Behind the Music
The Making of the Musique à Trois Debut Album
Most of the tracks for this album were recorded on a Korg D1600 16 track digital recorder in a “home “studio. Vocals, accordion, flute and sax were recorded using Audio Technica and Calrec mics. All guitar parts, including bass guitar, were recorded using the DI method, straight into the desk. Janet’s accordion was mostly close mic’d but some tracks include DI’d accordion so we could achieve a stereo effect for contrast. So as a result you will hear a few strap noises here and there if you listen on headphones which we think adds to the charm of the music!
Work on the album started in December 2013 and was completed in April 2017.
To reflect the musical journey of Musique a Trois, we wanted to include tracks recorded by the original (trio) and present (quartet) line up of the band on the album as well as some relatively “stripped back “tracks in duo format. We hope that we have achieved a fair representation of the evolution of Musique à Trois from inception to present day.
The album was mixed and mastered by Gordon Clark at the Lantern Studios in Romsey, Hants. Due to the outdated SCSI direct method by which stems from the D1600 are transferred to other systems, each stem for every track had to be laboriously written to CD before being transferred to the Protools system in the Romsey studio. Luckily there was no degradation in sound quality, each stem being transferred in its raw state with no effects processing. This enabled Gordon to process the tracks to our liking, and edit out any leftover clicks, pops, noises etc. adding the usual EQ, Reverbs and Compression before sweetening and, finally, mixing in stereo and creating a master for us to send to the reproduction plant. We decided to record What Has The English live in the Romsey studio to properly capture the comedic element of the song. Electric bass guitar was overdubbed later. The two live tracks Night and Day and In These Shoes? were recorded at The Norfolk Royal Hotel, Bournemouth in April 2016 by Pulse PA.
1. Göttingen (Barbara)
Date recording started 23/1/14 Date Recording Finished 12/5/14
"But children are the same, In Paris or in Gottingen. May the time of blood and hatred
never come back because there are people I love In Gottingen, in Gottingen".
This classic Barbara waltz in the key of Am tells the story of French/German relations after WW2. It was constructed by using guide vocal and rhythm guitar tracks against a click track. The overdubbed classical guitar Intro ( reflecting Janet’s lovely flute melody at the end), bass, accordion( mic and D.I.) and the flute solo were added a week later, the classical guitar accompaniment added in March and the final vocal added in May 2014. The guide track method (with or without a vocal) was one we came to utilise throughout the recording of this album, although we often preferred to record without a click track in order to capture a “ live “ feel and where there were changes in tempo, syncopations and a “free “ feel to the music was required . The classical guitar used for this track was an inexpensive instrument with its sound enhanced by the wonders of modern technology! Likewise a second hand Hofner violin bass copy was used to put down the bass lines on this and all the other studio tracks on the album. The chord sequence is characterised by the lovely resolving diminished 7th chords.
2. Liquid Lunch ( Originally recorded by Caro Emerald )
Started 27/3/15 Finished 5/3/2017
Written for and performed originally by Caro Emerald. We liked the “Hot Club” feel to this song and the comedic element in the lyric. Pretty much two chords throughout (Em and B7), this was a challenge to record and make interesting.
Getting the tempo spot on was crucial to the successful covering of this song, so the rhythm guitars were recorded first using the original studio recording as a guide, with percussive “hits” added on beats 2 and 4 to replicate the snare drum. Bass, guitar outro fill and vocals were added later. Beth added a vocal harmony on the 2nd and third choruses to thicken the sound up. Later Simon added a third harmony to create a wall of vocal sound on the choruses. Finally Ian Ellis added his wonderful jazzy sax lines and solo in April 2017 at the Lantern Studios in Romsey.
Started 25/3/15 Final vocal added 17/3/2017
A Charles Aznavour classic, found in the film Notting Hill as recorded by Elvis Costello. In the key of Ab (modulating to E major for the bridge), this has a great chord sequence. Rhythm guitars, overdubbed guitar intro and fills, and electric bass were recorded first against a click track with vocal being added later. This song has such a beautiful melody and it was a very emotional experience to capture our version on our album. The haunting clarinet part was added by Ian in April 2017 at the Lantern Studios. All guitar parts played on a Yamaha AEX 1500 archtop.
