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How important is it to dedicate a SET PERIOD of time to complete an album?
Old 30th June 2009
  #1
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How important is it to dedicate a SET PERIOD of time to complete an album?

My post is mainly directed at the artist/engineers on this board like i am. I have my own personal studio now that i am using to record my next LP.

Does anyone in the same situation find that setting finite dates of completion help with the process? I find myself working on songs and tweaking them for days and weeks. I still AM! my buddies in the studios had to tell me actually to STOP and move on.

Also emotionally, do you need to be alone or do you like to have people around when you write? it seems that when i have to deal with the issues of work, emails, just crap that happened that day, i can't really focus emotionally in an introspective way. sometimes i feel that it really isnt my studio that is the important thing... i should just fly to Krabi Thailand with my laptop and record
Old 30th June 2009
  #2
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Hashbrown's Avatar
 

Well, last year i spent six months in the studio by myself.
I wanted to see what would come out of it all alone, wanted to see if it was good, great or crap. It turned out pretty much okay, just very flat.
And i'm tired of myself now.

I'm doing it all over again, because i wasn't happy with the results of last year.
One thing i realised is that whether you write the song alone or not, you have to have input from outside. You need to have someone to come in and say: i like that, i don't like that, etc. And you need to respect their comments.
It is all about creating something for other people to listen to. You have to keep them in mind all the time.

I've grown tired of chasing gear and thinking about pre-amps and mics.
I want to record my own stuff in an environment that i'm comfortable in, and have people around me i can bounce ideas around with. I want to create music, not delve into the deepest abyss of what mic sounds like what.
Having said that, hearing yourself through high-end gear makes you feel more pro - leads to a pro performance.
Old 30th June 2009
  #3
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To answer the question with my 2c,
It is important to set a date, but its more important to know whether a song needs more work, and when its finished.
If it takes 25 takes, and it works, it was worth it.
If it works, people will be hearing it for years and years.
Old 30th June 2009
  #4
Vum
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I think it is counterproductive to not set goals while doing a record. It may not be sexy like staying up all night and losing your job - but at least keeping to a roughly outlined schedule keeps your skills sharp.

Having said this I personally feel that if you begin the project and THEN start setting dates etc you are limiting yourself. I think it's best to have a flexible end date but enough rigidity in the day-to-day scheduling to remain as ubiased as possible. Doing your own album is usually more complicated than doing someone elses - using the methods proven to work for other clients is paramount to making it work for yourself as well.
Old 30th June 2009
  #5
It's important to set a completion date so everyone can move on with their lives. I can't remember where I read this quote, but it definitely applies:

"You never finish a record, you just give up on it."
Old 1st July 2009
  #6
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how about the song writing process as opposed to the recording process. it seems i write more emotional songs when i am alone and can think of things... (almost like taking magic papers)

i just feel that doin an album while living my everyday life is not the way to go. i need to block out a period of time and a certain place and come out with a piece of work. have you guys seen a difference between one way or the other?
Old 1st July 2009
  #7
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My band just finished our first album. what was going to take 3 months turned into 9 months. at the end of the recording it was just barely even fun anymore because it had taken so long. next time we are sticking to our dates and budgeting our time much better.
Old 1st July 2009
  #8
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Hashbrown's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkung View Post
how about the song writing process as opposed to the recording process. it seems i write more emotional songs when i am alone and can think of things... (almost like taking magic papers)

i just feel that doin an album while living my everyday life is not the way to go. i need to block out a period of time and a certain place and come out with a piece of work. have you guys seen a difference between one way or the other?
That is the way to go for me, but my boss wouldn't dig it if i told him: "hey man, just taking a month off to go write some deep songs about life"
He would be: "Cool, no problem. In fact, take all the time you need, cause your fired!"

