It’s been awhile since Ben has written here… And he’s got a lot to say. Here you go….
This is a story about the journey of a song. It starts with an idea and ends up as a product that you can listen to!
This particular story is about a song called ’20 Hours of Texas.’ And I want to explain the process of getting it from idea to product.
The story begins about 18 months ago when Doug (who we affectionately call ‘Uncle Buck’) and Sally, met my wife Angela and I for lunch. Doug and Sally are Wendy’s parents and they were in Sydney for a holiday.
So I asked Uncle Buck what he they were up to when they got back to the US. He said that they were travelling from Arizona to Florida and that they would be going through Texas.
He said, “In fact it will be 20 hours of Texas.”…. Well the light bulb lit up and my radar went off! And I replied, “Now, that is a great song title.” We all agreed.
So when I returned home from lunch. I sat down and started wring the song. I could hear a Texas blues song with slide guitar and Texan references. So about an hour later, I had the music and lyrics written.
It was so complete, that I recorded it on my home studio the very next day: The drums, bass, 2 guitars, solos and all the vocals.
The next step was to send a copy to the other Concord Joe band members (Wendy, Vince and ‘Killer’).
The very next Concord Joe gig, I think we played it on stage for the very first time…unrehearsed!
If a musician does their homework, a song can be thrown on stage and played. It is sometimes a bit wobbly but at least it’s had an ‘airing.’ In fact, it’s a great way to road test any song.
A year later, with 8 new and road tested songs we decided to record an album. Our first release was a self titled EP simply called Concord Joe. This was to be our second release… an album.
THE RECORDING AND ENGINEERING
In November last year, we went in to A# Studios in Riverwood and recorded 8 songs pretty much live. Then, added the vocals and harmonies later that day. Recordings are not normally done this quick, but we were budget conscious and also wanted to try and capture a ‘live’ feel.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Now here’s the rest of the story pertaining to the song ’20 Hours of Texas.’
Not only because it has a story, but it was also the first song we recorded on the day and it’s also the first song on our new album ‘Gold Dust.’
Once we were all set up in the recording studio, the engineer, Richard Lake then put microphones in all the appropriate places… one for each drum, 2 overheads, the 2 guitar amps (Marshall and Fender) and the bass amp.
As we were running through the song he was able to grab a sound through his desk to put down. In the old days, it was tape recording but now it all goes to computer.
Once he liked the sound of the drums, guitars and bass, we were all set to play the song and record it. This process happened of course for all 8 songs.
When all the instruments were recorded, we started adding all the lead vocals first and then all the harmonies. We were chuffed that we had been able to do all of that in one day!
The next day we came in to another studio with the songs on file and added all the guitar solos and tweaked some of the vocals. By the end of that second day we had 8 songs complete…ready to be mixed.
So everything we played and sang is now all on file in the computer, but not necessarily in the right space, tone or volume.
The next step in the process is the mix down.
A nameless person had been recommended to mix the album…(woops!). This guy had no idea what he was doing. For example, a vocal block harmony should be audible. Guitars should be coming out of left and right speakers to various degrees to add depth and stereo spread to the overall sound. Bass drum and bass guitar are traditionally placed in the center for balance and frequency.
This is a simplification of what is needed, but you can imagine it takes time to place everything in the right spot and with the right sound and equalization.
This took 4 weeks as well. And then we listened back and it sounded all wrong. It was a waste of 4 weeks, but nevertheless, a learning curve. So we decided to send all the songs on file to a friend of ours in Queensland who mixed our first EP.
We should have done this in the first place because Jake did a sterling job considering he had never heard any of the 8 songs before! With a little bit of back and forth tweaking we finally had our songs back to us, all mixed and with everything in the right place!
But it doesn’t stop there. The next step is a very important process. It’s called Mastering.
This is where the mastering engineer listens to the music and with the aid of compression (that’s keeping all the volume levels at an even level so that nothing jumps out or gets hidden in the mix, and equalization (that’s getting all the frequencies in the right spot so that all the instruments and vocals can be easily distinguishable in the songs.
The Mastering engineer (in this case Don Bartley) also puts all the songs in the correct order and puts the right amount of space between each song.
So in simple terms he makes the songs ‘sparkle’ top end frequencies and the bass end of the song gets tightened up so it sounds ‘punchy’. Some of these musical terms are not really as descriptive as I would want them.
This process was very easy on our end and not time consuming. This is because it was put in the right hands and technology allowed me to send songs over the net and receive them all done a few days later! By the way, the recording, the overdubs, the mixing and the mastering all have their own fees attached. So the cost of the album is starting to add up now….
But we are still not finished…
While all of this was going on, I had been designing the artwork for the cover of the CD and the case it comes in. I love my iPad!
The final tweaks were done by a good friend of ours Glenn, who did the final cropping and sizing to match the CD production companies’ requirements.
By now, the songs sound like they should, the art looks like it should, so all of this is sent again by internet to a production company who then manufacture a box of CDs, ready to sell!
When you are listening to ’20 Hours Of Texas’ from the Concord Joe album ‘Gold Dust,’ you now have some idea as to how long it can take and how diverse the process is, to get an idea morphed in to a product that you can listen to on your computer or your car or on headphones on your smart phone…
NOTE: The album launch is Saturday, March 19th. Available to buy on all download sites and live at the gigs. 🙂