Tightening so Much I'm in a Straitjacket!

If you're producing your own album then you'll know that many things contribute to that album's production. We live in an age of mechanical music. We're in the depths of Quantized Theory or Quantized Mechanics. Everything has to be 'spot on' but – depending on the market – human too. Not that long ago, but long enough ago for me to forget, I read (possibly watched) about Steely Dan's obsessive recording techniques. I mean at times, Ross gets frustrated by my 'attention to detail', but he should think himself 'lucky' he's not being mixed by Fagen or Becker. Okay the latter's dead and Ross (or me) would jump at the chance with Fagen. We'd have to 'pick a pocket or two' to get that chance! If you think Lindsey Buckingham goes over-the-top at times in his pursuit of perfection then check out The Dan brothers. The opposite end of the scale to this would be a punk/thrash metal band recording a live gig and (in the old days) pressing a single or nowadays putting out a stream. Ross and I work in the 'happy middle'. Not least because we're hundreds of miles apart – though that doesn't matter too much these days. Ross is a Lark – I'm an Owl. We have the day covered.

Producing an album as an independent producer means giving as much attention to detail as possible – given limitations. Limitations? The musicians aren't in the studio – you work with what you've been sent. Parts are layered, so there's no 'playing together' – no chemistry other than the SOUND! This means that I will listen carefully; add plug-ins (where necessary); add EQ. I will mix a part into the track. Then I'll listen to it in comparison with other parts. A guitar or keyboard track can be played solo against a backing of drums and bass. Is the timing correct? If not - cut and shift. Are the chords correct? If not - cut and paste (and keep quiet about it!). Is the whole part required or only part of the part? These are decisions that have to be made. In the past I have had to go through parts and cut out scores of beats/notes and shift them into time. This is painstaking work. Sometimes excruciating. Fortunately with Ross and our guest musicians this part of the process has been minimal. But, say, if I were to do a regular cowbell part – I like to cut out each one and line-up exactly. No-one would probably consciously hear the difference but I do! I did a drum session just recently and I didn't like my opening fill. Didn't like the SOUND of it. Three hours later and I was reasonably satisfied. But within the details are the components, the cells of the living organism of the eventual song. Get the minutia correct and all else will build up on it nicely.

Tim Bragg

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