Worthy of the Final Track?

The final song of the album is going be purely metal influenced.  That much is decided. But unfortunately…that’s about all I know so far.

Although, this weekend I did lay down a work in progress that I think may go well as the beginning of Track 10.  Have a listen.

The beginning riff is reminiscent of southern rock, but then it goes into some definitive metal shredding.  At 0:33 we get some heavy chugging, which is perhaps a bit boring, but we can a ton of fun with that.  Lots of room for creativity from the drums, vocals, other guitars, or even banjo!

At 1:06, we have a classic example of a “black hole” transition.  The melodic part that follows could have some epic vocals, but I’m not sure what I’ll do with it just yet.

The abrupt ending shows that this song is incomplete…
but where do I take it from here?

I will say that there is one thing that has been bothering me about this project so far: the lack of black metal.  It’s time to write some slower progressions with dissonant and foreboding chords…I’ll work hard to deliver on this!

Second Iteration of Logos

A few things have been going on behind the scenes here. One of which is the establishment of an “art team.”

In order to provide meaningful feedback and foster productive conversation, I enlisted two new friends into the project: Kara and Lindsey! Both know more than I do about visual art, so we’ve been going back and forth with Eric regarding the direction of B&B artwork.

As an added bonus, Lindsey also has a great voice! I’m adding her to “the angels” group with Amanda, nice!

So then, Eric got back to us the other day with more sketches, and it might as well have been christmas. He took the logo concept we liked and ran with it, and I must say I’m delightfully impressed. Take a look and see for yourselves. (click the image for a zoomed view.)

this is some awesome progress

Here are a few snippets of the feedback floating around currently:

Kara:

“…the lighting now is pretty uniform across the stump. If you added some dark shadowing near the edges and…”

“…very metal yet, americana. well done…”

Lindsey:

“…it gets a little bit lost. Perhaps defining it more by filling it in around the edges…”

“…I think the placement of the axe blade in the trunk is crucial…”

Me:

“…4 and 5 have the ground incorporated, and that gives it a more tangible feel that i like…”

“…having the letters carved is more man-made and realistic. as if abram himself did this…”


What thoughts do you readers have about these designs? Let us know!

Bottom line here is that Eric is just awesome and fun to work with. I can’t wait to see the next iteration!

Beyond the Click Track

So now that we’re starting to solidify some tracks, what comes next in the recording process? Well usually, laying the percussion down is a good first step. Yes, I said first.

This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, but in order to write drums, you first need to know the structure and tone of the song.  That is exactly what I’ve been working towards with Track 4. Once the vocals set the tone, the structure can be finalized, and only then drums can be written. But let’s recap the process:

  1. Record basic version of song with all key elements
    (such as the verse, chorus, etc.)
  2. Write lyrics, altering song structure if necessary
  3. Record the scratch track
  4. Send to drummer
  5. Re-record guitar parts…

recording the acoustic guitar parts. gotta get that mic nice and close!

What is a scratch track, you ask?  Well, as I mentioned before, drums are typically the first thing you record.  But quite often, the drummer has something to listen to while he is laying down the tracks.  This is quite often a rough recording of the rhythm guitar, and will later be thrown away…hence, the scratch track.

One key thing about the scratch track: it has to be right on tempo.

In order to accomplish this, one might listen to a metronome whilst recording.  To better lock into my parts, however, I like to take it a step further and write a MIDI drum part.

The MIDI drums can express feel and intricate rhythms much better than a standard click track (which is usually a metronome with accents on certain beats.)

I’d like to present to you Track 4 with the MIDI drums I utilized to record.  Please do not think that the final drums are supposed to sound like this, because they’re not.

The MIDI drums are there solely to help me record the scratch track. Notice I added some MIDI bass in there too, just for kicks (but no vocals this time.)

Well then, at this point I think we’re ready to send this to Jake for percussion!

So many ingredients…

I’m starting to realize how involved writing an entire album can be.  Lately, my thoughts have been consumed with themes, music, instrumentation, transitions, people…   and when I say consumed, I really mean it.  On the way to work, before I fall asleep, eating dinner…I’m thinking about how I’m going to put this thing together.

