Here is another graph that I've found useful in this month's recording process.
I often remember that quote that says you can only explain something in simple worlds when you know it very well (example: Einstein won the the Nobel prize with a 5 pages essay).
I'm getting better at that and my processes shows. (The graph is in the unrefined Spanglish I've come to use in my computer and my notes; each of the languages has their virtues and shortcomings and I just pick the right tool for eah task each time).
Green shows the accomplished parts, red the still pending.
The black rectangle on the bottom is a "traffic light" that shows how well I'm doing. This month I'm having some unexpected complications with the guitar distortion, so I'm delayed from my plans and the light is red. That is also to say, I won't be able to deliver this month's song. I'll write about that when I'm finished with this iteration.
Here is a diagram I've been using the whole week as the index page of my processes to record bass takes. It's like a 20,000 feet view of the whole input-output thing, and helps me a lot in getting into the work in process quick.
I offer it without further commentary, just as possible inspiration for other musicians to create their own visual guides that help them deal with the 9 headed hydra. Like the saying goes, if you're not visual you're not lean.
Also, by the time you read these lines my process will probably be different already so why bother... take the inspiration and apply what is worth to your own particular problems.
Another thing any musically skilled human being is trying to figure out in the new millenium is how to go about branding.
The branding of yore was in part created by the industrial production needs; a CD is a stable item, a product you want to go through certain standards before putting it out through the door.
The name of the band doubled then as the product brand; "the name you know". The simple word, the logo, evoked a series of emotions, the consumer knew very quickly what to expect to find in the package. The examples are many.
But the coin in music always has too sides, so the product is also a piece of art. This brand thing often turns out to be, even now, a nasty restraint for artists, human beings who advance in their life journey, make mistakes, mature, learn, and sometimes want or need to give musical expression to those experiences; or simple try something new for the heck of it. Neil Young comes to mind, with his electronic experiments, or his concerts where he refused to play "the hits", a commercial suicide I guess, even though he provided fair warning.
A more recent example is a member of Testament saying that they have a certain fear of going too far with experiments and cause deception among fans. There are also examples of bands who seem to change just because, whimsically, without a clear purpose (Megadeth is in my view the big representative).
As for my own case, the baseline I'm using in this matter, and this is an eternal work in process, is considering branding as an act of "politeness" towards the audience.
I create freely, I don't reject anything that comes knocking to my brain, but then I draw those "lines in the sand" not to confuse listeners, who are often highly especialized.
Like I say, these are lines in the sand for me; so I'm not too clingy to the "brand"; to me it is a provisional thing, useful but somewhat arbitrary. Also, it is not so meaningful nowadays, with the CD gone and the production means changing, and the listener preferences moving and hopefuly evolving.
In the end, the hour of truth is the live event, and there brands take a back step in relation to the human experience; you just do what works for the hour. The act can be publiziced as "Ozzy Osbourne" but nobody will protest if he sings a Sabbath song. Or, back to Neil Young, he often plays songs that, in purity, belong to the "Crosby Stills Nash & Young" band. Will someone go "Hey, I want my money back!" when the first notes of "Ohio" start to sound? I highly doubt it.
Here's the new song I've been working on this month. I made the deadline (barely), but I couldn't write this post before. I'm sure there are fluctuations in the Dow Jones due to this delay, so apologies.
I am delayed in the process of starting the next song, because I'm doing a thorough, very enjoyable, post-mortem of this one. Going slow to go fast. I'm tranquil about the March deadline because I have a lot of songs that are "halfway there" in my wip folder, so, in Lean terms, I'm using the composing, preproduction and recording stages as a protective buffer. However, there is nothing sacred about my "one song a month" pace, so I don't intend to keep it stubbornly at the expenses of quality if that turns to be an issue. Let's see how I do this month, and then I might change to the "a song WITHIN each month" formula, or any other solution.
A hansei stage has been added to my process, and I think for good. The S-A (Study Adjust) part of the PDSA cycle is often very volatile, so I'm very happy to see so clearly its tangible results. "Next song will be better" is no longer wishful thinking. Better processes will lead to better results, there's nothing magic about that (no magic, although often good luck embraces you when you embrace this kind of thinking).The things I could, I solved along the way. The others went to hansei.txt, and I'm dealing with them one by one, and I love it. In the end, it's a matter of organization. Instead of the random "I'm going to surf Internet for audio production tips that I can add to my arsenal" that I used to do, now I write what went wrong, and then go for it like a sniper during this stage, and it all adds up. (I also write what went well, and standardize it).
Now with the particular song, "8 AM". This one's travelled in my head for almost 2 decades, in the zipped state I've describbed in a previous post. For a long time I ditched it because the melody in the crescendo part was too similar to that cheesy 80's song, "Footloose", something downright embarrassing when you're a young punk. I've faced that problem finally with a typical strategy of modern art, incorporating the criticism to the work itself; I say "footloose" and the end, like saying yeah, I know I know. I like this trick and use it often, maybe because it "pays homage" to others (art is not created in a vacum, you are what you eat), and also is a healthy way of not taking yourself too seriously.
As for other, less embarrassing influences, the start-stop-start-stop structure and the singing style probably have a lot to thank to Butthole Surfers (specifically "Moving to Florida", also anything from "Rembrandt Pussyhorse"). There are a lot of other influences from diverse sources enrichening the thing and I had a lot of fun recording this. I also want to emphatically make clear that this is NOT based on a true story. I have never, never, ever been in the situation described in the song. I've never been caught by my father while I was arriving home drunk at 8 in the morning. Nuff said. :P
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it