The Voice of God

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The voice is everything.

Once, when I was younger, and lacking all the experience and wisdom I have now, I thought that recording the guitars would be the most difficult part of this endeavour. Those fine days (last week) were times of ignorant youthful bliss.

I spent 6 hours setting up microphones in all kinds of places and listening to what that sounds like, and I used all combinations of Neumann, Lauten, Rode and T-Bone microphones (mono and stereo) to find out what works best, and a stereo pair of Neumann KM 148 did the trick, in a version of the xy-technique. I just moved them around until it sounded nice. Even though what I have now is decent, it is not as mind-blowing as I would have hoped it to be. I might have to redo one of the guitars because I was too focused on stunning microphone placement at that point, and not enough on actually delivering a stunning performance. Except for some phase issues and that one track the guitars are done now, and I have moved on to recording the vocals, which is a lot more difficult for several reasons.

While all this may be of interest to some few who intend to record guitars on their own, nobody actually cares about how the guitars sound soon as the singer opens his mouth. The voice is always the focus of all song-driven music, and at least 85% of the emotion is narrated by the voice alone, and the music behind it is just embellishment. Pretty but mostly irrelevant.

There is a received standard for how good guitars sound. Every guitar and every guitarist sound different, but there is a common denominator, because acoustic steel string guitars had a century to develop said standard. There is no such thing for voices. While recording them is simpler, as there is usually just one large-diaphragm microphone involved, that which happens in front of the microphone is a lot more personal. I don’t know how my voice is supposed to sound, because I am the only one who has it.

Understanding that took me a long time. I always tried to sound like other people, and thought that the fact that I don’t signifies that I am just not good enough yet. But just recently,growling along to a Sting record, I finally understood that I always sound like me, and that that sound is actually the one thing that will make my music different. I am a decent guitar player, but while a voice is always recognized in seconds, the above-mentioned standard makes it hard to say something unique by just playing the guitar.

If a song works or doesn’t work doesn’t depend on how I record that guitar, or play it, or mix it, although that is a sweet detail that connaisseurs will appreciate. The voice is everything. It may be crooked, but its mine. The first two songs will be finished tonight.

Love,

J

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