Summary of Research – “Producing an Album”

Here we are. It is almost the end of the summer, and I have been plugging away at ProTools for about three months now. The progress that I have made is tangible. When I first purchased the recording software after I came home from school, it took me about an hour to figure out how to record a simple track. My perspective on my initial struggles and tribulations can be found in my first blog post, “Initial Research and Some Faltering First Steps.” After diving farther into my books and online video tutorials I became increasingly comfortable, and when I worked in person with my lovely music mentor Cathy Fink for a long weekend, most of my ProTools knowledge was cemented and/or enhanced. Cathy not only filled in the gaps in my understanding of the music software, but she also taught me tricks of the trade and manual professional recording techniques that have been priceless in my progression as a recorder and producer of music. My days with Cathy were summarized in my second blog post of the summer entitled “Finding My Stride.” After working with Cathy, I was left to my own devices to practice, record, edit, and master the rest of my tracks for my Extended Play record. The greatest lessons that I learned throughout this process were mainly related to the subjectivity of what makes a “good” recording and the necessity of dogged practice in order to make the most efficient use of one’s time the recording studio. It doesn’t matter how much reverb an artist prefers on a track if they make constant fingerpicking errors. No amount of editing can mask mistakes, and it is extremely easy for the trained ear to tell when a musician attempts to cover up an error they didn’t want to go back and fix.

My ProTools EP was not the only recording project I completed during the summer. After being in my basement trying my hardest to sound technically crisp, it was a breath of fresh air when my friend Isabel Spitalney invited me to be part of her recording project called outsideoutloud. Essentially, outsideoutloud is a series of acoustic music sessions filmed and recorded entirely outside. Its aim is to blend music with interesting environmental soundscapes to produce new, place-specific recordings and promote making music outdoors. Traveling out to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the last remaining tidal wetlands of Washington D.C. and the only national park that cultivates and displays aquatic plants, one morning and playing some of my tunes alongside cicada calls and lily pads made me realize that it is often not the cleanest recording that I enjoy the most, but rather it is the recording that sounds the most like real life. This experience has prompted my juxtaposition of the validity of studio recording versus one-take live recording and the benefits that both processes give not only to audiences, but to the artists themselves. This summer of recording has cemented my belief that songwriting is an intrinsically subjective process and that the magic in recording and sharing music is that sometimes that subjectivity can intertwine with reality, creating a shared experience between musician and listener.

The most effective way to summarize my research is to share my EP and my outsideoutloud recordings with you.

My EP can be found at http://jonnymalks.bandcamp.com/album/monroe-ep

The outsideoutloud sessions can be found at http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB6_rnOXhQzlRwv8EctWLHg

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