In modern music, there are lots of outstanding and inspiring examples of artists who managed to do the job of a whole band by themselves. Either for the sake of individuality or driven by the lack of appropriate collaboration, these artists managed to create impressive music that stood the test of time and became immensely popular, despite being the result of the efforts of a single person. There are many many examples over the years of albums recorded by one person.
So, how did they do it? How can a single person produce and record music for an entire album all by themselves?
Here comes the power of multitracking. One person will be recorded while performing a song or playing a single instrument. Then the same person will be recorded singing another part of the song or playing another instrument. The same applies to a band of two or more people who can do the job of more people using this technique.
After being recorded, the tracks are engineered and combined to give the illusion of the same performance done by several people simultaneously, although it’s done by one.
Now, this sounds interesting but is it doable? Can you do it all by yourself?
Record Your Own Album? Why Not
You might not have access to expensive recording equipment, but some of these artists didn’t either. Still, when there’s a will, there’s a way. These artists were able to overcome several obstacles to be able to create, master, and record incredible music compositions with no help, and you can learn to do it too.
So, why should you consider doing this?
As a performer, you’re probably busy listening to others, trying to learn from them, and planning for your next project. But what if you have a unique vision that no one else can get for the time being? What if you want to do things your way?
Although being a musician, instrumentalist, or singer is all about sharing your artistic vision with others to create a unique piece of music that you can later share with a wider audience, there are several pros for recording music all by yourself.
- It allows for maximum creativity as you’re the master of your own ship. This can help you, especially if you’re still trying to figure out your own signature style without being influenced by someone who might have more experience in this field.
- You can learn more about the process of planning an album and recording it when you do everything by yourself. Luckily, there are a lot of software programs, tools, and tutorials that can help you learn the basics of recording techniques, even if you don’t have access to top-notch equipment.
- When you play the recording engineer and music producer roles, you will be able to identify the mistakes that you commit as a performer. Not every move you make leads to the desired result, and this can help you avoid these mistakes and improve your style in the future.
- This is an excellent way of tracking your musical progress. Without the help of any editing tools, you will have the raw version of your recording, so you can see for yourself if you’re improving or still committing the same mistakes.
- Recording your music without any pressure is a great way to help you identify the kind of musician or performer you want to become. For example, you might be interested in a special kind of performance or music genre, then change your mind when you actually listen to your own work.
- Last but not least, you can get your music heard. The internet has made things more accessible, and today you can easily share your art across multiple platforms, even if you have no contract with a big recording label. As a matter of fact, recording your own music can be your gate to success as people listen to and share your art.
Awesome Albums Recorded By One Person
The following artists understood the assignment. This section will talk about some of the most outstanding albums that every music lover should know about.
Not only are these albums praised for their great music, but they’re also unique because the artistic creation was done almost or solely by one artist. There are several reasons why some of these artists chose to do the whole job by themselves, so let’s get inspired and learn more about them.
Foo Fighters, Self-Titled
In 1994, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s frontman and lead singer, was found dead, and the band’s drummer Dave Grohl became depressed. He got a few invitations to be part of other bands, but he chose to launch his own music project instead.
Driven by his desire to get out of the depressed mindset, Grohl booked 6 days at Robert Lang Studios, which were located near where he lived, and he decided to record some of the songs he wrote by himself. These songs weren’t shared with anyone, and Grohl got some help from music producer Barrett Jones.
Grohl’s idea was to record all the instruments by himself to release an album under the name of a band. Jones and Grohl worked for one week, working on almost 4 songs every day. He got some minor help from guitarist Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs while recording one of the songs. It’s worth mentioning that Grohl doesn’t read music and plays only by ear.
Grohl used the multitracking technique to record the album, usually recording his voice three or four times to make it stronger. He prepared about 100 copies of the album and started handing them around.
When these songs created some buzz, mixing sessions were planned, but they were relocated to The Shop studio, where there was access to better equipment. A 32-channel API DeMedio custom-built console was used to do the mixes, and several processors were used to enhance the musical performance.
An Eventide Omnipressor compressor was used to enhance the guitar solos and vocals, while an Alan Smart was used to improve the drumming. In addition, UREI 1176 and LA3A were used to add some reverb. After the success of the albums, Grohl recruited a whole band to perform his songs in live concerts.
