Am I Supposed To Announce This? Part Two

Dear Reader,

Long version: Once again, I am coming at you with another blog post where I have no idea if anything I am about to write has any sort of interest for anyone. I first wrote one of these posts when I had just completed the writing of my album. It didn’t feel like much of an announcement at the time, though, because the album still had to be recorded. If any of you have been following the journey of that, you probably know that, like many artistic processes, it didn’t go as smoothly as I was expecting.

For those who don’t know, I’ll give a bit of a recap: in the middle of April, I had the wonderful idea of trying to record an entire album on a (used) four-track recorder and a $20 microphone. The only real reasons I can give you for this is because I’m 22, don’t have a lot of money, am apparently still developing the part of my brain that’s supposed to help with rational decisions, and studios are not only expensive, but make me incredibly nervous (mostly because every single time I am in one, the only thing I can focus on is that I need to get the recording done before I lose all my money). So I started recording with my equipment and got about 75% done. Over time, I noticed that there were a few spots here and there that weren’t perfect, like a door slamming (I live with about 7 other people, so trying to get a moment when the house is entirely quiet, even at 3 AM, can be challenging) or too much static. I kept on telling myself, “I’ll just fix that in post.” Then I realized that I would basically have to fix just about every ten seconds of every single song. This prompted me to buy a better microphone and a pop filter and start again. I re-did about 50% of the instrumentals and about 90% of the vocals. There was still some hiss in the microphone and the occasional background noise, but I wasn’t going for a very expensive sound. Plus, I knew that I was going to go to an engineer for mixing and mastering, so I figured I could just get him to quickly eliminate some of the technical problems.

So I saved and backed up all the files and booked two back-to-back dates with an engineer. Once again, because studios get me so nervous, I got about less than two hours of sleep the night before the first session. The next day, I arrived at the studio planning to do nothing but sit on a chair and make suggestions for the mixes. I gave him the flash drive that contained all of the songs and we started listening to it. Of course, the very first thing we heard from the vocals was a constant sound of static, as though I had been singing right in front of a malfunctioning television. Again, I didn’t consider this to be a problem. This was, after all, the reason why I was in a studio. When he started removing the static, though, we found that all of the vocals started sounding a little too muted. You could still hear me singing, but it now sounded like a depressed merman who was drowning in the middle of the ocean. This wasn’t exactly the sound I was going for, and the engineer could tell that, so he asked if I could re-record one of the songs. Of course, when he said one, he really meant re-record everything. With little sleep, no coffee, and a voice that had not been warmed up at all, I was far too tired to make good decisions, so I went into the vocal booth. Five hours later, all of the vocals were done. At the time, they sounded okay. Not great, not the same as the ones I recorded at home, but okay. The engineer started working on a few mixes and gave me two different songs to listen to before the second session, which was scheduled for the next day.

I went home, basically crashed into my bed, had the deepest sleep I’ve had in a very long time, and then woke up the next morning to hear my studio efforts. To say that I absolutely hated everything I heard would be putting it too nicely. I was no longer a drowning merman, but instead I sounded like a lightweight drinker who had already hit up five clubs before discovering a karaoke bar and trying his best to sing. This was, essentially, the part where I started having a meltdown. I had spent about three years making an album and now all of it felt wasted. I only had one more studio session that I could attend before I went over my budget for this album, and most of it, I figured, would probably be spent just doing the mixing and mastering. What I was hearing in my headphones was not even close to what I was heard in my head during the writing of the album. At the same time, because I’m stubborn and difficult, I don’t believe in pitch correction or auto tune (unless it’s used to purposelessly sound like a robot). So I grabbed my coffee, went to the studio, told the engineer that I listened to the rough mixes and wanted to do a few more recordings (I really meant the whole album, but didn’t say that), walked into the vocal booth, and five hours later completed the recording for all of the vocals. Five hours after that, all of the mixing and mastering was done and I walked out of the studio with a finished album. Is it perfect? No. It is, however, exactly what I was going for, and due to that, I feel grateful….and a little bit emotionally exhausted.

Short Version: I’m really bad at learning from my mistakes, I need coffee to function, and I finished my album and it comes out September 4th. Here’s the cover art:

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For all artists/creators out there, have you ever had to start over on a project? Were you happy that you gave it a second/third/fourth try? Let me know in the comments down below.

Sincerely,

Charlie

P.S. Before I get into any possible legal trouble, I should probably add that the font for the album cover is not mine. I bought it from an artist named VTKS. I’ll attach the link here for anyone interested.

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9 Responses to Am I Supposed To Announce This? Part Two

  1. Congratulations! Coffee is a good friend of mine, too… an essential! Just to let you know that I have started over from scratch with a couple of projects, and the results were much more satisfying the second time around. I think it’s because you have a better understanding of what you’re looking for and know what’s missing. Not just rebuilding, but tearing it down to the foundation and restarting. It’s a painful prospect, but well worth it!

    • That’s a great point–there are a lot of things that you can miss the first time around, and redoing a project can sometimes help make it more complete.

  2. Hi Charlie! Glad you’re satisfied with your new mixes. If I may give you a few tips from a viewpoint of studio recording for over 20 years:

    I hate to say this, but you’ve fallen into the first trap a musician generally does when recording. You stopped recording your stuff on your own equipment, judged it to be ‘not good enough’, and took it into a higher level of post production.

    You need to separate the musician from the producer/engineer. The musician needs to record everything on that not so good 4 track with all the noise it creates. You have to sort out (and listen and listen and listen) and make sure you’ve got every track doing everything you want it to do BEFORE you head into the studio. This is going to drive you crazy, cause you’re going to have to live with all the faults you hear in your private recordings. But your first recordings are where you can catch things like ‘I can make this track shine more if I do THIS’. It may be an adjustment on how you play a track or it may be an idea for post production (adding a reverb, using a punch vocal). Keep track of these ideas. If they’re modifying what you’ve got in your roughs, re-record the roughs and try the idea out. Listen again until you’re sick of it.

    Next, you need to rehearse. Rehearse until you do every track without thinking about it. Keep thinking about post production ideas; the more you’re clear about your ideas and how you can achieve them the more satisfied you’ll be with your final studio recordings.

    Finally, I don’t know how other studios work their time, but requesting a meeting with the studio personnel to get a good idea of what they’re capable of is a good idea. If you’re not familiar with the effects units they run, you’d better find out what they can do before setting your heart on a slick idea they can’t pull off.

    As always, I wish you much success!

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