Creative Log 11/23/14 - All That Shines - drums

This weekend I worked up a drum track for a song called “All That Shines”. I’m currently working on what will be my first album since 2005. Where have these past several years gone? 

Anyway, I haven’t been what you would call super prolific these last nine years, but I do have a batch of songs. You’ve heard some of them if you’ve been to my live shows. This is basically song #3 for the album. Two, “Nothing’s Broken” and “Days Don’t Last Forever” are almost done, though I do want to re-record the lead vocals on each using a ribbon microphone that my pal Earl Houston generously gave me. The ribbon mic seems to record my voice in a smoother fashion than the budget (relatively speaking) condenser mics I’d been using.  

“All That Shines” is a song I initially recorded a few years back after a request by the Homemade Hit Show podcast for their listeners to come up with summer-themed songs. I knocked together a version and sent it in. It aired and the reception was positive, but I there were things I didn’t like. So now I’m using that version as a demo of sorts, and thus I’m trying to ‘beat the demo’. 

Since I’ve always recorded by myself and I don’t have the means, or the ability & equipment, to use real drums, I’ve always relied on drum programming. For years I used a drum machine, where the goal (in most cases) was to make the machine sound as much like real drums as possible. Based on comments over the years my drum programming has fooled some of the people some of the time but hasn’t fooled all of the people all of the time. 

Nowadays I use a computer program called EZ Drummer (or more accurately EZ Drummer 2). It’s got a nifty graphical interface and comes with loads of different drum sounds. It also comes with tons of pre-recorded drum tracks. EZ Drummer makes it much easier to put together a realistic drum track than using a drum machine. I was going to say that EZ Drummer makes it easy to put together a drum track, but it’s still not easy. It’s time-consuming detail-oriented work. Though the program comes with pre-played drum tracks that can be strung together, I still make sure that everything fits just so. This time around I did a lot of editing of kick drum hits, cymbal crashes, and strategically placed drum fills. After several hours of work I feel like I have a finished drum track. What’s nice about recording into a computer is that if I’m not happy with some facet of the drums I can change it later without having to re-do the whole song. Modern technology is indeed great. 

So now we’re on to the rest of the song. I’m aiming for a late-60’s Beach Boys, or perhaps The Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, kind of sound. It’s going to require  two rhythm electric guitars, a lead guitar for a solo, bass, some vibes or glockenspiel, textural harmonica, tambourine, several vocals, and who knows what else. I’m happy with the demo in the choice of instruments department, so I’ll go back and listen to it and make some notes about what to use where.

I intend for this ‘Creative Log’ to be an ongoing series as I work up this album, but I’m also looking at it as an experiment. Can I keep up a log? I don’t anticipate future entries to be nearly as long as this one; they won’t need as much back story. We’ll see what happens. Stay tuned.