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My recording project (52 folk songs)

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Phil Edwards 04 Dec 11 - 06:02 PM
GUEST,999 04 Dec 11 - 06:45 PM
Phil Edwards 05 Dec 11 - 12:52 PM
Lonesome EJ 05 Dec 11 - 01:34 PM
gnu 05 Dec 11 - 01:53 PM
Amos 05 Dec 11 - 02:01 PM
treewind 05 Dec 11 - 03:12 PM
Lonesome EJ 05 Dec 11 - 03:22 PM
treewind 05 Dec 11 - 03:33 PM
gnu 05 Dec 11 - 04:13 PM
GUEST,999 05 Dec 11 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,matt milton 05 Dec 11 - 05:38 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 05 Dec 11 - 06:01 PM
Phil Edwards 05 Dec 11 - 06:44 PM
Phil Edwards 05 Dec 11 - 06:44 PM
Lonesome EJ 05 Dec 11 - 08:03 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 05 Dec 11 - 08:25 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 06 Dec 11 - 04:41 AM
GUEST 06 Dec 11 - 07:04 AM
johncharles 06 Dec 11 - 07:15 AM
Will Fly 06 Dec 11 - 08:08 AM
Phil Edwards 06 Feb 12 - 05:09 PM
Phil Edwards 12 Apr 12 - 04:15 AM
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Subject: My recording project
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 06:02 PM

Three months ago I started the 52 Folk Songs project. This was to be a Web site where I posted up a folk song a week, together with a few other songs I felt like recording along the way.

Thirteen weeks, in, I've put up 34 songs (22 of them traditional). And what have I learned so far?

A few things. Firstly, my voice sounds very different when recorded. Very very very different. Obviously I knew this already, but spending a lot of time with my recorded voice has really brought it home to me. Lots of takes, lots of close listening, and you start hearing a voice that's very different from what you thought you were producing. Sometimes I think "that's me, that is"; sometimes I find myself thinking "maybe I need to work on this singing lark". (Those takes don't generally end up being uploaded.) Chastening, but it makes me work harder.

A more pleasant surprise has been the discovery that singing with a backing can be an awful lot of fun, even if you're laying down the two tracks separately. I'm a big fan of drones (which I never thought I'd get into), and I'm gradually teaching myself chords (starting with first/fifth power-chords and moving on to whatever sounds good on top of that). Vocal harmonies are the next frontier.

Then there's the public reception of the project, which Bandcamp enables me to track in great detail. I'm driven to the reluctant conclusion that uploading home recordings to a Web site is not going to enable me to give up my day job. Actually I knew that already, but I am getting the impression that the appeal of 52fs is quite selective, as they said about Spinal Tap. I wonder how good a place the Web is to build a profile, for those of us who aren't really startlingly talented, photogenic, lucky or all three; I suspect that there's just too much music out there for a single project like this to make much of a splash. (Or maybe it's a slow-burning splash; there have definitely been more plays per day per track of the songs on the second virtual album than the ones on its predecessor. We shall see.)

But in any case, it's a great hobby. Even if I were the only audience - which I'm not, although for a couple of tracks it's a close thing - 52fs is proving to be an incredibly enjoyable and absorbing project; I'm learning all the things about music I've always vaguely thought I ought to know, as well as some unexpected but useful things about my singing.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: GUEST,999
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 06:45 PM

"I'm driven to the reluctant conclusion that uploading home recordings to a Web site is not going to enable me to give up my day job."

If you don't go to people's funerals, they won't go to yours.

This is not meant in reference to you, Pip, but I have watched closely over the years the number of Mudcat threads whereon people have announced a new CD release or what is to them a thrilling musical experience and the threads close--drift off the page--with about 20-30 posts. We live in a very small and viciously jealous world, and it is exemplified on Mudcat somewhat more than most places because ya'd figure if support is going to come from anywhere it would be from other musicians. Not so. IMO.

##############################################

The problem with hearing your own voice is that you have to hear it the way everyone else does, except you also have the memory of what it sounds like firmly implanted in your brain (memory). That's the biggy to deal with.

