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Welcome to Gothy-Music-Land (Part 4): Adventures of a Vocalist Wannabe

January 14, 2008

Laura’s Blog Entry

As I fake my way through singing on Neil’s new record, I thought I’d blog some of my thoughts and experiences. I have always wanted to write songs and sing. OK, really all I wanted to do was sing backup harmonies, but since there’s no other lead vocalist involved I’ve been nominated for lead vocals.

It’s been an interesting experience. We started out last year by doing a couple cover songs, just to see how it would go. Neil had fun recreating songs that we love. We chose Depeche Mode’s “Blue Dress” and “Something in the Way” by Nirvana. Once Neil worked out an interesting version of each song, we adjusted them into the proper vocal range. Then I worked for about 3 months on just discovering how to best sing them. Since both songs were by male vocalists originally, I couldn’t fall into my normal trap of mimicking the vocalist – because I really couldn’t. I had to find my own way to sing the songs.

I really love how we came up with different arrangements that had the spirit of the original, but became our own. I enjoyed working to see what my voice could do, and trying to match what I hear inside my head.

Once we had those two songs together, we started working on Neil’s original songs. He writes his stuff in a very instrumentally focused manner – meaning he doesn’t come up with a melody line first and then make a song around it. He makes everything else first – a drum track, multiple synth lines – until he gets an atmosphere together. Then he lays a melody line over the top of it.

Neil wanted me to work on lyrics because I have tons and tons of notebooks full of writing. I always thought that I was writing lyrics, not poems, even though there were no songs around at the time. Once we had the melody for what we were calling “Song 7,” I sat down and got to work on fitting words to it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to write something on the spot, or use something from the archive. My writing rarely rhymes, so I was a little concerned about that.

Well, I was flipping through my notebook and stopped at something I wrote in 1994. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. It’s a very, very personal lyric, and so I thought, “Yes, let’s do that one!” Why not just put it all out there, right?

So I started working with the rhythm of the words and added a few lines here and there. It ended up working quite well. It tells a story – at least to me.

I’ve been working the past couple weeks on the vocal performance. It is about three quarters of the way there. I just want to take it a bit farther and I’ll be satisfied. As long as it is the best I can do, I feel OK about it.

Neil and I worked this weekend on what we are calling a “pre-mix” vocal. The guitarist who is working on the project has done some amazing work, but hasn’t even heard what my vocal sounds like. We want to give him an idea of what the whole is going to be.

Last night we had a little 5.1 surround sound demo for a friend. He works in the music industry and like, knows stuff. It was so interesting to listen to his analysis of the Depeche Mode remastered albums. We played him a selection of things and he gave them his seal of approval. I am learning so much from him. He talks about frequency and plug-ins and mastering and mixing; it’s all fascinating. We played him our little “pre-mix” last night to get some feedback and pointers on the mixing. What I found really helpful is how he explained to me that it is not cheating to really work a vocal track in the mixing stage.

Here’s my twisted philosophy. I feel like I should at least be able to sing an entire verse or a chorus at a time and give a good performance. I don’t want to have to record the song line-by-line, or phrase-by-phrase so that someone can patch together the very best pieces and make it sound like I am perfect. I don’t feel I can give a performance that is “there” emotionally if I do it in tiny pieces. I think that if I can’t sing at least a verse straight through and make it sound good then I am not a good enough singer and shouldn’t be trying to record a song.

But apparently that is the way it is done. EVERYONE does it. On the one hand, I feel better that people I greatly admire don’t sing everything perfectly the first time through. Although I’m sure Martin Gore does and no one can convince me otherwise.

Now I can have a different attitude going forward with this. If I can get lines and phrases the way I want them, I should be satisfied for now. I still have the goal of getting out a verse at a time, but maybe not just yet.

I am really excited to start working on lyrics for “Song 4” this week. This is so fun! I am slightly nervous when I think that the goal is for other people to actually hear this, but for now it is just my little project. I am just going to focus on doing something I like the sound of. I’ll freak out about the rest of you all later!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2008 2:33 pm

    When can we hear a sample?

  2. January 14, 2008 2:36 pm

    Not sure of Neil’s “markieting” plan. Ha! He has no marketing plan. MIght play it on the podcast. We haven’t really talked about it.

    PS – I owe you a list of podcasting gear. I haven’t forgotten. It is all unpacked, so I just have to get Neil to tell me what everything is called…

  3. Sue (I Feel Loved) permalink
    January 14, 2008 8:32 pm

    I’m in awe…. This creation of new music sounds like fun, in a hard work sort of way. 🙂

  4. Donell (rustidonell) permalink
    January 14, 2008 9:24 pm

    Can’t wait the hear the end result eventually. Sounds like so much fun. And kudos for choosing lyrics that are personal to you. 🙂

  5. January 14, 2008 10:04 pm

    Let me clear up one significant detail here.

    [ahem]

    As of today, I HAVE heard your vocal, and you are fantastic. I believe my response to Neil’s disclaimers was something along the lines of, “What a load of crap. She’s sounds great!”

    Remind Neil to remind me that I offered to lend some microphones for you all to try out.

    -d

  6. January 15, 2008 7:56 am

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone! And since one of you has actually heard the stuff, I will proceed with confidence! OK, at least with a positive attitude. OK, well, I’m not giving up, let’s put it that way. Wagons Ho!

  7. January 22, 2008 5:25 am

    Oh this is exciting. Can’t wait to hear this stuff. So exciting. I agree there’s no problem in putting the vocals together bit by bit, when it’s committed to the final cut you want it ALL to be perfect, singing live is another matter, people make the odd little mistake/improvisation and this adds to a live performance but if it were on the final mix would become annoying Keep it up Laura, your confidence and voice will grow…

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