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?