Having eschewed my old way of working in favour of trying to keep multiple plates spinning at once, (how come you never see that on TV anymore – it was staple of Saturday night TV shows when I was a child?), I now have to decide where to start and how I’m going to develop the arrangements for each song and build up the parts for each member of my virtual band.
In the days when I was using Cubase 3.0, the starting point would be to set the tempo, (and time signatures), in the tempo track in Cubase, then block out the drum parts, followed by bass and keyboard parts. Which actually doesn’t seem to be a bad way to go, (it worked well before), but it does lead you towards fixing the structure of the piece rhythmically before you start adding any melodic instruments. Cubase 7 offers a different possibility that I want to try, to see if an alternative approach has anything to offer.
The Chord Track was introduced in Cubase 7 and allows you to enter the chord progression for a song in the project window. It can be used to generate harmonies to monophonic recordings, (i.e. vocals), but for right now, I’m looking at it as a quick way to get the chords sounding in Cubase without any distractions. With each section of the song entered onto the Chord Track, I can then play the song to see if the basic sequence of those sections is right. Do I have enough space between verses? Are some sections rushed? It’s a final check on the structure of the song as written, but also will enable me to decide if the song is finished. Perhaps I need to solo over a different section, or cut a section down to make a solo more compact, (that’s a really good way to make you think about what you’re playing).
With the arrangement finalised and a sympathetic sound being triggered by the Chord Track, I’ll look to add drums and bass, before turning off the sympathetic sound and thinking about the guitar and keyboard timbres. As I get to each of those stages, I’ll post my thoughts on the choices I need to make and issues I’ve encountered. I may put a guide vocal on all the tracks before moving on to the guitar and keyboard parts, so that I make sure to leave enough space in the arrangement for the vocals. Percussion and loops will be floating voters, as I’ll add them in, (or take them out), as and when I think I need them or they’re cluttering things up. (Yes, I’m not ruling out using some loops – I said I wanted this to sound modern and, dare I say it, “relevant” – what does that mean, anyway?).
I’ll be doing the vocals at the end. There are two reasons for this. First, it will enable me to perform the songs against the final, recorded arrangements and deliver a vocal that is hopefully as sympathetic to the arrangements as the arrangements will be to the vocal. Secondly, I haven’t sung to that extent in a long time and it gives me between now and then to exercise my voice to get it back into some sort of shape. With everything recorded, it’ll be on to the mixing, but that’s a whole different ballgame.
So, I’ve decided on my methodology, outlined a work plan and got myself a line-up. Just one more thing to consider.