Getting some help on the production for the album casing from my fahter. We are still trying to figure out the material, but the first sketch is going to be 3D printed.
Debut Album Release.
On the 19th of March will be releasing my debut album: Sisucunda and the Entrepreneurs of Survival. I would like to invite you in on my process on how I am releasing it and why I am doing it the way I do.
3rd of March 2020: Mistakes and Album Releases
Mistakes happen and will happen along the way. I guess this is how we learn. I tend to work very fast and at a very fast pace. So I accidentally started my album release campaign by uploading an announcement video where you could barely what I was saying.... So don't do that, double check you uploads before you post. I will link the video on my final day of this album release. And now to the exciting stuff.
By doing a quick search on the internet you can quickly find that CD sales a dropping and that we have entered into the era of streaming. So why release a physical album? CD sales are dropping, but vinyl have had a resurge in the past years. So should I release on vinyl instead, if I want to sell? Maybe… It depends on the scale you are planning to produce, but here are the costs of production.
By comparing different companies the average rate is roughly 250€ for 100 CDs in a standard digipack. (Probably cheaper in a jewel case).
Each of these you will try to sell for let’s say 10€ each = 1000€ if you sell every single CD = Profit. But what did it cost produce you album? I’d say I roughly spend somewhere in the ballpark of 1300€. So if I did this I would be down by -300€. Nice, huh?..
So why am I doing this?
1. It is a personal need: I need to produce, I want to produce, it makes me happy and hopefully it will inspire others to be happy and help create a better world.
2. Portfolio: As any artist or entrepreneurs we need to have a portfolio. We need to have a portfolio that we can show to different funding bodies, agencies, venues, etc… To pinch why they should fund or invest in us.
3. It is so much fun.
So since printing CD’s didn’t really turn profit. What did I choose to do instead? I decided to make something different. I wanted to make an exclusive series of album covers and keep everything on a home production basis. Most of us have possibilities to burn CD’s at home, so why not do this? I decided that I won’t produce thousands of CD’s, not even hundreds. Except if it is financially feasible for me, which it at the moment of writing is not.
I will therefore keep this release on a home production level. Anybody can now a days publish music on any streaming service at a very high quality or for the audiophile you can even sell and download 24bit uncompressed audio files, which is basically the same quality or higher than any CD out there.
What is composition and when can you justify calling something a composition?
For the most of the history of music, it has been an oral tradition and still probably vastly is. But, the European classical tradition and pedagogy has spread throughout the world via the internet. During the past centuries there has been a strong development of musical notation and along with fantastic ethnomusicologist old traditions has been “captured” on paper and saved from going extinct. Kind of like seeds. There might be some thing fishy about this comparison, but sure look.
When music is captured on paper in form of dots and lines and a bunch of fancy Italian and French words. There is nothing to tell us about how the tradition, history or even timbre is of the song captured. We are getting really good at trying to describe it though, but do we really know how it sounded?
Of course not. No notation is perfect and only through the oral tradition you may learn a very limited amount and from very specific sources and you may or may not have travelled lots and studied with different gurus throughout your lifetime. Anyway, I still didn’t answer the question on what I think composition is and when it is.
I start by asking you, dear reader.
I think that copyright laws will determine if something is yours or not nowadays. In Europe we are lucky to be protected by the European Copyright Law quote:
“If you create literary, scientific and artistic work, you automatically have copyright protection, which starts from the moment you create your work, so you don't need to go through any formal application process.”
“When you create an original literary, scientific and artistic work, such as poems, articles, films, songs or sculptures, you are protected by copyright. Nobody apart from you has the right to make the work public or reproduce it.”
Notice here in both quotes there is a similar word: Create. So to answer what is a composition legally, it is really just a piece of sound that you can proof is produced by you. So… When getting to musical composition, you can basically write or record any kind of signs or sounds, give it a title and wobbla composition.
Artistic Challenges and Artistic Deadlines
Personally I work well under deadlines, I like to have them. I like to plan them well out and finish the work well ahead of time to have some spare time to get a second opinion on it. It is not always easy and in School I haven't been the best at that, but I very often I got away with it. I was often thinking ahead of time: What is the next project, what will I do in th future or how would my finances be if I went down that route?..
Like in the post about Recording Improvisation I gave myself the task of taking seven pictures from the local area and add music to all the pictures. Also while doing this I experimented with alternative home recording techniques for electric bass guitar, with the intention of bring more of the acoustic sound of the bass into the mix. This resulted in a steep learning curve as I wanted to finish the project within 10 days, which was kept. For the next 7 weeks starting from the 1st of January, I will be releasing a video every wednesday about bass related topics and creative processes. Hope you will join me on this journey and share your thoughts and ideas with me and your fellow artists and fans!
