Progress on Project KOAS

I’ve just noticed that it has been the best part of two months since I last posted any new work or an update as to what has been going on and gave any kind of indication as to how the project was going. Well, time to put that right.

The main thing and the big positives are that all of the backing vocals are done – this ended up taking two weeks longer than what I had bargained for as in the beginning especially where The Fear Of Missing Out was concerned. Part of the initial problem was the lack of familiarity with some of the technology concerned, especially the TC Helicon Voicelive Touch which I was dependent on for harmony voicings. But, as most things are, initial notions of “s**t… how am I gonna deal with this?” were addressed pretty quickly by doing some serious RTFM and trying different inversions and part-chords as opposed to using multipart voicings, then splitting them over separate tracks in Cubase.

The only track that this hasn’t worked for is Elia. And, there are times I have wondered over the last few weeks whether there wasn’t a good reason for my uncle Angel left it as an instrumental for forty years, LOL. I think it was more a case of not having the arrangement for the backing vocals as clear in my mind as they should have been before I started it. But, with every other track that had backing vocals – Stay, Fear Of Missing Out, Let It Go, et al – they all worked pretty much as planned.

So with that milestone passed, albeit slightly later than originally planned and a lot of lessons learned, the latest task revolves around the lead vocals, a process that is currently underway now. And, just like the backing vocals, it is proving to be highly educational on a number of levels.

Not being a singer of any note, much less a trained one, or even a natural one, learning how to get the best out of your voice and making the lyrics and the melody fit in exactly the way they did in your minds ear when you wrote them is indeed a series of lessons. As a result with each track that is being done, there are subtle but noticeable changes to some of the lyrics in each of the tracks that have been done so far. I’m now also starting to understand terms that are more singer-related such as a “strong core”, “diaphragmatic support” and so on more than I ever did before. There are, as I somewhat casually referred to yesterday, a large number of technological “buckets of glitter” that Cubase 9 has which I was unfamiliar with before this work began, particularly their Melodyne-like tools, where small amounts of pitch correction, indeed pitch shifting up/down by upto 12 cents, which have proved to be very useful. And, a lot of the plugins that I bought years ago such as Waves Kramer Tape, SSL’s Duende Channel strip (very very handy for de-honking and de-nasal-ing my voice) are finally coming into their own. Somewhat surprisingly, I’m finding that the Neumann TLM102 which I bought a couple of years ago is not really suiting my voice, so I’ve been using an elderly AKG C9 hand held condenser mic instead, through a DBX286S pre-amp. While I thought that the use of the Voicelive processor was over when the backing vocals were completed, that may not be the case; my lack of bottom end range in my voice may prove to be problematic for some tracks like No Getting Over You, Castles, Doesnt Matter Now and Manhattan Lullaby. Its highly likely that the rest of this weekend will be spent exploring these options.

But as it stands at the moment, the lead vocals that are on these tracks at the moment – Elia excepted (as this may end up being re-done with a different singer, a more seasoned one than I) – are ones that I’m certainly happy with as guides, if nothing else and my production style tends to be to record the vocals, monitoring them directly with no reverb, no processing, to reduce the effects of latency, and then once down, eq’ing, compressing and processing to a rough mix stage as I go along and then coming back to them a few days later to make sure I’m happy with the results.  In the can so far are Five Years and Let It Go and bits of Elia. So theres a long long way to go yet and it could be that this may take another full month to complete the vocals.

Which given my change in personal circumstances is a double edged sword. I left the day job at the beginning of the June and have to devote a lot of energy towards finding another one as I dont have the savings that I used to have. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that all of the instruments used in the recording of these albums will have to be sold in order to preserve the more fundamental task of keeping a roof over my head. Time will tell though. I hope it doesnt come to that and it also gives the recording of the vocals, the last real set of tasks before mixing and mastering of these albums, to be completed.

We shall see though. Lots of work still to be done and it is proving to be highly educational. As I thought I would, I’m learning a lot about not just about my singing but also about myself. Recording your own songs isnt just about the therapy and catharsis in the writing process; its also about trying to capture the emotion of the performance and thats not something I’m used to doing as a performer, especially as a singer. All of my emotional content has previously been as a lyricist more than anything else. And, unlike 12-18 months ago, I can now listen back to my singing voice and be objective about it instead of cringing and reaching for the stop button on the transport panel, which used to be the case.

So, all progress, no matter how small is good. And, as my uncle Angel reminded me, a lot of artistic masterpieces took years to complete. Not that I’m saying that this project is my masterpiece, but I can see what he was driving at, LOL.