Rocking the Footpath
by Mark and the Mp3s
This is a collection of the songs I have been performing live over the past year or so busking on the streets of Wellington. I’ve been recording the backing band tracks on my home computer (with M-Audio Soundcard).
So this collection is something like a snapshot in time of that racket I make when go busking with a 12 volt battery powered amplifier.
- Project started with a photo-shoot for my red electric guitar.
- It took about a week to put together the play list of eleven songs.
- I have finished Design and layouts for the CD case cover & CD sticky labels.
- I got a brand new printer on special, for the price of just one ink cartridge.
- Short Test Print run, position the circles to print onto the sticky labels exactly
- I’ve Recorded all but two of the songs (all ready for the final mastering mix).
- Print everything and fit it into a standard CD case. Cover passed the does it fit? test.
- Adjusted the dark red to get a much better printing result.
Then there was a late change to the song selection:
Dock of the Bay is a great Steve Cropper song, but ever Classic Hits radio station thrashes the thing to death. It is time for me to drop this song from the set. The backing is in the old days when I got my backing band from the Interweb. I want most of the backing to be my own performances and production if I can, so dropping that song was no great deal.
The next question then is about what to replace it with. When I set up to record vocals on Like a Hurricane, seeing as it is blowing too hard for busking this summer, I decided to record a great old song again from scratch. The conclusion is the Story of the Hurricane by none other than Bob Dylan. The final song is Star Man by David Bowie.
Recording ‘the Story of the Hurricane’
- The process starts with an InterWeb Search for the lyrics to the song. Copy and paste all eleven verses into a word processor (tidy it up to 14 dpi) and print 3 pages of words.
- SOUNDCHECK Set Mixer to split the stereo input. L = Vocal & R = Guitar.
- Live in the Studio capture Recording. Export as a 16 bit wave file.
- SF copy each track into separate files and import back into the Multi-Track program.
- Record Bass and a hand drum to complete the core of the band.
- Record a ‘C’ Blues Harmonica to replace the viola part on Dylan’s version.
many hours later….
First of all I finished the lead guitar on You are like a Hurricane. Well, mix01 for a start. My voice had not yet warmed up on that vocal take, so I might do it again. Then I cleared the decks (virtual tape decks) set it up to record the Story of the Hurricane.
As per the plan on the worksheet, I recorded vocals and guitar at the same time. Vocals on the left and Guitar on the right of the 1 stereo line in channels. Exported the file so I could put it in a Wave Editor program to copy each channel into new individual stereo files, then import back into the time line of the Multi-track program. I deviated a bit from the plan by recording the harmonica solos before the Bass Guitar. With a few effects and mixing it sounded a lot like an old band I was in sounded. I intend to use the hand drum on this song so as not to blow people away on the footpath. The message of the song should do that.
So, with about one and a half songs yet to record, I have almost finished this project that was intended for Christmas. So in the long run, by not rushing it, I think I have a much more refined product as a result. This is a wonderful age we live in, we can spend as little or as much time recording in my apartment. Some things so not sound just right and I will record punch-in parts when I must. But I still like to leave 1 or 2 slightly rougher edges to a diamond. It is good in a lot of ways to be able to manage a small project like this.
Another joke at the moment is that the outside of the buildings are to be painted. Down the far end they put up a big scaffold and some people are scraping off all the old paint. Through the week every day there is too much background noise now. The long weekends are quite good for recording music. But it is getting later now, so all the loud microphone stuff is done for the day. The bass I can record on headphones and nobody next door will ever know. So I will have to leave the drum for tomorrow morning. It’s a balancing act to get it all done in a few weeks.
a few days later….
The Hurricane is a long song with a few solo parts. Remembering eleven verses of words is one thing but I am getting lost with how many bars to count into the next verse at times, so I will practice with the backing mix and write some notes in the page margins. It takes a lot of practice before I take a new backing band track out in the street. One has to listen to quickly remember all of the changes.
Star Man is interesting trying to imitate the way they mixed the sound of the lead guitar and piano solo breaks. It has a good backing vocal track singing in harmony. At the time of writing, I have the strings keyboard and percussion tracks to finish the recording.
Recording two tracks at once:
Sometimes I want to record two things at once (vocal and guitar) to get the feel of the live concert timing, or use two microphones on one instrument (like the hand drum). Acoustic guitar have a pickup but placed with a microphone gives more ranges of tone to blend into the mixing stages later on.
The computer sound-card comes standard with 3 mini plugs for Headphones Out, a mono Mic In plug and the stereo Line In plug. The M-Audio sound-card I installed has RCA plugs for more surface contact area. For doing live gigs (not busking but inside) I use a small very basic mixing desk.
I use the mixer to get a balanced and stereo input for the Line In plugs on the computer. One track is mixed to full Left Pan, the other to full Right Pan. Once it has been recorded onto the computer, the capture file has each track copied (one at a time) into two new stereo wave files. These files are imported into a Multi-Track recording program.