As I continue to dig into past songs it is easy to see one problem I have;  I am not good at naming my songs.  Sometimes I go for the punch line, but the punch line is not even a line in the song!  Sometimes I try to highlight one phrase, but ignoring conventional songwriting wisdom, I do not use a phrase over and over in the chorus and call that the title.  So here is another example where the names have changed over the years.  Originally the title was “A Few Shattered Lines“.  I was reading a letter from a friend of mine at college and I pulled some of his phrases into the lyrics. Below are the results.

Reels of Tape has a deep meaning for me.  I spent a lot of years recording on reel to reel tape decks.  I still have my original 4 track TEAC machine.  The lyrics are more abstract than other songs I have written and for some reason I can still slip back to those times when I hear this song.  I am using my Ovation Balladeer 12 string guitar as my standard writing/recording instrument over the years, and I just love the tone and the progression of the chords.  The twelve strings just sound so full, and when using open tuning, it can make the chords sparkle.  The other quick observation: I don’t get rid of equipment I buy…… I keep it forever!

The lyrics seem to create images that expand beyond the words.  Familiar topics can do that sometimes when looked at with a different point of view or even a change in mood.  I love – Life pours past the flags unfurled, Crack the crystal paralyzed world – and other parts, but I could not really tell you why.  Another phrase that sticks with me is – Forget today and tomorrow, leave this song behind, and all it’s sorrow.  a lot of my lyrics have a rather dark perspective.  But behind them all is a sense of hope and a promise that things will get better and improve.  I am one of the most optimistic people I know!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Recording as an acoustic tune, I use one track for the vocals (unless there is a harmony track) and I use another track for the ‘line out’ from the acoustic/electric guitar, and then I use another track for a microphone placed in front of the 12 string (even here, it is important to place the microphone at the ‘sweet spot’  to get the best tone.  Placing a microphone in front of anything without testing will more often disappoint rather than delight.  As in other posts, I have had better success if I literally stick my head up to the instrument and move back and forth until I get the best sound.  Doing this while playing the instrument is not practical, so I place the microphone, record, listen and compare it to other tracks that use a different microphone position.  Once you have the best of the best, you can be pretty safe using it again.  Live situations with full bands and instrumentation is a challenge and I still try to stick my face in there to get an idea what that instrument sounds like but also if it is close to other instruments, speakers, or unwanted noise makers.  Most vocalists will stand in front of the microphone, but even in this case if they lean or tilt one way or the other it can dramatically affect the final tone or sound.  Much of this is tied to the proximity effect and we will get into that later. For the most part I will pan the 12 string guitar line out to hard Left and the microphone for the 12 string hard Right.  Vocals go in the center, unless you have more than one vocalist or lead singer.  I use very few processors like compressors, gates, limiters, and the like.  As long as you start with a solid tone a bit of EQ if needed, bring in some light reverb or delay and the mix is done.

Comments
  1. Tom Robinson says:

    Michael,
    Right or wrong, I’m glad you admit your titles serve as poor labels for some of your best songs. From a business perspective, a good title is one that helps the audience recall it. You, Dylan, your unnamed brother, and others repeatedly violate this rule. Artistic freedom–I get that, but you know my view.
    Nobody chooses his name–not even his nickname. We are named by others, not ourselves. So it is with songs. No matter how much you want to call it “Reels of Tape” all go by names assigned by others.
    “Reels of Tape” will be best recalled by the hot line: “I’m not moving to San Francisco, ’till it drops into the sea.” The song has deep meanings for you because it is deep in meanings.
    12 strings make a guitar sound like a chorus. I agree.
    TR

    Liked by 3 people

    • midimike says:

      I know, right! We grew up in the days of bands before the marketers got involved. remember Baba O’Riely? Most people don;t, but if you ask have they heard “Won’t Get Fooled Again” will tell you this is The Who’s best hit!!! i guess that is how I learned and I have not unlearned yet LOL! My brother – who shall remain nameless for a while longer – might also a victim of this early conditioning. Great comment and thanks for confirming the meanings embedded in the lyrics. I really love a lot of the lines in this song and a number of them came from Casey as you know.

