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How to put a record together – part 1

October 21, 2010

It is such an exciting time for me as in a few days we will announce the official release of my first single from my new album 72 Names. When you start such a big promotional campaign, you never know where it will lead. But at least I know that I made it and made it the best that I could! Many of my friends online and real friends have been in the process of making albums for years, as I was. People just don’t realize how much work it takes to make an album that starts with writing the songs, recording, producing, mastering, creating a CD cover, having photos taken etc, etc. What I’ve learnt from making this album will make it so much easier for me in my next project, and I would like to share with you a few points I learned on the way.

Firstly, the most essential thing is to find a producer who gets your vision and can manifest your ideas into songs. Some producers will take a song which you write a million miles away from its origin, to put his stamp on the track which most of the time doesn’t work and the track will sound over produced. A good producer is one that listens to your ideas and makes them better. We all know the stories of producers who have made it happen, a few of the famous ones, include The Beatles who worked so hard before George Martin turn the music into timeless songs. Norah Jones’ first album which the legendary Arif Mardin produced. The album was recorded first with someone else and it didn’t work until Arif came to the picture and gave it that amazing warm sound that she has got. Also I heard that Ken Nelson who produced Coldplay contribute to their sound. I was lucky to find Phil Curran who in the past has done remixes for Tears For Fears and some advertising campaigns and he got my vision completely. I also worked with Yoad Nevo who has worked with such big names as the Pet Shop Boys, Bryan Adams and Sophie Ellis Bextor and he took my music to a different level and created a much more big, electronic sound.

If the budget is not big, but we still want to stay true to ourselves the best thing is to combine electronic with live music. My living room for more than a year was a recording studio with amazing cello players like Laura Anstee and Alexi Kiseliov and other great musicians coming to record.  When recording drums, I had the privilege to work with two great drummers, one was Paul Robinson who has worked with Rod Stewart, Grace Jones, Trevor Horn and other big stars and who has an online drummer service: you will be surprised what you can do with the internet these days. The second drummer Jamie Fisher who is the drummer with the Genesis tribute band and Samantha Fox has played firstly percussion and drums in all of my latest gigs and also his drumming was very influential when I was writing the album’s title song ‘72 Names’ and the William Blake song ‘Man of the Thames’ with his darbuka playing.

The next stage is the mixing, you can have the best ingredients to make a chocolate cake or with any cooking but if you put too much of one ingredient in than the other it will destroy it, and mixing is like cooking. You need to get to that perfection state, and after hearing the songs hundreds of times that you know it’s there. Always good to give it few days and listen to it in different I had a great experience with Hez Theo who mixed my song ‘Beauty of the Duty’, after over 10 mixes with someone else he suddenly transformed the track to something commercial, as he loved the track and was so connected. This taught me that engineers have to be passionate and really understand a track, as with other tracks it took him much longer to get it right and I had to ring the producer to come and helps us sort out the situation. If we look at famous bands we will see different engineers working on different tracks, now I understand why.

The next stage is mastering. Mastering is the polishing part of the music, and if we talk about the cake, it is the icing and decoration! Only after doing this album I understood the importance of mastering as with my old project Timeless Melodies, which was more piano based, the mastering process finished after a few hours. But mastering can take a song to be pleasant or unpleasant, to a song that you want to dance to, or don’t want to move to. The best advice that I can give is to find a sound that one likes and bring it to the mastering engineer; it can make life much easier to get the kind of finish you like.

The next level, design, photos and duplication will be in the next blog but feel free to comment or ask me any questions. The most important advice is too never give up it is the most amazing feeling to put a record together.

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