Musical parts are coming to me in bits and pieces, and melding them together is going to be a huge challenge.  Additionally, where do I put mandolin? What about banjo? Where will we have harmonies? Should it be 2 or 3 parts?!

Oh man… my head is spinning.

AHHHHH!!!

Another issue is my personal skill set.  Sure I can play guitar, but my chops are definitely not up to snuff for album quality recording. (Chops = how well you can play technical music parts on a given instrument).

I’m just a rhythm guitarist, so taking the lead is actually pretty new for me.  Take, for example, the opening riff to track 4.  I’ve been practicing that thing over and over and over again, and it’s still not perfect!  Should I ever get to the studio, I’m going to have to make sure it sounds better than this:



I think I’d be pretty hosed if I had any real deadlines…

Developing Track 6

I’ve made some good progress on Track 4 lately, but let’s not forget the other 9 songs on the album…

Track 6 had some good potential going, but we only had half a song. Completing the second half of the song was the focus of my weekend.

In the previous version we had an intro, a bluegrass verse, and a [blackish] metal part. The transition was pretty rough before, so at 0:27, I inserted some guitar feedback so we know to expect the electric guitars.

I also decided we needed to highlight some instrumentation somewhere, so I put in a musical break at 1:14. I’m thinking a mandolin solo would go well there!

I then brought in a bit of drama immediately following the musical break by doing some quiet finger picking.  Some harmonies or soft vocals will be great there!  I love the upright bass sound…

The ending breakdown is pretty boring in its current state, but I know exactly what I want to do with it.

This song is where the town learns of Abram’s crimes, and decides to act. As such, it will end with everyone chanting to the breakdown as it all fades off into the distance…

Now, it looks like I have more lyrics to write!

The Maturation of a Song

I know what you’re all thinking.

When is this shit gonna start sounding good?

Ok, you’re probably not thinking that, especially because I keep reinforcing this… however, I think we can all agree that progress has been slow overall.  It’s a long process folks, especially with a full time job.

Regardless… I am trying here, but if any of you still have doubts, I plan to make believers out of you with this post.

Take, as an example, a song my previous band recorded on our 2007 EP.  We wrote the album over the course of an entire year, while each of us attended different universities.

one of our logos for DQ=Victory

This was made possible by meeting up every so often, working on the song together, recording a draft, then iterating on it a few months later. Each time we met up the songs matured, grew in complexity, and got closer to what we were trying to express.

Lucky for us, I kept all of the song files we created in the process. In the depths of my hard drive I found 4 versions of the same song and put them together in a little playlist for you.

If you have 15 minutes to listen, you might just find this interesting.

Song #1 in the list is the very first time we tried to record it.  We all played it together in some basement at Michigan State University, and we clearly have no idea what we are doing.  It still gave us a starting point though.

A few months later, we got together at Grand Valley State University and recorded what I call the completed draft.  The song structure was solidified, and we were able to start trying some lyrics out.  As you can tell, we still sounded shitty, just like Blood & Banjos!

Right after our senior year of college had started, we met up for a weekend in the studio, and recorded the 3rd version you hear.  The quality has made a quantum leap, and the song sounds much more mature and polished.

the band with our studio engineer/producer Marc Hudson

Finally, the last version entailed another weekend of recording, and many hours of engineering/mixing.

This mature, studio recorded, and well mixed end product is the goal of B&B… but we’ve got a long ways to go.

As I’ve said before, though, I’m committed.

First Round of Logo Concepts

Howdy.  I’m in a good mood today because Eric delivered some early concept sketches for our future logo!

These are just representations of ideas that could be developed further.  Which one do you like?

these have promise

I told Eric that incorporating trees/branches might be a good direction, and he certainly explored some neat options.  I think I’d like to see some iterations on design #2 though, so I said let’s go for it!  (Actually to be honest, I’d put #2 on a shirt and wear it as is.)

 

Awesome… can’t wait to see how this develops.  Thanks Eric!