The other way i like to do it is with a steel-string, a handheld digital recorder (i have a super-useful olympus) and a car.
Take a long weekend and go camp in a nature reserve. Walk around, think and lay some ideas down on the recorder, then start pre-prod when you get home. 4 songs a weekend, 3 weekends in 6 months, and you have an album. The next six months you track and mix and then you're doing an album a year, enough to keep your fanbase happy.

Just a thought.
Old 1st July 2009
  #9
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u b k's Avatar
 

I have too many things to say on this topic to type out in one evening, so I'll pick what my guts tells me is the most salient for you and spill it.

Do not use your studio as a writing environment. Get some kind of instant-on, instant-record, portable device, preferably with a built in mic, and use it to flesh out all your ideas (I use an app on my iphone). Keep a notebook for words, and record every little musical idea onto your portastudio of choice. Erase none of them.

Do not set up a mic or go into your studio until you are ready to begin either pre-production tracking (to test things) or final tracking. In other words, have the song written before you try to record it for real. Be able to play the parts start to finish, and practice doing so; this includes singing. So many guys can't even play their own tunes from beginning to end, but they can play you 7 rough mixes of 4 different arrangements. wtf?

Do not loop anything. If possible, use a real drummer; if your songs are emotional, nothing says emotion like a live groove by a talented cat.

Do not cut and paste musical parts, do not comp, do not stitch the song together using disparate pieces, the vibe will lack coherence. Stay organic, stay simple, and always choose the performances that *feel* the best rather than the ones that sound the best.

Get your vocals down as quickly as possible. Do drums, then a guide melody/chord instrument, then lay the vocals. Get a vocal that kicks total ass with the drums, and build the arrangement around those 2. Do not re-record the drums or the vocal, trust your initial judgment and make everything else fit with it. If you write something, no matter how cool, it has to work with and for the vocal or it gets the ax.

Record the vocal with a dynamic mic. Turn your monitors up nice and loud, eat the mic, and sing with the music playing in the room. Your pitch and timing will be light years better than with cans, and you'll be shocked at how non-existent the bleed is.

When it's all tracked, do 3 mixes and have someone help you pick the best.

Throughout the process, get regular feedback from someone who isn't a fanboy. A producer is always a good idea, if you spend money on nothing else spend it on a producer. He doesn't even have to be that amazing, you just need a detached set of ears and some random ideas that you'd never be able to come up with on your own.

If you need to take time off from life to do this, then do it. If you cannot, do not use this as an excuse to delay the process. Discipline yourself, buckle down, push thru the bull****, and make the art. Every day is a new war, do not get complacent. Records have to be earned, often brutally.

Report back when you're done. Get to it!


Gregory Scott - ubk
.
Old 1st July 2009
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
I have too many things to say on this topic to type out in one evening, so I'll pick what my guts tells me is the most salient for you and spill it.

Do not use your studio as a writing environment. Get some kind of instant-on, instant-record, portable device, preferably with a built in mic, and use it to flesh out all your ideas (I use an app on my iphone). Keep a notebook for words, and record every little musical idea onto your portastudio of choice. Erase none of them.

Do not set up a mic or go into your studio until you are ready to begin either pre-production tracking (to test things) or final tracking. In other words, have the song written before you try to record it for real. Be able to play the parts start to finish, and practice doing so; this includes singing. So many guys can't even play their own tunes from beginning to end, but they can play you 7 rough mixes of 4 different arrangements. wtf?

Do not loop anything. If possible, use a real drummer; if your songs are emotional, nothing says emotion like a live groove by a talented cat.

Do not cut and paste musical parts, do not comp, do not stitch the song together using disparate pieces, the vibe will lack coherence. Stay organic, stay simple, and always choose the performances that *feel* the best rather than the ones that sound the best.

Get your vocals down as quickly as possible. Do drums, then a guide melody/chord instrument, then lay the vocals. Get a vocal that kicks total ass with the drums, and build the arrangement around those 2. Do not re-record the drums or the vocal, trust your initial judgment and make everything else fit with it. If you write something, no matter how cool, it has to work with and for the vocal or it gets the ax.

