Jul 272009
 

A few months ago I discussed with HVB, The Back Office, and The Mod (collectively “the Board Members”) the possibility of forming a Rock Town Hall Recording Society. The concept would be that someone records a basic track (as simple as just a beat or a single instrument track, but no more complicated that a sparse track containing chords and a melody/lyrics). Then, they would forward it to the next person in line so they could add something to it, and so on until we have a finished track. We could evaluate each addition and decide whether or not it should stay in the mix. If we could figure out a way to forward the thing as unmixed tracks, then everyone could take a shot at a final mix. The idea is that anything on any track can be edited, deleted or replaced, including my lyrics or melody. No experience necessary!

The main issue is what format would we use.

This should be a digital project. That way we could have all of the tracks sync up while their being passed from machine to machine. Also, I think we should be able to save the tracks as WAV files and it wouldn’t matter if people were using PCs or Macs. Based on my previous discussions the Board Members, a series of WAV files would quickly become too big to e-mail, so we might need to snail mail a disc from person to person. I’m not a very tech savvy guy, so Board Members feel free to remind me why this wouldn’t work.

I have a song that I wrote back in the days when RTH was a Yahoo Group. Someone had suggested that we write short songs about Angry Gnomes. I wrote one that day but have never recorded it. I’d gladly offer up that gem as a starting point. If that’s the starting point, I could record a rhythm guitar track and a scratch vocal track. It’s about a minute long.

I’m certain the final outcome will conclusively prove that creating art by committee is a fool’s errand but I think it could be an interesting journey, especially if we get to the point where different people are mixing the same tracks.

Anybody want to give this a shot? Any suggestions how to make it work?

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  26 Responses to “The Rock Town Hall Recording Society”

  1. saturnismine

    audiophiles will turn their noses up at this, but:

    protools, garageband, whatever, all take mp3s, and they’re the easiest to email back and forth.

    email the mixed track, in whatever state of completion it’s in as an mp3.

    let the recipient plop it in to their recording platform, whatever it may be. then they play their track. then they either mix it and render it as an mp3, to send along to the next person, or they mute the track they were playing along with, and render what they played as an mp3, and send that to whoever’s receiving and mixing all the separate tracks.

    no need to turn one’s nose up at an mp3 in this case. they carry the info just fine. once it’s in your recording platform, it’s nice and mixable with all your plugins and doodads.

  2. saturnismine

    and i would LOVE to hear what some a youze would do with song ideas i’ve got!

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    I’m with Sat. Relying on physical media like CDs will cause this to end up in the same conceptual ashcan as, say, HEAR FACTOR.

    Having said that, doing it Sat’s way will make it impossible for folks to mute or extract what’s come before them.

  4. HVB, What if the tracks were individual MP3? Could they then be loaded onto say Garageband, or in my case Mixcraft and be caused to line up properly without too much effort? This would mean that if a guitar doesn’t come in until the second verse, you would still have to hit record at the very beginning of the song.

    Sat, I’m fine with MP3s. I’m a music snob, not an audiophile.

    Also, if you want to throw down the first song, I’ll happily put my Angry Gnome song back on the shelf.

  5. Hi all,

    I love this idea and would be glad to participate. Also, I maintain a server and I *might* be willing to setup a folder that we can share. This would allow us to mount a folder to move files back and forth, and keep it high -res.

    My concern about doing this is that I don’t want the server info to be public (ie, published on this site). So if you want to take me up on this offer, the participants would have to keep the login info off of this web site, and we can simply have one of us convert the rough mix du jour to mp3 to post here, hosted by whatever host this is, etc, etc.

    Best way, imho, is a bit data intensive but this:

    Each track, even if it’s just a single triangle hit on the last note, MUST begin from the same point in time. If the song is 3 minutes, each track, no matter how dense or sparse, is 3 minutes. This way, no matter which platform, the files can be dropped into your software of choice, lined up to the same start point and off you go.

  6. saturnismine

    hvb, there are lots of ways to do this.

    one of the ideas that i had in mind was that a song would be like a palimpsest.

    the first person sends along an acoustic guitar track, or drum beat, to someone else. they add whatever they want, MIX, and send to someone else, and so on.

    no muting or soloing of tracks.

    just a linear growth.

    but that’s only ONE way to do it.

    we could also have it so that the person who originated the song idea is the ultimate recipient of all additional tracks, which are generated by playing along to the track in various states of completion, but the always mute everything else and render *what they have played only* as an mp3.

