Recording Update: Black Titanic

Piecing a Song Together

“Black Titanic” is a metal monster currently in progress. I’ve been working on recording a definitive demo version for the past week, and it’s been challenging. I hope to have a  demo finished in a day or two.

We’ll see what happens.

When you only have a few hours at the end of each day to head into the studio, it’s nigh on impossible to break significant ground in a single session. The amount of work involved with creating and editing audio adds up to a mountain. It’s a full-time job, and I’ve got two small kids who take priority over my life.

But onward I trod.

Here’s what I came up with a week or so ago (be sure to click the play button, not the text).

It’s rhythm guitar and bass, both of which were recorded as initial demos–perfection was not the priority. As such this recording sucks.

After that I said, “Fuck you, bass,” and concentrated on recording versions of the two guitars that were on-time, if not perfect. Here it is:

This version was really helpful to hear–I became sort of re-acquainted with the piece. Adding lead guitar gave it a whole new character that I totally love.

The next step was to re-do the bass.

Two nights ago, I started off playing along to that track above on bass, as a way to warm up my pickin’ arm, and to develop and flesh out ideas. Seeing the band Sleep play recently gave me an idea of how approach the bass guitar–play with the fingers, slower and softer, and just turn the fucker up so it roars. Using a pick, you sacrifice smooth tone for a more aggressive sound.

In essence, bass strings are more sensitive, and must be treated as such. So I tried the finger-plucking method with BT. I had to play slower–1/8 notes to the guitars’ 1/16 notes in many places. This is due to my inexperience in finger-picking a bass. I’m a pretty amateur bass player. However, the tone was right. It gave the guitars something to stand on, but it was too boring. With black metal guitars, you need bass accompaniment matching the intensity.

I felt a little lost or disoriented and didn’t really know where to go on bass with BT. My tummy was also burning that night from too much cheap coffee earlier in the day, I had a cocktail making me sluggish, and I was getting tired. So I put the bass down and re-recorded some guitar passages. There were a couple sections that were really irking me–the rhythm finger-tapping part, and the last four measures for both guitars.

So that was sweet. I did so many takes for the rhythm tapping part that the lead part sounds inadequate under it now! But re-recording the lead part had to wait, cause my time was up. The next day I edited all that new audio together with the preexisting audio. When it was done I had two sweet guitar tracks to show off, but I only got as far as uploading them to Soundcloud and then starting a draft of this blog entry you’re reading now.

Last night, I stepped up to the bass plate for a third time. I felt that a compromise between finger-picking and pick-picking was in order. So basically I picked a little slower–not as many total notes as on the guitar, which is pretty much bashing away machine-gun style with 1/16-notes throughout almost the whole thing.

Here’s that bass track alone:

Now here’s that same bass track above, along with the guitars, second from above:

As far as quality of performance goes, I gave the bass a little more leeway; room to fuck up. Of course I did multiple takes and kept the best ones, but there were fewer, and I played for longer sections. There are a few off-time parts here and there, but nothing a layman will notice. I notice them, but…

Okay, see, it’s really hard to hear the bass at all. This could be because I haven’t mixed it using headphones yet, only thru computer speakers. Built-in laptop speakers are no representation of the true sound of any audio. Another reason it could be hard to hear the bass is because I turned the mids up highest, the bass just a little lower, and the high end down a lot. Turning down the highs minimized the pick sound, while boosted mids revealed the tone. With the bass up too high, I thought it too muddy.

Also I recorded the bass at a medium, tame volume, while the guitars were recorded as loud as the pre-amp could make them without clipping. So even with those roaring guitars turned down quite a bit, the bass still doesn’t really leave an impression.

Perhaps a bass re-recording is in order, but I’m going to give that lower priority than re-recording some of that lead guitar, and then adding drums, and then vocals. If I can make that finger-tapping part in the middle fucking perfect, the apex of the whole piece, I’ll be happy. Some other stuff can slide.

It’s not like I’m getting paid for this.

It’s pretty ambitious for me to write lyrics, and then arrange a way to sing them, but I’m gonna go for it. Just today I was thinking this up:

We sail the Black Titanic

No ice can crack our hull

We’ve hunted Leviathan, Krakken,

And not to mention narwhal.


The powers of the moon

Light our way across

The sea of the blood of the ancients of men

And time that brought the flood

About Glenn Smith

Twitter @GlennSmithPR
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