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:
- 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
- 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.
▲ 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.
▲ 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?
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.