01 April, 2009

Singing with a deadline

There are many things in life that I have done with a deadline, or against a clock. I've studied for exams. Written reports. Prepared for interviews. Got paperwork together for things. Prepared meals for a party or dinner. Exercised to try to get in shape. Learned songs for an audition or rehearsal. Tried to finish a race in my fastest time. Completed quests in computer games. Shopped for a present for someone. Try to get to work in time for a meeting. I could go on and on.

What I have never had to do before is sing with a deadline.

And that's the situation that we are currently facing in our recording project. There's a small amount of pressure on me. But there is a significant amount of pressure on our lead singer. We've been working for months and months, and everything is coming along great. But when you get near the end, you need to fix mistakes, and there are still songs that have not had enough attention paid to the lead vocals, because they can't really be finalized until we all finished our instruments. The problem of the deadline is because we need to go in the studio to have the CD mixed in a couple of weeks. And the recording engineer would like to have 1-2 weeks to listen, and get the "project" (i.e. the hundreds of .WAV files) loaded into ProTools (the recording software) to prepare for mixing. If we went by the 2 week request, that would mean we need to give him everything by the 5th of April. That's this weekend. And it ain't gonna happen. Guitarist still has 3 songs to go. I still have backup vocals (though less important) on about 5 songs, and our singer needs to sing parts of, or all of about 6 more songs. And he just got over a cold. And you typically can't do more than one song a day due to vocal strain.

As the songs get more and more filled up with instruments and vocals, the other problem is that there are fewer and fewer available tracks in our 24-track recording setup. It becomes some type of jigsaw puzzle trying to figure out what tracks are blank, which ones have things recorded, which ones have junk, etc. And the stakes of messing up are huge. You record on a track that you think is blank, only to discover later that it actually had a guitar solo that started 3 minutes into the song. You just blew it away, and now your lead guitar player needs to come back and spend 2 hours recording it again! If you use a computer-based recording system like ProTools, you get to see all the waveforms on your screen, all pretty and everything, and you will never make the mistake of recording over someone's guitar solo. But, alas, it's at least a $3k investment to get into that world, and we're not quite ready. Probably the next CD.

So, if you combine deadlines, too much to do, too few tracks to do it, poor lighting, late nights, lost sleep, stress, typical flightiness of musicians, and a substantial amount of whisky, there's no telling what we're gonna end up with here.

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