Thursday, February 26, 2009

Waiting

                                         Yayoi Ikawa- Piano
Blog # 4 Waiting

So, I was talking to a friend of mine and he asked me why I hadn’t updated my blog recently. My response was that nothing had happened. Waiting. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized waiting (impatiently) was also an important part of making an album. Waiting. I have all my notes on what needs to be edited, but I can’t do ANYTHING until I hear back from the studio and find out when they have some free time for me to come in and work on it together with them. Waiting. I guess waiting is a very important, albeit frustrating part of releasing an album. I’ve always been someone who has trouble just sitting around, I like to work, and so all this waiting just drives me nuts. Waiting. A lot of time if I arrive at a gig early, I’ll go take a walk, or practice a bit; its hard to do nothing. As far as the record is concerned, if it was worked on everyday the whole thing would probably be finished and released in 2 or 3 weeks. Sadly the world does not work this way. Waiting. Maybe this is one reason I practice so much, I can fill hours of 'downtime' with something productive.

Waiting; the hardest part.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Editing Prep

                                   Nick Anderson- Drums
Blog #3: Editing Prep


When I left the studio after the two days of recording I was giving two cd’s worth of material to listen to. The next step was to listen to all the takes and pick which ones I wanted on the record. This was relatively easy for the most part and after picking which takes I liked, I then went through the selected tracks and listened for any mistakes we could potentially fix; IE if the bass played a wrong note during the head, or the trumpet came in early, a wrong piano chord. By no means am I fixing every small error or flubbed note. That would really be opposite to the whole idea of ‘jazz’. To me the editing was more about making sure the melodies are correct and sound strong and to make sure there’s no obvious mistakes. To give you an example of the notes I’ve made, here are what I wrote down for one track:

Double check Sax’s melody @ :53
Check tuning of trumpet @1:00 (possible over-dub from 1st A)
Boost trumpet volume during “building section” of tune @ 4:15
Boost trumpet volume on out head @5:23
Fade ending quicker at end of tune

I probably would have felt differently about editing at all a few years ago. When I was at Muhleberg College I was studying with John Swana and asked him if they ever had to do editing or splicing on his records for Criss Cross (which I am a huge fan of). He said there was splicing on every one of his records. After hearing that I started noticing edits more and more as I listened to records I had loved. Some of my favorite albums, like Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles, have splices all over them. But a good edit or splice is almost unnoticeable. We all know that Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way” record is made totally out of splicing; and it is a great record.

The hardest track to edit will be, without a doubt, the one song we did 8 takes of. I mentioned this song in an earlier blog. Some of these takes lack energy, others have form mistakes. This track might end up being a Frankenstein IF it makes it to the final CD. I have a lot of notes prepared about this song already, so we’ll see what we can do when I go back to the studio to do the actually editing and mixing.

Once I'm finished reviewing this track, I’ll schedule some time and go back to the studio to do the actual Editing and Mixing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Recording




Blog # 2: Recording

Recording went fairly smoothly. It took us a couple of takes to get warmed up because we were all a little tense. There’s something about knowing that what you’re about play will be permanent that is hard to shake from your mind. As a jazz musician, it is comforting to know that any mistakes you play at a live show will disappear into the air after you’ve played them, unfortunately this is not the case on a recording. Day one(Jan 28th 2009), we recorded 12-6pm and played all 9 songs. We pretty much played every track just once before moving on to the next, knowing if we had time at the end of the day we would go back and do second takes. I feel that doing multiple takes back-to-back can really kill the creativity and energy of the song, so I try to avoid it. I think people start thinking too much about what they want to play, rather than being more spontaneous, and letting it naturally happen. I also had a recording order ready for the songs when I went into the studio, so my chops wouldn’t get tired prematurely.

After the first day I went home (exhausted) and listened to the tracks. Being an extremely self-critical person, I thought I had played terribly. I even texted my friend John Beaty, freaking out about how I thought I had bombed and ruined my own recording. After a good night rest, I woke up the following day and gave the tracks a second listen too, and felt MUCH better about them. It was obvious that my mind was just tired from the long day of recording and the tracks I had listened to were the first ones we did (while we were all ‘tense’ and getting warmed-up). It can be very difficult to listen to oneself, I find if I pretend I’m listening to someone else I can enjoy the recording a lot more, and with this mindset, I think the recording went very well.

The morning of the second day(1/29/09) I listened to all the tracks we recorded the day before. I returned to the studio having made notes of songs we would need to do another take of, and other small errors we could fix. Most tunes ended up being just 1 or 2 takes, but there was one song that we just couldn’t get right. We did 8 takes, and it was obvious that I might have to do some editing on that one before it makes it to the record. While nothing was ‘technically’ wrong with any of the takes, I felt like the ‘vibe’ was not quite right. During the recording, we tried switching the solo order and bringing in John Beaty (saxophone), who was originally going to sit out on this song. Listening to the recording from the first day was very helpful, it really let me go in with a game plan the second day as to what needed work and what was already finished.

Overall I think my preparation and focus leading up to the recording helped a lot. Unfortunately there were things that I couldn’t anticipate, such as getting a cold the day before we recorded. It is also difficult to play while wearing the headphones, because the sound you hear back of yourself is slightly different; its like talking and hearing someone else’s voice come out. By the second day I got used to it, and I think next time I record will be much easier. As far as being physically prepared, I probably over-did it a bit with the practicing leading up to the recording. People who are familiar with Athletes and ‘Peaking’, will know what I’m talking about; live and learn. But all and all, I would say the recording was a success.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Preparing to Record


So at this writing, the process is already underway, because I had the idea to start this blog mid-way through the process. So the next 2 entries will be bringing you up to speed.

I moved to New York in the fall of 05’ to get my Masters Degree from NYU(which I have since completed). Now in early 09’ I have decided to record my first album. First, I decided to use friends of mine for the recording because I knew they would all be able to put more effort into rehearsing than if I spent more money getting “Big Name” musicians. I also felt I could play more difficult material, because we would have more rehearsal time, along with the simple fact that I just really love the way they play.

Here is the line-up for the CD:

Jon Crowley- trumpet, flugelhorn
John Beaty- Alto Sax
Yayoi Ikawa- Piano
Peter Schwebs- Bass
Nick Anderson- Drums

Leading up to the recording date I stopped playing sessions with friends and really shut myself off from the outside world as much as possible. I practiced 6-7 hours a day and really tried to get my endurance up before the recording. While I never was a big drinker, I stopped drinking any alcohol and would go on hour-long walks everyday to stay in shape and clear my head between practicing. Though I did spend most of my time practicing by myself, we also did several rehearsals with the group and a gig in Philadelphia before we went into the studio, so that we would be familiar with the music; having played it live.

I contacted Systems 2(a recording studio) in October and scheduled two days in January. Systems 2 is known for being one of the best studios to record jazz in NYC. It is also 10 minutes from my apartment by subway. The recording took place on the 28th and 29th of January. I hired a photographer, Monica Muller to come take pictures as we recorded. My plan was to use these pictures on a future website and possibly in the cover art design.

Mission Statement

MY BLOG; Background Info

Hi everyone, my name is Jon Crowley. I’m am a jazz trumpet player living in New York City and this blog will follow the process of recording and releasing my first album. It is my hope that writing this will help other musicians, who are in the same position as me, avoid mistakes I make along the way, and learn from the successes that I have during this process. For non-musicians, I hope you can get a window into the process of what it takes to record and release an album.

I encourage you to write questions or replies to any of my entries

While working on the album I will also ask for your opinion, so in a way, YOU will be helping me make my album; pick song order, pick album cover, design concept ETC.
Thanks