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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 7)

9 Feb

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the seventh and final part in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the initial conception, part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six details the final mixing and mastering processes.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Seven: Artwork, Photos, and Design

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Assembling the artwork and finalizing the design on the album was by far the easiest part of production.  With the tunes written, recorded, edited, and mastered, the only thing left to do was to put together the art and the layout and send the thing off to Discmakers.

river-of-dreams-album-cover1

Yeah, I know.

I’d had a pretty good idea of what I wanted with the design from the get-go; I knew I wanted some sort of portrait-like illustration for the cover, and my initial thought was that it would be something like Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” album cover.  Which is kind of hilarious, in retrospect.  That might be the least-cool album cover in existence.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was actually drawn by Christie Brinkley when she was married to him, so it’s this total non-art kind of thing, with tons of watercolors and drawings, and it’s kinda sorta… lame.  But at the end of 2007, after putting down “cool” for a while and trying to come up with something more real, it was at least in the neighborhood of where I wanted the cover to be.

It didn’t take me long to figure out where to go to find an artist to commission to do the work. I know plenty of artists around San Francisco, but didn’t really know any of their work that well, and just tracking down an artist friend didn’t seem like the way to go, for whatever reason.  Right at the outset, however, when I thought about how much production and recording work I’d be doing at school, as well as how many students I’d be getting to help out musically, I realized (in a bit of a forehead-slapping moment of clarity) that I should get an Urban student to do the cover art!

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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 6)

5 Feb

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know. It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the sixth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the initial conception, part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.
The record is now available for download at Digstation.com, and tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.
Part Six: Mixing, Editing, and Mastering
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It was December. The music had been written, the charts laid out; the musicians had learned the parts and been recorded, the voice-overs were complete. The singers and I had learned, tweaked, and re-learned the parts, and the tunes had morphed from abstract ideas into actual recordings. This was the home stretch – time to wrestle these tracks into a finished album.
I’ve already discussed how much easier it is to mix things when all of the tracks are recorded and accounted for – the drums can be EQed to leave space for the bass, the vocals and the horns can be put where they need to be in order not to clash, etc. But there’s another aspect to it as well – when I have an incomplete session, it’s tough to get in the mindset required to make things sound finished; all of the ingredients aren’t yet in the stew, so it’s tough to begin to add seasoning.
Once all of the tracks are recorded though, for better or for worse, I know what I’ve got to work with, so it’s much easier to begin to chop up the audio and make it fit into the sound of the tune. Which, once the tracks were finished, was exactly what I got started doing.
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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 5)

29 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the fifth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the initial conception, part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks, and part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Five: Final Recording Sessions and Initial Mixing

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As the tracks started to reach their final state in terms of content, it grew a lot easier for me to mix them.  I’m just not able to mix things separately – I have no way of knowing if the sound that I get on, say, the drums alone will sound good once the bass, guitars, and vocals are added, so it just wasn’t possible to tackle the mixing until everything had been recorded.

It was quite a process, and was the most challenging part of the album’s creation. The transition from demo to full recording required me to put down my preconceptions of the songs at every turn. One of the dangers of making complete recorded demos of tunes is that it’s pretty easy to get used to the demo – to the mistakes, the odd mixes, and lackluster instrument sounds – to the point that it can be jarring to mix in real instruments played by real humans.  Since the sampled instruments and the real musicians were in utterly different universes, both in terms of mix and groove, I held off attempting any mixing until I had everything in place.

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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 4)

24 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the fourth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its Part one covers the album’s initial conception. Part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks. Part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Four: Recording the Musicians

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With the demos complete, the music scored, and the parts written, it was time to head into the studio and record the actual musicians. Since I had sent demos and charts out to everyone already, my plan from the outset had been to do modular recording sessions, breaking things up to make it easy to schedule time with each musician or group.  The Urban School has a very cool Pro Tools HD system and Control | 24 board, along with a nice big main room and an isolation booth.  Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to run the sessions entirely on my own, particularly when I was playing (on the horn session), I enlisted the help of two student engineers at Urban, Sam Tygiel (who is also a brilliant young flutist, guitarist, and songwriter), and the always-professional, low-key Daniel Moattar.

The great thing about demoing in Pro Tools is that it makes it possible to take the demos you’ve created and really easily replace tracks one-at-a-time through several sessions, until you’ve got a whole new recording. In other words, the demos act as templates for the finished product.

The plan was to record the musicians over the following sessions:

  • Drums
  • Electric Bass
  • Acoustic Bass
  • Piano and Keyboards
  • Strings
  • Horns
  • Guitars
  • Auxiliary Sessions (Woodwinds, Marimba, Clapping, Percussion)
  • Final Vocal Takes

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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 3)

21 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the third in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its Part one covers the album’s initial conception. Part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer, and Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks. Part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Three: Lyrics and Demos

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After finishing the initial writing and scoring process for the majority of the material for The Exited Door, the next step was making a demo of the album.  I was bringing together an unprecedented number of musicians (for me, anyway), so my goal, in order to ensure that everything went smoothly, was to make it as easy on all of the musicians as possible.  That meant having a really clear idea of what we wanted to record well before we entered the recording studio, and having recordings and charts for everyone to learn beforehand.

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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 2)

20 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the second in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the album’s initial conception. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks. Part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Two: Writing The Music

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As I prepared to write the music for “The Exited Door,” I realized that I’d never actually sat down and written an extended, self-contained group of songs before.  I’d written tons of songs over the past five years, but always one or two at a time, and never with the intention of putting them all together into an album.  I knew I’d need a different approach to writing the music for this album.

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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 1)

19 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the first in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks. Part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part One: The Album Concept

door1

When I talk about the concept of “The Exited Door,” I’m not so much talking about the album’s thematic concept as I am its musical concept. That is to say, the finished record is indeed a “concept album,” one that has a theme running through it (it even has a song called “Theme”), but that wasn’t my jumping-off point.  I started with a pretty clear set of musical goals, a sort of musical manifesto.

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