jump to navigation

Final Mix of Symbolic Dog Blues!! October 30, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: ,

At long last, here is the final mix of my first song! It’s called “Symbolic Dog Blues,” and it has been my learning project all year, a sort of self-guided senior thesis in audio engineering. It’s goofy and silly, and not typical of my other ideas, but that’s what it takes to keep me interested for twelve and a half months

The featured solo instrument is an electrified kazoo that I call the “Kazooka,” and you will hear character voices chatting about it overtop of the song.

New in this final version: drum fills throughout the last half of the song.

Symbolic Dog Blues, final mix

The purpose of this song was to learn how to record and mix a diversity of sonic elements:

  • acoustic guitar
  • electric guitar
  • electric bass
  • keyboard (rock organ sound)
  • Kazooka (ordinary plastic, played like a sax, processed like an electric guitar)
  • bottle clinks (tequila and Mexican Coke)
  • handmade drum (bought at a tai chi festival, played with bare hands)
  • spoken character voices
  • singing voices
  • programmed drums

I wrote and performed all parts of this song on the above instruments in my mostly-soundproof studio in my basement. All the sounds are from live, actual instruments (as opposed to loops or computer sounds), except for the programmed drums, since I don’t play the drums.

Recording equipment used

  • Shure 57 microphone
  • RØDE NT-1A microphone
  • Apogee Duet FireWire interface
  • MacBook Pro laptop computer, running Mac OS 10.4
  • Apple’s GarageBand ‘08 recording software

Educational sources for recording and mixing techniques

  • The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, by Bobby Owsinski
  • Acoustic Design for the Home Studio, by Mitch Gallagher
  • EQ Magazine
  • Sound on Sound Magazine
  • prior experience playing in bands and getting frustrated with poor recordings
  • prior experience with signal processing concepts as an electrical engineer

Other blog posts on this song

More drum fills, more cowbell … “Symbolic Dog Blues” September 16, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Spent a few hours tweaking the drums. I beefed up the drums in the second verse—where the hard-rock guitar chords come in—with a cowbell (get it? Beefed!!) and heavier use of the hi-hat. The cowbell replaces the bottle clinks. Then I added drum fills to the second verse, and I “naturalized” the hi-hat hits throughout the song, which is to say I made some of the hits a little softer than others, to give it a less robotic feel (the drums are the only programmed instrument).

Symbolic Dog Blues, rev 4

All of this will be barely perceptible to the casual listener, or even to the careful listener who isn’t me. But *I* will know!

Next step is to continue adding drum fills from the second instrumental to the end.

“Symbolic Dog Blues,” rev 3: drum fills and mix upgrade August 3, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

More progress, creeping through the final maze of stalagmites, like a haunted subterranean slalom, toward the light at the end of the tunnel …

I redid Jimbob’s middle dialog, yet again. His voice in verse 2 now very nearly matches the other verses, and I think this is the best it is going to get. For what it’s worth, when the distorted guitar enters for verse 2, it actually makes poor Jimbob’s voice sound different by contrast, something like how a given color appears different against a white background versus a black background. I tested this by pasting Jimbob clips from verse 1 and 2 back to back with no background, and they sound convincingly identical. So part of this problem is actually an “audio illusion”! Don’t ask me why Brit is immune to it. I guess our friends across the pond have a higher tolerance.

After retouching Jimbob, I remixed parts of verse three that hadn’t gotten much attention yet, particularly the Jimbob/Brit duet, and then I added drum fills throughout the first verse. Tomorrow, drum fills for verse two.

Symbolic Dog Blues, rev 3


Full Mix of “Symbolic Dog Blues,” rev. 2 July 28, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: , ,

We are really getting there now!!

I have rewritten and rerecorded the more confusing bits of dialog, rerecorded all of Jimbob’s middle dialog (where his voice had suddenly changed), and fully mixed the whole song.

Jimbob still has some voice-matching trouble, but it is not as bad as before.

Symbolic Dog Blues, rev 2

What’s left?

Keep on improving the Jimbob voice match, and add some drum fills.

More on “Symbolic Dog Blues”:

First Complete Draft of “Symbolic Dog Blues” !! July 17, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

It’s done! Well, not DONE. Just, you know, done. First draft, all the way through, all instruments, all voices, all everything.

What’s left to do?

  • Fix the jokes that don’t work, and rerecord their dialog.
  • Rerecord Jimbob’s dialog in the 2nd verse, matching his voice to the other verses.
  • Add some light drum fills if I feel like it.
  • Adjust all volume levels and mix the song as a whole.

Notably absent from this list is any more instrumental recording: the bass, guitars, keyboard, and Kazooka tracks are completely finished!

The audio:

As always, use headphones or real speakers (not your laptop’s) for best results. Or use your laptop. Whatever.

