Home
Featured
Music
Reviews
Blog
About
Contact
Published October 12th, 2014 at 11:04 am EST/EDT
firesongblog

Well, you can probably guess from the title of this entry that I sadly haven’t much news for you regarding “[untitled]“. But I thought I would pass along what news I do have so that you at least know what’s been going on.

Wax Chaotic has been touring really heavily this year, which was our intention from the get-go. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to have “[untitled]” out at the same time as “Faces in the Fog”—I knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it once we hit the road for the year. What I hadn’t really predicted was that not only would we be time-poor, but we would be exhausted both physically and mentally, as well. I think I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that such a thing would likely happen, but actually experiencing it is another matter.

So what time we have had to get into the studio has partially been spent decompressing from a very active touring season. To date, we’ve done nineteen shows in ten states and two countries. We still have two more shows scheduled for the year (which are thankfully local). It has been a whirlwind of fun, but it’s left us sadly little time to dedicate to recording for “[untitled]“.

After our most recent show in New Orleans, we were hoping to dedicate some more time to studio work. Our next show isn’t until November. We’ve been home for about a week, though, and we still haven’t been able to get anything done. Sean brought home con crud, which has left him too lethargic to work through the necessary practice sessions. I have been so exhausted from our travels that I barely have the energy for housework, and so stressed that even the thought of the same makes me want to run and hide. (I’m beginning to think I have some sort of undiagnosed anxiety disorder. And yes, I have already made an appointment to speak to someone regarding it.)

And just yesterday, we had to send our nineteen year-old cat off to the great beyond. So it’s been kind of a rough week.

But on the positive side, Sean’s cold appears to be waning. I’m not exactly feeling any more relaxed, but I’m trying to work on that. So maybe after this coming weekend, I might have some good news for everyone.

Again, I’m sorry that this project is taking so long. If anyone has any questions regarding other setbacks (eg., “Why is this CD still not finished?”) or our current timetable, you’re welcome to send them my way. I will do my best to keep you posted (though unless I have any BIG news to spread around, most of the progress-related updates will likely be posted to my Facebook page).

And if you’re reading this and have been eagerly awaiting the CD release party, don’t worry, it hasn’t happened yet, and you haven’t missed it. I will be making damn sure that all of the necessary parties are aware of its scheduled time and date when such have been arranged.

So your weary bards continue onward and hopefully studio-ward. We will complete this project, and it will be the best work we can manage. It’s just going to take longer than I really wanted it to, and for that I am incredibly sorry.



Published January 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am EST/EDT
firesongblog

I typically like the main vocal parts in the songs I mix to be a bit more pronounced than the other instruments. There is definitely a balance I work toward—I don’t want the vocal to overpower the accompaniment, but it’s very important for me that every word be audible. The music I work on tends to be more lyric-driven than instrument-driven.

It’s also very important to me for all of the vocal parts to be in balance with each other. Given my issues with singing harmonies, I figure that if the vocal harmonies are so loud that I can sing with them, then the mix isn’t right.

I also like my percussion to be audible without being obtrusive. This can be especially tricky when dealing with things like tambourines and sleigh bells, which are very loud and very treble. They cut through the mix like a hot knife through butter, and I prefer them to be seasoning rather than the main course.

So when mixing any given track, I have numerous balls to juggle. This is exacerbated by the fact that I am a first soprano who likes to write songs that are in the second soprano or even alto range. I can hit the notes—just not loudly. My best volume comes out on the higher notes because that’s where my natural range is. So for the main vocal parts that have some lower notes, I work to make those lower notes stand out better without sounding weird. This is where one of my favorite tools comes in handy.

Write automation is a function in my recording software that plays with the dynamics of the tracks I’m working with. It’s actually possible to automate all sorts of things, but mostly I use it to automate volume. Maybe a vocal needs to be a bit louder on this phrase, or an instrument needs to be a bit quieter for two beats or so because it’s overpowering everything else in just one spot, but sounds great in the mix throughout the rest of the song. The idea is not to remove all the natural dynamics of the various instruments involved, but rather to get them to play nice together so that they are pleasing to listen to, and mix well with one another.

