(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Diary: Engaging with "Disengage"

In my recent resolutions post, I talked about wanting to record more of my own songs. One of the barriers to that is trying to make everything perfect and fully developed. This song, "Disengage", is my attempt to shift my thinking and just create a simple demo quality song without all the details that might go into a full arrangement. I also forced myself not to sweat the minor flaws and rough mixing. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the song itself and my recording process.

The key riff in "Disengage" is a little chord run I came up with several years ago. It's a song fragment that I've never been able to build into a complete song until now. I kept it around because I loved the descending run, taking a D7 (no 3rd) and stepping the 7th down, note by note. In recent years, I've had trouble working out lyrics until I get the music figured out. As I was noodling a couple of months ago and I came up with the chorus changes, which it motivated me to start thinking about a lyrical theme. Those descending notes suggested regret while the drone D gave it a more objective perspective. The soothing chords of the chorus felt like well-meaning advice.

This combination reminded me of some friends who deal with depression. On the one hand, I sympathize with them, but there's also an element of frustration because I can't seem to help and
every overture is rejected. The words for the first verse grew quickly from this idea. The chorus still seems a little weak to me. The sentiment is a bit too Pollyanna and the words feel too simplistic.

Recording this proved a bit challenging. Singing in the original key hit the lowest end of my vocal range. After taking a couple of shots at it, I decided to start over with a capo, moving the song to E, which is a more nature fit. My voice worked better, but the guitar sounded thin and jangly. This is one of the reasons I really don't like capos. After I recorded the song with the capo, I got the idea of adding a second guitar to emphasize the E chord in the open position, which added some depth.

I taped the main guitar first, along with a click track to keep the tempo constant. I placed the vocals next and added the second guitar as a final track. I dropped the click track when I bounced to a stereo mix. Since I forced myself to get this recorded quickly, I made some snap judgments about the effects that I'd probably change in a final version. The primary guitar is run through a chorus and EQ's to add a little bottom end. That's not bad, but I threw a slightly dirty distortion on the second guitar that I hate now. Keeping that simpler and cleaner would let the parts mesh more smoothly.

I hope this was interesting. I'd be interested in any comments: both about the song and this idea of posting an explanation of my writing and recording process.

No comments:

Post a Comment