Homegrown Music: Recording an Album

Our resident homegrown music expert describes what it was like recording an album with musician friends and acquaintances.


| March/April 1983



homegrown music - recording an album - Marc Bristol

Marc Bristol had plenty of experience playing his homegrown music live, but not much when it came to recording an album.


Photo by Brent Thorgren

Well, folks, I've finally hit one of the "keynotes" of my music making career. Not only is my book, Homegrown Music, at the printer right this very minute, but my original album, entitled This Feelin', is at long last finished and ready to be heard! And I'll tell you right now, it wasn't easy getting all my tunes down on cassette ... but it sure was fun!

Recording Experience

Before producing This Feelin', I'd had practically no recording experience at all (with my own or anyone else's material). Oh, I had made a few cuts with the Okie Doke Band (the group I play with most often), but I'd been limited to performing my original songs solo and live (as opposed to with a backup for a recording). So, as you'd likely imagine, I had a lot to learn about recording an album. For one thing, I had no idea how to arrange music — that is, to put all the vocals and instrumentals together — and I couldn't afford to hire a professional to do the job, either. Therefore, I knew right away that I was going to have to rely pretty heavily on my own skill and intuition to see myself through (as well as on the help of the folks I chose to play backup on the album).

So keeping all this in mind — plus my inability to schedule much rehearsal time before the first recording session — I proceeded to try to find a seasoned, talented, and creative group of fellow musicians to help me out! And after some scouting, I did manage to put just such a band together. Some of the group were members of the Okie Dokes, others I'd known from living room jam sessions, and the rest I'd located by attending open-mike sessions in local commercial establishments.

Getting Into It

Once we began our limited practice sessions, I was amazed at how well we all worked together. There was constant give and take; one person, say, would do a rhythm lick while another took the spotlight and did a "fill" (a short lyrical run played during an appropriate break in the main melody). We jelled so well, in fact, that after a while it became apparent that we really didn't need a professional arranger. So I simply chose whichever instruments I wanted for each tune (of course, I didn't make my picks without a good deal of input from the rest of the band), and then I let the musicians decide on their own parts. Surprisingly enough, we got along just fine as ensemble arrangers!

As you can imagine, it didn't take me long to realize just how lucky I was to have real professionals working with me, because as it turned out we ended up recording most of the album live (so to speak). In other words, rather than trying to lay down a separate track for each instrumental or vocal part for later overdubbing (a process that can take hours ) and mixing (refining sounds to get an even quality), we tried to get down as much of the whole group sound on one track as we could. This way, we usually had to worry only about mixing.

Of course, one of the main reasons we taped this way was financial; it helped avoid much of the cost that would normally be added by dubbing. As you're probably aware, most recording studios charge anywhere from a low of around $25 to well over $200 an hour for the use of their equipment. So, realizing that 60 minutes adds up fast, I figured we needed to make the most of our studio time.





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