At the beginning of this project, I set myself the primary aim to,
‘Produce a four–to-five track E.P. to a high ‘release’ standard so that it can be employed to represent my skills as a producer.’
This in itself was a challenge as this is the first project like this that I have taken part in. The role of producer that I assigned myself would be multi-faceted and also cover tasks more commonly associated with Artist and Repertoire and Engineer. In doing so I was able to experience every aspect of a contemporary producers role which was both a great challenge and highly rewarding. As an opening summary for my final reflections I believe I have surpassed this main aim. I shall now display how I achieved this by citing examples throughout the project and referencing my learning outcomes and objectives.
My original synopsis for the project read,
‘I intend to produce an E.P. that shall consist of 4-5 tracks and be loosely based in the singer-songwriter, folk, soul and country-blues genres. I will play many instruments myself that will form the backbone of my songs but I will also utilise professional session musicians. I intend to employ a sound engineer to aid the production process, as I will be assuming the role of auteur producer. However my role encompasses far more than the creative vision, as I shall be performing, engineering, producing and managing the process. In doing so I hope to develop on my broad skillset in the field and mature into a contemporary producer.’
Looking back I think I was slightly naive and a bit brash when suggesting my vast amount of roles for the project. I don’t think I appreciated the sheer amount of work that would need to be put in ‘behind the scenes’ and how vital the management aspect was. I found this role to be the most time consuming throughout the project as it seemed like there was always one more email to send, or a musician to hire! Even though I was able to fulfil each of my tasks successfully, I feel that in the future I would like to refine my role as realistically when upscaling the project the demands would be too high and the quality of work would decrease. By sub-contracting the roles I would be able to focus more on a particular area and specialise my skills within that environment. However I did achieve this in my project as I was able to hire an assistant engineer (Daniel Marnie) and employ a vast amount of session musicians, such as Pedal Steel player Dave Holley and Violinist Richard Silvester amongst many others. The main reasons I did not employ further staff such as an A&R man were,
- I wanted to experience each aspect of the project and learn a broad skill-set whilst researching in depth on each role.
- To show to myself and the University that I could take on such a vast project and succeed. As this was my final project at Lincoln, I gave every aspect of production my all and strived to prosper and impress within each facet.
- To meet my original learning outcomes and objectives.
I split these outcomes and objectives into three separate categories for my three main roles – Producer, Engineer and A&R. In order to determine whether my project has been a success, it is important to address these statements and provide evidence to show that I have achieved what I originally aimed to do.
My first learning outcome for the Producer category was as follows –
1. a) I will have a greater understanding of arrangement and employ it to a professional standard in my songs. This will include the use of session musicians specific to each track in order to maintain my artistic integrity.
To achieve this learning outcome I set myself the objective that –
1. a) I shall write and record relevant arrangements while working with high quality session musicians.
I know I have achieved both of these statements due to my own personal arrangements of instruments that are apparent in both the demo recordings and the final recordings. Many of the original arrangements have remained, for example much of the MIDI drums that I had written had very few changes to them by my session drummer, Casey Howden. Many more arrangements have been introduced from working creatively with session musicians, such as Indrija Kustov. These can be compared and contrasted on my Work In Progress page. Within these arrangements I also employed high quality session musicians such as Casey, who is a Full Sail accredited drummer and Indrija who works professionally as a singer. Because of these factor I know I have met these statements.
My second learning outcome for the role of producer was,
1. b) I will analyse and critique other producer’s techniques and adapt them with the aim of creating a new sound, that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
The objective relative to this outcome was,
1. b) I will develop a ‘signature sound’ or ‘feel’ to the E.P. which shall be inherent in each track, thus aiding coherence.
I also believe I have achieved these factors as shown by my research into appropriate engineering and production techniques both in the studio and whilst mixing. I believe I conducted this by obtaining primary evidence by interviewing respected producers alongside my Dissertation and Research and Development modules. In doing so, I was able to get a unique insight on the way in which they produce which gave me an increased scope to critique their work afterwards. My secondary research into specific instrumentation and production techniques can be found under my ‘work in progress’ tab.
By taking all of this research I could interpret techniques and styles and create my own based on work that had influenced and inspired me the most, thus creating my own signature sound that runs throughout my EP.
My first learning outcome for the role of Engineer was,
2. a) I will have a greater knowledge of the art of mixing both theoretically and practically.
Which was complimented by the objective,
2. a) I shall research mixing techniques, select the most suitable for my E.P. and apply them to the final product.
