In today’s world of “indie”, “self-published” and “crowd funded” projects there is usually the luxury of making the art on one’s own schedule. No record label exec is pushing for a release date, no publisher telling you when the novel has to be handed in, no movie mogul demanding you finish the edits and get the film done. You have as much time as you want. And you take it.
You tweak, and revise, and tweak again, etc., etc. etc….and by the time you might be ready to launch…no one is waiting. You spent so much time on the tweak, you forgot the audience, the customer, and fan…the good news is, you can go back and redo a whole bunch of stuff…because all your wasting is your own time.
And it’s awesome if you don’t value your time, right?
Write down a deadline, or release date..put it on your website, your blog, your twitter, anywhere you can think of. And meet the deadline.
Oh yeah, one of my favorite topics.
Over the years, and like I’ve said before, 1000’s of songs, I’ve noticed some trends. Some great ones, some that will test your last nerve. The nerve burner I’m talking about today is the phenomenom of the artist who can’t finish a project. They just can’t help themselves. Just when they should leave the studio, ship the record, and move on to creating some new art, they go back in to the studio and proceed to suck every bit of life and energy out of the project. Sometimes it’s is a producer, a mixer or an A&R guy(to be fair).
While sometimes a really successful(commercially and critically) artist(a superstar) will fall down this slippery slope, 99 out of 100 times it is the struggling, aspiring artist who feels the need to mindf*ck the shit of things. And this continues the cycle. It’s always the producer, or the engineer, or the drummer or the mixer who just hasn’t satisfied their “vision”…uhhh that’s because you’ve drained every last bit of their creativity and expertise. It’s that simple. If you started working with someone because of who they are, and what they do…let them be who they are, and let them do what they do.
Go read LINCHPIN by Seth Godin and get a hint on how to “ship”. It is what real artists do…they ship, and then they go make more.
I’ve touched on this subject before in a previous entry but now for a little more on this slippery slope.
Over the years, alright, decades, of making music, recording artists, producing artists and performing with them, I’ve heard more than a few times the question “Do you know any good ______ teachers or good ______ coaches?” Usually these questions come from an artist who has not yet attained any commercial success. They are at the beginning of the journey, or sometimes quite a ways into it.
Unless they are lacking some physical technique that could help them not injure themselves I never recommend going to one of these “coaches”. If they are lacking some technique that could help them survive a tour or a long run of recording sessions, I’m all for going to get some advice. This could be for any artist; guitarist, drummer, vocalist, etc.
Why do I try to talk them out of the “coach”? It’s complicated, yet simple. The coach is usually(and I’m not generalizing) a frustrated artist, who failed in their own quest, that’s right, they failed. Plain and simple, they failed. Then, they made a choice to live out their frustrations with other artists who they can then try to convince that they “should have been”…Do you really think the failed artist wants the aspiring artist to surpass them? Really? Do you think the coach wants the artist to have 1 session with them and “get it”? Never to return and pay the weekly stipend? Uh..No.
I’ve seen some amazing acts of nerve by these gurus; The broadway vocal coach who coaches a rapper-The guitar instructor who could never get along with a producer or engineer explaining how to interract in the studio…The drum instructor who insists that technique is everything-I could go on and on.
Some very successful artists that I’ve worked with over the years have someone they go to every once in a while for some feedback. But in the end, they are very self-aware, very capable of evaluating their own work.
Trusting your work takes confidence, hard effort and being honest with yourself. If you’re still hacking away at your craft and you really believe in yourself, stay away from the guru who could very well sabotage your quest just to provide themselves with an income and also keep you down.
Finishing up a long, long weekend of mixing and overdubs..overdubs come first. As a producer I put a major emphasis on the bass, particularly in pop music. As a bass player, I want to bludgeon the record producer(me). My thumb is killing me…but I got the parts done. As this blog tumbles along(get it) I’m going to cover some topics that are on my mind, as that’s part of this whole thing. right?
I’m going to write about some records I’ve worked on, some recently, some a good while ago..Hip Hop is getting old friends!
I’m going to go to some uncomfortable areas for some of you artists and musicians. I have some strong feelings on the “mentor” and “guru”, for that matter, anyone who gives “lessons”…guitar, vocal, engineering, etc. They’re all punks…for the most part, and I’ll explain in some detail.
You can do it, if you focus.
The plan was to go to a good friend’s super luxury, state-of-the-art studio in NYC and record acoustic guitars on 4 songs.
And do it in 2 hours. 120 minutes.
Just some math for those interested:
4 songs @ 4:00 = 16 minutes
6 tracks per song(3 parts, double tracked), full length of song;
6 tracks X 16 minutes = 96 minutes of recorded guitars.
Lets approximate 5 minutes between songs for changeover of tracks, turning page on chord charts, checking tuning. That’s 15 minutes.
96 mins recording + 15 mins changeover = 111 mins.
That leaves 9 minutes leftover for a punch-in or 2…That’s it.
We did it.
