Airship tracklist edits

An abstract, geometric view of the sky
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Last-minute changes

It is now a matter of days before the Airship album becomes available for pre-order. At the last minute, I have decided to make changes to the tracklist. Nothing major, just changes to three track titles to help refine the narrative of the album.

“The View From Above” becomes “Silently You Sail”

The biggest change was to the title of track five, “The View From Above”. When I paradoxically added lyrics describing a view of the airship from below, I faced a dilemma: do I change the lyrics or the track title? I decided on the latter. “The View From Above” is now titled “Silently You Sail”, after the first line from the lyrics.

“Return” becomes “Destination”

The next change was to the title of “Return”, the last track on the album. Originally, this track described the return leg of a round trip flight. But in the light of “Silently You Sail”, it became clear that I was actually describing the conclusion of a voyage. It made sense to change “Return” to the more appropriate “Destination”.

“In the Hangar” becomes “Hangar”

The final change was the least significant, but I wrestled with it for over a month! I removed “in the” from “In the Hangar”, the title of track one. It’s unforgivably overscrupulous, but I think you will agree that it looks neater!

The revised tracklist

  1. Hangar
  2. A Good Day For Flying
  3. Airship
  4. Giant in the Sky
  5. Silently You Sail
  6. Destination

The album will be available for pre-order this Sunday (25 September 2016). I am beyond excited!


More Mixing Madness

Airship album tracklist
The exported audio files. “Airship” (singular) will be the final album title and the title of track three (currently, “Maiden Voyage”). The title of the last track will change to “The Return”.

The listening game

I finished mixing the last track for the Airship album, today. I worked on each track in the order it appears in the tracklist. I do this because it gives me a feel for the final album, how it will sound and how it will develop for the listener. I can tentatively say that I’m pretty happy with the mixes and the tracklist as they are, right now, but that will probably change, as the listening game begins. I have exported the mixes to audio files, so I can play the tracks in their proper order. This way, I can listen for any inconsistencies or issues with the tracklist or the tracks themselves. I will go through this process, again and again, listening to the tracks on different speakers and headphones, looking for weaknesses in my mixes, testing them to see how well they hold up in different sound environments. By the time the album is released, I will have listened to it more than a hundred times, I’m sure!

My mixing process, briefly

I do my first mixes through my iPad speakers, at fairly low volumes. Because the speakers are limited in their capacity, it requires me to listen very carefully. I manage to create a pretty good preliminary mix this way. Because I can only hear the major parts of the track (hardly any of the subtleties are translated by the speakers), I usually end up with a simple, straightforward mix. When I then move to my desktop monitors (nothing fancy, just midrange Logitech speakers that are nearly a decade old), I can begin to pick out subtleties in the music. For about a week, I’ll mix and listen, mix and listen, moving between the desktop monitors and a pair of fairly decent Sennheiser headphones. The headphones let me know if anything is seriously wrong with the mix. They also help me refine panning levels. Panning is basically sending a sound to the left or right speaker, like a swoosh sound moving from your left ear to your right ear. It gives a track a spacial dimension, as if you’re “in” the music. Headphones translate this best, in my experience.

The final mixdown

I am now in the final mixing phase. I’ll be listening for how well the tracks perform on speakers other than the ones I use, primarily. I’ll be playing the tracks in cars, on small headphones, on laptop speakers, etc. I’ll also check how well the tracks work together as an album. If I’ve done my work right, there won’t be any major edits required, but there’s no guarantee. Sometimes a track sounds great on your headphones, but terrible on someone else’s, or the tracklist might need to be reordered (but, I’m confident that won’t happen). Once this phase is done, the tracks will be sent to the mastering house for final touches. As I write this, I am nervous and excited. I cannot wait to put this out into the world!


Putting Together an Album Tracklist

Airship Album Draft Tracklist

Decisions, Decisions…

With any album, the songs should have a natural relationship with each other, from beginning to end. They should take the listener on a journey, telling a story in rhythm, mood, arrangement and meaning. This is especially true for instrumental albums. There are many decisions to be made. For example, how do you tell your story? Do you start with a big introduction, mellow out and go big again with the ending? Or do you start quietly and gradually build up to a big finale? Do you end on a high or do you ease the listener out of the experience with a calming piece towards the end? There are many different approaches.

Telling a Story with Music

In my case, things have been made somewhat easier. You see, I went into this album with a concept in mind. I wanted to tell a story, to compose a kind of “soundtrack”, something to accompany a mental image. My story is simple: the first flight of an airship. The image above is a screenshot of my notes on possible track titles. They’re all still working titles, but they follow the narrative of the story. (“Come Take a Trip in my Airship” is a song from the early 1900s, which I may or may not use in some way.)

A Good Day For Flying

It begins “In The Hangar”, where preparations are made. The mood is somewhat serious, everything needs to be perfect before the flight. Then the doors of the hangar open. There is excitement mixed with tension. It is “A Good Day For Flying”, but will everything go according to plan? At last, the magnificent craft emerges. The moment of truth finally arrives as the airship takes to the skies. “Airship” tries to convey a sense of awe at the majesty of the craft as it slowly sails through the air. Some of this wonder continues in the onlookers on the ground, gazing up at the “Giant in the Sky”. The view from below is followed by “The View From Above”. The craft is running smoothly, the air is crisp. There is a sense of calm as heaven and earth drift by… At length, it is time to make “The Return”. Once again, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation as the airship approaches. The pilot is confident the landing will be a success and it is! He makes a graceful landing.

The Next Step

And there you have it, a tracklist of six songs that starts a little tense, rises to a high point and gently comes to a conclusion. At least, that is the general idea! Many of the tracks already exist in demo form, some of them uploaded to SoundCloud. The next step is to refine the music, editing each track so it works on its own as well as in the context of the tracklist. I’ll be asking questions like: should I add or remove an element?; how can I best improve the sound of an instrument?; should a track be self-contained with a start and finish, or should it merge at either point with the track that goes before or after? There’s a lot to be done. But, it’s a very exciting part of making music and I can’t wait to get started!

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