I was doing a CD in 2008 and when I heard the first cut--voice and strummed guitar track--I was nutso because at the end of stanza one (on my favourite song of the CD) I hit a note a bit flat (maybe a 1/4 tone). I recall the moment in the studio when that happened. I was wearing headphones and as the track was being recorded I heard this bloody awful 'noise' for lack of a better term, and remember saying silently to myself, "WTF was THAT?" The producer (a Mudcatter who is an incredible songwriter) listened to the take after the song was finished and said, "It's fixable." However, a month later it didn't sound fixable to me. (We ended up grabbing the same line from another stanza and it WAS fixed, but I'll always remember it, and three years later I find myself looking for that flat note whenever I listen to the take.) I say that because while my voice is not great, it is good, and I do not sing sharp or flat--I hit my notes.

I guess what I'm saying is please keep on keeping on. Whatever accolades you may get here will not be half the payment you deserve for the project. Look at it this way: you are learning lots of stuff from it, and that in itself is a good thing. Besides, most CDs take a year, anyway. Best wishes to you, whoever you are, and keep singing.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 12:52 PM

20-30 posts! I dream of 20-30 posts...

Close listening is a curse and a blessing - before I started recording my voice I hardly even knew that I could sing flat!


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 01:34 PM

999, good story.
Should we be striving for perfection? Probably, but attaining it would be counter to the real nature of the music, not to mention impossible. It's a fact that those imperfections resound on multiple listenings out of proportion to their actual significance. It's always good to get other opinions, even if you don't heed them.
Sometimes, I think, those mistakes become an integral part of the experience of the song, and because they "stick out", break the predicted progression and become something that draws you in. Case in point is on a song we talked about here some time back, "I saw Her Again" by the Mamas and the Papas. When Denny sings the first line of the chorus (I saw her) after the second orchestral signature after the bridge, I defy anyone to sing along without singing his mistake.
This doesn't work for flat notes and sharp notes as well obviously, because the tonal clash conjures that cringe feeling. My guess is that the more you record, the less flat or sharp you'll be, but you'll never ever get past that phenomenon where you say "damn, I really sounded great on that take except for that one line! You have three options then. Re-record the whole thing (and have the problem recur elsewhere!), record a second track and patch in the line (sometimes works, though there seems to be an organic unity to a single take that is often lost when you "frankenstein" tracks together). Or live with it until it stops grating on you. I do think, however, you will always hear it. My guess is that even Joan Baez has to deal with that.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: gnu
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 01:53 PM

Great comments and advice.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Amos
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 02:01 PM

No, there's a fourth option. Many software audio tools allow you to tweak the pitch of a segment in tiny increments. So a note that is a quarter-tone flat can be kicked up a few cps as needed to make it sweet. I have never done this, so I can't speak to how smooth the result is--I suppose it depends in part on choosing the exactly right segment to tweak. But I know it can be done.


A


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: treewind
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 03:12 PM

Celemony Melodyne and Antares Autotune when used with skill can pull a whole bunch of off-key notes as straight as you like.

Melodyne can even isolate the harmonic components and adjust them separately, which means it can fix a guitar with one string out of tune with the others. I guess the result doesn't sound too great when you have to do that, but it might just be better that an out of tune instrument. On single notes it works very well. I've seen it used - the note pitches show up on a screen and fixing problems is about as difficult as fixing spelling errors in a word processor with a spell checker...

The effect is deliberately overdone on pop vocals everywhere, but when used carefully to fix minor pitch problems it often isn't noticeable.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 03:22 PM

Are we Devo? I mean that in the sense of this: Are roots and traditional musicians of the same stamp as Madonna, Cher, Justin Timberlake and Lady gaga? Have we as listeners come to expect technical flawlessness? Where the value of our music has always been is in the authenticity of the sound, the song, and the songwriting. Would Dylan have been more effective if he'd had Autotune at his disposal? Slippery slope. I'm not condoning flawed performance as an indicator of integrity, but ...


