Remember that cool thing I alluded to in last weeks post (HERE)…I finished it! I made a lyric video for one of my songs. I figured I’d been talking about working in the studio for forever that I should have SOMETHING to show for it. So I grabbed one of the songs from my upcoming EP and created one of those semi-fancy, shmancy vids for the YouTubes.
Just in case anyone wants to know, I wrote, played, sang, recorded, mixed, and mastered this tune. The only instruments that weren’t played, but instead were programmed, were the drums and the piano parts. I used software from my friends at Toontrack…Superior Drummer 3 for the drums and EZ Keys for the piano parts.
When you can see the finish line after months of writing, recording, and producing music for an EP, what do you do? You decide to upgrade the studio that’s what you do. I mean, it’s not like I’m trying to finish this project or anything :-\
So, yes…I decided to add some upgrades to the studio. I now have what is called a ‘hybrid studio’. What that means is that I have analogue gear along with my digital gear and they play nicely together. Prior to this upgrade it was all digital, and with these new toys I’ll have the best of both worlds as I continue to work towards completing and releasing four of my songs to the universe.
I’ve been pondering as to why I decided to do all this extra work right now, when I should’ve been solely focused on finalizing the EP. BUT if all goes according to plan…and yes, there is a plan if you can believe it. I just might have something cool to announce this coming week. FINGERS CROSSED!!!
For the record, I despise tinkering! Like…LOATHE it! And it can be ANY kind of tinkering, but a lot of what I tinker with is music equipment related. So I recently purchased a couple of upgrades to the studio; an ART Pro MPA-II Mic Preamp and an ART Pro VLA-II Compressor. I got a killer deal on them and while they weren’t exactly ‘necessary’ to my setup, they sure look cool (and that’s really all that matters, right?). All kidding aside, this preamp and compressor are gonna make things sound better and I’m excited to get them up and running. This is where the tinkering comes in…did I mention that I HATE tinkering?
I’ll have to clear out some space in my main gear rack and take the existing gear, relocate it to another rack, install the new pieces, and re-wire everything. All of this is just a major pain in the butt because it requires all 6’2″ of my to crawl under a my studio desk and squeeze behind a rack so that I can re-connect everything. My plan after getting everything in place was to sing one of my songs today to keep this EP train moving. As I go to duck under the desk…at full, confident speed mind you…I slam the top of my head against this protruding clamp that is holding a microphone stand in place. OUCH!!! Well…that’s not exactly all I said, and let’s just say that I expressed myself with the utmost fervor, and at the top of my lungs.
I checked my head for blood…no blood, but a nice goose egg was forming. While I am happy that I released the anger of knocking myself silly, the unforeseen side effect to said release was that my throat felt a little funny. Hmmm…I sure it will be fine. I finish tinkering…man do I abhor tinkering…and pick up a guitar to run through the song a couple of times before I record some vocals. Let’s just say that stepping on a cats tail sounded better, and it hurt. So it’s hot tea with honey and lemon for me as I let the ol vocal chords recover. So the lesson for the day…next time, try to see the big picture before you scream bloody murder after crushing your skull while tinkering in the studio. Did I mention that I detest tinkering?
That’s a Harry Potter reference for those who may not know what Nargles are.
Anyway…for some ridiculous reason (unless the Nargles are truly behind it) THREE of my four EP song files have somehow become corrupted. I stared at my studio screen is disbelief as each one tries its hardest to open up in Cubase (my DAW of choice), but eventually crashes the program. Needless to say, I’m pissed…then I’m devastated…then I’m in denial…and whatever the other things that you are supposed to experience during stages of grief.
After my initial wallowing in self-pity, which didn’t last very long BTW, I let my analytical brain take over and start figuring out what the ever loving ‘F’ could’ve happened. I’m a responsible tech guy. I back up files, I scan for viruses, and my studio computer rarely touches the internet except for downloading software updates and the like. Something has made it so that my music files aren’t playing nice and I’m determined to find out.
I set out to it, searching the internet for users who have experienced the same thing that I have. I read forum posts of musicians from all over the world who have shared in my grief of working on something so hard, only to see it act like a little bitch when it’s time to get to work! Technology giveth and technology taketh…this is the mantra of my techy brethren, and yet I shall not be deterred. I tried a few things, but to no avail. Then I tried opening the song on my laptop…huzzah…it actually opened. All is not lost, however I REALLY don’t want to finish this EP on my laptop. I start researching the likeliest candidates for trouble (for my musician buddies, look to your VST plugins if things get wonky) and I take them off of the tracks that I have recorded. I save the song under a new name, throw it on a jump drive and head back out to the studio.
