Thursday, August 30, 2012

Song prep work

As I plan to work sequentially through the album, I thought I'd take a little time to walk through the tools I'm using and the track organization for the first song.  The DAW (digital audio workstation) you use to remix doesn't matter. I mean that because with so many capable products out there, it's gotten more difficult to pick a clear-cut winner. I suppose that if you run a huge studio, you may have the luxury of using one for tracking, one for arrangement, another for mixing, etc.  For most people's purposes, it's like choosing a character in Mario Kart.  Each software package gets the job done, with it's own strengths and weaknesses.  I happen to be a Pro Tools user.  I mention this only as a point of reference when I post screenshots like this one:

This is my edit window before starting work on the first song.  The tempo grid is set to 120 bpm, and I know the song is in the key of Eb.  I renamed each of the supplied "stems" and added each to their own row, then created groupings for ease of use.  These groupings are denoted by the colors on the left hand side.  For example, guitars are red, drums green, and vocals blue.  A short description of each stem is in the grey comments column, to remind me exactly what sounds can be found as I'm bouncing around.  This will likely be the last time the waveforms looks so ordinary, and after things get chopped up and turned around, it gets harder to locate and work with if you don't do this kind of organization beforehand.

In addition to my DAW, there are some other tools I'm sure to use as the project progresses.  I'll touch on them as I go.  My goal here is to provide and document enough technical information without putting people to sleep.  I'll attempt to keep these type of posts somewhat separate from the purely creative ones.  Good evening for now, as I wrap up prep work and begin brainstorming ideas for the fun part of this project.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Project prep work

So I've spent a little time over the past couple days setting up folders on my computer for each song.  This is to store the stems as well as intermediate (working) sound files and final project files in various formats.  I also took the time to label the key and tempo for each of the ten songs on the album.  This makes things more efficient as sounds can be added from scratch as well as "borrowed" from song to song as long as I have a reference point with respect to these two elements.  Remixing music involves some math.  Like it or not, this is one of the few parts of the process that isn't purely subjective.  Me, I like it.  One or two absolute truths never bother me.  It gives you something to fall back on if you work through an entire evening and everything you did sounds terrible the next day.

To somewhat complicate things, you also have tracks which change key mid-song.  Others were originally recorded without the aid of a definitive tempo reference or "click track."  There are four of these tracks on the album.  They were likely recorded as a full band, at the same time.  This is reminiscent of most bands who were in the studio more than 20 years ago.  It gives a great "live" feel to the song, but makes it more difficult to take things apart and put them together again.

Next to this list is another point of reference, my piano chord chart.  This is very important as I can't play keys to save my life, but will need to in the coming months.  Now, to begin planning the first remix...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The beginning

Justin Vernon and company from the band Bon Iver have decided to release the "stems", or raw studio tracks for each song off of their self titled album.  If you've heard it, I bet you liked it.  It's inspired, has wonderful production, and his arrangements are at once hugely lush and also minimalist.  Many people are choosing to remix one or more of their favorite tracks for submission to an online contest which can be found here.  I would encourage anyone to give this a shot if they've ever wanted to, as these stems are free to download (once you join as a member), and the tools needed are easily had on the cheap.  I have decided to remix the songs, but not for contest purposes.

My goal is to remix the entire album and document the process through this blog.  What I hope to get out of this process (remixing and blogging about it) is as follows:

  • the opportunity to work with top talent and source material
  • a better understanding of music production, mixing and mastering
  • the overall project management side of album creation
  • a chronicled point of reference for future projects
  • a cohesive end product that does justice to the artist and allows the music to be viewed from another unique angle
Of course, I hope to collect any opinions as I work through different ideas, etc.  I'll be sharing bits and pieces as things progress.  Some may be interesting, others unintelligible.  Please check back for updates if you're so inclined.

Thank you,