    Given the potential logistical hassles + a blog where every other poster is creative, smart, and has figured out his or her own way to do this stuff (and usually suffers from at least a touch of right sickness), I was thinking of the simplest process possible. does it have its limitations? yes. but those limitations could produce interesting results.

    cher, as someone who has engaged this process quite a bit with fellow band members, i can assure you that synching is not the problem you think it will be. with digital media, once you find the spot where the track should lay (which is never really all that hard with some verbal directions), then it’s in their solidly.

    that said, i think your suggestion is a good one. even if a guitar enters half way through the song, it should be rendered as an mp3 for the entire length of the song, just to be on the safe side. that way, plopping it in will be easy. BUT that method doesn’t preclude including verbal directions like (“this is a guitar track that enters right after the first verse at 1:30, on the downbeat where the singer says “You are…”).

    I hope we actually do this instead of picking at each other about which method is the best.

    I’ll happily volunteer the first basic track for any number of you to chew on.

    and so here’s one more thing:

    why agree on a “universal process?”

    if I’m the originator of the song, and I want to send an acoustic track with vocals out to each and every one of you, and hear back from you individually, select from your efforts, and then keep sending it back out, then who has the right to quarrel with me over the method by which I choose to tap the collective talents of RTH? No one.

    I say that whoever originates the process of an individual song idea has the right to govern the process over that idea.

  7. How many people are up for this experiment? Maybe we should start there.

    Personally, I can’t wait to drop some of my faux Tuvan throat singing on top of somebody else’s jam.

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    I’m in.

  9. I’m already in a “song of the month” program and I can tell you what we do.

    I’m the only one on a PC running Cubase – everyone else is using Garageband. The first person creates the original track and sends it out with some basic info like BPM and song structure/chords. The file is a simple 44.1 16bit Mp3 file. We’re not getting fancy. The originator also designates the order of players.

    The track starts at “Zero” and quite often has a count-in or drum loop to get you started.

    When you receive a track – load it into your DAW and set up the project to the correct BPM and bit rate. Record your contribution starting at zero.

    Send out a mix of the tracks to everyone and the next person in line. Export and send the solo’d track you recorded to the originator who collects all tracks for the final mix.

    I set up a folder on my server to dump tracks and disseminate – others in my group just email using gmail.

    I’ll play with you all if you get something organized.

  10. BigSteve

    I’m willing to give it a whirl. I was also going to mention that bpm info would be a good idea.

  11. sammymaudlin

    I’m in on theremin…

    Does anyone have a theremin I can borrow?

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    Sammy — if you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got a theremin. Download “BeBot” from the App Store. It’s really cool!

  13. saturnismine

    hvb: you are correct, sir!

  14. i’d be in, but i’m away until the 19th, and all i have access to is audacity and acoustic guitar. would we still be dividing things into seperate tracks if we used mp3’s? it could work if we put every track into wav, and then zipped it and put it up on sendfile or any other file sharing site where anyone could get the link and download the tracks.

  15. I’m glad to hear folks are into it.

    Since there are a number of ways to do this, let’s narrow it down. Tech people: please chime in if any of this isn’t workable.

    I would retain the ability for everyone to be able to do a final mix if possible. So, if I understand the tech end of this correctly, we can do this in one of the following ways:

    1. Townsman Cher Method: Cher allows us to use his server. The first person records and uploads a track or tracks to a file on the server. Everyone after that downloads the file, adds a track and then uploads the revised file.

    2. Townsman MrClean Method: MrClean allows us to use his server. The first person records and uploads a track or tracks to a file on the server. Everyone after that would record a track, make a mix so the next person can hear all of the tracks. They would also upload the new track to the file on MrClean’s server.

    The main difference between this method and the Cher method is that here all of the previous tracks would be in a rough mix whereas with Cher’s method, you would be able to create your own rough mix, or completely mute tracks, while recording yours. Cher’s would offer more versatility but would also be a much bigger file to download as time went on.

    3. A new, potentially weirder, method would be for the first person to record a basic track and post it. Then everyone records a track on their own without hearing what the other people’s tracks sound like. We all upload our individual tracks to a common file and then everyone can download that file and start mixing by subtraction.

    At the end of any of these methods, anyone who wants to can take a crack at doing a mix.

    All tracks must be recorded from zero.

    Mr Clean: In your group, how long do you guys allow for tracks to be turned in? Do you give each person a maximum of 3 days for instance? It seems like there should be some kind of limit in order to keep the whole thing moving forward.

    It sounds like Sat wanted to take a shot at the first tracks, so step up to the plate Dr. Art.

    By the way, I’m not sure why I posted this when I did because I will be away until about 8/15 but I don’t want to hold things up so if people want to get started then let’s do it and I’ll either catch up on the back end of the project or the next time around.

