Recording a challenging arrangement

I have been recording, finally. Broomfield Hill is really hard. I think, more than anything else, it is this song that has been holding up the album, just as the album has been holding up my other releases and my self-promotion. I suppose it is one of the classic traps that creative people fall into to let everything hinge upon something that is almost impossible. I will refrain from analyzing the  psychology of this at the moment.

In my previous attempts at recording The Broomfield Hill – over many years now – nothing has been as satisfying as my first attempt in Logic. It was one of the first things I ever tried to do with this software, and I think it was the first version that included all the instruments that I wanted. However, to do it, I found I had to record some of the parts at a slower speed and then speed them up. I also had to record in small sections that I would loop until I got them right for each instrument. These sections don’t dovetail into each other as they naturally would in a complete take. Also, generally the performance on each instrument was a little rough.

This is why I have been trying since then to record “the album version”. As a first step, I learned one of the bouzouki parts in its entirety and learned to sing at the same time as I play this part. At first it seemed impossible, but I managed to do it, and then I started playing it for my solo gigs, or rather some of my solo gigs when I thought it was appropriate, which, unfortunately, has not been that often.

Although this challenge helped make the vocal and bouzouki part feel more natural and fluid, it wasn’t enough to overcome all the challenges with recording my full arrangement. Next I tried slowing the whole thing down a bit. But it lost the intensity and drive.

About a year ago, I tried changing the key, because I thought that singing in a higher range might give it more energy and a new key might provide some interesting possibilities for the guitar part. I did get some great new ideas for the guitar, but the vocal had the wrong mood, I decided. It was better near the bottom of my range because it felt darker and closer to storytelling.

But I think this attempt this week might actually work. I have returned to the original key and tempo. Because I have been playing virtually the complete arrangement with Fagroongala, I feel that I am playing better than ever; particularly, my groove is better. I found that I was able, after many attempts again, to record the entire bouzouki part without stopping, at full tempo, with only a few small inaccuracies that can be fixed with splicing in other takes. I have not yet compared this new recording with earlier ones, but I think it’s finally equal in feeling to the first one and more precise than all of them. I sure hope so!

It’s not finished yet though! I think I can improve my playing of the fiddle parts, so I will probably redo these today. That is definitely doable.

After that I will record guitar. I will need to spend some time adapting the new ideas to the original key. Then I will need to learn the part and get the groove just right. This will take some time, but I feel confident I will get a very decent guitar track.

The challenge after that that I must tackle is reviewing the second bouzouki part and getting it up to speed. This is the hardest part, I think. But maybe it won’t be as hard as I think. I hope not. Maybe I will be so familiar with the song by then, and the sound of all the other recorded instruments will help me, so it will feel more natural and not such a struggle.


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