The album was a commercial success, selling more than 40,000 in its first week. By 2011, the album had sold 1.468 copies in the USA.
Paul McCartney, Chaos And Creation in the Backyard
Paul McCartney released Chaos and Creation in the Backyard as his third attempt to record an album mostly by himself. He previously released his debut solo album in 1970, McCartney, and his second album McCartney II in 1980, both recorded in his home studio to launch his post-Beatles career.
The album’s name is a representation of some of the drama that went on during the recording sessions. McCartney played almost all the music performances and did the vocals, receiving help from producer Nigel Godrich. But the beginning of the story is a bit intriguing.
McCartney was recording some songs with his band but later paused and resumed recording by himself after discussing his vision with the producer. As a result, recording the album lasted about 18 months and took place at multiple locations with several pauses. Godrich pushed McCartney to ditch his band, and although it was mostly stressful, the famous performer was excited to do this project by himself.
The album’s first single, “Fine Line,” was released in August 2005. Almost all the instruments are played by McCartney, except for the strings. The sparks between the producer and McCartney resulted in a more textured performance.
Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind
Already known as a quadruple artist, being a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and music producer, Stevie Wonder released his fourteenth album in 1972 to showcase his unbelievable talent. After the end of his previous contract with Motown, Wonder was looking for a project that would allow him to take full control.
Although this album was a moderate commercial success, many critics consider it to mark the beginning of Stevie Wonder’s classic period. Instead of collaborating with the Funk Brothers, the artist decided to perform everything by himself. As a result, all the instruments and vocals are done by Stevie Wonder, except for some guitar and trombone.
During the recording sessions, Stevie Wonder collaborated with two of the most outstanding electronic pioneers, Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff. He used their one of its kind TONTO, which is the first and still considered to be the largest multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer in the world.
This album represents one of the earliest works in black music that includes the use of synthesizers. Stevie Wonder collaborated with the same producers on three more albums.
The album was praised for Wonder’s self-expression and outstanding vocals. It also showed Stevie Wonder’s newfound confidence as a songwriter. Despite some of the flaws, it’s a great example of how an artist took a leap of faith and stepped out of his comfort zone to step towards success.
Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
Pretty Hate Machine is the debut album of Nine Inch Nails, an industrial rock band that was released in 1989. The band’s frontman Trent Reznor is a songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist who was working as a handyman and engineer at Right Track Studio but later decided to start recording his music.
Reznor played most of the instruments by himself and did the sequencing on a Macintosh Plus. In addition, he used several synthesizers like the E-mu Emax, Oberheim Xpander, Prophet VS, and Minimoog.
The demo was recorded with the help of John Malm, Jr, who also helped him to send it to several record labels. After signing a contract with TVT Records, Reznor collaborated with multiple producers, still insisting on recording most of the work by himself instead of hiring a band.
The artist explained that the idea came to him as an expression of his mental state during that period. He was becoming socially withdrawn and wanted to produce a piece of art that would showcase his introverted tendency.
The album set the scene for industrial dance music that would become a success in the next decade. However, during the planning stage, things were difficult for the artist, as he struggled with being torn between his idea and writing the music arrangement that would go with it.
Reznor talked about his experience, emphasizing that he was on a quest to create music from the heart rather than sticking to technicalities. He was inspired by Pink Floyd’s The Wall, where he tried to take harsh sounds and write heart-moving lyrics to go with them.
Emmitt Rhodes, Self-Titled
Following suit of other rock artists, Emmitt Rhodes released his second album where he played all the instruments, did all the vocals, and recorded it at home. Emmitt Rhodes was often called the One-Man Beatles, as they heavily influenced his music and songwriting style.
However, when he decided to produce this album in 1970, he was after nothing but the desire t unleash his creativity, while marching to his own drum and creating music that spoke to him and expressed his feelings.
At this time, union rules stated that recordings released on major labels had to be recorded at professional studios. This is why he couldn’t mention that his album was recorded at home when it was released under the Dunhill Records label. The label company also decided to call the album Emmitt Rhodes instead of “Homecooking,” the title suggested by the artist.
