For the record

Credits: Ryan Harmon/The Arka Tech
Credits: Ryan Harmon/The Arka Tech
Credits: Ryan Harmon/The Arka Tech

Every day of your life, you hear music of some sort. It might be a CD you bought, or simply background music in a store. Have you ever thought about what it takes to make that music?

In August, I released a five-song EP called “Rough Around The Edges.” I’ve put out homemade demo CDs a couple of times through the years, but this was my first professionally made project.

Allow me to answer some questions I get asked a lot:

  1. Why don’t you get a band to play for you? – Are you paying them?
  2. Why don’t you go to a big studio? – Are you paying for it?
  3. Why don’t you just give it away? – Are you paying for manufacturing costs?

I know I might sound like a jerk, but those questions are asked far too often. If I was an artist with a large budget, those questions might be perfectly legitimate—to an extent.

Let me give you the cold, hard truth.

It’s difficult to get good studio musicians who are well-versed in a wide variety of music, especially when you barely have a budget.

Getting cheap musicians is not an option. The same goes for recording studios. Most studios charge by the hour, and you have no way of knowing how long it will take to get a record done. The owner/engineer can give you an estimate, but until you’re working on it, you don’t know how you’ll work together.

The answer, to me, was simple: I’d do it all myself.

I don’t play the drums, so my options were either to use software or a drum machine, the latter of which I opted for.

Along with this, I also purchased a Tascam multitrack recording unit. For those who don’t know what multitrack means, it means that multiple tracks can be recorded for one song. For instance, some tracks required multiple guitars or vocals. I recorded them all on separate tracks and mixed them together to complete the song.

The bad thing about this is I had to teach myself how to make a good mix. The good thing is I owned all the equipment, and I could use it whenever I wanted.

In my opinion, handling the record-making process yourself is the best route, especially if you’re a solo artist like me. My motto has always been: Nobody knows how YOU want YOU to sound better than YOU.

But of course all projects present challenges. A major one for me was design. After looking into several CD manufacturing companies, I decided to go with Disc Makers—probably the most reputable company in its field.

My mother was kind enough to shoot the photography, and I used a free editing website called www. to produce the final artwork.

While I was pleased with the outcome, the folks at Disc Makers were not. I was warned, before production began, that my artwork might not look too great once the jackets were printed. They said they would be extra careful and try to make it come out just right.

Ten days later, the final product arrived. The artwork looked great, and the recordings were just as I had made them.

Was it a headache at times? Yes. Was it more complicated than getting other people involved? Yes.

But it was well worth it. I was able to take my time and have complete control over the project. I didn’t have to answer to anybody. As Frank Sinatra famously sang, “I did it my way.”

And now for the question I’ve left unanswered: Why don’t you just give it away?

I’m an independent artist. Everything is up to me, including paying for every record I make. I put a great deal of time and effort into my craft and a good chunk of money too. I stand by the music I make.

If you’re a restaurant owner, and you put a lot of time, effort and money into your food, I don’t expect you to give me a free meal. If you didn’t think it was worth paying for, chances are you wouldn’t think anything of it at all if it were suddenly free. Feel free to stop by my website www. for more information.

Web exclusive: Check out some of Ryan’s work below!