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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Symbolic Dog Blues—Two Verses Completely Complete April 22, 2009

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Not sure what a Kazooka is?
Get the back story,
and even more back story.

Here is the next episode of my Kazooka blues song. This takes us fully through the second verse and second solo, with all parts mixed in. Next, I get to record the third and final verse. I am excited!

Click to play “Symbolic Dog Blues,” two verses complete …

My mixing skills have come a long way! Though a professional could still make key improvements, I am very happy with the sound now. There is just one issue that still bugs me: Jimbob (with the low southern voice) sounds like three different people throughout the song, because I did his dialog in three different sessions. I thought I would be able to match these recordings, using various audio settings, but that continues to elude me. Do I need to learn more, or does all his dialog need to be rerecorded (“dang it!”) in a single session? That is something to ask a professional mixing engineer, whom I will hire when I have finished recording the rest of the song.

For whatever reason, Brit’s dialog—which likewise was done in three different sessions—has mixed together very nicely. I guess that means there is hope.

Who Are These People? …

Several friends have asked me who is doing these voices and playing these instruments. Folks, I am not organized enough to hire a bunch of musicians, on the clock, and tell them what to do and when to do it! I have done all the voice work and played all the instruments myself in my basement, making up most of the details as I go. All of these sounds are live instruments—if you’ll let me call a $1.29 kazoo and a tequila bottle “instruments”—except for the drum kit, which I programmed in software.

On the technology side, all audio is recorded through an Apogee Duet Firewire interface into my MacBook Pro laptop, running Apple’s GarageBand software. GarageBand comes preinstalled on every new Mac. The microphones are a Shure SM57 dynamic and a RØDE NT-1A condenser. I do own a really nice digital keyboard, but I have not used it yet in this song. It may or may not appear in the third verse.

Next …

The third and final verse cranks it up for the finish. I wrote sketchily about those plans here.

Thanks for listening!

Symbolic Dog Blues demo, 2nd Solo April 8, 2009

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Here’s my latest presentable audio. This takes us fully through the second verse, with all vocals mixed, followed by the second instrumental. The character dialog that belongs in the instrumental is muted for now, because I still have a lot of outtakes to sort through.

New to this song? Get up to speed here. You can skip the video, come back, and continue.

Sans dialog, you’ll need to know that the blowing sound and “duck call,” shortly after Brit finishes singing the second verse, is Jimbob trying out the Kazooka. He figures it out quickly and proceeds to compete with the guitar.

We are still doing the shtick with the interrupting guitar, and I think I’ve pulled it off better this time. Still not ideal, but I’m hoping to improve it a little (mixing-wise) with each demo. It will make more sense when the rest of the dialog shows up.

Don’t miss the bass! Use headphones or external speakers.

Next, I have to deal with all those dialog outtakes, and then I get to record the third and final verse. Jimbob will take a turn singing, and then Brit will grab the guitar and jam until he has knocked Jimbob’s socks off. Or something. In any case, despite the slow-grind tempo (60 bpm !!), we will crank it up a notch.

And, I’ll restring the guitar for Brit. The strings you are hearing so far are (I think) the same ones I used to record the Banemana demo of Feb. 2008, and they were already dead then! I actually had to shift the tuning several times to bring various sections of the guitar neck into tune for various passages. It will be worth it, though, when Brit comes on the scene with his shiny new guitar sound.

I can’t wait to be done—will likely be dancing in the streets after the final mix! This song is fun, but after months of the slow grind, it will be nice to have a change.

Jimbob shows up a day late, dang it! April 1, 2009

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Yesterday’s recording sessions were productive, despite Jimbob’s lack of cooperation.

I got good Kazooka takes for the entire second solo, and I moved on to Brit’s dialog. Matching the tone and accent of Brit’s prior track was tricky, but I think I got there. We’ll see whether I still think so on today’s listen.

Then I gave Jimbob a try. His voice was kind of there and kind of not. I was running out of time for the day, so I started recording massive amounts of takes and retakes without much listening, hoping to get lucky on one good one. The project file is now in utter chaos!!, and I got discouraged last night just thinking about all the effort it will take to get that track under control, to organize all that material and compare all those takes to each other.

In the end, once all the music is in place the whole way through, it may be best to redo all of the voice work, giving each character an entire once-through in one session. That would eliminate the matching problem. No harm in trying, when the time comes.

In any case, Jimbob showed up this morning ready to go, and I was like, “Dude, where were you yesterday??” because Wednesday is when I do all the kid-driving and stay out all day doing computer work, no chance for recording. I’ve told him this! I’ll have to speak to his agent.

Symbolic Dog Blues: guitar and bass done up to Verse Three! March 30, 2009

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No audio to post yet (still needs some mixing), but I got a good several hours in the studio today and finished off guitar and bass through the end of the second solo. The song has only three verses, folks, so we are getting there!

But the further we go, the trickier it gets, because the dialog and Kazooka monkey-business becomes more and more interactive with the other instruments. Today, I had to leave holes for Jimbob’s lines and Kazooka playing, as the second solo is set to degenerate into a war between the guitarist and a very annoyed Jimbob, who will cap it all off by punching the guy out. This will then pave the way for Brit to grab the guitar and “give it a go” in the third verse. Naturally, the British gentleman will totally rule!! So I’ve left the guitar a little tame in the second solo, to give Brit some headroom.

But tomorrow morning, instead of mixing down a demo-so-far, I’ve decided to attempt Jimbob’s voice. Thus tonight, I am about to begin my Trademarked Tequila Technique, and we’ll see whether I wake up with Jimbob’s voice or not. If I do, that’s great, but then no audio for a while longer. If I don’t, at least you’ll get half-baked audio sooner.

Wish me luck!