— 2013 — Mar 11

Studio Confessions

by Anton Schwartz

Modern recording technology gives us the ability to perform trickery in the recording studio. For the most part jazz keeps a healthy distance from the high octane manipulations you hear in big-money music, and so do I. There’s generally nothing you hear on my CDs that we couldn’t play “live and unplugged.”

On a couple of occasions I’ve overdubbed an additional sax part. That’s reasonably easy to spot when it happens. See if you can hear where in “Wave” (on the Radiant Blue CD) and “Sleigh Ride” and “Winter Wonderland” (both on the Holiday Time CD).

But on two occasions what we did was more subtle. I’ve almost never mentioned them to anyone, and I wondered whether anyone would notice. If anyone has, they haven’t told me. One is in “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” (on the Holiday Time CD); the other is in “Tidepool” (on the When Music Calls CD).

In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning

We played “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning” in the key of C, and I knew in advance that I’d want to play a soft, low G at the end. Only problem is the lowest note of the tenor saxophone (in concert pitch) is a half step higher: A. It’s possible to change the pitch of individual notes digitally nowadays, but what we did was more old school (and better quality). I played a low A and we did the digital equivalent of slowing down the tape on the last note of the song to 94.387% speed to lower the note one semitone. It also increased the note’s duration almost 6%, but that was ok since it was the last note anyhow. You can hear the result—here are the last 90 seconds of the song:


I recorded “Tidepool” on my very first CD, When Music Calls. I planned to have a fade out during the vamp at the end of the song. The normal procedure for that is that you play for a long time, until you’re confident that you have plenty of material, then someone says, “Ok,” and you stop. The actual fade is done after the fact during mixing or mastering. We played for awhile and the energy kept building nicely and we didn’t want to stop. Eventually, the energy came down naturally and without any discussion we all ended the song together. We thought it worked well, so we decided to keep the improvised ending rather than fading it. The only problem was that the ending section went on too long, making the song over ten minutes long. We had to shorten the song by removing a section of the long vamp at the end. Unfortunately, we recorded the CD “direct to two-track” rather than multi-track, which severely limits the editing options. There was one place where we could easily remove several seconds. But with all the musical activity at the end of the tune there simply was no other place where we could remove material without a noticeable edit. Finally, the engineer, Paul Stubblebine, suggested a spot and made the edit, bringing the song down to a friendlier 7:50.

When I got home and listened to it again, I confirmed what I already knew: that there truly was no place to make the second edit. The spot he found worked technically, but it created one bar of 9/8 in a song that’s otherwise in 6/8 meter. But as I listened to it, I actually liked the effect, and we decided to keep it. See if you can hear where it is! Here are the last two minutes of the recording, consisting of the end of the melody followed by the (shortened) vamp and the spontaneous ending:

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