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The Fifth Course

Studio Log: Señor Circus Aug 6-9, 2009; Acoustic and Elec. Mando

Rating: 1 votes, 5.00 average.
I am thinking a stripped down approach is a good one for this installment. So much went on during this long weekend that writing it all down here in prose is impractical and will make for less than riveting reading. With that in mind I’ve decided to share the Studio Log I created. But to add some interest I have included notations where and when interesting parts occurred or insights were gained.

o Tim Lechuga, AKA Señor: Bandleader, producer, acoustic guitar, lead vocals
o Terry Lawhon: Engineer, host, backing vocals, possibly a guitar solo
o Daniel Nestlerode: Electric and acoustic mandolins, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
o Dennis Heltzel: Bass
o Damon Hunn: Trombone, trumpet, backing vocals

o Tim: Taylor 810-CE (6 string), Taylor GA3-12 (12-string) acoustic guitars
o Dennis: Fender Precision Bass, Fender Squier 5-string Precission Bass (borrowed)
o Daniel: Fender FM-988 8 string electric mandolin (AKA “mandocaster”); Epiphone Mandobird 4 string electric mandolin, tuned as a mandola (CGDA); Santa Cruz Guitar Company custom dreadnought “1942 Bluegrass D”; Gary Vessel F5 mandolin
o Damon: Trombone with a slide extender; standard trumpet

Tim preceded the rest of the band to Mount Shasta by nearly a week, and spent his time with Terry laying down the basic tracks: acoustic guitar and lead vocals. He was ultra prepared when we showed up and ready to get us in the studio. I would include that portion of the recording if I had the information. But Tim and Terry were focused on more immediate concerns. Here then is the Log accounting for the time Dennis, Damon, and I added our parts to the songs Tim had already started.

Session I: Thursday Night (9:30pm to 12:30am)
o Bass (Dennis) parts for
• My Addiction
• I Belong to You
• Your Silence: Tim changed the key from E major to D major and asked Dennis to play an equivalent part. (ouch). Dennis borrowed a red Fender Squier 5 string precision from Terry. So Dennis learned a new part on a bass he does not own and laid down the track in the space of less than an hour. Impressive.
• Lay Down Your Worries

Session II: Friday Morning (10am to 1pm)
o Bass (Dennis) parts for
• Old Rishis: Dennis learned and recorded a new part for this song
• Rolling with the Circus
• The Mandala
• Jai Guru Dev: The last two were new songs for the band, Dennis learns and records his part

Dennis was Mr. Cool. At this point he was done with the studio work for the weekend. He created, learned, and recorded 4 new parts in the space of 6 hours and recorded 4 additional songs with parts he’d been playing for as long as a year. My hat is off to him.

My first session did not go as smoothly…

Session III: Friday Afternoon (3 to 6pm)
o Mandolin (Daniel) part for
• Rolling with the Circus (8 string mandocaster): Ran the mandocaster thorugh my usual gig set up: Boss pedal board, Ampeg J12T. It was mic’d. Lots of little parts: Chops throughout, 2 runs in the chorus, 2 solos, a run at the end. Had one hell of a time getting the first solo down, and in fact it held me up so bad we moved on…
o Guitar (Daniel) part for
• Old Rishis (SCGC 1942 Bluegrass D): Recorded with an AT and a Neuman. Sorry I don’t know the model names. Just some light arpeggios and some emphasis of certain parts that may or may not make the final mix. This is the only tune I played guitar on.

GIG: Billy Goats Tavern downtown Mount Shasta 7-9pm
Amp trouble. I killed my Marhall.
Played acoustic through the first set, used the Ampeg (glad I brought it along!) in the second set.

Session IV: Saturday Morning (10am to 1:30pm)
o Mandolin (Daniel) parts for
• Rolling with the Circus (8 string mandocaster): Back at it the next morning. Finally got something in the first solo I am happy with. Recorded the triple solo section: 3 simultaneous solos all recorded from iso booths. Iso booth #3 was the bathroom. Tim got the nod for the porcelain seat because I had been set up in the control room before and Damon’s trombone would be impossible to play in such a small space. Then Tim and Damon recorded their individual solos, as I had done, from the same locations as noted below.
o Trombone (Damon) parts for
• Rolling with the Circus
o Lead Acoustic Guitar (Tim) part for
• Rolling with the Circus (Taylor 810-CE)

GIG: The Gallery (Art Gallery, show opening) 4-6pm
• Nice gig. We pulled 250 people in, got a shot in the local paper
• The owner appreciated our work so much he paid us for a non-paying gig!

Session V: Saturday night (9:30pm to 1:30am)
o Trombone (Damon) parts for
• My Addiction
• Your Own Wonder
• Dollars to Dharma
o Trumpet (Damon) parts for
• Your Own Wonder

It took Damon some time on the previous day to get moving in the recording process too, which validated my experience. But once he got going he was a monster. He wrote multiple parts and played both trombone and trumpet. Again impressive.

o Mandolin (Daniel) parts for
• My Addiction (Mandobird): Some more interstitial work and a cool solo. Song is in E minor, I played the solo in G major. The solo made me feel as though I had finally come up the standards set by Dennis and Damon. Instead of using my gig set up, Terry offered his Fender Deluxe. We got some great tone with it!
• The Mandala (8 string mandocaster): Not much to play here except for a funky part in the center section. Which I just could not get at all. Tim and Terry were vocalizing the rhythm pattern they want and my right hand, accustomed to Bluegrass chops and quick runs was not going to get there. So I handed the mando to Tim, told him where to set his fingers and HE did the funky bits! I covered with chords later. This was also played through Terry’s Fender Deluxe amplifier
• I Belong to You (Vessel F5)
• Lay Down Your Worries (Vessel F5): These last two are basically the same mando-arrangement. Nice, short runs and riffs with gently strummed chords. No chopping. Sweetness. I think we used the Neuman mic.

➢ Session VI: Sunday (11am to 3pm)
o Vocal (Daniel and Damon) parts for
• Rolling with the Circus
• The Mandala
• Jai Guru Dev
• Dollars to Dharma
• Your Silence
• My Addiction
• Lay Down Your Worries
• I Belong to You
o Vocal (Damon) parts for
• Old Rishis

Damon and I swapped back and forth through these tunes. I think we even stole each other’s parts once. Damon did a full harmony part of Old Rishis, singing with Tim the whole way through the song. Other than that we just hammered out the parts over a 4 hour period.

Damon was gone by 3, Dennis I left by 4, Tim came back to Modesto on Tuesday.

[Next time: Mandolins at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival!]

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