Recording Diary – String Theory Sessions – page 4

   Thursday, April 28, 2005 – More guitar! On tap for today are two more guitar solos beginning with “Big Red Blues”. Tom usually writes his solos out note for note, but this one he likes to improvise. Being a blues tune, he wanted to capture a little more spontaneity in his solo. Some of the ideas are worked out as a framework to build the solo around, but how they’ll come together in the final take may or may not be how he initially intended. That’s the fun of improvisation. After a few takes we got one that we really liked.
 The guitar Tom used on “Big Red Blues” is a 1954 Martin 0-18. It has a great tone, and for a small bodied guitar it has quite a bit of volume. Certain songs require a specific sound, and this guitar sounds great on BRB. This song was written in 1987 with electric guitar as the featured instrument, but when we revived it for Perpetual Motion it became an electric violin/acoustic guitar piece.  

Next up was the guitar solo for “Terminal Velocity”, and for this song we decided to go for something different…an electric guitar! This is only the second appearance of an electric guitar on one of our CDs, as Tom has focused primarily on the acoustic guitar for years. But he grew up a fan of classic rock, with Brian May (of Queen) being a major influence. This is where we get to stretch out a little and do some things we don’t get to do at our live shows. We’re conscientious of keeping the recording faithful to our performances, but sometimes you just have to live a little.

   After experimenting with a couple of different guitars and various tones, he decided on his Guild Brian May Signature Guitar and Vox Brian May Special Amp to record the solo. Our sound encompasses many different musical styles, but heavy progressive rock, so far, hasn’t been one of them. While “Terminal Velocity” isn’t a rock tune-it’s more of a jazz-fusion piece-the electric guitar really seemed to fit. Combined with the electric violin this tune sounds like Jean-Luc Ponty meets Queen.

Tom spent many hours over the past few weeks in the basement writing and recording guitar harmonies for this song. At one point he asked Josie to listen to it, and she started laughing because it sounded just like Brian May had walked into the room. She joked that there were “too many guitars”, but, of course, that’s impossible! After initially writing a six part guitar orchestration, he settled on a four part harmony to give the song a big finish.

  Now that Tom is finished with his guitar solos, Josie wants to redo her track for “Pasion de la Luna”. Just as we’re starting to set up for that, one of her students, Susan, and a friend of hers from out of town stop in for a visit. Susan’s friend, Stephanie, is thinking about recording a CD and wanted to see what the experience was like. It was an interesting change to have an audience while recording. Recording can be nerve-wracking because you want it to be perfect since people are going to hear it over and over, and when people are listening you also want to do your best.  

The potential for getting really nervous was there, but instead having an audience boosted the energy. On the second take Josie was happy with the performance, and we went to work making sure everything was just right. This meant listening for more breathing during rests. Our time is starting to run short, so we’ll be back tomorrow to pick up where we left off.

Friday, April 29 – Today began with finishing up Josie’s violin part on “Pasion de la Luna”. Tom also added some harmony lines similar to the breaks in “Jungle Spirits”. When performed live he plays both the rhythm and melodic parts together, but for recording they were tracked separately to get the parts as tight as possible.

Next we re-cut both the violin and guitar tracks on “Josie”, the one cover we’re putting on the CD. Tom originally recorded it on the 0-18, but decided that the sound wasn’t quite right for the song, so he’s opted for his Martin MC-28 which was used on most of the other tunes. Josie wasn’t satisfied with her first take and decided to re-do the melody.

   She has been recording these sessions sitting (kneeling?) on a kneeling chair that she uses at home when practicing. In addition to recreating the practicing at home feeling, it makes it easy for her to stay in one position. This is really important when playing into a mic. In our live shows, however, Josie really gets into the groove and moves a lot as she plays, but she can’t do that on the chair. Since she’s using her electric violin for “Josie”, the amp is miced, not her instrument, so she stood up and moved around as she played. This helped her relax and get in the spirit of the tune, just as time was running out!

Photos by Tom Carleno and Josie Quick

 

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