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One of the issues with finishing this record (that I have figured out in retrospect) has been that my understanding of rhythm and “tightness” changed when I was nearly done. Tracks were in the bag and then I suddenly started noticing some songs didn’t “groove” or “bang” the way I perhaps wanted them to.

Before this I’ve mostly thought about my contributions in music as chords & riffs, melody and words. The groove was just something that happened — or sometimes mysteriously didn’t happen and I’d have no idea why.

But what to do? I can’t re-record the album every time I learn something new or get better at something. I know that doesn’t end well for me (or anyone who wants to hear my record in the next ten years).

So I took some time and I’ve gone back and re-addressed things, trying to avoid re-recording everything or changing them too much (people already like a lot of these demos! some have already been licensed!). Here’s an example of one I’m working on right now:

Excerpt of the original “Feel Free Plastic Surgery!” instrumental

Excerpt of the new version

It’s been confusing to diagnose and treat this without starting over. In this one I ditched the South American drum loop that I wrote the song on top of and replaced it with a more straight ahead rock pattern I tapped in. Then re-recorded the bass to fit better.

I’m still working on it (I’m concerned the snare on the 4 is late sometimes), but the new one is more fun to me, dancier and rockier. It’s such a small change and I feel dumb that it’s taken me forever to understand and figure out. But… maybe it’s a good thing? I don’t know, we’ll see.

Posted on - February 7, 2012 [at] 2:49 pm by Brad
Tagged in - , ,

10 Comments on this post

xrg on Rhythm Delays
February 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I don’t make music, but I paint/3dmodel/program and this sort of thing happens to me all the time. I’ll learn something new that I feel makes my previous endeavors suddenly feel obsolete. I think it’s just the process of improving though – and those moments are a real life level up.

Just be careful not to wind up in an infinite loop being too self critical – I for one think either version of the song is totally fine.

felix on Rhythm Delays
February 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I get this all the time too, every time I level up I want to go back and re-do every recording I’ve ever made.

I listen to stuff I did 5 years ago and knowing what I know now I can’t believe I was happy with it at the time.

But it’s actually ok to look back on your body of work and see that progression. Desirable even, or at least I hope so, as based on observations to date I expect it to keep happening at least until death.

Bit different though when you level up mid-project. It’s one thing to figure out later what you could’ve done better but quite another to see it in real time. You can’t put stuff out that you know you can do better already.

I think you have to make things as good as you can right now – no more and no less – and move on to build on what you’ve learned.

Matt McGarvey on Rhythm Delays
February 8, 2012 at 11:04 am

Hi Brad. I personally don’t find a lot of difference in how captivating the rhythm is on either version. What I do find, compared to your earlier recordings, is the music is a lot “busier” – compared to eg. “Look and Feel Years Younger” (which is perhaps your most sparse one), a lot more is happening, so maybe the rhythmic punch you’re looking for is simply getting lost in the rest of it. In a way, that was what was wrong with us on bass and drums – the sparse, rhythmic feel got lost in the muddier, loud and brash rock and roll-ishness. Here, it gets a bit lost in the complexity (not the rock and roll-ishness) of everything happening in the song.

I’m not sure how good my headphones are, but the bass sounds a bit muddy for your usual style (ie., like mine used to sound a lot of the time – too much boom, not enough attack). Were you using a pick? Try a pick with palm muting, increasing the mid and treble, using the bridge pickup, turning down the low end, or some combo of that.

Just thoughts; it sounds great in all honesty, but doesn’t have your usual compressed, sparse feel.

Brad on Rhythm Delays
February 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Matt: yeah it’s not mixed at all and the rhythm section is way too high in the mix. I think that’ll even out once I work on that. The bass shouldn’t be as easy to hear on the final recording.

Those are interesting observations, I think my arrangements have gotten a bit more complex for various reasons. When I listen to my old stuff like Look and Feel or Bad Attraction I cringe though, the tempos are so plodding and slow.

Ksavie on Rhythm Delays
February 9, 2012 at 11:46 am

Hola Brad, soy Ksavie un músico de Madrid y quería hacerte llegar mi enhorabuena por la música que haces tío. Si he entendido bien, tu problema lo tenemos todos los que hacemos canciones. yo tengo un par de discos colgados en jamendo que con el paso del tiempo siempre me siento tentado a cambiar algo.
por otro lado la percusion africana a la que te refieres es un ritmo típico utilizado en Brasil, si es verdad que la batería suena bien, pero el otro ritmo ya lo he escuchado en otras canciones tuyas y yo lo asocio a un estilo personal tuyo.
aaaaa,estoy empezando con un blog de músicas del mundo pásate por ahí que he escrito algo sobre ti. saludos man
http://poprockyblus.wordpress.com

Matt McGarvey on Rhythm Delays
February 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

I have to say, I thought your pixelboard guitar was the bomb until I saw Deadmau5 on the Grammies last night.

For what it’s worth, my brother AND his daughters (18 and 16) still listen to your first album regularly, so your vision may have evolved but it still catches people. Me included. But change is good; look at Neil Young.

Kaleb Nelson on Rhythm Delays
February 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Take your time Brad. The way you make and distribute music is very inspirational. Don’t fret about how long it takes.

Nander on Rhythm Delays
February 14, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Well, it *is* a big improvement..

I had an idea, would it be nice for you to use something like SVN so the fans can listen to all the different stages the song has been in during development (or at least, all the documented stagess)?

Brad Turcotte on Rhythm Delays
February 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Matt: that’s awesome. It’s a weird thing, I feel like maybe by becoming a better musician I’m ruining some of what made people like my songs. But I don’t know what else to do.

Kaleb: thanks

Nander: Oh man I’d be all about that (I wanted to use svn or git in my last music project but couldn’t get it set up nicely) but it’d have to accomodate my lazy workflow.

Matt McGarvey on Rhythm Delays
February 15, 2012 at 8:09 am

It’s easy Brad. Remain a bad musician like me. :)

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