Posted by: Stephen Caulfield | April 11, 2010

Make It Better

Well I thought that it was finally time that I put up some of my own music on this blog as I have spent long enough waffling on about other things. I find that the way I work when it comes to recording music is to work on several different things at the same time. This way I find that I can work on a song that I am feeling inspired by, but then move on to another project quickly and easily if I feel that I’m not getting anywhere.

As a result of this I currently have about 5 or 6 songs on the go at the moment with another couple of ideas for songs, such as a chord sequence or a melodies, waiting to be properly recorded and fleshed out.

I think that there is a serious drawback to this method of recording though and that is that you get drawn into the trap of never finishing a song off, or at least thinking that it is finished. It is very easy to forever tinker away with something, re-record, or add a whole new instrument or effect, just because you can. However I am very happy to say that I think I might have actually finished a song off and there is nothing further that I want to do to it.

The song is called ‘Make It Better’ and it is actually a song that I wrote many years ago. Here it is, why not have a listen?

The problem I always had with recording this song was that I really like the demo version that I recorded in my bedroom 10 years ago. It sounds pretty rubbish now as I just recorded it with me singing and playing guitar live on to a 4 track tape recorder with a few keyboard parts overdubbed on top. However I really liked the character of it as it sounded nice and lo-fi, you could even hear me leaning back in my chair at the end to switch off the tape recorder. I often find that the imperfections of something are just as revealing, if not more so, than everything else that is going on.

So what I was trying to do when recording ‘Make I Better’ was to capture all the things that I currently enjoy doing when recording in my studio such as lots of harmonies, interesting keyboards sounds and effects but to also ensure that it still relates to that demo of me with my guitar.

There are a few sounds on the song that I really like, so I thought I would make mention of them. Firstly I used some Mellotron sounds.

Mellotron

The Mellotron was an instrument invented in the 1960s where every key on the keyboard played a different tape recording of an instrument or sound. In effect it was an early form of sampler and while it may not have reproduced completely realistic sounds, it did impart a character of it’s own on to them. One of the most famous uses of a Mellotron that nearly everybody has heard are the flute sounds at the beginning of Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles.

On my recording I have used a very good virtual Mellotron plug-in by GForce Software called the M-Tron Pro. Real Mellotrons were notorious for going badly out of tune as temperature changes would make the tapes shrink or stretch. Also they were incredibly heavy and the thought of trying to lift one up the stairs to my studio is not one that fills me with joy.

GForce M-Tron Pro

I found that the M-Tron Pro sounded really great and I was easily capable of carrying the DVD up the stairs. What a hero. I used it to provided the piano sound, which sound lovely and wobbly, as well as some classic Beatles style flutes.

I also made a large use of a plug-in of another bit a vintage kit, a Roland Space Echo which is a tape loop delay.

Roland Space Echo

How the effect worked was that the inputted audio signal was recorded on to some tape which is moving in a continuous loop. There are then a number of heads further round the drum that pick up the recorded signal and play it back again. When the original bit of tape comes back around to the start it is wiped and new incoming audio is recorded over it.

The original models are now very highly sort after pieces of kit and sell for very large sums of money indeed. This is because as with all good pieces of equipment, you could do a lot more than it was originally designed for.

For example, you could feed the outputs of the effect back into it again meaning that it was re-recording the same signal again and again. Each time it recorded the signal it on to the tape it would change slightly as a result of the frequency and dynamic capabilities of the tape as well as random effects like wow and flutter.

To my ears the result is very organic and interesting compared to a digital delay, although these are still useful in other ways. Fortunately as with the Mellotron, there are some virtual software versions of the effect available. On my song I used two different versions, which each did slightly different things. Firstly I used the Tape Delay effect which comes as part of the bundle of effects and plug-ins that come with Logic Pro (which is the software I use to record everything) when you buy it.

Logic Pro - Tape Delay

This was used as an effect on the vocals during the last parts of the songs. I set the delay up to produce a never ending loop that was gradually degrading with each repetition.

Secondly I used the Tape Echo effect from Native Instrument’s Guitar Rig 4 software.

Guitar Rig 4 - Tape Echo

I used two of these at different delay setting on the lead electric guitar sound at the end of the song with each effect panned left and right to make a much fully guitar sound that stands out of the mix a lot more.

So there we have it. I hope that you enjoy listening to the song. I will post more of them up here as soon as they are finished and I convince myself to stop tinkering with them.

Stephen.

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Responses

  1. [...] them and then chose one to play in full. Well I was lucky enough to be chosen to have my track Make It Better played in full. I can’t really explain how it feels to hear your own music being played on [...]

  2. [...] is exactly what happened to my track Make It Better. It was one of 4 tracks played for 30 seconds in the Demo Panel section of the show and was chosen [...]

  3. [...] I’m very excited because today my first single, Make It Better has been release and is available for people to buy. You may remember that I previously wrote a [...]

  4. [...] fairly old song that I have had knocking around in various versions for years. In a similar way to Make It Better, the song started life a fairly rough guitar and vocal demo that I recorded in my bedroom on a [...]

  5. [...] fun playing with the sounds. In fact I’ve already used it of a few of my songs including Make It Better and I’ve Found [...]

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