Record the vocal with a dynamic mic. Turn your monitors up nice and loud, eat the mic, and sing with the music playing in the room. Your pitch and timing will be light years better than with cans, and you'll be shocked at how non-existent the bleed is.

When it's all tracked, do 3 mixes and have someone help you pick the best.

Throughout the process, get regular feedback from someone who isn't a fanboy. A producer is always a good idea, if you spend money on nothing else spend it on a producer. He doesn't even have to be that amazing, you just need a detached set of ears and some random ideas that you'd never be able to come up with on your own.

If you need to take time off from life to do this, then do it. If you cannot, do not use this as an excuse to delay the process. Discipline yourself, buckle down, push thru the bull****, and make the art. Every day is a new war, do not get complacent. Records have to be earned, often brutally.

Report back when you're done. Get to it!


Gregory Scott - ubk
.
Greg,

Here listening to MJ Man in the Mirror, reading your post was a good kick in the pants and had some really good song writing tips. thanks....

love this board
Old 1st July 2009
  #11
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
I have too many things to say on this topic to type out in one evening, so I'll pick what my guts tells me is the most salient for you and spill it.
Good post..........

I'm just glad that I'm not working under the gun.
Old 1st July 2009
  #12
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkung View Post
i just feel that doin an album while living my everyday life is not the way to go. i need to block out a period of time and a certain place and come out with a piece of work.
My projects pretty much mirror my everyday life so I record them as I go.

Rather than blocking out time to record, I need to be recording all the time in order to truly capture the feeling. When I get a song I need to track it quickly......so as opposed to a couple of Greg's pointers, I always have a mic ready in my studio and I write a lot of my stuff there.

I am one of those guys who needs to go back and learn my own songs.
Old 1st July 2009
  #13
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I set a deadline to complete a 4 song EP in 1.5 yrs. Now I'm into my 3rd year, and counting

A few days ago I was looking back and I found this past 3 yrs felt like a huge blackhole for me, of nothingness. I stopped developing as a person, my social life dwindled, and I became a lean mean music making robot. It is not that the music I made ended up sounding robotic, in fact on the contrary it is very soulful, but like someone said earlier, it sounded "very flat" and kinda 1-dimensional. My music is only beautiful in its degree of desolation.

It really is important to let other people hear it, musicians or otherwise, while in the process. You will be surprised how they can pick out such a simple flaw that escapes you when you listen to your own songs about 500 times a day and can play it backwards in your mind.

I would say, if you are doing everything on your own, set proportions of time relative to each process, instead of setting a deadline. Spend 70% of the time on writing and honing the song till you know in your bones you can die a happy man if this is the last song you are going to write. Make sure the song is the embodiment of you during the time of your life which you are writing it. Spend another 20% working on the song arrangement and production to highlight the character of the song. Spend the last 10% on recording, editing, mixing, etc etc. I spent so much time because I was learning as I go along cos I know so little.

On songwriting, what the rest said about limiting yourself to as few tools as possible is true, and also about going off somewhere. It is so hard to reset oneself and put ourselves into a relaxed and alternate state of mind which is so important to creativity.

Once I went to Bali for a week and stayed in the room of the inn throughout except for meals. The inn owner got worried that I killed myself inside. I wrote 2 songs there, one of them I just came out of the shower and completed in 5 mins, and something I am very proud of. Throughout the day I would lie on the bed and play my guitar (yes I brought it along), drink Bintang beer, smoke my clove Sampoerna cigarettes on the little balcony I have and just take my time to do my laundry, fix myself coffee and snacks. I really have to do it again soon after my EP is done or I will be committing myself to a mental institution in no time
Old 1st July 2009
  #14
Lives for gear
Good - fast - cheap. Pick two.

