We had a productive studio night on Thursday. We’ve got a handful of tunes that we’ve been working on that are on heavy rotation in our heads. One of these songs is going by the working title of “Reigning”.
When we’re jamming without a drummer we usually run some kind of click or drum pattern in the background. It keeps us together, and later it lets us build demo drum tracks with audio loops or MIDI drums or whatever percussion thing we want to use.
Sometimes we adjust the tempo of the click to fit what one or the other of us is playing. For example, let’s say that Mike has a riff that he left himself in a voice mail (which happens a lot). When he throws it out, he plays it at a particular tempo that feels right to him. So we’ll match the tempo of the click to his playing, using tap tempo on one of the various and sundry pieces of gear in the studio, or on someone’s iPhone. There’s an app for it. Shocker.
So, in the case of “Reigning”, we wound up jamming at 77 BPM (beats per minute). At the time it felt good, but we might have been impaired at that juncture. Like the guys at Should I Drink That, as the night goes on we get a little, ahem, loose:
A couple weeks later, we tightened up the arrangement, built some demo drum tracks using ACID, and re-recorded some stuff. It was starting to sound decent. For some reason, though, the tempo started to seem a little… plodding.
What to do? We had already recorded some pretty good tracks that we were hoping to keep. If we changed the tempo, we’d have to re-record all of that.
As a test, we used a time compression/expansion plug-in to take a mix of the song from 77 BPM to 80 BPM. You wouldn’t think so, but that little 3 beats per minute change made a big difference in the feel of the song. We chewed on it for a little bit, and finally settled on 79 BPM. It still keeps the pounding rock vibe, but tightened everything up in a way that is subtle, but noticeable.
So last night KB and I dropped new guitar tracks to the sped up version of the demo drums. We added a little more instrumentation and reorganized some of the song structure. Now all we have to do is have Mike re-record the bass part (we compressed his bass part to the correct tempo for recording purposes last night), and finish the lyrics.
We’re feeling a kind of Robert Plant lyric vibe – you know, like Middle Earth mystical (wait, let me get my 12-sided die), or epic mythical journeys. Or some crap like that. We’ll see where the idea juice takes us, and we’ll post the whole thing when we’ve got it about done.
Until then, here’s a snip showing the difference that 2 BPM can make.