So…I’m working on a new album. The working title is Nebyoolaeous Experience, because I am a conceited pedant. I started tracking one piece, and then another, and then another…and now it’s starting to look like I might have a full-on collection of pieces to tie some rope around and call it an album. Hell yeah.
Yes, it’s going to have guitar, bass, and drums. It’s also going to have samples and synths. The genre is, as usual, instrumental rock and/or quirky electronica. In short, it’s going to have what I love about music, and what I am fairly proficient in. No vocals will be recorded, as that is something I’ve tried in the past and never been really satisfied with, and I’m OK with that. I like making music that I like listening to, which contains vocal stuff, is not lead by it.
It doesn’t have a theme…yet. For something like Average Town or Ebben Flow, there is a definite unifying theme, be it “make only chiptune music” or “write an RPG soundtrack”. Other times, I just have a bunch of ideas in my head at around the same time and those eventually, hopefully, get packaged together in that time-honored package of music called the album. This project may gain a theme later, but most likely it will just be a collection of tunes I think work together in sequence. Even if there’s no theme, the sequence of tracks is definitely important.
It’s entirely possible I’ve gone through this before, but every time I do, I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to formalizing it. There’s even a nice list for you to reference!
For this album, much like all the rest, the beginning of the first song from it was a riff I’ve played for years, but never got it into its canonical release state. Until now, it’s just been a demo, otherwise known as a “song that never was”. The process of going from initial spark of idea to a demo to canon is lengthy and requires investment. As most artists probably can agree, ideas (at least when feeling creative) are plentiful, but finished concepts are not. Getting an idea to be regarded as canon in the Nebyooverse is not always the goal, but is definitely the dream.
What does it mean for a song to be in its canonical release state? Consult the following list:
- It has been fully tracked in a sequencer. That means all live recordings are done and in their correct spot, and all synth/sampled instruments have been either programmed or played/recorded. It also means that the piece is at a consistent tempo and key signature, and that any changes to either of those two values are tracked appropriately. Ideas can start free-form and organic, but I like finished pieces to be like code: precise and modular.
- It has been mixed to the best of my ability (this has always been a struggle).
- It has been bounced to an MP3.
- If it’s a single, it goes in the Singles directory, which has existed forever and contains any non-album track I deigned good enough to exist in perpetuity. If it’s part of an album, then it’s in the Name of Album directory, and has the track number prepended to its name.
- If it’s a single, it can now be uploaded to a public website (nebyoolae.com, soundcloud.com, or maybe even bandcamp.com in the future). If it’s an album, I’ll wait until all tracks are canon, and then upload all individual tracks (as well as a package of them as a zip file for downloading from nebyoolae.com).
- The song then gets archived away in a different directory, and then put into iTunes for listening. Initially, it will be synced to my iPhone so that I can listen to it in the car or wherever, but as with all music I will eventually get sick of hearing it and unsync until a future time when I miss hearing it.
Before any of that happens, however, a riff or idea that gets stuck in my head will most likely get a one-off recording using a portable audio recorder (iPod/iPhone), and/or a demo project in Logic as a synthy/sampley edition. A demo project that doesn’t use live recording will instead use a synth or sampled instrument to get the notes down so I don’t forget how the music goes. Most of the time, this is where an idea will stall. It may produce multiple demos, but none of those demos may actually ever become canon.
In the good cases, if I find I still want to explore/expand/finish it after some time has passed and several listens go by, I’ll flesh out things by doing a live recording, or just add more to the synth/sample lines, especially if it’s not meant to have live guitar/bass. In the awesome cases this leads to the list above and a true member of the Nebyooverse gets added. Whether the idea comes to fruition or not, I’m still happy. The act of creation is really satisfying, pushed to a zen state by the realization of these canon pieces.
FOR THE ROAD
I have four or five rough demos done so far. My favorite is the first track, which is heavily modeled after a session with drummer Russ and I jamming it to high heaven. It’s called “The Jam Bridge”, is a 12-bar blues piece in B, and I love it. Everyone else could deem it a colossal piece of crap and I’d still love it to bits. I will eventually feel this way about the rest of the album, and that’s when I know it’s done.