It's been longer than I had anticipated between blog posts and it helped me to remember what is the most valuable, hardest to come by resource required for any creative endeavor.
It's not what you would initially think.
If asked, most of you would probably answer 'Money'. I would've probably given that answer myself. If you're broke, inexperienced and do not have your own music equipment-- money can feel like an impossible hurdle between you and your dreams.
The truth is, in today's high-tech world, you really don't need a lot of money to get started. A lot of albums today are being made on cell phones and tablets!
Instead, you'll find soon enough that the real invaluable resource you'll spend the rest of your life chasing is time.
I had forgotten how much preparation and patience are involved with recording and the creative process. I was so far removed from my time as an active musician, I had simply assumed that I had lost my passion but the reality was that my lifestyle had changed focus and wasn't exactly music focused.
Ten years ago, I was living alone with my cat. I was living in a studio apartment in downtown Seattle-- bed in one corner and a home studio set up in the other. I made a habit of coming home from work and recording one thing every day. Sometimes it was just a riff, but other times I was able to throw together an entire song.
Flash forward, I'm in a totally different place now.
I have a wife, a kid, a dog, a cat, and a whole heap of responsibility. Most of my music gear is packed away in storage and what is accessible still has to be neatly stored so it takes additional time to set up and put away.
Over the last few years, this was an endless source of frustration to me. If I was lucky enough to carve out a Saturday to work on music, the vast majority of the time was spent setting up and defusing the bevy of technical issues that inevitably come with the recording process.
At the end, I had little to show for my efforts. It wasn't encouraging to say the least.
Had I lost my touch? Was I just not into it anymore? Was my gear too outdated to accomplish what I wanted? All of those things were true to some degree. I had a lot of questions and no answers.
I knew that if I was ever to achieve my goal of writing a book on helping musicians plan and reach their goals, I couldn't rely on past experiences alone. I had to relive the process.
I decided I would try something I had never done with regard to music projects in my past. I decided to pace myself. After all, I didn't have any deadlines that weren't self-imposed.
That helped more than I ever believed it would.
As stated in the previous blog post, I had elected to put out a solo album. I had purchased a program called EZDrummer2 that I had thought would be a tremendous resource in making my drum tracks sound authentic instead of relying on loops. Almost immediately after the purchase, I began feeling buyers remorse.
Why did I just waste $150 on software I didn't need? I could have done this project with the tools already available to me. Now, my budget has taken an hit and all I have to show for it is another application that I'll need to familiarize myself with. This was the first reminder of how limited my time resources are.
I began by watching a bunch of YouTube tutorials on Mixcraft and EZDrummer2. Immediately, I realized that, while I may never forget the fundamentals of audio production, being 'out of the game' for too long will definitely impair your skills-- which, in turn, eats up a lot of valuable time.
I actually spent the past few weeks working on making hip hop beats to reclaim my chops. Whenever I had some spare time in the evenings, I would watch a tutorial and slap together a project. Without exception, all of these projects went unfinished, but each one was helpful in getting back up to speed.
Finally, I realized that I would have to start working on something that pertained to the project for the book. I needed to record a song. I still wasn't feeling 'up to snuff' on my skill set, so I was extremely apprehensive to start a new project from the ground up.
I decided that I would tackle a cover song first. In doing that, I was at least alleviating myself from the burden of having to create something entirely from scratch, freeing myself up to focus exclusively on the production aspect of the project.
I chose the song "Learning to Fly" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom's passing in September was particularly hard on me and I had been wanting to honor him for a while now. I chose this song because it is an incredible song that is beautiful in it's simplicity.
I took Friday off from work with no plans for the day, so I settled in to my computer and got right to work. I spent over 14 hours working on the song that day while my wife and dog went about their days around me, occasionally asking her to mute the TV to cut a vocal take.
I called it a day at about 11PM last night and was up at 7AM this morning to wrap up the editing and mix it down to a final track. I went to bed feeling remarkably accomplished. Like I reconnected with an old friend.
I realized that this stuff takes time. It's not often that I have 14 hours to myself on a given day, but the world doesn't care about my personal situation. That doesn't mean I can't do this. It just means that it is going to take a little more time.
It was a powerful reminder that you must employ SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) when planning your project. It would not be SMART of me to assume that I can write, record and produce an album in a weekend. It doesn't mean that I can't attain my goal. I just need to understand that my time restraints require me to allow for extra time in the planning process.
I'm pretty happy with the mix and the audio quality. I could've probably gotten some better vocal takes, but knowing that my time was running out (and my dog was getting tired of me ignoring him) I decided that it was good enough for what I was trying to accomplish.
So here's the first measurable we can check off the list. Please let me know what you think. I haven't yet decided whether or not to include this in my album, but I haven't ruled it out either. I might include it just so we can try out CDBaby's cover song licensing process. We'll see how well received this is.
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