As neurodiverse artist and musician Patrick Samuel continues his digital residency with us at Drake Music, he now takes some time to share with us what his process is like when creating music.
Read Patrick’s full post below and find out more about his musical set-up.
How does a new song start life?
Usually, it starts with silence. I sit at my desk in my music room and I just clear my mind from all the noise and distractions. I breathe and make sure there’s nothing intruding on my thoughts and I have enough space to work.
Then I start up my computer, the one Drake Music helped me get. It’s a powerful machine with a processor that can handle the recording and editing challenges I’ll be putting it through. Typically, it’s a gaming computer, but it fulfils all my needs with music and videos since I’m not a gamer.
What do you use to record?
I make sure my Focusrite audio interface gear is plugged in. This has been a godsend and, thanks to a musician’s bursary from Help Musicians during the pandemic, I was able to get it to help with recording vocals and my instruments.
I slip on my headphones and open up my music program. Most musicians out there will tell you they use something like Pro Tools, Ableton or Cubase, but I’ve been using Acid since 2005. The interface is easy to understand and hasn’t changed much since then, which is important to me. The other programs are too overwhelming for me and tend to make me anxious.
What do you record first, guitars, synths or drums?
The first thing I tend to get started with are drums. Drums define the direction of any song I’m working on. Depending on my mood that day, I come up with something light and airy or dark and foreboding. Lately, I’ve been running my drums through my guitar plugins to add more distortion to them and give them some added dimension.
Once the first layer of drums is there, I move onto to my bass. I use a left-handed Benson bass. My DAW is armed for recording and I have the drums to guide me instead of a metronome. A bassline is really important to any song I’m working on as it gives it drive and momentum. I try to make it standard practice that I note down the tabs I’m using as that’s how I read music.
Then it’s time to move on to the electric guitar. I use a left-handed Strat. Sometimes I use alternate tunings. It’s good to mix things up a bit and try out different ones, as long as your strings don’t snap in the process!
I use a variety of plugins for my bass and electric guitars; Guitar Rig, Vandal and AmpliTube for example. There are hundreds of pre-sets there to spend hours on deciding which to use. It all depends on the mood at the time.
Sometimes there are few layers of guitars, things tend to change at the chorus, or I need a solo moment. Additional drums, fills and percussion are then added as the song starts to build. I pretty much have a good feeling by then and move on to additional instruments to record; I use a kazoo, flute and even a cello bow on my guitar to create tones and atmosphere.
The next step is usually synths and pads, so it’s back to the keyboard. I use a 64 key M-Audio keyboard because it’s a no-frills keyboard and just does what you need it to.
When do you record vocals?
It’s good to leave it for a few days then and move onto to something else the next day. When I come back to it and listen to it that’s when the lyrics start coming to me. Mostly, I write the lyrics in one sitting and then set up my microphone and I’m ready to start. I usually do two layers of vocals as I’m a fan of doubletracking, but I try to keep the effects to a bare minimum and have grown to dislike the use of autotuning, and I aim to not use pitch correction on my vocals.
By the time I’ve recorded and edited my vocals, I usually know what the final track title will be. I go back to it a few days later and tidy up or re-record anything that sounds “off” and then I export the stems. These can be anywhere between 10 and 30, each saved as WAV.
Do you do the mixing and mastering yourself?
The stems are then handed over to my co-producer for mixing and mastering. I would like to be able to do it myself, but it takes a different level of focus and attention to detail that I find too overwhelming to handle. There are lots of things about mixing and mastering that I’ve been unable to do myself, so it’s better to get help with it.
I sit with my co-producer and my notes about how each track should sound in the final mix, and we go through them one by one, adjusting levels, balancing the vocals, bringing certain parts up or others down. My co-producer puts the songs through a lot of fine tuning that I can barely grasp, so for someone with not just autism, but also ADHD, it’s helpful to have another who can assist with transforming my rough work into the finished pieces you can hear on the CD or Bandcamp and Spotify!
Digital Residencies is part of Drake Music’s covid-secure artistic programming and is supported by the Arts Council England Culture Recovery Fund. It is a self-directed online residency for Disabled artists.