Once upon a time, bands recorded their music in a studio with all members playing at the same time. I remember watching TV specials about it and admiring the patience it must have taken to keep doing it over and over until they got it right. I also remember buying recordings of live performances.
Live performances have an element that cannot be duplicated in a sound booth. The band and the live audience add another dimension to the performance and enhance it. Many fans have remarked on this very thing in regards to David. David’s live performance of his music is on a whole other level. David becomes more playful with the song, incorporating runs and licks whenever he feels like it, or adding a little attitude to it. He also pushes himself and has more power in his vocals. I find that the result is a song that is more emotional and more powerful, less controlled.
In David’s vlog entitled “Alaska,” he mentions that he is getting back into the studio and has to focus on singing a different way, with a different vibe, that he has to get back into that “mode” of singing in a recording studio. In what way does he sing differently? Why does he sing differently?
This got me thinking about the different methods of recording and wondering if David has ever considered trying something a little different. Of course, there is no way to get the feel of a live audience in a studio (we wouldn’t all fit!) but there could be another option, recording with a full band in the studio the way it was done before digital layering of recordings was the norm.
These days, most often, songs are recorded in layers, which are added one piece at a time. The artist may not know what the finished record will sound like when doing vocals for his own song. In the days before computerized layering, groups wrote a song, then they rehearsed it many times before attempting to record it. It gave them a chance to play with it, to do it over and over to see how they could make it better.
I think we’ve all seen how David does this during a tour. After performing it several times, he begins adding things to it that make it better and better. The more he performs a song, the better it gets. One fine example of how this might turn out is David’s performance of “My Hands” from Providence. This song is lovely on the original studio recording, but it is stunning in the live performance. Once you get past the first 10 seconds where David is smiling at the audience and are able to wipe the smile off your face, pay close attention to this performance and really listen. You’ll see what I mean. (Then again, you probably already know what’s coming. :)
Video by djbell
Let’s be honest. How many of us can name a few live performance vocals that we prefer to the original album version? I know I have one or two.
In this day and age, live recording does pose a problem. Would it be possible to record a song live in concert, put if up for sale, and make a profit from it once it has been performed live? No matter how many signs they post at a concert that say “No Recording Devices Allowed,” we know some ninja Archie will post a recording of that song. So I’m not sure that would work.
But, if a new song was written and it was only performed during band rehearsals, and practiced many times, I think he would be refining it as he goes along, just the way he does on tour. By the time he records it, we would have a really well developed version of the original. The result would be something similar to a live performance, particularly if it were recorded with the whole band.
We know David feeds off the energy of an audience, but doesn’t he get some of that energy from the band as well? We’ve all seen the difference between his performances with a full band and his acoustic performances. To me, there is a marked difference, the one with a full band being a much more high-energy performance. Could recording his music in a studio with all members playing allow him to feed off of their energy and achieve a similar result? Could this be a way to capture some of the magic that David has on stage during live performances?
Now that David has a full-time band that he’s rehearsing with on a regular basis, it is something that could be done. Would it be more costly? Maybe. Would the resulting music be stronger, richer, and more full-bodied? Probably. While recording with the band, he would be able to play with the various elements of a song just the way he does in rehearsal, tweaking it as he goes along until the resulting recording has a sound that feels right to him. It may be a slightly old fashion method of recording, but it’s one that worked for many, many years.
Not many artists could do live performance recordings these days. Most artists’ voices don’t lend themselves to live recording. Too many pitch problems and too much auto-tuning. David is one of the few exceptions. In his live performances his voice is front and center, powerful and on pitch throughout, even while improvising on the end of the song.
David’s gift of improvisation has brought us some amazing fan videos of his live performances. Now that he has assembled a group of musicians that are on a par with his ability to improvise, the resulting recordings, live or as a group in the studio, might well produce some truly incredible music.