While in the midst of mixing, I will also run other processes over various parts of a song. The guitar recording gets cloned—meaning that there are now two instances in my file of the same guitar track—and one panned mostly to the left, and one panned mostly to the right. The main vocal stays at dead center unless I have reason to do otherwise, and everything else is panned to varying degrees of left, right, and center as necessary. For this part I mostly just do what I think sounds best.

I will also put a compression effect on some parts of the song. Compression helps things cut up through the mix and become more audible. This is especially useful for the main vocal recordings.

I may also EQ things if I want to bring out the higher or lower end of something. And for at least the main vocal, I’ll add some reverb to give it that polished studio sound. (I have no idea why this is the standard, but it does indeed seem to sound better that way. But a little reverb goes a long way.)

The trick with all of this, of course—all the cut-ins, all the write automation, and all the effects—is to make it sound natural. These tools and gizmos don’t do me any good if they make the finished product sound like anything other than a cohesive whole. And I try very hard to stay away from things like…*shudder*…pitch correction. I absolutely never use it on a main vocal recording, but I will use it on back-up harmonies if it’s necessary and not too extreme. Otherwise, if it takes a hundred takes to get something right, then it takes a hundred takes.

Once the song is mixed and sounds the way I want it to, I will play through the whole thing just to make sure that the Master bus isn’t clipping anywhere. Sound is additive, so the more parts you have playing simultaneously in a song, the louder it will be coming through the main output (or Master bus). If the Master is clipping anywhere, I’ll decrease the overall volume of the song by decreasing the volume of the Master. It might make things a bit quieter, but I’m about to fix that in a minute anyway.

Now it’s time to export the final mix, and switch software.

The second piece of software I use is handy as a mastering program. “Mastering” means different things from engineer to engineer, but for mean it means the following:

The first thing I do is shorten the amount of silence at the beginning of the track to be one second in length. Aside from helping to keep songs on an album from being spaced too close together, this gives CD players time to buffer the track. Then I will go to the end of the track and fade out the tail end as necessary, and possibly add a bit more silence if necessary.

Next it’s time to run a noise reduction filter on the track. This gets rid of aural detritus that is not necessarily noticeable until it’s removed. Removing it increases the overall quality of the track.

Next I will EQ the entire mix together, as opposed to the individual tracks that make up the mix. This is just sort of a final touch sort of tweak, and is not something I do unless I can produce a better quality recording with it. (In other words, if it ain’t necessary, it ain’t happenin’.)

And finally, I’ll run it through another filter that, in the program I use, is known as Wave Hammer. This is where I increase the overall volume of the song, which I mentioned a bit ago as “fixing” the decreasing of the overall volume of the song in the other piece of software. The way this works is that the Wave Hammer process first compresses the peaks in the song to create a more average volume level, and then maximizes and raises the overall volume of the track. So I end up with a fuller-sounding track.

Once every track on an album has gone through this process, I listen through all of them to check for a couple of things. First, I want to see if their volume is consistent from track to track. It’s annoying to have to keep changing the volume of a finished product because the tracks aren’t consistent. And second, I will listen to the silences between the tracks to see if they’re too long or too short. If they’re not right, I’ll alter them until they are, which is simply a matter of adding or subtracting silence in my mastering software.

And that’s the amount of work that goes into each and every song I record. It takes no small amount of time, and sometimes the process makes me want to tear my hair out, but overall I’m very happy that I know how to do this—to a standard that is entirely my own. I’m sure there are things I do that would drive a mainstream professional batty. But I know what works for me, and I know what sound I’m after, so that’s what counts.

Hopefully this was interesting to someone! Tomorrow I will post the long-time-coming end to the “How I Learned to Bard” series of posts, and then next week I’ll go back to posting only once a week, introducing each track on “[untitled]” in turn.



Published January 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am EST/EDT
firesongblog

A song has been written, chorded, and practiced, and is now ready to be recorded. I start with rhythm guitar.

