Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt 7

As a GroovaLotto, playing and singing are intertwined.
As a producer, I've come to recognize that on all of my projects, the lead vocal comes in three phases: Scratch, the vocal sung while doing the basic tracks; Reference, two takes the the lead that we build the back-up tracks from; Final, which 80% of the time are taken from one of the reference takes, but occasionally I've been inspired to catch a whole new take.

Recording the lead vocals for a project can be stressful and for many years it was the most difficult part of recording for me. My last several albums were the result of tons of discussions and consultations with studio singers, producers, and my own trials and errors in the studio. I understand from a few friends who worked with him that Prince prefers to record his vocals with no one else in the studio. He gets his engineer to set up a microphone for him and they leave him to his work. Since I used my own studios for my solo projects, it was easy to use the Prince method, but going back into a third-party studio, I had to revisit my old consultations for the vocals on this project. For some reason, after a few passes and re-passes, the vocals were okay, but just not rising to the occasion of the songs.

With my previous solo projects, the studio versions and the live version varied greatly because of the differences in personnel. With The GroovaLottos, the project dictated that the album is an 'enhanced' version of what we do live as a trio. So the vocal was a matter of recreating some of the best performances of these songs at our shows. Luckily, I have a habit of filming our shows for archival and evaluation purposes and found  several old shows where the versions of the vocal were particularly inspired. The other key factor that I observed with these performances was that I played while I sang. THAT WAS IT!!! The next time in the studio, we set up my keyboard and did a keyboard pass along with the vocals. Not only did the vocals make the leap, but were spot on in one or two takes and the keyboard part ended up becoming the new main keyboard part as it was also more in the groove with the tracks.

Dan, our extremely patient engineer, dumped the leads and basic onto CD for us to listen to over the week. According to my notes, the backing vocals were going to be a combination of horn parts and street-corner doo-wop harmonies, layered under the Sam & Dave, two voice call-and-response stuff that we do live. Eddie Ray and I ended up having a lot of fun crafting the backing vocals for these songs as we gave each voice a character and a name. For example, "Do You Mind.?" has a shared lead by Medium- sized Jimmy and Handsome Al. Then we have The Tennessee Choir Boy and Mel Tourmé, with the Cookie Monster on the low part. When we did a test market on this song, we let the vocal harmonies ride and found that people thought we were a much bigger band until they saw the video. In about three sessions, we have great reference leads and back-ups for all 13 songs.

Now on to one of the hardest parts about being in a band, that's like family, and a business.

NEXT: Replace The Bass... or not...

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