Friday, March 4, 2016

New song is going up!

Original cover art for Dance In The Indigo
I just released my second song to CDBaby—"Dance In The Indigo". Last September, I thought I would be finished with it in a month! Ha ha ha ha! I spent a long time on the learning curve this time, especially with the mixing. I used a lot more instruments and vocals on this one, and by the time I got everything on there and did a preliminary mix, it sounded more cluttered than anything else. Fortunately Patrick Baird, author of the GarageBand Guide, released his Ultimate Guide to Mixing in GarageBand. It turned out to be an extremely useful primer on song mixing.

It's a nice long discussion of each element of the song, how to find the best EQ for the various instruments and vocals so each one nests together with all the others, and finds its best voice in the song without stepping on any of the other parts. There are examples and screen shots for each instrument group, plus suggested settings for effects and plug-ins that I've never had any clue about how to use. If you're looking for a comprehensive and easy-to-follow introduction to the art of mixing, I recommend it highly.

Armed with this guide, I spent a lot of time working with each track, not just fine tuning it, but playing with every setting I could find for each instruments, listening for the differences. I spent a few weeks just doing that, but by the time I finished I was much happier with the sound of the song. The problem was that after all that listening, I was beginning to hear every flaw in my vocals. So I went back to recording around Christmas. I was hoping to layer some background vocals onto both the verses and choruses, and that took more time. I had already given up hope about getting this done quickly, and decided to keep working on it as long as I was still learning things, like the fact that in GarageBand you can save EQ settings—as many as you want, to pull up in all your future songs. It is a great time-saver.

Another thing I learned is that it makes sense to do things in a certain order, and to not get carried away with "finish" until you're really happy with the foundation. Making major changes and re-recording is a lot quicker at the beginning than at the end. I also spent a lot of time getting acquainted with the repeated, repetitive, repetitious listening you have to do with recordings. After a few months with a song, it gets both easier and harder to hear—easier to hear the small fragments that sound out of alignment with the others, but harder to hear it as a whole. I went from working on it for 6 hours at a time to having to put it away till the next day after just a couple. If I hadn't had my friend and mentor, Milt Ritter, to listen each set of changes, it wouldn't be nearly as good as it is, and it's still not as good as I hope I can get as I get more experience. I hope it's good enough for people to enjoy listening to it, but I like to think about what it would sound like with a really good singer. While I've been wrapping this one up, I've been making more progress on my third song, using everything I learned on this one.

As on the first song, I spent several sessions on the phone with Apple when the program didn't behave the way I expected it to. But the more things I found that I could actually do in GarageBand, the more impressed I was with it. I thought that maybe it was time to move up to Logic, but then decided I could really wait until I had learned everything I could working in GarageBand, where I was still finding more options than I really know what to do with.

It will be up on Soundcloud in a few days and I'll add a link to it. Please give it a listen, and if you like it, share it with your friends.