Both of Sean’s guitars are acoustic/electric guitars, which means I can plug them directly into my sound system. I used to also mic the sound hole of the guitar with a separate microphone, but I find that the tonality is much cleaner if I just use the sound produced by the guitar’s line in. So we plug the guitar in, get the software set up, and start recording.

We normally have to do multiple takes of the guitar. This is normal. Thankfully, since we are living in a digital age, the entire recording process is much easier. We start with a full take of the guitar. Barring any horrible mistakes, Sean will play the entire song through once. Then we listen to what we’ve got thus far and identify the areas we want to fix. (I will also keep a notepad and pen handy while we’re doing the initial take and write down the measure numbers of problem spots in the recording.) Once we’ve determined what needs to be re-done, we do what are called cut-ins.

Rather than have Sean play through the entirety of the guitar part again, I will start him a few measures before a part that I had to cut out. I press record, he plays along with what he’s already done, plays through the spot of silence where the bad part was cut out, and then I generally keep him going a few measures into the other side of the hole. He knows not to stop playing until I cut the recording, and I know not to cut the recording for series of holes that are really close together.

Once the cut-in recording is done, I have to massage the ends of the previous take and the new take together. It’s usually much easier than it sounds, because the software I use is pretty nifty. (More on that later—yes, I’m actually going to do the last “All this Crazy Audio Nonsense” post finally!) And that’s part of the reason why I have Sean play over some of what he’s already done. It makes things easier to splice the takes together. Also, if we were to just start the guitar right at the beginning of the hole, there would be an awkward bit of silence between cuts.

After finalizing the guitar recording, I record the main vocal part. This track often ends up being Swiss cheese, too, because sometimes it takes me numerous tries to get things the way I want them to be. When doing cut-ins for the vocal parts, I once again record over part of what I’ve already done. I’ve found that the breaths between phrases are much less awkward if they’re natural, and in order for them to sound natural to my ears, I have to sing at least part of the phrase before and the phrase after the one that I’m replacing.

Once the main vocal part is finalized, I will add the percussion. I know that this is especially backwards from the way that many recording engineers do things. They will often start with the percussion, but since I record the guitar with a metronome, it doesn’t much matter to me to do things in this order.

And once I’m happy with the percussion tracks, I will begin bringing in the outside musicians. They may be vocalists for harmony parts—my brain latches onto the melody of a song so stubbornly that I have a really difficult time singing harmony with something, and I have to have something to sing along with—or play other instruments like cello, harp, or bass guitar. I don’t generally have an order to which I’ll record these parts. They pretty much get done in whatever sequence is most convenient for the people performing the parts.

Recording a song in the studio is most definitely a multi-day process. Even if I didn’t need to bring in outside musicians, and Sean and I were able to perform all of the parts of a song ourselves (like some really fantastically awesome musicians I know of), we get burned out fairly quickly when working on audio projects. Most recording sessions last somewhere between three to four hours, depending on the work being done. At some point, all the sounds sort of bleed together and I just need to walk away and work on something else for a while.

But once all of the parts are recorded, it’s time to start tweaking them and shaping them into the finished track.



Published January 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am EST/EDT
firesongblog

So now that I have the final drafts of the lyrics and melody for a new song, it’s time to talk to a guitarist. Usually I work with Sean or our friend Cern, with the occasional SOS sent up to my sister (who is sort of a musical genius) if I need something wrestled into submission at light speed.

We start with a sample recording of the pertinent parts of the song: One repetition of the verse melody, one repetition of the chorus melody, and one repetition of the middle eight melody, if the song has a middle eight (or a chorus, for that matter). This sample recording is ideally nice and slow so that the person working on the chords can hear what the heck I’m singing. I’ll also send them the lyrics for them to make notes on.

From there the process involves some sort of voodoo that frequently reaches over my head. As I said, I don’t really know much about music theory, and I know even less about playing guitar. I can learn songs by wrote all damn day, but ask me to pick a melody (or chords) out on a tonal instrument, and I’m flummoxed. I’m sure I could come to understand it with instruction. But currently, a fair amount of it is a bit beyond me.

