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Richard Scotti
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Richard Scotti

3/10/2012 10:35:03 PM ---- Updated 3/12/2012 12:58:48 PM

I need advice for my new CD
I'm presently working on a CD that I'm very excited about. It will have 6 of my highest ranked songs on IAC and 6 songs never released before (short clips of the new songs will be provided on my IAC page and iTunes. I will also be printing reviews of the songs from various sources. The project will be a culmination of years of work and as always I'm writing, producing and performing as well as producing the vocals of some of the best singers in the business. How the CD will be received is anyone's guess but one thing I can say without reservation is that I did the best that I am capable of with the resources that I have. I have spent many, many hours striving for excellence both creatively and technically.

Although I love to dabble in different genres, I whittled down the CD list to songs that seem to fit together and share the qualities that are truest to my musical goals at this stage of my life. Those goals include writing songs that have universal appeal, reveal some kind of "truth", capture the essence of what I'm feeling and thinking as well as what many other people are feeling and thinking and an emotional resonance that makes people feel something. When I was writing, if I didn't feel it, I didn't use it. All of my influences are in these songs but what makes them really interesting is that the influences are combined to create hybrids that transcend stereotypical or generic music and actually evoke something new and different. It a meal of many flavors: rock, pop, blues, Americana and more. I've distilled everything people like about my sound and I strengthened the strong points while either improving or getting rid of the weaker points,

I respect my audience very much. I aim to please and surprise them and I hope these songs will do just that. I owe it to the listeners who enjoy my sound to work as hard as I can to maintain the highest possible standards that I am capable of achieving at this point in time.

What is the best strategy for sequencing the songs?


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Chandra Moon

3/11/2012 12:09:10 PM


Good questions! Personally I really mixed my album up - I got it professionally mastered and that helped in advice for the quiet space between the tracks too, whether to fade tracks into or out of each other etc, overall levels (not mixing) and ordering. I also used to randomise the tracks and listen to them driving around in my car and somehow I got to prefer certain order of tracks. Be careful to have songs in different keys next to each other so they don't sound samey - personally I didn't put all the rocky tracks together at all - I surprise people with a chillout number next to a rocky one etc.

At the end of the day it's personal choice and definitely ask a few people's opinion as well. Good luck - look forward to hearing it! Will do a swap if you like!


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Stoneman

3/11/2012 2:38:39 PM


Yes, like Chandra said, it is ultimately a matter of personal preference. For me, these kinds of decisions are sort of in the moment. I have mostly use the same formula for my Hip-Hop/R&B Cd's. I try to pick the strongest most "commercial" tracks for the first 5 or so songs. I do this mainly to set an overall "Pump Your Fist" mood that will gain the listeners attention enough to give the softer more melodic songs a fair listen. Know your audience! My Hip-Hop audience wants to be caught up in the beat or they will generally deem the CD bunk. So, I tend to crowd the plate with the heat first and then slide in the fluff as an after thought with the hopes that the change of pace will be welcomed. But I also like to save some heat for the finale which in my opinion is the last 2 songs.

My gospel CD was a different bird as I tried to showcase what I considered to be the most traditionall sounding and anointed songs first and then surprise them later with my more commercial sounding songs. Once again, know your audience! I knew that the traditonalists/fundamentalists would be immediately turned off by a commercial sounding gospel CD.

My Reggae CD was all about the rhythm flow. I put songs with similar meters together because I know the Rasta movement is all about "riddem mon".

My next two CD's (which are just about finished) are two completely different types of music. One is dance/electronic and the other is R&B/Hip-Hop/message. The dance CD (Club Stoneman) will be the hardest club driven songs first and then taper off into a trance/House mood. While the R&B/Hip-Hop/Message CD will be all about the theme and message. I do not plan on concentrating on the feel or flow of this one because it is not a commercial CD at all. The title (Therapy, This Time It's Personal) sort of proclaims that point. I even plan on making the CD a pay whatever you want to pay type of CD as I have no expectation of making any money or commercial success for it. So, in this case I don't care about what the audience thinks. This time it's personal! I am just allowing them to have a listen.

