After finishing up his European tour, Omar Velasco has graciously provided us with some insight into his process of making a record. A big supporter of collaboration and “the magic that can be created with a group of resonant people,” the worldly Velasco, has now embarked on a solo career. With his debut album, Golden Child, now under his belt, Omar explores his challenging and rewarding journey and provides in-depth insight into his process.
Read his story below, and be sure to visit his Trackd Profile to grab some exclusive stems by the man himself.
I love music. I dedicate all my time and energy to it. It is the center of my world. I ask myself, how can I open myself up to the music that is great and sublime? How can I capture it, hone it, perfect it? And when I document this music – when I record it- how do I craft it without anesthetizing it? How do I set into stone something that is by nature fluid, changing, temporal?
After many years of being part of the music recording process I have come to appreciate the importance and relevance of these questions. There is a certain standard of quality that we all strive for when we take on the task of making a record, a process that often requires many hours of focus and much attention to detail. There is an analytical component to making a record that is necessary – and very “right brain.” Art, as we know, thrives under the influence of the other half of the brain – the half that is free, spacious, intuitive, even chaotic. So how do we marry these two opposites? How do we make a record that is both spirited and well-executed?
This quandary is, I’m sure, a familiar one to most musicians who self-engineer and self-produce. Not too long ago we had dedicated specialists for every aspect of the record-making process: producer, engineer, artist. The engineer had to busy himself only with the analytical aspect, while the artist… well, we’ve all heard plenty of lore about the chaos that was tolerated from these so-called “free spirits” in the recording studio. That’s the way things were organized, and I’m sure on some level it was understood that it is very difficult to wear all the different hats at the same time.
In our time, though, we often find ourselves having to do just that; we juggle and intermix all the different elements. We must be tech-savvy like the engineer, free and inspired like the artist, and objective like the producer. From my own experience I’ve found that unless a good balance is struck, unless one has mastered the ability to move fluidly from one role to the other, one or more aspects of the recording will suffer. My advice would be to collaborate, whenever possible, with people who are especially good at the things that you are not. I’m sure that this is a central axiom of most successful human enterprises.
If, however, this is not possible, or if it’s something you just don’t want to deal with, here are some things to think about on your solitary quest.
- Know which role you’re playing at any given time. Often I have gotten myself into trouble when I try to do too many things at once. When it’s time to create, create freely and don’t worry about anything else. That’s the sacred moment and it mustn’t be interrupted by logistics or other noise. Maybe preparing your sounds and your pallet beforehand might help in setting you at ease for this.
- Don’t be too precious. Being too careful or too serious will scare away the muses. Don’t forget that, after all, you are playing music. Because you are in charge of every aspect, you have the luxury of making as many mistakes and horrible noises as you want. Take full advantage of that.
- Remember what is most important – the music! There is a very good saying in the engineering world – “you can’t polish a turd.” What this means is that, while getting things to sound good is obviously important, doing so will never be able to fully compensate for a bad song or a bad performance. I have often made the mistake of worrying about editing, effects processing, mixing, etc., when I should be solely focused on playing the music. This is confusing and ultimately, I believe, counter-productive. Another saying that would apply here would be “don’t put the cart before the horse.”
- A record is a gestalt. The best records always have an element of magic; they achieve the quality of being greater than the sum of their parts by some synchronistic thread that ties everything together. So, while it is important to compartmentalize each role, ultimately these roles have to work together fluidly in order to create this important effect of cohesion.
I would consider making a record on one’s own, from start to finish, to be a real art. It takes time, practice, and study. In this era of isolated creativity it is a skill that is serving many artists well. And certainly there is no absolutely right or wrong way to make music. I do believe though, that collaboration is it’s own very important art-form that can yield results much greater than those come upon by the individual mind.
In any case, the final question should always be: which method results in the best music possible? That is a question for you alone to answer.
Omar V. September 2016.
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