Podcast: “Take Me Away”

This was an experiment on mixing “live” recording with “live” vocals. DIY Karaoke?

or Listen to the track: Take Me Away (4min 30secs)
The basic chords are F/ Dm/ B#m/ A#
Chorus: B#m/ Dm

GarageBand - Take Me Away

I didn’t deliberately compose this. Was just, you know, pressing a few keys on the piano and discovered the chord combinations, hummed a tune, and decided it was worth recording it down. So out came the Macbook Pro.

Rhythm, fillers & Chorus tracks
First I recorded the rhythm track (“Acoustic Guitar Echoes” effect) just to get a feel of it, then tried to find matching drum beats. Final selection – “Jazzy Rock Beat” with tempo set at 120. The first rhythm track was eventually discarded (since it was done quickly just so I could decide on a drum beat) and a better version recorded to fit the selected drum beats. I later realised the Jazzy Drum Beat didn’t comform fully to the 4/4 beat so had to do editing/ splicing/ cutting of the recorded tracks. Wasn’t too difficult after the experience gained from the March Upon the Black piece.

Next I worked on the fillers for the rhythm track (you hear them come in at the 2nd Stanza, around 1 min 22 secs), and chose the “Summer Sounds” effect.

For the chorus, it was a combination of 2 tracks. I’m not sure if you can hear it — there’s a rhythm part and a picking part. The rhythm part was in “Dreamy Shimmer” and the picking in “Funky Rhythm” effect. I set a higher volume on the guitar pickups. Recorded quite a few versions (mainly because I kept messing up on the drum beats).

While I recorded quite a few tracks, eventuallyt only 4 or 5 were really used and they were duplicated for the respective stanzas. Meaning — I probably couldn’t play this in a “live” performance without making any mistakes (unless I really practiced).

Drum beats
I find that the drum beat is a major influence to the mood to the piece (quite obvious, right?). Normally I play the rhythm track on a Repeat loop, and go though the list of drum beats, experimenting with each set. Since this was something like a relaxed piece, I couldn’t choose the usual rock beats. The jazzy beats were too… jazzy. Then I found the Jazzy Rock Beat which sounded quite matching. But I had to do some adjustments to the “length” of the beat by “stretching” it (er, either you understand me or you don’t at this point — guess you have to use GarageBand to understand what I’m talking about).

For the finale part, I wanted to add more “oomph” to the track, so I searched for another drum beat to add as a layer to the basic Jazzy Rock Beat. Eventually I settled on Classic Rock Beat 1 & 5 (you see them at the last row in the screen shot).

Vocals
The rhythm and chorus (and the drums) were more or less set at this point. So I started with the vocals. There’s only one vocal track recorded. I created a duplicate layer and set a “Helium Voice” effect, where I used the “Male to Female” setting. Sounded Ok I guess. Just felt that it needed a female sounding voice. Since my wife won’t sing for me, and I can’t do falsetto, the GarageBand vocal sound effect is really very neat. But for the second chorus part onwards, I added the track of my original vocal recording (i.e. Male voice) using the “Vocal Reflection” effect, to add a bit of depth to the vocals.

I tried to write lyrics for this song but gave up. Simply no inspiration. So if you can’t pick up the words clearly, it’s not you 🙂 Apart from the beginning part “Take me away to another place”, the rest of the vocals are really mumblings. I was interested in the melody than actual lyrics.

Putting it all together
With all the separate rhythm tracks, chorus, vocals and drum beats chosen/ recorded, I went about fitting them in at appropriate start/ end points. Then ran through the track a few times, added slight fade ins and outs to make the transitions less abrupt. Finally (and this is often the most tedious part), I had to run through the entire track to ensure there’s no distortion to the output volume (where the volume bar crosses to the red zone). It will inevitably happen, especially at the finale part where the vocals and drums and guitar all hit a crescendo. So I normally lower the volume of that specific track, or I lower the volume of the master track.

RamblingLibrarian’s Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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