SAC Jinxed the weather

It’s true, SAC jinxed the weather. A week ago, most of the snow had melted and I was wearing capris. Now it looks like January again…not as cold as January, but not fit for capris either. And it’s all because of this week’s challenge: write a Christmas song. Mother Nature was listening, and, as we know, she has a sadistic sense of humour.

So, yes, I did write that Christmas song, but I had many false starts. Actually, I also attempted the other option for the week and thought I’d write and edit a song for pop or rock radio, but that just wasn’t happening. I really felt like I lost my mojo over the past week, and maybe my creative juices were frozen by this very unwelcome return to winter after having had a taste of spring. But, alas, as the temperature finally rose just above freezing and the snow began melting, the creative juices began flowing.

I wrote many partial songs over the past couple of days, but it took until early afternoon today for something to finally come together. By dinner time, the song was complete….or as complete as I have time for. I’d have liked to have redone some of the vocals and added some bells. After all, this Christmas song is called Hear the Bells, so I thought they might be fitting.

I’m really glad, though, that I finally got to see through the process of adding and mixing in background vocals. I had recorded some for last week’s song, but when technical difficulties took up too long to work through, I was left with not enough time to mix them in. I will still get back to that when I have time. I want to hear how it could have sounded.

The background vocals for this week are imperfect, but good enough to get across what I had in mind, I think. Plus, as always, it was a great learning experience. Once again, as with every week, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I can’t wait to see how I’ll be doing with the recording in the coming months if I keep at it. Maybe I need to impose some recording deadlines of my own, just to keep me practicing, learning and improving.

Trust and Technical Difficulties…

I’m listening to my freshly uploaded song (The One You Trust) on SoundCloud as I type this, to make sure that a) it’s the right version and b) there aren’t any issues with it. I hear a couple of small issues, but it will have to do. Yes, it’s been that kind of night. My song for week 5 of the SAC Challenge was posted exactly on the deadline – midnight eastern time on the nose. This journal will be a late add on.

Unfortunately what I’ve put up is incomplete because I had to leave a couple tracks out and wasn’t able to finish mixing. Somewhere in the process of working with multiple tracks and moving bits around, I really messed up. Some parts were out of sync and just hitting undo a bunch of times was risky given the number of changes I had made since my last save. I wasn’t sure where I had gone wrong and didn’t have time to waste trying to undo my error. My best option was to realign the 2 most important tracks, which were quite chopped up due to overdubbing, so it took a fair bit of time to make them work.I had a second guitar that I may or may not have kept in, and 2 tracks of background vocals that had to be left out, unfortunately, and I would have liked to have played with the tracks a bit longer to get them sounding how I wanted. Instead I was fixing my mistake in a panic, while warning my household that trying to talk to me would be a bad idea. Yes, I was a little grumpy, but feeling better now.

On the bright side, I learned TONS today about overdubbing and recording background vocals…and how to fix it when you bump everything out of alignment, haha. Being a novice, fixing mistakes was a slow process, but I was getting the hang of it as I went. Regarding recording background vocals, I love that I can look at my computer screen and actually see exactly where to come in and finish with additional vocals by following the visual representation of the lead. Now that I can see that some of this stuff isn’t as scary and complicated as it seemed, I’m kind of excited about future projects, and the possibilities…

One more lesson…listen to the song on Soundcloud before posting the link because this isn’t the first time the levels were not what I expected…like somewhere in the process of sending the file to iTunes from Garage Band, and then uploading to Soundcloud, something changes. My vocals sound just a smidgen softer on Soundcloud than they do on Garage Band. Also, in this instance of relistening to Soundcloud after the fact, I can hear that my realignment of bits of the guitar track were not smooth in a couple of places. I wish I’d had time to have a listen before posting.

Anyway, here’s the song:

Dogs and Coffee – SAC Week 4

Well, would you look at that…I’m done my track for the week with an hour to spare. It’s uploaded and everything.It’s kind of a rocky, bluesy sort of country song.I am not sure if it’s really edgy, but it’s written and recorded, and it’s up on SoundCloud.

I actually wrote 2 country songs this week, which is pretty good considering that I wasn’t sure I’d have one at all. I had received some upsetting news about the health of my dog last week and suddenly the songwriting challenge seemed unimportant. I was pretty upset, but in a lighter moment, I turned that darkness into a pretty light hearted country song called Sicker than a Dog. Yes…that’s right…my dog is seriously ill and I wrote a light hearted song called Sicker than a Dog. Strange. The song I wrote, though, needed work and wasn’t really edgy. I was going to call it my song for the week anyway, because I wasn’t sure I had another one in me, but I was wrong…

Driving my son to school this morning, I suddenly had this notion that I was going to write a song about black coffee. Surely, setting the clocks ahead over the weekend and my resulting drowsiness was an influence…I needed a jolt of something to wake me up (though, actually coffee doesn’t wake me up, just makes me jittery if I have too much). I, actually, don’t usually write from a song title, but I guess I did today. I decided to tune my guitar to open D, just barre it, and have fun with it, and eventually the song emerged.