On this recording session I wanted to find out how the Marcustico would sound in a recording setting. The bass is fitted with a discreet piezo pickup, resembling a David Gage Realist pickup, which is often found on cellos and double basses.
Usually piezo pickups needs an extra high impedance input in order to function fully. The problem is due to the amount of resistance required to run the signal from the instrument to the amp. Ultra High Impedance instruments like any piezo pickup fitted instruments needs to be impedance matched as they are the pickup systems with the highest impedance of all: 10 million OHM to 1megOHM, where as the electric bass and guitar has around 1 million OHM.
This is not to say that you cannot plug a double bass into a electric bass amplifier, but it comes with its own cost. Due to the lack of resistance the full frequency spectrum is not available for the amplifier to work with, it is simply lost in transition.
But taking a low impedance instrument like the vocal microphone and putting it through a for example an acoustic guitar amplifier is fine, as the higher impedance doesn’t have problems powering the transition from mic to amp.
The problem that might occur with a piezo with matched impedance from the amp, is that it might become boomy and bass overloaded. To fix this simply apply a high pass filter / low cut to the instrument. This will help get rid of all the low end rumble and noise.
Here is a link for further information.
Here in the following examples I have examined various recording techniques of my Marcustico Bass. This bass is build by the amazing luthier Joaquin Marco the Basque Country in Spain. I’ve been studying stereo miking techniques recently, which I then applied to this research. I decided to blend in a D.I, as it is extremely common and almost the norm when it comes to recording bass. It is worth metioning that, all the recordings are made at my home office, which is not a perfectly controlled environment like a professional music studio. The results might be different in a acoustically controlled room, but the office might be closer to a live gig situation, where background noise is inevitable.
The following stereo techniques used:
You can find more information on this amazing website: https://mynewmicrophone.com/top-8-best-stereo-miking-techniques-with-recommended-mics/#Stereo-Technique-3
I’ve recorded everything from distance of 30cm to 60cm to let the speaker and instrument breath. Close miking could result it too much of a proximity effect for the microphone and the bass would begin to sound too muffled.
The given EQ curves are taken from the stereo output, which means that it is the combined frequency spectrum of the D.I. and microphones together. In addition I have processed the audio on all the tracks expect for two, which I left as reference so that you can hear how it sounds with out EQ and compression.
On the right you can find live EQ curves of the frequency spectrum of the bass. This is taken from the DAW stereo output and is NOT affected by the EQ cuts in the picture above. I didn't include all the live EQ curves as it would have taken up too much space. And I figured that this would be a adequate demostration of the frequencies. It is to be noted though that the different micing techniques have different frequency patterns.
Applied EQ on all of the tracks, expected for the two non editted.
Album Credit Checklist
There is always lots of things to remember when you are releasing an album by yourself! If are a signed to a record company there is nothing to worry about. But this a list I made for the DIY musician.
Did you know that Impedance matters? The correct impedance match will help you get the most out of your piezo pickup, in theory. So I decided after a while of reading and tweaking to put this into action. Basses with an very resonant body, such as hollow body instruments without centre blocks, have a huge acoustic potential, which you can work to your advanced.
In this video I am using three different miking techniques and blending them all together:
- AKG D112: roughly 10cm away from centre side of the bass cabinet
- RAI Stereo pair (Radio Audizioni Italiana): 60cm away from instrument
- D.I: Myriad DIY Unbalanced Piezo Preamp into a Radial J48
In this video I build my bass sound around the bass amp mic and added the RAI pair and D.I. to taste.
To finish off I used compression and EQ to get the best out of the mix.
Here the first video is with preamp and second without preamp.
Recording Improvisations and The Evaporation of Creativity
I was luckily to get to do a spontaneous improvisation session with Andy O'Farrell on drums! Improvisation is an amazing thing and when recorded it gives the music a second life. It is a snapshot of the past. It is like a painting. I can only speak for myself, but I am confident that many musicians often miss the sense of having something physical. A painter paints a painting and then they have a painting, an actual physical object. The light and darkness of improvised music is that it happens and immediately evaporates in to the ears and ether around it.
Recorded music is different than live music and the experience is all different. Recording improvised music is an interesting thing though. You capture the evaporation of creativity happening in the moment and trap it in an audio file and / or video. It is kind of a cross between a live experience and a recorded album experience. A heirloom of past creativity... At times as matter feels like sand slipping through your fingers, something concrete is nice to achieve as a musician. I've been thinking of doing these improvisation sessions for ages, but now I've gotten around to do so and I wish to continue these in the future! The aim for this improvisation was to play 25 minutes of uninterrupted improvisation. One day I wrote to Andy: "Do you want to come over and record 25min of uninterrupted improvisation?" and Andy replied "Sure, next week?"
