Friday, February 12, 2010

The Progress of the Album: Planning (Ch. 1)

It’s been a busy last 4-5 months at 10x12 Productions. I’ve pretty much been spending all my “small business” time working on the new rock album. The songs were all written between August and November of last year, and I’ve been spending the last three months or so programming MIDI “sketches” of the twelve new songs. Many of the instruments on these demos are simply placeholders. Fake drums, bass, and guitars will all be replaced with real instruments, and sampled strings will be layered with real cello, viola, and violin. Along with arranging instruments, I’ve been recording many of the lead and background vocals, some of which will be replaced down the road, while some will end up on the finished product. These MIDI renderings will really help to speed up the recording process and will help the real musicians to see more clearly what tones, etc. I’m looking for.

Drums & Bass
This time around, I’m approaching the production process slightly differently by dividing it into 3-4 phases. On “Backstage Pass,” the majority of the live instruments were recorded on one expensive day (drums, bass, guitars, piano, organ, and strings), and then we added vocals and guitar overdubs here and there over the following months (mostly in Nashville). On this project, I’m going to begin by only tracking real drums and bass (we’ll call this Phase 1). We’re hoping to do this in Nashville in later spring/early summer. I will then bring these files back to Columbus and spend a month or so editing them. To this date, I’ve been using Logic Pro to create all MIDI arrangements, but I will need to move to Pro Tools to edit the drums (using Beat Detective) as Logic Pro doesn’t have a good multi-channel audio editor. The majority of the drums you have heard on the radio have probably been edited using Pro Tool’s Beat Detective software. I currently don’t own Pro Tools, so this stage will require one more expense.

After the drums and bass have been edited, I will return to Nashville to record guitars (I’m calling this Phase 2). It’s also possible I may record some additional guitars here in Columbus, but we’ll have to see. (Currently, I’m using EastWest PLAY’s Ministry of Rock and Fab Four along with Native Instrument’s Guitar Rig 4 to simulate the guitars I’d like to hear on the final recordings.) After this trip, I will again return to Columbus and spend a couple weeks to a month editing the guitars, although they should require less editing then the drums and bass. I’ve found that the best way to edit live songs is to start with the drums, and once they are solid rhythmically, everything tends to fall into a place a little easier (pending that you have good players, which we will).

Piano & Organ
Somewhere, along the way, I’ll record live piano. There are a couple options I am juggling. One is send the piano MIDI files to a guy in Nashville who has a player piano that will play back any MIDI files you put into it. That way, I can play the songs at home, but can achieve a real piano sound. I may possibly use a software organ as the quality is so convincing with today’s technology. I’m considering having a good friend of mine cover the organ parts. He is a much better organ player than I.

We will probably return to Nashville a third time (Phase 3) to record live strings (although it’s possible we may group the guitar sessions & string sessions into a two-day trip to save money.) We will probably only record a string quartet (cello, viola, 2 violins) and we’ll layer multiple takes and then stack these audio files on top of sample strings. This is a very convincing and cost effective way of achieving a big orchestra sound. I have some friends who are helping to arrange string parts.

As mentioned before, I’m recording all the vocals at 10x12 Productions in Columbus. This is very convenient and cost effective.

Mixing & Mastering
The album will most likely be mixed here in Columbus, although there’s a possibility it may be mixed in Nashville. I’m still not sure. Nevertheless, I do plan to have the album mastered in Nashville. This mastering trip would be considered Phase 4.

Stay tuned for more updates.