In regards to packaging and design, I have used a variety of options in the past. I think the biggest point to ponder here is the packaging budget or lack there of. Ultimately you can only do what you can afford to do. I designed my last two CD's and used the cheapest method I know of (Kunaki) for the packaging and distribution. My main goal was to resist having to maintain any inventory. The quality was no where near what I have done in the past by hiring a music standard duplicator/packaging company. But, I noticed that my audience didn't seem to care about that. They only cared about the music. Go figure...... In 2004 I contracted with disc Masters to design/master and package 50 thousand CD's for me. The result was a whole lot of shipping work for me and I ended up having to store about 5 thousand unsold CD's in my garage. Frankly, I was glad that they stopped selling because of all the work involved. Now I use Kunaki because they do all the work and they don't get paid unless the orders for my CD's come in to them. The look of the CD's is kind of cheap looking but it works for my budget. So, it's all about knowing your audience. If they are people that will be expecting the more elite glossy looking packaging and design, spend the money and make it happen that way. I have never released a Beatles meet the Allman Brothers type of CD so I have no idea what kind of audience that would be. So use your own educated discretion.

Looking Forward To Hearing It Bro!
Stoneman




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SILVERWOODSTUDIO

3/11/2012 6:35:27 PM



Richard

I know how much of your heart and soul has gone into this project and I have every faith that it will succeed
That said--- your song order is Very important--chandras advice re songs that go together is good---sometimes it is obvious but you have to do quite a bit of listening to you cd with different combos, maybe look at it as 3 stages of evolution
Trust your own ears here others will only give opinions that will confuse
No one knows your music like you do
I can't add much more to the great advice here but I think you Must have a lyric sheet for the fans---!!!!


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Tom O'Brien

3/12/2012 8:33:45 PM


Hi Richard,
I believe in going in with both guns blazing. Just listen to the first ten seconds of each of your songs a few times and see which ones make you want to hear more. Maybe all of yours do that, you're an excellent songwriter, but there may be standouts and I say find the one that grabs you in the intro. I know some people who will not even listen to a whole album if they're not immediately impressed. That being said, don't wait too long before you wow people with a quieter tune, if there are any. It's nice to pump people up for a few, and then clobber them with something mellow. It's also nice to save a surprising song for last, right after a feel-good song.

From experience, I eventually get used to any order and everyone will have second guesses. You can also think of it like a sexual act. Great seduction, lots of good foreplay, then the grooving, then the climax, then that little extra surprise!


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Richard Scotti

3/13/2012 7:40:28 AM ---- Updated 3/13/2012 7:55:18 AM


Great advice, all! Thank you. I've made CD's before but have never sold them. I've usually just given them to friends, family and business contacts but now I feel I have to take the process more seriously and I can see there is much to consider.

One technical question is this: Can all 12 songs be "leveled" (making all the overall volumes of each song the same) without compression? I recall in the past, an engineer would just measure the peaks of each song and adjust the comparative volumes that way without using compression. (I'm not a big fan of compression) The spaces between the songs would be made to be the same. But I'm wondering if it would be more efficient to use a mastering house to do the leveling and spacing. I'm doing this whole thing on a scaled down budget so I'm not having the songs mastered as I have put so much time into the actual mixes and keeping them somewhat uniform in terms of bass intensity, loudness, etc.. They don't seem to need overall mastering but I would be willing to do it just to make all the volumes the same but not tinker with any other element of the songs.

I know that many people feel that total mastering is a must but I feel that it's an expensive luxury that is only necessary if there is sonic necessity to correct aspects of the songs. To my ears, major corrections don't need to be made but I do want the songs to be leveled. Any thoughts? Mastering is very expensive and the results can give you so many options that it would be like re-learning the song all over again. It interjects a ton of subjectivity that could cause the whole judging process to go on for a long time. I'm not saying that mastering is not a good thing in general but I'm wondering if it's worth the expense in every case. In NYC, nothing is cheap! Some places online offer bargains but its "blind mastering" where they do it their way and send it to you. Not my style! I gotta be in the room when it's done.

The ballads will actually be the stars of this CD.


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Shoe City Sound

3/13/2012 8:48:36 AM


This is a great thread, Richard - so much information is available from everyone. I don't know any of these things either, and I'm totally learning from your questions.

