Monday, 6 February 2017

ARTS: My Journey as a Music Producer

(Please note: some song links are from a dormant sound cloud page, shown here for the purpose of displaying the change in my recording style. My active page is on Reverbnation.)


I was driving home and started to really think back on my music producing history. I believe that every actively creating sound producer has an interesting back story...  well, here's mine. 

When I was about 4 years old my school report read "Sandy is a dreamer, she has a very pleasant singing voice" this became the theme of school reports from there on, some of my earliest memories are of dimming the Lounge lights, cranking up my parents impressive sound system, and thrashing around the Lounge singing to Blondie's "Call Me" and Joan Jett & the Blackheart's "I love Rock n Roll" 

When I was about 6, my baby sister got a small wooden bell action piano - I taught myself to play and devised a method of writing and notating the little classical sounding tunes that I wrote. I still play some of them today. 
One example is one of my later compositions, Esme's Song written in a similar style. The recording is very rough and played back via synth. 

By the time I was 9, I was writing songs. I felt an incredible urge to record them. But being 1989 in a lower income household in South Africa, a recording studio just wasn't something I had available to me. 

What I did have, was a cassette radio player that allowed me to record via a low quality mic inside the speaker. 
Next door, my grandmother had the same radio. 
Double hallelujah. 
The opportunities were endless. I had a small wooden bell piano, clapped sticks and my voice. By the time I was 10 I had perfected this crude method of vocal recording: Lay down the tune (piano) and vocal harmony first. Then play that cassette back while recording on the second radio, while doing rhythm and main vocal line. 
The quality was awful.
But I could record my songs and listen to them. 
I used this method for a while, and started a band called "the Palomino's" when I was 11. We sang rock and roll songs about cats and ponies and things. 

When I was about 14-15 I entered my first big song writing competition in South Africa, it was to write a Jingle for Pick n Pay, the biggest supermarket chain in the country. I contacted a friend to help me and using this two radio method, we recorded a multi vocal multi rhythm song application. 
We came second in South Africa out of thousands of entries. 
Tape Cassette Recorder
Then about this time, I realised that my step dads cam corder could record crystal clear audio. So I would focus it on the wall (or on a plant or something), and record myself singing and playing piano or guitar (I had taught myself to play). The only downside was that I could only listen back on the TV. The upside was that I could do rough edits using the can corder to cut and split the video removing any false starts etc. 
Then the best thing ever happened. 
We got a PC. 
Someone lent me a free software disk (this was 1996/7 we had no internet) with Noteworthy Composer on it. It was a free trial edition with major limitations (they wanted you to download the full version - paid) I was, for the first time, able to compose my classical and choral scores as I learned music theory, and have them played back to me via the software. It opened a whole new world of possible music production for me. 
Noteworthy Composer

Around the same time I was given a copy of a trial version of Cake Walk, I was introduced to looping, and created my own loops to use - I composed imaginary film scores that are now lost, I can still hear them in my head. I also composed a meditational album which a local beauty therapy clinic used to play as their background music in the spa. I was now about 18 - 20.

During the ages 13 - 22 I toured extensively with our National Choir and underwent vocal training - this experience taught me to harmonise instantly - even with songs I'd never heard - if I could hear the key I could harmonise the song melody line without thinking. This skill has been a real gift to me and I will always be grateful for it.
I grew older, and at age 21 I became the Artistic Director of a high school choir, I found a free audio editing program CD called Magix Dancemaker inside a computer magazine.
Magix inspired me to push on with my sound producing - I recorded the track "Why" using this program in 2003.
Magic DanceMaker
I found a free audio editing program called Wave Pad (again with major limitations) and as I moved on to a school teaching Music from ages 3 - 13 I started to use the software along with Magix Dancemaker more and more. I produced my first Electronica album (no vocals) called Traffic Jam Nation with 15 dance tracks. And then continued to use Magix when I moved to head up Music and Drama at a Private school. I produced sound for at least 30 productions (up to 50 tracks per production) in this time period. It was a trial by fire.
Wave Pad 
I found a trial version of Acid - and found the program that I enjoyed using the most. I was able to record demos of songs and cover songs, but still didn't have the right equipment needed to record decent sounding music.
In "The Rose" you can still hear a slight hiss and the treble etc is not balanced. At this point I still did not have a mixer desk, and was recording straight into the headphone jack of a cheap computer.

As soon as I could afford it, I bought the full version of Sony Acid Pro 10, which included Sony Soundforge Pro 10. I bought a better computer and a cheap mixer, I was able to produce better quality recordings, but still not what I wanted! I was able to record a jazz album and here is an example from that - "There will never be another you"

Sony Acid Pro 10

When I moved to Australia, near Sydney, I bought a good mixer, a new laptop, and made sure that my mics etc were better quality. I am nowhere near where I hope to be with regards to equipment but I will have to be patient! I will have my full studio one day.
Sony Soundforge
I have managed to produce my first album "Deity" at age 35, and I am a month or two away from completing my second album "Deus" aged 36.

That's 27 years of recording.

You can hear this track "Speed of Light" from my Deity Album, and "Abrupt End" from my Deus Album due soon, both are available for free download. If you'd like to hear the rest of the songs they are posted here as I work on them, I post works in progress as well as finished tracks.

I just wanted to write this to encourage that one person reading this, the person who knows that they need to do something that seems impossible.

Just do it.

Even if what you produce isn't perfect, it's still YOUR journey. Just go for it and see what the future holds for you!

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