Bowstring Lake – Recording and Mixing Details
This song was based on some chords and rhythms I was playing with on my Baby Taylor (3/4 size travel guitar from Taylor). I recorded the guitar first. I originally tried using my full-size Maderia or an electric, but ended up using the Taylor in the final recording. The sound seemed to work and it was the original guitar I used to compose the song.
There are no drums in the recording; instead I tried to base it around some of my own amateur conga playing. My son, Matt, had a set of congas, so I borrowed them and ended up mic’ing them with two microphones, so I’d have a bit of stereo effect.
I originally came up with the bass line on my Yamaha bass, but I found I couldn’t play the riff that well on the actual bass guitar, so I replaced it with a synth bass. I used finger bass sample from the Cubase built-in Halion SE software synth.
I needed a change in the chorus, so I went to my VB3 organ simulator, which has a very nice built-in rotary speaker effect. I like how it fills in the mids during the pre-chorus.
When I needed something to punch out some emphasis beats, I went with some horns, and settled on the Trumpet and Trombone samples in the Orchestral Symphonic plugin libraries I got when I took a critical listening course at Berklee. One of the requirements for the class was to buy this software, which is known for its realism. I’m finally finding some ways to work these samples into my recordings.
I sent the horn midi tracks to an effect channel with a big church reverb to give them some added space.
For this recording, I used effects channels more than usual. I’m finally figuring out why they are more effective than applying effects to a single mono channel. In particular, for mono tracks, I can send the signal to a stereo effects channel, and that provides some panning and widens the reverb or delay I’m applying to the signal.
I ended up doing this with the congas, the lead vocal, and a couple of other tracks.
For the lead solo, I used my Gibson SG straight into the Blues Junior, recorded with one large diaphram mic. I then send the signal to an effects channel with a delay, panned opposite the guitar. I think I might have overdone this, since you can hear the click of the attack of many notes in the left ear can as I play. But I thought it was such a nice big, full sound, it was worth leaving that in.
I wanted to add some sparkle or high-end brightness to the actual chorus and went with a midi shaker patch. I originally tried using my egg shaker, but couldn’t get a solid, consistent rhythm. Using the keyboard and a couple of keys on the keyboard gave me what I wanted.
I added a live tambourine shake on the chorus and used Cubase automation to pan it slowly left-to-right as it fades. I like how it sits high in the mix and added a little brightness to the chorus.
For the background vocals, I doubled up the background harmonies and pushed them back in the mix. On the chorus I came up with a subtle counter-point melody that’s a two-part harmony. It’s a bit buried in the mix, but I think you can feel it on the “I found” parts in the chorus.
This was another fun project. Took a long time, but I learned a lot and it was a fun distraction. Now on the next song.