The July Album Challenge: Day 1

Happy July! Today being the first day of the month, I decided to allow myself to begin working on my album challenge. I didn’t waste any time getting started.

All of the material being written and recorded for this album is fresh, new material. I’ve committed myself to using only musical ideas developed this month (ie: no recycling of old material). I had made the decision that I wanted to include a decent amount of acoustic piano in the creation of this album.

The only readily available piano I have is the family upright piano located in our living room on the first floor. This creates many challenges:

1. I’m much more limited in terms of the time spent writing/recording with the piano.
2.  It’s an old upright and doesn’t exactly sound amazing but it has some soul to it that makes it special.
3. The room it resides in is a recording nightmare: square, low ceiling. There is some furniture which helps suck up extra sound. I will certainly be close miking the piano for recording when the time comes.

But challenges are good…right?

I set up my trusty Zoom H4 Handheld Recorder and sat down at the piano to start working on ideas. I soon had some material that was quickly developing. I recorded the ideas as they came and then practiced them. Not being a serious pianist, I tend to write the music and then take twice as long to teach myself how to play it.

I recorded the sum of the ideas and then moved down to the basement studio to start fleshing out a bit of a demo of the idea. I tracked some drums, bass and even some electronic elements. I was quite happy with the resulting sounds. I’m very excited about what the next 30 days will bring.

Day 1 | Recording ideas as soon as they surface

Day 1 | Recording ideas as soon as they surface


A New Musical Project

With July just around the corner, a new musical challenge awaits me. I have decided that, in the interest of challenging my musical mind, I will write and record an album in the month of July. My inspiration comes from the RPM Challenge, a music writing challenge in which participants are challenged to write and record an entire album of either 10 tracks or 35 minutes during the month of February.

Since February is much too far away and I’m typically quite busy with school during February, I have decided to take a stab at this for July. I will be stepping out of my comfort zone, both musically and technically. I plan to use some very experimental recording techniques and unconventional sound sources. The result will hopefully be uniquely enjoyable.

I will be posting regular updates on the process. In an effort to bring you closer to the experience. I plan to include a variety of multimedia tidbits within my posts.

An album in one month. Surely it can be done. Am I crazy for taking on the challenge? Of course. Might I fail to meet my goal? It’s certainly possible, but that’s just how it goes. I can see myself benefiting greatly from this challenge. I look forward to sharing my thoughts along the way!

Syncopated Elevator Music :: Drum Tracking

I’ve been experimenting with layer composition for a while now and came up with what I thought was a great background loop progression. I recorded all of the parts in the comfort of my basement studio, Subterranean Studios. While I’m not sure if I’m going to keep them, I tracked some drum set over the backing tracks to experiment and have a little fun.

Recording Specs:
Presonus BlueTube Preamps>M-Audio Firwire 1814 Interface>MacBook Pro 17″ 2.16ghz Dual Core>Pro Tools 7.1.1

Mics included:
Shure SM57 (Snare Bottom)
Sennheiser E906 (Snare Top)
SP B1 (High Toms)
Sennheiser MD-421 MKII (Floor Tom)
AKG D112 (Kick)
AKG C1000s (Overhead)

Drum Tracking Video:


My Current Musical Obsession: John Powell

John Powell is a film composer of the 21st Century who is easily recognizable. My interest in John Powell came after seeing the Bourne films (Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum) for which he composed the soundtracks. As a percussionist and avid listener of World music, I was quite drawn to his compositional voice. There is A LOT of use of ethnic percussion in Powell’s music. This obviously helps build intensity throughout movie scenes. The following is a short list of several of the films for which John Powell has composed;

  • Jumper
  • The Bourne Trilogy
  • X-Men 3: The Last Stand
  • Flight 93
  • The Italian Job

I’m slowly building my collection of John Powell soundtracks and I just can’t get enough. His music has it’s own voice without all sounding like the same thing. There are so many layers to his orchestration too. As I write this, I’m listening to “Tangiers” from the Bourne Ultimatum Soundtrack and I’m hearing things I haven’t heard before on what iTunes tells me is my 18th time listening to the piece straight through.

Much to my dismay, John Powell does not have an official website out there on the great World Wide Web. He does, however had a mysace and an unofficial website which includes his filmography, biography and other things that one might want to check out. Take a listen to some of the clips on his myspace and maybe buy one of the soundtracks he composed. Check out a movie with his music. If your tastes are as eclectic as mine, I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

If you like the music of John Powell, also check out the following composers;
Hans Zimmer
Patrick Doyle
Harry Gregson-Williams