New album!

You probably have noticed that there haven’t been any new posts here in quite a while. That’s life for you. I was away from recording for quite a while pursuing other interests, but now I’m back.

Yes, I’m back and there’s a new Postal Blue record in the works. This may look like the same post as the last, but a lot has happened between then and now, and this time the album is actually going to be finished and released and it’s going to be great. So as I was saying two years ago, it’s a full-length, and it’s on Plastilina Records. Release date is not set yet, but it’s still several months away since we’re still working on pre-production.

I’ll be writing extensively about the whole process here, and I’ll make sure to post some sound samples and exclusive previews of some of the song demos for the album. Stay tuned.

New album coming up and a fantastic CD Sale!

There’s a new Postal Blue CD coming out soon, and this time it’s a full-length. It’s going to be released by Cloudberry Records’ sister label Plastilina around February 2009, in beautifully designed digipack, artwork by talented and trustworthy Krister Bladh who did the artwork for the recent Postal Blue single (on its way to selling out already).

I couldn’t be happier right now as the new CD has been receiving rave reviews, and I’m finally gaining some momentum regarding my songwriting and actual releases. I’m still a bit stressed over the whole process, as it’s been a while since I’ve written a batch of songs with the pressure of a release in sight.

Another piece of news is that pretty soon all of the Postal Blue catalogue will be available for purchase on the main digital download sellers.

Oh, and, last but not least, Humblebee Recordings is holding a huge sale, and you can get our Road to Happiness CD-EP for a mere $2 plus shipping. Yes, that’s right, $2. There’s a few copies left to go, and Kyle needs to clear space for new Humblebee releases. Click here to buy.

The Daily Practice of Songwriting

The only way for you to learn how to write songs is to actually do it. It’s painfully obvious but it’s true.

Whatever your goals are, don’t wait, do it.

You don’t need to be a master in any aspect of songwriting to actually start writing your songs. I haven’t mastered any part of the music-making process, and yet I keep ploughing. I’m getting better, and a few people fortunately appreciate my efforts, so you might as well do it already or just give up. Ask Bob Dylan if he thinks he’s mastered lyric writing. I bet he’ll say he’s still got a lot to learn. Ask Harry Nilsson if he thinks he’s already learned all there is to learn about songwriting. You can’t, as he’s dead, but he’d probably say NO.

If you need something to read to inspire you or to just get you going, there’s a nifty book by Jimmy Webb (the guy who wrote ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ and ‘Galveston’) called Tunesmith. It has chapters on lyric-writing and chord progressions. I haven’t used much of his advice yet, as I’ve always done it all by instinct, but for this next release I’m starting to work on I’m making an effort to do everything better, and try some of his pointers.

Songs don’t materialize out of thin air at first, but they will, sort of, after you get enough practice in. As the clich√© goes, art is 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. After you hone your skills enough, gems will flow from your pen every now and then without you even knowing or trying.

Daily sessions of improvisation are a great tool to improve your skills. For quite a while, I did daily sessions where I’d try and improvise little songs with tape rolling (it was actually on my computer, but “tape rolling” sounds so much cooler). They were just bits of improvised guitar playing with ad lib lyrics or lalalas that I’d record. I’d do as many of those as I could each day. Later I’d go back, and listen to those recordings. I’d play around with some of them a bit more until they were finished while others I’d keep for later (the really crappy ones I’d discard). Many good songs came out of those sessions, and I found out it’s a brilliant way to hone your songwriting skills.

However, I also found out I generally get much better results when I come up with an idea and work it from start to finish in as little time as I can, preferrably in the same session.

With my latest cd, that’s what I did. All those songs were written and recorded in a single session each. From chord progression to basic bass and drums arrangements plus some keyboard parts, they were all done “a la prima”, including basic vocal melodies. Only lyrics and some “embellishments” were added later.

I found out that all I need to start cranking out tunes is really to get some momentum going. If you practice enough, you learn how to pick out the good bits. You don’t have to be afraid of trying. If it doesn’t work, throw it out. If it works, get it finished as quickly as possible so you can assess it while it’s still fresh in your mind, and you won’t have second thoughts about changing it.

New Postal Blue CD

Wake up, kids! There’s a new Postal Blue CD coming out this week.

It’s a 3″ CD with 3 songs on Cloudberry Records, and you can get it by sending $5 (shipping included)¬† via paypal to shop at cloudberryrecords.com.

You can hear one of the songs by clicking here.

Here’s how it looks:

I’m back now after a long hiatus, and I’m going back to recording. I’ll see you in a few days.

Home studio homework

Fotoromanza

This week’s song is an old one. It was recorded a number of years ago (in 1999, I think) for a Shelflife Records comp. It’s one of the first songs where we dabbled with bossa nova and Brazilian music influences.

