Recording my first music album
I’ve been writing about the Mac for more than a decade, but I’ve also been playing guitar for more years than I care to admit. And I’m about to embark on a creative process that will end up with a completed album, released worldwide on iTunes, Rhapsody, and other services.
But while that album will be the final product, it’s the process I’m hoping to chronicle here in the Creative Notes blog. This is the first in a series of posts that I’ll be filing on just about every stage of the process of writing and recording an album using my Mac. I’ll start with writing songs in GarageBand and chronicle the process until I do the final recording in Pro Tools. We’ll also cover the professional mixing and mastering of the album, as well as the intricacies of getting it distributed online via the TuneCore music distribution service.
I will give you the details on what’s working for me, what gear is better suited for the job and how everything is performing. Any tips I can give about how to get a particular sound or find a way around a problem, I plan on sharing it. And hopefully, other musicians can weigh in with their own experiences on our forums.
Meet the band
I like to write and play blues-based hard rock, and there will be a lot of that on the album, though I’m planning a variety of songs in different styles.
I won’t be doing the album alone. My good friend Al Doy, who lives in my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is my writing partner, writing lyrics to go with my tunes. Our plan is to write 20 or 30 songs, from which will come about a dozen album tracks. And we’ve found a bass player and a drummer, too, for when we begin recording. Plus we’ll send audio files over the Internet, so that a few guest musicians can play on the album and then send their work back to me.
Meet the gear
I plan to recording the entire album in my home studio using the software and other gear at my disposal. Though I’ve written about most of these products in this blog and elsewhere at Macworld.com, this will be different—instead of writing about them as single, isolated products, I’ll be writing about how to integrate them all together. If an audio interface isn’t making the cut for some reason, I’ll yank it from the mix quickly. If a particular guitar is recording better digitally or through the amp, I’ll let you know that, too.
I’ll be trying out all kinds of things to get the kind of tone I want for a particular song. I’ll use a mic with my amp, Guitar Rig, Gearbox, and Eleven guitar modeling software and a combination of both. Nothing is out of bounds.
I’ve already taken a Randall combo amp, my 4 x 12 Marshall cabinet with a Peavey JSX head and put them down the hall from my studio, set up two mics and then mixed that sound with two Guitar Rig recorded tracks. The tone was pretty incredible.
Right now I have everything running into my Yamaha MG166 mixer and then out to a Line 6 UX8 rackmount audio interface. Why, you may ask? The UX8 connects to the Mac via USB and gives me 10 inputs to my digital audio workstation (DAW). That’s drums, vocals and bass going into the Mac all at once.
I have about 10 guitars that I play on different types of music from the Variax I wrote about a little while ago to my favorite Jackson that my wife bought me years ago for my birthday.
Meet my advisors
I am very lucky to have a great circle of friends and I’ve used them already in this process. Throughout this process, you’ll hear me talk about people like Dan East of Future Sonics and Russell DaShiell, the original guitarist on Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.” (That is, if I don’t drive them crazy before it’s done).
As part of the process of chronicling this experience, I’m going to take a ton of pictures and video—we plan to post some of this online.
I hope this will be a great learning experience for everyone. I am taking notes as I do things, so I should have pretty detailed explanations on why I chose to do things a certain way. One thing you can be sure of, I’m going to try everything I can to make this a great album.
To quote Ozzy Osbourne: “Let the madness begin!”