The Song that We Couldn’t Find

The song “Late” took us three sessions to find. In the first recording session, we first started out a bit fast, then in the morning during our second session we decided to scrap our “Version One” and switch the guitar. (There is some debate over the events of this story) We still didn’t like the song, so we ditched “Version Two”. In our third session we decided to scrap the guitar all together, and slow it way down. We ended up tracking live to lay down the foundational tracks with just a bass guitar, and softly played bass drum. It was a boring first round, but we knew that it was all about the layering and the sparsity.

You can check out the final version and video at this link.

Junkyard Percussion

Flint was really attached to the idea of using the barrel on the end of the kick drum. We knew that it was a cool sound, but we didn’t know how to best use it in the context of a song. It had a sustain of about a second long, so it was doing to take up some space. It also had a very complex harmonic structure, meaning that it had lots of tones from deep low sounds all the way to high pitch tones.

This sound alone could have taken up the mix, so we knew we had to build around the sound musically, so that the song would let it be heard in the mix, rather than limit the sound in order to make it fit in a busy rhythm and parts of a song.

Positive Delay Vocal Effect

After we had done three sessions, there wasn’t a whole lot more to loose but more time. So we went for broke and started playing around with vocal effects that I had never done before.

I’ll have to go back and listen to the effect soloed, but I seem to remember that it’s just a Princeton Reverb on the vocal. We reamped the main vocal track (tracked with a sm58 mind you) and turned the spring reverb as high as it would go to get as “wet” sound as we could. This process might have been done, two times to create a stereo effect…I really can’t remember now what we did, but the interesting part in all of this is the delay.

So the delay. I had often used guitar amps for their reverbs, and I would delay the sound out 100 to 130 ms to help keep it away from the dry vocal in a mix. And this type of approach works well many times. However this song needed something new and fresh. I took the delay in the DAW and put a “-” in front of it so that the reverb would play slightly ahead of the main vocal. Instead of trailing the vocal, it would beat it to the punch. What resulted was a really spooky effect that really baffled Flint when he heard it.

I got a call from Flint. He sounded really intrigued and confused at the same time. He said, “What the heck did you do for that vocal on ‘Late'”.


Hello, my name is Ryan Earnhardt. I am a personal mentor to audio engineers, and a debt free studio owner, Lumen Audio, located in the mountains around Asheville NC.

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