Finding My Stride – “Producing an Album”

The progress I’ve made in familiarizing myself with ProTools and mastering my own tracks since my last blog post (published a few weeks ago) has been a revelation. While I have done some more video review and reading about ProTools tips and tricks, recording and mixing songs with Cathy Fink, my long-time music mentor and friend, has been the most helpful exercise in my learning process this summer. This past week I spent two days at Cathy’s house in Silver Spring, Maryland immersed in ProTools and the software’s many intricacies. During this time, Cathy taught me everything from basic practical tips (how to change the tempo of a click track), to keyboard shortcuts and tricks (shortcuts with the “option” key), to advanced mixing and physical recording strategies that have made working with ProTools not only manageable, but fun. Taking a rough draft of one of my original songs, “Wall Street Flower,” and turning it into a detailed piece was nothing short of an educational journey. From recording all the way through to the mixing process, Cathy coaxed me into seeing the many benefits of a more complicated recording software. A general list of things she assisted me with can be found below, with more concrete examples in parentheses.

  1. ProTools interface familiarization (keyboard shortcuts, using plug-ins, manipulating display to maximize effectiveness, various windows, maximizing your monitor’s setup, manipulating busses)
  2. Physical recording techniques (connecting inputs and outputs to the correct tracks, setting up guitar in a stereo format for a larger sound, mic placement and mic type, mic accessories to stop pesky “popping” sounds and voice gurgles, deliberate practice and performance techniques, annunciation and vocal tricks)
  3. Common practice in professional recording (what “bit-level” to set your recording to, what the professionals use, tips and tricks to maximize my own amateur setup to make it sound as professional as possible)
  4. Editing and mastering a final product (fixing vocal pops and gurgles in the actual waveform recording, patching in post-recorded vocals and guitar to clean up initial recording, fading and volume control all throughout the piece, adding effects/EQ/reverb, manipulating stereo AUX inputs and stereo master-faders, treating each component – lead vocal, lead guitar, harmony, and solo – as its own project in order to come up with a tidy/wholistic final product)

After finishing “Wall Street Flower” with Cathy, I feel rejuvenated and ready to try my hand at recording the rest of my EP at home. I will return to Cathy’s house in August in order to master my final products and talk more about next steps. I will summarize my research around that time. Until then, happy strumming!



Cathy at the helm