Once Sonar X1 software settled down, laying down the vocals and rhythm guitar was a breeze
Sixth in the series of Blue Christmas Diaries. This journal helps me to stay true to the goal of recording and releasing a version of Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas. The Diary is about having fun with music, computers, home studio gear and bad jokes. (links to the other stories are scattered throughout)
Update – Sonar X1b now ready for prime time
Once Sonar X1 was up and running on Friday morning, we were able to lay down the vocals that day. Saturday the rhythm guitar tracks were recorded and the mixing started. Sonar obliged with a few hiccups but they didn’t stop us.
It felt exhilarating on Friday morning to take out the vocal mic, set up my singing position and get started actually singing Blue Christmas.
To get a clear track in a home studio takes a bit of coordinating. The house needs to be empty so there are no unexpected noises like a shower or laundry running. It’s annoying to ask people to be quiet while recording, not that it hasn’t been said “Quiet we’re recording.”
I scurry around the house in my electric wheelchair turning off all fans and electronics since the vocal mic can pick up a flea singing Dixie from 500 feet.
I have a mental list – the furnace, fridge, ceiling fans, air exchanger, humidifiers, computers, fluorescent lights, TV’s and cable boxes turned off since they hum.
The trick is to remember to turn everything back on when its over. I missed the fridge one night to somewhat disastrous results. Or like the morning it was 60 F because the furnace had turned off the night before while recording.
After the inside noise boxes, there are the inevitable cars, trucks, planes and dogs to keep off the recording. Mid-morning and mid-evening are good times to keep the outside outside. That being said, I remember a Bob Dylan song that has his dog barking.
The vocal takes are a combination of missed lines and flubs. My voice was raspy with a cold. We tried taking it out with Voice Live 2 but that didn’t work. The VL2 had nice effects and reverb but it didn’t quite give me the real voice.
One of the problems was the unforgiving sound of the Neumann U87 mic we were using. It makes a great singer great but exposes everything in the average guy. I mean – do I really sound that raspy?
A few takes later we settled on the vacuum tube pre-amp section in the Millennia STT-1 and mild compression to tame the bark.
Those Sennheiser HD 580 headphones in the picture don’t keep the noise inside. The first two takes were marred by bleeding sounds from the backing track. They were swapped out for a pair of Sennheiser HD-25-I which are less comfortable but don’t let the backing track sneak into the recording.
The morning flew by and at 2 pm I quit for the nap. Supper at Churchill and early to bed since the next day was guitar recording.
Last day of recording
Saturday morning, two sleepy teenagers came upstairs, looked in the studio and declared “We’re leaving and going to Jena’s!” They were a funny sight going out the door in winter jackets, shoes and pajama bottoms. They knew hanging around during recording can get tense.
Denis Larocque had recorded some great country licks on guitar with rhythm as well. All I wanted from the acoustic guitar was that bright and full sound to play off his work. Flubs and sound problems plagued the early takes. The mics will pick up finger squeaks. I went looking for my Johnson’s Baby Powder for the left hand.
The Martin 000-18VS is a small-body guitar that sounds wonderfully gentle but lacks the punch of my old Martin D35. All of the good takes were on the D35. Three or four passes was all it took to say “that’s enough”
Even with the software and gear working great, recording sessions are tiresome. I was happy going down for my nap late Saturday afternoon. Sunday would begin the process of picking the best of 41 recording takes and mixing them down.
There was still a lot to do if the song was going to be released before Christmas. The copyright clearance was looming. Who would handle the release? Would we master the song in-house or send it out? We needed cover art. If anyone bought a copy of the song, how would we split the money?