Monday, January 23, 2017

The Mixdown: From Torture Comes Beauty

Turns out that mixing an album brings out one's latent OCD.

I've spent the last three weeks obsessing over the mixdown of a SINGLE SONG. I'm not getting enough sleep and my family thinks I've disappeared.

The results seem to be shaping up into something special. This song is the lead-off track on the album, and I want it to really shine. It's taking a lot of work, however. You haven't lived until you've spent hours playing the same ten bars of music over and over trying to get the instrument level right...

What started as a simple mixdown (is there such a thing?) turned into recording additional guitar, organ and bass parts on a song I originally wrote and recorded over three years ago, but which was frankly a little undercooked the way I left it back then.

The biggest dilemma has been getting the proper drum sounds. I write drum parts using an amazing app called Jamstix. Essentially, it writes the drum parts for you, based on your general instructions. It comes packaged with drums sounds that are usable for a big messy John Bonham sound, but not quite what I was looking for.

To get those sounds, I've plowed through all three of the major drum sample programs, Superior Drummer 2, Steven Slate Drums, and now BFD3, which turns out to be what I was looking for.

I have this constant battle to try and stay away from the big '80s drum sounds that I grew up with, but it's a losing battle this time around. This album has a persistent '70s vibe, but I'm sticking '80s drums on it. Hey, it's my album and I'll do what I want. I've gone with sounds in BFD3 that would make Phil Collins proud. It works with this lead-off track, but some of the other tracks will need more subtle drums.

I'll talk more about drums later. Let's just say that I'm undergoing a crash course in the proper use of EQ and compression in a mix. This is stuff I should have learned years ago, but was too lazy to do properly. I think the results are going to surprise people compared to my previous Council of One albums.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

I'm Back. Did you miss me?

Council of One blog, reactivate!! Pending new music alert!!

I committed the cardinal sin of both blogdom and music promotion--going silent for years on end after my last Council of One album, Fire Goddess, was released in 2012. Blame it on fatherhood.

I rush-completed Fire Goddess prior to the birth of my first son that summer, in the (rather accurate) prediction that I wouldn't have a lot of time to create music as a new father.

No longer would I be able to spend 12-16 hours in a row immersed in the writing/recording/mixing/mastering/artwork processes. I would have to do all of this whenever I could grab a spare hour or two. Things became even crazier after my younger son was born in 2015. Talk about a lack of downtime!!

There is some truth to all of that. However, the reality is that I do have time to create music, but I have to be more efficient and focused. The reality is also that I've spent much of my free time over the last five years doing anything but creating new music.

Over time, however, I learned to use many of the new tools I added to my studio after my older son's birth. I also learned more about different kinds of music and about what I'm really trying to do here. The creative stops and starts from 2012-14 became a creative tsunami in 2015-16.

The result is about 47 minutes of new music that, frankly, blows away anything I've done before. I just finished tracking this morning, and I'm now starting the mixing and mastering process, with an eye towards releasing the album in a month or two.

Sounds like a good reason to reactivate the old blog, wouldn't you say?

More about the new album to come, but for now here is a photo of my Creative Chaos studio as it looks today. Jeez, you think I have enough guitars?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I think I've done enough damage.

Well, after a marathon session last night--which lasted until 3am--I now have the makings of a new album.

In my last post, I said that I was going to record three more pieces after the Mahavishnu-ish thing I was working on then.  Scratch that.  I recorded one more (that groove thing I talked about), but it's a rather long one that completes the album nicely.  I've more or less run out of time and energy to do any more.  I'm spent.

Anyway, a lengthy free-jazz freakout jam would not fit well on this album, and I already have a short free-jazz piano piece that serves as a nice tribute to the late Sam Rivers.  I'll talk more about Sam and my love for his music later.

The other thing I was going to do was to refurbish and upgrade "Funkoverture," which I recorded in 2009 but never placed on an album.  You can read about that piece and listen it to it in this blog post.  Unfortunately, I seem not to have saved the multi-track files for it, so it forever is what it is.  The existing version simply doesn't fit in sonically with the album, so it'll have to stay in the odds and ends bin for now.

I've still got to do some final tweaking, proper mixdown and the artwork.  I'm going to have this sucker pressed up into CDs and sell it on CD Baby, since I'm so happy with the way it turned out.  The album is called Fire Goddess, and I will make a dodgy YouTube clip for the lead-off track before I have the album for sale.  It's that Mahavishnu-ish piece, and now I can start referring to it by its real title, "Kiss of the Fire Goddess."

I'll post more about the album shortly.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

This album is going to kill me


This album I'm working on is beating the crap out of me.  I'm working on the fourth piece, which is a Mahavishnu-like thing, and the mental effort needed to process it all in a short amount of time is wearing me out.  I think it will be worth the effort, though.  It's a piece I've had in mind for several years, and I just couldn't wait any longer to do it.

