Author Topic: St. James Infirmary Blues  (Read 1774 times)

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Offline J.W.C.

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St. James Infirmary Blues
« on: October 03, 2020, 10:26:58 pm »
Friday night I arranged bass and drums for this song, and this afternoon I recorded the guitar, vocal, and harmonica.

St. James Infirmary Blues [SoundCloud]
Lossless WAV/PCM version [DropBox]

Recording notes for those interested:

Drums

Sampled drum kit. Separate sample for the ride cymbal. Entered with my MIDI controller.

Bass

Sampled acoustic bass entered with my MIDI controller.

Guitar

Martin OM35e. Used the internal pickup. No mic at all for the guitar on this track. I figured that was okay since the guitar is part of the whole mix with the other instruments, not standing alone.

Vocal

Recorded with a Shure PGA27 condenser mic.

Harmonica

Lee Oskar Am harp. Recorded this with the same Shure PGA27 condenser mic. This was the last thing recorded. I'm a beginner on harmonica, but really wanted some harp on the song. Pretty basic, but at least it's in there!

Effects

All effects added in the DAW before mixing down. EQ, compression, and reverb.

Online Alex6strings

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2020, 12:06:54 am »
I listened to this before reading the recording notes and I thought to myself.... 'is that a double bass?'  very cool sounding bass and drum sample there.    I thought your harp was very tasteful and you played it pretty darn good if you ask me.    I agree with the guitar being in the mix here and the pickup sounded cool.  I think it all blended great.
.
It wouldn't be a J.W.C. post if I didn't mention your singing though..!  This was so good.  I don't think this song was in the blues brothers at all but immediately I got that 'vibe' which I love!   Great job on this, it's really authentic sounding and top quality.  Another awesome performance thanks for sharing it with us.   
"Hand me a guitar and I'll play the blues, it's the place i automatically go"  EC

Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2020, 12:29:38 am »
I listened to this before reading the recording notes and I thought to myself.... 'is that a double bass?'  very cool sounding bass and drum sample there. I thought your harp was very tasteful and you played it pretty darn good if you ask me.    I agree with the guitar being in the mix here and the pickup sounded cool.  I think it all blended great.

Yeah, some of the bass and drum samples that come with Bitwig are quite good. The samples I used were:

  • Nektar Acoustic Drums Kit Weighty #1
  • Nektar Acoustic Drums Ride 20-inch A Custom (the ride cymbal)
  • Sneaky Acoustic Bass Slide Up
I went with that double bass because I wanted an old-time, jazzy, kinda sleazy feel. (That's why I wanted the harmonica in there, too.)

It wouldn't be a J.W.C. post if I didn't mention your singing though..!  This was so good....Great job on this, it's really authentic sounding and top quality.  Another awesome performance thanks for sharing it with us.

Thanks, Alex! I had fun recording this one.

Online Alex6strings

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2020, 12:32:18 am »
It certainly gave that old time jazzy feel..  The bass really sets the mood for this tune.. loved it, thanks for the links.
.
I play drums and pretty much for as long as I've played guitar, not as well though.   The drums here are cool and the way you blended that ride in is perfect!
"Hand me a guitar and I'll play the blues, it's the place i automatically go"  EC

Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2020, 01:09:46 am »
It certainly gave that old time jazzy feel..  The bass really sets the mood for this tune.. loved it, thanks for the links.
.
I play drums and pretty much for as long as I've played guitar, not as well though.   The drums here are cool and the way you blended that ride in is perfect!

Cool, I'm glad to hear that. I'm not a drummer, but I try to make the drums a little more interesting (and "correct") where I can. That's something I'm working on (i.e., learning more about drums). I'd like to get better at knowing how/when to include fills and such.