Rhythmic Accuracy in a Metronomic Age
In the world of music the way of feeling time is an ever changing creature, and have been a topic of debate for centuries between musicians and intelluctuals. Personally I've fallen into the trap of thinking that I had a great time feel, because I loved rhythm or harmony. This was a big mistake, as over confidence led to depressing realisations along the way, but nevertheless it helped me grow. Generally when we speak about time feel in the pop, rock and jazz world, the ideal is to strive to be as solid as a metronome and never rushing or dragging / speeding up or slowling down.1. This sense of time feel came along with the invention of the metronome in Europe in the early 19th century. This way of understanding time is pedagogs and scientist dream tool, because it is measurable and easy to divide mathematically. I once heard somebody say that Europeans has and obsessions of measuring things and being very accurate. Well the metronome sure is all that. The counterpart to this was all music that existed before the invention of the metronome.
Back then there was no solid way of measuring time, other than by feel. The critique of the metronomic approach was that it lacked musical soul. When music is performed without some humane flexibility it can sound stiff, robotic and lifeless, it may be argued. An interesting phenomenom was brought to my knowledge during my musical studies, and if common knowledge between musicians. This thing was the concept of playing infront, behind or on the beat, a concept with on leg in the metronomic world and the other in the non metronomic world. Technically what this means is that the musicians is placing their notes fractions of a second before or after an absolute pulse. The placement of the note is so music that is practically inmeasurable, but of course if you put it under the microscope a whole new world of variation arises. People such as Malcolm Braff has taken this concept and developed a way of notating it, but it is still to complicated for anybody to sight read, maybe we will evolve?
If interested in reading more about the concept of playing infront, behind or on the beat, you can find out more on the by clicking on the colored text: Rhythmic Accuracy in a Metronomic Age. You can find audio examples in the soundcloud link below.
Thanks for reading and being creative!
1. Side thought: It is like emotions, we wanted to be able to control them. We get better, but we will never really be able to control our emotions. We might get excited, we might be hungry or we might be in love. All which may affect your emotions).
8th of June 2018, I gave myself the challenge of composing 50 compositions by the end of the month. The idea of doing this came to me as I was listening to the music of John Zorn, and after becoming aware of his Masada books. Fascinated by his abilities to compose at such a speed as he did for the Masada books, I though to myself: If he can I can, and thus I started to compose. This turned out to be a process of acceptance, if you wanted to have some day for yourself you had to make lots of drastic decisions and accept that, that was the result of the moment. Sitting and thinking about of possible note choices would potentially steal all day, as the choices are infinite.
I would highly recommend this kind of process to any musicians. It is intense, not trying to say that it is not. But what you can learn from it compositinally and personally about yourself and your own limits. You will be surprised by yourself and what you will come up with! This is a practice
If you are interested in supporting me and get a sneak peak into my compositional process then you can find the sheet music in the link:
30 days of bass and video
This project did have the most exciting name, but it describes exactly what it was. Another challenge for myself in the summer of 2018. The plan of this project was to explore the sonic palette of the electric bass guitar. I did this by playing straight into a audio interface and adding just a tiny amount of EQ and Compressor to boost the natural nuances of the bass guitar.
Along with the recorded music, which was made with only using sounds of the bass guitar I wanted to have a complementary video to the music. The guidelines were simple: One video with music a day for 30 days in a row. Just like the Emerald project, this was an exercise in acceptance. Accepting every idea that came to me, as there was no time to sit and think about all the possibilities. The first idea is the best idea, that was the approach to this. And most often the first idea is the best idea in improvisation.
I can highly recommend these kind of challenges and exercise to any creative as they do push you and test your limits. And in the end you have a product, made 100% by you. Results may vary, but nevertheless it is a part of who you are and who you were.
On The Beat, Behind The Beat
In Front The Beat
In recent times I have been practicing to improve my time feel and understanding beat placement. I thought to myself how do I practice beat placement? I have had teachers saying that you should lean back into in or like Dave Liebman said at a masterclass at Newpark Music Centre once (paraphrased): Playing in front of the beat is like a falling cat that always lands on its feet and playing on the beat is like a tank rolling along.
It is grand with all of these metaphores, but how does it actually sound like? In this album I clinically recreated how the beat placement might affect the time feel. If interested in supporting my work you can follow me on Instagram or buy the album on bandcamp.
Thank you for reading and have a lovely time!
Yours Sincerely, Otso.