Making the Sausage — Lida Rose

A little more background.  When I first started this whole adventure, aside from being able to read some music, peck away a little bit at the piano, and having a decent singing voice, I didn’t know the first thing about what it took to create a song with my computer.  So I decided, “Okay, let’s start simple!”  Unfortunately, my idea of “starting simple” was much more complicated and difficult than I ever should have selected as my first project.

I thought, “I can sing, right? So let’s do a piece that’s all singing and nothing else.”  I decided to do an accapella, barbershop quartet performance of Meredith Wilson’s “Lida Rose” from The Music Man in which I would perform all four parts myself.  Let me just tell you all, if you’re brand new to recording, I would NOT recommend attempting this kind of thing your first time out.  It sounds simple–a two minute song, 4 channels of audio, a little reverb.  Easy-peezy, right?  WRONG!

Hell, I didn’t even have a mic stand when I recorded this song.  I was literally standing in front of my computer keyboard, holding my Sennheiser e835 and singing into it without so much as a pop-filter while trying to remember which voice part I was singing, and trying to stay in tune with… 3 other versions of myself in the headphones.  Needless to say, it was very difficult.

That’s to say nothing of the most insidious issue of them all, which was synchronization.  I had no piano accompaniment, no beat to sing with, nothing.  I simply had to try to plan out the song and synchronize with myself.  I spent a month working on it, and learned a TRUCKLOAD about what modern DAW software is capable of while trying to make this song.  I didn’t give up, and the end result was…  meh.

Here’s a little snippet of the final track:

      1. Lida Rose SAMPLE.mp3

It was this experience that gave me a proper introduction to the sausage making that IS music production.  Sometimes it isn’t pretty, folks, and many of us will never even think about just what kind of scary stuff music producers and recording engineers have to do to create those pristine songs we hear on the radio.  I’m here to tell you, though, in order to create a listenable track, you often have to separate yourself into two people–the performer and the producer, and that can be a real challenge.

Anyway, fast forward a year.  I’ve learned a LOT since I finished Lida Rose.  A couple months ago, I decided to tackle another, much more ambitious, “faux” choral project. This one was called “Dirait-On”, a beautiful piece by Morten Lauridsen, and it deserved my best effort. Instead of 4 me’s there would be 8. And instead of accapella, it had piano accompaniment that I would have to learn to play myself. I was determined to do it justice and that’s where this monster project began.  It took dozens of piano takes, and almost a thousand different vocal takes with mistake after mistake and experimenting with different microphones and techniques, but it was a labor of love that, I think, paid off. 

I’ll share more about that particular sausage next time…

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