When I was seeking out what songs and hymns to put on this project, I asked my dear grandmother what were some of her favorites. She gave me a short list that included The Prayer of St. Francis, also known as Make Me A Channel of Your Peace, by Sebastian Temple.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted my best musical friend Will Spicher to play on this track. I was able to make a decent guitar arrangement with the help of RealGuitar from MusicLab, but it needed a real guitar. I used Finale to create a guitar tab score (see the video, below) which Will used to lay down the track. The irish whistle is the Shire Whistle from Embertone, which is fantastic. I would have loved to have hired the same cellist who played on My Jesus I Love Thee, but I was pretty much out of money.
Here’s the video, and below read on if you are interested in the making of this song.
This is a relatively simple song from an arrangement standpoint. There are only three tracks, and in the arrange windows to the left they are stacked in the order the appear in the song – guitar first, then whistle, last cello. The top window shows the MIDI tracks and the bottom window is the audio tracks.
The guitar was an acoustic recording done by the aforementioned Will Spicher in his home studio. He sent me all the raw files with his take at a comp track. I made a few small changes (choosing other takes that moved me more). I did go back to him with a few notes of places where the playing was a bit.. intense for a song with the word “Peace” in the title.
Funny story – when I originally asked Will to record the guitar track, I told him that the score I was sending was a starting point, and if he had ways to improve it and place his own signature on it, I was completely open and encouraging. When I sent his first take back asking for a few parts to be toned down a little, he reminded me that I gave him carte blanche to make any changes he saw fit. I responded that, in this case, carte blanche meant any changes that I liked! Fortunately, he saw the humor in that.
At one point I wanted to purchase an actual Irish Whistle and learn to play it like I did recorder for this CD. Somewhere along the line, though, I realized that it was going to take too much time, which was running out since I gave a release date to everyone. I did quite a bit of searching for a decent whistle sample library, and ended up with the Shire Whistle from Embertone. It is an amazing sounding sample library and they use the built-in reverb in Kontakt to great effect. It also has a feature where, when you play a note above a certain velocity, it automatically plays the little trill at the beginning of the note. I did have to edit the instrument a little, however, to properly respond to breathe control for volume changes.
The last addition to the arrangement was the cello. As I was listening through the recording just seemed incomplete – everything was too high with no real bass. I like my songs to use the whole range of frequencies (and dynamics). Unable to afford the cellist I used earlier, I pulled out the very versatile cello sample library included in the Garritan Personal Orchestra, which I’ve been using for years and is featured on a ton of tracks on this CD.
Once I had the acoustic guitar comped together and the MIDI tracks all tweaked the way I wanted them, I bounced everything down to audio tracks to concentrate on the mixing.
The guitar was really well recorded, so all I did was roll off a little bit of the low end and put the Slate RC-Tube and a little bit of compression on it. I discovered the Plektron WTComp compressor a few years ago when I mixed a Will Spicher composition that I played on, and I love it for plucked strings.
The signal is also sent to two busses, one for ambiance and one for reverb. I’ll discuss those more in depth later.
The last thing I would mention about this track is that it shows the value of a really well recorded track. I had to do almost nothing to it to make it play nice with the other tracks.
As mentioned before, this is the Embertone Shire Whistle sample instrument, played with my MIDI wind controller. After the RC-Tube, I did a little corrective EQ with a new EQ I’ve been using lately. I like the RAZ Audio N6 EQ because it can show a graph of the frequency in the background of the EQ curve. This is really handy for someone like me who can’t listen to a sound and say “That’s about 1000 hz.” Many newer DAWs are coming with stock EQ’s that do this, but my older version of Sonar does not.
After the EQ I ran the signal through a compressor – in this case a recreation of a classic 1176. I auditioned several of my EQs and liked the results with this one. It’s also dead simple to use, with only a couple of knobs.
If you check out the buss sends, you can see that I’m not sending any of the instrument to the ambiance channel and very little to the reverb channel. This is because the instrument comes with a very cool, high quality reverb in Kontakt. I experimented with removing the baked-in reverb and using the sends with everything else, but it turned out that the Kontakt reverb was an integral part of the sound, and I didn’t get satisfactory results any other way.
The cello doesn’t get a screenshot because I didn’t do anything to it except the RC-Tube channel. It is getting the highest level of reverb send of the three instruments, though. I wanted to push it somewhat into the background as it is a supplemental instrument in this arrangement.
Reverb and Ambience
Lately I’ve been trending toward using several separate reverbs all doing different things in my mix. In this case I use two instances of ValhallaRoom, one with a shorter Ambience preset and one with a longer Medium hall preset. I find that by separating the two functions I get more useful control over the final sound – note that in the mix window, above, no two instruments have similar sends to these two effects.
The 2-Buss has the most processing, which is usual for me, although similar to the rest of this mix, there’s not a ton going on here. In order are the Slate RC-Tube mixbuss, my favorite Density Mark III compressor, Sonar’s Boost 11 limiter, and the TT Dynamic Range Meter. Also per usual, the Density compressor is set to Mid-side mode.
So that’s about it. This is one of my favorite tracks on the project, and ironically is one of only three tracks on the project that don’t feature acoustic piano (the others being Simple Gifts and O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus). I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did putting it together, and please leave a comment over on Youtube.