May has been a productive month for the album writing-recording process. The project is still without a name, though the work iteself beginning to take shape and come into its own identity. To be able to elaborate on the progress I’ve made, I’ll have to dive into my processes and how I flow through the journey of writing and recording music.
First, it all starts with simple ideas, just a chord progression or a vocal hook. I can’t say that all of my songs have the same “birth”. Often, I get an idea for a guitar riff in my head. If I’m far away from a guitar, I’ll write down an approximation of how I think it would be played on a guitar. Once I have my axe in hand, I’ll work out the part and start to develop it into a song. Like I mentioned, sometimes I get an idea for vocals and then it becomes a task of putting it to music. Neither method is really more difficult than the other, as long as I follow through on it.
After songs start to take shape, I build what I call “the framework” of the song. The song’s skeleton includes the chord progression, the general tempo and the way the drums should feel. Is it going to be upbeat or mellow, consistently loud or soft or changing dynamically, have a structure that repeats or are there different intros and outros? From here, I start to write the lyrics and develop the vocal melody. These ideas for parts are all coming together to make a song.
Once the whole frame has been built, there isn’t much left to develop until I’m ready to record. I create the drums to be interesting and deep. Since drums are my first love, I don’t like to half-ass the project. I want them to sound natural and bright, in the foreground of my mix. I’ll then record a “scratch” guitar track. It won’t be used in the final mix, but it fills out the song so that I can listen along in my car in case inspiration should strike. This also gives me a chance to practice vocals since I don’t have the privilege of a band to play my songs with.
Next, after the drums are sounding just the way I want them to, I begin to record the bass and guitars. Bass, I’ll admit, is the weakest aspect of my music. I’m trying to develop this part further by learning to play songs by bands like Muse, but it’s a work in progress. Once the bass is down, I start recording the rhythm guitar(s) and keyboard parts (if the song could benefit from such parts) and from there the song begins to come alive.
Lastly, I record the lead guitar riffs and solos. Many of these parts aren’t written in my framework and don’t become fully realized until the recording process has already begun. This is where I “frost the cake” and add elements to make the song more intricate. Once all of that is done, I’ll spend time developing vocals and practicing before I’m ready to record my voice.
Long story, right? It’s an ongoing exercise, and songs may never fully be completed in this order, but it’s a good guide to how I typically work through a song/album. With all of the above in mind, I can demonstrate how much I’ve completed on the album: