Monday, November 23, 2009

Harmony Brothers, recording, the zone

Early in October, Allan and I (one half of the Harmony Brothers) went into the recording studio to begin what the four of us have been talking about for over three years: a good recording of our Harmony Brothers sound. The plan was to start the process by recording five of our best songs and then, after that, to take stock on where to go next. Eventually, we will record ten or twelve of our best songs and release a CD for our long-anticipatory fans (if there are any of them left by the time we've completed the project).

We chose to work with Audio West, a recording studio located in West Sacramento that's owned and operated by Ed Etzel. Ed is an easy going, easy to work with guy who always quick with an interesting story about recording someone in the studio or his experience with recording sound for t.v. and films. He's a sound man/engineering veteran with lots of experience. We're appreciating his support and expertise in the studio, as much as he appreciates our laid back attitude and easy going professionalism. Oh yeah, it also helps that he likes the way we sound and the tunes we play. I think we give him a break from some of the younger musicians he works with that have plenty of growing room for maturity and life experience.

Our first session was like coming home for me. After arriving there and as I was tuning my guitar, I was home. A little while later after we had been recording for awhile, I was in the "zone". It is such a joy to focus entirely on playing guitar and singing, doing both on more than one track for the overall recording sound. I realized, after that first session, that being in the recording studio is like being in church for me. It's my sacred place away from all my other worldly cares and worries. I wonder what it would be like to record for myself or working with others on a regular basis. I'm thinking it wouldn't just be a "job". It would be an energy focus, a creative outlet, a way to follow my calling. I found myself scheming how I could spend more time in the recording studio to be in the zone more often. More will be revealed around that one.

After laying down guitar and vocal tracks with Allan in October, Dave and Ron joined us for a vocal session earlier this month in November. Ron had a lead vocal to lay down and both he and Dave had background vocals to do. Next, Allan and went back in for some vocals review and digital polishing tricks. To me, it seems like cheating to tweak vocal tracks with compression, cut and paste, and the occasional pitch fixing. Still, hey, we want it to sound good on the CD. As long as we don't get too carried away and go Milli Vanilli with it, I reckon we're good with it.

Also, in that second November session with Allan, Ed had his bass playing friend, Don, come in to lay down tracks for a couple of our more upbeat tunes. It was fun to work with Don; he's an old pro and patiently gave us the bass feel we asked him for. He was done in less than an hour, as we suspected he would be. To wrap up our session, Allan and I both added hand percussion to the same two upbeat songs and I experimented with the kalimba (thumb piano) on the one song that has an African feel to it. I'll go back in for another session with the kalimba after I played with song at home and have a better groove down for the song. Nothing like adding extra texture to a song for that certain special musical icing. We'll go back in next month in December to tie up any additional track work and do the mix down dance. I'll share more on the studio project later.

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