My current project we're going "good" and "cheap." Though "cheap" is relative because of the investment in equipment.
Old 1st July 2009
  #15
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otobianki74's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon View Post
Good - fast - cheap. Pick two.
if I can embellish on this...

yes, pick two, but:

if you want good and fast, it will not be cheap.

if you want fast and cheap, it will not be good.

If you want good and cheap, it will not be fast.

oto
Old 1st July 2009
  #16
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goldphinga's Avatar
 

When you are learning your craft, you shouldnt impose too many deadlines on yourself as youll end up missing them and moving them as you discover new techniques.

Deadlines are only became useful once i had my process down. My last album took under a year make, whereas the first one took almost 2 years as i was learning so much along the way.

UBK's post is great but what youve got to remember its a personal thing, not a one size fits all solution.

peas
Old 1st July 2009
  #17
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la grange's Avatar
 

this is one of the most relevant thread that I have seen for a long time>
Maybe because i can relate to a lot of what have been said before.
It is something I can't comprehend. Why record if you are not ready to release.
You can make 20 different version of a song? still like none? Well 2 things:
you are not talented or you are scared ****less!
I have spent 7 month last year recording, producing, mixing an album for a Canadian Idol dude that bought his contract out. He wanted to do his thing, his way.
For a first release it is pretty good and he was thrilled.
It was finished april 2008. Nothing has been done since. I have mixed about a dozen of his shows since, he has never mentioned the fact that he had CD for sale.
First I thought he didn't like the end result. Offered to rework some of the material etc.. But it happens that he really likes the stuff...
The other day, he rang me to ask if I had some time so he could start working on some new stuff.............!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So if someone can explain to me this sort of inner feeling regarding the need to create and never release beside the odd mate/musician that will listen to it, I would be so greatfull.
When I listen to his stuff, there is raw feeling, emotions. He is capable of reaching your heart and give you goose bumps. He sings very very well.
I am extremely picky and I can say he is good.

But I just don;t understand the doubt thing. The dude has sung in front of 20 000 people and they all loved him. What is the problem then...
I am puzzled!

Oli
Old 1st July 2009
  #18
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la grange's Avatar
 

the above might feel it is out of the subject but I reckon the symptoms might be different but the problem is the same.
Show me the light....

Oli
Old 1st July 2009
  #19
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its funny... at times my music does represent my everyday life but often times i will consider these songs mixtape songs (i do hip hop and pop music). something that is a snippet of my feelings at that time. I feel that much of hip hop today is like this...

but when i really wanna write a piece of music i need to be in the zone. i actually am writing this post because i wrote a few songs when i was in Phuket last week. BALI is fantastic too. I just felt compelled to write songs when i was there because I had time to get away and think...

about the timing aspect. i have a multifunctional studio. I do a few syndicated radio shows here as well. I record radio ads and do vocal dubs. I also write and arrange in this studio. I record songs for my EP as well. I then send them to be mixed.

I just feel that time passes faster this way and my EP never gets done. Its probably me not working hard enough but i am glad there are people on this board that feel my pain...
Old 1st July 2009
  #20
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

Let me clarify that my only intention is to give someone a basic structure that favors limitations rather than freedoms, and that establishes clear boundaries between those aspects of the process that, when they get blurred together, seem to trip people up most.

As with any set of rules, the rules are there to serve the constituent, not the other way around. Use what I say, use what *anyone* says, as a starting point for your own inquiry. As others have rightly pointed out, this is an intensely personal journey, and you will have your own way of doing things. But I do recommend adopting a structure for at least one song, to see it thru start to finish, and make adjustments for the next go around.

What's most important as you evolve your process is to be honest at all points in time about what is working and what isn't, and be ruthless about changing or eliminating habits or practices that are standing in the way of productivity.

I, too, have a mic up on every instrument, with its own pre, its own channel on the desk, and its own track on the open reel. But this is not to facilitate writing, it's to facilitate capturing ideas for a song whose form and content are established enough that it's graduated to tracking/production.

