The problem with 1-person solo projects

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by GatherTheArsenal, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. GatherTheArsenal

    GatherTheArsenal SF2 > Everything

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    Hey all, i have a bit of a meta-nerd topic I'd like to open up with you fine people.

    I was watching an episode of Coffee with Ola (hi Ola), and they brought up a point about the difference in the recording processes with bands vs. solo projects.

    Where in a band you have different gear and playing styles that all contribute to an organic sound when they come together to record a song. Whereas a 1-person solo project, more or less there's not as much of that. Despite having our own style and approach to playing, presumably when you double (or quad) track your guitars, a bit of difference in play style and gear would in fact add a little something to the overall outcome no? Otherwise each take sounds so similar to the others.

    Having played in bands and now writing and recording on my own, I think I can see their point and generally I agree with it. I have to constantly add some variance in how i approach writing songs, making room for some kind of variance where I can.

    So I'm curious where you guys stand on that notion?

    Agree/Disagree?
    Do you notice it?
    What do you about it?

    I was looking at my gear and I want to try quad tracking the next song I record with both active and passive pickups. Coincidentally I have 2 such guitars set up in the same tuning, ready to go. My general understanding leads me to believe that doing so would add that extra bit of something which I may be missing. Exploiting the best of both worlds as it were.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
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  2. DrakkarTyrannis

    DrakkarTyrannis WWSD?

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    My band is a one man project. I prefer it. It's MUCH easier and the music is MUCH better.

    Honestly I'd say as long as the stuff is good it doesn't really matter. People like Beck, Prince, Trent Reznor, Kristeen Young, etc all managed to put out great music with all sorts of intricacies and they did the project themselves.

    The good thing is, when you're doing it alone there are no rules and no compromises. The key is to experiment with any and everything and find what works. Making music is like an experiment. Eventually you come up with the right formula.
     
  3. Synllip

    Synllip Cyan

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    Completely agree, when you're working by yourself there are no boundaries so you can experiment and have the chance to come up something unique.
     
  4. drgamble

    drgamble SS.org Regular

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    It depends on what you mean by band vs solo project. A lot of the bands that I have been in, I end up recording both guitars and on a couple of occasions bass guitar as well just because I could perform the parts better than the other members. Live doesn't seem to matter as much because of the volume. Bands all through time have used this approach and nobody seems to notice. In the very early days of music, a lot of records were all tracked by the same band. The Wrecking Crew were huge in the 60's and recorded on a lot of the major albums of the 60's. Most of the Metallica records were mainly James on guitar only. It all depends on what you do with it if you are a solo artist. As a guitarist, to make things great, you really have to take yourself out of a guitar player mindset and more as a composer mindset. You have to actually think like a drummer, bassist, vocalist, etc to make something good.
     
  5. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    If I were 20 years younger, unmarried, and with no kids, I'd honestly want to work with others to form a band. But that ship has sailed, and it's not entirely a bad thing.

    I doubt I could find a single person on the planet that would have the same vision as me for songwriting. While I started as a guitarist primarily, I've found that I thoroughly enjoy thinking the way a drummer would, a bassist would, etc. I really enjoy creating complex orchestrations. If I were to put together a live band, I'd need three guitarists, a bassist, one HELL of a drummer, and someone to control keys/pads/atmospheric sounds.

    The cool thing about being alone is you can create all of that yourself, given enough time -- and it all adheres to your unique vision.

    My $.02
     
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  6. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    I think it depends on the people. There isn't necessarily a huge overlap in the Venn circles of "Creative" and "plays an instrument." I remember in college I took a Contemporary Composition course. We had to do stuff like write a 4 piece song, but none of the parts could be an actual instrument, and we couldn't use any standard notation to write it out. And a couple of other pieces that we had to specifically avoid tonality. There was one guy in the class who kept getting pissed off, and saying, "But it's not music if it doesn't have a regular chord structure and consonant intervals!" So, if your band has people like that, then best to not be in a band with them. But if your band has crazy fucked up creative people, who start making music by playing the bass with drumsticks and singing into a big tin can or something, then I think it's a LOT more fun and beneficial to have other people you're recording with.

    Like 10 years ago I was in LA, and at this bar I heard this cool band. I went up to them afterwards and talked with the guys to figure out how they wrote such cool songs. Turned out that one guy grew up somewhere outside the US playing Calypso, there was a guy from Africa, the guitarist played jazz, and one of the other dudes was into metal. The band kicked some serious ass, and there's NFW I could bring all that into my own composition.
     
