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Beth DeSombre: Blog

First Day Recording

Posted on November 12, 2015
Those of you who have been around for awhile know that I’ve been gearing up to record my third CD for an extremely long time. I was initially ready about three and a half years ago, but discovered that my previous producer/engineer had stopped producing.

So I set about to find another producer and, after a long search, just over two years ago settled on someone with a big name and big reputation who agreed to work with me. But when we got down to the specifics of how the recording process would work, something felt really wrong in his vision, and I pulled the plug on the plan before we started. (For the record, I am still convinced that was the right thing to do.)

I then pulled back from the search – I kept an ear out, I talked to some people, but I was feeling a bit demoralized and overwhelmed. Until a friend and musical mentor suggested I consider working with Sean Staples. Even before I’d talked to Sean about recording it seemed like it could be a good plan. I’ve known and respected him as a musician for a long time, and it’s important that the person I record with have good musical instincts. And I listened to some CDs he had recorded and really liked the sounds.

We met late in the summer and after talking about our visions and our processes agreed to try working together. We made plans to start recording in October, so I cleared my schedule for that month. And then promptly got bronchitis, and so wasn’t going to be doing any singing. We pushed things back, and finally met up for a first day of recording yesterday.

First, a word about process. Although he can track separately (i.e. record a guitar track on its own and then record a vocal track on its own), Sean said he preferred to record them both together. That gives you fewer options for doing editing afterwards (or stitching together separate takes), but it gives it a more live sound. I’d never recorded that way, and was a little nervous about it, because in the past I’ve wanted to be able to fix things that didn’t come out the way I wanted, especially on vocals.

He’d convinced me that recording everything together was a worthwhile plan (and I practiced based on that assumption), but it turned out that in the intervening time, I’d managed to convince him that it made sense to track separately. So that was how we started out the day – getting down good guitar tracks for five songs. (We tried on a sixth and it just wasn’t coming out solid, so we decided to put it away for now and try again later.)

But then Sean decided that, just to see how it would go, we should try recording something with both vocal and guitar. So we set things up and ran through a song, twice. (The second time he switched out the vocal mike, which gave a much better sound.) It was mostly just a test – at that point, I was exhausted and cold and my voice was no longer warmed up. Even so, Sean thought the result was much better than our earlier efforts, and I could hear that it sounded pretty good, even though I’m never confident about my voice. We both agreed that the guitar sounds different when it’s recorded at the same time as the voice – I play in a more integrated way. And it is easier to sing while playing, because that’s what I’m used to doing.

So I think the next recording session we’re going to try live (recording both at once) for real, and see how that goes. We’ll probably end up doing a bit of each approach, but aiming to do what we can live.

It doesn’t bother me that we may not end up using anything we recorded yesterday. The process was still a lot of fun – I love recording – and it’s a useful learning and preparation process, especially in a context in which we’re both getting to know each others styles and strengths. The timing of all of this is going to be more piecemeal, since my schedule is ridiculous this time of year, but I’m excited to be embarking on this process.