Recording Your Songs

Just over a year ago, my good friends the Hedge Inspectors said to me "you should make a CD". Maybe they meant it in jest, but I thought to myself "well, you've written three or four OK songs, so why not?" I've no ambition to make a top-selling CD, but for me, it's one of life's 'tick boxes'. Make a decent enough CD to put my name to.

Seems easy, doesn't it? Set up a microphone, record your performance, that's it. Not really.

Well of course, now you have the opportunity, it makes sense to vary instruments, add some accompaniment, add a bass line and so on. And so it begins.

Things I've learned :

- It's one thing playing and singing accompaniment, but split them up by recording instrumentals first and some of the 'energy' disappears. The fine timing can evaporate, leaving a lifeless instrumental line. If you use a metronome to help with timing, the instrumental can become almost robotic.

- Obvious I suppose, but if you play both together, recording vocals and instrumentals into separate tracks allows you to apply separate balance and effects to those tracks in the mix.

- Now, I've learned that the production part of recording is so important, and an art in itself. Just recording isn't enough - the mix is so important. A little bit of reverb, compression and so on can make a huge difference.

- Don't add in loads of instruments for the sake of it. Everything should have a point. Emphasis, rhythm, building the song and so on.

There's probably a lot more, but those are the main things that come to mind.

So, I had five songs, they seemed OK, and then I interviewed the respected Liam Capper-Starr and asked him for a tip about recording. "Don't let yourself off", he said. "If you think something is 'good enough', then it can be better, record it again". So, I had a nice EP, all the artwork & photography done, and now, his words rang in my head. So, they all need re-recording!

One year later on, I have more songs, enough for a full CD, and I really need to put that work in. So this post, in May 2017, is a marker, hopefully in under a year's time, I'll have made that CD and will thank Liam for the comments he made.

The other strange thing is as I've got more into the songwriting process, I've written some more meaningful songs, "Parallel Lives" - about a struggle for identity and almost falling into a mental breakdown, "Tick Tock" - about living your life, "It's Up To Us" - don't expect other people to fix things for you. But, I still have "Life Of Cat", my first song, and "Innuendo", about word meanings and misunderstandings as a comedy balance.

I also have a few people that I've used to comment on recordings and the songs themselves, three people who I've asked for their honest comments. Very useful to have them as a sanity check. Your ears can get deaf to your own songs, so it can be good to get a different perspective.

Of course, these are just my experiences, your mileage may vary.

Simon Taylor, May 2017

All that re-recording is also good practice to understand your songs, I'm sure it will be worth it!