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The First Album !

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  • The First Album !

    Morning to you all, hope you are all well.

    I am after some thoughts, some advice and your experience.

    I have been producing ambient music for a little over a year now, and have published several tracks to SC, some of which you guys have even professed to enjoy ! (crazy lot we have here).

    I have reached a point where I don't want to just keep putting out a track here and a track there, I would like to focus myself on possibly producing my first album or EP !!!
    This is where I would like to canvass some opinions and experience on how to go about this, and what your experiences were when you produced your first album or EP, how did you find it ?

    Is acceptable for an album to be just a "collection of tracks", but ones that might not have anything in common with each other ?

    Is it better to have a "theme" for an album that all the tracks share with each other?

    What about a "concept" album ? or is that a bit too ambitious for a first album ?

    What about one single evolving track that encompasses and albums worth of material ?

    10 or so shorter tracks ? or less tracks that are longer in length ?

    How did you go about producing your first album ?
    What was difficult ? and what was easy ?
    How did you focus your creativity on the album ?

    I know there is a lot of questions in here, and I am not expecting anyone to answer them precisely, I would just like to get your thoughts and experiences on this.
    I have a million and one ideas flying round my head and would like some ideas to help me get focused, otherwise I'm liable to produce an hours worth of total tosh !

    Really hope you can help me out, many thanks in advance.

    Cheers everyone.
    Please feel free to check out my music - thank you

  • #2
    An album is what an album is.

    It can be thematic, or a collection of work from a given time period. It can be short, it can be longer than a CD can hold.

    A concept album would probably be best dealt with by deciding what it is you are wanting to express and composing towards that.

    What I am saying is: it is up to you and your producer. Around here that is usually the same guy.

    My first album was short. Like 15 minutes. The pieces sounded very much alike.

    You are looking for a suggestion though.

    How about this: Go through your catalog of works, find and compile pieces that seem to have a similar feel or space to them. Limit the collection to between 40 and 60 or so minutes and give the collection a name.


    • #3
      Morning, thank you for the reply, I really appreciate it.

      As you point out I am a one man production suite, so what I do is up to me, and me alone.

      I guess as this is my first foray in to album territory I feel a bit safer working within some pre-set parameters, if nothing else than to stop me going off on a total tangent and making an arse of myself !

      Thanks again for the reply.
      Please feel free to check out my music - thank you


      • #4
        My albums so far are collections of things that were already shared on soundcloud and unreleased material too.

        And I think, that I will work in a similar manner in the future. But on my next releases, I will try to keep the tracks in a more similar fashion - so I categorize my works into genres like "dark atmosphere / drone", "more relaxing, not so drone-oriented", "experimental / things where e.g. my iVCS3 plays a prominent role". Of course, there are no clear borders, a track may fall into this or that categrory. I hope, to get a greater consistency in my albums then.

        Perhaps I will go some day into my archive and dig for some very early and yet unreleased things, maybe it is worth to make a little EP from that... And if it's only 4 tracks - so what?

        My stats counter on bandcamp tells me, that the first two tracks of an album get the most (complete) plays - if they don't attract the listener, then the listeners will skip to something else. At least, they will listen to the other tracks only for a few seconds or even skip them.

        My last album had a common theme - things from the greek mythology, that have to do with night, dreams an the underworld. But I must confess, that I choosed the titles very close before publication. On the album before, there was no relationship between the tracks or their titles, and on my first one, I just numbered them from I to VI (on the next album, I should not user roman numbers again, to avoid confusion ;)

        A concept album is not too ambitious - if you have a good concept, then go ahead!

        Eno's "Music for Films" has 18 (short) tracks, Tholen's "Sternklang" is only one extreme long track.

        "How did you focus your creativity on the album ?" I kicked myself in my ass... ;) If you don't do this work, it will not be done by someone else. That means: finding tracks that fit together, get some artwork, find a title... Finally apply some simple mastering process - very simple, I am not a mastering engineer: just a little compression (ambient is no club/dancefloor music, so be careful), a little stereo enhancing and a slight EQ to boost/attenuate some frequencies to assure, that all tracks sound somehow similar. But this is not so very important, as pure electronic music is different from traditional rock music where everyone knows, how a kick drum should sound. I know people, who apply no mastering at all to their tracks. They just record them and that's it.

        Releasing an album is a bit different from sharing something on soundcloud: if it is on SC, you can remove it or replace it with a better version. Once an album is out, you can no longer change it. Or better: if it is on bandcamp, you can, but when you release it on a label, then there is a point of no return. On the other side: it is more exciting. Maybe I get used to that in the next years, but until now...
        Latest Album (Sept. 2020): Tenth Region Of The Night
        Soundcloud - Bandcamp - Youtube - Essentia Mundi - Winter-Light


        • #5
          Hi James,

          As the guys have already said, it's very much up to you..and I know this is not really the kind of answer you're looking for, but it's the best answer anyone can give you. You're at that stage where you feel the need to grow, but deep down are a little scared by it seems like such a big deal (..and it is, too, in a positive way). You feel as if there are a huge number of things to take on board, as your questions here indicate, but in the end, all you need to do is spend a little time looking inward to get the answers you seek.

