Studio Day: Dave Lambert on guitar

I spent the afternoon with Dave Lambert, best friend, guitar ringer, and recording guru. We’re using the new mic, and trying a different work plan from what I used when we recorded Hidden Gold. These days I put sheet music together much earlier in the process than I used to (I’ve gotten comfortable enough with it to want to transcribe while I’m composing or polishing a song). I realized that having completed sheet music with chords provides some productivity bonuses for home studio recording.

The songs for this next album fall into two main categories–songs for lute (period or period-style stuff), and songs for guitar (SCA folk, or Music of the Modern Middle Ages). The songs for guitar require a better guitarist than I am, but they require a number of collaborators. If I can put together foundational recordings–guide vocals and rhythm guitar–for, say, four songs rapidly, I have something I can share with other musicians to get our collaborations started. Some of the artists I plan to work with on this second solo album are in other parts of the country, so I either need to plan to record when they’re in the area, or I have to share my work with them remotely. But the more I can get done up front for a block of songs, the easier it will be to send that work out, plan, and coordinate.

So, the first thing I needed to do was start four new recording projects in Logic Pro (my Digital Audio Workstation of choice), build the superstructure for each track, and record guide vocals. I used to spend time doing simulated guitar work in Garage Band for iPad, but I realized I don’t need to do that. I can export my sheet music from MuseScore as MIDI files, and import the MIDIs into Logic Pro as instrumental melody tracks. (The import pulls in time signatures from my score.) Then I determine the exact tempo, put in space for intros, instrumental breaks, and the like, and then record my guide vocals listening to the melody tracks to keep me on pitch. I did all of that work a few weeks ago.

Today, I brought Dave in and gave him printouts of the sheet music for the chords, and had him record along. A lot of times we’ll do two different guitar tracks, the second of which has the capo on the guitar so that he’ll play higher up on the neck. That requires us to transpose the chords into the appropriate key for where the capo will be placed. It only takes a few minutes to do, but with the sheet music available in MuseScore, I could do it instantly and print out the new chords, speeding things up.

Dave is a delight to work with, because he is able to intuit what I’m looking for from the guitar accompaniment very quickly. It’s a combination of our experience working together, and his overall experience as a musician. But we’ve never tried to lay down tracks for four songs in one day, and I’m really excited that we were able to get so much done.

It’s just a great feeling being a recording engineer and producer again. It’s been too long, and I miss exercising these muscles.

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