Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

April 26, 2015

Almost Finished, Sort Of

Having just replaced 71 (!) keyboard parts, I'm nearing the end of my recording. By my count, I have between 12 and 15 tracks left to record and once they're done, I'll be finished. Right?

Well, kind of. Really, one finishes a full-length recording three times: once when the last note is laid down, once more when the album is mixed, and the true finish line—mastering, cover design and CD duplication.

Thanks to a grant from FACTOR, I'll soon be ready for Phase II: mixing sessions with David MacKinnon, producer extraordinaire and all-around good guy. The fact that I've created preliminary mixes here at The Grinning Zone means we won't be starting from scratch. I'm anticipating this next stage already, but before that, about those 12 to 15 tracks. What's left? Here's the list:
  • "Nest for Little Bird" - acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, harmonica, lead vocal, possible violin
  • "Lady Air" - 12-string guitar, mandolin, harmonica, lead vocal, doubled lead vocal, backing vocal(s), possible recorder
Not too daunting, huh? Well, there's more to it than meets the eye. Both songs still need words. The lyrics for "NFLB" are about a third written, while "Lady Air" at this point consists of little more than the title. (More on that in a bit.) Now, in order to overdub all the above plus what I've already done (drums and percussion, bass, keyboards, some guitar) I needed something resembling a lead vocal. Not only is it arguably the most important part of a song, it kind of needs to be there so you can arrange the supporting cast around it.

Luckily, I do have a complete melody line for both songs, so I've put that down in basic form and proceeded from there. "Lady Air," for instance, started life as just a click track, a guitar, and me humming "la-da-da-da" for three and a half minutes; I've hung everything I've recorded since around that. For "NFLB" I laid down what I call a muzak lead vocal: the melody line played on a keyboard oboe patch. The long and the short of is that I needn't have words in order to record the remaining instrumentation.

Now, about the origin of "Lady Air." Song titles can spring out of strange places, but this takes the cake ... or the cereal, as it were. Several years ago I was eating a bowl of Alpha-Bits when I looked down at the spoon and there she was, swimming in milk: LADYAIR. I've heard of reading the tea leaves, but reading the Alpha-Bits? Come on. Anyway, I filed it under must-use-someday, and now her time has come.

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