At the end of the workday Monday, I had decided to record the vocals one last time before returning the microphone and accessories to the studio. The decision paid off. The hard work I did on the vocals the previous night had left me with good muscle memory for how to sing the parts, and it took no more than 45 minutes to end up with my best vocal take, the one that is on the final recording. I then packed up the microphone accessories to return to the studio across town. When I got there, Dave said, “Great! Where’s the mic?” Turns out, I hadn’t packed the mic in the bag with the accessories, so it would take one more round trip to straighten that out. I was positively exhausted, but glad I’d made good on my commitment to return everything.
In the Mix
The next morning, I exported the tracks from my Mac for Dave to add to the mix of the song. He set about mixing the tracks to a pleasing effect reminiscent of a Phil Spector production – bright, with vocal layers mingling nicely with many layers of instruments and textures. I imagined a splashing sound effect to introduce the tune, and Dave obtained that splash that you hear right at the beginning of the track. It took a few passes back and forth between Dave and myself by e-mail to review and perfect the mix, with my providing minor critiques along the way. The thinking was, this is a hit summer anthem in the making, which will be played on radio for generations of kids, so we need to make it a full realization of its potential – not necessarily every-hair-in-its-place perfect to the point where it’s sterile – but fully realized to the point where I’d have no regrets when listening to the finished track 10 years from now.
And Finally, a Master
When we arrived at the moment where I felt the recording lived up to its full potential, we passed the track along to Scott Anthony at the Viewing Room studio to make the final mix truly ready for radio, through a process called “mastering.” This process helps smooth out some of the little inconsistencies that crop up when several instruments and vocals are in the same mix – little “pop” sounds can be introduced into the mix that are removed in the mastering process. Choices about where the song gets louder or softer are finalized. The tone of the song is adjusted if it needs to be more of a “bright” or “round” tone. If minor enhancements in the sound effect can bring a sparkle to the finished recording, the mastering engineer can add them. All records released by famous artists go through the mastering process and if you want your music to sound like it belongs on the radio if played before or after a famous artist, you need your recordings mastered too.
Here is the result of the mastered recording:
A Work of Art
Since we were on such a tight schedule to release “Stay in the Pool,” we didn’t have the luxury of requesting a custom-drawn illustration as with our previous three releases. We would have to choose an existing piece of artwork to which we could buy the rights. I began searching for illustrations of kids in the pool. They were mostly reminiscent of Microsoft Office clipart, but I shared the best of the bunch with Amy, who believed we needed to go in another direction. She asked, “How about a dog in the pool?” Brilliant! I set about a search for such an image, and the photos were really striking. I ended up buying a license to use Mike Tan’s wonderful photo of a golden retriever swimming.
We cropped it to the standard square shape for CD covers and added our titles. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Overall, the making of “Stay in the Pool” was a very intense and wonderful experience that brought the family and the band closer together – an all-out effort to bring to life a moment of inspiration in the same summer as the idea “came bubbling to the top!” Now, you can enjoy this summer anthem while the days are still long and hot and the pool still keeps calling out to you and your kids!
What moments of inspiration have you had that required an immediate and all-out effort to fully realize them in a short amount of time? What creative endeavors have brought your family or friends closer together? How do you know when a creative project you feel strongly about is complete to its full potential, whether or not it’s “perfect?”