      Like

  2. sonniq says:

    I, like you, have a mountain of old songs I’ve written, as far back as 40 years. I haven’t listened to them in a long time. Many are just piano/vocals. Many are charted with the vocal line written. Some have full piano scores. Some were recorded by buying studio time, or badly recorded gigs. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to put them up to be heard! We all go through our growth as musicians and everyone starts out pretty shitty in the song writing end. Once in awhile I listen them and cringe. Some are on tapes that need to be digitized if that is even possible anymore. But all of it is who we are and how we became the musicians we are. I now, for quite awhile, only compose piano music. I couldn’t do what I do without going through all those early years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      Actually, I kind of cringe when I post some of my older songs! What format are your older recordings? I can and still do digitize my old recordings that were on reel-to-reel, cassette tapes and I can even do that for old records. I might be able to advise you if you are brave enough to listen to the older recordings and select the favorites you want to preserve – if not share!

      Liked by 1 person

      • sonniq says:

        I have 2in studio reels where I hired studio musicians to fill in. Those are actually pretty good. They were used to advertize his recording studio, and some 1/4 inch piano vocals and a few on cassettes. The 2 inch have never been played again. I once thought of having it remixed. I’m hoping I can get a clean pass from them once before they disintegrate. The are 33 years old now. Very 1980’s. I have all the lead sheets I wrote so if I wanted to I could even work them back up again. There are dozens of them. I played a lot of them at gigs when I worked the piano bar circuit. Before things were computerized I also had a business of writing out music for other people’s songs, or write a full piano score for them. Now musicians don’t need to learn all that stuff. It’s a shame. Many don’t really know their craft.

        Like

      • sonniq says:

        I have 2in studio reels where I hired studio musicians to fill in. Those are
        actually pretty good. They were used to advertize his recording studio, and some 1/4 inch piano vocals and a few on cassettes. The 2 inch have never been played again. I once thought of having it remixed. I’m hoping I can get a clean pass from them once before they disintegrate. The are 33 years old now. Very 1980’s. I have all the lead sheets I wrote so if I wanted to I could even work them back up again. There are dozens of them. I played a lot of them at gigs when I worked the piano bar circuit. Before things were computerized I also had a business of writing out music for other people’s songs, or write a full piano score for them. Now musicians don’t need to learn all that stuff. It’s a shame. Many don’t really know their craft.

        I was looking for your post again and my message to you was still here so I don’t know if it sent. I hope it doesn’t send it twice. I was writing because I sat down today and recorded a new piece and plugged you as well, so i wanted to give you the link to see what you think. http://mynameisjamie.net/2015/06/20/dreams-for-tomorrow-a-little-history-and-a-new-improvisational-piano-piece/

        Liked by 1 person

      • midimike says:

        Very cool. Great you have kept these. As far as the 2 inch tapes that might be less common going forward. The tapes will eventually wear out and be unusable but I have been lucky so far. Each time I access old tapes (mostly to copy from one media to the latest and greatest…!) everything works. 1/4 in and cassettes can still be digitized fairly easily. Sounds like you have archives like I do! I feel so much better knowing I am not the only one LOL!. Good for you. If you have recordings that you do like and want to preserve, I encourage you to pick your favorite ones and try to do that soon. I can research and get a general idea. If you have a lot of recordings it can be a little costly but might be worth it. Fortunately, the scored music will last as long as you can read it. I am sure there are scanning programs out there now that will convert to MIDI. I know how to read music but I am not very good at it. Again, suffering from the Jack of all trades disease, I have to work to play a piece correctly. Thank you for your thoughts and keep up the good effort. I will check out the link now…….

        Like

      • sonniq says:

        I think I have The 2″ tapes on 1/4″ and cassette too. I cape the 2″ thinking of remixing. I’m not sure how to digitize the rest. First I need to get them all in one place. I think I may know someone who can do it. I’d hate to lose them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • midimike says:

        Let me know if you run into a dead end. I have some resources I can muster if other options fall. I would also hate for you to lose them. I think your improvisational piece was wonderful and the article was great too. More on that later!

        Like

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