          Forgive me if this all sounds more than a little "Zen", but it's true..if you start out by looking outwards, all you're going to do is see and compare yourself to the achievements of others..things which are already complete..and that can often have a paralyzing effect, where you end up convincing yourself you're not ready or don't yet have the talent or skills to do it.

          As I said, stop looking out and look inwards..take time away from your music and just relax and think..focus more on how you FEEL..what's important to you in your life and how can you reflect those things in your music? By doing this you'll get in touch with your heart and what moves you as an artist, rather than just producing something that sounds technically spot on, which is what a lot of folks do..again, because they're looking outwards at the work of others all the time.

          Armed with this new understanding or insight, you can the draw up a light framework for your planned album. Don't worry about project names or anything like that at this stage..that will all come later. For now, just sketch a rough plan of what it is you want to achieve, based on what you want to express..feelings..emotions..moods..situations..yo u'll soon get a very real sense of the kind of tracks you're going to produce before you're gone anywhere near a keyboard or synth.

          At this stage, you might want to think about ways of tying these track that by using one or two of the same instruments or sounds, as a common thread running through the whole album..or you can use a base subject from which all tracks grow, as was the case with my first album "War & Peace"..this will give you the continuity you need, without even trying..aside from a little careful planning.

          I guess what I'm really saying is try to think less about the "Hows" and more about the "Whys". Each of us can tell you the "How" to go about putting your first album together, but only YOU can know "Why" it should be done in the first place. Once you know this, the rest WILL fall into me.

          Last edited by Ambient Mechanics; 11-05-2015, 09:33 AM.


          • #6
            Both Betadecay & Ambient Mechanics (Dan)

            Thank you both so much for such detailed and well thought out replies, I really do appreciate it.
            Lots to sit down and think about now, that's for sure !

            I think I'm certainly guilty of looking at what other people have done, and the sheer amount of experience and talent that is present on this forum is a sobering thought when thinking of throwing my hat into the ring (so to speak).

            Dan, your "Zen" advice is much appreciated, I produce my music to evoke an emotion or to act as a catharsis (blimey I'm sounding a bit zen-like myself here) so finding a common subject, as Betadecay also mentions, or emotion to tie it all together would be a logical starting place.

            Thank you both again.
            Please feel free to check out my music - thank you


            • #7
              You're more than welcome, James..hope what I posted helps in some small way, as I know exactly how much of a blow to your confidence "first time out" can be. You're not alone when it comes to looking at the work of others and comparing ourselves to what we see, read..and ultimately hear; we can't help it. I think it stems from learning technical-knowhow when we first start out, simply because that is what we have to do in order to learn the practical skills needed to produce electronic music to begin with..but somewhere along the line we forget that composing/writing requires a very different skill-set,ones that can't be learned from anyone else. I'm obviously talking about creativity here.

              Once you've reached this stage..where you feel the time is right to start your it first or any other afterwards..I find it helps enormously, to try and just focus on what's going on inside yourself, as I explained before..and push all thoughts of works by anyone else out of your mind..this is ALL about YOU now and nobody else, so don't waste your precious creative energy on self-destructive thoughts, by comparing yourself to others. We all do it, trust me..but we all manage to overcome it's just part of trusting yourself as an artist and developing your creative self-confidence.

              One thing to get out of the way right up front, before you even start is your NEXT album will always sound try not to hold yourself back too much, worrying about how THIS one sounds..that thinking usually leads to a mental / creative block..and, again, self-doubt. Trust in yourself and th end results will surprise you..seriously.

              All I'm short of saying is, "Let go, James..Feel the Force!"..but, all joking aside, it's pretty much as simple as that.


              • #8
                It might be a good idea to ask a friend for some support:

                he/she listens to your tracks with fresh ears, so he might find things that need to be changed (a friend once found a part where a specific instrument was far too loud - I did not notice that, after listening to that piece too often I was blind for that, but he was totally right).

                He could also assist in finding the tracks for the album: give him 10 and let him select 6 of them. Or, if the selection is more or less finished, and you are uncertain whether to use track x, y, or z...

                And he might also help you to find a good track order. As I told earlier: the first two tracks of the album seem to be the most important ones (considering downloads and cash flow, not the cultural heritage of mankind).

                4 ears hear more more than 2...

