Music · Recording · Songwriting

Thoughts on my next recording project

This isn’t going to be a big rambling post (well, not by my usual standards)… partly because I would rather not bore anyone who has made the effort to come here (!), but also because if I take too long over a post at this site, it ends up never escaping my “drafts” folder. (You should see it—it ought to have a “Dead Letter Office” sign at the top…)

I’m also aware that I’m “due” to post here, having not done so for a while… so I thought I’d share a few brief thoughts about what I’m thinking of doing for my next recording activity (or two?).

Over the past 12-18 months, I have written more songs than I think I managed in much of the past ten years—thanks, almost exclusively, to my participation in three songwriting “challenges”: the 2012 and 2013 50/90 Challenges, and FAWM (February Album Writing Month) 2013. As a result of these activities (which I enjoyed greatly, even if I fell somewhat short of the stated aims of both 50/90’s (i.e. fifty songs written/demoed in ninety days)), I’ve ended up with over sixty songs of varying quality, and I think a fair number of them are worth spending further time to work on.

In short: I have “shortlisted” ten songs—mostly, but not exclusively, from 50/90 and FAWM. Over the next couple of months I want to revisit these songs, and if necessary do some further work on the lyrics and/or music. Once I am happy that the songs are as good as I can make them, I’d like to record them as well as I possibly can—whatever that may mean…

I am rather aware that most of the recorded songs I have posted online in the last two years or so, are basically demos of (frankly) inconsistent quality. Seeing as the sources of most of them were songwriting challenges where I had to turn out a new song and demo every two days over a long period, this is perhaps not surprising; however, I feel I would like to have some higher-quality recorded songs to represent me, so I am looking at my options for how I might make this happen.

My current plan is to record the shortlisted songs with a foundation of acoustic guitars (or electric, if this suits the song better). Many of my demos feature sequenced instrumentation (often bordering on synth-pop), not always because this suits my tastes, but often because I work on songs on my iPhone, and use apps like Garageband because it’s easier and less obtrusive than carrying a guitar around on the bus.

I would like this project to be much more weighted towards “real” instruments where possible, although I would “allow” myself to play along with rhythm loops so that I can keep time better. For various reasons, I think I would play most of the instruments myself, but if I can manage it, I would really like a live drummer on at least a couple of songs. One for the “nice-to-have” pile? 🙂

I freely admit that I don’t exactly have the world’s largest budget for a recording project (OK: I don’t really have a budget), but I believe I can produce some “good enough” recordings with my own instruments and equipment. I can do a lot at home, although for acoustic recording in particular, I am thinking of seeking out another location that doesn’t suffer from noise sources (to wit, traffic and family!).

As a “spin-off” project, I am considering whether to use the “acoustic recording in a quiet location” option, to commit to disk some solo guitar/vocal versions of much older songs of mine (at least, the ones I can put up with!). Basically, any multitrack recordings I made earlier than 2007, are in formats which I cannot easily recover for remixing, and the further I go back, obviously the poorer the sound quality becomes anyway. That said, some of the actual songs are, I feel, worth preserving, and I am wondering about re-recording them—simply, with minimal overdubs, but on better guitars and recording equipment than I had at the time I first demoed them. (Think Johnny Cash’s various demo sessions over the years, and his “American Recordings” with Rick Rubin—you get the idea.)

I can’t say how long this will all take, but I am hopeful that at least the main project will be in the can by early 2014—if possible by the end of January, so I can participate in FAWM 2014 and start the whole cycle again 😉

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