Thursday, November 03, 2005


A while back I was asked by e-mail how I go about producing music in my home studio. The best quote I can come up with to describe it comes from Bill Nelson, talking about his own creative process.

Dream Press record, Stop. Dream Press record, Stop.

The basic track will start with a feeling I am trying to capture or something as simple as a drum beat. Once I have that down on disc, at a tempo I like, we can move on.
I record either directly on to my computers hard disk using Cakewalk Pro Audio or on to my Roland hard disc recorder.

At this stage the track can go one of 2 ways, either down the instrumental route or as a full blown song with lyrics whistles & bells.

Next I will play around with keyboards & guitar, looking for a riff or set of chords I can build a melody around. This can take probably the longest time as ideas are tried out & rejected, but this is the luxury of having my home set up, when you are paying by the hour you need to have your songs rehearsed & written.

If I am successful & an idea for the rhythm track suggests itself I will record the pieces I want, deleting everything else. This can leave bars of silence in the track but with digital recording you have access to any part of the song at all times.
Sometimes what I write on guitar or keyboard will need editing & to do this I use Soundforge, this is an amazingly powerful tool and with its 70 or so plug in effects something I cannot live without.

When the guitar & keyboard are done, I will then look around for “atmosphere“ to add underneath the completed tracks, this is usually a found sound recorded on my micro cassette & subjected to pitch shifts effects etc. This can run right through the track.

Next comes the process that can take as long as the guitar & keyboard parts..
The vocal.
I do not write lyrics anymore but will have a look at random lines or song titles in my note book, to see if it sparks an idea. Again this can be hit & miss; as a lyric may just spring to life in its entirety, or I may have to build the song line by line.
I used to slave over lyrics, changing words here & there. Now I make it up as I go along though you do obviously have to keep things in context.

After the lyric is complete we move on to whistles & bells, odd loops, sound FX or percussive bits & pieces. Backing vocals etc. The song can then sit on my hard drive for further months as I mix & arrange it. Eventually it will be mastered down to CD.
I try to produce 1 CD per year of finished songs & 1 CD of instrumental pieces, although this year has been particularly barren in terms of producmaterial matireal.

Listening to
Oingo Boingo
The Wonderstuff
The Waterboys

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