Preproduction and FOCUS.
We knew what the parts were because we worked them out in a room that cost almost nothing the night BEFORE the session. We made decisions and choices BEFORE we got to the studio. We ate BEFORE we got to the studio. We made cue mixes in preproduction. And we FOCUSED. No TV, No texting, No B.S.
Then, we ate and drank like fools…at a bar.
So, why does mixing a song take hours and hours?
Maybe your mix engineer is slow.
Could be some other reasons…
If the song has a ton of tracks(and a ton means different things to different artists and producers) then the time can really start to add up. For example, let’s say you have a pop song with about 40 tracks of instruments and vocals, and it’s 4 minutes long. Just to listen through each track and make sure there aren’t any bad edits, bad notes, wrong notes in a chord, timing problems, etc…it will take 4x40=160 minutes of listening. That doesn’t account for fixing anything. Then, you might start editing, adjusting eq, adjusting balance(volumes), panning, effects, compression,etc..now maybe you get the picture.
Or maybe your mix guy/gal is slow…or milking the clock…or both…or eats alot, or talks on the phone while mixing, or texts, gets too high or has no idea what he’s doing.
This is guitar scrutiny. Pre MIX.
Because you had to ask: Be an outlier(see M. Gladwell). Put the time in and then go work with other outliers. Don’t waste your time or theirs. If you haven’t put the time in….BEG them to work with you, and prove you’re on your way. Find them. Even better are the 50k hour outliers, we’re here. But we don’t F around. Good Luck.
A very quick take. Sketchin
So, the new room has been up and running for about 21 days. NYC, like a trusty leather jacket, comfortable. And just like that, 11 new songs I’ve never met, are in my life, even if it’s just for a little while. 3 artists- 1 I’m producing, mixing and playing all the instruments with, 1 I’m mixing, 1 I’m recording some overdubs with…did I mention the neighborhood food carts??? street meat!!!
So, I watched it last nite. A friend sent me a text telling me I should tune in, so I jumped in about the time they were inducting Lou Adler. It was interesting, and LA definitely was a pioneer. Carole King sang “So Far Away” and it was cool, she sounded like Carole King.
Now, I’m not sure if I’m remembering everything in perfect order but these were some of the highlights for me…and some of the low lights too.
Now I know why Beyonce shook Kelly Rowland. That was about the most rehearsed, affected, phony, “look at me” induction speech I almost ever sat through…I didn’t make it. I switched off and came back, just checking so see if she ever would shut it.
Donna Summer, awesome. What KR did and what Jennifer Hudson did..not so much. Snorefest, lounge singing, pretentious and not in Donna Summer’s stratosphere.
Usher shocked me with his MJ “Off the Wall”. Proved that Justin Timberfake is extra cheezy.
Heart was amazing. Real.
I liked Rush, even though they weren’t my favorite band in the 80’s,90’s, etc.
I Wrote this piece about 10 years ago and it only appeared in the Alicia Keys Fan Club Newsletter…major time machine stuff, wow!
The Making of “THE DIARY OF ALICIA KEYS”
-a page from “the diaries of ‘the boutique’”-
17 hour days.6 sometimes 7 days a week. Studios in New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. Lots of candles,incense,coffee,tuna sandwiches,chai latte’s,green tea,pizza,soy chicken,water,soda and more coffee. No windows. Not much TV.No video games. Some internet.Not much sleep. Lots of music. Lots of work. Lots of fun. One album.
I am assuming you are a fan of Alicia Keys because you’re reading this in the AKFCNL. And as a fan you might be interested in some of what was involved in the making of “the diaries of alicia keys”. In this page from “the diaries of the boutique” I hope to give you a little peek at what making the album has been like.
Who is “the boutique”? I have been, for the past several months, the engineer for the album. Along with a few “other engineers” like Anntastic. But enough about me(I can’t believe I said that),this is about the making of the album.
We started the recording back in February. I wasn’t actually sure we were making the album until June because I thought we were just trying out some studios to see if we liked them. I guess we liked them. It’s October as I am writing this and we’ve still got a little way to go.
Most people ask the question “Why does it take so long?” The answer is not an easy one. There are many reasons. What are some? Here’s a brief list of the ingredients needed to make an album: First an inspiration is needed and from that comes music and lyrics. Then arrangements are decided,but they can change. Then production is chosen,but that can change. Then the song is recorded,but that might be done a few times. Then it is mixed,and that might be redone too. There are alot of revisions to each stage. Not because of indecision but because each element reacts to the other. If a lyric is changed,a melody might. If a chord is changed, a melody might have to. If an arrangement is changed,the tempo might . And so on and so on. An album is a process. It is emotional and physical and involves an artist’s deepest thoughts, moods and performances. Those things can’t be forced, they have to occur naturally.
When you finally have the album, and you’re listening to it, I hope this little article gives you some more insight as to where it came from. From my front row seat, I can tell you that it was made with an incredible passion by an artist who really loves what she does.
Enjoy it, I did.