Friday, June 18, 2010

Speedway At Nazareth

Speedway At Nazareth is a song I passed on when Mark Knopfler's album "Sailing To Philadelphia" came out several years ago, but I stumbled on the track again and it stuck the second time. It's a bit more country than I usually go for, but I found the rhythm chord structure intriguing as it was far different than I was used to.

For the main rhythm track I used my new (to me) Larrivee LSV-11e guitar I'm enormously fond of. I hadn't used it much to record and never tried it to strum because it's wide neck being more for finger picking. I was pleasantly surprised how nice it sounded when I really leaned into it toward the end of the song. The wider string spacing helped me pick out the bass notes as well.

Recording the electric leads on my Strat was fun. I'm still not happy with the tone of the guitar but I'm still exploring all the many options my little Line 6 box gives me. I wanted as much sustain as I could get without it sounding rubbery and toneless. What was fun was that I actually recorded the lead twice and to my surprise found that they were about 98% identical. What you hear is one take on the left and the other on the right.

The hardest part was the vocals, which I'm sure you can tell. The song is a tad below my meager singing range so keeping in key was difficult. Garageband has a primative "autotune" feature that I used but I don't think it helped much. As an aside today I stumbled on a brief video clip that James Taylor put on one of his albums performing a beautiful acoustic number he sang along to, and guess what, James doesn't always sing in key either. I was quite surprised.

The harmony was fun as well, surprised it turn out as well as it did. Not too many takes on those.

Each time I do one of these I learn more and more about how to tweak the various setting in GarageBand to get a better sound out of what I'm doing. There's an EQ analyzer feature that was pretty cool as it helped me balance the highs and lows for each track. What makes all this sound engineering challenging is that my hearing really does suck. My lows are gone in one ear, highs in the other and mids in both. Deciding how loud to make each track meant I had to evaluate everything in mono before figuring where to pan the track. It sounds fine to me, but I've no idea how it comes across to you lucky folks with normal hearing.

Anyway this is how it turned out. I could have spent another week obsessing over it and trying out more takes but it got to the point of diminishing returns after I saw that I'd saved at least 12 versions of it and couldn't remember why they were different. If you've gotten this far, chances are you might have even listened to it. Thanks. Any feedback you can give would be great.