Article sent to us by The Chrissmassy Guy.
First, here’s the song…
I recorded this in Wales in – I think – 2003. I had taken my family to a rented cottage for Christmas and I had managed to fit into the car a guitar and a few jingly percussion instruments. Oh yes, and a small recording system.
‘A small recording system’ in those days was rather larger than it is now, at least for what I considered to be a decent standard of working.
I had a Macintosh laptop – a 400 MHz G4 with a Magma PCI expansion chassis, AKG C414EB microphone, Focusrite OctoPre preamplifier (only one channel used), a Behringer headphone amplifier and pair of headphones, and a Pro Tools MixPlus system.
The Pro Tools system consisted of two PCI cards in the expansion chassis, which in turn was fitted with two massive 9 gigabyte disks. (Yes, they were massive in the day.) The interface was a Digidesign 888/24. The software would be Pro Tools version (I think) 5.1.
The guitar was a Washburn electroacoustic. I have a Martin, but I find the ‘cheap and cheerful’ nature of the Washburn more conducive to creativity. I don’t know why that is so but I have done a lot more good work ‘rough-and-ready’ than surrounded by first class equipment and studio conditions.
Well it’s a Christmas song, just a bit of fun really. I don’t think it’s going to be one of those perennial Christmas favourites, but it doesn’t hurt to try. And I believe music should be fun. People shouldn’t have to try to be so ‘professional’ all the time. (And those guys at GearSlutz who disparage the Digidesign 888/24 so need to lighten up and get their heads out of their… !)
I wrote the song quickly at the cottage. I like to do things on the spur of the moment rather than plan too much in advance. Too much planning gives my brain cramp.
By the way – please listen to the song all the way to the end (or fast forward!). Taking the advice of Roy Wood, who wrote one of the best Christmas songs ever, it’s always good to give the listener a bonus right at the end, to encourage them to listen all the way through every time.
I might have made a click track, but I don’t remember. The first instrument would have been the guitar strumming, of which there is only one track. The guitar had a pickup, but I think I recorded it with a mic.
I added a bass line on the same instrument, which I definitely remember recording with the mic. Since the pitch was too high, I pitch-changed it down an octave.
You will hear some background noise, which is my kids and their mother getting on with normal family activities around me. The background noises that were picked up during the recording of the bass are also pitch-changed down an octave, which accounts for some of the rather odd sounds you can hear.
If there is one thing I would change about this recording, which was only ever meant to be casual and fun, I would probably advance the bass line in time. The feel is rather ‘ploddy’, which may be due to the pitch change processing giving the notes a rather soft attack. Of course, it might be due to my playing, but I would never admit to that 😉
The percussion doesn’t need any explanation apart from the kick drum – it’s me stamping on the floor. Well if it was good enough for Joe Meek, it’s good enough for me.
The main vocals are all me. The ‘How’re you feeling?’ bits were double tracked a few times and squashed quite a lot with compression. Some of the singing is double tracked – I prefer doing that the hard way rather than using a double tracking effect, which never seems quite so rich. The background vocals are me too, as you might guess.
The children’s vocals are of course my children. Children have a lot of enthusiasm for this kind of thing, but not a lot of patience. The key is to get everything ready and aim for just one or two takes. It’s best to secretly record the rehearsals as well, just in case there is some useful material that’s needed for editing in later.
Only the standard EQ and compression plug-ins were used in the mix. The mastering used the T-RackS plug-in suite.
So there you have it, my take on a Christmas song. Feel free to sing it around your tree any Christmas you like!
firstname.lastname@example.org (Update September 2020 – This email address seems to have gone dark.)
Regarding the comment on the Digidesign 888/24 audio interface above, RecordProducer.com’s position is that having an interest in equipment and software for its own sake is part of the pleasure of recording. For us, however, techniques and results always come first.