Friday, August 03, 2007

Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell



On Wednesday I decided to record my arrangement of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, which is the concluding piece to my set and something I've become pretty well known for. I tried three takes, one of which was quite good, and each time ProTools LE 7.0 vapor locked just after the five minute mark. Of course, I didn't notice this until I had reached the end of the takes, which run about 6:15 or so. I think I may have invented a few new curses in the process.

Since my version of LE 7 os a "point zero" release, I got the idea that, perhaps, this was a software bug. So, I went to the Digidesign website to see if there was a download: There had evidently been several maintenance releases, which culminated in a download for LE 7.1, so I downloaded it. Of course - even though the download wouldn't work unless one already had LE 7.0 installed - starting the download gave me a prompt for my authorization code. *eyes roll into the back of my head* I swear, I ought to have the thing tattooed on my forearm or something. So, I dug it out and the download proceeded without a hitch... but it took a while, even with my broadband connection (It was something like 25 MB).

After a restart, I was in bee's wax, but the software siezed again, but this time just a few seconds into the take. Seems the upgrade reset all of my buffers &c. Once I had that all sorted out - I of course didn't remember what I had saved in prefs all those months back when I went through this the first time - I was again able to record.

I was watching the computer screen throughout the take, so it isn't the best version I ever played - nowhere near as good as a couple that I lost because of LE 7.0's fu-ups - but I did manage to get a take that worked. If you are interested, the MP3 is now posted at my Heavy Nylon Demo Downloads page, down at the bottom. Just keep in mind when you listen to it that I was watching the computer screen and muttering "don't fu-up!" over and over under my breath the entire six plus minutes.

I then put all of the pieces into a Playlist in my iPod and went for a six mile jog (No spills this outing).

*****

One of the problems with being a perfectionist is that perfectionists just can't leave well enough alone. Or rather, "good enough" is never... uh... good enough. So, I've decided to scrap these ten recordings and start over again (I scrapped the first five previously, so this will be the third attempt). Not only are the performances not quite smooth enough, but I decided to go ahead and re-EQ the sounds to eliminate the harshness in the upper register. That required going through all twelve of the virtual acoustic environments in the MPX-G2 and reprogramming the tone settings. It had to be done anyway, but it was not the most pleasant chore, to say the least.

I realized in the middle of that project that I had the highs boosted so much because for live performances in noisy environments - where I'm backround music for diners - added highs make the sound cut through at lower SPL levels: This is not what you want for recordings. I think I have it about dialled in now, but I'm going to take the weekend off from recording and do some more slow-play work and tackle it again next week. In fact, I got up in the middle of the night and slow played Van Halen's Spanish Fly and Eric Johnson's Desert Song this morning. Made some good progress too.

*****

I've also realized that I'm developing a systematic approach to recording and preparing for recording, just like I have with performance practice. This is good, because as I get better and more efficient at recording, I dread it less. As with all things related to musical performance, the major hurdles are psycological: Once you have confidence, you're good to go, and nothing builds confidence like practicing a thing until you are good at it. I perform every week, so I'm confident doing it, and as I begin to record every week, I'm becoming good at that too.

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