Only a little further

Sorry I haven’t been keeping everyone updated the past few weeks! Any spare time I’ve had has been spent mixing or recording the music. I have a few hours today with some down time at work where I can’t be mixing or recording, so that frees me up to talk share with you all.

All the recording is done, except for a few banjo and accordion parts. And the vocals. Tree pollen season is heavily upon us in St. Louis, and I’m very allergic. I certainly hope tree pollen won’t be the reason for any possible delays in the release, but it’s possible.

Most of the work I’ve been doing lately is mixing. For me, mixing is a long process where I have to spend a few hours getting a good mix on a single track, give it a few days to settle, then listen to it on a few different speakers, critique it, find flaws, go back, repeat. My original goal was to be done with all the mixing by June 19 (before I leave on my 2 weeks of Guard duty for the summer), but I’m feeling doubtful about meeting that deadline.

I really think that mixing is the most enjoyable part of the whole process. I feel like it’s not the part I’m best at, compared to all the experts out there, but it is the only part of the process where I get an immediate reward for each step of the work I put into it. It’s much easier to stay motivated compared to any other part of the process. When you’re writing music, especially in sheet music, there’s hardly anything to show for it, and you’re still questioning if it’s going to end up sounding good up until the mixing process. So I guess while I’m mixing, I feel like I’m slowly reaping the reward of all the work I’ve poured in across the past year.

Even still, mixing gets to be very tedious at times. Especially when you get down to the tiny nuances of EQ, getting the right amount of energy and volume out of each instrument at all the right times without sounding unnatural, or balancing the bass so it sounds full, but not muddying the rest of the texture. I’ll do things that sound good in the moment, but sound bad the next day. It’ll get there, it will just take time.

I did decide to drop one of the tunes I was working on. It was the one I blogged about recently. The sound effect one. It was an interesting idea, I guess. I did manage to get it going and functioning how I imagined. I had taken ambiances and spliced them, EQ’d them, and other stuff and managed to create a kick drum sound out of thunder, snare out of wind, symbols out of a river, and a shaker from cicadas. But once it got going, it just wasn’t fun or pleasant to listen to. I know there are mixing engineers out there that are extremely talented at processing sound like that, and other sorts of expensive software and hardware that would make it more enjoyable, but I quickly realized that that sort of mixing is not in my wheelhouse. It’s not really my style either. Although the idea fits into the story of the album, stylistically it would be a huge curve ball (and I already have a few of those). Ultimately, I just didn’t like the way it sounded. So goodbye! But you can listen to what I did get done, if you’re interested. The sound is a little harsh in places, I obviously didn’t want to waste more time finessing it. 

(my buddy, Jordan Bean, recorded one of the thunder and rain sound effects in there… those are hard to catch in the city).

Anyway, everything else is turning out to be pleasant to listen to. I mapped out how the tracks will lay on the album, and the first 4 will be on Side A of the vinyl. I realized that it’s going to be a bit of a stylistic whirlwind.  The first one is all orchestral with piano. All the musical ideas that appear throughout the album are clearly stated here. It’s basically an overture. It also serves as a key for understanding how I’m using the instruments and motifs as symbols or colors throughout the rest of the album. The second one really serves as the exposition for the story. It’s much more of a folk style with simple melodies that sounds like it could be performed in a living room. It’s supposed to be earthy and relatable. The next song is much more of an ambient reflection piece that introduces a “wind” theme that I use on occasion. The piano plays a set of notes randomly, mimicking wind chimes, while the guitar sounds like it’s being stirred by the air. Eventually the wind picks up and sweeps us into the 4th track, which is a sad/angry song with a wintry vibe.

I think this first 17 minutes of music should be interesting enough for the listener to really wonder what could possibly be next. There’s no doubt that most people will probably dislike at least 1 of those 4, but hopefully most people will like at least 1 of them 😉

But, here’s the bad news, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to push to vinyl by October. Strictly financial reasons. It’s going to happen eventually. I may have to lower my order from 300 to 100 (which I hope they’ll allow). I applied for a grant through the Regional Arts Commission, so I’m hoping to get at least a little from that. I’m not going to do any more big GoFundMe pushes. I’ll try to play a couple live shows at coffee house sorts of venues to promote things a bit, but I’m not gonna have the spare time I did when I was 23. Hopefully the funding comes through in time. If not, it will come eventually.

Thanks for reading!

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