Plug & Play Set Task 5 – Reflect

Write a 500 word reflection on the composition and production of your track, focusing on the creative and technical aspects of your production methodology.

Rachel (rachelirwinmusic.tumblr.com) and I used a song we wrote together called ‘Fly’ as our production piece. The writing process was fairly typical of the way we write together; we meet up, Rachel shows me some lyrics and I write music around them. In this instance however, we both had a more hands on approach towards each others roles in the composition process, I involved myself a lot more in the lyric writing process, helping to keep the lyrical content within the bounds of the metaphor being used while Rachel helped me to really focus on creating very minimal guitar parts while still adding interest to the overall texture of the song, particularly during the choruses.

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Neumann TLM 103

It was because of this that the recording of the song didn’t take very long. There weren’t as many aspects to focus on as there would have been with a full band production for which I’m grateful. The main reason for this gratitude is due to the only major problem we encountered during the recording of this song, we couldn’t book the studio to record this as well as we would have liked. I can’t blame anybody but ourselves for this, we waited too long to get in the studio and therefore all the slots were taken. It served as a lesson in responsibility and productivity. If we’d been more diligent, hadn’t become so complacent then the overall quality of the recording of ‘Fly’ would have been to a much higher standard.

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The first draft of ‘Fly’s’ lyrics

Because of the lack of a studio to record in we needed to use the recording booth in the Mac suites. It’s an overall pleasant space to record in but I would have preferred to record with a Shure SM57 rather than the Neumann TLM 103 but beggars can’t be choosers I suppose. I focused on recording the acoustic guitar first given that it forms the backbone of the song. For this I used an Alvarez acoustic guitar that I borrowed from Guy (guydawspom.wordpress.com) and recorded straight into Logic Pro X using the Neumann TLM 103 positioned a foot away from the 12th fret of the guitar. Next came the electric guitars, for which I used a 50’s reissue Fender Telecaster, and because of the lack of an amp I recorded a DI line into Logic (it was this that influenced our decision to record everything in Logic) and applied different amp models, delays and reverbs until I found something that Rachel and I both agreed worked for the song. As a part to add just a little more interest to the bridge and final chorus I decided to add a pad part that played a subtle melody of long, drawn out notes using one of the synth plug-ins in Logic. Our final part to record was vocals so, using the same room and microphone as the acoustic guitar, Rachel stepped into the booth and we took a few different takes as her voice warmed up. We tracked separate sections then two complete run-throughs and chose the take that we thought sounded the best.

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Akai MPK mini, used to record the pad parts in the bridge and final chorus

When mixing and mastering in Pro Tools I decided to keep it simple. Using only EQ, Compression, Delay and Reverb to try and make everything sound coherent, like it was meant to go together and it worked quite nicely to create a level sounding mix. As far as mastering goes I used both 1 and 7 band EQ’s, a compressor and the Maxim plug in to bring the threshold down to -1.0 dB.

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The Alvarez

There are a few aspects of the recording that I’m not totally happy with, the acoustic guitar part needs work, as does the outro electric guitar part. I think it is evident from just a cursory listen to ‘Fly’ that I need to work on playing to a click, a confession that I’m ashamed to make. I am however fairly happy with the mixing and mastering work on the track although I strongly believe that there is ample room for improvement.

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The recording booth

On the whole, I’m pleased with the song itself, I feel like it’s an effective example of a typical song of it’s genre, the singer/songwriter vibes are strong throughout. I am not, however, happy with the way it was performed, or recorded for that matter. It’s time to really work on making myself a better guitarist because I thought I could do so much better than is evidenced in the recording. There’s no excuse but laziness I suppose. Nevertheless, as a beginners foray into the world of studio production, I think I could have done worse.

Anyway, here’s the finished track. Hope you enjoy.

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