Another song

I finally finished recording another song. I wrote it mostly last summer. At the least, this one is a lot better than the last one I put on here. I hope you like it.

How I Stay Safe | lyrics

I’m slowly getting better at this. I’m still trying to figure out how to get the vocals and acoustic guitar to sound like they do live — they’re still a little dead and shrill. The problem might have to do with the tiny mic I’m using (courtesy of my brother):

(It’s clipped to a CD case.) Apparently you can get good vocal mics for some large amount of money. Eventually I’ll invest, I guess…

One good thing is that I got to use my new baby, a Fender Five String Jazz Bass. I got it used for a great price.

And what the heck, here’s a picture from my bedroom window today:

Note the open window. It was just wonderful today — a cloudless sky, t-shirt temperature. The blizzard pics from back east seem so foreign.

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15 Responses to Another song

  1. lastquestion says:

    I think it’s pretty good. For some reason, your singing voice is totally not what I was expecting :=]

    Do you actually own a drum set, or did you use a drum machine? I think you already have a bass, right?

    Onto the technical questions:
    what did you use to mix? And if you actually own a drum kit, how did you mic it up?

    I would have mixed it differently, maybe made the electric guitar a little louder, and at the beginning, made the acoustic louder compared to the voice. The vocals are high enough that a slightly (few dbs) louder midrange won’t clutter it up. I think.

    • aj says:


      I sequenced the drums on my computer. I can actually play them (in fact, I sequenced them by thinking about what I would play along with the guitar tracks) — I have access to a drum kit at IHouse, which I used to play when I lived there. However, I have no idea how to mic them. At IHouse, I made one attempt, and it was horrible: crappy clip of me fooling around. The gain was way too much, and I think to do it right, you need a couple of mics positioned around the kit. Also, I’m not so great at playing drums, as the clip shows…. I definitely need some metronome practice, etc. Much easier to use MIDI :).

      I used Adobe Audition, a good piece of software.

      Yeah I have very little experience mixing. I figure that’ll get better too as I record more songs. There’s definitely a lot of things I’d do differently about this song already, but I realized that I could spend all year on it, and I needed to start doing some work :). Large-scale changes, too — for instance, I think at this point I’d cut out the entire middle guitar interlude part (slows down the song too much) and lengthen the coda.

      • ccho says:

        Re: info

        Sounds good dood. Did you write it? I don’t understand the lyrics that well though (like crystallize vs. sympathize and fly vs. die).

        I don’t know pop music that well and guitar is one of my least favorite instruments, but here’s my criticism anyway:

        The chord progression is kind of repetitive and you tend dwell on the root chord (II->V->I, II->V->I, …). Though it’s a popular progression, if you keep juxtaposing it, the piece sounds a little bit stagnant — but perhaps you intended that (like the much beloved Canon by Pachelbel). It’s a also little bit thin, and the reverb only adds to that. The interlude could be a little more wild ;)

        I also don’t know that much about mics and mixers, but you might look into getting a Shure dynamic microphone and microphone pre-amp. The little microphones are usually of the electret condenser variety which are fine for recording lower-level noise while dynamic microphones are more suitable for vocals.

        • aj says:

          Re: info

          Yeah I wrote it. The lyrics certainly mean something, though I’m not about to say just what :). The verses are actually A-G-D and then switched to G-D-A, so not quite II->V->I… more like II->I->V if anything. I intentionally didn’t want to change the chord progession — I wanted to write a simple song, since most of the ones I write tend to be overly complicated. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself… I’m kind of recording these mostly as practice to learn how it’s done.

          Yeah I’ve looked into Shure. I just need to shell out the dough.

          • ccho says:

            Re: info

            Oops I must be going deaf, it’s in D major right? Or is it modal? I think I’ve heard this progression (half cadence) used before on guitar from something I heard from a demo disc — I think Norah Jones was singing. IV(6)->I(6 4)->V sounds right…

          • lastquestion says:

            Re: info

            Wow you’re considering buying Shures? You must have a lot of money to shell out, Mr. Graduate Student ;-)

            What are you using to record? The noise level is very good, for a computer (I’m guessing?)

