June 5, 2011

The Three Hour Challenge...

by Chris Randall

My wife is a good sport about my noise-making habits, bless her heart, but she draws the line at cranked tube amps. For extra bonus points, we both work at home. This being the case, my guitar playing usually goes via NI Guitar Rig, which is nice and all, but can't really compete with my '67 Guild Thunder I Reverb.

Today, however, she went to a birthday party for one of her friends, and I had three hours of me time. I decided to set myself a challenge to write, perform, and mix a track in those three hours that I could make all the noise I wanted. For an IDM track, this would be easy enough. Load up some samples, set Replicant to "stun," and render. But I decided that this particular song was going to have guitar and vocals.

Now, in candor, this wasn't from bare metal. I spent the better part of the day getting the sounds together. I used my general Micronaut "experiments" rig for the backbone. The kick drum is coming from the DSI TETR4 to Eventide TimeFactor, that first snare-ish sound you hear is the MeeBlip running through my circuit-bent Boss 'verb, and the bass noink thing is the MS20. I also had to bust out My First Piano with a piezo for a little special sauce. All recorded in to Live through my utilitarian TASCAM USB interface, which I consistently wish had more outputs for FX sends. TASCAM seems morally opposed to making an interface with more than 4 analog outputs, though, so I abide.

Since I'm not only a southpaw playing right-hand guitar, but not an especially gifted guitarist in the first place, it takes a lot of practice time to be able to play and sing at the same time; I have to memorize hand positions per word. Since time wasn't a commodity I was blessed with, I used Live's Looper plugin to grab an 8-measure rhythm part, and then just vamp over the top of that at the end. The guitar, a Harmony Stratotone with Airline badging, is running through a Realistic Electronic Reverb (which is an excellent distortion box) to a Maleko B:Assmaster, to a compressor of my own design based upon the Orange Squeezer, then in to the amp.

For the vocals, I wrote down a couple phrases, and had a general idea of what I was gonna do, but largely ad-libbed it. Ain't gonna give "A Day In The Life" a run for its money any time soon. The vocal chain is DMG Compassion -> Kombinat, with a touch of Dubstation on the ass end. Compassion is also on the drum buss, the guitar, and the 2-buss. Love that plug.

Anyhow, it was fun to do. As far as setting intentional limits for yourself, the short-span-of-time one is the most unforgiving, and the one most likely to be cast aside. But it can be refreshing. The hardest part is showing it off afterwards, because it will never be the best you can do. Any other takers for the 3 Hour Challenge?


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Jun.06.2011 @ 6:34 PM

Thanks for posting this. Just ended the work day listening to the track again. I'll be another voice for having a downloadable link to the song? ;)

Jun.06.2011 @ 7:23 PM
I like the track Chris, don't take this the wrong way, but reminds me a bit of a more modern The The "Soul Mining" thing in a good way, probably due to the minimal parts and your vocal stylings....

For recording guitars and vocals with a girlfriend and neighbors etc, (I still live in Chicago), the best purchase I ever made about 14 years ago was a Whisper Room isobooth, whilst it doesn't cover EVERYTHING, especially low freqs on guitars etc, I can go into it and scream etc, with someone asleep 20 feet away....
I tend to work a vampiric schedule, so the thing is a blessing.
And now with the iphone midi osc stuff, I don't have to do the "set the countoff for 12 bars and shuffle to the isobooth thing...." :)

Jun.06.2011 @ 7:49 PM
Chris Randall
I've been compared to The The for 22 years now (usually without flattery or conditional statements.) To say I'm used to it would be to understate the matter somewhat. You guys haven't come up with anything new there.


Jun.06.2011 @ 8:25 PM
Wade Alin
Rock even slightly rearing its head on this blog moved up my deadline on plane tickets to Arizona.

It's still too dry for real mosquitoes out there, right?

Really nice track.

Jun.06.2011 @ 8:32 PM
ha, well i meant it in a good way, it's one of my favorite records.

Jun.06.2011 @ 8:43 PM
Chris Randall
@Wade: we had mosquitos in the other Phoenix house, but only because the neighbors let their pool go in to Swamps Of Mordor territory. Ain't none 'round here. ;-)


Jun.06.2011 @ 9:40 PM
Wade Alin
All clear then, let's take guitars and guns out into the desert and write up a rock'n'roll record!


Jun.06.2011 @ 10:35 PM
Chris Randall
And some beef jerky and a set of bongos, maybe.


Jun.07.2011 @ 3:41 AM
the cap'n and
zoothorn rollo... baby

Jun.07.2011 @ 2:06 PM
He didn't ask about palmetto bugs.

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