My First Solo Album: What’s REALLY Involved?

Recently, I’ve decided to release my first-ever solo piano album. In addition to composing and performing every piece on the album, I will be producing and engineering the project myself.  I’m also directing the marketing, promotion, and finances. In other words, I’m doing the whole thing on my own. (Hence, my lack of updates lately.)   I know there are significant advantages to pulling from others’ talents for a project, but at this stage in my career, I’m doing the album by myself to learn.  Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I a control freak? Not exactly. Let me explain…

Composing––All day, every day
Composing––all day, every day

I’ve spent the past five years producing and recording other musicians, helping to bring out their best.  I love doing that work and have every intention to continue it,  but I’ve come to realize that I love to compose just as much.

In recent months, I’ve been extremely prolific in composing.  The music never stops coming!  I often compose for several hours a day at my piano.  I compose in my mind at school––while listening to the lectures.  I compose while I drive.  I compose when I’m trying to fall asleep and even in my dreams.  I scribble new melodies on scraps of paper when I’m away from home.  I jot down lyrics at 2 AM in my phone.  I haven’t experienced such productivity in years!  I have to compose.

But why a piano album?  Well, people have been asking me for a long time when I would do one.  I never thought I was good enough, though––neither at playing nor at engineering.  But the eighteen days I spent at GRAMMY Camp in Los Angeles and in New York increased my skills and gave me more confidence in my abilities.  As soon as I got home last August, I sat down at my piano and began composing my first solo album.  I was finally ready.

So far, I’ve finished composing four of the songs, which may seem like nothing, but it brings the album’s running time to half an hour.  I’m aiming for around thirty-five minutes, so I only have to write one more piece.  However, I have to do more than compose the album––I have to learn to play the pieces, too.   My compositions are hard for me to play, yet simplifying them isn’t an option.  When I write hard music, I believe that what I’ve written is the best possible way to express the idea.  (I’m probably wrong about that fairly often, though.)

 My piano is special. I have to use it to record the album.
I can’t imagine recording on any other piano…

But there’s another problem––I have to do all of the engineering for the album, too.  So why not record at someone else’s studio or hire another engineer?  Well, when you’re a pianist, you can’t take your piano with you, so you always have to be sure to find a studio with a piano you’re comfortable with.  I’ve looked at other studios in the area, but I haven’t found any with a piano that fits my playing style.

As for hiring another engineer, I may use a mastering house, but I don’t know any local engineers well enough yet to trust them with editing and recording my own piano album.  But most of all, I need the engineering experience, and since I’m hiring myself, no one can fire me if I do a bad job.

On the contrary, if the album turns out well, the fact that a seventeen-year-old did all of her own audio engineering can possibly be used in my promotional strategies.  In today’s music business, artists have to do whatever they can to stand out from the mediocre multitudes.  Good music unfortunately doesn’t always speak for itself––though it should be a co-requisite to any marketing plan.  While plenty of rookie songwriters and producers release self-engineered albums, I haven’t heard many that sound professional.  My album will have to be extremely well-done for this part of my marketing strategy to work.  Further, I also plan to make available the piano sheet music for every piece, which is another way to help set my album apart.

Making my first solo piano album is going to be a wild ride––it sure has been so far.  (Just check out my post about what happened in my latest tracking session!)  Even so, I’m hoping to finish by the end of June.  I’m ready for the challenge.

This may be a solo album, but I still need your support.  So, readers, What advice do you have for an instrumentalist recording a debut solo album?  What advice do you have in general about recording and editing procedures for a classical/acoustic project?  Have any of you ever made an album entirely on your own?

7 thoughts on “My First Solo Album: What’s REALLY Involved?

  1. Hey Shelby!
    I have record a good amount of songs with myself and others (never a whole album though). The only advice I have is keep loving it. Just do it. You have astonishing musical skill already. Things will fall into place as long as your heart is in it, because you have the skill nailed down

  2. I could never manage to even finish a song these days. Everything always sounded rubbish by the next morning. I’ve tried every genre imaginable! Rock, classical, dance, and now I’m into hip-hop beats. But I still suck. So, I’d love to wish you all the best with your album. Hope you make millions 🙂

    1. Thank you! Glad you stopped by.
      If you want to make music, just keep trying even if you don’t finish a song or if you’re never satisfied with the results. Dissatisfaction creates great artists, if only you keep working and don’t give up. Recognizing faults in your work is a sign of a potential to do bettter, because you have a vision of greater possibilities. I spent a long time feeling unhappy with most of my compositions, but even though it was hard, I kept going and slowly got better and better. Hang in there. Best wishes for you and your music, too!

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