In February of this year, I worked on a rendition of the Paul Simon song, Kodachrome. It was fun reworking something that I already loved, and I started going a little nuts with it. I began renditions of at least four different songs before I decided things were getting out of hand. I had to remind myself that I liked writing stuff too. Of the four, one stuck–Pat Benatar’s We Belong. I played with the chords in the song for a while with different sounds, and landed on that catchy gliding synth sound.
It only took me about two hours from when I decided I wanted to try a rendition of the song, to having something that I really kind of liked. But it took almost two months from that point to get it to where I was willing to say it’s good enough.
I started this rendition with the synth sound that comes in at the beginning–I wanted to maintain some of the original song since I knew I was going to have to change some of the notes in the vocal melody. So after adding the synth, I immediately worked up a drum loop that closely mirrored the dook-guh-chhhhh-chh in the original–It’s hard to write drum sounds. With the synth and drums in place, I recorded some quick vocals so I wouldn’t have to keep referencing back to the original. They were pretty bad, but did the job. I added some additional sounds, namely a plucked guitar and sliding bass, and at that point, it was listenable enough to take with me in the car and ponder while out and about.
Then I stopped messing with it because it was March and I was working on a different song. But, I didn’t stop listening to it and thinking about it, which caused some problems. The vocals I’d recorded were just a placeholder at best, but hearing it repeatedly, I started growing fond of the things I hated about it. I could tell that I’d lost all objectivity on it. When I picked the project back up for April, I started by rerecording the vocals. I hated them. Recorded them again. Hated them more. I messed with effects and levels and more effects, and it just wasn’t getting any better.
At this point, I reverted back to an earlier recording. I grabbed my little recording set up and went to record vocals with Rivka. In a few hours, we had a pretty good set of options, and I thought with backup vocals, I could certainly better mask the problems in the lead vocals. While Rivka did beautifully, the results as I tried putting everything together were terrible. It sounded like a studio recording of live karaoke.
I put it down again, this time with the clock ticking on my monthly deadline. Waiting for a few free hours, and eventually finding them, I sat down to experiment vocally and try and find a tone, or articulation, or something, that would fit with the rest of the song, and with the backup vocals I’d recorded with Rivka. After a lot of attempts, I found that if I sung from the top of my chest, or the bottom of my neck–it’s impossible to describe this–I could hide some of the tones in my voice that stood out so sharply in the other recordings. The unfortunate fall out from this technique was that I couldn’t seem to hit and hold notes like I normally could.
But, in-spite of the wobbling notes in my voice, my attempts produced something I was much happier with. It felt less like someone singing over a instrumental track, and much more like a part of the instrumentation itself.
This one was frustrating, but also fun. In the end, I liked how it came out a little bit messy and I’m glad to say it is done and I don’t have to keep thinking about it.