KEEP UP WITH MATTHEW
BLOG: MAKING AN ALBUM/ARE WE LISTENING
When I first decided that I wanted to make an album, I had no idea what to do. I had listened to albums. In fact I had listened to many recordings before, but I didn't really know the steps to the process of getting music from inside someone's head into the form of an audio file that people will listen to for 10 seconds and then move on. Not the true listeners that is, but the "10 second listeners." It seems to be the latter group, in which I am occasionally included, that remind us how our listening can so easily ignore the hours upon hours of work manifest in a recording. When I first decided that I wanted to make an album, I had no idea what to do. I had listened to albums. In fact I had listened to many recordings before, but I didn't really know the steps to the process of getting music from inside someone's head into the form of an audio file that people will listen to for 10 seconds and then move on. Not the true listeners that is, but the "10 second listeners." It seems to be the latter group, in which I am occasionally included, that remind us how our listening can so easily ignore the hours upon hours of work manifest in a recording.
I made my first album with my brother. He had a computer with a D.A.W (Digital Audio Workstation) similar to ProTools, a couple cheap condenser microphones, and a Roland 4-channel audio interface. I had written and arranged a handful of tunes on my banjo, and learned, more or less, the tunes on other instruments including guitar, fiddle, dobro, and bass. We had reign over my parents' basement where it was relatively silent, and we multi-tracked all of the instruments, one at a time, until the music was finished. From there it was as simple as shaping the instruments' EQ, Setting their basic levels, automating their volume, sending the tracks through a digital reverb bus, compressing the master bus, and exporting .wav files.
The next steps were fairly simple. I came up with a terribly cheesy album title, took a photo of myself with my banjo for the cover, and convinced our neighbor with a disc printing machine to help us with duplication. The next week I played at a local festival in my small Nebraska town and sold a whole 38 copies at $10 per unit. I was absolutely rich for a 15 year old! My brother and I suddenly realized that we loved recording music! I listen back now to the first album and cringe as I realize that the mix is all wrong, the microphone placement was poor, and even my playing was pretty rough. But the experience, I would not trade for anything.
There is something extremely enjoyable to me about bringing a project from its infancy as a mere musical idea all the way to its completion as a lasting audible work of art. With each new project, I learn more and more about how to take a collection of songs/tunes that exist purely as basic ideas, and turn them into sound that anyone can listen to for the entire remaining existence of the internet. With each new project, I look back on the last, finding all of the things I would have done differently had I only known that mic placement sounds better behind the bridge of my banjo, or that we should have unplugged the fridge to eliminate the quiet hum in the background of the room mics, or that the final song order actually does matter, etc. It causes me to wonder if I will ever look back on my last project without realizing how I could have better applied what I learned in retrospect.
As I reflect on this never ending process of growing in knowledge, experience, and appreciation for the art of making records, it causes me to rethink those moments where I am in the group of "10 second listeners." It causes me to want to listen more closely to all the new music that people are creating and recording. It causes me to find a deeper appreciation for the tremendous amount of effort involved in creating a work of art that can be listened to in under an hour. Even as someone who has made many albums, I don't quite understand how a record can be so rich and full of mystery that 20 listens will not unearth all of its secrets; All the sounds hidden in the background, and how that changes the way I think about the music. It is my hope that by this gift of recorded music, more people can come to know and appreciate the art of recording, and grow in their skill as listeners through this enjoyable way of hearing music.
WELCOME TO MY WEBSITE!
This is my brand new website where I'll be letting you all know where I'll be performing, what type of music I'll be playing, who I'll be playing with, and, due to the unusual curious nature of my fans, how my hair will be styled. It will be here on this new page where I will write intermittent status updates concerning my musical journey; almost like my personal journal for you to read! Except I will not be elaborating on my innermost feelings about the crests and troughs of daily life, but rather on the current happenings of my life as a banjo player. Regarding said happenings, I have exciting news to report! While attending a University was never part of my master plan (stay tuned for more info regarding the master plan) I have found myself enrolled at the University of Michigan in their Jazz department! I am extremely excited to begin studying music in an environment where the creation of music is central and the previous misgivings of road-life cannot reach me (there is no Cracker Barrel in Ann Arbor, MI). In all seriousness, I am truly thrilled to have an opportunity to study under the great faculty at UM. In other news, I am preparing for a summer full of touring with Circus No. 9 in celebration of the release of our brand new album “Modernus.” https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/circusno91. We’ll be hitting the road hard, burning up the countryside, and tearing down the metropolitan areas, so be sure to check our tour schedule and make sure your real estate holdings are insured for face melting bluegrass. Other banjonetic affairs on the horizon include a stint of performances with the Ethan Setiawan band this May (be sure to check out his website), a handful of dates with the Westbound Situation in the Fall, and last but not least, a new banjo record to be recorded later this year! More on that later. I’m afraid that’s all I have time for folks, thanks for reading!
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