As for the title of this post, I, as countless other musicians, have a home studio, and I, as countless other musicians, have been doing it the wrong way from the start, when it comes to acoustic treatment.

Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ll have to go on record to say that my studio is less than optimum when it comes to acoustic treatment. There’s zero soundproofing, and I’ve mixed three records in a very small room with nothing in the way of sound deflectors and absorbers. Don’t do that!

Seriously, I’ve done it out of ignorance and laziness. Soundproofing can be expensive, but acoustic treatment can be done cheaply, and there are no excuses not to do anything about it.

Very few lucky people can afford the luxury of building their studio from scratch. If you’re one of them, all you need is a book like this, and you’re set. You can also hang around the Recording Studio Design Forum to learn a lot about the subject BEFORE you start building.

However, if you’re retrofitting an existing room into a recording/mixing room, there a few things you should worry about, and I’ll only hint at things here, and perhaps save you from a lot of aggravation. Don’t ask me technical questions, just go and do your homework. Research.

I’m moving into a new home soon, and I’m planning on doing a number of things to my new studio. I’ve decided not to do anything to my current “studio” (really, calling this small closet-like room is an offense to real studios), mainly because I’m moving away, and also because it’s way too small to even do anything to it. Yes, I COULD do something to improve it, but, as I said, I’m moving, so I won’t do anything for now.

Anyway, a few pointers as to what you should worry about in your MIXING room (recording room acoustics is not as crucial as mixing room acoustics, and if you recording in the same space you’re mixing in, it’s only one room you’ll have to treat anyway).

One of the problems in my room is that two of the walls have different surfaces. One is all glass while the other is concrete with a curtain hanging over it. I could reduce the issues by putting up curtains on the glass side too. Walls facing each other should have the same kinds of surfaces, even if you place absorbers and diffusers on them you should set them up so there’s one facing each other. What you’re worried about here is standing waves that emphasize particular frequencies, so diffusers are a must if you have parallel walls. If you’re building, you can avoid this by design a room with nonparallel walls.

Another issue with my room is that it’s square. Yes, I know, big no no. The front wall is way too close to the back wall. Your front wall needs to be far away enough from the back wall so that your ears can differentiate between sound you’re hearing directly from your nearfield monitors and sound reflected from the back of the room. When it’s too close, it all gets jumbled together by the brain, and it’s detrimental to your perception.

One way to help this situation is to place absorbers on the back wall. The side walls and the ceiling should be treated the same way, if they’re too close to your ears. The ideal solution for the ceiling is to build a slant into it, making it lower in the front, and higher in the back, so the sound coming from the monitors is reflected to the back of the room.

Another big issue especially with small rooms is bass buildup in the corners of the room. You can solve this easily by building bass traps. If your monitors are somewhat near to the corners of your room, you should look into placing bass traps in those corners. I have been to studios before and after the installation of bass traps, and I can tell you it makes a lot of difference.

So far we have seen that my recording/mixing room has all the flaws imaginable, and I have done nothing right about it except for accidentally placing shelves full of books on the back wall (they act as diffusers rather than absorbers, but they help a little anyway).

There’s a lot of info all over the internet about all this, and there’s no excuse for anyone to work in a completely messed up environment like I’ve been doing. My life could have been a lot easier all this time if only I had done a few things to improve the situation. Don’t be like me, and do something about it.

I’m On My Way Home…

Ok, so I’ve been kept from blogging this week, and I’ve actually taken the chance to avoid recording anything too. Yeah, how stupid is that. I haven’t done much musically these days except for learning a bunch of songs on guitar. I’m teaching myself to play fingerpicking acoustic guitar. Youtube has been of much help, as there are plenty of great musicians who post videos of their playing there. You can just do a search on a song you want to learn, and up comes a demo of it.

So far I’ve learned a bunch of Beatles, Beach Boys and some good old bossa nova. I’ve also taken the time to learn a bunch of Prefab Sprout songs by ear. Not as hard as I expected, especially if you tune your guitar down a half-step in many cases.

As an update to my laptop situation, I’ve sent it to the shop, and I should get it back next Wednesday. I’ll try and post a new song the day I get it back. In case anyone’s wondering, it cost me about R$650 which is about $400. Ouch. I could have bought a new guitar or something with that money. Or a bunch of books and records. Oh, well…

100 reais bill

Tragedy

Someone “miraculously” broke my laptop’s screen today. I won’t tell who nor how, but it wasn’t me, and I’m VERY pissed off. Furthermore, it will cost me half as much the price of a new one to fix it. So, until I’m able to scrape a few hundred bucks to fix this thing, this blog is on hold. I might be able to post from work, but uploading music will be a PITA, since file hosting sites are banned there.

I’ll see what I can do.

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