    Also, I have the following suggestions for the name of the group:
    a. The Rock Town Hall Recording Society
    b. The Angry Gnomes
    c. Neckfürter

  16. Points of clarification…

    1. My server. Currently, only I use it for distributing tracks. The others just email ‘em. If you do want to pursue using the machine – I’d have to look into creating FTP user accounts for folks…

    2. As for time limits on contributions – we don’t have a limit but some folks will gently prod others if they take too long. I recently went on vacation and it was my turn – the others waited.

    3. We work on one song at a time with a listed order of contributors (determined by the person starting out the tune) and then when it is done they pass the baton to who they decide will begin the next track. Only one song is worked at a time.

    Might be best if you take this to email communication now for those interested parties. This might sound undemocratic but if too many get involved it might be hard to manage and a bit of a mess (there are only 5 of us in the program I’m part of…)

  17. trolleyvox

    While intrigued by this project, I am currently without a computer at home, so I’ll just hang back to watch the initial fireworks until I’m back in digital action, whenever that may be.

  18. BigSteve

    I think the individual contributions need to be kept separate. Otherwise the song is going to end up with a dozen guitar tracks piled on top of each other. Would muting someone else’s contribution be part of the fun or musical darwinism?

  19. saturnismine

    cdm,

    two things:

    1. i’ll take a shot as soon as i can, but i’m preparing to go to berlin until august 10th, so it won’t be ’til after then.

    2. I still don’t understand why we all have to agree to do this the same way. Aside from knowing contact information so that we can exchange tracks, it seems unnecessary and even narrowing to dictate a ‘universal’ process by which all must participate.

    I asked before, and I’ll ask again: “if I’m the originator of the song, and I want to send an acoustic track with vocals out to each and every one of you, and hear back from you individually, select from your efforts, and then keep sending it back out, then who has the right to quarrel with me over the method by which I choose to tap the collective talents of RTH? No one.”

    Why can’t I do this the way I want?

  20. Sat
    I guess I didn’t read your post that well because that’s similar to the third method that I was proposing.

    I think this method has the potential to be the most disjointed but also the coolest since everyone would be submitting tracks without any idea of which direction anyone else is thinking that the song should go.

    I would still like everyone to be able to take a crack at the final mix once you have collected all of the tracks. We should be able to do that if you put all of the final tracks in a file on someone’s server. Is that right Mr Clean/Cher?

    I’m going to be in Cape Cod until 8/11 so I’m all in favor of postponing this until mid August as well.

    Mach veil spass in Berlin.

  21. BigSteve

    Cape Cod, Berlin, Montgomery … our jet-setting lifestyles make collaboration so difficult.

  22. Yeah, well, rest assured that when I return from the Cape, after putting my madras shorts away for another year and discarding the remains of my Pimm’s Cup, I’ll be ready to devote my full attention to this project.

  23. saturnismine

    gotcha, cdm! it’s all good.

    i’ll be in touch once i’m through with the fourth reich.

  24. I’m flat out at work until mid-August but I am SO into this.

  25. Saturnismine, Hrrundi, Cherguevara, Big Steve, Mr Clean, Hissing Fauna, Sammymaudlin, the Mod, T Vox (if you’ve replaced your computer yet), and anyone else interested in the RTH Recording Society,

    Now that summer is over, I think it’s time for us to knuckle down and produce the musical masterpiece that I know we’re capable of.

    To refresh everyone’s memory, someone will produce Basic Tracks (one scratch vocal, one basic instrument track, and click track) to a song. Then whoever wants to can download the Basic Tracks as mp3s, record an additional track and submit the newly recorded track as an mp3 to be added to the others

    Per Sat: “the person who originated the song idea is the ultimate recipient of all additional tracks, which are generated by playing along to the track in various states of completion, but the always mute everything else and render *what they have played only* as an mp3.”

    Per Hrrundi: “Each track, even if it’s just a single triangle hit on the last note, MUST begin from the same point in time. If the song is 3 minutes, each track, no matter how dense or sparse, is 3 minutes. This way, no matter which platform, the files can be dropped into your software of choice, lined up to the same start point and off you go.”

    Back Office or Cher: After all of the mp3 tracks have been submitted, is there a way that everyone can download them (similar to how we can all download the Hear Factor mp3s) so that we can all take a shot at mixing?

    Both Sat and I volunteered to supply the first song idea but he volunteered twice so I will defer to him.

    Remember:
    1. All tracks must be recorded as mp3s
    2. All tracks must be recorded from the very beginning of the track even if the music contained on that track does not begin until later in the track.

  26. Saturnismine, have you finished the basic track yet?

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