Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord, George Harrison… and EZKeys?


There was comment on one of my YouTube videos a few weeks ago that got me thinking.  The video was about using the Cubase Chord Track with Toontrack’s EZKeys, and the general thrust of the comment was “that’s fine for people who can’t play”.

One of the things I’ve set out to do with the songs I’m recording at the moment is, for the most part, to avoid my own clichés and to try to think, (and play), outside the constraints of my comfort zone.  For a guitarist, I’m a passable piano player, but I’m no Rick Wakeman, so EZKeys gives me the ability to record a higher quality piano part than I could achieve on my own, either by playing or simply writing in the notes. [Read more…]


From the Boiler Room: Taking Stock

oasis_poolI’ve been away for 10 days recently; along with my wife and family, I was relaxing on Fuerteventura, a frequent holiday spot for us for several years.  As well as some real books, audio books, podcasts, new music downloaded from Spotify and old music downloaded from my PC, I also took with me work-in-progress mixes of the album of songs I’ve been working on for the last year.

Part of the issue with working on a solo project is that there’s no one to make you carve out the time – you have to do that for yourself, fitting it in around the multiple demands of “normal” life.  It’s more difficult on your own than when it’s a joint project, because the need to make space for your partners forces you to set some mutually convenient time aside, and everyone makes the effort to keep that regular space in the diary. There’s also no one to tell you when things sound great or, (more importantly), where an idea doesn’t fit or a direction isn’t working.  You have to gauge that for yourself.

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Panning re-amped guitars

Traditionally, the lead vocal sits in the middle of the stereo image, along with the kick, bass and snare.  Other instruments may be panned into the centre, but even then, some might be stereo sources that spread themselves across all of part of the stereo field.  One mono instrument that tends to take centre stage is the lead guitar, but what do you do with it when the lead vocal comes back in?  One has to give way, but unless you double-track the guitar, it tends to end up with the lead guitar either being panned outwards or ducked.  In this example, I show how a reamped guitar solo avoids being obviously panned to one side, whilst at the same time being panned outwards to leave some space for the vocal.


From the Boiler Room: February Update

drum_comboThe drum parts for all of the original songs are now complete, as are the bass parts. There may be some tweaking of the basslines as the arrangements develop, but they’re there or thereabouts for all songs. The drums are mainly the EZX Indie Folk and Americana kits, (a 50-50 split), but I couldn’t find the right parts for “One More Time”. In fact, anything I tried, no matter how simple, seemed too busy or just leaden, so I’ve opted for some simple (EZX) Latin Percussion on that and it’s just enough to provide some movement without becoming a distraction. [Read more…]


When is a song “finished”?

QuestionThis blog and its associated video channel go by the name of “Finish Your Song”. But what does that mean, and does it mean that same to you as it does to me? When I came up with the name, I thought it was fairly obvious, but now I’m not so sure.

Graham Cochrane over at the Recording Revolution is running a 3 month series on recording an EP. He devoted January to writing the songs, February is recording month and he’ll be mixing them in March. (Check out his blog – it’s a great source of information and thought-provoking discussion.) [Read more…]


From The Boiler Room: Bass Line Sprint

broomstickWith the end of the holidays fast approaching, I was able to take some time to get some actual recording done.  Serial bass line recording was where I started.  I’ve got drum parts down for most of the tracks using the EZ Drummer libraries, but my efforts to generate acceptable basslines from Broomstick Bass’ internal library were (almost) going nowhere, so I abandoned that as an idea and reverted to playing them in off a keyboard.  In the space of a couple of hours, I had bass parts for 4 songs recorded and ready for editing and a second session yielded seven more – sometimes, you just have to go with what you know.  I’ve uploaded videos showing how I’ve gone about editing them to the YouTube channel.  Why almost?  Well, as you might expect, there was the exception that proved the rule – the bass line for “A Winter’s Blues” is, as it stands, what was generated by Broomstick Bass from the Chord Track. [Read more…]