Commitment

Commitment  

By Glenn Sawyer

Last week I talked about the dangers of ‘fixing it in the mix’ and this week I want to touch on commitment.  Commitment means making a decision and sticking to it, and it can make life in the studio much better.  The idea of commitment is equally important when you’re thinking about shaping parts and tones, but I’m going to focus on the tone side of things for this post.

At the advent of recording, committing was the only option.  When you record a big band to a wax cylinder with one mic you get what you get. These days producers have a variety of tools at their disposal which allows them to change and adjust tones throughout the process so there is a lot more flexibility when it comes to ‘fixing’ things, but also a greater risk of things getting out of control.  

When Rich and I are producing we always look to commit to tones.  The reason for this is that every decision we make is dependent on the decisions we’ve made before.  Let’s say that we’ve got the drums and bass recorded and now we’re ready to track guitars.  The amount of low end in the bass will dictate how much low end we can put in the guitars.  Although the guitar by itself might sound good with a little extra low end, it’s not going to jive with the bass as they will be fighting for the same space. Because we’ve committed to the bass tone we can be confident that pulling out some of the low end in the guitars is the right decision as it’s already represented in the track. This allows us to know exactly where we are at at all times and we can dial each subsequent tone with confidence because of it.  

The other benefit to committing is that there are no surprises in the mix.  By committing fully to each tone and part as we build the production we end up with a track that sounds very similar to what it will sound like mixed. You can hear how everything fits together and, consequently, have a very clear idea of what the finished mix will sound like. So whether you’re working with us on your masterpiece or woodshedding demos at your house, give commitment a try, I think you’ll like the results.  


My Old Record Store

Going to the record store and buying a physical copy of an album is an experience that seems to be slowing dying out.  With the advent of mp3s, iTunes, and online music services it’s no longer necessary to leave your couch to get the latest release from your favorite band.  With that being said, there are still a lot of us who cherish the record store experience and our memories of it.

One of these people is local F#lk n’ Roll artist Jeffrey Dallet.  Jeffrey is an avid music lover who has amassed a jaw-dropping record collection over the last 15 or so years.  Many of those records came from the shelves and bins of Jerry’s Record Store which was a Denver landmark for years before shutting its doors in 2013.  In addition to records, Jeffrey slowly, but surely, accumulated a variety of stories and anecdotes about his experiences at Jerry’s and felt compelled to write a song about his experiences after Jerry’s closed.

The result is an epic piece titled My Old Record Store.  The track reminisces about Jerry’s quirky staff and Jeffrey’s interactions with them in the verses.  The chorus is an amalgamation of song and record titles.  It’s a great song, but we were concerned that listeners might not listen to the whole thing because of its length.

The song clocked in at just over seven minutes long and we couldn’t cut out any sections, because we’d lose important parts of the story.  Our solution was to incorporate different instrumentation throughout the song to create musical interest while simultaneously accentuating each sections’ lyrical theme.

The song starts with a Farfisa organ line that immediately draws the listener in while setting the mood squarely in the 1960s.  The Farfisa complements the throwback vibe of the track and also the lyrics of the first verse, which relays the story of the early years of rock.

The Farfisa continues through the first verse, before handing the ball off to the electric piano.  The electric piano provides a slightly different feel that is still well within the throwback vibe, but different enough to keep the listener engaged.  This works well with the second verse’s lyrical content, which inhabits the same thematic space as the first.

The third verse changes the tone lyrically, which provides us an opportunity to change things up instrumentally, which we do by introducing a delayed mellotron flute to complement the psychedelic imagery in the lyrics.

The song’s choruses received a similar treatment. They take the listener on a journey through the best of music over the years, and it was important that the chorus instrumentation be every bit as compelling as the verses.  In keeping with the throwback feel of the track we utilized piano, Hammond B3 organ, and eventually strings and church bells in the final chorus.  The result is a triumphant sound that Springsteen would be proud of.