Another thing I do: I capture drums with one mic on one track. Mixing drums is a gigantic black hole of distraction for me, so I've eliminated the opportunity from the outset (see 'be ruthless' above). Because I'm on tape, I am limited to 8 tracks, so once I fill them up I have to submix and bounce, then erase the originals, if I want to free up space. This not only forces me to reckon with whether I really want to add something to the arrangement, it forces me to make choices that I can't go back on. once two sounds have been blended and the originals erased, there's no going back.

It worked for the Beatles, it's working pretty well for me. thumbsup


Gregory Scott - ubk
.
Old 1st July 2009
  #21
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by la grange View Post
So if someone can explain to me this sort of inner feeling regarding the need to create and never release beside the odd mate/musician that will listen to it, I would be so greatfull.

There are some personality types (in the Kiersey-Bates sense) for whom creativity, the creative process, is the end unto itself. I know this because I happen to be one of those types (you can test yourself at MyPersonality.info - Personality Types and Multiple Intelligences Tests & Information).

For us, it is enough to simply be creative, to allot time and space to do and to make and to explore. But it is not very important that we be known for it, or recognized for it, or cull any sense of identity from it.

This is actually why I've adopted such a rigorous structure to my artistic process: without it, I'll drift endlessly, albeit happily. But I do feel as though I've got a lot of talent and gifts, and I'd like to have some record of the things I do, and maybe others will enjoy some of it in the process.


Gregory Scott - ubk
.
Old 1st July 2009
  #22
Gear Maniac
 

I'm actually working on a personal trilogy of albums currently. Whats most important before you even step foot in studio is to have your Pre Production completely worked out, and once you've done that, you stick to the plan.

As of right now, I'm working on the Pre Production of the 2nd album because its actually the easiest of all three. I'm also probably going to do them in the order of 2, 1, and 3.

Ok, maybe I should answer the question.

Its very important. I actually can't finish the 2nd album without my friend Mike coming up from LA, setting aside a brief period of time, and figure out what it is we want to do. I'm the kind of person that needs direction and ideas being bounced around with people who I trust. I'm also the kind of person who doesn't trust most people with my concepts and ideas. This is Pre Production time that must be taken in order for Production to go as smoothly as possible. When I get into Production, of course there is a set period of time to complete the album. I estimate this time should be no longer then 104-150 hours from tracking to completed final mixes per album. This is if there is no beat detective or editing work is needed. However, most of us have no problem with doing that sort of stuff at home on our own time. Possibly even mixing at home as well which could shed off about anywhere between 56-100 hours.

But yeah, if you do your pre production right, don't screw around in the studio, you should have a finished album anywhere between 100-150 hours depending on how complex your album is.
Old 1st July 2009
  #23
+ 1 to what ubik says.

I just finished my debut album, which I recorded all by myself (electronic stuff with vocals and some acoustic instruments). I have a daily job and in order to finish the tracks I needed a 3 weeks off - just to spend it with the album. I thought its enough, but it was not - needed another three weeks. My point is - go with Your rhytm. Setting a date is important but dont get schizofrenic about it. I myself motivated with a simple but rather brutal trick - I just sent an information to all the media about the CD release date and did all the arrangement with media patrons beforehand. Not the safest way but it shurely motivated me. I passed the set release date just a week, but it all worked out great for me. Just now what You want to do, prepare and do it regularly. And BREATH - its obvious but many people forget about it

Cheers
Marty

P.S And dont hang aroud here too much - its a very seductive forum - I am here for few years and bought a lot of stuff. And the more I bought, the more I realised that a good song is all that really matters
Old 2nd July 2009
  #24
Lives for gear
 

the only time i really don't let people listen to my music is when i think it doesn't represent me. Often times as an artist, I write songs that may be good or pop but doesn't capture who i am. I just sell these songs and are totally ok with people listening to the demo knowing its for someone else.

when i have my own song i dont let people listen to, its usually cuz i am insecure and it probably sucks.