But the guitarist will figure out what key it’s in, and from there we’ll both decide what chords sound best with the song. Sean and I arrange an intro and an outro as necessary, as well as the bits between whatever verse/chorus combination is going on, and a bridge if the song has a bridge.

And then it’s time to practice. And I mean practice. I like to practice, and frequently. For one, it gets me used to singing the song, and it gets Sean used to playing the song. And for two, it lets me get to know the song. I think about my phrasing and diction, I think about where I’m taking my breaths, I think about volume and other dynamics, I think about the emotions I’m putting behind my performance. All of this is very important for live performance, of course, and it’s also very important for studio recording, as well.

As when I’m singing live, I don’t want to just be a vocalist singing into a microphone. I want to be a performer engaging my audience. That’s a little harder to do when you’re not physically in front of people, but it’s also very important to consider that, unlike a live performance, a formal recording will (hopefully) be listened to over and over and over again, so it needs to be fun to listen to. It won’t be if I sound bored.

There really isn’t a precedent for how much time there is for us between learning a new song and going into the studio to record it. Most of the things we’ve recorded to date are songs we’ve had in our repertoire for a while and have had many, upon many, upon many chances to practice. I think the shortest period of time between learning and recording was for “Surviving through the Game”, and that was because of a pressing deadline. I typically find it useful to have more time to learn a song before making a recording of it.

One of the things we try to do as often as possible when practicing a song for recording is to practice the song in question with whatever metronome settings we’ll be using when we start laying down the tracks. The speed at which we perform a song differs from concert to concert when we play live—we’ll play slower or faster as the mood of the performance dictates. But in the studio, regularity is pretty important, especially if there will be other instruments included on the track.

As far as my methods for the making of an actual recording, that will have to wait until tomorrow.



Published January 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am EST/EDT
firesongblog

This week I’m starting a new series in between “Meet ‘Faces in the Fog’” and “Meet ‘[untitled]‘”. It occurred to me that I’ve never gone into great detail about the process of writing and recording a song, and that said information may be of interest to someone out there. There are lots of ways to complete this process, and in this four-part series, I’ll be discussing how I do it. This series will update daily, unlike the other series posted on this blog, so if you want to just skip to the “[untitled]” content, check back on January 27th.

For me, every song begins with an idea. It might be a character, one or two words, a phrase, a setting, or an entire story arch that hits me at once, that serves as inspiration for a song. Once I’ve found something to write about, one of two things will happen next:

  1. All of the lyrics tumble out of my head all at once, with or without a tune
  2. I have to tease the lyrics out into the world over the course of days, weeks, months, or years (yes, I’ve had songs that took me that long to write), and they again either come with a tune, or I have to spend more time pondering that part of the puzzle

A very small number of my songs fall into that first category. “Hush and Shush” was one of those. The chorus—lyrics and melody—came to me pretty easily at work one day. I was toying around with it when I got home, and then while I was taking a shower, the last eight lines of the third verse came to me. The rest of the song followed shortly thereafter. Spitting out a song like that is its own unique type of craziness, and one that I very much enjoy.

But most of the songs I write come out piecemeal. I’ll get an idea, jot down some lyrics, maybe record a snippet of a tune idea, and then run out of inspiration for a time and have to move on to something else. This used to feel like a failure—I thought that if I couldn’t get the entirety of a song out at once, that that was a bad thing. (Also, I tend to get excited about new things I’ve written and want to share them immediately—it can be pretty agonizing to have to wait for an idea to fully formulate.) Now, though, I just recognize it as part of the process. The songs will come out when they want to, and in the case of some of my ideas, only when I’ve had enough experience with whatever it is I’m writing about.

So maybe I’ll take a week or a few months to write the lyrics for a song. If I didn’t have any ideas for a tune when I began writing the words, then I have to figure out something for that. I once thought it was impossible for me to write good melodies. Thankfully I now know that’s not true, although it can still be a little rough sometimes. I actually know very little about music theory, so my songwriting technique essentially equates to, “Sing things to myself until something good comes out”. It’s a bit slapdash, I suppose, but it seems to work reasonably well nevertheless.

