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July 14, 2020 2 min read

One day I got a call from a lady (Heidi) about her daughter (Katerina).

Katerina had written the melody of a song (the part of the song you sing), but didn't know how to put the chords to it, or add other instruments, or record it. That's where I came in.

They had a few lessons with me where I showed her how to decide what key it's in and what chords to use. I showed her how to write it down in sheet music form so other musicians could follow along, and we could have a reference in the studio when we went to record it.

Once we had finished writing the song down, then it was time to go into the studio to record it. Enter my musical partner, Doyle Odom, who is a genius at recording - and plays a bunch of instruments to boot.

First we had to record piano and vocal "scratch" tracks. Think of these as the framework over which we'd record the "real" tracks.

Next up, we needed to record the instruments. Doing instruments before vocals would help Katerina (or any vocalist) sing with more energy. It's a lot easier to sound energetic when you've got a band to listen to.

Doyle was a huge help in this regard. He recorded drums, bass, and electric guitar.

Once he had that done, it was Katerina's turn to record vocals.

I should mention here, Doyle is also a vocalist and a vocal coach, so he is always instrumental (pun intended) in bringing out the best in our clients.

Now, you might think that she would go in there and sing the song a few times, and we'd pick the best take overall. This is not the case.

We have to go through a process called "comping", which is short for composite. We go through, phrase by musical phrase, and pick the best "take" of each section. As a group, we (Doyle, Katerina, her family, and any other musicians we have on hand) listen and offer opinions on which takes sound the best. When we're done, we have a composite of the best vocal takes.

Then, harmonies. Katerina's brother Johann was very helpful in this regard. You can hear his voice come through as the first harmony in the song.

After the harmonies are all done, the final stage is for Doyle to "mix" it and add effects.

For instance,

  • does it need more "reverb" (the echo-y sound your voice might make in an old cathedral with giant ceilings);
  • does it need more echo (an actual echo like yelling into a canyon);
  • does it need more bass;
  • do the harmonies match well with each other in volume and/or pitch
  • does a sound need to be more "forward" or not (lead vocals should sit nicely on top of the band, and not be overpowered by any instruments)
  • do vocals need to be "brighter" or "darker" in certain areas

E voila! We have a finished song.

Please enjoy Dreams Come True by Katerina Escobar! And if you have a songwriting kid who needs help, reach out to me at andy@andygrall.com

Andy Grall
Andy Grall

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