• Keith Pray

Making of an Album Part 2

When we last left off, I mentioned that there has been several phases the music for Universal Blues has gone through. The need for electronics opened a new can of worms and sent me down a BIG rabbit hole! Music in general has so many ways it can be approached. Traditionally I have been very much in live acoustic playing and struggle in the studio when not everyone is present at the same time (overdubbing). This time has been different. It somehow still had an organic quality and could have easily been left like that. Covid has left us isolated and reliant on the electronic world so know even more than when I first wrote the music, I feel that electronics need to play a role to help connect the dots. With my limited skills in the electronic world I needed to consult some friends who are in the sound design world.


Manipulating sound into new sounds is nothing new. Its actually how most music gets created. Take jazz for instance. Instrumentalists heard people singing the blues and began trying to imitate them. They used plungers, mutes, growling sounds etc as a way to create new sounds on their instruments in order to imitate those vocalists. It became standard practice and over the years new techniques were created for the same purposes. Its all part of that evolution. Electronic music and instrument are a direct natural descendent of those basic musical concepts. Some people enjoy the electronic instruments and effects and some prefer more rational acoustic sounding music. In the end its all the same process, just different technology.


I have always been into exploring possibilities of sound so entering in to the electronic world was not uncomfortable, just exhausting! So many possibilities! There are synthesizers (so many), other electronic instruments, sampling (taking something that is recorded and making it into something new), the use of effects (reverb, distortion etc) and so much more!

I tried to find some sounds that would be a recurring thing (like a hidden treat for those die hard listeners), I found sounds in my house that I recorded and morphed into something else completely. Chinese medicine balls, trumpet valves clicking, air sounds, even myself imitating Mongolian throat singing! All of these and more became new 'instruments' through electronic manipulation. I stretched things, put effects on them, combined them, all to create a new palette with which to use. It was fun but time consuming and my obsessive nature wouldn't let me stop. I had so many things added that I couldn't keep track. After that process I had to then edit and refine. Some of the compositions didn't need a lot of electronic treatment and some that I thought would be without it ended up with quite a bit. In the end I tried to create a soundscape that would add depth, interest without getting in the way (some may think its distracting at times). I also wanted it to be a fun listening experience sonically (like listening to a great record from the 70's that gives you so much to listen for especially with headphones.


I think I am finally at peace with the process! This version of South Sphere is fairly tame with the electronics, but to give you the inside scoop, I manipulated some of the original drums into electronic sounds, used the Chinese medicine balls to create a sound like peeper frogs (listen at the very beginning) and used an effect from electronic dance music to create tension. There are some other things but I think that will give you something to listen for.

This is close to the finished product. All of the songs are complete, its just a few tweaks to the songs to make them sound a bit more polished and effective (mixing). After that comes the mastering process which doesn't take a long time, but really brings everything to life and glues everything together. In the meantime, its time to figure out how to promote and get the word out! Next post will give you the mastered track so you can hear the differences. Thanks! Click Here to Listen



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