These might be more informative links, as far as those samples go. (They're part of the stuff that was included with Bitwig.)

https://www.bitwig.com/sound-content/acoustic-bass-9/
https://www.bitwig.com/sound-content/acoustic-drum-kits-8/

Offline phx1973

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2020, 02:11:32 am »
That was great, J.W.C.  I actually think it was my favorite of yours that I’ve seen. Loved the harmonica too. I have a few around the house but have never done much more than spend just a few minutes messing around with them. Is their much technique or skill to it? Something I could get into! Wouldn’t even know where to start though


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Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2020, 02:29:56 am »
That was great, J.W.C.  I actually think it was my favorite of yours that I’ve seen. Loved the harmonica too. I have a few around the house but have never done much more than spend just a few minutes messing around with them. Is their much technique or skill to it? Something I could get into! Wouldn’t even know where to start though

Like you, I've had a harmonica (a Hohner "Great Little Harp") sitting in a drawer for years and never did anything with beyond beyond "a few minutes messing around," now and then. I decided I wanted to learn to actually play something on harmonica back in July, and I bought a Hohner Marine Band 1896 at the beginning of August.

I started learning from this guy's (Adam Gussow) youtube videos and website. I was pretty diligent about practicing for a month or so. It's tapered off now, but I still keep the harmonica in my practice rotation.

Yes, there is some technique and skill, but I'd say harmonica is probably the easiest learning curve out of instruments I've experimented with. The biggest thing in the beginning is to learn to play single notes, which seems impossible at first. But it comes. And once you have that it kind of opens things up and progress goes faster. It also helps that most harmonicas are diatonic instruments, so all the notes are already "in the key" (but you need the right key of harmonica for various songs -- and there's things like bending notes).

I bought the Lee Oskar Am harmonica specifically for this song. And I figure having an Am harp is probably a useful thing for a guitar player, anyway.

Offline DavidP

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2020, 07:05:04 am »
What a wonderful rendition, JWC.

Like all your recordings it is top quality, great tone and sound, performed with feeling. I guess that comes when you are beyond the point of being focussed on just being able to play and sing the song to a reasonable level (that is where I feel I am at the moment, still working on being able to play and sing OK, though I tried to put more feeling into my performances yesterday)

Special highlights of this for me are the arrangement ... loved the way you used the drums and bass, the intro ... and the harmonica.

Given Tosh's comments on learning harmonica. I wonder if an instrument becomes "easier" to learn the more instruments you learn. Perhaps due to having better ears, oevrall musicality, sense of timing and tempo.  Because for a "beginner" you harmonica sounded just right.

From a mix perspective, it was all good in terms of hearing all the instruments and the balance.  I just wondered how it might sound if you tried to give the overall a little more width.  Listening on SC it felt quite narrow in the centre, everything on top of everything.  As I say the levels and EQ was good so heard it all ... just a thought caveated with the usual ... mixing is subjective opinion and this is not suggesting there is something "wrong" with the mix.

Good vibes to you for continuing to record and share, giving me inspiration to keep working to perform to this level.

Offline RC23

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2020, 07:45:01 am »
That was great..

Really enjoyed the whole production, thought you did a great job of capturing the “feel”

Thanks for sharing this.
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Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2020, 08:05:28 am »
What a wonderful rendition, JWC. Like all your recordings it is top quality, great tone and sound, performed with feeling.

Thank you, David.

I guess that comes when you are beyond the point of being focussed on just being able to play and sing the song to a reasonable level (that is where I feel I am at the moment, still working on being able to play and sing OK, though I tried to put more feeling into my performances yesterday)

I thought your "live" set was great. Out of your recordings that I've heard, that one is my favorite. You seemed relaxed and smooth.

Given Tosh's comments on learning harmonica. I wonder if an instrument becomes "easier" to learn the more instruments you learn...Because for a "beginner" you harmonica sounded just right.

I think there's probably some truth to that (i.e., learning and adapting to new instruments becomes easier after you've done it a few times), but I'd also say that different instruments still have their own learning curves, and some are steeper than others.

On the harmonica, I felt pretty good about the playing, given my experience level with it. I'm sure a pro player could do the same licks/riffs better, but I was happy with it.

