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Here’s my cover of “I’m a Man,” by Chicago Transit Authority (later to be known as Chicago).

This is not the final mixdown of this song, as you’ll hear if you listen to it. I’m uploading it now for comments before I tackle that job…

Feel free to ignore the rest of this post if you aren’t into MIDI or the subject doesn’t interest you. If either of those is true, however, you may find the story of my recording this song pretty humorous.

…So, I’m on a different INet-recording-guitar-type site and people are going on and on about the Steinberg VB-1 bass VSTi included in Cubase. I use Samplitude, myself, so I don’t have access to the VSTi that they’re talking about, but it sounds pretty good, so I keep reading and find out that you can download it from the Steinberg site for free.

Of course I cruise over to Steinberg’s site, download and install the VB-1. To test it out, I load up my MIDI sequencer (Magix MIDI Studio), and randomly – RANDOMLY hit three keys…E, F#, A. Hmmm…I thought, sounds like…um…what IS that? I know what that song is. I know! That sounds like, “I’m a Man!” Cool! It sounds like it’d be easy to play and sequence, so I’ll go ahead and record it.

I slap in a 4/4 drum beat (which doesn’t quite fit, but at least it’s [bass-bass-snare], so I loop the drums and play the chorus on the VB-1 bass unit. In no time flat, I’ve got a pretty decent backing track and I figure I’ll go back and do the drums…later. Like, I’ll do the drums last, especially all the percussion parts…

Now, I should point out a couple of things here. First, I’m right in the middle of finalizing my first solo record and I really should be working on that. Second, I’ve got an Audigy card which allows me to use sampled instruments in the MIDI parts so everything sounds pretty authentic. Finally, I’ve never been interested in trying to make my cover sound much like the original bands’ version. I’ve always admired people who can do that, but I’m neither talented nor tenacious enough to do it. I’d rather record my own version which makes a nod towards the original.

Anyway, I got done sequencing everything and the drums just plain aren’t working, so I delete the 4/4 track and sequence my own. Um…TRY to sequence my own. I dunno who the drummer was/is for Chicago, but he was some sort of percussive genius. I must have gone through a dozen different arrangements before settling on the one you hear with this recording, and I’m still not 100% satisfied. I finally decide my sequencing skills aren’t good enough to do much better and decide to live with the drum track. I moved onto the percussion track.

Being a guitarist and keyboardist, I’m always mystified at those drummers anyway, and when you get into this complex of a percussive arrangement, I really had no idea what to do. I did kind of want it to sound sort of like the record, so instead of playing the parts on the keyboard, I went in and tried to sequence everything in step-time on the piano roll. BIG MISTAKE. I realize that the guys put down their horns and picked up the percussion instruments for this part, but looking at my arrangements on a piano roll, it looks like there must be 20 people randomly whacking on objects to make the percussion track. At first I had too few instruments. Then I had too many. Then the timing was all wrong. Then the timing was right but the velocity was all wrong. And so on…

Three days later I finally got a percussion track I can live with (but PLEASE don’t listen too closely…), but I’m NEVER gonna do a percussion solo again. Yikes! Heck, I can hardly play the guitar without falling over, let alone sequence something like this! What the HELL was I thinking?

Here’s the punchline: After I finally got the percussion track down I went into Samplitude to record it, I find out that I don’t have ONE “SoundFont” with these instruments on it! AAAUGH!

I wound up using the default SoundFont for the percussive track; what else could I do?

Punchline2: The VB-1 unit that started this whole mess would not work with the rest of the arrangement! It had this nasty crackle every now and then (probably latency)...

Anyway, I think it’s shaping up, finally, but it’s really making me wonder why I go through all this. I’m not going to mixdown until I’ve listened a lot, like you’re supposed to. Now comes the critical listening part, and I don’t even want to THINK about this song anymore (but I’m sure I’ll dream of it tonight).

Thank you for reading to the end of this post. Your comments (good or bad) would be most appreciated. Please don’t hurt me. I’m going to bed.
 

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I think this song was originally done by the Spencer Davis Group with Steve Winwood and has been covered by a number of artists. Chicago's version is pretty distinctive and you managed to capture their vibe pretty closely. I like the wah guitar on here. It is a pretty ambitious percussion arrangement and sounds pretty cool in your version. Good job on the vocals too. Cool track.
 
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