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"Treading Water" by Emily Asen

My recording process starts with a completed song. The lyrics, chord structures, and melody are all 90% worked out. After I begin recording, I will usually make slight compositional changes. But the foundation is laid out....

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My recording process starts with a completed song. The lyrics, chord structures, and melody are all 90% worked out. After I begin recording, I will usually make slight compositional changes. But the foundation is laid out.

To prepare for studio work, I type out the lyrics and make a song chart, even if I am the only performer on the recording. Once I start recording, I like to keep my mind focused on the arrangement and engineering. Stopping to figure out bass notes usually kills the momentum for me.

I choose the tempo and record a scratch acoustic guitar (or piano) track and scratch vocal to the click. I usually perform all the instruments on my songs and really enjoy arranging spontaneously. I proceed with bass and drum tracks (live or programmed) and add some percussion elements (shaker, hand claps, etc). Then I begin layering keyboards and secondary guitar parts. I start arranging and lightly editing to see which elements are working and which ones need to go. I redo any parts that are not quite right and redo the scratch tracks.

Once I have my basic arrangement laid out, I will add any combination of banjo, mandolin, melodica, harmonica, and cello. The background vocals and vocal harmonies can get added at any stage of this process.

Finally, I do some serious editing - adding fades, muting parts, experimenting with effects and plug-ins, and making sure the song structure is reflected in the production (i.e. Does the verse build up to the chorus? Does the bridge have a different tone?).

Songs take anywhere from a week to a few months for me to complete. Once I feel satisfied as a writer, performer, arranger, and producer, I will bounce all the parts to my mixing engineer, and move on to the next!

Software and Equipment: 2006 Mac Pro, Logic Studio, Metric Halo Mobile I/O box, Apogee Big Ben, Waves plug-ins, NI plug-ins, M-Audio KeyStation 88, two Avalon 737's, Mackie HR-824's, Sennheiser HD 280 headphones, one AKG 414, two Oktava MK-012's, one Sennheiser 421, two SM57's, one SM58, one AKG D112, and one Sanken CU41.

Instruments: 2003 Taylor 814ce acoustic guitar, 1951 Gibson CF-100 acoustic guitar, 1964 Gibson B-25 12-string acoustic guitar, 1979 Fender Custom Telecaster, Fender Blues Junior amp, 1971 Fender Precision Bass, Kentucky Mandolin, Fender Banjo, Stor Cello, restored Wurlitzer, shakers, tambourines, guiro, Gretsch drumkit,. harmonicas, and melodica.

Further information is available at www.emilyasen.com

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By Emily Asen Thursday November 30, 2006
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