Yes, phase 1 was recording the album. Finished? Oh no, now comes phase 2 - tweaking. In the games industry this is called "beta".
This means I need to listen, and criticise. This can get depressing if I'm not careful, or I can get carried away on wings of "it's brilliant". I need to identify genuine flaws - and then fix them.
I can't remember which film or TV program it was in, but there was a female character describing her method for getting ready to go out. She said that she would quickly turn away from the mirror and back again, and the first thing that caught her eye, she would remove or fix. I need to identify, as best possible, those things which in two year's time will irritate me, and change them NOW.
So so far I have been doing some more humanising of parts, changed where a key change is, added some cymbals, beefed up some bass, completely re-recorded a bass solo, moved a xylophone solo to make it stand out better, edited some timing, swapped an organ out and inserted a recorder instead, completely changed a guitar sound and added a thunderclap.
Which brings me to a few of general principles in this phase:
- if something seems only a tiny bit wrong, it needs changing.
- if things are too messy, try removing some parts
- if something seems weak, try adding something in the background
- ping-pong echoes are your friend, they beef up a thin solo
- if things sound loose don't be afraid to edit the audio and tighten them up
- humanise all MIDI tracks. Unless you don't want to.
- don't be afraid to junk entire ideas if they don't seem to work
There is another problem with the tweaking phase - when do you stop? I have no good answer to that. The best thing I know is that it needs elapsed time. Tweak and listen, and it needs a few days of listening before you are sure about changes that need to be done.