Skip to content
So I just got back ...
Clear all

So I just got back from Willie Nelson's place.....

1 Posts
1 Users
Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 99
Topic starter  

I just spent 3 days at Willie Nelson's place near Austin last week. I went with a friend, Ron, who is recording a "Western concept" album at his recording studio. Willie has his own western town called Luck, Texas which was the set built for the "Red-Headed Stranger" movie. Check out his current video for "You Don't Think I'm Funny Anymore" found here....

(Imagine that without all the banners and no people. That's what it looks like.) Although Willie wasn't there, I did get to meet one of his daughters and assorted relatives and friends who stopped by. It was a very casual atmosphere and they are all VERY nice and gracious people who made me feel welcome. The producer/sound guy, whatever they call them, was VERY sharp. He had a degree in Music and English, and played several instruments. This was not a guy doing this for beer money on the weekends. But anyway, since this is the "unauthorized" biographical version, I really don't want to get too detailed about things. :wink: It's not my place to disturb their privacy.

What I really wanted to do was to give some of you who might be as clueless as I was about how a record is made some insight into the process. Some of you probably already know what I'm about to say, but these were the things that stuck out to me as a total neophyte...

1. When I walked in, I expected a windowless sound proof room with acoustic panels everywhere. What I found was a small office with a window, an old door and a vintage 1910 pianette on the side wall. There was assorted stuff on the walls and shelves, and a computer with a wide screen monitor in the corner. Much less sound equipment than I thought. It looked like a normal room except for the few acoustic panels covered in burlap wedged in certain spots. I suppose microphones are so "uni-directional" these days and editing software is so good, ambient noises are less of a problem.

2. There are apparently 12 different ways to sing the word "wind". Only one of those is appropiate at any given time.

3. When you hear a song on the radio, generally what you are hearing is not one "song", but 6-12 different "songs" cut and pasted together. They sing 6 or 7 (or more, depending on the difficulty of the song) takes and then go through them line-by-line, or in some spots word-by-word, and paste the best parts together to make a vocal track. The software allows you to blend everything together.

4. If you are off just slightly on pitch or timing it is possible, within reason to fix it with editing software (although it's usually easier just to do another take)

5. A saw player will cost you 100 bucks plus gas. In case you are wondering, Stanley "Traditional" (post-war).

6. There are two ways to encounter a feral hog: The good way is with a rifle in your hand and a hunting permit in your back pocket. The bad way is with your pants down behind a tree relieving yourself out back.

7. Rich people have junk rooms, too. It's just that their junk is much more interesting than ours...

In short, the cost of good sound equipment to produce your own record is reasonable (not Wal-Mart reasonable, but reasonable) and an ordinary room with minor modifications will do. Gone are the days of big recording studios and giant mixing boards. Computers and editing software really streamline the process. However, just because you own a band saw, doesn't make you a carpenter. You still need the expertise to do a studio quality job. Also, a common misconception is that if you sing a song pitchy, off-key, and with bad timing, pasting together 12 takes will make you sound like Julio Iglesias. What you really get is 12 takes of pitchy, off-key singing with bad timing. You have to have SOMETHING to start with unless you are looking for that heavily distorted, electronic "Britney Spears" sound. It then becomes a matter of phrasing and inflection.

From what I saw, I think the days of writing one monster hit song and retiring on the royalties are gone. Since the equipment is so accessable, smaller studios can MORE than compete with bigger ones and getting a quality record out there is easier. So although the "pie" will be the same size, I envision it cut into many more smaller pieces instead of large chunks as in the past. I guess that's great if you are trying to break into the business, bad, if you are already on top....

John A.

They say only a pawnshop guitar can play the blues. An eBay one does it better. A guitar's bound to feel unloved if her owner plasters pictures of her over the internet for all to see and then sells her off to the highest anonymous bidder.