Sunday, March 15

Recording - how we roll

I thought some of you might be interested in our process in terms of what we do to prepare to record.

It all starts with the song. Those come from me, at least for now. :) I'll usually write a single guitar part, sometimes two, and the vocal melody and placeholder lyrics. Sometimes I bring just the guitar part to the band and I mess around with vocal melodies as we start to experiment with parts. I tend to write one "keeper" song a month, with many ideas getting discarded along the way.

Then we spend a good deal of time working on the arrangement. We experiment with feels, keys, different drum approaches. We'll work on omitting instruments in various sections to see what kinds of moods we can evoke. During this process, we also establish a baseline tempo for the song. We'll try it faster and slower, narrowing down in smaller and smaller BPM increments to just the right core speed. (Daniel plays to a click). When we find it, we write it down. This process usually takes about 2-3 weeks per song (with one group band practice per week.) We then record the first demo of the song so we have a reference we can all listen to at home.

In terms of album prep, what we then do is have a second practice in two "groups." The guitars (bass, two guitars) get together at my place and we play quietly to a metronome. Daniel works on his own as well. This allows us to focus on our individual parts and iron out timing and tempo issues that you can't hear when everyone's being loud. We do these on Wednesdays.

For the final check-off procedure, each week, we focus on two songs. We rehearse them on a Saturday, then practice in sections on Wednesday, then "certify" them on the next Saturday. To certify your part in the song, you have to nail it on the first or second try - no mistakes allowed whatsoever. So the band plays the song twice on the second Saturday - no more, no less - and if you nail it, you get a check by your name for that song. If some of the parts don't get played perfectly within the first or second try, we try again next week, but again, we only do two takes. The goal is to have a check by everyone's name for half the songs by the end of this month, and the remaining half by the second week of April, a week before recording. The reason we're soooo focused on this is everything you have to play twice in the studio costs you time, which in this case (because we have a fixed budget and amount of studio time) means less time for the fun parts: multiple takes, overdubs, experiments. So it's important to be really, really prepared.

On top of all that I practice my vocals in the car, though the intent here is to do those later, in Seattle, at Steve's home studio.

So that's a view into how we work. It's a lot of effort, that's for sure. I have a great band. :)

- Jesse Kates / Download Kinda Like Fireworks for FREE