Quote
From a mix perspective, it was all good in terms of hearing all the instruments and the balance.  I just wondered how it might sound if you tried to give the overall a little more width.  Listening on SC it felt quite narrow in the centre, everything on top of everything.  As I say the levels and EQ was good so heard it all ... just a thought caveated with the usual ... mixing is subjective opinion and this is not suggesting there is something "wrong" with the mix.

That's an astute observation (and shows you have good ears). *Everything* was left centered on this track. Usually I have multiple guitar inputs (mics/pickup) and pan the mics left and right (and do the L/R reverb send thing, as well), and that sense of width is totally missing from this recording. To be honest, I didn't even think about the width and the stereo field when I was mixing this. Good shout (and I appreciate the close listening and the feedback). I'll take a look at that, experiment a bit, and maybe do a remix.

Quote
Good vibes to you for continuing to record and share, giving me inspiration to keep working to perform to this level.

Thank you. I'm glad you find it inspiring. I've been getting a lot of inspiration from the posts here, too.

Also, I think you could play this guitar arrangement. If you'd like, I can make a version with just the bass and drums (and harmonica, if desired), and put it up on Dropbox as a backing track.

The verse chords are all open + the F barre chord, played up in first position (just listing the chords here, not the exact progression):
  • Am
  • E7
  • Am7 (with the high G)
  • C∆7/F 
  • E7 (with high D)
  • F
The chorus ("Let her go...") chords move things up the neck and use movable shapes until you go back down to first position for the low E7 (w/high D):
  • Am (Fret V)
  • E7 (VII)
  • F∆7 (VIII)
  • F∆9 (VII)
  • E7 w/high D (I)
Out of those the trickiest are probably the F major 7th and F major 9th chords.

Anyway, if you (or anyone else) would like a backing track, just let me know. (If not, that's cool, too. :))

Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2020, 08:11:42 am »
That was great...Really enjoyed the whole production, thought you did a great job of capturing the “feel”...Thanks for sharing this.

Thank you; I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

I wanted to do an arrangement with a nod back to the jazzy versions of the song (e.g., Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, etc.). I'm pleased with how the arrangement turned out.

Offline DavidP

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2020, 08:39:50 am »
I thought your "live" set was great. Out of your recordings that I've heard, that one is my favorite. You seemed relaxed and smooth.

Thanks JWC ... appearances are deceiving in terms of seeming relaxed, but I feel I am improving slow and steady.

That's an astute observation (and shows you have good ears). *Everything* was left centered on this track. Usually I have multiple guitar inputs (mics/pickup) and pan the mics left and right (and do the L/R reverb send thing, as well), and that sense of width is totally missing from this recording. To be honest, I didn't even think about the width and the stereo field when I was mixing this. Good shout (and I appreciate the close listening and the feedback). I'll take a look at that, experiment a bit, and maybe do a remix.

 ;D I guess good is relative ... I still struggle when watching videos on EQ, compression, etc on YT when the presenter declares a before and after to be hugely different to sometimes hear it.  I feel better when some of them note that hearing the differences is not "easy" and comes with time.

An idea I have thought about before, though never had a song to try it, is to try and mix the instruments as if I was watching a live performance.  To try and position the instruments in the mix where the performer would be on the stage in a club.  I think in such a context the eyes help deceive the ears into hearing say the bass left because the bassist is to your left on the stage. And maybe that is also as a result of how the sound engineer is working on the desk.

So in this case, maybe panning drums, vocal and harmonica centre, bass left, guitar right, with the panning not being the hard left and right used with two guitar tracks but just enough to introduce width without pulling it all apart, might sound good.

Also, I think you could play this guitar arrangement. If you'd like, I can make a version with just the bass and drums (and harmonica, if desired), and put it up on Dropbox as a backing track.