Now it’s time for the fun bit. In the case of songs written in pieces, I am, of course, not writing the lyrics with the melody in mind. This usually requires tweaking the lyrics somewhere down the line, which isn’t a problem. The part that’s really awkward is getting my brain to properly wrap the tune around each verse in turn so that the song is consistent throughout. I’ve found that this is easier to do when I’m singing with a guitar or other accompaniment.

Which is a nice segue into tomorrow’s post, which will deal with putting chords to a new song.



Published October 12th, 2013 at 12:34 pm EST/EDT
firesongblog

Hey, folks! This is just to warn you that with work steadily progressing on the dual album project, I’ve decided that some things need to change on this blog. Mostly this will involve my going through the back entries and changing things that shouldn’t affect anyone but me, but one big thing that’s going to happen is that I intend to change how this blog is located in my server-side organization. Instead of being part of the firesongproductions.com domain, it’s going to be moved under the dragonscalestudios.com domain. This will affect any links and bookmarks. I doubt this will matter to anyone but me, but I wanted to put the warning out there just in case.

And maybe one of these years I’ll finally get around to updating the design of this damn thing…



Published May 24th, 2013 at 6:13 pm EST/EDT
firesongblog

Greetings! For the uninitiated, my name is Katt McConnell and this is the blog for my recording studio, Dragon Scale Studios. It hasn’t been getting updated nearly as often as my other blog, but things are about to get a whole lot livelier around here.

Last year I ran a promotion called The Lyrics Dump in which I posted the lyrics to new songs to the blog once a month for nine months and then invited my readers to vote for which ones would get recorded in the studio. The results were that all nine songs are due to be recorded, and I’ve been working away at that project ever since. I wanted to have things released a lot sooner than they’re going to be—we’ve been hampered by noisy neighbor-owned lawnmowers outside the studio window (we don’t have soundproofing), day jobs, surgery, and other such things—but in the end I think the delay hasn’t been a terrible thing. Sean, my husband and the guitarist on all of these tracks and I have been busy touring as Wax Chaotic, and the experience has definitely done us some good. It’s helped shape the songs into what they’ve become for these recordings, and it’s given us a good feel for what we want them to be upon release.

But I am very excited to announce that the first of the nine Lyrics Dump songs should be released no later than Friday, May 31st (which is also coincidentally my birthday). Keep an eye out here and on the Facebook page for further information.

In addition to this new release, I have some other exciting things to announce! Firstly, something from the past. I had the honor of being Interfilk Guest at this year’s FilKONtario. I was intending to do a full blog about the con but then we had a Wax Chaotic concert at Penguicon the weekend afterward and when we got home I proceeded to get very busy working on a lot of things, most notably all this recording I mentioned. But suffice it to say that that was probably one of the best weekends of my life. The people were all utterly amazing, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and the entire affair was just very exciting to me. Endless thanks go to Interfilk for sending me up there, and to my friend Bill Sutton for convincing them it was a good idea to do so.

Next, something for the future.

I have decided what my next albums will be. Yes, albums plural. As in, I intend to work on and release two albums at the same time. One benefit of having a recording studio in your home is that you can do insane things like this. …and one of the downsides of having a recording studio in your home is that you can do insane things like this. I expect it will be an interesting project. I haven’t written out a formal timeline yet because we’re still in the midst of trying to get the Lyrics Dump songs out the metaphorical door, but I do hope to release these albums sometime in mid to late 2014. Album titles and track lists will be publicized once I have the last few kinks worked out (or in other words there’s a song I know I want on one of them that I don’t know the name of yet because I haven’t written it yet).

And while we’re talking about the future, Wax Chaotic has many more shows coming up this year. We’d really love to see you at any of them! We get to keep doing all this awesome stuff—creating and releasing studio recordings of original material, performing for people, making new friends, writing new music—because of you. So come out to a concert if you can and have fun with us!

