this space intentionally left blank

April 26, 2006

Filed under: music»recording»sketchpad

Musical Sketchpad, Session 3B

Once upon a time, I played in a college rock band. We played a lot of covers and a few originals--I wrote the words, and the occassional riff. You may remember that I rescued one of my songs a while back in one of these sketches, here. You might also remember that the band was actually named "Mile Zero," and I turned its website into this humble journal when things went pear-shaped. But I kept copies of everything, and when I was reloading Windows the other day I found the original copy of that song. If you wanted to compare the two, you could listen to the original version here.

There's a lot to learn here, if I'm seriously interested in this as a solo project song. Clearly, it's a different aesthetic with a full band. My guitarist was a lot more spastic and we multitracked him, so the sound is very full, if sometimes wanky (I actually think my solo is more effective for its simplicity). By contrast, my looped songs tend to be more spare, usually maxing out at three loop layers plus vocals and live bass. They are very different sounds, but I think they both have potential to work.

No, where I can learn the most is probably from the drum part on the Mile Zero version, provided by Brian "Dr. Dex" Dexter. Brian is one of the better drummers that I know, and he lends the song a nice disconnected shuffle during the verses. I really like the way that it works to give the bass line a little extra slinkiness. My percussion abilities need a lot of work to reach the kind of energy that a real drummer lends to a song. I've started breaking drum lines into slap patterns when I listen to music, in the hopes that I can reproduce them later.

The other learning opportunity here is the levels of energy present in the old version. A lot of it is due again to the drums, but you can really hear it jump in intensity during the second half of the verse. I think it's interesting that the chorus actually drops back a little from that level, before fully relaxing as the verse shuffle resumes. It's a neat dynamic that I've tried to replicate by reserving the distorted chords, but Brian's tom work is also a big part of it, and that's harder for me to fake. A better basic percussion loop (instead of whatever I tossed off when I recorded this) seems to me to be the patch this song needs.

Well, that and new lyrics. And I have no idea when I'll have time to sit down and work those out right now.

Future - Present - Past