            I have a few suggestions for the mixing but I think I’ll keep them to myself because it could possibly make the song worse then it is right now (I don’t like giving advice until I try it myself). But I will say you should mix/produce more in the style of elliot smith, sarah mclachlan etc. Don’t be so afraid to fill the whole range, I think that your voice won’t get drowned out that easily.

          • aj says:

            Re: info

            Well, I haven’t bought them yet :). Luckily I have no other expensive hobbies, and music equipment tends to last a lifetime.

            I’m using a SoundBlaster Audigy 2 NX, a USB sound card (for my laptop) that I picked up for about $110. It’s pretty decent, and definitely a fantastic deal for the price (most recording-based sound cards are in the $300+ range). I also did noise reduction for the miced parts (acoustic, voice)… the line-in ones (electric, bass) were pretty damn quiet — but you can hear the fretting on the electric, for instance, about 3:50 in.

            I’m pretty self-conscious about my voice. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to cover it up more :). The funny thing about it is that you mentioned that it sounds nothing like you expected… it turns out it doesn’t really sound like I sound live, at least according to people who’ve actually heard me sing. So I guess it might be in the mic or the way I’m recording — or the way I sing when I’m holed up in my bedroom.

          • lastquestion says:

            Re: info

            Notice I didn’t say it was a bad voice, merely unexpected. I didn’t peg you for the emo singing style. Your singing is pretty good, and after professional level producing I think would sound just as good as any other singer. The way I think you should mix it won’t cover up your voice, it will just make the whole thing sound less “thin”.

            Anyway, I was going to buy the Audigy 2 too, but the internal one with the breakout panel. But it is a hundred or so. I already spent two fifty buying this:

            The tube preamp stage already burned out one valve :-( (Used Valvestate 40, everything vintage – except I never play it above .5 on the volume)

  2. Anonymous says:

    : )


  3. walther says:

    wow, awesome job! i have some questions too. is there someone else singing along with you, or did you mix yourself in to harmonize with yourself? also, which came first: the lyrics or the melody? (my guess is that the mood you were in when you composed the song dictated the melody, which in turn dictated the lyrics?) anyway, it sounds really good to me.

    • aj says:

      hey, thanks ;)

      Yeah that’s me harmonizing with myself. In fact, all the parts were recorded here in my bedroom. It’s ’cause I don’t have a garage ;).

      In this case, the lyrics and the melody came nearly at the same time… definitely within a day. I kind of knew what I wanted to say. Of course there were some small changes to the lyrics afterwards.

      Actually a couple of weeks after I wrote the bulk of the song, I tried to add some lyrics to the guitar melody section… they pretty much explained the meaning of the whole song. However, it detracted from the overall effect so I canned them. If you’re interested I could dredge them up… they’re pretty angsty ;).

  4. lastquestion says:

    Use some reverb, because your tiny mic will make everything sound “dry” like you said. I don’t know what you’re using as the mix software but most have good reverb settings. Don’t use too much though :-)

  5. Seriously dude, high five, as you Americans so often say, or as we Brits might, and I’m employing a steroetype here, bloody good job mate. That may be the first time I’ve said that combition of words, but it’s the second time I’m hearing your song. I’m playing it back again because I really like the guitar work. And the rest of it actually. I’m really, really impressed. I’d love to hear it with a proper drum track though. Encore!

    • aj says:


      I’m glad you like it! I’m also glad that you’ve managed to listen to it a couple of times… like most songs, I think, it takes a little getting used to, and it’s easy for people to just listen to a song once and dismiss it, without really giving it a chance.

      Yeah, I’d love to record real drums, but it’s just way too difficult — especially if I’m going to try to record *myself* on drums… I think I need to hire some flunky to be my sound engineer.

      Anyway, I’ve heard through covert channels (Eth-Bay) that you have a ridiculously awesome job. And a brief glance at your latest web-presence reveals an astounding apartment (er, flat) and TWO guitars. So when you swing by the west coast on your upcoming trip (you are doing that, right?), perhaps we’ll have a chance to jam. Or at least talk about jamming…. that’s almost as cool. Looking forward to it, though.