Early Sunsets Over Monroeville


One evening, Mom entered my room when I practiced ukulele. She was like "you should record smth" so I did.

I went for Early Sunsets Over Monroeville ("Monroeville" hereafter) by My Chemical Romance (MCR), for following reasons:

  • I happened to be playing that song
  • It's one of the few MCR songs acoustic enough for the ukulele, the only pitched instrument I can play
  • Billy Cobb made a cover and I enjoyed it immensely
  • There is one more reason but it's complicated so I put it at the end

The work began on 2023-01-12 and ended on 2023-01-15.

Step 1: Learn song

Monroeville is structured as follows:

  • intro
  • verse 1
  • prechorus 1
  • verse 2
  • prechorus 2
  • verses 3, 4, 5 that have more or less the same lyrics but get increasingly emotional

I found the ukulele tab and learned to play the chords. Then I spent a few showers to practice the vocals.

Step 2: DAW

I know this can't be a one-take because I only have one mic, and the uke would completely demolish my untrained voice. Also, this song is like 5 minutes long.

I did try recording and putting together clips in Audacity before, but without bars and beats it was a pain to synchronize.

This time however, I installed Ardour and gave it a whirl. A few hours and ready to go.

Step 3: Rig

My rig:

  • second hand soprano ukulele
  • USB lavalier mic for online lectures
  • overear headphones, never used for six years
  • a laptop

Step 3: Record strumming

This is like rhythm guitar in the original composition. Chords were not too hard, but it took a while to play on tempo. This is me strumming the intro:

Step 4: Improvise

I improvised a riff to imitate the prechorus melody. This was done by plucking the G string. I just clipped my nails, so to make it sound brighter I used a guitar pick.

Step 5: Record drums

I recorded some clips of me slapping my thighs but ended up discarding them because (a) they sounded off-theme and inconsistent, and (b) it was stupid. Also this is an acoustic cover so drumless would be just fine.

Screenshot of the editor window

▲ It was this moment that I decided thigh drums didn't go well with Monroeville.

Step 6: Record lead

I found lead guitar tabs on Songsterr and transposed some of it for the ukulele. This is the prechorus lead:

My fingers were not good at fretting and picking strings on tempo, but in a choir of tracks these imperfections were easily concealed. Near the end I accidentally rang strings I wasn't supposed to touch, but luckily they were somewhat in key.

Step 7: Record vocals

It took a few tries to place the mic somewhere stable enough, but there's still this kind of low-frequency oscillations in the waveform:

Good news is it's barely noticeable.

I could not go as hard and emotional as Gerard or Billy in the second half because (a) I never trained myself to scream, and (b) I've never had any experience with a zombiefied romantic partner. As a result, the second half sounds emotionless, which is a tradeoff between that and being completely out-of-tune.

Step 8: Mix

It's just playing with faders, panning the tracks, and dragging some automation curves to conceal the noise in the vocal track when I kicked over a trash can.

Screenshot of the mixer window

▲ This was the Hackerman moment of the project.

I also added a reverb filter for the vocals.

Step 9: Export!

Enjoy: Early Sunsets Over Monroeville (ukulele acoustic cover)

Ardour gave me this window but I don't know if it's bad or good?

Peak: -2.7 dBFS, true peak: -2.7 dBTP, integrated loudness: -20.3 LUFS,
loudness range: 6.4 LU. Below are waveform, spectrogram and

What's the one last reason I did this?

twenty one pilots did a livestream recently where Tyler shared a few demos of theirs tracing back to the Regional at Best era, circa 2010-2012. Here we have a clip (MP4, 17.4 MiB):

Tyler put the gang vocal track on solo where he was like "HELLO e-yeah a-yeah a-yeah hello hello hELLO". It was cringe af but the song was incomplete without it.

And I, a musically illiterate engineering student, have one more reason to justify my own piece of carefully mixed cringe.