My initial thought in putting together an album before the birth of my son was to just do some quickie free jazz thing, but I'm just not feeling that at the moment.  Instead, I've embarked on an experiment to see if I can make a genuine fusion album in a month's time.  So far, it's working.  I've got three finished pieces and should finish the Mahavishnu-ish thing today.  That leaves me about two weeks until the baby's due date to complete the three other pieces I have in mind.

It should be downhill from here, though. I want to do a long groove piece, a free jazz tribute to the late Sam Rivers, and re-record most of the parts to an overture thing I've had sitting around on my hard drive for several years.  That's your album, right there.  None of those songs should require the type of intense effort I've had to give to the ones I've done so far.

It's mainly my high level of satisfaction at the work done so far that keeps me going at this point.

Here's a picture of my ramshackle, half-unpacked studio, in case you're interested.


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Monday, June 25, 2012

Looming Deadlines

Well, now that I haven't updated in a year, and everything I wrote about in my last post in March 2011 is still uncompleted, perhaps I should restart the blog and try to make something of it all.

Musically, I haven't done very much at all in the last year.  Procrastination will always be my enemy.

Last November, we found out that my wife is pregnant with our child, who will be born in late July.  That's less than a month from now, isn't it?  Yikes.

After we found out, I developed grandiose plans to record either (a) my "White Album", a two-disc effort that would blow up the world with its awesomeness, or (b) at least two separate jazz projects, before the baby is born.  Alas, none of that is happening due to procrastination and life getting in the way.

Instead, in the last month I have of unrestrained musical time, I am now recording a humble fusion jazz effort that I can probably finish before the Big Day.  So far, I have one eight-minute jamming "Spectrum"-ish track full of flailing drums, screaming guitars, wild electronic tenor sax, and synthy weirdness, as well as another track of nightmarish Cecil Taylor-style piano stuff.

The next piece I'm mulling over seems to be veering somewhere between Led Zeppelin, PFunk, and Santana, depending on how the little guitar figure I'm working on changes from hour to hour.  I have no idea what it will end up being.  Probably nothing like any of those things.

In fact, that's the operative theme for this entire album:  "I have no idea."  It's too late to plan things out carefully and write intricately crafted music.  I'm just sitting down at the keyboard and nooding away until shit starts happening.  Fortunately, it seems to be.  I'm already very happy with where this album is going.  It'll probably end up sounding like a cross between Human Element and The February Project, since I'm using creative processes from both those albums simultaneously.

If you haven't checked out my music yet, including those two albums, please do so at  http://councilofone.bandcamp.com

I promise to make this blog something other than a dead zone.  We'll see if I can keep that promise.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The future is wind-powered, sort of

I have two new musical projects on my plate. Well, one new one and a revision to an old one. Today's post is about the old one.

Those of you who have taken the opportunity to listen to my album The February Project from last year undoubtedly heard a bunch of dodgy "saxophone" on three songs. That was actually recorded with a Roland GR-33 guitar synthesizer. Which turns out to be a terrible way to make fake sax parts. Too glitchy and unpredictable for solo work.

In the main, my next job is to replace those parts with better ones using my Yamaha WX-5 wind controller, as featured on my latest album.

Since my fingering skills on sax are still a "work in progress," I had to do a lot of digital trickery to be able to play horn parts on Hidden Element.

The primary goal of revising The February Project is obviously to make it sound better. However, my secondary goal is to use it as a learning tool for the WX-5, so that future fusion albums don't require such trickery.

Beyond that, I may revise the song "Cosmic Jazz Explosion" and revert back to a longer version of that piece that I shelved for the initial release. I will definitely give the entire album a remix and try to make it into something I can proudly press up and sell a few copies of.

I don't have a timetable for this, but I'm aiming for the next few months.

My next post will talk about my upcoming new project, which is a guitar jazz-rock album. No horns or keys. And maybe some metal moments creeping in.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Post-album depression

Haven't posted for a couple weeks. Basically, I've been trying to get my head back together after finishing Hidden Element
.

I was shocked by the sudden depression that set in after finishing it. Not because it turned out badly. Quite the opposite. It was such a pleasure to make, that I felt bad not having any more work to do on it. It was as if my life suddenly became devoid of purpose.

I spent the last few weeks selling off some surplus guitars. One thing Hidden Element taught me is that I don't need 50 zillion different guitars to get the job done.

I'm over the blues now and firmly thinking about the future. First thing on the agenda is to complete CD cover art and have it pressed up. I haven't pressed anything since One Week In December, but this new album warrants it.

I've also got my next projects lined up, but more on that later.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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