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TEDx Sydney: How to record an album from your bedroom, with Stan Walker

We're walking through the creative process from idea to execution.

4 min read
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There's no mistaking that the pandemic has changed how we work, and it's also changed how people like Stan Walker get creative. But it's also helped rediscover the essence of the creative process and even how simplifying techniques and using easily accessible tools can give a track its own flavour.

As part of this workshop, Stan Walker took us through his process from start to finish.

Starting the process

These days, Stan starts his process by recording ideas directly into his phone, wherever he may be.

"I recorded some voice memos in my truck," says Stan. "And I wrote down some lyrics. They don't make sense but they will make sense eventually."

"It's not always like this. Sometimes [collaborator and producer] Christian just starts playing some chords and I'll start humming. Other times you spend two hours finding the chords."

The trick, they say, is to really embrace those random ideas – the voice memos, the ideas for a few chords, a few lyrics jotted down – so you have a good place to start when you do get together.

"The hardest thing is picking sounds and deciding what you're going to use. If you have a solid four chords to start from. Even if you've just got two chords," they say. "The best songs come out of being natural and just letting it happen. And you have to enjoy singing it! If you don't, write a new song."

Making it happen

From that point, Stan says that there is very little you need these days in terms of fancy equipment to get through an entire song writing process. Writing, making and finishing, it can all happen with just a laptop, a phone, and any microphone to record your voice and the instruments you want to play.

"We've got the guitar, we've got the voice, we've got the words, we've got an XPS," says Stan. "It's all right here. And Christian can mix it and master it here too."

Watching the workshop, you'll see Stan starting to lay down the tracks for the song based on all these basic inputs recorded straight through his iPhone and then imported to the Dell XPS laptop he uses. For the session the aim was to create a 'guideline' for the track so they can see where they're going with the song at this stage and what else it needs.

Stan and Christian really get into the character of the guitar just the way it sounds being recorded through the basic voice memo app on his phone.

"It's magic!" he says. "I remember going to studios growing up, and everything was so big and flash. I never thought something so simple as recording a voice memo on a phone or your laptop was going to produce the sound for the song and give it such character."

"It's a cool story too! You can say you recorded this on your phone and now it's in the track. Put a little effect on it and it sounds really full."

With the foundations of the track in place, Stan can head into the studio to lay down some takes of his vocals to flesh out the track.

Tracking vocals

"This is my favourite part," says Stan. "I love being in here and playing around and just seeing what I can do."

While Stan is in his studio with a great microphone, controlled acoustics and recording gear, he really emphasises that this is not a requirement of creating a good song.

"Don't be discouraged that I've got all this setup in the studio and I have Christian helping me," he says. "You can do this from home. You can do this from your laptop. All you need is a mic, a guitar, or just someone sending you some beats. All you need is a two-track interface and it can all be done at home, in your room, by yourself. It's awesome."

"I encourage everyone to get out there and try. You can download any music program, nothing is better than any other, as long as you're making music and you're learning and doing it from home."

To drive that home, Stan also points out that while this workshop shows him there in the studio, in the days that followed he would continue working on the track with Christian remotely. Back to recording voice memos on his phone, sending clips back and forth to test ideas and build up a final song.

"All you need is your laptop, a mic, beats online, and you can do it all from home."