If you’ve already heard Verses One and Two and are too impatient to hear them again, this first link is for you. You will miss the entire buildup and not really get it, and Jimbob will call you a dirty rat, but I don’t mind if you don’t mind. Click here to get only Verse Three:

If you are awesome and want to hear the full six minutes, click here:

What is all this Silliness??

Okay, I am not attempting to produce America’s next pop hit. This offbeat, silly song is my learning exercise, and by the time it is fully mixed down, it will have provided me with about a year of self schooling in audio recording and production. This sort of character work is a favorite style of mine, and it has allowed me to practice every element I am likely to work with in the future: programmed drums, guitars (acoustic, electric, bass) and keyboards, singing vocals, spoken vocals, singing character vocals, and odd percussion sounds like glass bottles and a hand drum I once bought at a T’ai Chi festival. Oh yeah, and a hard rock kazoo.

Future work will take more conventional considerations into account, such as selecting styles that other people tend to like. Don’t misunderstand—I am very happy with this project!! Just sayin’ …

Jimbob’s voice done! July 16, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Yesterday was not a good voice day, but I decided to try Jimbob anyway, since all the instruments are now done. Somehow it worked—no late-night tequila or nothin’—and now I am itching to record Brit’s last track, which will (gasp!) finish the song! High hopes for this afternoon, but I have a road trip tomorrow morning, and I have yet to pack, so we’ll see.

No new mp3’s yet, but I’ll post a rough mix after I get Brit done.

Yesterday’s success gives me hope for this song, because not only did I pull Jimbob out of nowhere, but I actually matched his voice from the first verse. So, after the song is done but before it’s “DONE,” I will make another attempt at verse two, see if I can fuse his split personality.

Prior mp3’s for this song, “Symbolic Dog Blues”:

Guitar finished through end of “Symbolic Dog Blues” July 9, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

That’s right, another instrument is done, all the way through!

The clip below fades in at the third instrumental, where you will hear drums, bass, organ, and guitar through the end.

Excerpt fading in at third instrumental

Still to go are the Kazooka and all voices. Jimbob will take his turn singing, with Brit joining in for an extended duet. Then as Brit picks up the guitar, Jimbob will answer him on the Kazooka, with the usual character banter throughout. The only question is, will I finish it before summer ends? We can always hope.

For any newcomers:

The song you are hearing (assuming you clicked the gray triangle, ahem) is my exercise in learning to mix and produce audio recordings. I am playing all the instruments and doing all character voices and lyrics. The only exception is the drum kit, which I programmed on my computer.

When you hear gaps in the music, as if something is missing, that’s where I will be singing or speaking or playing the kazooka. Particularly at the end, in the gaping pause before the big finish, Brit will say, “Why do we always bury that bone?”

No, this is not your typical song! I am having too much Frank-Zappa-and-Weird-Al-inspired fun! And while I may not be the first person ever to rock out with a distorted kazoo, I’m probably the first you’ve heard of! We can always hope.

Find out more: hear the first two completed verses.

Demo: New Organ Track June 25, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
Tags: , ,

photo of my keyboard

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately on Symbolic Dog Blues: recording the organ and bass for the third verse.

This brief mp3 features only the third verse, just to demo the organ. Vocals will be done later (singing and dialog), so it is very sparse at this point.

Imagine Jimbob crooning along: “When I was a little dog …” with more banter from Brit.

Organ demo, Symbolic Dog Blues, third verse

What about the first two verses?
Hear them here.

You may notice extra material after the standard twelve-bar verse. That’s where the two of them do an extended reprise of “Now that I’m a big dog …” as a duet. I can’t wait!

Back at it June 23, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Song.
add a comment

May was rough, and June has been busy (and fun), but now I’m home, with some normal-looking weeks stretching out ahead of me.

I have been back in the studio for a week now, and I just finished a recording session on the blues organ. Here is where “Symbolic Dog Blues” stands:

  • first two verses and instrumentals complete (as before);
  • drums and bass recorded all the way through!
  • third verse complete except for vocals, which are written and ready to go;
  • ideas sketched for third (final) instrumental.

Tomorrow, I will plan the final instrumental so that I can record organ and guitar all the way to the end. That will leave only the vocals to finish the song!

Chugging Along May 13, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music.
add a comment

Yes, I’m still in “reduced hours” mode, working slowly but very steadily on the third verse of Symbolic Dog Blues. After getting most of the drum track in place, I had some doubts about organ fills and chord structure in certain spots, so I took a detour to write bluesy organ music.

photo of college gig

The bluesy organ writing went well, so I am back to the drum and percussion tracks, ready to finish them through the end of the song. This part is pure point-and-click editing, straightforward but tedious, building from the material already recorded for the first two verses.

After that comes the bass, and I love this song’s bass! Its third verse is mostly the same as its second, though I want to record a fresh take with a bit more punch to lead us to the song’s finale.

After that, there’s only—let’s see—organ, guitar solos, Kazooka, vocals, and dialog!