The ideas for the CD sound wonderful. I'm so looking forward to hearing the new tunes especially

D


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Chandra Moon

3/13/2012 11:54:39 AM


I was in the room when mine were mastered and they didn't end up over-compressed - no idea how you find someone in NY - I shopped around till I found someone here but it was great having a new person on the last bit who was completely objective. I sure people don't always have their stuff mastered though....


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Richard Scotti

3/13/2012 5:35:49 PM ---- Updated 3/13/2012 5:37:51 PM


Well, I guess it will all work out eventually. I know of a few good places to have things mastered in NYC if I go that route. The test will be to compare a mastered version of one of my songs with a non-mastered one. If the mastered one knocks my socks off, I guess I'll have to pony up the extra bread.

The new songs will feature singers I've never worked with before and they are fantastic. The major thrust of this CD is emotion and universal themes about life and love. The prevailing sound is Americana but with large doses of melodic rock and country blues. There's lot's of fiddles, slide guitars, mandolins and acoustic guitars but there's also plenty of Drums, Hammond organ, electric lead guitar and some very soulful singing. The rockers will rock ~ tough and tender and the ballads will roll ~ dreamy and bittersweet. This group of songs represent a quest for truth and meaning as well as the agony and the ecstasy of the human condition.

Vocal harmonies will be in great abundance ala the Beatles, Beachboys and the Eagles. it may all sound a bit serious but there is fun stuff too, stuff no one has heard from me before. I'll be stepping outside of myself and inhabiting some new characters who are much more interesting than I am!

There will also be a new and improved version of my song, Brother John which has just climbed back up to #1 in Classic Rock again after being #1 several times before in that genre for over 5 years. I guess new members are rediscovering certain songs all over again. I usually don't talk this much about my work but I'm so stoked, I have to share my excitement with my friends!!! CD drops soon. Stay tuned.


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Stoneman

3/14/2012 10:46:56 AM


To master or not to master? That is the question that caused an all out shouting match in recording engineering school. The professor (who is a much accomplished engineer) insisted that all commercial releases should be mastered by a qualified mastering engineer. One of the producers in the class insisted that some of his productions did not require mastering.

The challenge was on. The producer brought in his best mixed production and challenged the professor to make it sound better than it did. He transferred all the digital files to his analog wok station (which created a large amount of headroom and using his specialized mastering equipment went to work on it. When he was done we listened to both takes on it in several listening environments and I must say that the mastered version was by far the best. It made the song clearer, crisper and meaty. I came away with the conclusion that mastering was important if you want your music to compete with other music on the airwaves.

However, after I graduated and began to apply some of the concepts I had learned to my own recordings, I realized that I could not possibly afford to get every song I release mastered. As you said, it is very expensive. So, I turned to self mastering in a digital format. This works well for songs that I do not plan to press to CD. For digital purposes it has served me well. I use Soundforge as the mastering suite and Izotope 5 for the actual mastering process as a plug in. It takes some getting use to. In regards to making the volumes all the same, I use a program called Harbal. It is the best volume definer I have ever used. It can also be used for mastering but I have never totally been sold on its actual mastering capabilities. It uses a weird format to manipulate the wave file. I am not sold on the science involded. But it perfectly makes all song volumes thew same without the use of compression. There are several other programs out there but be aware that if you go this route you will have a learning curve and they do cost a few hundred bucks each. Also, I must say that there is no total substitute to having a real mastering engineer do the process. Plus, having a new set of ears may bring results you would have never thought of. If you can afford it, get it done.

Respect,
Stoneman


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Richard Scotti

3/15/2012 10:23:30 AM


I appreciate all of the great advice everyone has given. I thought just writing and recording the songs would be tough! Little did I know how challenging the last steps of the project would be. (mastering and packaging) But I guess in this hyper competitive
business which is so driven by technology, one must take full advantage of any strategy that can give you a leg up. When I used to make CD's people were more interested in the songs and not sonic perfection but listeners have become more
sophisticated about how things should sound. Of course, my recordings always sounded good, but why stop at good when "great" might be attainable.


