Friday, August 5, 2011


Recording is a very interesting process for a musician, and after several albums I've begun to have some interesting insights into the evolution of recording "your sound" or “your voice”.  We all remember being 8 years old, or so, and hearing your voice recorded for the first time and thinking, "I don’t sound like that!”   Well the process of recording music is very similar.  Most musicians, regardless of natural talent, usually hear themselves recorded for the first time and think, "Wow, I don't sound as good as I thought".  Mostly because it's hard to hear the weaknesses while we are playing.  When I sit and play an Earl Scruggs song, I really HEAR Earl playing it.   But when I hear it played back to me I hear only me, and I'm not even close to Earl, and it can be quite deflating.   I've realized that a large part of being successful at recording is learning what you sound like, and start embracing it.    And this takes some time.    Recording can be one of the most mentally exhausting experiences you've ever been through.   The first Wiseapple album was recorded live with no opportunities for overdubs or "punches" (where you fix certain notes or phrases).  So the 4 of us had to play the song PERFECTLY, at the same time.   Getting 4 people to do anything perfectly at the same time is harder than herding hummingbirds.   
 I remember thinking to myself several times, "Is this even possible?”  The level of focus it takes to record an album in two days is unlike anything I had ever been through.  Not only do you have to play the song perfectly (or as close as possible to perfect)  but you have to keep the energy up on the 5th take so that it sounds like it is the 1st take.  It's amazing where your mind wants to wander to during the process.    But several albums later I've learned to embrace the things that I'm good at, stay away from the things I'm not so good at, and most importantly know when to take chances and when to play it safe.   I know when I can do better and also when I'm not going to do any better, and express that to the producer with a very polite, "Screw you buddy, you come play it better” But said with a flowing voice and a slight hint of British accent, like a butterfly getting ready to land on a big pile of poop.  (Fact: butterflies LOVE poop. go to a dairy farm one summer and see)
As we were recording the last album I was sitting in the studio waiting for another take to start and I remember having somewhat of a realization that my playing is going to sound like me no matter how hard I try to sound like Earl or Bela, and the best thing for me to do is not only embrace it but to actually enjoy it.   It’s me and I can’t change that fact.  What a huge relief!  


  1. You shouldn't WANT to change your sound to be like someone else - we all show up and buy cds to listen to what YOU sound like. Besides, if everyone sounded like Earl or Bela, it would get kinda boring...change is good.

  2. Agree with jenny - be yourself - we will show. Oh, and great start to the blog - you have a very distinctive descriptive style - I like it!

  3. Thanks yall for the positive feedback. I really dig this. Thanks to Jenny for being my manager!

  4. That unique sound is what makes you my favorite banjo player! Carry on my friend!