Wednesday, December 3, 2014
My Personal DIY Approach
On today post I will expose my personal approach in a do it yourself production from beginning to end. This is MY personal approach, and it's not necessarily the best or the one you should use, in fact I haven't yet use it at it full potential, anyway, exposing this I will reveal some secrets of why I haven't do anything musical in years.
Keep in mind that this is an approach based on what I have and use: gear, resources, tools, knowledge, softwares etc. Without further ado, lets get started!
I've always be inspired and inclined to produce entire albums, not just singles or one song hit. This is very common in the local scene, lot of artists know their boundaries/limitations and just produce one song to be able to please their fans, yeah just one song airing on the radio here and there, for months and months, this is the easier form of deliver a musical product to an audience but not necessary the most artistic. I've been more focused on whole productions, entire albums, telling fascinating stories through music, compiling a bunch of songs together in a linear and fascinating way, (think of it like Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd) and this is archived by thinking as a whole, as I call it having the "album concept".
Producing just one song or even a EP is very hard, very time consuming and a lot of work, and like any other artistic production, you have to work hard and have a perfect mix of human resources and tool resources combined, think of it as a movie. This is just one part of the whole thing, now, imagine yourself a whole album!
Sounds intimidating isn't it? yeah it is, believe me, years pass and it gets harder and harder to fulfill. So why is this difficult? well, first of all you have to write music with a concept in mind, you have to organize everything, document everything, schedule everything, pay for everything etc. As a home studio and producer/engineer entrepreneur I have my limitations and I have to work with what I have. It will be a lot easier to just pay a good producer, a good engineer and a whole lot of studio hours and just record/mix/master a album, yeah "easier" but lots of money involved even though you're not taking music as a real career and more of like a hobby? its insane! Don't get me wrong if you can afford this, do it, its the best thing, I wish I could one day! we keep on dreaming!
Now, lets begin pointing out frame by frame how I do this (or wish to do it), in every aspect of it, the writing, the project, the production, the recording, etc. First of all you have to create a project, it can be a band, a solo thing, something spontaneous and live. For my approach is as I call it a "no-man's land band" is not a solo thing, but is not a band either, is something in between, but maybe this is subject to change depending on the music itself.
This is how I do it:
After creating and envisioning the project, I put a name to it, begin to assign a style of music, a musical direction, goals, the message I want to put out there and maybe some extra artistic visual stuff.
I begin to think what do I need to be able to put this out, it can be in the music itself or in the technical side of things, for example if my project is more of a big band jazzy thing I have to know that I need a lot of instruments performance, musicians, lots of microphones, inputs, gear, and software, now if I have in mind a instrumental trio, the resources go down by a lot!
I tend to write everything myself, and if I want to write something in collaboration with other artist/musician, I analyze everything first, i.e: if the musician fits this style of music, what he/she can add to my music, if its a full co-op thing or just a solo spot etc. It depends a lot of the music and the style and the project itself, why? because I love to write and create musical ideas by playing with a good drummer for example.
I tend to really feel inspire first, record ideas while I play piano or guitar, most of my songs are written with a acoustic guitar first, and it can become a rock tune, a metal tune or even a orquestral one! feeling inspired is really important, but you have to really put of a deadline, if not, you will lose focus, interest and maybe the inspiration, as a big procrastinator myself, I tend to do that, and have just millions of ideas floating around without a north.
I then record my ideas in my phone or in the PC with Studio One or Cubase, then shape them into songs, as I do this, I notate everything with power tab, guitar pro, or even Notion, which I'm try to learn now, this part is important but is one of those things that is really time consuming, in fact its hard because sometimes songs can change from time to time, so I really recommend that you close the writing, structures and arrangements before entering all those notes into this thing!
In here you have to really not only write chords and riffs and notate them, but I you think in adding more instruments to the song, try to notate them too, maybe in the production things like this can be added on the fly, at least notate the basic tracks or instruments that lead the harmony and the melody.
After you have everything written out, and have all those fancy .pdf ready and your midi's sounding good and in sync (this helps a lot of giving it a picture of how it will sound). In this part, think it as a pre-production phase, why? because those scores/midi's can serve a lot in the final production, creating tempo maps, creating midi tracks, etc.
I haven't really focused in this phase much, and it's one of the main reasons my projects never come out, so have a magnifying glass pointing in this one! After all this is done, I send to scores to every musician involved in the project, the bass player, guitar players, keyboard players, I mean everyone!
Because I want them to learn all this and have them perform, so this is really important.
This one is the real deal, this phase is that one phase that get to job done!, Music Production itself can be really a wrapped topic but this is how I see it: I see it like the movies, in the movies there is the Executive Producer and the Producer, one deal with the financial statements of the project, the other gather all resources necessary to be able to put out the project as the Director sees it. That's it! so you have to really focus on pre-production and organize everything you will need to make it possible, musicians, performers, instruments, gear, recording schedules, locations, fees, I mean everything!
As a aspiring Producer I see myself like the Director of the movie, the one who have the artistic vision of all that music that was written!, so in the moments of recording aside from engineering, I'm the one who dictates if that performance was appropriate or not, that a take was good or not, that we need another instrument in the recording, if the recording must be live on just basic tracks, if the recording have just overdubs and when in the schedule should be and be able to complete milestones and deadlines.
Lay out the preparation of the recording in the box is also useful, this is, tempo tracks, tracks foundation, sounds, instruments and gear alike.
After everything is settled, prepared and planned, it's time to get audio signals into a Computer to be later able to mix and put on in a media. This phase is very important, and a lot of technical aspects are involved, I really think that the best way to do this is to record everything that is basic tracks live and fast, It can be a bass/drums thing, or a Rhythm Guitars/Bass/Drums thing, totally live would be the best, but usually lots of us cannot afford that and have to program the drums, in that case, program the drum very meticulously first before making a recording, in fact, is better to get the most recording in a day so you cannot change sounds later, why? because you are capturing a experience, a sound, a atmosphere, so if you record a song by day, every song would sound different, like there is another band playing on the album. I recommend that each instrument is divided in days, or in big chunks of time, to be everything sound tight and even, especially overdubs.
After all tracks, audio, midi and all performances are captured in the recording a new phase begin, which is the mixing/mastering phase! In here you have to mix all the songs, get the balance in all instruments, EQ and Levels, enhance the recording and make it fit all together nicely, if it well recorded sometimes there's no much to do, but seeing all in context I tend to think different and prepare everything as tight and good as possible. At the end you simply master the thing, which is the final stage of the production, this phase make the whole album even in level and enhance a little bit as a whole and make it out to a real media, a CD or Digital form.
An there you have it! this is my approach in how I do or plan to do this things, you can always pay for people with a lot of experience to get better results, for example, the mastering stage, but this is more of a DIY approach, so there you have it!
Remember that musical projects don't end up here so a whole new adventure emerges before all that, I will maybe post about that some other day and maybe describe the tools and resources that I use in all the DIY approach.