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The Fifth Course

Studio Log: More Than a Little Guitar, ch. 1

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A couple of weeks ago I finished a 10 day recording session for my new CD which will carry the title More Than a Little Guitar. At the outset the goal was to make a folk/singer-songwriter album framed around the mandolin as primary rhythm and lead instrument.

To record a song, I would sit in the studio with mics on playing the song as though I was performing it. My producer, Brooks Williams, and my engineer, Chris Pepper, would find the tempo and create a drum track that suited the rhythm. Then they'd play it back to me and we would try it out. Sometimes we raised the tempo a notch or two, sometimes we adjusted the contents of the drum track. (You'd be surprised how different a snare and a tambourine feel in the same spot of a measure.)

Once I was happy with the tempo and the drum track, we would record a live version of the song. This live version (usually mandolin and vocal) would serve as a scratch track from which we would build the rhythm instrument and vocal tracks.

Getting a nice clean scratch track usually took two takes. Sometimes it took three, and several times I got it in one. (Practicing prior to recording helps immensely here.) Afterward we would go straight to doing a rhythm instrument take. I would play the same part on mandolin, guitar, mandola (tenor mandola in the UK), or octave mandolin (mandola here in the UK) as I had on the scratch track.

Once the basic rhythm track was down, I would augment it with another instrument sometimes doubling the part an octave down or with different chord inversions on another instrument --I used guitars here as much as mandolin family instruments. Then lead parts and little touches were added.

Twice Chris and I convinced Brooks to drop in some electric slide guitar. Both cuts are brilliant and would lack a little something without Brooks's additions.

Finally, we added the lead vocal track and any harmony vocals that seemed appropriate. Brooks helped here on a couple of songs by adding his well-tuned tenor.

During the recording process Brooks took lots of notes, was always positive, and usually said something like, "Thats great. Do it again." The notes served to remind him of points in the song he wanted to address with a punch-in fix or an effect treatment. His positive and energetic attitude kept my head in the game and the sessions on track.

The process went smoothly most of the time. It was fairly quick too. We got 11 songs down in 6.5 eight hour days. At that point the three of us took stock of the work to date and decided the running time was good and the songs were all worthy of inclusion. I had 3 more ready to go, but I will likely save them for another CD some time in the future.

[In the interest of keeping these posts as readably brief I'll write in instalments. Look for ch. 2 soon.]

Daniel

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Updated Aug-30-2013 at 2:57am by Daniel Nestlerode

Categories
Recording Sessions

Comments

  1. lorrainehornig's Avatar
    It sounds like the sessions were a huge success and you had great fun in the process. Great blog!
  2. Dave Peters from the UK's Avatar
    Great blog, and you have more or less described an identical recording process as the one I normally - only my recordings sometimes span a much longer time start to finish ! I look forward to having a listen to your art.
  3. Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
    Thank you both!