Keeping Two Chevrons Apart: Uffington Wassail

Another post from my ongoing "Keeping Two Chevrons Apart" series, in which I murder the music of Half Man Half Biscuit for my own amusement and the amusement of other lunatics who happen to stumble by.

Normally, I just do a one-take "live" version on a single guitar or ukulele, because I'm both lazy and time-poor. Today, however, I had some time free, so I have something a little more involved.

Yes, folks, a full-band mix, involving programmed drums (via Hydrogen), bass, guitar (lead and crunch), mandolin, banjulele and vocals. Enjoy.

I enjoyed making it muchly, and here's how it was done.

 The Making Of

 Ingredients:

  • One laptop, loaded with:
    • Audacity
    • Premiere (or your favoured video software)
    • Hydrogen
    • A webcam and software
    • A USB Audio interface (preferably with onboard mixer/compressors. I use a Yamaha Audiogram 6 coupled with a second small mixer.
  • One bass guitar. Mine is my much-loved 1971 reissue Fender Jazz, but any electric bass will do
  • One electric guitar. Mine is a cherry-red Epiphone G400 SG, but again, your choice
  • One mandolin. Mine is a sunburst Epiphone Mandobird VII electric solid-body, but with mics or pickups any mando will do
  • One banjulele. I use an aNueNue concert size banjo-ukulele, but at a pinch, any uke will do.
  • One or more effects pedals with overdrive/distortion/reverb/compression. I use a Zoom G1x, a Zoom 505 and some Boss pedals, but again, vary to taste.
  • A microphone and stand. I used a Behringer B2 condenser - cheap but the quality/price ratio is high win. I also used a Behringer XM8500 cardioid vocal mic for the banjulele part.
  • Headphones (avoid feedback!)
  • A willingness to make an idiot of yourself

Method:

First, lay down a drumbeat with Hydrogen. Make sure you count out the bars of the song you're doing and make notes. Uffington Wassail has a break (hand me down my silver trumpet...) which goes for two bars, one of eight beats, one of seven. Or four bars, three of four, one of three. For the purposes of this recipe, the exact beat/bar ratio is not important, as long as you understand it and have it noted down. This was the trickiest part of this track, which is a pretty basic tune.

Export the drum part and import into Audacity.

Get your mic. soundcheck yourself in. Do a scratch track. Add a guitar if you need it. This track is just so you know where you are in the song, so it doesn't need to be perfect. You can talk, remind yourself of chords, count yourself in, whatever. Just make sure you know where you are through the entire song. This can save a lot of hassle later. Get this right, and the rest can be made a lot easier.

Now, get your bass, soundcheck it in at a level not too loud and not too soft. I wanted mine up on the brink of distortion, so I could play a bit harder and nudge it over the edge. I added a bit of compressor to stop it going too far, but wanted it to fuzz a little. Play your bass part.

If you need to, split your bass part into sections and record bit by bit, but make sure your settings are either kept or noted down. If I was only using the Audiogram 6, I'd have needed to note settings, but my extra mixer allows me to plug in six stringed instruments, or microphones, at a time without having to lose settings. And nine other line-in instruments if I want them. If you're doing it in bits, you'll love the scratch track, which you can, of course, mute or unmute as you need it.

OK, your bass part is down. Now, you have choices. Guitar parts or vocal parts. Either way, again soundcheck yourself in and record your tracks. This track had a bit of trial/error in vocal compressor, which I eventually left quite mild, and in guitar FX, which ended up being a preset on the G1x. The guitar part I did here was the "solo" bit, just the two notes and slide.

At this point, I filled in the mandolin break, which is just some strumming in B, and listened back. It sounded weak, so I did two things.

One: I added banjulele behind and below the mandolin, mic'd with a cheap cardioid mic. If you listen carefully, you can hear the banjo-esque tone doing a slight variation on the strum.

Two: I multi-tracked the vocal, layering three vocal tracks into one.

Now, having filled the break out with depth, I needed to add a bit more depth with the guitar chords at the end, and also multi-track the "Vreni Schneider" vocal. Here, I layered a shouted version with two sung versions, which seemed to work.

At this point, I was over it, but the audio track was pretty much done.

The came the video. As I went along, I was recording on webcam. After I finished, I filmed a few more short snippets, and sliced up the video in Premiere with the backing track and lined up as best it would allow. There is one mime fail in the start of the fourth verse, where I used a vocal I liked with a video snippet I liked, when the two didn't line up. I didn't feel it was a big problem.

Then I exported the video, dropped it into Windows Live Movie Maker to add my favoured titles and caption, and uploaded it you youtube.

Job done.

I like it. If you like it too, that's a bonus. Now, it's over to you. I want video responses. Get on it!

posted @ Thursday, July 1, 2010 6:43 PM

 
 
 
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