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: treewind
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 03:33 PM

I entirely agree, LEJ - just sayin' it's possible...

Have we as listeners come to expect technical flawlessness?
Actually, yes, for some values of "we" - there is an expectation of technically better standards in recorded music because we are getting used to it. But as you say it is a slippery slope...


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: gnu
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 04:13 PM

I sent some recordings to some Mudcatters I trust just before I thought I might lose my voice for good. I thought the recordings were AWFUL... I was ashamed of them but I wanted somebody to have them. Two wanted to set up a link to them... thought they were wonderful in their "rawness" with all the mistakes. I said no. And I will until I am on my way out the back door. I will always feel that I slighted those Mudcatters and I feel sorry to this day that I said I was ashamed of those recordings. I can't explain why but I am more ashamed that I said to them that I was ashamed of the recordings.

But, I gotta say, it lifted my spirits and it taught me one of the lessons stated above... BIG time.

Like 9 said, keep on keeping on.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: GUEST,999
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 04:33 PM

My 'philosophy' with regard to recording stuff is basically the song gets done in two takes, tops three. Same goes for back-up singers and musicians. I suppose excellence is in the cards for someone, but it ain't me. Ron taught me a few recording 'rules':

1) NEVER throw anything away.
2) If the error is not distracting, it's not worth 20 minutes of studio time tryin' to fix.
3) Perfection is expensive and usually not worth it.
4) Record flat (meaning no effects--echo, reverb--on any original tracks. Effects can be added later).
5) During a recording session is not the time to practice. Studios run from fifty cents to a buck a minute. Better have your stuff together before that point.

I on occasion have the habit of tapping the guitar when I play. It gets picked up by the mics and there it is. If it ends up accenting a rhythm either in time or syncopated, and it works, I don't worry about it. However, tap a mic cord and ya stop, do it again. I don't mind rawness in some songs, as long as the performance works. I agree about the slope. I have wondered what some of those singers do when they're asked to sing impromptu.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 05:38 PM

"I've seen it used - the note pitches show up on a screen and fixing problems is about as difficult as fixing spelling errors in a word processor with a spell checker...

The effect is deliberately overdone on pop vocals everywhere, but when used carefully to fix minor pitch problems it often isn't noticeable."

I often wonder how much of a relative term "noticeable" is with Melodyne.

For instance, I've heard it used on a couple of recentish albums by various Bright Young Britfolk acts. Another good example would be the last Ron Sexsmith album.

I've no idea if a studio engineer would describe this as "subtle" or "unnoticeable" Melodyne, or not. It's a long way from the Cher vocoder sound, but it still sounds unnatural.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 06:01 PM

That's the problem with modern synthetic digital software solutions..

'Folk' music demands only the sympathetic organic sounds of old traditional instruments....

That's why I'd insist on using vintage distorting analog robotic vocoders of the 1970s !!!!



Now that's my kind of Trad 'folk'....

Kraftwerk, DEVO and ELO meet Mr Fox and Shirley & Dolly Collins..

Probably why I'll be encouraged if even only 1 or 2 mudcatters ever show any interest
in my future recording project...???


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 06:44 PM

PFR - have you heard this?
"And the Web site burns
Since Finnegan fell -
Let's hope that he returns
From Web designer Hell,
He's the only one can fix it,
Fix it good and well -
Finnegan the Folk Hero of HTML!"

The synth solo at the end is something to hear.
Link un-oopsed. -Mod


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 06:44 PM

Oops.


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 08:03 PM

punk folk guy, bring it on. I'm open to new concepts, just like ol Pete at Newport.
No, wait I have a better analogy...


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 08:25 PM

well.. that track was a bit too jaunty for my bleak tastes..

but it surely demonstrates the point that the bagpipes were a historic technological stepping stone
in the evolution of sound towards the Moog synthesiser..

..and as for the clangy metallic timbre of the ring modulator
if ever there was a sound more suited for raw emotive Trad 'folk' !!!???

In all of British cultural history has there ever been a more inspiring proto punk folk vocal tone
than that of "The Daleks" !!!???


