My Music: a glimpse to the process ( the usual brutal truth)
Updated: May 3
I want my posts to be straight to the point and not too long: on every topic I could write for long long time and probably you'll be gone before the end of it!
The perception we have about our work is different from what people think we do even if they are fellow musicians…. Why do I say this?
One day I was browsing to find playlists' curators and I found one. I contacted him to see if there was room for my music on his list. The answer I received left me a little speechless because I didn't know what he was talking about. He told me " sorry your music is midi and I'm a jazz pianist"… Besides the fact that the person was arrogant and rude like he was the only "real" musician on earth, ( well good for you that you are a jazz pianist! ) I even didn't want to engage further with this person about his reason for me to not be on his list. But I got my answer couple of days later when another person, while chatting, told me that he doesn't play any instrument and he doesn't know music theory and he writes his music on the computer…..OHHHHHHHH…. now I finally got it!!!! When talking about midi I was thinking only about the recording process ( recording in midi or audio) without even taking for granted that if you are not musician you can't write music…. I was wrong because apparently nowadays you can, as far as you know how to use a computer…. My bad!
I'm really happy when people succeed and we all have our own path to follow but that was a discovery that I didn't expect especially being a classical trained pianist with years of studying on my shoulders.
Again, I took it for granted but in my mind if I wanted to go to Mars I don't just go, I have to train for it…. apparently you can go without training… well... life...
I shared the story above to clear the water about the fact that I write music with pencil and paper, old fashion way… kind of... Being realistic and in XXI ( twenty-first ) century I personally use a software to write my music down and it's very practical because it saves a lot of money on erasers and as independent artists we are on a budget.
Besides jokes, somehow it can be a pain to write note by note but it helps me to really fix on paper what is in my mind and it gives me the opportunity to listen what I have composed so far and make adjustments. Plus, when you are done, with a click you can print the music ready to be recorded. After all I'm a pianist and I need a score in front of me!
Everything for me starts from the piano!
But it's not a walk in the park….
It would be awesome to sit on the bench, lay your hands on the keyboard and beautiful melodies and harmonies come out of my fingers and write themselves down… well sometimes it happens but in reality the process is longer, takes time, with lots of thoughts with new ideas constantly popping up.
The initial idea is usually a random tune that buzz in my mind and that inspires the starting point that then develops in a full piece .
I like to create a story behind the music to have a journey of emotions from point A to point B. Of course it's a personal journey and the way I feel maybe can unveil different emotions in the listener. But the goal is to touch some cords in people soul. I don't believe in music as self serving tool but as a sharing experience because we all live our daily life with different perceptions of it.
I always feel that any piece can be better but at some point you have to move on. There will always be something I could have done differently and even now when I think about the first pieces I wrote, I would do them differently but that is part of the composing growth and process and that particular piece is a representation of that particular moment. The more you do it the more you refine yourself.
When I write music, I have in mind all the instruments I'd like to have in the composition. While I play the piano I do hear different sounds and once I'm done with piano version, I write down the parts for the different instruments. Usually the last one to be written is the drum set and percussion to give extra layers and kick. As I said it's a note by note process: I don't use samples or beats. I'm aware it takes probably more time but that's what feels natural to me. As I said we all operate in different ways!
So once the music is written it's time for me to print it and the recording process starts followed by the mixing one!
Besides the piano version that I try to record in one take ( meaning practice time is on schedule!) the process includes recording all the tracks. I try to be as precise as I can without using too many software tools to give the sensation of a live performance. One time I saw a video where a person was telling one thing that is very true: musicians must be precise almost 100% otherwise everything fall apart. In this video he was mentioning that a basketball player that shoot 60% is considered God, if a musician played 98% accurate it would be a mess. It's all about prospective and it's so true!
We all know that most musicians use tools to achieve this perfection via quantization or autotune for vocals but the moment of true can always be a live performance and I've heard pretty celebrated singers not able to sing one note in tune. "But it's about the emotions"…..yes…..
After composing and recording there's the mixing and mastering part: I've learned from scratch observing sounds engineers I worked with at an early stage and I experimented with it. Again, I usually don't use tons of plugins because I like a real sound or at least realistic. I know probably they are not perfect but even this part is personal and what works for me doesn't work for someone else.
And after all the creative work, it's time for the office job!
( Oh by the way that picture doesn't represent my home studio! )
This is the part the I personally don't like much!
My personal goal is to get in a position to hire someone to do it. It's a big bet because out there there are tons of people promising lots of things but who knows who to believe and choose? More researches on the horizon!!!
At the moment I take care of all the aspects of this business being aware this side is not my forte but learning can be fun and knowledge doesn't hurt especially when I'll have to pick someone!
Those were the days when I thought that once you write your music you put it online and everything is done…. I'm not sure if I already wrote about this topic but a refreshing comment doesn't hurt!
It's not that simple, actually writing is the less complicated part of the process for me. Realizing how many things you have to take care before releasing music gave me headache for quite some time: copyright your music, have a distributor, submit your music to your PRO ( Performance Rights Organization), submit your music to different organizations too collect your royalties, place music in music libraries, market your music on different platforms and social media, create playlists to appeal fellow musician to support each other and be on top of it constantly…. It's a full time job with lots of patience included while waiting. And especially at the beginning ( and I'm sure I said this already! ) lots of time invested in researching to find the better fit for your needs in all the elements I mentioned above. And of course as a newbie, the fear to make mistakes that can jeopardize all your work.
In the meantime, while waiting my PRO to assign all the codes to put in the metadata of each piece,for relaxing time there are couple of options: vacation, or more work…. I personally have sides projects that include books, yes, book, fantasy books. It helps me clear my mind from music and creating stories is also an inspiration for potential new music… combining these two worlds is fun, lots of work and also pride.
Since my last post, I know it was time ago, I've been very busy ( and the steps are describe above!). I worked on the piano versions of some pieces that are already out and new original pieces in different versions, chamber version ( without drums/percussion ) and instrumental version ( with drums/percussion ). The reason why I did different versions especially the piano ones, is to give the idea to you where I come from, how the idea got developed…. plus you might like the piano version more than instrumental, who knows! If you want to try it out soon the piano scores will be available in the Shop section in the website!
To finish this post, a little apology: I didn't spend time explaining which are the PROs out there, the other agencies that helps to collect royalties, and various distributors because my goal was just to give you a glimpse of my process!
Back to work now: yeah, office work, remember? I'll be back soon….