I would like to share a recording I just finished for my friend, Bill Seymour. Bill is an advertising executive in Nashville and quite a talented songwriter. You can hear more of his music here.
Hope you enjoy. Please leave a comment. If you want to read more about how the song was recorded and mixed, please keep reading.
Bill wrote this song a few years ago for his son. I’m a sucker for a song about a dad and his boy, especially since I am a dad with a boy (and a girl). He had recorded a demo in his home studio that was not too bad. It had some timing issues. Bill felt it was too slow (about 72bpm) and piano driven. He wanted something a little faster (78bpm) and guitar driven.
In pre-production, I decided that the song could really use an instrumental solo after the bridge. I also suggested some melodic tweaks to make the song more consistent. Nothing major, but it’s little things that can make a big difference.
I started with a scratch guitar/vocal demo and sent it to Bill for his approval of the arrangement. Once he signed off on it, I started tracking. I started by programming the drums using Cakewalk SessionDrummer 2 using the stock patterns, plus some patterns and fills I bought from Toontrack.
Bass came next, which I programmed using Cakewalk Studio Instruments Bass. I really like the variety of bass models I can call up. This particular model was called Quick Slide, which slides between notes when the notes overlap as I am playing them in with my midi controller. If there was a slide where I did not want one, I simply went into the piano roll and cleaned up the performance. It really added some realism to the bass part.
Next I tracked the piano using the M-Audio KeyRig software that came with the Keyrig49 controller I bought. KeyRig has a variety of layered piano and keyboard sounds. It also has an analog synth simulator and a tonewheel organ sampler. This has become my “go-to” virtual instrument for piano and organ.
That was the extent of the virtual instruments. I then tracked two passes of acoustic guitar (one in regular tuning, and one capoed up to the 7th fret for a sparkly–almost mandolin–sound) and two passes of electric guitar (rhythm and lead). I even played the electric guitar solo, which I would usually farm out, but this one came together pretty well. I use a Line6 Gearbox plug-in suite for my electric guitar sounds. They offer a great variety of amp, cabinet, and stompbox models with an easy-to-use user interface.
After all the instruments were tracked, I moved on to vocals. I recorded one pass of the lead vocal and wasn’t completely sold on it. After a snack of potato chips and water, I tried again and got a good performance. Then, two harmony passes on the choruses and I was ready to edit.
I exported the vocal tracks and tuned them up using Melodyne Uno. Then I imported the tuned clips back into the session and edited some of the guitar parts to tighten up the performance. There was a spot where I played a passage slightly out of tune so I copied and pasted a clip where the passage was played in tune.
Mixing was fairly simple since there were only 10 tracks. I used some compression on the drum kit, acoustic guitar and lead vocal. I created an aux bus with a distortion simulator and routed the bass through it to give it some slight fuzz. This makes it sound really fat without being too loud. I eq’ed the tracks to make them play nicely together. I then created another aux bus with a reverb plugin. I sent all the tracks through the reverb bus so they sound like they’re all in the same space. Finally, I used a combination of an analog tape simulator and the Boost11 peak limiter to make the final mix nice and warm (and fairly loud).