A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Archive for the ‘cd production’ Category

Songwriting New Year’s Activity and Resolutions

So its 2011 and I have made some resolutions, the big one being to really work hard in my songwriting and I’ve started off the way I intend to continue.

My first blog for this year was about my new song God if You’re Listening and having given it a lot of thought in the wee hours, I am doing an about face which will hopefully head me off in the right direction, especially a week before my first Berklee Music Semester of the year, with the paper on Commercial Songwriting Techniques.

So here’s my first weakness which I aim to correct. When I write a new song, I record a demo straight away. That’s fine if you do it so that you can remember all the nuances, but I tend to want to upload it onto websites straight away before it ripens. The result of this is that:

  • I haven’t learned how to play it properly yet. This means that the recording sounds like what it is. What it isn’t is a quality demo. Just because I know how I want it to sound, doesn’t mean that it is ready or refined.
  • I haven’t run through my Song Quality Checklist from Music Publishing 101. The first question of which is “Does the title sound like a hit. My song from my last blog started off as Santa If You’re Listening, but I very quickly realized it was wrong for lots of reasons, including that the dominant theme was a woman talking to God. It also means that it is not just a Christmas and Country song, but also a Christian song.
  • I rushed the accompaniment which actually sounded rushed and boring.
  • I added more instruments than necessary which actually detracted from the recording. As I songwriter, I really need to focus on simple elements, vocals, one guitar and bass. If  I want to pitch the song to an artist, in most cases less is more.
  • The melody and phrasing always improve the more you play a new song.

So sometime soon I am going to re-record “God If You’re Listening”. In the meantime, I am going to do the following things:

  1. Work through my Song Quality Checklist.
  2. Create a song Admin Sheet
  3. Print copies of the song and chords for my 3 performance clearfiles
  4. Register it with APRA
  5. Analyse a hit song in a similar style from my ongoing list of 5 songs for analysis. Probably Temporary Home by Zac Maloy, Luke Laird and co-written and recorded by Carrie Underwood, because it is similar inasmuch as it was written to evoke emotions and because it is a very successful hit song.
  6. Then I will revisit my song to see what I can improve.
  7. When I am happy I will re-record it, put some copies onto CD and then submit to a number of websites.

The key point I am making is about treating my songs as a business product, because if I don’t no one else will.

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The Recording Studio

Hey guys, first of all apologies for the blogfade, I’ve been really busy, especially since my broken wrist has healed and I am playing again. I have a few great new songs ready to be recorded, well two of them are ready to be recorded, I’m still working on the guitar solo for the third which is a jazz song.

I’ve said many times that you should sign up to your Performing Rights Association. I’m a writer member of APRA (If you are in the USA you can join either ASCAP or BMI) which looks after Australia and New Zealand. Actually I wonder why it isn’t called ANZPRA? As well as making sure that you collect your performance royalties, they do lots of other things like putting on the awesone S3 Song Summit Sydney which I went to and blogged about last year. They also support and sponsor lots of seminars like the one I went to at Depot Artspace yesterday.

Now I have of course recorded in a studio before, but this was a great workshop with the opportunity to learn more about recording, mixing and mastering. There were a couple of things that I came away with that I thought I would share with you.

First of all, with the economy as it is, many studios are quiet and you may be able to negotiate a deal, even if its just some extra practice time. Rates seem to vary from $25 an hour to huge sums. Don’t just go on price because you may get what you paid for, although some people may be very good, but either getting started or just want to help fellow musos or gain experience. So cheap doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality.

A key bit of advice is to hear some examples of their work. Also see if they have experience in your genre.  Someone into electonica or heavy metal might not bring the best out of country or a solo singer songwriter with just a guitar. But then they might too. Anyway check what they have done and ask if they have testimonials or any hits under their belt.

Another good bit of advice is to collect a selection of tracks of artists whose sound you like and you would like your track to sound like. Then you can take those tracks to the studio for the team to listen to. You can say, I want my track to sound like that. The guys at Depot Artspace, said that if you do that, they will be able to come close, although of course a lot of it is up to y0u.

There was some discussion, instigated by me, as to what costs to expect for mixing, mastering etc. I wont preempt any pricing but you should be leaving at least a c0uple of hundred dollars. One of the suggestions was whether you were looking for a single or ‘just an album track’. I was surpised at that. Obviously some people want to put more into their ‘best’ tracks. The problem I have with that is that I want all my tracks to be the best they can be and often the track you like the best isn’t the one that becomes the hit. There is also the issue that in todays world of iTunes and downloads, its quite possible that most of your sales will be for single tracks. These days of most of the albums I buy, there are only a few tracks that I really like.

I’ve currently got my eye out for a few musicians that would like to record with me in the studio. I’m especially after a drummer and someone who plays pedal steel. I can’t pay them but they will get credit on the demos. I’ll do another blog soon about demos, this blog is about the studio.

