THAT (that) wrote,

Of Rats and Real-Time Rhythm

Just got back from working a week at a summer program in Des Moines. We took the kids all over the city on the bus. It was good to do some intensive work like I used to, back when I worked on the dorms at the blind school in Austin. And it's cash on top of my paid leave. Now THAT is why that went back to college.

Now I have two weeks off before working another program. The plan is to get up every morning, go to the track, come home and work like a fiend on my album. I have a month's worth of free time before my end-of-summer road trip and I moved to the sticks for a reason; to work without distraction.

I bought a second cardioid condenser microphone and two fancy boom-arm stands, so I can now get a good stereo acoustic guitar sound. The way I've been working is to get a good acoustic guitar/vocal track (no metronome) and overdub bass, electric guitar, keyboards and percussion. After much experimentation, I've concluded that the extra precision that comes with using a click track comes at too high a price in feel. As a result of all the old rhythm and blues I've been listening to the last couple of years, I've come to value the expressive quality of live, start-to-finish recording over the current fashion of locking everything onto an electronic time grid. I don't even like to break up overdubs into sections; I prefer to get a single continuous take of whatever instrument I'm overdubbing. I'm not above nudging the occasional gaffe a little with the mouse, but only if it's a glaring blunder in an otherwise inspired take. I heard Crazy by Gnarls Barkley on the radio today and thought it was a shame that such a great singer and a great song had such a lifeless programmed rhythm track. They were going for a laid back Al Green-type groove and it sounds okay unless you've heard Al Green recently. His rhythm sections were subtle and understated, but there was a feeling of interplay that only happens with real musicians. You just can't program that feel. Or at least I haven't heard anyone pull it off. Maybe most people don't notice that something is missing, but to me it makes all the difference. It's like the difference between claymation (which I love) and CGI (which bores me).

Philadelphia was a big hit with the kids at camp. Even the teenage girls--who thought they should be squeamish--were won over. All the boys want a rat now. I was pretty cool for an old guy.
Tags: philadelphia, recording
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