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Making of Born Blind

Updated: Apr 28, 2018

Listen to the album here: http://theresiduals.bandcamp.com


Waiting for a Moment:

               After years of trying, I finally made this album a reality. This album was met with many roadblocks over the course of 5 years, from training bandmates to be able to play their instruments, to constantly getting new members just as they learn all the songs. The songs had been all ready maybe a year into being a band, but even so, I can say now I’m happy it did get delayed as long as it did.


               I had waited for “the perfect time” to make the album when I finally had a kickass lineup, but there are no perfect times for anything. After 4 years of being a band, I finally went solo-artist. I had realized that you don’t make perfect moments, you just make moments, then from there, they can turn into something amazing.


 Tools:

               Everyone that didn’t already know I was using midi drum tracks from following my social media accounts thought I used a real drummer, and even the ones that knew said they forgot while they were listening or just couldn’t tell. I had done a lot of research into midi drums learning about the importance of velocity of each hit with variation, “humanizing” the drum sections to off-sync the timing, and using prior knowledge of exaggerating certain holds and pauses to make sure my drums had a raw, human sound.


               It took a year of messing around until I finally found a good work flow to making the drum tracks. I originally started worrying most about the track sounding robotic, so I recorded guitar first, then tried to place drums over the guitar track so it would sound natural. This took half of forever and I realized I would never get the album done like this. Once I read more about humanizing midi tracks, I experimented, and combining that with exaggeration on any key parts, I was able to produce a sound I was happy with. Thus, my official recording started in December 2016.


               The most important aspect of creating anything (other than passion and skill) is workflow. You can be amazing at what you do and know how to do it perfectly, but if you don’t have the tools, knowledge, or practice to do it quickly, you will take forever to make your dreams into reality. I had my tools: my guitar, my amp, my friends’ bass and bass amp, my drum software, my DAW to put everything together, and my i-phone.


   “I-phone? What do you need that for?”


               I recorded all instruments on an i-phone (excluding the drums which were of course midi). I had done some demos, which can be found on my bandcamp as Demos 2015, with my iphone just to make sure the new songs I was making sounded good and so people could see that I was creating stuff. After doing a few demos, I was starting to get a sound I was really happy with. It made the guitars sound raw and alive compared to some local demos and albums I would hear recorded with “top-quality” mics. I had originally bought the go to SM-57 and tried it out, but it sounded way too bassy, muddy, and overall just dry.


               I’m sure it was me not knowing how to use the damn thing properly, but when it comes down to it, if you’re set on doing something yourself and don’t have the knowledge to use great tools, what’s more important? Using the standard, top-quality equipment and not getting the sound you want because you aren’t skilled enough to use it, or using things that are unconventional that produce equal if not better results that give you what you want? I chose the latter and am perfectly happy with the tone and feeling of the instruments.


               If I had to make any complaints on using an i-phone, it would be that it could capture more of the low end on the guitars, let less noise in, and that everything ends up in the red (on the DAW) leaving not that much room for mixing/mastering. Also, I had to e-mail the tracks to myself and place it as perfectly as possible, so it was harder than recording directly onto the track. Sacrifices need to be made in every decision, so I decided the raw, dirty, but clear sound with a little extra work was best for the album.


               For the drums, I used Addictive Drums software by XLN audio. I had done my research on drum software, but when comparing programs like EZ Drummer, Superior Drummer, and others, Addictive Drums sounded the most natural to me. Looking more into the program, I saw that Arch Enemy had used Addictive Drums on their album Doomsday Machine, specifically, I saw a sample of Nemesis, and then I knew that I had been fooled. Listening to the other samples on various sets they had and researching what makes a midi drumset sound human, I felt confident and bought it.


               For my amp I used a 6505 Peavy head, which I’ve had for quite some time. I didn’t hesitate at all when buying my guitar head or the drum program (after doing much research) because if it’s something you are truly passionate about and will spend lots of time doing, why would you not invest in getting the best equipment available? (I am not planning on being a sound engineer so recording microphones don’t count for this statement) Because I had a guitar head that gave me a tone I could not be happier with, and a drum program that could sound amazingly natural, using not top quality recording gear was fine, because everything else was top quality and made me feel comfortable. The guitars and bass instruments themselves were just normal and I had gotten extremely comfortable in playing them, so everything felt natural playing.


 Workflow:

               Now back to the workflow, the final decision I made was to make all midi drum tracks first, bass, guitar, then vocals. I started in December of 2016 and I finally made the call. I gave myself a deadline or it would never get done. It was originally set for the end of February 2017 (which would never have happened) and ended up being March 26th due to wanting to do a CD release show.


