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.

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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. [Read more…]

Initial Research and Some Faltering First Steps – “Producing an Album”

I never thought that my research was going to be easy. However, I did think that I could get the hang of the recording software I was using by watching a couple instructional videos and flipping through the pages of the books my music teacher loaned me. I thought the majority of my research would be done in the studio, honing my performance techniques and strategies to fit my audience and purpose. However, when I began to install and play around with ProTools, I realized that post-production would be the least of my worries this summer. I first learned that Avid, the company who licenses music software like Sibelius and ProTools, is extremely cautious about security. I even had to run to Guitar Center to purchase a third-party USB which held important authorization codes for ProTools. Then, when I went into my basement studio to experiment a little bit with my new recording apparatus, it took me a long time to figure out basic tasks such as adding a track and recording one track over another. The controls for ProTools are vastly different than Logic and GarageBand, the software I am already familiar with. However, this is just an added bonus! Learning ProTools will allow me to communicate on a higher level with fellow musicians and recording engineers, and I can’t wait to dive farther into my research. In order to surmount my current ignorance, I will be watching in-depth instructional videos about ProTools on and consulting my mentors in person about strategies that they use when they make use of the software. I think this project will lend itself to a healthy mix of both improvisation and structured learning to make discoveries about a new way to record and transmit my music.

“Producing an Album” Abstract

When thinking about music we often consider final products – that new album that everyone is talking about or a stellar live performance by a band on television. However, it is astounding how much work goes into a piece of music before it is released. As a longtime singer-songwriter, I am tasked with considering the process of music, rather than simply examining the fruit of that process. In “Producing An Album,” I will purchase and familiarize myself with ProTools, a type of professional recording software, before applying this knowledge to record and mix my own songs into an extended play (EP) record. I will work with Grammy-Award winners Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer in order to hone my performance and production skills and sit in for artist sessions at Jim Robeson’s professional recording studio to gain insight into the recording process at large. In my research I hope to answer the question “What different techniques are used by master musicians to express themselves most clearly when switching between live performance and recorded music?” My project is not only about coming up with a final set of tracks; it’s about honing my skills in recording and the art and science of music production.

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