Sunday, January 31, 2016

DrScythe Recording Blog - Part I or What do you pay studios for? (2016)

For most of the time that the modern music industry existed you’ve paid for the equipment they’ve got and for the experienced engineers. But nowadays you can build and setup your own small studio for 1k and achieve an amazing quality. And it doesn’t even take the thousand bucks if you already got a decent computer (no matter if win or mac) and let’s say a mic and an interface. Freeware sounds excellent nowadays and so you just need to learn how to use it. If you already got money to spend, no matter if you’re a solo artist or a band it might be better to buy some recording equipment instead of just ‘renting’ the stuff. You don’t need a 128 track mixing console to get good results. Owning the stuff yourself will pay off when you want to record another song/EP/album.

Recording and mixing music isn’t that hard to learn (but to master – which is another story). Basically it boils down to this:
-       Adjust your ears to the overall sound instead of just your instrument
-       Understand what which piece of equipment does (EQ, Comp, Gate, Verbs...)
-       Know your hardware (adjust ears to monitors, know your plugins)
-       Practice repeatedly

Throw in some diligence while editing and you’ll be able to produce a nicely balanced mix of your songs. The ‘old masters’ weren’t born mixing engineers – they learned a lot ‘on the fly’. New technologies popping up all the time back then, tons of analog hardware with different characteristics (even if it’s supposed to sound the same) and so on. If you read The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook (by Bobby Owskinski; no ad here, just a reference) you will notice that the most valuable part of this book is indeed the one containing the interviews. You’ll notice that almost all of the engineers are very vague about rules and fixed settings. They just know what they want and how to achieve it. Years of practice may come in handy if you want to get a certain result. And that’s what you’re paying for. Their experience and understanding of (your) music. So if you know a studio or engineer that repeatedly was involved in the making of records whose sounds you love and don’t have the time or interest to learn – go for it. If you have a very precise idea of the result yourself – learn how to achieve it.

I am not bashing studios here. If no one in your band (or you as a solo artist) is interested in recording and mixing then using their services is fine. If you got an album prepared and never recorded or mixed before you shouldn’t consider ruining your creative work by practicing on it. But if you are a/the songwriter/composer and if you can hear the final song ‘in your ear’ while writing it then you might be better off learning to record and mix yourself – at least in the long run.

What do you need to begin is a PC or Mac (tablets can do the trick but for handling more than say 6-8 tracks I wouldn’t bother), some sort of interface and a DAW (recording software). There are a lot of ‘recording beginner buyer’s guides’ and as they change constantly due to new hardware I suggest that you just search for those or head over to sites like 
As soon as your system is up and running and you grabbed all the free plugins (e.g. you need/want you should begin recording and mixing. Not the full tracks but riffs and parts. Try a little automation. Get used to your monitors. You don’t need a pair that costs 2000 bucks and is the most neutral one can buy. It’s more important that your ears know what they’re hearing. So listening to your favorite tracks (sound wise!) isn’t a bad idea. If your first mixdowns sound like you want them, choose the song with the simplest structure and fewest instruments involved to practice. There are many small traps ahead. I will let you know for which ones I fell in a future blog.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. It is right if it sounds right. Of course there are many ‘ideals’ you can aim for (‘hear everything clearly’, ‘punchy and tight sound’ or ‘warm and vintage’ etc.) and there are some basic qualities which separate the ‘decent quality’ mix from the ‘well-I-placed-a-mic-and-pressed-record’-mix. But the ‘sound’ of a song (or a whole album) is part of what the listener experiences so it might as well add some character (your character) instead of being a generic production. Just to clarify that: a studio will (should) add character too. But it might not be what you originally intended. That’s another reason why I chose to do everything myself. It might not be the best possible quality in the ears of some but it’s closer to what I want than any mixing engineer could ever achieve. The only thing I would give away is the mastering. A second pair of ears for the final polish cannot be that bad.

So long


PS: I mostly trained on soundsamples I made. Just like this one here
Or this one (for a competition):

Monday, January 18, 2016

The future of DrScythe

Welcome back! To conclude the blogs about my personal story I want to tell you what’s going to happen with DrScythe. I will sort this by topic as it seems the most logical structure for this – a kind of prophylactic FAQ.

Release songs, grow the channel/fan base and see what happens. I have thought about a lot of stuff (see below) but for now I will just keep going no matter if win or lose listeners. That sounds arrogant but the objective was to release my songs and be happy if someone likes them. If someone has good ideas or constructive criticism to offer – great. If someone just likes pop or death metal better – not my problem. As easy as that.

There are about 30 almost fully written songs left and according to my plan of releasing about one song per month I got material until 2018. Considering that I will write new tracks on the way you can expect a new song every month for three years straight from now.  The first 13 to 14 tracks are intended to be an album called ‘Light People’ which will include two exclusive interludes. Although I plan to release this until the end of the year I won’t stop my own creativity. So if an idea strikes my mind and it also got some relevance to things going on in the world right then I’ll release it instead of the planned track.

As I was already asked about that: there will be a video for every song. There are several reasons for that choice but mostly I want it to be more personal. As I do everything including the singing I feel better showing myself doing so. Also other platforms are focused on remixes (not intentionally) or lack the option to really communicate with listeners which I want to do. So YT was the obvious choice. And as I don’t like lyrics videos at all I chose to do this kind of performance videos. And I’ll keep doing this.

