I cut some lead vocals for "Play the Cards" tonight. I think at this point, all that's left is post-production kinds of things. Comping the vocals, preping the tracks, and the final mix. I could have it done by next week! Woot!
Jordyn Mathis, the girl that came over a couple of weeks ago to add some harmony vocals to the country tune I was working on, wants to interview me for a paper she's writing for class. She sent me some questions, so I thought it would be fun to post them and my answers here.
1. How many instruments do you play?
How many do I play, or how many do I play well? :-) I primarily think of myself as a singer/songwriter first, and a producer second. Then, I think the next best thing I do is guitar and bass. Usually, however, I’m thinking of those in the context of the song. I usually write on the acoustic guitar, sometimes on the electric.
On my first CD, “One United Generation”, I only played a few of the lead guitar parts. Some friends of mine put the rest of them down. On my new tunes, however, I’m finding myself being much more confident in my lead playing, so I’ve played them all so far.
I can kinda punch out a keyboard track, and do OK with it, but I don’t really consider myself to be a “piano player”. If I want a piano track, and it’s got any elaboration at all, I’ll have someone else cut it. Block chords on an organ or pad sort of sound on a synth, I can handle that, pretty well! String lines, horn parts, weird synth bits, too. But I’m not a pianist by any stretch of the imagination.
I grew up playing the cello in my school orchestras, but I haven’t touched one in over 20 years. I love the sound of it, though, when it’s played well.
2. How long does it usually take to record the music using all the instruments?
Start to finish, a song can usually take me about 20 hours or so to complete. Not bad for a five minute song, eh? Once I’ve worked out the words, the melody and the chords, I’ll call up my music program on the computer and usually lay down a very rough drum part. It’s more to get the feel and be a metronome than to be anything particularly special. In fact, on most of my songs, I’ll have a live drummer replace those early rough tracks anyway.
I’ll usually lay down a synth bass part, too, so that I can keep track of the chord progression and where I am in the song.
Then I’ll cut some guitar parts, depending on what the song is like. If it’s a rock tune, they’ll be electrics. If it’s a more mellow tune, it’ll probably be the acoustic.
Then, I’ll sing a scratch vocal line. I usually don’t do that more than one take, because it’s mainly to guide me with the melody while I’m adding other parts. It won’t stay.
At that point, I have the foundation for the song. I’ll listen to it over and over and over and over. I’ll let my mind wander on it, thinking of other parts to add, other ways to shape the song. One by one, I’ll cut them. I’ll also cut keeper guitar tracks. Some songs will have as many as ten layers of guitar tracks, each adding more texture to the mix. If I have to bring in other players to play certain parts, like the drums or the horns, I will.
The lead guitar is usually one of the last bits of the instrumentation that I do.
3. How long does it usually take to cut a song after the music is recorded?
What I’ll do is set aside a one or two hour block of time and I’ll set up 8 or so empty tracks. Then, one by one, I’ll sing the song over and over again, filling all of those 8, sometimes 10 tracks. I’ll also usually cut a few harmony vocal tracks, depending on how tired my voice is.
Then, I’ll go back and listen to each take of each phrase, and pick the best one. I’ll pick the one that’s in tune the best, that has the best expression and inflection. Then I’ll composite a full vocal track (called “comping” in the industry) from all those parts. That can be time consuming.
The lead vocals is the last thing I cut.
At that point, the song is ready to mix. Getting the right mix and blend of all the instruments and the voices usually takes me a couple of tries, at one or two hours apiece. I’ll do a mix, and then I’ll make a CD and listen to it lots of times and in lots of different sound systems. That’ll usually tell me things that need to be fixed. I’ll come back and tweak it some more, then burn it and listen again. “Millstones” took me four tries to finally get it right. That was the hardest mix of all in “Generation”. The strings were constantly competing with the guitars!
Then I make my files and put it on my website!
4. What made you decide to produce your own music?
Lots of factors—
One, the fact that I can. I know what I want, and I think I do a pretty good job of getting it.
Two, it’s fun. I really enjoy doing it. I really like the songs that have been inspired to me. I like making them. I love the process of bringing a song from just an idea to a fully fleshed-out recording. And I like listening to them. I really do listen to my own tunes, in spite of the flaws, almost as much as I listen to other artists.
Three, it’s a lot cheaper. In fact, if I had to pay someone else to produce me, I wouldn’t be able to afford to do it at all. So, over the years, I’ve kinda had to do it myself, or it wouldn’t get done.
5. What do you want audiences to feel when hearing your music?
I want them to think, to feel, but mostly to have fun. The lyrics I write are, I think, thought-provoking, but overall I’d like to have people leave one of my shows feeling energized, cleaned out, and thrilled.
6. What is the most important thing to know about the studio when you are recording....? ( this ones not very specific I basically mean how do certain things work like the mic and the headphones etc....)
Well, that depends a little on what your role in the recording process is. As the producer, it’s important to have a clear vision of what the ending song is going to sound like, and what elements you’re going to bring in to make it happen. As a singer, it’s important to know the song, and to be practiced. As the engineer/recordist, it’s the technical. The mics, the instruments, the software.
The studio is a tool, or better, a tool box. And like a carpenter knows how to use the tools to build the house, the producer knows how to use the studio to build the song.
The song really should be at the center of the focus. And by the song I mean the words and the melody. There are some people that create background music fully produced, and then they write the lyrics. I can’t imagine working that way. If I don’t have the core song worked out, there’s no point in recording anything. It’d be like eating a full meal of side dishes with no main course. What’s the point of it all, without the message that the words and the melody bring? So, everything in the arrangement has to support the core song. If it detracts, then throw it out.
MRKH - Mark Hansen
Mark Hansen Music - LDS Rock Music - Free Downloads
Mark Hansen Music - LDS Rock Music - Free Downloads
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|WARNING: Listening to this music doesn't require parental approval. It's a bit of clean rebellion. It keeps your outlook up and your hope alive. It's got strong drums and screaming guitars. It pumps you up and drives your life. It's a hunger for exploration. It chooses the right and returns with honor. It's music you don't have to confess to your bishop.|
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