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Dec 11 - 04:41 AM

Kraftwerk

Even Ralph und Florian draw a line in the sand before Autobahn, which (even so) betrays the more thamn a little of the pastoral sensitivities essential to the true essense of Krautrock whilst keeping the very notion of volk very much at bay. Prior to Autobahn however, the music of R und F was awash with textures of experimental exotica; my favourite remains the beauteous blue-lagoon of their Ananas Symphonie which I'd say is perfect listening in the bleak mid-winter...


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Dec 11 - 07:04 AM

"but it surely demonstrates the point that the bagpipes were a historic technological stepping stone
in the evolution of sound towards the Moog synthesiser.."

Northumbrian smallpipes, even more so! Whenever I listen to Billy Pigg, I always think it sounds like a Moog.

You're right about the daleks vocals - definitely a hint of the Frank Harte/Margaret Barry/Peter Bellamy stridency to them. (And I mean that in the nicest possible way)


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: johncharles
Date: 06 Dec 11 - 07:15 AM

Pip, I have listened to a number of your tracks and suspect that the home recording does not do you justice. Home recording can be tricky and often does not turn out as one might expect.
Try getting someone to record you at a live session. Modern video cameras can give surprisingly good sound reproduction. Here is an example of a song I do. One live recording, and one home recording. Although the live one has one or two mistakes with the words and a little impromptu whistling it seems to me to be the much better version. Probably the adrenaline surge which is hard to reproduce at home. A good argument for keeping music live.
live recording:-
patrick pearce
Home recording:-
patrick pearce
John


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Dec 11 - 08:08 AM

the adrenaline surge which is hard to reproduce at home

How true. The existence of a live audience - to whom you have to project and interest - gets the adrenalin flowing and the voice rises to the occasion in a way that's hard to reproduce in a home recording.


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Subject: 52 Favourite Folk Songs
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Feb 12 - 05:09 PM

Where else but here?

Actually I'm only up to week 22, so I've only recorded 22 folk songs. Or rather 34, as some weeks I've put up more than one. Or 51 if you include the non-traditional songs that I've recorded along the way. Make that 55 to include the album-only extra tracks. But then, I've recorded two different versions of a few songs - three in fact: Sir Patrick Spens, The outlandish knight and The House of the Rising Sun. So we can subtract 3 from that figure, giving a total of... 52.

All this, and another 30 weeks still to go!

The songs so far:

A maiden that is matchless
A virgin most pure
The boar's head carol
Boney's lamentation
The bonny bunch of roses
Child among the weeds (Lal Waterson)
Come, love, carolling (Sydney Carter)
The cruel mother
Danny Deever (Kipling / Bellamy)
Dayspring mishandled (Kipling / Bellamy)
The death of Bill Brown
The death of Nelson
Derwentwater's farewell
Down where the drunkards roll (Richard Thompson)
Gaudete
Grand conversation on Napoleon
Hegemony (Green Gartside)
The holly and the ivy
The House of the Rising Sun
Hughie the Graeme
In Dessexshire as it befell
In the month of January
The January Man (Dave Goulder)
The keys to the forest (Jackie Leven)
The King
Lemany
The London Waterman
Lord Allenwater
Lord Bateman
The Moving-On Song (Seeger / MacColl)
My boy Jack (Kipling / Bellamy)
On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At
The outlandish knight
Over the hills and far away
Percy's song (Bob Dylan)
Plains of Waterloo
Poor old horse
Sam Hall
Serenity (Joss Whedon)
Shepherds arise
Sir Patrick Spens
Spencer the Rover
St Helena lullaby (Kipling / Bellamy)
There are bad times just around the corner (Noel Coward)
This is the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens (Phil Edwards)
True Thomas
Two sisters
The unborn Byron (Peter Blegvad)
The unfortunate lass
Us poor fellows (Peter Bellamy)
The wind and the rain
Young Waters


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Subject: RE: My recording project
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Apr 12 - 04:15 AM

OK, check *this* out.

Blackwaterside

I'm particularly pleased with the backing.


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