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I'm starting to notice a pattern when I record songs with my cigar box instruments.
Whenever I'm stuck on a recording of a song...whenever something just doesn't "sound right," the answer is almost invariably "toss something out."
"Something" being one of the other tracks. Drums, basses, buckets, washboard, that brake rotor I've been banging on with a hammer. Taking something out leads to the music sounding fuller.
Even...in fact, ESPECIALLY when I'm listening to a song and thinking, "There's something missing." There's never anything missing...it's always that there's too much going on.
Last summer, "Atomic Blast Blues" was giving me fits. I did it first with a full 4-piece drum kit. That was just unlistenable. So I did the bass drum and about a thousand tracks of these syncopated handclaps. And it just sounded sparse. I added delay to make the handclaps "bigger." That just made it sound more sparse. Then I deleted the handclap tracks and all of a sudden it sounded huge by comparison.
And right now I'm trying to get "Moped Blues" on tape. And I've tried the drums three different ways that have all been terrible, and I have a suspicion that a single slapback-echoed bass drum is gonna end up being the winner.
Has anybody else experienced this? I guess it's just another iteration of "less is more," but it seems really literal in this case...less "stuff" on a track equals "sounds like more music." I'm calling it the "Just Toss It Out" Principle. Song not sounding right? Start deleting tracks.
Of course, if your song is just CBG and vocals, that might not work. Although some of mine might have been improved by nuking the vocal.