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Shoe City Sound

3/15/2012 1:01:35 PM


Yeah, I have always been so impressed with the quality of sound on your recordings, I was actually surprised to read that up until now you haven't had them mastered .... I can only imagine how "great" they'll sound in that case

D


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Richard Scotti

3/15/2012 7:34:48 PM


Thanks D, I'm goin' to Shoe City!!


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Robert Lee Hall

3/16/2012 6:17:44 AM



Hi Richard,

I am so looking forward to the new CD. I think all the advice on this has been pretty spot on. I think the spacing between tracks is really very important. If you do get the CD professionally mastered, I'm sure they will give some good advice on track ordering, but I do think that it should ultimately be your personal decision.

Best wishes,
Robert Lee Hall


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Richard Scotti

3/16/2012 6:16:29 PM ---- Updated 3/16/2012 6:20:16 PM


Thanks, Robert

Is there a certain time between tracks that is considered the standard?



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Stoneman

3/17/2012 8:54:03 AM ---- Updated 3/17/2012 8:56:49 AM


I hope you don't mind if I pipe in here but the time between tracks should be according to the time signature of the previous song. Close to the end of the song you should start counting with the beat. When the song ends you continue to count on that beat and stop on the last beat of either the first or second phrasing. A faster song may have two phrasings of silent beat (in order to keep the next song from coming in too soon) while a slower song may have one. The psychology behind this technique (which almost every mastering engineer uses) is to create continuity and fluidity of the CD. Ever notice that after you have listened to a certain CD several times, you know exactly when each song is going to start? This is because your brain is automatically counting the beats in between the songs and knows exactly where the next 1 beat is. For dramatic effect some engineers often start the next song on the 3 beat instead of the 1. But they always make sure that the start of the song is within the beat sequence even though the two songs have different time signatures. Listen to your favorite CD's and consciously count in between the songs and you will find this technique in place. The exact amount of space between the songs is dependent on the BPM of the previous song. One way to determine a professionally mastered CD from a not so professionally mastered CD is through "on the beat" song spacing or lack thereof.

So the goal is to create your correct spacing at the time of the final manipulation of the stereo master for each individual song. Even if the song is faded out keep counting after the last sound can be heard and stop on the last silent beat. In this way, no matter what order you put the songs, you will have beat fluidity on the CD.


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Richard Scotti

3/17/2012 2:13:22 PM


Hey Stoneman, you can "pipe" in anytime you want (no pun intended, hehe)
Your vast wealth of knowledge is always welcomed here! Thank you for that fascinating dissertation on all things "beat" of which you are king.


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SILVERWOODSTUDIO

3/17/2012 2:47:10 PM ---- Updated 3/19/2012 2:36:35 PM



Brilliant information on this thread-
yeah Rich, it's getting more intense as the goal gets clearer
there's so many different levels of mastering too
we used Gremlen studios in Chicago (a guy called Sam)
Mostly we were wanting even volume, and spacing and we got a deal for 3 cds
we send the files via yousendit.com

Obviously we couldn't sit with him as we were in New Zealand
but for a few hundred dollars it was well worth it


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Richard Scotti

3/17/2012 10:34:56 PM ---- Updated 3/20/2012 7:01:38 AM


I found a site that goes into great detail about all aspects of mastering and I urge anyone who is interested to check it out at www.musicmasteringhouse.com

The "mixing tips" are especially informative. After reading them I went back and remixed some songs based on their suggestions.

The price is $99 a song and a full CD is only $475.

I'm still looking at other places but I urge anyone interested in this process to check out this site just for the technical info it provides. It is very illuminating on a number of issues.


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John Richards

3/24/2012 4:16:54 PM


Hi Richard,

As a hit BMI songwriter, I can give you my opinion for what it's worth. I think to hold the attention of the listener, you need to open with some very dramatic and fire ball...then chill with some easy listening stuff...stuff the mid section with some excitement and then close with something that will leave listeners in tears or weeping for more of the same. I also always advise my singers to use a gospel song on their albums. YOU will remember that Elvis, Cash and all of them won awards for their gospel songs but many of them never won awards for their other songs...my opinion...NEVER LET THE CD "SIT DOWN"...Good luck...My station is Get Down Nashville.


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