I think that’s it for today then. Expect there to be more activity going on here for a little while, at least until all of the Lyrics Dump songs are out in the world. After that I might get quiet again while working on the mystery albums. In the meantime, I leave you with this. Enjoy!



Published May 11th, 2011 at 1:42 pm EST/EDT
firesongblog

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week and last week focusing on the creation of the front cover for the album. The degree I’m working towards is actually graphics related, and really has nothing whatsoever to do with audio production. My school just required me to learn some audio production, and for that I am thankful. But so my brain has been a-whirl with ideas for the various elements of the album cover, and how I might make this one look like that, and oh, what font do I want, et cetera.

Yeah. I’ve been in hog heaven.

It certainly helps that I’m feeling really positive about my efforts thus far. And that is thanks, in a big way, to Beth Lykins, who is one of my instructors here at IUPUI. She is a crazy Photoshop guru. You can see some of her work–digital and otherwise–over at her site, Spyro Terra. And while yes, technically it IS her job to teach me how to use Photoshop, I’d still like to say thank you. So thank you!

I am especially appreciative because of the last person whose job it was to teach me Photoshop. I won’t name any names, but he was a terrible instructor.

As you might well imagine, being in a graphically-oriented program, Photoshop is one of the first things they require you to learn. The class I’m in now? It’s a 100 level course–and I’m a senior. (Thank you also to my academic advisor who allowed me to take it even though I’d already met the requirement for that class.) You need the software to be able to do a lot of stuff for other projects in other classes. Knowing your way around that particular program is pretty important. Until recently, about the only things I knew how to do in Photoshop were basic color correction and how to make basic selections. I was also aware of the Filter Gallery, and some other basic stuff.

The reason for this is that instructor I mentioned. I was in another program at the time, I should note. The School of New Media has pretty much been nothing but awesome. And I’ll leave it at that before I continue ranting. Suffice to say, my old instructor sucked, and Beth is awesome. And I’m irritated that I’m only just now learning things I should have been taught about four years ago. But I digress.

The photos for the album cover were taken by Crystal Wolf, otherwise known as the guitarist and one of the back-up singers on this project. Yeah, she does photorgaphy, too. She’s a threat on multiple levels ; )

Despite the name of the album, the photos were actually taken in October. Sometimes the schedule just works out that way, though it really didn’t make much of a difference one way or another. The photos are still excellent and fun to play with.

That is me on the cover. The costume consisted of many layers of skirts to give the top one more dimension, an overbust corset, a chemise, and the cape, with a pair of shoes made by Medieval Moccasins (whom I can highly recommend). All of the clothing was made by me over the last several years. For anyone reading who doesn’t know, I am also a seamstress, and yes, I do take commissions. For just about anything. Seriously. Have a project in mind? Send me an email.

Manipulating these photos provided me with interesting challenges. For one, I am, of course, a corporeal being, and was therefore shone upon by the sun. I didn’t have the foresight to bring some sort of drape to try and shield myself from the light, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind for next time. But the reason why this is important is because ghosts are NOT corporeal beings, and so, I reason, they shouldn’t be affected by sunlight the way I was. The light should dapple through the leaves and keep right on dappling down to the ground. So I had to figure out how to remove the unwanted highlights produced by the sunlight without negatively affecting the image. I feel as though it turned out well, and Beth, whose scrutiny is much sharper than mine, has yet to disagree so I’m taking that as a good sign.

If you’re wondering why ghosts are appropriate for the cover of this album, head on over to the Music page and read the lyrics for the title track. Interestingly enough, this image would have been just as appropriate for the previous version of the song. Before I re-wrote it, “Cold September Ground” was a silly (and by “silly” I mean “fluffy and pointless”) about some dude who saw some chick outside of his window one evening just after Mabon, the autumnal equinox, and decided to follow her out into the woods on his estate when she began disappearing into the distance between the trees. When he caught up with her, they danced, and then they had sex for some reason, but he awoke to find himself alone and then forever after yearned for the strange love he found in the woods that night.

Hey, I wrote it when I was sixteen. So sue me.

