Making & Finishing an Album
The process of making an album is like standing on the bottom of a mountain and trying to conceive a way of reaching the top.
From this perspective it seems a near impossibility.
It’s hard enough to finish 1 song you are happy with, let alone a whole collection of songs that together create a whole piece of work.
When you are starting with a blank slate, it’s incredibly hard to wrap your head around the task at hand, but if you just allow yourself to take note of things around you that inspire you, at some point all these notes seem to tell a story & point in a direction.
Those who finish a lot of work tend to be the ones that realize that you never are working with a blank slate. Everything that the senses have taken in over a lifetime & all the things around you now is your creative palette. You become a unique filter that takes all these sensations & gives them meaning based on your own life experience & belief systems. No 2 people will ever have the same filter, even if they are surrounded by the same influences.
If you keep a notebook and a recording device (both are at your fingertips with any smart phone) & just open yourself up to what is around you, you’ll realise that you don’t need extraordinary things to happen to you for you to be inspired to make extraordinary things (or at least a piece of work worth sharing).
Personally, I take notes for everything. If I hear a quote or soundscape on netflix, I write it down to record later. If I am at a diner, I’ll just record the ambience around & hope I get something interesting. When I am in the kitchen, I just record what I’m doing with my phone. Some of these lo-fi recordings of mundane things can really spark your creativity.
Often times times I am reading and come across a simple phrase & I think. That could be a song name right there. I have at least 50 unused song names in my notes as I write this. That can be all it takes to set my mind in motion. Keeping a dream log can give you completely out of the box ideas as well.
Sometimes I just feel experimental & give myself a challenge. Maybe I think “how far could I get in a song using only 2 notes?” & suddenly I am off and running with no pressure of a “result”. Instead, it either works or it doesn’t & that is fine. There are hundreds more ideas where that came from.
If you keep yourself open for ideas at all times, you realize you never really have a blank slate. Give yourself a year of just this & you’ll find that all these scraps of paper, notes & recordings has the beginnings of an album in there. It’s far less boring than listening to the top 10 songs on the radio and thinking “I want to sound just like that!”.
Of course, once you have all these random ideas, you will likely combine this palette of ideas with the music that has influenced you over this time period. With technology the way it is, the amount of music you have immediate access to for free is beyond belief. Hopefully you are exploring what is out there instead of staying in a safe little bubble.
The mixtape approach
Although this may age me a bit, back in my day (I never thought I’d say that) we used to record mixtapes for each other. We would go through our collection & come up with a vibe we wanted to share with our friends. You would sit there and record from 1 cassette to another, listening to each song in full while thinking of what should go next. The time and passion that went into some of these mixtapes can’t be underestimated. Some of the mixtapes I got from my friends have helped develop & shape my taste in music. What a time that was…
When I am thinking about making my own album, I will often build the concept I am going for by making a mixtape of my own. I would collecting all these wonderful ideas & find the perfect order to put these songs in for maximum impact. When I feel like I’ve nailed it, I know I have a loose blueprint that will inspire my own album. The idea isn’t to copy each song, that isn’t artistic, but never be afraid to borrow or reference the ideas to get that vibe working in your own music.
When you pull out all your ideas, this mixtape approach will help you separate your notes into “these sound like they could work together for this type of song, and I’ll put these ideas over there”. Pretty soon, you find you are much higher up that mountain & the peak looks much less impossible to reach.
Ideas as starting points
These ideas of yours & even your “blueprint” may turn out vastly different than you expected. This isn’t a failure, this is art. Learn to view the twists and turns in the process as the very thing that makes you unique & different form your inspiration. Think of this process as a way to set your brain in a creative motion. Let it lead you where it wants to go. Don’t try to control it. You’ll have plenty of time in the editing phase to do that.
In my next post, I’ll share some of my inspirations for the songs on my album Deconstruction Time which was release on December 28th.