No Room for Blunder…When You’re a 1 Take Wonder

No Room for Blunder…When You’re a 1 Take Wonder

I guess I better explain what a 1 take wonder is.

A 1 take wonder is an artist/musician who performs/records their part, (either it be a vocalist, guitarist, drummer, etc) in 1 take.  I know, it doesn’t really sound practical or professional – but I am guilty as charged!

For as long as I can remember, I have been a 1 take wonder. 

It wasn’t anything that I planned or even thought about, it just always turned out that way.  Anytime I would record my vocals, the first take was always the best.  Ironically it always wound up sounding the most authentic and emotion filled.  Don’t get me wrong, I would always record a few takes.  But inevitably, 9 out of 10 times, my 1st take would be used.

There is something ‘perfect’ about our imperfections.

Whenever I am listening to a song and hear little flaws in a vocal performance, I think to myself, “Ah that must have been a 1st take.”  It makes me happy that there are artists out there who don’t design their brand around sounding flawless.  I seem to gravitate more towards singers that sound raw and not so polished.  But let’s not get it twisted – there is a difference between singing off key and out of tune.  I’m talking about when a singer gets so emotional that their voice cracks or squeaks – and they decide to leave it in the song.  That is a ‘perfect’ imperfection!

Things changed once I joined a band…

When Lee and I decided to form Spicy Folk and began creating music solely for licensing opportunities, those “perfect imperfections” became multiple takes.  Believe me, I understand that most music supervisors have very high standards, but geez, this meant that I had to deliver a polished vocal every time.  Ugh, so long 1 take wonder!  Yeppers, those 1 takes became 2 or sometimes 3 takes.  And even if the 1st take was the best, there was always something that needed to be redone.  Whether it be a word, a sentence or a verse – if it had to be sang again, that is what I did.

Is there that much of a difference between the 1st take and the polished take?  

This is a song we wrote called A Sailor’s Tragedy.  The first time I recorded my vocal, it was around 95 degrees outside & I forgot to turn the AC off, and unfortunately my microphone picked it up in the background.  Ohhh noooo, what a bummer!  I absolutely loved the vocal, it was packed with emotion!  You can hear the AC humming on my dry vocal track, but when mixed in, there was no trace.  Listen below…

Lee did a great job with cancelling out the AC in the background. However, we both felt that if we were going to pitch this to a music supervisor, it had to be done better. 

So I prepared to redo my vocals.  By “prepared” I mean I literally closed my eyes for like 2 hours just listening to the instrumental over and over, trying to recapture that original feeling & get back into that headspace that I was in the first time I sang the song.  I got through it, but I didn’t feel emotionally connected.   I told Lee how I felt, and he actually agreed.  There was something special about that 1st take.  But, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do!   Below is the final version…

All in all I was (and still am) very proud of how it turned out. 

I’m very lucky to have a partner who has golden hands and ears .  He mixes and masters all of our songs.  And although he polished up all of my little quirky imperfections that I’ve grown to love so much – I know it was for the betterment of the song.  (Shameless blog plug)

With all of that said, I still say nothing captures the feeling better than the 1st take. So let those imperfections shine!

So tell me, are you a 1take wonder?  Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

17 thoughts on “No Room for Blunder…When You’re a 1 Take Wonder

  1. greg

    yeah.. I guess I’m the opposite when it comes down to recording. I just can’t release something that will make me cringe when I re-listen to it a few years later. I guess I have confidence issues 🙂

    Mind you, when the recordings are meant to be “live”, that’s a whole other ball game. polished and retouched live sets aren’t live anymore,, aren’t they?

    Recently, I’ve been playing live every other week or so, hence my dissappearance on online collaboration sites.. (and no, it’s not in stadiums, it’s in a little cafe for a couple dozen people ), and the recordings of those shows pop up frequently on the local japanese sharing sites, and I’m totally cool with that!

    You want to hear me spill my guts for real? Watch me live.

    You want to enjoy a great song that was recorded at the best of my ability? then listen to my mp3s 😉

  2. I’ve heard your 1-takes, they are great. 🙂

    I get it though – and I really understood the importance of multiple takes once I joined Spicy Folk and wanted to actually sell my songs. 1 takes just weren’t cutting it anymore.

    By the way, feel free to link your live performances. I’d love to see them. And Happy Birthday!!! 😉

  3. I will say, I like your first take better. I would use that and add the rest on it 😉

    1. We’re on the same page, Tove! Thanks so much, my friend. 🙂

      1. Tommy Hellsten

        Yes I think so 🙂
        To morrow I will upload a new song on iComp, I think you gonna like 😉
        but it is up on SC allready if you want a sneak peek 🙂

  4. David Wyatt Warren

    Never worried about 1st 2nd take etc. So most of my weak vocals have many flaws I choose the ones that move me emotionally even if they are much less than perfect or for some not acceptable. BTW I have not been successful getting music supervisors to give me an ear. I get the “Sorry we are not looking for or we do not accept unsolicited music “

    1. “Sorry we are not looking for or we do not accept unsolicited music “

      Ahhhh yes, that is the same generic line they use on everyone. Usually if you get a response like that, chances are that they didn’t even bother to listen to your music. Or if they did, they listened to 5 seconds and decided it’s not their cuppa. Don’t give up though, your music is amazing, my friend. 🙂

    2. ShannonB

      Have you tried the Songwriter’s Market? They make one for every year.

      1. David Wyatt Warren

        I actually have had more success going directly to film directors I live in a very active film and TV market and have friends who are scene writer’s and directers but I have never been able to get in with a music supervisor these people place a lot of recorded music films , tv , and ad campaigns .

  5. Vic

    My stuff looks like a patch quilt when it’s done. I have more pride in the fact that I was able to piece it all together than in the musical piece itself. Sometimes I get confused and have to start over 🙁
    That and the fact that I can’t make up my mind really slows it down. In order to let it go,

    1. Vic

      In order to let it go, I just try to determine if it’s different enough to stand out on its own

    2. “My stuff looks like a patch quilt when it’s done. I have more pride in the fact that I was able to piece it all together than in the musical piece itself. Sometimes I get confused and have to start over.”

      I kind of feel that way after I record background vocals. It’s such a task and it does look a patch quilt. I have a harder time doing background vocals than doing a lead vocal, so I can relate.

  6. David Wyatt Warren

    I am in awe of those who can do back ground vocals to there lead vocal in my opinion that’s an art

    1. Thanks so much, Shadow. I really do struggle with background vocals though. I can do a lead vocal in 1 take, but usually have to do 3 or 4 takes for my background vocals.

      1. Well RAVEN, I think that’s normal,
        how you sing 3-4 harmony parts in one take? 😉

        1. Haha, not harmonies, I’m talking about background vocals. I can’t just sing the background vocals once. I have to keep doing them over & over until I get them right.

          I have a girlfriend that can do her background vocals once and get them spot-on perfect.

          1. Tommy Hellsten

            Great! let her do the backing then, problem solved 😉

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