               Having previously attempted recording, I had already found all the mic positions and gotten sample tracks that I made an eq for each track. So i actually did most of the mixing before hand because I already knew all the sounds I was going to use. I of course changed levels and such more into recording writing down each instrument’s levels to keep things consistent throughout.


               The drums took the longest to make and luckily it was the first in the process because it gave me an actual gauge on how far along the project I was in. 10 songs to make and almost every single track had a hefty amount of drum work to do.


               I began every song by doing the bass and snare for each riff. I would put the tempo for the track to whatever I though sounded right, not worrying about actual speed, but in creation. I wrote down tempos and adjusted as needed on my paper. Once the bass and snare were placed for each riff, I would add the cymbals, toms and anything else needed. Speed wise, it would be fastest to do all snare and bass, but realistically, you want to see each riff come to life as you make it to stay inspired. So I would work on each individual section in this manner until I had the song finished. I would then take the paper with all the timings for each riff I wrote down, test each riff’s timing by playing guitar over it, then if happy, render each riff at that tempo, and finally, place them in a separate compositing file. The tracks would last until all drums were silent.


               Since I played over each drum section, the timing usually would be fine, but I would sometimes have to speed up and slow down the drum tracks after doing a full guitar play through. I would do a quick recording of the guitar purely for timing reference, not caring if I played every note properly or if I played every note 100% passionately. Then I did a quick vocal run in the same manner, but making sure to hit any special nuances to make sure I had time to do them and do them correctly. I made sure to make each drum render as fast as possible at first so I could slow them down as needed, because if there’s one thing people don’t want, it’s a boring, slow track that’s supposed to be fast and energetic. Finding the balance is the fun part though because you want those hard notes to hit, and the faster a riff is, the less hard notes will hit.


               Once drums were done, I would record bass. I would play over the drum tracks a few times before recording to check timing again and adjust drums as needed. Then I would record until I got the take/takes I wanted. I would try to get the bass in one run, which it was for the most part, but its always good to do at least 3 playthroughs you’re happy with so you have tracks to work with later. One playthough, the verse could be perfect and the chorus sloppy, and the opposite could be true on the next track and they could mesh together flawlessly. I made sure to listen to the tracks alone and then together then use parts of other tracks for certain sections as needed before I left for the night.


               Then I would record guitar. It would vary whether I did lead or rhythm first depending on the song. I would leave solos for last. This was generally the easiest part, but I did many, many, MANY repetitions until I got it “perfect” or as close to perfect as I could possibly get it. I used the same, multiple take approach here as well using more than one take only when absolutely necessary. This generally took most of a day per song. Once again I’d listen multiple times to make sure everything was as I wanted it before I moved on.


               I recorded vocals in usually 1-2 hours, so this was the fastest step and a releif once I got to it because it was the least time consuming and marked the finish of a track. I made sure to do each section (basically until I got to something with a decent pause) was exactly how I wanted it until I moved on to the next section. I would listen multiple times each time I recorded so I could do better on the next pass. Each section would have as many as 9 takes before I got one I was happy with. Each section if not multiple sections were usually their own separate takes.


               Once I thought I got the vocals good, I would listen to it the rest of the night (like I said guitars would take up most of the day and vocals would take a bit too, so it would be pretty late by the time I finished) to make sure everything was perfect as could be and patch things up if needed.


               I would usually do this workflow in 3 song increments. As the drums would take a long time to make, and time restrictions would only allow me to do things at certain times, I would just make each track as I could. This kept me inspired because instead of finishing all drums, all bass, ect at once, it felt like I was making a kickass masterful song rather than a whole album. With this mindset, as long as you keep the album goal in your mind, it lets you really connect with each song more because you work on the song until its finished and move on to the next one.


               The bass had to be recorded starting 2-4AM until about 8AM because I had to record at Hemorage’s practice studio where the gear was since I don’t own my own bass gear. I had to record that late because it is a “practice studio” meaning that there are other people in the building playing constantly and that would usually be my only window. I would sleep after I got off work and set alarms for midnight, 2AM, and 4AM to make sure I could record. I would keep going until I got the 2-3 tracks done I had ready on drums.


               The guitars took all day and I recorded in my apartment, meaning I could only record guitar on my days off of work. I was pretty much working full time 5 days a week while recording this whole album, along with having to make time for other things on one of my 2 days off. This meant that every day off was precious and I had to make full use of it.


               During the last 2 weeks of recording, finishing the last 3 drum tracks, along with trying to record bass at 2AM, stopping at 8AM, going home and recording guitars all day, you can imagine I only got 2-3 hours of rest during the last 2 weeks of recording directly before the CD release show. I was working nonstop and was feeling super drained, but before I recorded anything I would take an hour or 2 hour nap and 20 minutes or so to wake up so that things sounded and felt energized. Most of the reason why I recorded so close to the CD release is because I planned a highly ambitious art/lyric book.