Gear, Progress, Fear or How to Never Finish a Record
*The TL;DR of it is this: I’m investing a lot of time into doing things differently (how I always wanted to by recording out of the box) and part of that is taking the time to think harder about arrangements, writing lyrics (there will be vocals this time), and allowing myself to be vulnerable makes it easier to look for reasons to procrastinate.
Feel free to skip around and read each section you’re interested in if you aren’t interested in the whole story.
I know a good chunk of you who are reading this are artists (mostly musicians) and the rest curious listeners and lovers of music and how it’s created. This one is for you. Let’s talk about some gear, making progress on a project, and how to sabotage yourself.
From June 30th to August 15th of this year I single-handedly finished my unfinished studio which is the second floor of my massive detached garage that was a huge bonus when I moved into my new home. Just so you have an idea, the space was completely empty. It had two rooms that I could turn into a control room and a larger live room but no window coverings, no floor, no climate control, and even the drywall hadn’t been finished. I rushed to finish the entire thing before the end of summer so I could record a new record this year.
Now that the space is finished I’m finding it hard to make time to write and record despite how easy it was to make time to finish the space so I could finally get to this point. Why is that? Why would I have so much I wanted to say that I made sure to get the space working, leaving myself at least two months to record the next Darph record before the cold months hit and my ability to keep the space warm enough to use might not be feasible?
I straight up procrastinated by researching and buying gear. Some was genuinely justified and needed while some was not critical. Knowing that I would finally be recording out loud in my live room into mic’d up amps I invested in another SM57, an Aston Spirit (my first large diaphragm condenser), and a budget ribbon mic (the Sterling ST170) for a vintage sound and to get a better recorded tone from my AC15 which sparkles but really sounds amazing into a ribbon mic.
I could easily make the case that these purchases were justified but only if I spent more time using them than researching how best to use them or how they compare to other gear. Of course I did both. So was it justified? Yes is one of two correct answers.
What I couldn’t justify was buying a Pocket Operator and TE’s really cool looking and portable M1 headphones. I already have plenty of crappy headphones to use on my commute to my day job, I didn’t necessarily need this. That said, I rarely get a piece of gear that goes unused. It’s just that it wasn’t needed for this record, these were just items that were nice to have, that could find a place in the mix.
During the time I was finishing drywall, replacing doors, installing curtains and shades, painting, installing floors, and doing acoustic treatment I was devouring music from every genre and digesting it so it would come out in an interesting way. I wrote meticulous notes on song ideas and couldn’t wait until the studio was safe and clean enough after all the construction to start working on the writing and recording aspects of it. Once I got there progress was slow. There’s one song I’m working hard on but this new way of recording and my desire to express myself with lyrics this time around has made it difficult to get it finished. My previous records were all personal to me but it’s much easier to record everything in the box, including guitars, than to have a set arrangement around lyrics and a melody then record that live when you’ve never had to deal with mic’ing an amp for recording before.
What I’m getting at is this record might take longer than a few months to produce. It might not be out until next spring unless I can write faster and get a good system going like I’ve had since the second Darph album. The first release back in 2018 was recorded live with acoustic guitars mic’d up but then my daughter was born and I haven’t been able to play or record without sending my signal out of my amp and into my interface via load box since. Im a bit rusty.
I’ll finish when I finish and will not impose an artificial deadline this time.
Fear is the root cause of the delay and lack of progress on the new album. What if I can’t get the guitars to sound good because I suck at placing mics or the room I record in isn’t as well treated as I thought which makes everything sound awful? What if my lyrics are corny and my sincerity is mocked?
Fear is often the main driver of productivity and progress suffers because you’d rather research the gear and techniques that would get you a quality sound rather than just getting into the studio, hitting record, and doing your best to make a good batch of songs.
How to never finish a record
You can wait for inspiration but it never comes soon enough. You’ll be waiting forever if inspiration is something you think will find you. Buying and researching new gear feels like progress but it isn’t unless you literally have nothing else you can use to get across the finish line.
I do hope I can get the new stuff recorded before the colder weather comes around and I’m forced to pack away my guitars for the harsh winter months.
I’ve had plenty of battles with procrastination in the past but this time I’m more self aware and know I won’t be held back as badly as I’ve been in the past. If you’re hoping for a new Darph record soon, rest assured it is coming but I won’t give a timeline for it. I learned the hard way that announcing your plans is a bad idea because projects evolve, timelines shift, and announcing an upcoming album before it’s at the mixing stage gives the impression you’re selling vaporware.