Artist Name: Charlie Koeliner Title: Master Plan Genre: Rock
DAW/Software–BandLab; Computer–PCAudioLabs with Windows 10; Interface–Focusrite Scarlett; Monitors–Event 20/20; Vocal Microphone–Lauten Audio LA-320; Guitars–Fender Player Plus Stratocaster (rhythm) and Gibson Les Paul (lead); Amp–Line 6 Flextone; Bass–Spector NS Ethos 5 through a Line 6 Bass POD.
“Master Plan” is composed by Charlie Koellner (words and music). Charlie did all the guitars, bass, recording and mixing. Joey Tacker played the drums.
Charlie told us, “The song was all recorded from beginning to end by me in my music room with no formal training by ear and by the seat of my pants with 70-year-old ears.”
Reviewed By Dave Martin
Compositionally, “Master Plan” is a rock song with a fairly standard structure; I generally like that approach. It means that the listener can be surprised by the lyrics, the musicianship and the ideas presented in the song without being pulled out of the moment by trying to figure out where you are in the song.
Thanks to Charlie’s Fender Player Plus Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul, there are nice guitar tones throughout. Both played through a Line 6 Flextone amp. I liked the sounds of the Spector NS Ethos bass that he played as well. And true to the style, there’s a fine guitar solo after the first chorus.
Listening to “Master Plan,” I’m reminded that for most of us, the songs we write (and the way we write them) are pretty heavily influenced by the instrument that we play. This tune sounds like it was written by someone who is most comfortable on electric guitar. That’s how most Rock-era songs were written, and it works well on this tune.
It’s easy, especially when using a modeling amp like the Line 6, to go straight for the biggest, fattest, most distorted sounds you can find—after all, it’s really fun to play through sounds like that. Charlie did an excellent job of differentiating the various guitar tones on this track; the guitars don’t take up the entire sound field, but leave room for bass, drums and vocals.
The vocals sit well in the mix, and given that the song begins with speaking to a jury, the reverb reinforces the courtroom vibe. While the reverb on the voice is a contrast with the dry drum sound, it’s not a distraction in the sonic landscape of the song.
After repeated listening to “Masters Plan,” a couple of questions arise—the first pertains to the drum track. I tend to use drum fills as a kind of sonic roadmap; the fills are a way to let the listener know that a different section of the song is about to appear. In the same way, when a drummer moves from the hi-hat to a ride cymbal, that’s usually to provide a lift into a new section of the song, such as a chorus, bridge or a solo section.
I wonder whether Charlie rearranged the song after the drums were recorded or if he simply used a drum track that he had available to use with this track. In either case, both approaches have a long history in pop and rock music. I have no problem at all with Charlie’s approach, but before calling the mix finished, it might have been worth editing the drum track to fit a bit better with what’s going on in the song. Perhaps put those tasty tom fills at the end of sections to let the listener know that something new is happening, or choose to use the drum parts that include the ride cymbal on the chorus or the solo to emphasize that these are the biggest parts of the recording.
The other thing I wanted to suggest is that when recording, small timing issues between instruments that would not be noticeable in a live performance tend to call attention to themselves when under the microscope that is a studio recording. You might listen to the entrance of the second guitar in the intro; the parts are close but not exactly in time. Again, it wouldn’t be an issue on a live gig, but the more you listen to the song, the more it stands out.
There are other places in the song where I noticed timing discrepancies. Given Charlie’s description of his process, I’m guessing that it’s not age or years, but simply not spending as much time on the minutia of recording as he does playing and writing.
Again, I’m not dissing the tune or the recording, but simply pointing out another thing Charlie can listen for with future recordings.
I enjoyed listening to “Master Plan.” Charlie has some interesting ideas and certainly knows how to get good tones from his instrument. For a guy who was flying by the seat of his pants, he did a good job, and as he gains experience, the recordings will only get better.
Great start. Well done!