Both of these factors are displayed in my blog via advanced mixing techniques and my mastering research and application in the final master which I feel fall under the branch of mixing. I chose to spend more time discussing mastering in my blog as it is an area I have never approached before so everything about it was new whereas I have mixed many times before (albeit on projects smaller than this). My mixing and mastering techniques were also informed by primary research, especially John Williams who recommended some great plug-ins including the Kramer Pie Compressor which he used on What Have We Become by Jacqui Abbot and Paul Heaton. Because of this recommendation I ended up becoming very fond of it and used it whilst mixing and mastering. Without this research and it’s application, my project would not have been as successful as it was and because of this I am sure my understanding of mixing and mastering has improved in terms of understanding and its use.
My second learning outcome was,
2. b) I shall have developed a larger skill set in the studio environment, aiding the creation of a high quality, balanced studio sound that is relevant for the genre.
The objective was,
2. b) I will dedicate a great deal of time in the studio, employing a mixture of traditional and contemporary recording techniques to enhance the E.P.
I know I have definitely achieved my objective as I spent an awful lot of time in the studio perfecting my engineering techniques. This can be seen in any of the posts regarding my studio recording sessions. I can guarantee I have developed a larger skill-set in this environment as well. I now understand the common practices and courtesies as well as the given miking and monitoring duties. As an engineer my role was to be efficient, seamless and almost invisible to the artist. If the session musicians were able to apply their craft with no interruptions or faults tech-wise, I was fulfilling my job as Engineer. For example my abilities on the industry standard Pro Tools has increased ten-fold and my knowledge of miking instruments has dramatically increased. I recorded many instruments that I never had done before such as Banjo, Saxophone and Pedal Steel and my learning process in the studio was aided by my research outside of the studio.
My first learning outcome for the role of Artist and Repertoire was,
3. a) I will further my abilities as an auteur producer, distributing and delegating work when appropriate to aid the production process.
Which was matched with the objective,
3. a) I will employ an assistant sound engineer.
I improved dramatically in regards to A&R as the project went on. I found I became more organised and learnt the importance of strict timekeeping. I surpassed my expectations in this category by delegating work to no less than eleven other people. This included musicians, engineers, designers and illustrators. This of course meant I met my objective as well.
My final learning outcome overall was,
3. b) I will have a greater understanding of the importance of the management aspect of production in regards to organisation of talent and creating a piece of work that helps develop the already talented musicians skills.
The final objective was,
3. b) I shall book equipment / rooms / artists in advance and manage the process in an efficient professional manner.
I also feel I met this final objective and outcome as shown by my management of clients and my constant record keeping to ensure every aspect ran as smoothly as possible. For example my Session sheets, Studio timetable and Recording Budget.
Looking back I do feel there was room for improvement in some areas as I did find myself a bit rushed towards the end. I did end up having to apply for an extension but this was due to factors out of my control (session musicians not turning up). However I could still make up for this by employing a contingency week in my next project so if any cancellations occur I have time to make other plans. I also would have liked a larger budget, however I feel this is always going to be an issue as producers can always do with more funding! With a larger budget I would have been able to arrange time for artists to rehearse and invested in pre production. By paying the artists a good wage I could have got the vast majority of them in at once and saved a lot of time by recording live. This was impossible for this project as the money just wasn’t available but as I say, it is something I would look to in the future. I think I could have possibly improved my final mix if I would have spent a larger amount of time on it as I have noticed the odd thing I would possibly change but I do wonder if this would alway have been the case.
However I know that the project was a success because I have clearly answered all of my learning objectives and outcomes set at the beginning of the project.
It was a success because my session musicians and employees enjoyed the experience. (See Dave Holley)
It was a success because I find myself content with the final product.
This highlights how much I have learnt as I would have been extremely pleased if I’d have known I would produce a project to this standard at the start of the module yet my content shows that my standards as a producer and audio student have raised considerably by the learning experience I have been through during this project. Without further complicating the issue, it is safe to say I am very happy that I am content with the final piece.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this project and the wide range of skills I have learnt will be invaluable in the future. It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to the University at the end of this post. I would just like to thank – Robbie Caswell-Jones, Casey Howden, Indrija Kustov, Dave Holley, Darran Walster, Richard Silvester, Jake Greenan, Daniel Marnie Emillie Ferris, Sophie Corrigan and Sophie Balfour for their participation in this project, I really couldn’t have done it without them. A final thank you to my tutor Bryan Rudd who has helped me through thick and thin not just in this project but throughout my time at University. I have appreciated all of your help and I’m sure I will continue to do so beyond Lincoln.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to take part in this module and I am proud to have produced The Greenhouse EP.