But so the figure on the cover could easily have been that mysterious lady, and was, in fact, intended to be her when I created this concept, but before I re-wrote the lyrics. Now she’s just one of the Waiting, as I’m now deciding I’m calling them, and, as she is me, is technically also the Storyteller. But the challenges with manipulating this image didn’t end with sun-dappled clothing.

Next I had to remove the figure from the original image and give it a new home on an appropriate backplate. Here’s where one of the new things I’ve been learning this semester came into play. Layer masks are wonderful, wonderful things. I’d tried some of the other techniques I’d learned to isolate part of an image, but none of them worked very well–and none of them were as fluidly editable as the layer mask is. The mask also enabled me to leave the edges of the figure indistinct and seethrough, which I figured would be appropriate for an apparition. After that it was just a matter of messing with various layer properties and the position of the figure in the scene to get the look I wanted.

Then it was time for the fog. Oh, crap.

See, I’m not much of a painter. Or a photo manipulator, really, as this is the first time I’ve learned how to do anything with a photo that’s not only drastic but doesn’t, y’know, suck. Taking the saturation on something all the way up is certainly drastic, but it’s the make-your-eyes-bleed sort of drastic, and definitely not something I’m going for. But so if an image doesn’t already exist for me to play with, I’m rather at a loss. Photoshop has some amazing capabilities for painting. My friend Kathryn Thacker has some amazing artwork up on her university site that you should totally check out. But as I’ve said, I’m not much of a painter–so how to get fog into this graphic?

Those of you with Photoshop experience can likely think of twenty different ways to solve this problem. Now that I know how to do it, I feel kinda lame for being all, “OMG, fog!”, but that’s the way I was. Add in some advice from my instructor and an online tutorial, and suddenly there’s fog.

Before I continue, I wish to make a note on online tutorials. They are NOT all created equal. One of the reasons my previous PS teacher sucked so much was because his teaching philosophy was to tell us to “find tutorials” because “that’s how I learned”. Ok, fine. Photoshop tutorials are an awesome resource, assuredly. But he still sucked for saying that for two reasons. Number one, I was paying him to teach me things and he wasn’t. And number two–which is far more important for the purposes of this note–tutorials like this one exist, and they are incredibly, incredibly frustrating to people who are trying to learn from them, let alone beginning Photoshoppers. Nothing personal against whoever created that tutorial, but I was originally considering that technique for making the titular fonts, and was unable to because the tutorial was beyond unhelpful.

But so if you’re on your own and trying to learn any software, really, be careful out there. And if you have the opportunity to learn from a teacher like Beth, freaking take it.

We now returned to our regularly scheduled rambling.

After that it was time to add in the lettering. I played around with it some and realized that the contrast between the background and the text wasn’t high enough. Luckily, Crystal had snapped lots of other photos that day and I was able to find one that I could mask in and solve that little problem. You shall have to permit me a squee at this simple victory, ’cause I was pretty damn happy about it. And then it was time to choose the font face for the cover.

The one I chose is indeed the same as the banner font for the blog and the main site, and I did that on purpose. The idea for the site right now is that certain graphical elements are supposed to be themed around the upcoming project–so that includes things like the color palette, some fonts, and overall mood. I’m sure that will change if I ever start producing more albums than just my own, but for now I like the idea and I think it will work well. But I did try to give the lettering some unique attributes that would differentiate it from the site banners and also make it more in line with the artwork. If any of you are wondering, the lettering was done in Illustrator, exported as a .psd, and then altered using the Smudge tool and various layer effects. I’m not in the business of writing Photoshop tutorials, but there’s that if you’re interested.

I haven’t yet started working with the other photos that will be used in the case inserts. I wanted to get the cover art figured out first before beginning work on those, so that will likely be the next graphical project on the agenda. For now I’m still finalizing the front cover–which would be why, at time of writing, it’s not up here yet. And I’m sure I’ll forget to put it up later when it’s finished, so if you’re reading this and there’s no example of the cover art, please comment and remind me to put one up.

Also at time of writing, I haven’t yet shown Beth the results of her advice. I’m looking forward to doing so tomorrow.