Started 14/12/2013 Finished 20/03/2014
Originally recorded by Via Con Dios, this has a reggae feel to it and a change in feel to swing for the accordion solo. A bit of a departure from our usual style. The choppy high register rhythm guitar parts were played on a Fender Telecaster.
Started 14/12/2013 Finished 20/03/2014
Classic Tom Waites composition in C minor. We originally heard our fellow musicians Zoe Schwarz and Rob Koral playing this live and liked the idea of including a bluesy song in our live show. We decided to record it for the album to show our versatility and there is some great tenor sax playing from Janet as well as her laid back accordion rhythm. The guitar solo is very much influenced by Diana Krall’s version (link to Elvis Costello -see “She” – she is married to him!) and was played on a Fender Telecaster. Gordon worked his magic in the studio to give the solo it a bit of a rough edge, with the Janet’s sax lines intended to complement the melody rather than detract from it.
Started 4/12/2013 Final vocal 12/1/2014
This song by the late great Kevin Ayers is a favourite of Simon’s. There is great live version featuring the amazing guitar of the late Ollie Halsall on the live album June 4th. Our usual method of recording a backing track first was used as a basis for adding further layers of sound. Beth arranged the lyrics and vocal to suit a female voice and converted the lyrics to French where appropriate. Ayer’s clever use of a jazzy major 7th-_dominated chord sequence, used as a backdrop for the guitar and flute solos, was a major factor in choosing this song as well as the very clever French- themed story behind the song. The guitar solo was played on Simon’s trusty 1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, whilst the rhythm guitars were Yamaha AEX 1500 and Takemine acoustics, one of which was capo’ed for contrast.
Recording started 17/01/2014 Final Vocal 17/03/2017
Probably the most difficult of the songs to record. The recording method used was to first put down a guide accordion and vocal track, with no click being used due to the tempo changes and the need to capture a spontaneous “live” feel. We decided to go for a tango feel in the B sections. Ian added clarinet fills in April 2017 The uke at the end of the song was played on Janet’s instrument!
Recorded live at the Lantern studio 5/03/2017
A live comedy favourite written and performed originally by the exceptionally talented cabaret performer Sarah Louise Young , formerly of Fascinating Aida, with an extra verse composed by Beth. Spontaneously recorded live (apart from the bass added later) recorded in Romsey in April 2017. Simon used Gordon’s Antoria electric guitar for the rhythm track! Key of G, with a few key changes ending back in the key of G. Ian‘s humorous tenor sax playing features throughout.
Started 10/3/16 Final vocal 17/3/17
Another live favourite with a bluesy feel and haunting tenor sax from Ian. Emotional vocal from Beth and tremolo rhythm guitar from Simon. This version was recorded with the original as a backdrop in order to capture the feel of the song.
Started 23/1/14 Finished 23/03/14
Another emotional song, based on the chord sequence to Greensleeves. A guide track (accordion and vocal) was put down first without a click track. Bass, acoustic and electric guitars and accordion fills were overdubbed later.
Date recorded 23/04/2016, Royal Norfolk Hotel Bournemouth
One of two live recordings , this has a bossa feel. It features Nick Dyer’s melodic double bass lines and great soloing from Ian Ellis.
Date Started 23/03/2015 Date Finished 22/03/2017
A comedy song, this was originally included in our live set with Beth taking all the vocals. For the album we decided to let Simon exercise his dodgy French and vocal chords on a verse and harmonies. The jazzy guitar outro was added last. This version is heavily influenced by the version recorded by Jean Sablon which features the amazing guitar playing of the late, great Django Reinhardt and the violin of Stephane Grappelli.
Date recorded 23/04/2016
Another light-hearted comedy track and a live favourite, featuring Ian’s “dirty sax “! (He still hasn’t cleaned it!)
Date started 17/3/2017 Final vocal added at the Lantern Studios 22/4/2017
We had to add this classic Piaf song which is a live favourite.
This was the last song recorded for the album. Basic guitar and vocal track recorded live in the Ringwood studio and a final vocal added in Romsey. Guitars - Takemine acoustic and
Shine electric violin bass. We wanted to keep the sound as spontaneous as possible
so there are just a few overdubs.
Musique a Trois July 2017