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The Making Of...

“Christmas, The Hymns” CD - PART 2

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Ben Vail on Alto Sax recording in the studio with Rob Mullins on We Three Kings for 'Christmas The Hymns' CD.

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Continued from PART 1 - Making of Christmas The Hymns CD

We recorded the CD in eight days at Rob’s studio. I had to do my parts on first or second takes. Rob worked through the night to have another track ready to record the Sax on the next day. We mixed the parts of the songs so the balance would sound good between different instruments as we went. When I left Rob’s studio, I had our mixes of each song on DAT tapes. …it’s not a CD yet.


Mastering is the process that takes the individual songs, and develops it into a project that can be pressed onto CD. I found a mastering lab in LA and scheduled a mastering session. We first loaded all the songs onto the computer, then listened to each song for volume and sound, making digital adjustments for the overall balance. Once the songs were ready, we went into the CD writing session. We sequenced the songs for the CD, set the time in between songs, and burned a mastered CD of the project for manufacturing.

This process took a full day in the studio. We found one mix that we could not use due to some distortion, and I had to call Rob and have him remix the song and bring it to the mastering lab. I brought Rob a copy of the session after we finished, and Rob wanted me to make some changes. I had to reschedule time at the studio, and re-master a couple of things to get it right. We then burned a new master CD and I was off to the art director’s office and plant.


In between recording, I was on the phone lining up art layout, a printer, mastering and manufacturing. I had to drop off all the final art copy to my art director once mastering was done. You don’t have final times on songs until you have the fades set in the mastering. Once I had the song lengths, the art direction began. I had a cover idea, but no time to do photos for the CD. The only good photo shoot I had was a desert shot taken by my friend Tynan Hart outside of Los Vegas. Not a good situation to be in with a Christmas CD coming out. I played with the photos on my computer and gave Jenna DeAngeles, my art director, my ideas. I had lifted my image and put it over a snow-covered mountain behind me. I didn’t like the lack of color with the snow, so I put a blue tint on the snow thinking it made for a California Christmas. Jenna went with the concept, assembled the cover photo and laid the rest of the art out that weekend.

I was in such a rush that I didn’t get to see the layout until I met Jenna at the printer. I was able to make a couple of changes at the printer, and the file was then submitted to become the 4-color separation film needed for printing CD booklets. Jenna had asked the printer to leave a space in their schedule to print my booklets, and really helped push them through.


  • I am holding a Tenor Sax on the Cover – There is no Tenor on the CD.
  • I am wearing a Pirates shirt – Real interesting Christmas concept.
  • I am wearing sunglasses on the cover. Jenna noticed a good reflection of desert rocks and cactus in the reflection. She found a picture of someone standing in snow, sized and fit it onto my sunglasses so that it looks like the photographer was standing in the snow taking the picture. I thought that was so cool!
  • If you look in the sunglasses on the back of the booklet, we were unable to replace the reflection due to the angle of the sunglasses. You can see brown dirt and rocks in that picture.
  • The inside pictures are black and white, but if you look, it is a desert.


    With the mastered disc in hand, I had to take it to the manufacturing plant. They took the disc I gave them and created a glass master. The glass is used to stamp the CDs with the music. I had the artwork delivered to the plant, and the plant produced CDs, assembled them with artwork into jewel cases, and shrink wrapped them so they are hard to open. I borrowed Scott Lauer’s truck, and my son and I picked up Christmas, The Hymns on November 30th, 2000.


    Christmas, The Hymns was recorded in eight days. I was told that could never happen. It was sitting in my house two weeks later. That was also impossible, I was told. It isn’t like God hadn’t done enough already…

    I was told that people don’t do Christmas CDs because it takes 2-3 years to recoup the expense, and you only have 4-6 weeks to sell them. So it takes years to make your money back. Plus, I have no real distribution. I released Christmas, The Hymns on December 1, 2000. The total budget for recording, mastering, art layout, printing and manufacturing was recouped on December 17, 2000. This CD was made in 3 weeks and paid for in 3 weeks. I am so blessed…after the night comes the day. Nights are always coming, but I love the day. It was a long time in coming, but Greg Vail Music is now alive and re-investing every penny of the Christmas CD to begin recording the Gospel CD I’ve dreamed about… The Gospel Truth.

    The Making Of Christmas The Hymns

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    Christmas Hymns - Pop Christmas CD

    Favorite Christmas Music performed by world renown Saxophone Artist Greg Vail. Features Saxophonist Vail on Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Flute and Alto Flute. A Smooth Jazz Christmas CD that everyone will enjoy! CHRISTMAS, THE HYMNS is a Traditional Christmas CD featuring Deck The Halls, What Child Is This, Away In The Manger, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Joy To The World, Silent Night, Hark The Hearld Angels Sing, O Holy Night, We Three Kings, The First Noel, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear and O Come All Ye Faithful by Saxophonist Greg Vail.