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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vocal rehearsal

Next Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, we’ll be recording the next four songs for the album. I prefer that the performers know their parts in advance so that during the sessions, all attention and energy can be devoted to the performance—and having fun. To assist with preparation, I sent out lyrics, charts, preproduction mp3s, and for each singer, special mp3s with their vocal part louder in the mix.

Regardless of all that preparation, I still prefer to have quick rehearsals to listen, solve problems, and get feedback. So today we had a vocal rehearsal with Jane, Tannis Slimmon, and Katherine Wheatley. Laura Bird will be singing on one song, but I saw no need for her to travel from Orangeville just for that. She’ll be more than fine on the day.

After pouring tea and sharing the latest personal and community news, we got to work on the first song, “Next Time.” It’s an acoustic roots-blues rocker with Jane singing on the chorus and Tannis and Katherine joining in on the rave-up ending. We sat in a circle in the empty living room, with my laptop at the ready.

We quickly listened to the parts from the preproduction recording and ran through the ending. Once we were solid, Jane asked if I wanted some ad-libbing, and I agreed we should try it out. After one pass, Katherine noticed inconsistencies and suggested structuring the variations. They analyzed the section and came up with a vocal arrangement that was more interesting that what I had written. That’s why I like to be open to the stellar brains of my colleagues!

We moved on to the Zydeco tune, “Yes Indeed,” that has a continuous call-and-response vocal arrangement. Jane’s accordion is the main instrumental voice on this one, so I’m giving the harmony vocal duties to Laura, Katherine, and Tannis. For this rehearsal, however, Jane filled in Laura’s part.

We went through the same steps as the last song, and when we came to the final double chorus, Katherine “heard” something—that they should all rise up as my lead vocal intensifies. She suggested that they all flip their harmonies up—third to fifth, fifth to upper melody, upper melody to upper third. We tried it and voila—it worked! Thanks, Katherine.

We moved on to “Walk With Me,” where Jane will be laying down an eastern-sounding accordion drone. When we play as a duo, Jane sings with me, but for this arrangement we developed a three-part vocal, with Tannis singing an octave above me with variations, and Katherine singing a fifth with variations. This creates a vocal sound that is intense and mysterious.

The last of the four songs to cover for next week was my rumba blues version of “Hound Dog” that Tannis sings with Jane and I. We quickly decided that we knew it well enough—the job was done!

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