  7. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Difference in gear could be debated either way, but IMO when you start layering stuff, there's a huge risk of things getting messy with multiple guitarists trying to duplicate the same parts. People always say they want "tight" guitars -> you don't get that by layering different guitarists on top of each other.
     
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  8. GatherTheArsenal

    GatherTheArsenal SF2 > Everything

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    True, I'm finding the experimentation part is such a joy for me now that I'm solo more than when I was in bands. I love the moment when I'm writing a song and something unexpected happens all by myself and it turns into this idea that snowballs into something tangible.

    There's always room for collaborations though. I really like the idea of inviting a musician that would add something special to a song, and it's proven successful for the most part when I have.

    That is definitely a pro, i definitely see that. But would you agree that you can come up with something unique within a band setting as well though? I haven't really felt any boundaries in the past, definitely not with my last band at least.

    Two metalhead guitarists, a jazz drummer, and a punk bassist. You can imagine there were a few arguments back and forth but it was great mix of musicians at the end of the day. Maybe that's the key?

    I mean a one-man band. Writing, demoing recording (maybe not mixing and mastering unless you know how), promoting, etc. Run the whole gambit.

    And yes, as a guitarist I definitely agree you have to think like other musicians, otherwise what you write for their parts may end up being lackluster in comparison to the guitars. In another life I may have spent my teenage years on a drumset instead of a guitar. I really enjoy composing (and listening to) that part of any song.

    I dunno man, my luthier is 66 years young and his band just landed a gig playing at a major casino in our city. They've been trying for 3 years to get that kind of venue, his situation is no different than anyone else I know in his age.

    You can always call that ship back to port when you want to.

    That's awesome :lol:! So random...

    I'd have to agree with that notion, like I said above my last band had a good mix of musical backgrounds, which drove us a little crazy from time to time because too eclectic of any mix doesn't necessarily make it easy to decide on which direction our songs should go, but in the end we benefitted.

    Yeah layering isn't as easy as it sounds, at least not to my elementary mixing skills. Definitely have to learn how to make proper room for everything so they don't sound like they're fighting each other to get my ear's attention.

    I'm not sure what most mean when they say "tight guitars" but I'm assuming they mean well produced.

    I'm more so referring to the benefits I felt when I played with another guitarist who had a completely different rig = different sound, tone, etc. Versus what I have been doing up until recently which is recording my guitars with the same exact amp settings and cabs in each track. Doing that, I feel I'm missing out on a more organic feel. Which is why I wanna quad track and use different guitars when I do.

    I've come across a few who i heard purposefully do that to give their own guitar parts a bit more presence in a song. Like double tracking at high gain and layering another double track on low gain.

    Just seems like something interesting I'd love to try for a change.
     
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  9. Konfyouzd

    Konfyouzd certainly uncertain Contributor

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    All the time spent debating the philosophy of music creation methods is much better spent simply creating music... :2c:
     
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  10. GatherTheArsenal

    GatherTheArsenal SF2 > Everything

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    Generally speaking I'd agree. But pausing for a minute from all the music creating to ask a question or two has its place and benefits. Besides nowadays it's easier than ever to multi-task, I'm writing music right now :lol:
     
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  11. DrakkarTyrannis

    DrakkarTyrannis WWSD?

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    This. I often find that guitar ends up taking a back seat. I do industrial type stuff...but when I first started out I was doing death/black metal and was in a full band. My attention to detail and whatnot is a lot stronger now because I'm responsible for all parts. In my current music guitar is simply another layer of instrumentation to add to the final product and to me that's the way it should be..hell often I try to make stuff as heavy as possible with no guitar at all, and I can challenge myself with different things because I don't have any other members feeling bad because they aren't in the song.
     
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  12. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I didn't mean in terms of mix - I meant in terms of having multiple people trying to nail the same performance. The performance itself, outside of the tones, the mix, etc., it harder to nail down when more than one player is involved. I can duplicate my own playing with a second amp easily enough - meaning quad tracking a single guitarist is more a question of time than anything else - but try getting four different guitarists to play the same rhythm track at the same time. It's going to be all over the place unless it's a dead simple part, or if the sloppiness is part of the intended sound.
     