Lo and behold…the song opens up!!! I notice that things are a little out of place, not sure why but this is an easy fix. I start re-arranging tracks, re-sizing windows, and getting things back to normal, re-save, and breathe a sigh of relief. I’ve dodged a bullet and I know it. Tonight I offer thanks to the music gods for not smiting me…I honor you with my songs!
I’m at that point with the EP…all that’s left, except for post production, mixing, and mastering, is to sing the songs I’ve recorded. I thought I had one in the can a few weeks ago, but it turned out I’d set up a compressor incorrectly and I was clipping my vocal…a BIG no, no. Scrapping nearly the entire take was painful to say the least, but it was necessary. If you write a song with a vocal, that IS the focus and it really should sound its very best…thus the scrapping.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a guitar player first and a singer second. I can play a guitar solo in front of eleventy billion people and not bat an eye. As for singing…I certainly can do it, but I’m a little less comfortable do so. I really let my head play games with me when it comes to my voice. I’ve lived a relatively clean life, no smoking, no heavy drinking, and I like to get my beauty sleep 🙂 With all that in mind, my voice is squeaky clean…which given the right context is ok, but if you think of successful rock or pop singers, there is typically some kind of ‘texture’ to their singing voice. I have to ‘try’ to add texture to mine and I worry that it might sound like I’m faking it. Then of course if I let my clean pipes shine, then I worry that it’s too clean and thus not very interesting. Like I said, I let my head get in the way. :-\
So we land on the lesson that I have told several creative people over and over. And sadly, I don’t seem to listen to myself when it comes to this advice. What is this advice? Art is subjective…some people will love you and what you do while some people will hate it. That’s just the nature of the beast. Beauty truly lies within the eye of the beholder. With that in mind, I need to just sing my songs and let the chips fall where they may. I’m an artist and as such I NEED to do art, and I need to realize that while it would be amazing if one of my songs touched someone in a profound way, or maybe lifted their spirits when they were blue. But I’m not actually writing songs for someone else. I’m writing songs for myself as this is a part of me that I need to express.
And there it is. I’ve gotta get over myself and just do what I do. I’m off…off to have some face to face time with a mirror and drill this ‘art is subjective’ thing into my head once and for all…wish me luck! 😀
The reason for this blog is to not only chronicle the things that happen in the studio as I work on this EP, but it also serves as a space for me to get some of that inner dialogue out so it doesn’t fester. With that said, I’ve mentioned my recent lack of motivation to do any work on the music that I’ve recorded. For whatever reason I just couldn’t/didn’t get anything done. It’s left me both a little concerned about actually finishing by the end of spring (probably ain’t gonna happen now) and curious as to why I’ve been feeling this way. Honestly, I still haven’t figured it out but rather than waste more time (for now anyways), I put on my big boy panties and fired up the studio today. And guess what…
Something clicked! Before I knew it, I’d finished recording an outro guitar solo to one song and the main guitar solo for another…and I was happy. I’m lucky that the deadlines I’ve set for myself don’t have some big record company behind them (well…actually that might not be so bad…hehe) adding pressure not only from myself, but from the corporate machine as well. I’m a bit of a hypocrite. When I’m supporting other creatives who may be struggling, I insist that they don’t force their art and that things will come when the time is right. For whatever reason, I struggle to allow myself the same amount of grace and I wind up beating myself up sometimes.
Today I stopped trying to force it and just allowed things to happen…and they did. Those guitar parts came when they were supposed to and not one second earlier. I’m hoping that I can look at what happened today, internalize it, cut myself some slack, and let the music flow when it’s supposed to.
I LOVE playing guitar and I LOVE making music…like, obviously. Recently I’ve been feeling the pull of a new musical direction…new sounds and ideas that I want to explore. But you know, I’ve got this EP that is really close to being done and if I lose focus, I’ll move on to that new musical direction I’ve been thinking of. So what do I do to strike some kind of balance? Get a new guitar, that’s what 🙂 I’ll keep plugging away at the EP and when I’m not working on it, I can explore all seven strings of this new instrument…everybody wins!
I’d planned to get some work done on the EP today, but there were some technical things that were bugging me and I had to get them sorted out. Knowing that things were not functioning the way I’d like or things weren’t configured correctly kinda bugs me. Not to OCD levels mind you, but to the level of a good old fashioned eye twitch if things aren’t just so. That said, I got those things sorted out and the hardware in my studio is operating at 100% (*knock on wood*).
Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll be back on the EP grind, but for now…maybe I’ll go say hello to that new guitar sitting in the corner.
I started off strong with the recording and production process that will lead to the release of the first set of songs for this year. As of late…like, within the last couple of days, my motivation has gone they way of the dodo, deep six’d, vanished…poof…gone! This is the hard part for me. I’m almost done. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m looking forward to the day that I can breathe a sigh of relief because I’ve finished the project and released these children of mine into wild. But I ain’t done just yet…there are a few more things to record. Then comes the mixing. Then comes the mastering. Then comes the release. Then comes the exhale.
I had a physically exhausting day today. Yard work and I are not friends. We aren’t mortal enemies, but I definitely wouldn’t choose to hangout with him on a weekend. Except that I did. Last year, we paid a crew to come take care of the yard every couple of weeks and it was great. This year I thought maybe we could save some cash and do it ourselves. Keep some money in the pocket and get a good workout…win, win. No, no! A good chunk of time was spent doing something that I really didn’t want to do. Like this doesn’t happen to all of us…of course it does. It jeopardized the energy I wanted to spend creating today and couple a tired body with a lack of music motivation and we have a recipe for a day full of napping!
It was really tough doing all that work, getting cleaned up, then heading out to the studio to make music. I know…#firstworldproblems and all. I understand and appreciate the opportunities I have. And that’s why despite being physically spent, I pulled up my big boy panties and got to work. I did a little mixing, a little comping, wrote and recorded a cool bass line for the last song of the bunch, and took stock of where I am in the process. A couple of guitar parts, a couple of solos, and singing…that’s it…that’s all that’s left of the recording process. The light at the end of the tunnel got a little brighter today. And even though I’m gonna be sore tomorrow from all the physical work today, I’ll still sit my butt in that control room chair and shine some more light on my music.
There is something powerful and romantic (no, not the floofy definition of romantic) about the notion of facing a creative endeavor by yourself. All choices, decisions, outcomes, mistakes, successes, and failures are all yours. It may seem like a lot of pressure to put on oneself, but therein lies the challenge…to be solely accountable for EVERYTHING!!! But then there comes the part of knowing your strengths and weaknesses…
I’m one of those singers who doesn’t like the sound of his voice. From what I understand, this is fairly atypical because how can you call yourself a singer and not like your voice? Well…I happen to be quite good at it, for better or worse. It’s the ‘worse’ part that can get in my way sometimes. Now, because I know this, I can address it head on. I can set my ego aside and ask for help, knowing it will only help my art turn out for the better.
So I humbly ask my spousal unit, Kelsey (who, if you don’t know, is a fantabulous singer) to be my vocal producer and part-time audio engineer. She graciously accepts, and today is the day I start singing the first of the four songs that I’ve recorded for this EP. After some preliminary levels are set, she casts me into the loneliest room in the studio…the vocal booth. I’m ready for a long day. I’m warmed up…and Kels pushes the record button.
Three hours and change later, the lead vocal along with all the backing vocals are recorded! This three hour vocal recording session is a personal best for me as it usually takes me quite a bit longer to get everything to ‘tape’…hehe. And I know telling my ego to take a lap and asking Kels to help was the right decision. I truly couldn’t have done it without her.
It’s time to break out the Red Binder, and just what IS the Red Binder? This is the binder that contains all the lyrics to the songs I’ve written and it typically stays tucked away until A) I’ve written a new song or B) it’s time to sing some of those songs I’ve written. Today’s answer on Tales From The Studio is B !
I’ve been working on this EP for a while now and the time has come to start laying down some vocals. Admittedly, this is THE most challenging part of the whole process for me and the part that scares me the most. I can play guitar in front of eleventy billion people and not bat an eye, but put me in front of a microphone in a studio and those little voices of self doubt, that are typically held at bay, start SCREAMING at the top of their lungs! My vocal chords, which for the most part are fairly open and free flowing, start to get tight and then the negative internal dialogue starts. It’s a real bitch dealing with this and takes a concerted effort for me to overcome it.
My saving grace in all of this is to remind myself that art is subjective. Some people may love my voice and some people may hate it…and that’s ok! That’s just the way music, writing, painting, etc. is. Beauty is truly within the eye of the beholder, and just like I love some music and can’t stand others…so goes with my art. It’s this understanding that helps to throw cold water on those screaming voices of self doubt.
So…I’ve dug out the Red Binder, grabbed my acoustic guitar, and started singing the songs that I will soon present to the world for judgement. And love them or hate them, the world is a better place because another creation has been birthed.