I do play this song and posted a rendition of it when I was busy with the BC, so sometime back in 2017. I nearly included it in the setlist for episode 2 of Songs From the Playroom. In the end I opted not too at that time, worrying a bit about how I'd talk into the song in the time of Covid with perhaps people losing loved ones.

I play it as per how it is presented in Justin's Beginner Song Book, chords being simple Am, E, Dm.  If I recall correctly I recorded it as a song of choice to apply the Stage 2 material.

When my wife and I play together on the patio, it is one of the songs we play.  I try and keep it simple and sparse on my acoustic while my wife plays the resonator (she loves the resonator). I try and play a little lead at times, just using Em pentatonic in open position (which may not be the correct scale  ??? ). It's a lot of fun. I also try and sing a few verses, but don't have enough verses committed to memory, so it is a bit patchy.

Maybe one fine day, I'll get those lyrics down, set up my condensor mic (Samson CO3) with either an omni or figure 8 pattern, and record a live single take version of the two of us having some fun.  I say single take, so not the first take as if at an Open Mic, but rather the best (usually last) take.

Appreciate the offer of the backing, very generous. At the moment I have a few other projects I want to do and have limited time due to the circumstances at home to use the Playroom as a "studio", so not likely to give that a go anytime soon. So won't say "yes" as I'd then feel a sense of "obligation" to produce a version.

But maybe one day I'll take you up on that offer.  Though if I did, I'd properly open the conversation with a focus on Scarborough Fair.  That is a song that is there in the back of my mind to learn how to play with simple finger-picking and sing.  And some string, drums, and bass backing could be interesting.  But that is not yet on my doing list, still on the wishlist  ;D   

Offline rwoodlin

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2020, 11:51:11 am »
J.W.C. , that was a most excellent rendition of a classic!
Regards,
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Offline LievenDV

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2020, 12:43:34 pm »
great job, the whole production! Tasty!
 
The amount of work that goes into creating a song that way alone is already quite the load.
Pretty musn't underestimate that!
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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2020, 02:41:01 pm »
Hey JWC. It’s all been said already! No point in repeating, that was terrific, just terrific! I could listen to your stuff all day.
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Offline embishop

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2020, 03:24:09 pm »
That’s some damn fine blues JWC, and nice mournful harp riffs, the heart of the blues. You’re inspiring me to spend more time on that little instrument!

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Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2020, 05:45:43 pm »
I guess good is relative ... I still struggle when watching videos on EQ, compression, etc on YT when the presenter declares a before and after to be hugely different to sometimes hear it.  I feel better when some of them note that hearing the differences is not "easy" and comes with time.

Also, I'm think youtube applies its own processing and normalization to uploaded audio. If so, there's that possible factor, too.

An idea I have thought about before, though never had a song to try it, is to try and mix the instruments as if I was watching a live performance.  To try and position the instruments in the mix where the performer would be on the stage in a club.

That sounds like a good thing to try. I was thinking about doing something like that, but with the individual pieces of the drum kit, such that the cymbals would be slightly left or right, etc.

When my wife and I play together on the patio, it is one of the songs we play.  I try and keep it simple and sparse on my acoustic while my wife plays the resonator (she loves the resonator).

Awesome that that two of you play together like that. :)

I like resonator guitar, too. (Resonator would fit well in this song, too.)

Quote
I try and play a little lead at times, just using Em pentatonic in open position (which may not be the correct scale  ??? ).

You might give A minor pentatonic a try with that progression.

Maybe one fine day, I'll get those lyrics down, set up my condensor mic (Samson CO3) with either an omni or figure 8 pattern, and record a live single take version of the two of us having some fun.  I say single take, so not the first take as if at an Open Mic, but rather the best (usually last) take.

That would be cool; I'd love to hear it.  :)

Appreciate the offer of the backing, very generous....So won't say "yes" as I'd then feel a sense of "obligation" to produce a version.

No worries (and no pressure or obligation). The offer stands.

Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2020, 05:56:36 pm »
J.W.C. , that was a most excellent rendition of a classic!

