Before I begin with technical details, I want to give some context.
I released three albums in 264 days. The first took about six – seven months to finish, including writing. The second took about five months to finish, and I released it about 200 days after the first. (201 days to be exact.) I wrote the third within two months and released within four of the second one.
If you want to hear the results, visit https://www.monsterswhosleep.com/music
You might think this is very hard to do, and depending on your instrument-playing skill level, it can be. But don’t look at my results and expect the bar to be so high – we all start somewhere. At this moment, I’ve been playing for 20+ years. I have a lot of experience. And the fact is that the lesson I’m about to teach you applies to any level of playing. So, don’t get discouraged, and take it at your own pace.
Another caveat before I start, is that if you are recording this all on your own, it might be hard at first. There is a learning curve to anything new, and I struggled bad when I first started making my own recordings.
Okay, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
The first, MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do, regardless of how many albums you want to make, is this: ALWAYS, be writing. Even when you already have music you intend on releasing/music, that is already finished. You can’t imagine how many notes I have in my phone. Lyric sheets lying around in my file cabinet at home, and cheap recordings saved on my computer. Most of them are small ideas, but that’s okay. A good rule of thumb is to write every idea you get, regardless of how stupid it sounds in the moment.
Write as often as you can – I recommend every day, but once a week is fine too. It is okay to write small ideas, but you should write full songs as often as you can. It’s also good practice to edit your writing. Like anyone would for a standard piece of text (essay, short story, poem etc.). You can do this with your instrumentals too. I can go into detail about polishing your music in a future article.
Now that we have the foundation settled for you (which is the most crucial part of it)…let’s move further. I will mention both those who are in a band where many people are writing, as well as solo projects.
You should now have some cool ideas, or at least ideas you are willing to move forward with. Not a finished song yet, but the “concrete foundation” should be there. Assuming you are writing your own music (i.e solo project) you now want to add the next most important element of it. For me, I started with lyrics and finished them before adding the acoustic guitar. I figured out – what message am I trying to get across, which emotions would express that message the best? I then created some chord progressions that I felt expressed that well. Work on each element one at a time. Write one instrument, then the next, until you have enough for the sound you’re going for. It’s ideal to have a step by step process like this, that you can follow so you can do things most efficient. Whatever will help you write in the most efficient and effective way is the goal here. So try and experiment with your approach.
If you are in a band, it’s good to communicate very clear the direction you want to take the song with your bandmates. You can follow the same process as I mentioned with the “solo project” idea. Instead of writing the whole thing yourself, you can show your bandmates what you have. That way they can get an idea of how it should sound. Also, pro tip: it’s good to show initiative by writing your part first, and letting your bandmates go next. But if your band has a different dynamic, that’s fine too. Whatever works the best for you and them.
Learn to enjoy the writing process. It’s a great way of expressing thoughts and feelings that may be hard to let out otherwise.
So…you have at least parts and fragments of a song after that previous step. Now what?
Well, you want to record each song. One song at a time, one instrument at a time. Regardless of if it’s a solo project or band, you will definitely want to start with the instruments first. For bands (or solo artists who intend on using drums), I recommend starting with the drums first. That way when you are laying down the vocals, and guitars, you know where you are. This part is pretty straight forward, because the recordings don’t have to be perfect yet. I’ll explain why in a minute. Actually, it’s better that you don’t put too much effort into recording your songs at this point. And you’ll understand why when I explain in the next step.
Does all this sound like a lot of work to you? Well, it does take a lot of work. But let me summarize where we are up to this point to make it easier for you:
1) Write full songs (on your dedicated instrument if you’re in a band, or one instrument at a time if you’re a solo artist). At least once a week – once a day is ideal. This is like your “wellspring” of songs. It will enable you to have many options when you want to release music.
2) Record what you have so far, it doesn’t have to be perfect yet.
That’s it. That’s as far as we’ve gotten so far. I hope that makes it seem less daunting.
Okay, let’s continue from where we left off.
The final few steps to writing your album, are as follows. First, you want to listen to what you’ve recorded so far. Yes, that means putting the full album on your phone, computer, mp3 player, or whatever you use to listen to music. Get your headphones or speakers and listen to what you want to edit, or do better for the next step. It helps to have multiple sets of headphones or speakers (such as recording headphones, wireless headphones, car speaker, computer speaker etc.). Even if only to hear the music in more than one context. The edits can be anything from changing one chord in the song to a different one. Or changing the entire lyrics or vocal melody in a verse. You should take physical notes about these things. That way you can remember much easier when you do the next step.
Which is…the final step, with two parts.
This is where you record everything like a laser cutting a diamond. Include the edits you wrote down in the previous step. Make sure everything is on time with the beat. It goes without saying, but use a metronome! Most recording software (also called a “DAW” – or “Digital Audio Workstation”) will have one built in. This part is definitely the hardest part of the entire process. It takes a lot of focus, and great attention to detail. And you want to get it PERFECT, no exceptions. They say studio production won’t fix a poor quality recording. And “they” are 100% right. I know because I’ve made poor quality recordings before. 🙂
Remember when I mentioned you shouldn’t put too much effort recording the first time around? This is why you don’t want to make the first recordings ‘perfect’. You want to get things sounding good enough to make edits. But the current step is where you want to put the most effort in your recordings. The more time you spend in the ‘rough’ recordings, the less time you have on refining what you already have. Does that make sense now? Also, if you keep the rough versions of everything saved, you can show them as “early versions” to your future fans! Think about how cool would it would be if your favorite band did that!
It’s best not to have unrealistic expectations. You should only play things within your ability. But at least have a higher standard for these “polished” recordings than you would noodling around.
This is part two of the final step, but once you finish recording everything super tight, LISTEN AGAIN. Yes, listen to the entire album AGAIN! It might sound unnecessary. But there have been times where I was happy with a recording, and after listening again, I cringed. Unfortunately, it cost me extra money to get it fixed because I had already put my music on music platforms.
You should spend a few days in this stage, because you want to make sure it meets your standards. I even send it to someone whose opinion I can trust to tell me if there are any flaws.
Does it flow well? Does anything clash in the writing – i.e lyrical theme versus emotion expressed in guitar chords? Take enough time to consider all the posibilities.
So, to recap with the added steps:
1) Write a LOT of music
2) Record rough versions
3) Listen careful
4) Record PERFECT versions
5) Listen careful again
And then if you follow each step, you should have a finished album on your hands! If you follow the steps many times, you can even have more than one album. 🙂
I hope this article enlightened you on your path to music success. It takes time to become a master at any one of these things I listed today. So please, allow yourself to make mistakes. Don’t try and fake perfection. I didn’t start out making Mozart symphonies. Not even close.
Here for you on your musical adventure.
– Joshua Richard
About the author: Joshua Richard is a die hard Post Malone fan and watch collector. If you want to hear his music, visit https://www.monsterswhosleep.com/music