christmas songs – 2. “winter wonderland”
December 12, 2008
this is the second in the series of christmas songs i’ve recorded. it’s a cover of the standard “winter wonderland.” when i started messing around with it, i came up with the idea of double tracked vocals panned pretty hard left and right. the vocals would go in unison for the first two lines of the verse and then when the melody shifts for the last 3 lines, the left vocal would go to this bluegrass high harmony. it sounded really fucking awesome but unfortunately i put off doing a real take of the vocals until i had spent two weeks having my throat dried out by winter air and infected by the petri dish of children’s germs which is my workplace and by the time i tried to record it, i couldn’t really even sing the basic melody, much less the harmony. i had to therefore give up on the harmony (i tried to do it with a vocoder but it sounded bad). the really ghetto solution i eventually came up with for the melody was recording four vocals. i recorded the first two and then tuned them to pitch as well as i could; however, i don’t have much experience with autotune and so they sounded kind of t-pain-y after they were done and you can call me heartless but that’s not my style. so what i did was pan those vocals left and right and then record two more vocals which i did NOT tune at the same stereo position as each of them. the theory was that the tuned vocals would sort of pull the untuned ones to the right pitch while the untuned ones would make the tuned ones sound more natural. the practice is kind of meh but it sounds better than one set of the vocals by itself.*
i stretched out the melody somehow or just brought the tempo down a lot, i’m not sure which. either way, as a result, i had to cut the bridge sections (the “we can build a snowman”/weird impromptu marriage (?) parts) because they didn’t sound right slowed down but then if i didn’t slow them down there was this weird slow fast contrast. the thing i’m least happy with besides the vocals is the rhythm. my shitty piano playing has this weird, i don’t know, do-si-do feel that screwed up my ability to make any interesting percussion stuff besides the basic 4/4 kick (which is EQ’d way down) unless i wanted to further reinforce that feel, which i didn’t. i am happy with the part at the end where the piano and drum drop out, though.
* i remember reading an ARC a couple of years ago about geoff emerick engineering the beatles and he mentioned how on some of their early songs (“she loves you” era), george martin had this really primitive version of auto tune where if somebody sang a note out of tone he would go in and overdub a piano note at the right frequency at a really low level under the vocal to try to correct it.