Walking In My Door

I have to admit I’m quite proud of, and like, this song, even though I was going to abandon it a couple of times. Perhaps that’s why.

The audio records the songs progression as snippets – one of my favourite things to do, looking back over the progression of a song. Right till the end, I wasn’t sure whether to finish this song but I’m glad I did, because I like it now.

  • 29Jul19 – first snippet, vocal. This is the first idea I had for the song. It was called ‘Burning My Heart Out’. I still quite like that concept but it feels a bit ersatz. And what’s it about? How do I relate to it? The melody is quite different to the final but it has the concept of the guitar playout on the chorus (at 0:30)
  • 30Jul19 (0:37) – chorus becomes a lot clearer. The beat is about the same as the final and the lead guitar is pretty much done (although of course I didn’t know that at the time!)
  • 1Aug19 (1:07) – chorus established now. That’s the melody I want. A better key for my voice. For some reason I seem to come up with more dynamic melodies at higher ranges, notes my voice just can’t reach. So, I often have to tune them down to sing them
  • 5Aug19 (1:27) – “I’m so glad to be home again”. The concept emerges. This is something I can work with, that I understand. Not a bad line – “back with my feet on the ground”. Kind of wish I’d used that now
  • 5Aug19 (1:46) – the start of the verse melody. Tempo a bit slow. I sped it up and dropped a lot of this melody but kept the opening line “been away so long”.

The lyrics took a while because I was trying to find the right words and images. I went through a lot of lines trying to get the balance right. I liked “been away so long/I can’t find my keys”. That happened after our last holiday. We got home and I was standing at the front door scrabbling through my back pack trying to remember where I’d packed my keys.

“Leaves on the driveway/rake by the door” was both a real observation from our last holiday (in autumn) and that home needs me, too – what’s a rake for but to rake leaves? We’re good for each other – it missed me, too. Probably too complex, but a nice image. One of those lines I’m not entirely sure what it means but know it means something. I’ll work it out one day.

“Stories and memories/tumbling and jumping over me”. Made me think of a child so happy to have me home, or a pet, leaping onto me with joy, and the nostalgia that comes with seeing a familiar place.

Years ago, I did a lot of travelling (usually weeks or months at a time) and I truly regret and resent it. Although I had to do it (for work/money) – what’s the point of having a home if you’re not there to appreciate it? Even going to an office every day seems stupid. This song is a lot about – coming home, at last. Somewhere I can be myself – stopping my wheels. One of my favourite lines.

I used a new virtual guitar for this track – UJam Virtual Guitarist. I hadn’t used it before and wasn’t sure it was right until the final mix. Primarily a guitar song. There’s four guitars – the main acoustic, an electric picking track, an overdrive rhythm guitar you can hear in the last note, and a lead guitar. I’m particularly proud that I “played” all of these. This song is 100% me.

Drums are from UJam Virtual Drummer (VD, if you can believe that!), bass from UJam Virtual Bassist (VB was my favourite beer), and I used Native Instruments for the other three guitar tracks.

I spent a lot of time on the vocals for this song. Anything with backing vocals takes exponentially longer because each track has to be recorded, tuned, and treated. I finished a master late last night but noticed some audio glitches in the lead vocal – little pops resulting from multiple layers of processing. I decided I couldn’t live with it and went back to the original takes to get something cleaner. I’m proud of myself for that – perhaps a few years ago I wouldn’t have bothered, or had the workflow where it was possible to backtrack a little.

Here’s my current process using different projects (alternatives) in Logic:

  • Creation – the basic mix with all virtual instruments and plug ins. All live and consuming CPU. Very intensive. I bounce this to MP3 as it progresses so I don’t have to keep opening Logic
  • MIX – I bounce the virtual instruments to audio, usually without plug ins which I keep in the MIX so I can adjust if needed. Apply automation to add dynamic elements (add and reduce volume, effects)
  • VOX – I use an MP3 of the basic track to record the vocal tracks – typically 7 (my lucky number) or more takes of each track, especially the lead vocal. Then I comp (pick the best part of each take) to create a single track. Then silence breaths and noise, then pitch tune the vocals. Melodyne is great for this. I’ve been using Logic Flex Pitch but in this song found it added a bunch of pops and glitches that Melodyne didn’t
  • Final MIX – add the vocals to the mix, apply compression (Waves API-2500), check the levels (using Mastering the Mix, Levels), apply automation. I also use Sonarworks Reference to allow for my headphone mixing. Audio sounds different through headphones because headphones all have different profiles (accentuating bass, for example). Mixing using those headphones won’t match a listener’s experience unless they’re using the same headphones. Sonarworks adjusts for this. One day I hope to have a studio where I can hear the song in real time as it would be. But or now, I’m a headphone mixer
  • MASTER – bounce the MIX down to a single track and use iZotope Ozone for mastering. This improves dynamics, presence, stereo image, and volume.

Although more work to separate the steps it helps to avoid out of memory errors on my MacBook – a terrific machine, and lets me concentrate on one thing at a time. Each step is an input to the next. As I’ve said before, you’d only do this if you love it. There’s no other reason.

Coincidentally, I watched a video on the day I was mixing about using Melodyne to create harmonies. That gave me the idea to try to selective harmony on the lead vocal. The effect is subtle but effective. It gives the lead vocal a boost and more interest.

Phew! So that’s the song, and the details. Ultimately, I like the production side – it’s interesting and technical and I like learning and using tools, but the thing I’m proudest of is the song: from a simple snippet which barely sounds like the final song and has a totally different concept (‘burning my heart out’) but with lots and lots of iterations and listening metamorphosed into something I like listening to and can relate to – shape and colour and movement. ‘Burning my heart out’ will probably be a song one day. I still quite like it. But this song says what I hoped it would say. I love home and the people who live in it.

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