The vocals, drums, guitars, and everything else fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Despite the meticulous construction of almost every song in the album, the tracks are heart-filled and full of passion, adding depth to the whole album. This is probably why this album was continuously compared to The Beatles’ work, as it’s just as good.
When he speaks of his album, Rhodes reflects on his childhood, where he always felt that he didn’t fit, no matter how hard he tried. He started writing about himself, saying the things he wanted to say without worrying about anything else.
Rhodes started by recording his demo on a 4-track recorder. When Dunhill Records offered him a contract, he went on to change his 4-track instrumental performances into an 8-track recorder with added vocals, using a better microphone than the one he had in his garage.
Paul McCartney, McCartney II
Yes, you read that right; Paul McCartney is on our list twice. In 1980, the British artist released his second self-titled album, a little while before disbanding his band Wings.
This album marks a massive change in McCartney’s style as it heavily relies on synthesizers. Despite receiving primarily negative reviews from critics, the album later became a cult favorite, leading to the release of McCartney III 40 years later in 2020.
Paul McCartney began recording this album in his Scottish farm in 1979 after releasing Wing’s last album. He recorded a total of 20 songs that he wasn’t planning to use for the time being as he was focused on preparing for his tour with Wings.
However, things went rough for McCartney after finally being granted a visa to perform in Japan. Upon his arrival, the search of his luggage revealed a bag containing more than 200 grams of marijuana. He stayed in jail for 9 days but was later deported after the cancelation of his tour. He returned to his farm and decided to release the songs he recorded the previous summer after putting Wings on hold.
For this album, McCartney hired a 16-track machine and a couple of microphones to record the songs, with the help of Eddie Klein, the sound engineer. He played all the instruments and did the vocals by himself.
To achieve the echo effect, he set up his drums in the kitchen or bathroom. Microphones were plugged directly into the machine with no mixing desk, which is pretty much what the artist did in his first solo album 10 years earlier.
This album was later referred to as airless proto-electronica as an experimental technique where he heavily relied on synthesizers. However, he doesn’t deny being inspired by some of the synthpop leading performers.
His attempt to experiment with a new technique and style turned out to be one of the most famous synthesized tracks. Only some of the backing vocals were performed by his wife, Linda.
Later, this album was praised for its eccentric nature, probably the same reason why it was negatively received by the critics when it was first released. It was later considered to be the influence for other albums, including Hot Chip’s 2008 album, Made in the Dark.
Phil Collins, Both Sides
In 1993, Phil Collins released his fifth solo album, Both Sides. This soft-rock album was solely created by Collins with no collaboration with any outside songwriters, instrumentalists, producers, or performers. The album was a huge success and was later re-issued in 1995 with some live performances of the album’s famous songs. In 2016, a newly remastered version was released.
With the help of engineer Paul Gomersall, Collins was able to record an album in 6 weeks. He also wrote sleeve notes about the meaning of each song.
Phil Collins explained that he wrote this album in response to his failed marriage to his second wife, marking it as his favorite album and most personal one. He recorded other songs, in addition to the 17 ones that were initially released, but decided to discard them because he felt that they didn’t fit the mood.
He tackled some topics related to politics, as well the themes of breakdown and loss, as he wanted to share his deepest feelings. In the beginning, the album didn’t achieve a lot of commercial success in the US, but it was a hit in the UK and other European countries. Over time, the album was praised for its melancholic dark style, as Collins was celebrated for stepping out of his pop comfort zone.
Several instrumental tracks were later released and were popular among the singer’s fans. There were also some tracks that never made it to the final cut, mostly resembling an improvisation of the album’s tracks.
Some of the most successful and most praised tracks include the soft rock “Can’t Turn Back the Years,” which was celebrated for its sweet and touchy composition. The song is quite the opposite of the lead single “Both Sides of the Story,” which was inspired by his divorce and talked about the importance of perspective.
You Can Be On The List Of Albums Recorded By One Person
So do you have what it takes?
These artists were driven by their inner voice and vision because they wanted to produce music that spoke their minds. While some of them had access to some exceptional equipment at the time of recording, most of them had nothing but their talent and their strong belief in themselves.
It might sound challenging, but recording your music at home is actually an excellent opportunity to learn more about your own style as a musician. There are also lots of recording techniques and accessible equipment that can make your job easier.