hopes up?
After everything...
will it really be this simple of a solution?

I go back and start futzing with the mix.
I add a whole bunch of stuff to it- amps, wahs, reductions...
hmmmmmm, there's something....
not quite right.

it's clashing by actually melting with what i've already recorded as the accordion line.
They're bleeding together, and not in a good way.
Not that anything involving bleeding is ever really good, i'm guessing.

wait wait wait.....

i take mostly all the effects off the pedal steel guitar line....
and put them instead ONTO the other accordion line.

oh my god.
that's it!

that's IT!

in a weird way...the effects make the accordion line sound more like an accordion?
whereas, leaving the accordion rather plain in effect...makes it sound less like an accordion and just more like, something else?

does it sound like a pedal steel guitar?
oh hells no.
BUT it does add the wailing, keening flavor that the pedal steel guitar was designed to do.

By jove...
I think I've got it!
Holy cheese balls!

I record the rest of the pedal steel guitar line.
I go back and listen to it from top to bottom.

Good Christ, Watson.
it works.

I can't believe it-


One interesting observation-
since I banished the metronome from the track after realizing that it made me play the piano like an Aryan Youth band member-
I notice that, some of my instrumental lines don't exactly match up.

A very small number of down beat notes in all the different instruments don't land exactly together. I momentarily consider editing them all to land perfectly. But, then...I reconsider. 

Unlike the MUSIC BOX SONG where things obviously needed to line up perfectly as a music box would...this song has an organic flow to it. And in a way, the slight imperfections make it sound more...wistful? In a way, when it doesn't line up exactly- it's more believable that actually this was recorded by four separate people all sitting in a room. Because, it's...kind of perfectly imperfect.

Just to be sure, I record a really crappy vocal track for timing.
As  result, I do have moments where I'm questioning the tempo-
too fast in some places, too slow in others.
But i'll leave that to the final mix.
What with technology, these things can be adjusted successfully if they're slight. (Too much and anything acoustic with vibrato ends up sounding like it's coming down hard from an all night Rave).

But i make a note to tell Jay Atwood (my awesome mixing guy) to NOT line up the notes in the final mix. 

I remember Sondheim's advice:
Better to play with feeling, rather than perfectly.

Amen, brother.

Another arrangement down.
Two days.
Not too shabby, if i do say so myself.

Next up: THE BALM IN GILEAD song.

Til then, my lovelies...


1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I'd just like to take a moment to mention that the so-called "Monument Song" is quite literally one of my very favorite songs, and I can't frickin' wait to hear your take on it.