Adapting Audio Assets
Being able to acquire, adapt and create new audio assets is a massively useful tool, in music production in particular there is a lot of sampling and resampling of drum kit parts. Kicks and snares being at the forefront of this, so much contemporary music, regardless of genre, has supplemented kick and snare samples. The advantages are that if maybe your drum recording wasn’t very good or wasn’t the sound you were aiming for, you can supplement or replace and effectively recreate the sound.
For this EP project, the guys gave me Tame Impala’s album Currents as a reference for the drum sound they were after. I researched into the Kevin Parker’s (Tame Impala Producer and Writer), drum recording techniques and I found that he a very unusual but incredibly admired making arrangement. However I don’t believe he could get his drum sound without supplementing samples. Despite his interesting and cool technique, there is something quite obviously synthetic about it.
Check out this song from Tame’s Latest album, Currents….
Whilst I wanted this sound, I think The Grüvs have a slightly more organic feel, so I wanted to combine a bit of the synthetic sample feel, with the fully mic’d up, wide, rock drum sound. I started by looking through NI Battery 4 at home for some Tame sounding kicks and snares. In Battery 4, you are able to change the envelope of the samples in the editing and it gives so much control over the sound of the sample.
I used the Steven Slate “Trigger 2” plugin to supplement the samples I used and changed the tune of the sample to blend better with the original kicks and snares, I tuned them down multiple semitones from memory. With the core of the sound there, I tweaked the sample with an EQ until it sounded right and added some compression changing the timbre of the sound a bit further, I used the Smack compressor plugin for the snare sample with some distortion and a lot of compression with a slow attack. I wanted it to overemphasise the transient of the snare. This is currently the snare sound that I have, combined with the recorded snare, it still needs to be mixed properly but i’m fairly happy with the sound achieved. Please visit the link to hear the snare sound.
Managing the scheduling of this project has been a project of it’s own, however it has been a great exercise in managing clients external to SAE. My main struggle was around gathering their availability and furthermore their cooperation. By cooperation, I believe I mean their understanding of the scope and depth of the project. I don’t believe I told them that this project is my major project and is part of a unit worth 30 credit points, and having all studied music at QUT, where production and engineering is a unit of study (optional i believe), I assumed they would have an understanding of what it is I’m trying to achieve and the standard, being industry level. Some of them didn’t seem to take being in the studio, or their performance very seriously. To give you an example, drums and bass initially wanted to make the demo session the final recordings, to which I said is just not possible, however the bassist could not manage otherwise. Which at the end of the day I couldn’t do very much about, so there was nothing much I could do then than move on with what I had.
So we have had to reschedule the BV’s recording session as there were a number of personal issues around availability with the band members, luckily I already had a booking next week that works for them, although this is cutting it close, it’s the only time possible. I did get one of the guys in, however he does non-lyrical BV’s, so a lot of ooohhhs and aaahhhs. He had a very shaky voice, granted is hard to maintain a chest note for 10 seconds. However the quality of the performance just was not up to scratch. So I acquired the use of my good friend melodyne! I actually began by using Melodyne on the main vocals, which were fairly well sung by Kevin, the only real issues among some flat notes and shakes, was a lot of vibrato, which I didn’t wanna touch but some of it sounded off. I had to get a little crafty with my note separation and drift/modulation tools to get the falsetto rise up to the note to sound right without affecting the vibrato toward the end, there was a lot of tinkering and experimenting with the variety of tools.
Given that non lyrical backing vocals are hidden in the background they don’t need to sound as “organic” as such. So I very heavily modulated the pitch to make it sound as straight as possible. In the song “Little Loco”, I have had to using Melodyne on the lead guitar in the final chorus as it is out of tune, however according to melodyne, it was not. Again I have to tinker a lot with the certain notes, as he was playing chords, there three notes, this meant I had to try and get all three of each notes of each chord to sound in tune. Luckily it was just one string of the guitar of which only a selection of notes are played, so I was able to select and drag all of the C# or D# notes etc.
I’ve learnt one very important lesson through this trimester, especially as I’m doing an EP, music is all about the artists performance, capturing that performance at its best is my role as the engineer/producer. However there are bound to be mistakes, we are only humans, so I need to make them sound as perfect as possible. If that means using Melodyne and Izotope RX to their utmost capabilities to make the performance sound as good as it can, then that is what you MUST do. As one of the biggest differences to me, between an ameteur and professional song, is the quality of the performance. There is no way that you will ever hear in your life, a Foo Fighters song released with an out of tune guitar, Beyoncé song with a flat vocal note, or a Red Hot Chili Peppers song with an out of time drum track. The editing is so important, and I have definitely underestimated the time I would spend, or need to spend editing everything to sound perfect.
The 2 tracks are being submitted in roughly a week!