  13. Konfyouzd

    Konfyouzd certainly uncertain Contributor

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    Always wondered how Wu-Tang dealt with this... :lol:
     
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  14. GunpointMetal

    GunpointMetal SS.org Regular

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    As far as the sounds of recordings go, a lot of bands will have one guy track all the rhythm parts to maintain consistency/feel, which is really no different than a band that only has one guitarist. I like writing on my own, because I don't have to worry about anyone else's ability or taste and I can craft parts as I hear them. I also really like writing with other people, because everyone looks at a composition differently, so a bassist or drummer might approach a part, or what direction to take a part, totally differently than I would have. I think for a "solo" project you can often get a much more cohesive product from a production standpoint because only one guy has to make decisions, but often it can feel flat because everything is aiming for the same outcome. Recording as a group with everyone writing their own parts is usually a slower process for me because sometimes what sounds good in the rehearsal space doesn't translate to recording and parts have to be moved/adjusted to get the idea down. Also, recording drums is the biggest time sink for me, especially when the drummer wants a final product that sounds like Superior Drummer, but insists on recording live drums (ya know, because drums), so I gotta make him do 100 takes, or break down a part into hands and feet so I don't spend an inordinate amount of time editing stuff.

    TL/DR: Both ways have their positives and negatives.
     
  15. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Eh, both have their pros and cons. Like many things in life, cue Devin Townsend, "it's about control."

    Working solo, the only thing that is going to come between you and your musical vision is your physical ability to execute on that vision. You do all the writing, write or perform all the parts, decide on all the various insturment tones, decide on the arrangement and how everything will fit together, sometimes do all the mixing, name all the songs, dictate what the album is going to look like, etc etc etc. If a decision has to be made, you make it.

    Working in a group, you have input on the final vision, but that vision is going to be a negotiation of every member's individual vision. You're going to have a lot of control over certain elements, but not very much control over others. Sometimes this can cause tension. Sometimes, too, the whole is going to be way more than the sum of the parts. You have a lot less control over the final outcome, though.

    The other thing I'll say, is that "happy accidents" are probably a lot rarer working alone. The example I have in mind came from a session with my dad and uncle for an album we just wrapped up, where we were tracking vocal harmonies. My dad was singing a harmony part, and after 2-3 takes, I forget exactly, he fucked up the harmony line - I think he sang a major 6th instead of a 5th, but I haven't actually worked it out. Except, it sounded fucking awesome, so I immediately said, "no, do that again, exactly like that!" and he doubled it, and then repeated it for the second chorus, and it ended up adding so much more excitement to the line and is now one of my favorite little random moments in the whole project. And, I guarantee you, if he was recording it alone without a second set of ears involved, he'd have tossed the take because it wasn't what he meant to do. And, I can't say I wouldn't have done the same in his shoes, if I played something that to me sounded like "not what I meant to play," even if without my prior intentions it might have been objectively better - it can be tough to recognize those things sometimes.

    I definitely enjoy working alone, but there's also something to be said for bouncing ideas off different musicians and collectively coming up with something that you might not have left to your own devices. Neither is better, though - they're just different.
     
  16. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    I tracked 90% of guitars on our last release because I could play them tighter/better.
    I write 90% of our material as well. I record 2 guitars, pan them 100% L and R, record the bass and program the drums (to demo new songs).
    I then present near-finished material to the other 2 and go from there. My co-guitarist does harmonies and other cool parts, but it's mostly me. My drummer hates this method, but I don't care.
    I started out as a 1-man project -- so this style of writing is how I work.
     
  17. newamerikangospel

    newamerikangospel Tonight.......you

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    I think the missing piece of this, which has been touched upon, is the person(s) involved. However you make music best is the best.

    The only thing I feel like I miss is the random spurts of inspiration by hearing something someone would play.
     
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  18. MerlinTKD

    MerlinTKD EIght.Fold.Path / Hinge Theory Contributor

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    I've got the best of both worlds, at the moment, and I get something out of each team other doesn't have.

    The band is a four-piece, all four of us creative and opinionated :lol: We compromise by letting each person define their own part (unless it just sucks, or is wrong somehow), and since we're all bringing something different to the table, the end result is (I think) pretty unique, and definitely nothing I could ever come up with in my own. Plus, I get to play drums and just focus on my part. :D

    On the other hand, that band will never create what I hear in my head. No band will. It's a slower process, for me, as I work out the different parts, getting them right. I have one tune I started last fall that just never felt right, until yesterday when I completely flipped the drum part around, and it came alive. It can be frustrating, but also rewarding in a way that being in a band can't be. And the reverse is true as well.
     

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