Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Singing, The Morning After ...

Mom raised me to be humble. Friends will tell you that I very rarely talk about myself. In a group, I'm the one who listens to everyone else.

And humility is good, to a point. But last night, I seriously knocked my new tune out of the park.

The first half of the session was spent sitting with Brian at his boards, listening to what we've laid down in past sessions and tweaking little things. "Ooh, that's flat," I said of one word. No problem. He adjusted the pitch just enough to smooth it out. "Ooh, that 'k' is too hard," I said of the end of another word. No problem. He took the volume down on that consonant to make it less pronounced.

Did you know there are like a bazillion kinds of reverb? I didn't. Reverb's reverb, right? Oh, no no. What kind of reverb would you like? Do you want to sound like you're in the shower or in a cathedral? Singing in a school hallway or an airport concourse? Seriously. Completely wild, computers and what you can use them to do to someone's voice.

So as Brian played back tracks, I asked, "What's on my voice here?", thinking he'd done all kinds of tinkering. And he clicked off the reverb and I heard my raw vocals. Sometimes, I just heard the vocal with no music bed underneath it. That was startling, to hear the way I really sound when I sing. On good equipment. (The mic I was using is normally used to record narration for television, so it's pretty damn spiffy, as mics go.)

I headed into the booth after an hour or so, and revisited a song we've worked on during the past two sessions. I've been singing it a lot and thought I could lay down a better cut. I keep the lights off in the booth, so the only light was from Brian's studio. At home, I sing in the dark, so it just feels more comfortable to sing with the lights off when I'm there.

Part way through the song, I saw Dave pop his head in the door. And, much to my amazement, I kept singing. Until I started laughing. I didn't think he was going to be there last night.

Dave didn't realize at first that I was in the booth (given that the lights were off and I was wearing black) but Brian clued him in. And he had very nice things to say about my voice - the pitch, the vibrato.

The key thing to know here is Dave is a sensational musician. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, he composes for television, but he's also a singer and keyboardist in a band. I respect him musically more than anyone else I can think of (though Brian is a great musician, too). So while praise from anyone is nice, praise from a professional musician is validation.

We returned to the track at hand. I was having trouble with a couple words, trouble that Brian couldn't likely fix with his techy toys. So we punched a few lines a few times and he played them back for me so we could judge them. In one phrase, the word "Yes!" is very key, and I sang it in a particularly high-pitched voice.

"What do you think?" Brian asked in my headphones.

"Well, let's see if you get this reference: I think I sound like Jenna Jameson." Through the glass dividing us, I saw him laugh. We kept the phrase.

After a bit more tinkering, happy with the entire track, we moved on to "Who's Minding The Store?"

Maybe it was because I was warmed up. Maybe it was because I was happy with the other tracks I'd been hearing all night. Maybe it was because I've sung this song about 100 times in recent days, but my voice did everything I asked it to do. Brian let me sing through on the take he was using to check levels. "There was some good stuff in there," he said. So we ran it again. And we'll work on it again the next time.

Next week, he says. We'll see. But I hope so. Things are finally coming together. A number of tracks are almost finished, for my part. He can start mixing them as he has time. I have two more to record, the k.d. lang and another that I was thinking might be a bit out of my range. But I sang it in the car on the way home last night and thought, "Hell, I can do this song."

I hung out with Dave for a while after Brian left. Later, Dave put his coat on to walk me to my car. I told him that I was glad he got to hear a few seconds of me singing. He asked if he could hear more. I suggested he have Brian play the new track, even though it's unfinished. As we stepped onto the elevator, he said, "Your voice, it's so professional, Beth. If you don't mind me using that word."

I laughed. "Yes, Dave. How dare you say I sound professional?!" But he made a good point, that not all professional voices are voices we necessarily want to hear. Or, we think we want to hear them, because they've been so processed by computers, but then we hear them live and yeeeeeeeeesh. Or, we never hear them live. On purpose. Because they never tour.

Earlier, as Brian was getting ready to leave, he said I should start performing at the Hyatt on Wacker. "Isn't that the hotel with all the glass on the river, by the lake?" he asked. It is. I chuckled to myself, thinking of the jazz band in "Lost in Translation," the woman with the mane of red hair singing "Scarborough Fair": "We're Sausalito!"

I bet they'd love me in Japan. : o )


Anonymous Jay said...

Turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese
I really think so

12:58 PM  
Blogger Markbnj said...

So, as I said elsewhere before,
WHERE can we hear your delightful VOCAL talents, that should go as beautiful as your literary talents


9:24 AM  

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