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Friday, August 6

Tricky Second Album

This is not the first time I've sat down to create a CD that would be duplicated and given out/sold in quantity. It may not even be the last time, though I'm pretty sick of the whole escapade right this minute. Last time I made an album, it was with a friend. We worked on it for several days and did a lot of takes of our songs. In general, we played live and got the whole thing in a single layer, with occasional places where we added layers, or played over a backing track. I remember it being enjoyable.

That said, we were often recording at night, so sometimes it sounds like we're whispering to avoid completely pissing off the neighbours, because we were.

After the original recording, there was then a bit of a mixing process, complicated by the fact that we did our takes back to back, so I'd often have to keep winding to 10 minutes 23 seconds into a track to play with the take we were actually going to be using. I don't remember this process being too challenging. Then the mixes were played at the computer where some additional filtering was done, resulting in... da-dahhhh... the final track.

These final tracks were sent to the CD-R people and I got 500 CDs back (in retrospect, that was about 450 too many!). I remember it being easy.

However, a combination of incorrectly set up microphones (or poor quality ones) and lack of experience and inability to "wake up" the sound when it got to the computer resulted in something which I didn't expect to sound that good when I listened to it again a few days ago. It actually sounds ok. However, I expect to be able to do better.

I now have a lot more experience (some 80 more tracks more experience), better equipment, including a new sound card and some software that I've partially bought (I've bought a time-limited licence). In short, I should be able to take the music I've been recording and make it sound great. On the subject of the recordings themselves, I've been working on them for weeks. Really. Weeks. I've been painstakingly adding layers, instruments, re-takes, effects... I've really tried hard. So I expect my second attempt at an album to be much much better.

The thing I listened to in the car on the way to work - the so called "release candidate 2" of the CD - sounded weak. Worse than that, when you tried to turn it up, it sounded poor. This led me to wonder, again, whether the answer lay in some magic settings. I tried a whole new magic set of settings, remastering most of the album's 37 minutes in a 1 hour lunch-break. A lot of this was applying settings by rote and hoping they'd come good. In short, when you're mastering that much sound, you can't sit and listen to it all between each iteration. I top, tail and sample it.

I set off from work with a new release candidate, I'd hoped that it would sound so good that I'd stop off on the way home to post it to the CD-R people.

It was awful. Actually really really awful. I was upset. I was stressed.

I've had another go. I think I've cracked it this time. While I was at my gig tonight, in the intervals, I had another think about how I want to do this process and found a better combination of settings - on the way home, I listened to some sample tracks I burned to disc at the gig; they sounded pretty good.

So we may be there. Tomorrow morning's car journey to work will either make me glad I got it right, or angry that I'm a few days away from driving to Scotland, and I'm stuck doing a job I want to sign off as done in time to get the CDs before I start the engine for the 8 hour journey next Friday.

In other news, I managed to accidentally piss a lot of people off by parking badly today. I also managed to enjoy a very nice gig this evening with a headline act who is brilliant. I had no agenda when I started chatting with the audience... so stuff happened. It was fun.



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