Back to Bass-ics, Day 2
Back to work in the studio for the second and final day of instrumental tracking. It’s cool and rainy outside here in Arden, NC, and this crew couldn’t be happier – we’ve all agreed that it’s a great day to be holed up in a studio. Plus, there’s coffee aplenty. Goooood coffee. The guys have gotten through 2 songs in 2 hours, and are now on to the third, Old Dangerfield. Just one more to cut after this. Today started off with a Zach Bevill/Jon Weisberger tune called ‘One More Lonely Day’ – a sad song about life on the road, and then on to a coal mining tune Sav wrote called ‘Miner’s Lament’. There are a lot of minor chord changes in the song, and miner/minor jokes have been flying all morning. A whole lot of hard work has gone into the last two days, but the mood in the studio has been upbeat, happy and positive the whole way through. These guys are having a ball, and it’s wonderful to see that they all truly enjoy their work.
Often, vocalists will cut ‘scratch vocals’ – a reference track so that the musicians can hear where the vocals will be placed in the song, to make sure that they don’t play over the top of where the final vocal will be. Initially, Scott and Sav wanted to use Sav’s electric upright to cut the scratch vocals (the electric upright is easier to mic along with the vocals), but a shortage of 9 volt batteries yesterday rendered the electric useless, and they scratched the scratch vocals and are just laying down the basic instrumentals without them. In addition to scratch vocals, musicians often record along with a drum ‘click track’ to ensure that the tempo doesn’t change while they’re playing. It’s certainly interesting to hear a slow and sad tune such as Miner’s Lament being played along with an aggressive drum beat. (Holy moly! In the short time it took me to write that, the guys have finished Old Dangerfield… I’ll be back in a bit!).
Well, there was a change in plans today… after Old Dangerfield, the guys cut East Tennessee Blues and then Sav decided to throw in a version of Walls of Time. Just for kicks, you know… As I type, everyone’s warming up and getting into the groove, and Scott’s punching the downbeat into the keyboard to get a read on the number of beats per minute… looks like it’s 131. Annnnnnnnd, they’re off. Track 11. It seems like as soon as they start one, they’re done!
We’ve finished laying down the basic instrumental tracks with the exception of fiddle (as incredible as he may be, even Ron Stewart can’t play banjo and fiddle simultaneously… what gives?). As the rest of us headed off to lunch, Ron and Scott stayed behind in the studio to start on the fiddle. Off to the right, you can see a little bit of what Master and Commander of the board Scott Barnett gets to play with all day in the studio. The top two lines show the click tracks, followed by two bass lines, guitar, mandolin and then the reddish orange is a realtime shot of Ron laying down the fiddle track. What’s incredible about today’s software is that any musician is able to re-record any segment of their part and Scott can replace a previous ‘take’ of theirs with new material. Since each of the instruments were recorded on separate mics with very little sound bleeding over into other microphones (with the help of the isolation booths and the gobo), a small fix needed on one instrumental part doesn’t mean that the entire band needs to re-record that segment, and the software allows them to not have to re-record the entire song. Quite incredible to watch. The software also allows any (or all) of the separate recordings to be muted, so that you can listen to any combination of instruments together on the playback and really be able to decide if the player wants to fix their ‘mistakes’. Yes, after two days of watching these guys record, I’m going to put that in quotes… :) The high degree of professionalism in this studio meant that there were far more ‘mistakes’ than there were mistakes.
Once Ron’s done laying down the fiddle tracks, we’ll be done for the day, and ready to do vocal tracking tomorrow.
Previous posts about Back to Bass-ics:
Full gallery of photos from the trip: Go Here