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> Making An Album For Free And What It Costs, Sharing some experiences of mine and a formal thanks
The Uncreator
post May 18 2010, 02:02 PM
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I'm about 5-10 hours of final mixing and rendering from finishing my album. It has taken me roughly two years to do it, and there are tons of stuff I've learned throughout this time. I was talking to a friend about it and he said I should make a blog or something about it, But I think this should suffice.

First off, I got the idea to actually do it from the drummer of a band called Transzendence (Look them up, they are awesome) when I was chatting with him. I started to record my songs about 2 years ago and right when I had learned how to record a drum track, and put a guitar over it - I have wanted to release something, anything - Just as a personal accomplishment. I had more than enough songs, Too many in fact. I played guitar for so long without recording anything when I was finally technically able to do so I just recorded nonstop for almost 5 months - Since then I have recorded about 30 complete songs (And about 1,000 unfinished ones laugh.gif ).

I quickly learned one thing, Recording an album, mixing it, and mastering it - Requires more subtle touches than I would have ever imagined. I thought it would be as simple as "find what sounds good, put it in there - Bam! your done". But this is not the case, Mixing and recording, and then taking the time to make everything right is physically and mentally exhausting (That caught me off guard! tongue.gif ) so I was taken by major surprise. About a year ago I had to learn which frequencies instruments operate at the majority of the time, and how to make room for them in the mix (Such things like hi-passing guitars) and this alone took a long time to develop an ear for, And I do not claim to have a "good" ear for it, I have seen other engineers pick stuff out of my mixes that are damn near inaudible! So I am still learning and have many many years of trial and error before I will get better.

After I learned all I could about the basics of recording, which was a painful 3 or 4 months of re-recording songs and experimenting with different approaches - I realized that the most subtle touch lay in the mastering. Now before I get into that, I made a decision quite some time ago I would release this album without breaking my budget - I am not gifted financially like most of us - So I wanted this be something I could do with minimal amounts of stress and money, I knew it could be done, release an album for cheap and have good quality, On the flipside local bands down here rent out apple studios (Giant place with macs and pro tools you can rent out) and there demos are terrible quality - They don't take the time to learn anything, And thats not what I wanted - If something is going to be done to my music I wanted to know what it was that was being done, and why it was being done, I wanted to know what was going on.

Ironically I wouldn't have a choice for the cheap budget as I went through (and I am still going through) a rough period of poor health, and job loss/ unemployment. After 3 surgeries, a couple weeks in the hospital, and more medication than I care too think about - I did nothing musically for about 4 weeks.

But about 2 months ago I had terrible spike in bad luck again, Which ironically led me back to music as a source of venting - And I went back to recording and arranging this album. Around this same time I re did all my guitar tones and re-recorded (For the 5th time) almost all my songs. I don't know why but I felt renewed in the idea of releasing this album, I didn't care if anyone noticed it - It was a dream since I first touched a guitar and I realized I was fairly close to it and that pushed me farther. I got all my songs in order, and even had a creative spark and wrote 2 new songs and added them in. I then did what I would call, "Little tiny baby puny mastering", Like I said I am not financially well endowed, But with help I could learn some concepts of mastering and the basics alone would be worth learning.

That attempt at mastering began about 1 and a half weeks ago, And its paid off I think, I even have plans set up for a proper and certain AES Engineer to do full mastering on the album, and hopefully get it up on iTunes or something. In about a week I will have this finished, and it feels damn good, But it was hell getting here. But the last thing I would like to mention, is that this was not done alone.

Ivan, Bogdan, and Staffy gave me some helpful tips when it came to recording bass and mixing it, where it should sit and how, And it was like a revelation hearing it my mix! TONS of people helped me find a decent and proper drum sound. Tony, Micke and Andrew, my fellow moderator staff, have helped me with learning what mastering should entail and what to look for, Andrew may not remember but when I first got Reaper he was my go to guy for every little problem! laugh.gif

I think that this experience is something that can benefit musicians in two ways - You have a goal for you and your music, so you constantly work hard. Secondly - You will learn a lot of technical and analytical aspects of music, which make recording an easier process. I am probably babbling by now, but I of course have to mention one last thing. GMC itself - Every song has made it through the people here first before it touched my album (I am happy to say the majority of the feedback was positive and very helpful!) so thanks to anyone who actually took the time to listen to my songs! (Especially the long ones) smile.gif


Lastly, If anyone is interested, this was my general budget:


Pod X3 Live - $500 (Most expensive)
Reaper - $50 (But you can get away with zero if you dont have the license tongue.gif )
Steven Slate Drums - $20 (On sale smile.gif )
Every VST - $0
Shure SM58 - $100

Total cost: $670 for the basic equipment - Which is all I used. (Spending spread out over about 5 months), I'm not including the computer or guitars as these are things that anyone would have regardless if they were to make an album or not.

Just to put in contrast, Apple studios down here is about $1200 per day (No professional personnel included, mastering or mixing there is WAY more - $2000 I think). And the average "local" musician does not know a thing about what to do with there equipment. Cheaper studios are $50 an hour and there is just someone there to hit record.

So in the end, I spent 2 years learning and waiting - a lot less money, But I walk away with a lot more knowledge and experience smile.gif
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Saoirse O'Shea
post May 18 2010, 02:25 PM
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Congrats Uncreator and nice post.

Personally, and from my own experience, I'd say that the actual hands-on experience of tracking, mixing and mastering is priceless and something that you really on only do get by doing it rather than reading about it smile.gif .

One thing to consider perhaps is once you've completed the album is to maybe use it as a showcase for your mixing and see if you can get further experience and paid work from the other bands/musicians in your area. A lot of them might be really grateful to have some like you who does have experience cool.gif . If you do you could build up a portfolio and reputation which can help get other work wink.gif .


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The Uncreator
post May 18 2010, 02:29 PM
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Definitely a good idea Tony! Never thought of that, I'll have to try some local marketing.

I'd also like to point out that this could be done for even less, there are a lot of free ampsims out there that sound amazing as well, like the Nick Crow 8505
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Bogdan Radovic
post May 18 2010, 02:33 PM
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Congratulations man! This was a very interesting post to read. I'm really glad you finally accomplished your dream and finished the album - and to do it all by yourself!? Amazing! Experience you gained from this will be so valuable you can't imagine. Tony gave you a nice tip to consider. You could offer your recording/skills to local bands that need demos, EPs, album or whatever. You could really make some nice revenue from that. You should also try to promote your album as much as you can, internet possibilities are endless and bring so many good things! smile.gif Good job mate on warping this one! smile.gif


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Daniel Realpe
post May 18 2010, 02:59 PM
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A pretty good example of the value of having the experience of recording in your own setup is Symphony X!

You can see their evolution, specifically M. Romeo in who's studio they have recorded all the time,

If you listen to their first album and then Paradise Lost, it's a tremendous leap that took more than 10 years but now they have the freedom to keep on doing music at any pace and with the greatest quality,



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Adrian Figallo
post May 18 2010, 03:44 PM
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great story man, i'm doing exactly the same with my band, it is a LONG process.
but in my case we put more time actually in the song writing than in the recording process, congratulations again, i know it's hard smile.gif


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Gitarrero
post May 18 2010, 04:19 PM
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Congrats Uncreator, very interesting and inspiring to read all this. I already told you in another thread that I really think your album is good enough to be sold (e.g. using tunecore) instead of giving it away for free, but it's a noble choice to give it away for free.


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