Thank you!

great job, the whole production! Tasty! The amount of work that goes into creating a song that way alone is already quite the load. Pretty musn't underestimate that!

Thanks.

Yeah, all told that was probably nearly a full-day's worth of work on the recording, although split up over a couple days. One evening to settle on an arrangement and create the drum and bass tracks with MIDI, and then an afternoon recording the audio tracks for the non-MIDI instruments (guitar/vocals/harp) and mixing it down.

Hey JWC. It’s all been said already! No point in repeating, that was terrific, just terrific! I could listen to your stuff all day.

Thank you; I appreciate that!

That’s some damn fine blues JWC, and nice mournful harp riffs, the heart of the blues. You’re inspiring me to spend more time on that little instrument!

Thanks, Mari! I'm pleased you liked the harmonica. And I'm even more chuffed that it's inspiring you to spend more time with a harp. They're definitely fun and cool.   8)

Offline Bytron08

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2020, 06:45:51 pm »
Damn J.W.C, you really have it going on fore sure. I really enjoyed this, very good job!! Love your voice, Im still waiting on your wicked game :D :)

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2020, 06:58:46 pm »
Uff, haven't heard this one in quite some time! Such a classic. You did a great job! And also the samples are nicely blended with the recordings. Looking forward to your next tune!

Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #20 on: October 04, 2020, 07:14:37 pm »
Damn J.W.C, you really have it going on fore sure. I really enjoyed this, very good job!! Love your voice, Im still waiting on your wicked game :D :)

Thanks, Bytron.

Hey, if I recall correctly, you had commented on one of my earlier recordings (the first version of The Ride, I think), suggesting that it would sound cool with some cajon and lead. That prompted me to explore adding drums and bass and other instruments to some of these recordings, so thank you for that push and inspiration!

Wicked Game is waiting in the wings. I did set up the basic arrangement with drums and bass (although the drum beat is currently the same thing all the way through, so I'll need to work on varying that). I haven't decided what I want to do with the guitar, though. I'm thinking I'll do the basic rhythm with an acoustic, but I might add some clean electric, too (maybe my hollow-body Gretsch). Not sure yet. Also, I'm expecting the vocal on that song to be a real challenge!

Uff, haven't heard this one in quite some time! Such a classic. You did a great job! And also the samples are nicely blended with the recordings. Looking forward to your next tune!

Thank you!

Offline Bytron08

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2020, 08:12:20 pm »
Nice Jw! I cannot wait for it, thats like my fav song of all time. Guess im just impatient lol

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #22 on: October 04, 2020, 10:34:12 pm »
Hear, hear...
and then hear again!
Bravo!  :)

Offline DavidP

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #23 on: October 05, 2020, 06:09:32 am »
You might give A minor pentatonic a try with that progression.

No worries (and no pressure or obligation). The offer stands.

What was I thinking ... Em noodle is not when we play this, but over a E A B blues progression.  But next time we are out there must try an Am noodle.

Thanks again for the offer.  When the time is right I'll give you a shout via PM ... but not in the near future ... so many projects, so little time  ;)

Offline J.W.C.

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Re: St. James Infirmary Blues
« Reply #24 on: October 05, 2020, 12:25:32 pm »
And also the samples are nicely blended with the recordings.

David mentioned something in another discussion that made me realize I might need to clarify the "samples" thing. Just to be clear, these aren't samples or clips/loops extracted from another song, they're sampled instruments. So it's similar to a digital modeling or profiling amp or an impulse response of a guitar cab and speaker: the double bass and drums are "digital models" created from a real double bass and real drum kit, which you can then play or enter using MIDI controller (e.g., keyboard, drum pads, etc).

Not sure if that clarification was needed or not, but thought I'd provide it just to try and avoid any confusion. :)

... so many projects, so little time  ;)

I know the feeling!

Hear, hear...and then hear again! Bravo!  :)

Thank you!

 

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