For solo artists like myself (I do play with resident or jam bands but its been many years since I’ve been IN a band), keeping time can be an issue when you bring session musicians in. When  its you on your own people won’t notice if your timing slides a fraction and sometimes you even do it deliberately. I do that in my new jazz song Color Blind. If you can’t keep steady in a studio, it’s going to cost you time and money and annoy the other musicians. My Tascam home studio has a click track and I also have a metronome, but they are both so  boring and don’t give you the one beat. Fortunately my new Digitech Jam Man has a choice of 10 click tracks, they aren’t great, but much better than what I had before and I don’t mind playing with them. Maybe I’ll  be able to download some better samples. One thing the Jam Man doesn’t seem to be able to do is let you select the beats per minute, you have to tap it in, but I digress. The point is that if you make sure you are as ready as you can be, before you get to the studio, the better your result will be.

So shop around, do your homework, ask for examples of their work and ask liots of questions. People don’t work in recording studios for a job. They do it as a vocation. They do it because theyh love it. You will pretty much find all of them interested and happy to show you around and explain how they work. Remember, its about their reputation as well as yours.

How about leaving a comment and sharing your experiences in the studio?

DIY Record Album Production lessons

Almost every time I’ve played a live gig, I get asked if I have a CD that people can buy and the sad and sorry answer is no, but here’s my card and you can visit my website at MySpace. Now there is my first error, you really should have your own website, but I haven’t found a CMS yet that is easy for me to use, but I will do soon. Anyway, even if you can’t afford to visit a studio, there are plenty of low cost tools that you can purchase, either software or hardware. I have both.  Now you can create your own CD.

I will also visit Go Daddy one of these days and get my own URL, which you can easily link to your MySpace or other page until you have your own. They only charge $9.99 for a .com domain. If you listen to the great Musicians Cooler Podcast, he has a number of promo codes that will give you a discount off Go Daddy services.

I’ll wait until I use up most of my business cards which have the MySpace address on it.

Anyway, back to the story. I bought myself a Canon iP4500 printer which will print directly on printable CD’s. It was very cheap and did a great job, except it doesn’t print all the way into the hole of the CD, which is a minor dissapointment. I checked the settings and they are set to the closest it will go.

I spent quite a lot of time on the image I wanted on the label and also making sure it was consistent with the insert cover and the theme of the Album which is Greenhouse. I thought I’d be able to find some good templates on Microsoft Publisher but was sorely dissapointed. Fortunately at a sale last week I found a software package called CD Covers and Labels for Dummies, which was as simple and simplistic as you would expect, but awesome value for $5! So I as able to use their templates and my images.

I put the title on the CD label and also in smaller print on the bottom Copyright Luigi Cappel 2009.

I worked out the order of the tracks I wanted, which I listed on the Album insert. I didn’t put in the song times, which I will probably do on the next batch, because if any of these do find their way to a radio station, they will want to know how long the tracks play for.

When I went to burn the CD’s using Sonic Digital Media Plus v7, I found (having wasted 3 CD’s) on testing them that the software had reordered the tracks alphabetically which meant I had to solve this problem because I wanted the tracks in the specific order to keep it relevant and interesting to the listener and I had already printed the inserts including the track listing. To solve this, I used the Rename function and numbered them in front of the song title. Now we were sweet.

Printing the labels was easy, although cutting them to size was a pain. I used fairly heavy paper so that it would look professional and not try to slide out of the case when it was opened. I used a guillotine and found it really hard to get the edges exactly right. Next time I’ll use a straight edge and a craft knife, which will be much easier. Also you need something for the back to fold the little edges which are the titles that you can see from the side.  Detail is important as even though the CD’s are home made I want them to look professional. The only thing missing is the shrinkwrapping, which I will have done later when I create more volume. There are plenty of places that will shrinkwrap for you very cheaply.

So just to go over the presentation. The front cover is consistent with the concept of the album. This album is called The Greenhouse Demo’s, because the songs are demo’s and Greenhouse is the title of Track 4. The cover art is a picture of a big block of Franz Joseph Glacier ice that is melting at a rapid pace. The title is very easily read on both the CD label and the insert.

On the inside of the isert I have a photo of myself (because the listener can’t late to you if they don’t know what you look like and the album is about building a fan base) holding a huge block of glacial ice which has melted and been washed away in the icy river.

On the back I put another picture of myself, this time standing on White Island which is an active ocean volcano and represents the global warming and the yin and yang of hot and cold. The other crucial data I put on the back is my email address and URL so that people can make contact with me, probably one of the most important things of all.

All in all, it was pretty simple. Everyone should have an album available, even if it’s home made, whenever you perform. I’m really pleased with how mine turned out and it looks more professional in my humble opinion than some that I have seen, made by ‘professionals’.

As a footnote, I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts yesterday while I was vacuuming the pool. it is Music Business Radio. The interview was with Meiko, who I strongly recommend as a good listen. I love the song Boys with Girlfriends. Anyway, on the podcast they have a section called Dave’s Demolition Derby where they get their guests to review 3 songs hat listeners have sent in for critique. I can’t remember her Manager’s name but he used to be an A&R man and made the comment that Record Companies and others get loads of unsolicited CD’s in the mail and some of them look really cheap and nasty.  If you hae to pick a few of them for a quick listen, which one do you think will get an airing, the one with a CD which someone has written on, something like My Cool Song, or one that looks like it was purchased of the shelf of your favorite CD store?

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