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Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

recording drums for Let It Ring

I’ve created drum tracks for four songs by a local songwriter named Michael Capella. His material tends to be folksy, occasionally wandering into the country.

The last of the four songs is an exception. It’s a bit of an epic, for this genre anyway, clocking in at nearly 6 minutes. It’s more complex than most singer-songwriter tunes I’ve heard, with frequent dynamic shifts, solo breaks, syncopated rhythms, surprise choruses, etc. Knock one beat off of any bar in the entire song and it would just about qualify as acoustic progressive rock. (By which I mean, in part, the song is entirely in 4/4.)

I liked it immediately. It fills that uncomfortable chasm in my mind that can only be bridged by complicated music.

I was especially excited about the prospect of coming up with a complementary drum track when I heard the song’s ending, which literally screamed for a drum solo. I mean, sure, I’m a drummer and I hear these opportunities every four bars. But this one couldn’t be missed.

The composition process started as it usually does; I typed up an arrangement chart to map out the various sections of the song, with time and vocal cues. These notes became obsolete quickly, as page became covered with scribbled notes, none of which I could read at 137bpm.

arrangement chartSo, I retyped the chart, incorporating the important new directions and omitting the cruft.

A week later, the new page was covered with another round of scribble — new details, new ideas, changes. By then I’d memorized the first half of the song, but still I wasn’t able to play one clean take; I couldn’t decipher my notes quickly enough while playing. It’s a concentration issue that I have not yet mastered. (Can you concentrate on one thing, keeping your mind from wandering, for six minutes? (I know people who can’t get through a sentence.))

better arrangement chart (page 1)The next step was to ditch the one-page detailed arrangement chart for a handwritten 2-page outline in large block letters, legible from three feet even with my failing eyes.

better arrangement chart (page 2)(It was supposed to fit on a single page, actually, but it overflowed. Conveniently, the first line on the 2nd page corresponded to the point in the song where I moved the ride pattern to the china cymbal on the right side of the kit, which — even more conveniently — was the only other place I could hang the 2nd page of notes anyway.)

With this expanded guide (and a few more trials, natch), I was able to record several clean takes.

I overdubbed the outro drum fills. At first, I recorded each one individually, then stitched them together digitally. But once I was finished the result sounded sterile and lifeless, so I chucked it and played them again, straight through, except for that hairy double-bass-triplet one in the middle that I can only nail occasionally. I feel a lot better about the result, which you can hear right now (you’ll have to imagine the guitar part):

notable!Let It Ring (drum outro, rough mix) (Copyright © 2005 matthew mcglynn)

I can’t publish the whole tune, but you’ll be able to hear it when the CD comes out next Spring.

(The other three Capella tunes I worked on will be on a second, or rather a first CD, which should be out in November Spring, 2006.)

posted to channel: Music
updated: 2005-11-28 01:52:15

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