back on the timing thing. I think instead of thinking about timing, might as well set and end date and stick to it. see you guys in a month with 5 new songs!
Old 2nd July 2009
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Do not use your studio as a writing environment. Get some kind of instant-on, instant-record, portable device, preferably with a built in mic, and use it to flesh out all your ideas (I use an app on my iphone). Keep a notebook for words, and record every little musical idea onto your portastudio of choice. Erase none of them.
.
I will do my best to do this because i think this will allow me to focus on the emotion as well as the melody. In HIP HOP and Dance this will be harder because the song is so beat driven. I could always bounce out a wav of the backing file and go somewhere else to write. I think i will try that.
Old 2nd July 2009
  #26
RTR
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RTR's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hashbrown View Post
That is the way to go for me, but my boss wouldn't dig it if i told him: "hey man, just taking a month off to go write some deep songs about life"
He would be: "Cool, no problem. In fact, take all the time you need, cause your fired!"

The other way i like to do it is with a steel-string, a handheld digital recorder (i have a super-useful olympus) and a car.
Take a long weekend and go camp in a nature reserve. Walk around, think and lay some ideas down on the recorder, then start pre-prod when you get home. 4 songs a weekend, 3 weekends in 6 months, and you have an album. The next six months you track and mix and then you're doing an album a year, enough to keep your fanbase happy.

Just a thought.
I wish I WOULD (not could cuz I can) do all the above..I have all the time I need ( Im laid off and my wife works) I come to the studio every day meaning to write but I always get side tracked and reading here on GS...I cant get anything done, plus I am working alone and I get so frickin board sometimes..I think I need to bring a friend in to write with!!!
Old 2nd July 2009
  #27
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la grange's Avatar
 

Something that I have noticed from work dragging on and on is it sounds more produced than payed as a general rule.
We ca all agree that Chinese Democracy is The Example.
The long uncertainty situation happened to me twice and looking at the breakdown of hours it was always a ratio of 3 to 1 towards prod/editing/mixing against tracking .
I always listen back to the preprods at the end of a project and in both cases I ended finding the preprod more authentic, more representing the essence of the artist.
To much time in the studio, especially for a first album, is not always a good thing. Lots and lots of tracks, extremely high layering mix in general, sens of discontinuity.
Do you guys recognize something in those words or is it just me.

Oli

PS I love this thread, I think I learn a lot more than 99% of the rest of the stuff in this website.
Old 3rd July 2009
  #28
Here for the gear
 

<< I think I need to bring a friend in to write with!!! >>

Yes! I agree whole-heartedly! I call it the "studio buddy system." It keeps the "hot potato" of musical exploration 'in motion' and makes the recording experience much more of a fun/interesting "journey." Working alone on music is highly overrated, IMHO!
Old 3rd July 2009
  #29
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
I had a conversation about this today with an artist I am currently working with. The band has been recording themselves for about a year and a half and never got anything they thought was worth releasing, so they hired me. They do not have a big budget so we are working super fast. we tracked the whole album in about 6 days. He told me today that the band can not believe how much better everything was about this version of making the record. Of course I have more engineering skills because of my experience, but they said it was more fun, more exciting, the sounds are better and more importantly the performances are better. He told me they had been nitpicking parts for over a year, and without that option we just plowed through and they played better.

Unlimited time and options is the death of great art.
Old 3rd July 2009
  #30
js1
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Writing and arranging are different from recording. If I worry about getting down proper final parts before I have the song written and arranged such that I'm happy with it - a huge drain on time. I have a lot emotionally invested into a well recorded part that doesn't serve the song.

Working on your own is a huge trap - I know cause I've fallen into it. Very few of us have the skills of Prince.

So, I'm taking a different tack this time. I'm writing, arranging and recording sparse demos for the sole purpose of putting them in front of musicians that can add to what I've done, and then recording the bed tracks as a group. I expect much better results, but, it's an experiment.

js
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