For me, an album is a composition (it doesn’t matter if it’s made with 4 or 12 songs) which
involves an impressive amount of work. Today, I’m going to talk about my experience from the
creation to the production.
Concept – Composition – Album
My beginning, as composer, was extremely connected with a challenge (the first one being a
university student) which was to relate in one concept 300 songs that I had written. There were
many reflections years that helped me to develop my first album concepts, which were
completely different in comparison with my first songs. In addition, I think that an album needs
to be created with a concept that unifies it, due to it’s not just an idea that emerged without any
kind of creative process, moreover, many producers and other composers think similar as I do.
The relationship can go either way: If you have many songs, Which ones make sense regarding
the concept?, or on the other hand, having the concept What factors, perspectives, stories,
and in what way do I want to tell stories around a concept?. My first official record was born
thanks to a text by Oscar Wilde, which became a Cantata. What’s more, I added 3 extra tracks
due to the sound that I discovered in the 6 months that it took me to compose it.
Nowadays, I’m still having a concept in each album that I’ve published. On the other hand, I
also have unpublished compilations, which I hope to produce and publish at some point, of
compositions from my adolescence (project that I’ve been postponed for years) or why not my
Another important topic is the consistency of the musical language (texture, harmony /
counterpoint, groove, melody, etc.) and lyric (themes and ways of narrating the theme both in
words and in their form). I don’t know if it’s so important to have repetitive thematics (In fact, I
have them, but I want to escape from them); however, I know that it is vital in the composition,
both formal and informal, to be consistent with the tools used. This topic, in my musical
practice is a mixture of instinct and knowledge. The first albums until “Semilla” (with Árbol
Mecánico) were 100% instinct, in spite of keeping me studying the composition of songs, for
me, it was a transcription of my imagination. Today however, I am able to have an idea and
then resort it and color it, trying not to distort its original emotion. This is something that took
me many years and today, help me a lot when I work as composer for other people, as well as
producer and guide (in pedagogy) for composers who are my students.
I must also say that today I keep making 100% instinctive songs translating the emotion and
sound that comes from direct inspiration to the instrument. I think it’s healthy to keep knowing
clearly, sensibly and tranquilly according to the distance between the instinctive and what
knowledge requires (I don’t believe in the composition from the knowledge and anything else,
for me, the composition must have been visceral, organic, emotional or spiritual, that is to say:
it must have essence or «aura»).
Composing a record of songs has taken me, at least, 6 months; this is not a standard, and in
my experience, it is related with making demos of the arrangements, ideas of production, etc.
In general, I take the time I need to compose my works because one of the advantages of
being independent is that you don’t have anyone pushing you, for example: my last piano
composition took me 4 months, working 6 hours per week. In addition, there are some video
games discs that I’ve finished in 2 or 4 months and also, music for short films that have taken
me 2 weeks or even 2 days. For my last order of videogames music, I composed 2 orchestral
pieces + electronic music in 1 day (it was an effort that I hope to not do it again in my life).
One important factor: Balance the internal external pressure with mental peace, humility and
clarity. (This is something to work deeply with a teacher through practice).
The importance of technique
The instrumental technique is vital, I’ve written it before and I think it deserves to go deeply in
the future. If you don’t have technique in your instrument you’ll always be limited.
The technique in the composition may be similar, but it requires humility to accept it. I’ve met
different types of composers, many of them study a lot, and at the same time there are many
who don’t do that. Most of them study consciously or unconsciously. Moreover, I’ve seen many
composers who think that «they don’t need to know».
In my case, I think it’s completely necessary to have the technique in composition because it
saves time on writing, producing and directing. Not only yours, but it helps you to speak a
language with as much clarity as if you were the surgeon in an operating room. Do you want to
take advantage of your time? study composition and learn technique.
I don’t believe in composition without inspiration, so it doesn’t affect me in terms of the time it
takes me to make an album, but it’s completely different when I’m working for others.
Another advantage of knowing technique is that music becomes a plastic language where you
can see yourself-find yourself, but it can also help others to see themselves without losing
yourself) or developing music that represents ideas for others with all their requirements
(directors of videogames, shorts movies or movies).
The order of events
Compose songs (all of the album or more than that to be able to select)
Select songs (if it’s necessary, around the concept)
Arrangements / Production: This is often connected with composition, although it is not always
the case. In addition, it’s usually composed with voice + harmonic instrument (guitar, piano,
It is always good to produce professionally.
Recording/ Production are required when it needs to record with interpreters. Depending on
the instruments, it can be recorded in home studio or even more, in a big studio. Besides,
according to the concept, you may need to record in one shot all the instruments or separately.
Remember that the recording quality is vital for your production
Mix / Master: Vital and generally unknown work. Whoever does it must know how to do it.
According to albums, in spite of the fact that I have 7 albums, I’ve also worked in production,
co-composition and re-arranging songs. From the point of view of the production, it’s essential
to inquire with the «artist» his needs such as, aesthetic tastes and personality, in order to align
the production with his own concept. Although there are many producers, you must find the
one that aligns with your needs and aesthetic taste, because, if you have the same opinion
regarding the concept of “album”, it’s a work that must represent what exists in the essence of
When I started in music approaching to the professional world, I didn’t find this information
anywhere, and those who had it never share that kind of knowledge with me, so I hope, with
much love, that this information will be useful for you.
Text and Photography: Danilo Dawson
Experience his composition at www.youtube.com/danilodawsonvideos