Making an album cover and recording Drums for 2 albums -in 2 days!

Today I was designing a cover for an upcoming Piano/Vocal album. Great fun. I was using Camtasia to alter a photo of me singing.   Image

The picture’s  a bit dark,but I’ll edit it in photo studio on the mac .It should come up OK. I wanted to use a photo of me playing ‘live’ as a the source, then create a ‘painted’ look from that. So I used the spotlight effect (lit the face and hand) , fading the body out like an old painting. The idea was to match the nature of the album -10 piano/vocal tracks which are (hopefully) like small paintings themselves. 

Earlier this week, we (drummer Dan Dew, from ‘Pascoe’ & I ) recorded drums for 2 other albums- 20 songs in 2 days: A ‘Pascoe'( band ) album and a Solo album (Piano driven with band).

Talk about a big assignment. But we got it done. it was exhausting being the engineer/producer – and I didn’t hit a drum. Dan did an excellent job playing. He’s got a great Gretsch drum kit. Image


We recorded 2 or 3 takes for each song. The beauty of digital recording is that i can cut and paste  sections from the different takes, if I choose.

Recording drums in a small studio (eg not a professionally designed room ) is a bit of an art.  We put mattresses against the walls, blankets, boxes etc, to soak up the sound (hard surfaces like walls bounce the sound around and it gets pretty messy quickly).

I can only record 4 inputs simultaneously, so we went with bass drum , snare drum & a L and R mix of overhead mics and toms. I’m stoked because it seems to have recorded pretty well (much improved on our last effort, when we ‘sketched’ the drum parts a year ago, as it turned out).Dan captured the feel of each song. it’s an art, recording music. You ultimately want to capture as much feeling as you can while balancing that with playing accurately as possible- and in time. With an album , you are going to hear it over and over again. ‘Live’, you can get away with all sorts. 

 Why so many songs in such a short amount of time? Well, we are both Dads, for one thing. Its the school holidays and we want to see our kids. Dan’s a school teacher, so we did the recording during his weeks off. He goes away next week.  I have no piano teaching during the holidays, so I can slip back into my (still) more familiar role of full time musician/artist … (a great break from juggling the whole thing- I only started teaching a few years ago).  

Now my job is to create a stereo ‘mix’ of the four drum tracks, hopefully making it so you can hear all the drums and cymbals clearly – and balanced. I’ll then ‘import’ the drums into the session with all the other instruments already recorded. (Dan was listening to a mix of the other instruments + a ‘click’ track to keep in time. That’s an art in itself. Ever tried to pay along to a metronome -and balance that with a band thats playing around the beat…like I said, Dan did really well).


 Then I get  to sing both albums – lead and all the harmonies(which I love singing).

The Solo album will then be ready to mix.  There are more guitar parts to record /rerecord on the’Pascoe’ album. We’ll get that done as and when Ants & Neil can manage. Both these guys have families and other jobs as well, so it’s a balancing act for us all.

I love producing, it’s like creating a painting. With the Pascoe album all 4 band members get to have a brush- then it’s my job to try and produce the album (blend the parts into a cohesive whole). We’ve been playing most of the songs off the current album over the last year or so, so most of our parts are already rehearsed. Then once we get these parts down, they may lead to other riffs and lines and keyboard parts, all of which become part of the recorded ‘album’ version of the song. Great fun.

Here’s the studio about 2 hours after we finished recording bye bye drums & piano… hello table and chairs – a few of the guys were coming over for a cards night…



Ok, more a game of scrabble sort of evening in the end.. 😉  

So there’s a bit going on… I’m also currently finishing the  piano /vocal album and have a piano solo album almost ready to mix too.  

I burnt a DVD today of the first 7 music videos I created in the last few months. Very satisfying to put it on the TV in the lounge and watch them one after another. 

Today I looked in the mirror and a fairly tired looking face looked back at me. Once I finish all these albums I’ll take a bit of a breather. Perhaps.