Monday, September 10, 2007

layin’ down some tracks

Although the recording studio was a converted garage in Steph’s backyard, it was actually very professional inside, with fancy-looking equipment and original sketches by animators from some of the shows she’d recorded there.

The first thing I thought when I put on my headphones and sat down in front of the mic to record one of my stories was, I feel like Ashlee Simpson.

“I feel like I’m on This American Life,” I told Stephanie, because TAL is a spoken word show and I wasn’t doing any singing. Also, it sounded like a smarter reference. Also, I have a sort of sinus-y voice (“I can hear your nose whistling like the wind,” Steph observed upon playback) that could only ever hope to find a home on NPR.

Stephanie had me read various lines over and over in different ways—she’s a good acting coach as well as a person who understands what the Richter-like lines on her sound-engineer software mean. Then she showed me how she could splice everything together to make it sound like I read the story perfectly all the way through.

“Now I can see why Paris Hilton has a music career,” I said. “She only had to hit the right note once during the entire session.”

“Not even that,” Stephanie said. “They have pitch-adjusting equipment too. Like if you listen to Sarah Michelle Gellar sing in the musical episode of Buffy, you can tell her voice has been altered a lot.”

Steph also introduced me the concept of a guide track, a recorded track that musicians sometimes sing along with when performing live, since the venue’s acoustics are often all wonky.

“Remember when Ashlee Simpson messed up on SNL and said they played the wrong track in her ear?” Steph said. “That was a bad lie because everyone heard the full song with all the instrumentation and saw that her lips weren’t moving along with it.”

I think I associate Ashlee with recording studios because she, to a slightly lesser degree than Paris, wouldn’t have a career without their magic. She also got famous via a show that had lots of scenes depicting her in the booth. The point then, of course, was to go behind the scenes into the life of an up-and-coming recording artist. To be extra authentic. But it backfired as she revealed herself to be just striking various musican-y poses.

(On a side note, while I know Fall Out Boy is probably not considered the coolest band by people who designate cool bands, I, like millions of 15-year-old emo boys and girls, think Pete Wentz is a hottie and certainly a cut above Ashlee Simpson. Come on, Pete—do you really want a girl who dyed her hair and got plastic surgery to make herself look less like one of your fans and more like Jessica Simpson?)

Hmm. I didn’t intend this post to be a rant against Ashlee Simpson. That’s how pop culture can hijack you, my friends. What was my point again? Just that for my next live reading, I’m considering lip synching to Sarah Vowell.


Claire said...

Ah, recording studios are fun even in converted garage/office guises.

Maybe try a BreatheRight strip next time to cut down on the nose whistling. ;)

Auto-tune is a bit of a revelation and explains why so many performers suck on live awards shows.

A guide track sounds like it's more for someone who doesn't know what notes to hit. Having done karaoke in a couple different places, I have experienced acoustic wonkiness, but having a couple speakers aimed at the stage did the trick. Earpieces for the famous... The guide track strikes me as lame since it allows for no variation in a live performance.

Anonymous said...

I like any expertise that begins with the words, "Having done karaoke in a couple of different venues...." :-)

ER said...

You should totally lip synch to Sarah Vowell!
I bet Jenny Lewis doesn't use a guide track. That would crush me.

Cheryl said...

When Britney or Ashlee plays a tiny little club and roams the audience playing guitar, I'll give them all due respect. Till then, I'll join you in Jenny fan-dom.