Saturday, January 1, 2011

Recording Music: Tales From The Trenches

So this is my first posting in what I hope to be many, many more. I've been recording music now for over 25 years. I currently own a recording studio in Lexington, Kentucky called Nitrosonic ( that I built with the help of several good friends. For me, recording music has been a life long passion that began as a way to save money by not having to pay for studio time. I have to admit that I was extremely naive when I started on this journey, which is good because I doubt I would have ended up owning my own studio if I had known everything then that I know today.

Over the past 25 years I have learned a tremendous amount about recording and producing through a combination of trial and error, experimentation and lots of reading. I have no formal training. I've been fortunate enough to work with some really talented engineers and producers over the years who I learned a tremendous amount from. The knowledge I gained from working with these individuals in the studio was more valuable to me than any book I've ever read on recording (and probably any formal training).

So for this initial posting I want to give you some background on how I ended up at this point in my life. To begin with recording is not my day job. One day I would like it to be but at this point in time its just not practical to make a living recording music in Lexington, Kentucky. I plan on saving my rants about why its so difficult to make a descent living in the music industry for another posting.

By trade I am a software engineer. I have an undergraduate degree in EE from Vanderbilt University and a Masters from the University of Kentucky. I am currently a lead software architect for IBM corporation and I work primarily on a product called WebSphere which is an application server. My area of focus for pretty much my entire career has been real-time protocols. Everything from voice over IP to music streaming. Without my career at IBM, Nitrosonic would have likely never existed.

My normal life pretty much ends there. Over the last 25 years I have played drums with at least 7 or 8 different rock and country bands. I've toured all over the US and Europe with a band called Nine Pound Hammer (more on that later). I've written songs for and recorded pretty much every band I've ever played with. Some of this music has ended up in nationally released movies, TV shows and commericals. I have a publishing company called Nitrosonic Underground Publishing and occasionaly get a check from BMI. If you are a song writer and serious about working in the music industry, I can't say enough about joining BMI or ASCAP. Its free and will teach you a LOT about the music industry and how songwriters actually make money.

Recording music for me has always started with working on my own projects. Playing drums on a song while trying to engineer and produce it is very challenging. Its very difficult to wear all the hats required to make it work. Playing and engineering music require working in two very different parts of your brain. Over the years I've come to really dislike self-producing and self-engineering but for me its a necessary evil. The good side of it is that I've learned a lot doing it. I plan on devoting an entire post to self-producing at some point.

In additon to my own projects I've recorded a huge amount of music in Lexington and the region. Everything from Jewish religous music to country to speed metal and everything in between. Lexington has an incredibly diverse music community made up of extremely talented musicians and songwriters. Unfortunately, Lexington has never had much of a music industry so most of this talent never sees the light of day which brings me to one of the reasons I decided to get into this business. My hope is to one day help expose the Lexington music scene to the rest of the world. Easier said than done but I'm working on it...

So this seems like a good place to end my first post. I will continue to periodically post my thoughts on recording, engineering, producing and on the music industry in general. Let me end here by saying that I am not doing this because I feel like I'm some kind of an expert in this field. One of the things I love most about recording and producing music is that every day I learn something new. The one thing I know for sure is that there is no one right way to record and produce a song. My hope is to give anyone who is interested some perspective on how I approach creating, recording and producing music. These are things that have worked well for me over the years as well as things that haven't worked so well. Enjoy the ride...

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