By utilizing different instrumentation for different parts of the song we were able to create a track that feels like it just started even after seven minutes.  The lessons here are two-fold.  First, it’s important to realize the impact of instrumentation choices and when and how they are used.  The second lesson is that you’ve got to have a great song to really pull this off.  No amount of production tricks or instrumentation changes can make up for a weak song.  Fortunately for us, Jeffrey writes one hell of a song so we didn’t have to worry about that side of things.  That left us free to focus on the production and the result is a song that hits the Sweet Spot.

Jeffrey has already released a single off of the EP titled Dear Dayton OH which can be heard on Spotify and purchased through iTunes.  The full three song EP will be released on May 31st in conjunction with a CD release show at the Skylight Lounge.  Find out more about Jeffrey Dallet at www.JeffreyDallet.com.  More information about The Spot Studios is available atwww.thespotstudios.com.


Catapulting The Driftin’ Suns

After devoting way too much of my young life to watching VH1’s Behind The Music, there was a period of time that it seemed like being a musician was all about partying and having fun. After trying this technique out myself for several years it soon became clear that being successful at music requires more advanced skills than beer bonging. Since then, I’ve come to the realization that this was probably the case when they were shooting footage for Behind The Music, but the partying definitely made for better TV.

Although the music industry has changed dramatically since most of the footage featured on Behind The Music, one constant that still remains is the fact that good music isn’t worth a dime without good business sense as well. Unfortunately, most modern musicians don’t know enough about the business side of things and are suffering because of it.

Upon realizing that there aren’t a lot of resources available to artists to help them learn about the business side of the industry, we partnered up with BLDGBLKS Music Co. to create a recording package that gives artists the basic tools they need to get their career going. We call this package the Career Catapult.

The purpose of the Career Catapult is three fold. First, we work with the artist to record a quality product that they can use to further their career. In this case, we are recording a single that will be featured in the bands Kickstarter campaign. Following that we plan and successfully execute the Kickstarter campaign while teaching the artist how to crowd fund and market him or herself. Finally, we use the funds raised in the Kickstarter campaign to finish a larger recording project and create and execute a marketing campaign for the release of the product.

We have been fortunate enough to be able to put the Career Catapult to the test with local Denver band, The Driftin’ Suns. The Driftin’ Suns are a very driven and very talented up-and-coming band with big ideas. When we first met The Suns they were looking for a place to record an ambitious collection of tunes with plans to release them on four EPs named after the four seasons. Recording and releasing four EPs in succession is a daunting goal and the biggest hurdle for the band was finding the finances to get the recordings done. This made them the perfect fit for the Career Catapult.

As I write this article we are in the pre-production stage of the Career Catapult. The Driftin’ Suns spent a weekend with us earlier this month, and we recorded their single “Her Touch.” The track showcases the vocal talents of Kristian Kerr, as well as the Suns unique ability to combine styles and genres into something new and refreshing. It was a pleasure to work with the guys and I think you’ll enjoy their track.

The Suns have also been working with Joel Rekiel from BLDGBLKS Music Co. to prepare the Kickstarter campaign and to spread the word about it. By the time that you’re reading this the band will be launching the campaign on April 9th, and if all goes well they will hopefully meet and exceed their goals shortly thereafter.

After that the real fun begins, as The Driftin’ Suns will return to The Spot to record the rest of the first EP, Spring. They will also be working with Joel to create and execute a marketing campaign for the EP release. Once The Driftin Suns have completed the CareerCatapult they will have successfully released Spring and will be gearing up to start working on Summer. Now that’s what I call the Sweet Spot.

If you would like to support The Driftin’ Suns Kickstarter campaign you can find links on their website, www.thedfriftinsuns.com or at www.facebook.com/DriftinSuns. For more information about the Career Catapult visit our website at www.thespotstudios.com or give us a call at 303-988-2170. For more information about BLDGBLKS Music Co visit www.bldgblksmusic.com.

**VH1 was not injured in the writing of this article.