[This is one of the first posts I published – if not THE first – for Home Brew Audio. I thought it would be cool to take a look back. This is especially interesting since our latest course is Harmony Recording Awesomeness, which shows you how to actually split yourself (well, your voice, anyway) in three. Check out our other tutorial courses here.]
It took over 20 years to get here – to a place where I have done so much audio recording (some of it really bad at first:)) that I can teach others how to do it without having to go through all the technical translation and trial/error. You can use my learning curve.
But why did it take so long and how did I get started? Well, I was a geeky teenager with only one thing I thought I was good at…music! I was mainly a singer, which eventually landed me the girl…but geeky high school boys who sing? Well, not all that sexy. ANYWAY…..
I sang all the time, much to the chagrin of…well…anyone who was around me really. Not because I sucked (at least I didn’t think I did;)), but because for some reason, someone apparently deemed bursting into song in public places some sort of social no-no. Whatever. It didn’t really stop me. In fact, when I was in 8th grade, singing solo was not enough for me any more! ”Without Love,” by the Doobie Brothers, just sounded so naked without the other voices. And none of my friends…I mean NONE…even knew what I was talking about when I mentioned harmony. The best I could manage was for THEM to sing the melody (read: LEAD VOCAL), so the one of us who knew how could sing at least ONE harmony could do so. But this was completely unsatisfactory. If creating real live harmony meant giving up the lead vocal AND only ending up with 2 parts (almost all wicked cool harmony has at least 3 parts), I had to find a better way.
I began to fantasize about ways to sing harmony with myself! Maybe there was a surgery…or some sort of mystical ventriloquist trick I could learn to sing harmony lines with myself. That alien on Battle Star Galactica could do it! Ehhh, but she had 3 mouths. No fair! Sigh. Then one day I was digging (very innocently, of course) through my parent’s garage looking for nothing in particular. What I found was something very interesting…A TAPE RECORDER. I started playing with it and soon realized that I could at least solve ONE of my current harmony woes…I could sing the lead vocal part AND one harmony! Still only 2 parts, and it would be somewhat “less-than-live”, exactly 50% less I guess;). But who cares, I could sing along with my own voice and thought it was cool. But it was not AWESOME. I now wanted AWESOME.
Seals and Crofts were cool. Simon and Garfunkel were cool. But “Carry On Wayward Son,” by Kansas was AWESOME. “Dance With Me,” by Orleans was also awesome. What was different about THOSE songs? 3-part (at least) harmony! I needed it… I was haunted by it. I started hearing 3 and 4-part harmony everywhere…The Eagles, Yes, The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, Asia, Van Halen, CSN, The Who. The weird thing was…I seemed to be the only person who could hear it! I’d learn all 3 parts and try to teach them to my friends who actually could sing. I failed. They just didn’t get it. AAARRRGGGHHH!
Then one day I noticed that my brother had a small radio that ALSO had a tape player in it. And there was a little flat round thing that said “mic” under it. Huh? It didn’t LOOK like a mic. But when I pushed the “record” and “play” buttons down at the same time, it recorded what I was saying. Cool! Oops. I seem to have just recorded over my brother’s ELO tape! Maybe he won’t notice. Maybe he’ll decide he doesn’t like ”Evil Woman” any more. Maybe he won’t notice that it was MY voice inserted in the middle of the chorus. Or maybe I could just arrange for the tape to disappear. After all, it was HIS fault. Who buys a cassette album and doesn’t poke out the tabs on the top that prevent you recording over it? No matter, I had made the ultimate discovery…how to sing 3 and 4 part harmony WITH MYSELF. Muhuhwhahahaha!
I set my tape recorder up and recorded myself playing acoustic guitar and singing “This Boy,” by the Beatles. Then I put a BLANK tape into my brother’s boom box, put it next to my purloined ancient tape recorder, pressed the “record/play” buttons, then played the tape I just recorded (me playing and singing “This Boy”). When the choruses came, I sang one harmony along with the boom box, then listened to the result. A bit of hiss, but otherwise it was me playing guitar and singing harmony with myself! Then I played THAT tape and sang a second harmony with it as I recorded with the my tape recorder. The result was MAGIC!!! I actually had to stop several times and start over because I was laughing so hard as I sang a 3rd harmony WITH MYSELF. I was hooked.
Of course I carried the tape with me everywhere I went and forced all my friends to listen. Most of them actually did. The “hiss” noise was really awful too. You used to get quite a lot of hiss just recording ONE TIME on those cassettes. Just imagine that multiplied by 3! But I didn’t care. I had made my first “multi-track recording,” plus caused some sort of psychological damage, I think. Hearing 3 of myself at the same time coming out of a machine was just….different. Actually, that explains a lot, now that I think of it. Oh well. Water under the bridge now. What’s done is done;).
So, do you want to sing harmony with yourself? With no hiss? Thanks to the computer age, you can! And you probably won’t need to buy any equipment. Learn how with our tutorials here.
More embarrassing (and hopefully amusing) stories to come! Until then…