A Month of Firsts

I realize I haven’t written in awhile, but this last month has been an incredible month of first times…

1)  The first time I performed one of my own compositions in a concert hall.

I performed my piano piece “Equinox” in the McAfee Concert Hall as part of the Student Composers Recital.  As far as I know, I was the only freshman composer who participated.  It was wonderful to hear the sound of my piece performed in such a wonderful venue.  And it was such an thrill to be featured among so many other talented artists at this school! Continue reading “A Month of Firsts”

Airborne is Out!

It’s been a wild ride, but my debut solo piano album Airborne is done and out!

Eleven months ago, I was inspired after returning from two GRAMMY Camps and had a bold idea: I was going to release a thirty-five minute solo piano album by the end of the following summer.

At the time, I only had one piano piece (“Airborne”) that I felt was good enough to record.  I had already committed to producing an EP for singer/songwriter Lily Garay that fall, too.  And there were college music school auditions in February to practice and prepare for.  Suffice it to say that the prospects of releasing a full-length album were not good. Continue reading “Airborne is Out!”

Bright Idea or Playing With Fire? – Airborne Studio Diaries

As the lone audio engineer for my piano album Airborne, at this point, I’ve done way too much solo piano editing.  Am I that bad a pianist?  No, but I’m a perfectionist, so I strive to meet impossible standards—especially since I have such a strong idea of how my own compositions should sound.

Even so, editing is much more than finding flawless takes and putting in crossfades to piece them together—it’s about maximizing musicality through artistic and technical choices.  While I don’t purport that putting together twenty different segments into one track is as good as playing a perfect take straight through, I will go so far as to say that, when edited well, the difference between a composited track and a one-take track can be minute.  However, with any kind of solo instrument recording, making edits is playing with fire if you don’t know what you’re doing.  And with piano recordings, their many inherent challenges only pour on gasoline.  Even so, by following some simple rules, I’ve found one can safely edit a piano recording: Continue reading “Bright Idea or Playing With Fire? – Airborne Studio Diaries”

Composer’s Block: Pushing Past the Walls

Too many composers and songwriters just sit around and wait for creativity to happen.  But the truth is that, most of the time, by making yourself write, you inherently have to be more creative to be able to put something on the paper in the first place.

I used to be the kind of composer that just waited around, and I often moved onto new pieces whenever I hit the “barrier.”  I used to think that forcing yourself to be creative stifled creativity, but now I see otherwise. Continue reading “Composer’s Block: Pushing Past the Walls”

Studio Diaries – “MHB” – Part 4: Answering the Production Question

Remember in english class how you were told to keep your essays on-topic?  They said to come up with a thesis, and everything in the essay had to somehow support or build up to it.  You weren’t supposed to put in lots of “padding” or go off on a tangent.  Well, believe it or not, the same concept applies to music production.

Like a strong essay, your song should grab people from the beginning and make them want to stick with it until the end to see how you resolve the “question.”  The intensity of the song has to be constantly increasing through contrast and changes in instrumentation, tone, and dynamics.

Continue reading “Studio Diaries – “MHB” – Part 4: Answering the Production Question”

Studio Diaries – “MHB,” Part 3: Sleeplessness and Logic’s Super Tool

It was 1:00 AM.  Like a typical teenage musician, I didn’t feel the least bit tired.  The rest of my family had already gone to bed, so I couldn’t play or really mix.  What did I decide to do?  Why, I added some key commands in Logic, of course!

I hit option-K and opened up the long list of assignable shortcuts.  I’d already made key commands for most of the tasks that I did routinely, but I wanted to add more to save even more time.

One thing that has continued to irk me about Logic has been the lack of the Super Tool (aka, the Smart Tool) that ProTools has.  After working in ProTools at GRAMMY Camp this summer, I took the SuperTool for granted.  I could clean and edit audio tracks so fast with it.  When I came back home and discovered that I had to assign a key command to switch to the fade tool in Logic to clean tracks, I was pretty frustrated. Continue reading “Studio Diaries – “MHB,” Part 3: Sleeplessness and Logic’s Super Tool”

Studio Diaries – “My Heart Beats,” Part 2: Hurricanes and High-Pass Filters

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I gained a few extra hours today for mixing since classes got cancelled.  Where I live, we have been fortunate so far because it has only been raining, and there has just been some mild wind.  However, we need to keep those more directly in Sandy’s path in our thoughts and prayers.

Our packaging manufacturer for the album is located in New Jersey, which has been hit pretty hard.  Because of this, Lily and I haven’t been able to order the packaging since the company’s web servers are down… Continue reading “Studio Diaries – “My Heart Beats,” Part 2: Hurricanes and High-Pass Filters”

Finishing a Project: The “Now What?” Question

After several months of work, I have finally finished a song I wrote called “I Am Free.”  It’s by far the best pop or rock song I’ve ever written, and it’s definitely the best mix I’ve ever made, too.  (I’m still waiting for a few things before I can upload it, but in my next post, I’ll probably have it uploaded and I can talk about it more.)  Emotionally, “I Am Free” took a lot out of me to write.  I’ve put so much into this one song, but now I’m done.  So I ask myself: “Now what?”

Continue reading “Finishing a Project: The “Now What?” Question”

Oscillators Are Your Friend – Adding Low-end to Your Kick

When it comes to mixing, few things are more frustrating than knowing how you want your mix to be, versus how it actually is and the feeling that you’ve tried everything you can to get there, but it just won’t get there.

One thing that has especially continued to elude me is how to get the kick drum to sound strong and present in the mix without too much amplitude accumulation at the low frequencies.  I’ve tried boosting and cutting the kick at certain frequencies and then boosting and cutting the opposite frequencies in the bass.  It helps, but it’s still not enough.

Continue reading “Oscillators Are Your Friend – Adding Low-end to Your Kick”

The Ballad of the Mixdown

When you’re mixing, sometimes you just can’t get out of the studio; every time you think you’re done, you always hear something else that needs to be fixed, so you keep listening and tweeking over and over again until you reach exhaustion.  Recently, I wrote a poem about it because I thought it would be funny: Continue reading “The Ballad of the Mixdown”