Emily – The (unintelligent) Process of Writing and Recording a Song

I’ve had nothing to do for the past few weeks.

With college being over and done with for now, and me finding myself with no employment for the first time in about a year, I finally have nothing on my plate. The freedom of having nothing to do is lovely until you find yourself in a cycle of soul crushing boredom that not even things like video games, telly, or even reading can break. As you can probably imagine, there have been days where I’ve literally just been lying on my bed with my direction glued to my phone, hoping that somebody makes plans.

I’m forcing myself to write this; I’ve written and recorded two songs in the space of three or four days, and I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but its absolutely drained me. Drained me to the point where if I even look at my guitar I just feel like I need a lie down.  While scouring the house looking for things to do, I realised that I wasted my time earlier this year trying to establish The Scarlett Door as a blog that people would actually read, so I might as well do something with it instead of leaving it to serve as a reminder that I tried something and immediately regretted doing it (and wasted time and money in the process).  

I mentioned earlier that I’d written and recorded two new songs, which is something quite out of character for me because I don’t really consider myself an artist in that respect. Sure I write songs here and there, but I never intend on recording them. But anyway, with these new songs released, I thought it would be quite valuable to give a detailing of how the process of recording goes down for me, but we’ll only focus on one song, “Emily”. I’ll probably save all the technical shite for a future post, but I’ll throw in some production terms here and there to A) make sure it looks like I know what I’m talking about, B) impress people who have no idea what any of this stuff is, and C) to remind myself that I’m not a complete idiot.

My recording set up is basic; a Focusrite Scarlett interface, an AKAI MPK MIDI Keyboard, a microphone, some headphones, and Logic Pro X (music production software).

Emily

Flicking through my old notebooks, I stumbled across some old yet gold bangers I wrote during my early teens, including the song Emily (which at the time was called “Emily The Secret”). Reading the lyrics I wrote back then filled me with a sense of regret that I never recorded the songs like I said I would, and also made me feel a little bad because I used to be so into the idea that I could be a singer/songwriter, nowadays not so much. I liked the song Emily, and what was really perfect was that I’d just come up with a fresh chord progression that needed some lyrics. Emily was finally a song after all these years.

The chords were also different back then originally with the guitar tuned in standard E, but recently working as a street performer I’ve tuned it a full step down so I can sing songs at a lower range. I was actually working on a cover of Crying Clown by The Wytches when I stumbled upon this chord progression; when busking, me and my trusty partner Kris play this song a lot, but we play the opening E minor chord with an additional finger on the second fret of the top E string. Make’s it sound cooler I guess, more dramatic.

(This is where it gets a little boring)

 

I decided to record it acoustically because I’d never done that before, wasn’t too hard to set up; positioning a microphone a few inches away from my acoustic is a piece of piss. The mic was hooked into my interface which was linked up to my laptop where the sound absorbed from the microphone would feed through the interface and then directly into the software. Simple enough, but it took me quite a few takes until I could perfect the sound; sometimes the gain on the interface was too high, meaning the microphone was much more sensitive to sound which made the recording sound too loud and distorted. After a while, once the guitar was recorded, I added some reverb to make it sound bigger and fuller, then equalised it (I’m still unsure of the science behind channel equalisation, I just fiddle around with it pressing various buttons until I think it sounds nice). I decided to layer some extra guitar parts over it, various melodies here and there, this time using different sounds (example – I added some flange over two of the melodies to make it sound interesting, almost alien like).

Before recording the vocals, it occurred to me that I’ve never used a piano in any of my songs. Seeing as how I could just about play the piano, fiddle around with the scales and some chords, I decided to put some MIDI piano in. I can’t afford a real piano, so I used a sampled piano sound from my software that I could play on my MIDI keyboard, which could then be recorded into the track. With some reverb, and a little quantisation here and there, I had finished the piano part, thus I had completed the music for the track. Now it was down to vocals.

The microphone was still all set up, so naturally all I needed to do was stand and sing. The one thing I am least confident about as a musician is my vocals; I’ve never liked my voice, who does? Having to bite down on one of your insecurities for the sake of productivity or art can be difficult, but I was quite proud at how it all turned out. I did tweak the vocals a little, obviously; I added a compressor to the vocals to keep it from getting too loud, then I smothered it in reverb because you can never have enough fucking reverb. I even found the time to record some harmonies to put into the chorus, which I then proceeded to add reverb to.

And just like that, the full body of the song was completed. After everything had been recorded I went back and mixed everything properly, adjusted volumes, panning, and equalisation. I uploaded it to Soundcloud the next day, and its the first original solo song that I’ve ever uploaded onto the internet. Wowzers!

Am I happy with how it all turned out? Well, kind of. I’m my biggest critic, so there’s always going to be an element of doubt in my mind when it comes to my own work. I think its a lovely song, recorded and mixed well, but in hindsight I’m not a huge fan of the vocals. At the end of the day, the one thing I can take away from this is that I am capable of writing and recording a song in about a day, even if its not quite industry level. I know that I can develop and adapt as a musician, I just hope that I have the drive within me to do so because I struggle a lot with productivity, especially when it comes to my own art. Oh well, I’ll just have to see how it goes.

 

Ronny

 

xx

PS: If you feel like giving Emily a listen, heres the link. I’d really appreciate it 🙂

 

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