There won’t be any. At least not if I don’t become super famous or something like that. As I live in Germany it’s quite complicated and/or expensive to release physical stuff containing music and it’s just not worth the effort for now. I might reconsider it one day in the future (under certain circumstances and with help of kickstarter).

You might notice the difficulties of playing live for me alone. So it’s not an option right now. But I enjoyed playing live in the past and if the interest is large enough I will try to get this on the stage. As there are a lot of different scenarios I cannot predict how it will be. A slowly growing fan base and musicians I keep working with might lead to something like a classic type of band that just had a different beginning. Exploding numbers of fans all over the world would definitely require some hired professionals who can play the songs after listening to them once or twice. So: live – yes! How and when – no idea.

It’s never been easier to sell merchandise. If the demand is high enough I am prepared to use the logo and variations of it (thumbnails on YT, album cover) for that purpose and then team up with someone who is able to design proper stuff.

Not gonna happen. I enjoy playing other peoples’ songs but on the downside are tons of covers already out there and the licensing here in Germany is just a mess. So as long as I live here and I don’t have the best idea ever there won’t be any recordings of me covering famous songs.

Basically videos that are not songs. Will happen if the requests for that emerge. For now it’s not really adequate and would cost too much time.

Next blog will be some band advices. So long,


Sunday, January 10, 2016

The (hi-)story of DrScythe – Part V: Decisions and Motivation

This last part of the (hi-)story series is about two things (as you might have guessed by now). First I’ll describe my way of getting to the point of trying it as a solo-artist and then I’ll give you some hints of how I stay motivated.

So let’s just begin with the decision. After music won the battle against photography and I recorded the first test song I still had to make a choice whether I wanted to record some demos and then try to form a band based on that or if I’d try something else. While battling the university’s administration in 2014 I continuously practiced mixing by experimenting with riffs and ideas as I mentioned last time. While doing so I became more and more confident that I could do it all alone. And with the second complete song I gave myself no excuse left for not doing it alone.

I didn’t make a written list of pros and cons of a full band vs. just me but the key differences were limitations. Limiting myself to my own instrumental capabilities or limiting myself to the time and motivation others can/want/will spare. As you already know what I ended up doing I will just lay out the reasons why I went for the solo-thing.

1. Freedom. No one to ask, no one to wait for, no excuses. All options, full responsibility. Whenever I want, however, whatever. The price is discipline. As long as I got a few followers no one really cares about a week delay – or at least I can answer questions immediately. But maybe the day will come when a bunch of people ask ‘where’s the new song dude?’

2. Self-fulfillment. This is part of Nr. 1 but from a different angle. I don’t have to ask for other people’s opinion on songs or styles. This too asks for some discipline. Not choosing the simpler version of a track although the better sounding one is more complex and/or difficult. Keeping the distance to criticize your own work. There’s a difference between just doing what you want and knowing what you want (to say) and doing it.

3. No excuses. This was actually a reason. Part of motivating yourself is having no excuses. Or at least easily to differentiate from real reasons like graduating type of excuses.

4. Getting sh*t done. I managed to record several songs and even released two of them. That’s one more than all the bands before were able to achieve. So I was pretty confident that I can really finish something this time. And so I did…

I knowingly headed into the risk of repeating myself or missing out really talented musicians who could lift the songs to next level (if there is any; as rating music is 100% taste…). But I wanted to get something done this time and this was the better way. More on that topic on a future post about the future of DrScythe.

As I already stated there is also this huge aspect of motivation. Although this post will be a little blown up I think my motivation is easier to understand if you can see the connections to the reasons for beginning as solo artist. But let’s begin at the core. Your core. Our core. We’re all lazy. Not always, not in every way. Nonetheless it’s just a fact that we all tend to do the easiest thing. Which often enough is nothing at all. So getting yourself to actually begin with something is definitely the hardest point. And the more excuses you can find the smaller the chance you get to the point of overcoming the laziness. I am not talking about doing something the easiest way possible but the very decision to do something at all.

But how to defeat that voice in your head? How to resist temptation? Self-discipline. Some got it as a kind of default setting others have to fight hard to use theirs. For years I wanted to do some sort of sport again to lose weight and regain physical fitness. I tried several things until I bought a book in 2013. This is not an ad and I am in no way connected to the author it’s just part of the story. This book was ‘You Are Your Own Gym’ by Mark Lauren. It was exactly the thing I needed back then. No excuses left. Just stand up and train. No machines, no memberships, nowhere to go - nothing needed. Except you and your body. And by forcing myself through the first weeks of muscle soreness and beating up this voice in my head again and again I not only regained my former self-discipline I strengthened it a lot. So that I was able to graduate and to go through the recording, mixing and mastering of a song without excusing myself.

Not matter how pumped I am when I just wrote a new song or got a great addition to an existing one – it always comes down to work finishing it. So it’s always this kind of self-discipline that needs to kick in. I cannot tell you how to train yours. In the end you need to find the weakness of your personal laziness yourself. This weakness is where your determination is louder than the tempting voice. Where you can easily identify excuses and get rid of them. And after you learned how to win against the ‘devil on your shoulder’ it’s easier to beat him everywhere else. It’s not like the struggle ends. After more than two years I am still tempted to say ‘no training today’ especially when new or very hard exercises are involved. But I know the rules of the fight now.

In the next post I’ll give you an overview of what to expect in the future by DrScythe.

So long,