                Of course this person should like the kind of music you make - if someone would ask me to review some Metal, Jazz or Hip-Hop... Not a good idea, no...

                And he should also be able to say to: no, that is not good. If he says only "Oh, this is all really great", then he is useless (at least for this purpose). And you should accept his opinion or have a good counter-argument. Of course, it is your album, but why ignore a good suggestion?

                And I warn you: ambient is no music to become rich (trying to avoid a joke with Robert Rich's name here... yes, I can resist, I can, yes...!!! ).
                Latest Album (Sept. 2020): Tenth Region Of The Night
                Soundcloud - Bandcamp - Youtube - Essentia Mundi - Winter-Light


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dutch Oven View Post
                  Is acceptable for an album to be just a "collection of tracks", but ones that might not have anything in common with each other ?
                  If you composed the music, then they already have something in common with each other. This might sound like a obvious, perhaps silly response, but it's important to realise the importance of this factor. You own the music and you can do anything that you want with it.

                  It is also possible that your perception of "commonality" could change over time.

                  It can often be beneficial (certainly in a non-ambient setting) to contrast and juxtapose pieces which may appear to share little common ground. Music is funny like that. The unexpected and accidental can often yield results beyond your expectation.

                  With my first album (8 tracks in total), I had a clear idea of which tracks I wanted to open and close the album, and also of the pacing I wanted to achieve, but the intermediate track ordering was certainly up for grabs, although I initially thought I had a good idea of my preferred running order.

                  I put all of the tracks on my Zune and made up lots of playlists, some comprising two tracks, others comprising three tracks, and some with four. I then
                  started playing through them all in shuffle mode to get an idea of the permutations that would best fit the pacing constraint I had elected to use. Some pairings worked well, others were not very good at all. With a pen and paper, I was able to jot down the pairings that I liked, and from there I had the complete running order sorted out within a day and a half. By the time I was done, I still had the intro and outro that I initially envisaged. I was close to the pacing that I originally decided upon, but the running order of those 6 intermediate tracks had changed in a way that I didn't envisage.

                  I'm working on my second album now. I have selected 9 tracks for this. 6 of them are mixed, so I have 3 left to finalise. I haven't given the running order any consideration yet, and probably won't until all of the tracks are ready. I'm looking forward to seeing how that part of the assembly process works. At the very least, it will allow me to hear these tracks again, but in a new context.

                  Again, these comments don't relate to an ambient album, but I'm sure that the general principles will be the same. I guess I'll find out next summer when I start mixing my third album.
                  Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello


                  • #10
                    Thank you for all of your replies.

                    It really means a lot that you have all taken an interest in this, and that you have all taken the time to reply with useful suggestions and recollections of your experience.

                    You have given me so much to think about but also given me the tactics to think about it properly and proactively.
                    Thank you once again.

                    Please feel free to check out my music - thank you


                    • #11
                      you have gotten some very good advice already...ill add my $0.02 and hopefully it might be helpful as well.

                      insofar as what to put on it...whatever you want. its your album. dont worry about what other people put on theirs or how they arrange the tracks. if you sit down and examine what you have, youll find the right things and the right order. one else knows that you struggled with the order of the tracks...they just hear whats there...and its the correct order because its the order theyre in.

                      i decided midway through my current project that i was no longer going to put things up on soundcloud (that i wanted to put on the album). i could be wrong...but i feel it dilutes things IF you plan on releasing them as an album later. obviously this is just a personal choice i made for myself. im sure someone else would say they feel it adds interest and exposure.

                      for me...getting an album ready for release wasnt "difficult" per se...but there were a lot of little things to consider that i generally dont think about. it was the small details that bogged me down a bit. figuring out what i was putting on the album and the order in which they would appear was far easier than say...remembering to put the little copyright notice on the back tray insert artwork...or in fact making the cd tray insert artwork to proper dimensions where the lettering was facing the correct way on the spines. and i havent even decided if im going to have physical cds available...i did however want to be able to have the artwork available should anyone want to burn it themselves.

                      my advice would be to make a list of all the steps you need to take to have a finished product, then some of those steps might need their own list of steps to take to get them done. i did NOT do this...and i wish i had, it would have saved me a lot of time.

                      it sounds like you already have the material, so i think that part should be relatively easy. its the stuff you dont consider that bites you later.


                      • #12
                        Many thanks chaosWyrM for your " $0.02 cents" worth
                        Which if today's exchange rate is to be believed is about £0.0132 pence 😉

                        In in all seriousness though I really do appreciate all the help, advice and experience that has been offered, it really does show what a wonderful and helpful forum this is !

                        chaosWyrM, you have raised some points that I hadn't even thought of until you mentioned them, so thank you for that.

                        Cheers again everyone.
                        Please feel free to check out my music - thank you