For the first year of my life as a guitarist , I didn’t play with bands or other musicians or even along to that many records (as I couldn’t work them out).
I sat in my own little world turning the amp up to eleven and switching between The Grand Ol’ Duke of York (E,A, E , A , D/A E) and trying to nail the scratchy noises Kurt Cobain makes in Smells Like Teen Spirit…
I spent my time in college and at weekends playing with other aspiring musicians, in garages, lounges, bedrooms and cheap rehearsal rooms, sweating in the British summertime and freezing in our harsh winter. I sat at home for hours and hours playing a guitar, no backing track – just me and my own little world where I never changed tempo and was as solid as a rock. (yea right!)
Eventually I started experimenting with recording demos. Learning how it all gets put together and in 1997 I was introduced to a thing that sends shivers down a large proportion of the guitarist fraternity: The Click Track!
A click track is a metronome, it’s there to guide you as you record… especially important if you’re laying down the track that is the body of the song. Without a click, editing becomes near impossible, the song sounds bad and generally the recording will fail – unless the whole band are all playing it live – but that’s even more complicated and generally a bad idea.
It’s been 16 years since I started playing, and I’m still shite at playing to a click. Luckily I’ve moved over to the sitar and for some reason find it easier with the sitar… however as we sat down on Saturday to start… what did I find?
The very first thing to record, is the song I wrote last year with Chandy as we travelled about Chile… a song I wrote on the guitar entirely based around my guitar part.
“Joel’s doing the guide.” Mel says with a slightly concerned expression.
“Na it’s cool, I recorded it to a click at home last year, I’ll be fine” – it’s true I did record it at home, but it’s also false that I’ll “be fine”.
About 90 minutes later we’ve finished and I’ve laid down my guide, repeating in my head a new mantra “The click is my friend, the click is there to help” … 90 seat of the pants minutes where I dance with the click , listen , stop listening, lock in, drop out , drift in , drift out…. “play slower than you think you need to” Joe (co-producer) tells me, it helps and I eventually nail it.
I’m very glad I’m playing sitar on the rest of the album! I get home and see my metronome sitting in a box, looking at me accusingly:
“16 years you’ve had to play with me” it says.
“Tomorrow morning I’ll get up early and play with you, I promise”… but as we all know, tomorrow never comes.