I had to play it a bit low for me, because I already barred so far up the neck in some parts that it would have been awkward playing to go any further. As a result, the vocals are noticeably too low for me in a couple of spots. I thought about bringing the melody up instead of down, but decided to leave it, because I wanted to show how I actually imagined the song being sung instead of altering it for my own vocal range.

I was also going to add some background vocals and additional instrument tracks, but after a full day of recording and rerecording and technical difficulties and interruptions, I was spent. The only other thing is that maybe the song needs an instrumental bridge for a solo. I didn’t put one in because I’m a rhythm guitarist and not really skilled in the lead guitar department. The essence of the song is there. Speaking of guitar, though, I think my rhythm guitar sounds pretty cool. It was super fun to play.

I still need to work on some of the finer points of recording and mixing, but these are skills I can see I will continue to learn. I still need to find out why my vocals record so quiet, and what I can do about that. Even my soft and airy spoken “alright” at the start of the song records, oddly, louder than my singing. That’s really strange, but there must be a reason for it. I may have to do some digging or asking or learning or all of the above.

And so ends the challenge for week 4. Bring on week 5!

P.S. I just uploaded the song to SoundCloud before writing this, and it’s already been favourited and reposted a few times. Well, well…

SAC Week 3 – OMG! My Homework is Done!!

Aye Carumba!! *Deep breath*

It is 9:29 pm my time, which means it is about half an hour from midnight eastern time, which means I have half an hour (less now because I type slow) to hand in my project for week 3. An amazing thing has happened…I finished it!! As long as technology doesn’t fail me, and the universe doesn’t interfere, I might actually be handing in my project for the week…and on time!!!

Did I have challenges? Pffft, of course! The challenges were entirely technological, though. The actual song just sort of happened, really easily, so the songwriting part was a breeze. As we know, this is my first completed project. The incomplete recordings of my incomplete projects from week 1 and 2 (I will remind you that week 1 is not due yet, though) did not involve any external recording (yet). That is, what tracks I have recorded for these two songs have all involved the arrangement of instrument sounds on my computer. Since I’ve had a lingering cough from a flu I had a few weeks back, I haven’t attempted any vocal recordings until this week (any deep breaths would result in coughing, so singing was difficult). This week, my cough is almost completely gone, so I was finally able to record a vocal track. Yeah, about that vocal track…

This is definitely a song that should be sung by a 5 year old and I don’t have any 5 year olds handy. However, my natural singing voice is very young sounding. I am 44 and I sound about 14. Since I already sound about 14, it wasn’t a stretch to make myself sound a little younger still. I just went into character and really simplified how I sang. I think it worked not bad. I will be curious to hear the feedback.

The recording of the vocals had a couple of technical issues. Though recording with the mic worked well the first couple of takes, a delay (between singing into the mic and hearing it in my headphones) suddenly developed. I asked my fellow SAC members for advice, and with their help, I discovered the cause. I wish they would always be there waiting to answer my recording questions! Another issue was that the mic volume was really low, no matter what I did. I just worked with it as best I could, but will want to address this issue for future projects. Maybe I need a preamp of sorts, or maybe there is something in the settings that I need to learn about.

The recording of the guitar was also not without its issues. One of my cords (a brand new one at that) does not plug in as snugly as it should and was cutting out. I ended up borrowing the one from my husband’s from his bass guitar, and it worked fine. Even though I was not using percussion on this track, I wanted my timing to be reasonably good, so I did use the clicker. Being out of practice playing with the clicker, it took some practice, but I think it turned out okay. Not perfect, but not bad.

And actually, I didn’t want the recording to sound TOO tight. I wanted it to have a looser, acoustic feel, with some minor imperfections, because I felt it suited the song. Whether it would suit what the advertiser wanted is another question. With regards to what was required of us, I think I came pretty close. It was a few seconds over, but that time includes a brief pause at the start of the song (my first strum kept getting slightly cut off, so I added space at the beginning and cut as close to the start as I could in the after editing), and a fade out at the end. I probably could have made it fit perfectly if I had made it just a smidgen faster, and if this were a real pitch, I would do just that.

So there are my thoughts for this week’s submission. I have 7 minutes to submit, so away I go…