Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula: production notes

Album cover preview: "Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebulae"

I took several days of my annual leave to stay home and complete the mixing and mastering of the 3rd album.

Most of the tracks are finalised, although I’ve decided to drop Vox Humana.

For the mastering stage, I turned on the master track Audio Peak Limiter feature in GarageBand, and then did some volume peak/ automation adjustments to individual tracks. It’s an awesome feature that enabled me to keep the final track volume at a high, without clipping.

I discovered that if I listened to the songs at a softer volume (3rd vol bar on my Macbook Pro), I could pick out what’s louder/ softer/ lost/ overwhelmed — all relative to the other sounds in the track. Listening at full volume may just accentuated what you know and hide what you don’t. At least that’s what I think.

Stroke of midnight
The rhythm and bass are not aligned near the end. Re-adjustments needed.
Guitar vol seems too loud, esp after 2nd/ 3rd stanzas. Cannot hear the rhythm guitars.
Am considering raising the rhythm vol, or lowering the bass, and subsequently the lead guitars (the lead guitars sound louder at the beginning).

Run Towards the Sky (formerly known as Running)
Optional: to consider raising the rhythm (prob not the synth) for the first chorus, first 9 – 10 beats. The rhythm guitar is too soft. suddenly sounds like there’s no backing. The rhythm guitar vol of the 2nd chorus is ok.

Finding love
Need to do some more alignment of the lead guitar.

New Beginning
Need to add 1 to 2 seconds of silence at the start. If not, the track starts abruptly.

I Wonder
No audio change. Just a re-titling to “We Wonder”.
Cos there are 2 guitars.

My overall sound production aim was to achieve thumpy/ punchy bass riffs and drum bass, with clear-enough lead guitar but not drowning out details where needed.

Sequence of the songs
My semi-final list was to have ‘To Be Free’ as the last track. But I liked the uplifting “Run Towards the sky”, which had a catchier melody and more atmospheric closing. It sounded like a nicer way to end the album.

Also, after listening to the tracks in sequence, I felt some tracks, at a faster BPM (e.g. Stroke of Midnight), sounded jarring when listened immediately after a slower BPM song. So here’s the final sequence:

  1. Crystal Tears
  2. We Wonder
  3. Finding Love
  4. New Beginning
  5. Stroke of Midnight
  6. Goodnight Not Goodbye
  7. To Be Free
  8. Run Towards the Sky
  9. Bonus Track: Blueness (Mangrove Tree preview)

ASIDE: It dawned on me that making good music was a lot like reading a lot in order to write well. One step closer towards making good music means listening to others and reflecting on how its done. Also like writing, it’s to compose a song for oneself. Then edit for others.

And practice and practice.

Most important is to enjoy the process. If not, I think the whole music making is pointless.

~ Ivan

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