Making of an Album Part 1
Updated: Mar 2
Wow what a process! Its amazing reflecting on the inner workings of making a record. Each time its such a process and this time has been 10 fold! I have been involved in recording music in professional situations since I was 18. I have been an avid student of the craft always asking questions, watching, listening and learning. In this day and age, the art of album making is almost a lost art. We consume music in such a different way (play lists, shuffle, etc) that organizing music into an album is almost not needed. I am a die har though and even though I know the current state of the industry, I still enjoy the craft of having a concept and unified sound for each recording. Throughout my career, I have primarily enjoyed the live method of recording. That's where musicians get together in person, and engineer sets up microphones and the record button gets pressed and then the musicians perform the music. After that its just tweaking the sound of the recording until it sounds right and you are done! Ok that may be a bit simplified but it is basically what happens. The other method involves overdubbing. That's where musicians may never even meet each other. One person (usually the drums) lays down the skeleton of the song and then the rest is built in layers one at a time. This can be tedious but the sonic quality is often better (although sometimes less organic sounding) and the possibilities are almost endless in what you can do with it.
When the pandemic struck, I made it a goal to begin the recording process and quickly I had the raw makings of half a dozen albums! Today's technology allowed me to create my own skeleton of the tune using a mock up with synthesized instruments (artificial drums, bass, piano etc). Once that was done I could electronically deliver that framework to the drummer who played their part then I sent to the bass player, piano and finally I was ready for my saxophone part. In a matter of less than a month the album was complete! Ok no it wasn't. I could have quick just said it was finished and released it, but the critic in me steps in and says but wait it doesn't sound organic enough. The mixing process begins. Taking each song stripping it down and working on the sound of each instrument until it sounds its best and then putting it all back together. Ah that's it done! Nope, again the critic steps in and several more mixes go by (don't forget the music has been completed for a while this is just the finishing touches, or so I thought). I struggled (not being a recording engineer) with getting the best sound I could with my equipment. I did research on how to best to deal with each shortfall in the sound, used my memory/experience bank of being in the studios and was stuck. So I called a studio friend who works with the best and asked for a lesson! I went to his studio, asked questions took notes and headed back to my humble little studio. Now we are talking! Huge progress in the quality and then it hits me.
I wrote this group of songs (except one) about 6 years ago. I was searching music from around the globe and was inspired to write music influenced by those different cultures under the premise that "the Blues" which is considered an American art form is actually a universal concept. Each culture seems to have their own version of it in their folk music and I was enjoying finding it. Mongolian music, Japanese music, middle eastern, Native American its there! As I wrote the tunes, I also heard the sounds of electronic music mixed with the acoustic instruments. Mostly textures and sonic landscapes to add a different dimension to the music. This would require me to learn more about that world and so off I went and what a deep rabbit hole that was! I decided to put it on hold and began getting serious about the Hammond organ (believe it or not its directly related but we will save that for another time). Well, time passed and it was hard playing the music without rehearsing as it was so conceptual (not all written out in detail). Along came the pandemic and everything I said above and like I said it hit me.... I didn't use any electronics.
No we are in November of 2020, 8 months after recording the music, all the mixing hours and research and now I needed to have electronics! I will save that part of the store until next time, but attached is the first version of the recording (just a quartet playing music) and considering it was layered as I explained, it still sounds pretty organic and live! I would have been happy to release this version until I remembered the electronics. You may be the only people besides the music to ever here this version and some people would prefer this version, but the journey has other plans for me so off I go. Hope you enjoy!