Through The Eyes Of Others

It has taken roughly 25 weeks to complete this project, but I’m here, I’ve graduated and it’s all wrapped up. This project has easily been the highlight of my degree, it’s been very creatively freeing and full of exciting challenges, despite it taking half a year to plan and execute.

My personal favourite track^^

For anyone reading for the first time, “Through The Eyes Of Others” is an inspiring audio-visual album that’s focus is drawn from 6 individual males and their battles with depression. Each video clip features an audio-visual experience that will follow a dramatic true story of each participant with visuals of the males in a confrontational light.

We’ve found male depression is a relatively unspoken subject and we wanted to change that and raise awareness for this important societal issue by gathering people together for an exhibition that will expose our project to the community and create an inclusive environment to showcase our work, bring people together and show our support for men’s mental health.

The sound we were going for was something similar to Russian Circles and Explosions In The Sky, very emotional and dynamic instrumental music. We didn’t want there to be any vocals because men don’t talk about depression, so there would be no talking or singing to fabricate the stories. We wanted it to be raw and emotional, and it was.

Over the course of the project, we had one major unexpected event. To our surprise, the ad we put up on Star Now for the actors for our project, had attracted roughly 35 applicants. We were blown away by this amount of people who wanted to be involved on the project. Furthermore, we were surprised at how many of them had suffered depression themselves. Quickly we realised not only how many people out there had suffered from depression, and these people who had suffered from depression were generally interested in taking action to help prevent in whatever way they can. From this we decided that our so called “actors”, were not just actors, they weren’t acting, this was real for them, their experiences were real and everything that the visuals had captured was pure and authentic, which made the whole project mean so much more.  

To see the project website visit this link.

https://www.throughtheeyesofothersproject.com/  

To see our Bandcamp page visit this link:

https://throughtheeyesofothers.bandcamp.com/album/through-the-eyes-of-others

To see our Youtube channel with all the videos visit this link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8sfrM2oo2ArTwbTHoC5tWA

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Update 1: Pre-Production – Drum Test Recording

Over the extended Christmas break our group has made a conscious effort to utilise extra time that we have to go further with our pre-production. We have gathered both in and out of the studio experimenting with different recording techniques and tones. Drums are to be a big point of experimenting with sounds for this project and we were lucky enough to a very good drummer on board with an equally good drum kit.

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We booked the NEVE studio over the holidays to come in and set up every weird room and overhead technique that we could think of. The main sounds we are looking for are roomy and reverberant than a traditional pop or rock drum kit sound. So whilst we did still close mic objects, the main focus of the session was to experiment with room mics and stereo overheads.

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We drew inspiration from bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky for their roomy drum sounds…

Mogwai – Take me somewhere nice

Explosions in the Sky – Your hand in mine

Our drummer owned a Pearl Masters MCX kit, and there were of course weird things going on with some of the sounds, as most kits usually have their own little tonal traits. It was a 6 piece kit but we kept it to a 4 piece for simplicities sake. The kick drum actually had a resonant head with no kick hole, I would have liked the option of having a kick whole to get more sound from the beaters. We used a Beta 52 and a Beyer Dynamic M88, I drove the preamps on the NEVE pretty hard to make them sound a bit hairier, but neither of the two mics got much of the snappy transients, or much high end. The sound was very fat and flabby. We have decided that we will probably remove the resonant kick head for the next recording session to get more snap, however it depends on the sound for the individual song. It’s likely that we will supplement with samples as well.

The snare was quite ringy, there were a lot of overtones going on, so we hung the drummers wallet over the side of the snare, this stopped the worst of the ringing and tightened up the sound in general. For next session I would like to use something with a little less dead weight, potentially just gaffer tape. We used an SM57 and a Sennheiser MD421 on the top, with another SM57 on the bottom of the snare, and again I drove the pre’s fairly hard to get the signature NEVE warmth and bite. The SM57’s sounded brighter than the 421, however even the top SM57 with a blend of the bottom SM57, sounded like it needed more top end. I feel like this was the chunky wallet dampening the snare too much.

For the toms we used Sennheiser MD421’s, the rack tom sounded quite nice and tight. We took out a fair amount of 400 Hz from each of the toms. I don’t usually make this many changes to the EQ’s on the desk, however I can quite happily take out that frequency from the toms as I will never ever need it there. The floor tom sounded very ringy, it had a lot of intense overtones and resonance. Josh our drummer re-tuned the head, however it helped only slightly. Looking back I feel like it needed a lot of dampening to kill the resonance, and the resonant head needed a re-tune, which would probably clean out the overtones.

We moved a lot of the rooms and overheads around, experimenting with placements and how they reacted in those spots. The U87’s we had set as a stereo pair, with the peluso, KM184 and SM7B being our room mics. Here is a visual breakdown of the different tests that we did.

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Each one had its own curious sound and we experimented further with simply blending them in different ways, trying to find cool, unique sounds. We even went as far as having room mics only to get a very distant and ambient sound, this gave us a solid grounding for potential drum sounds for the project.

This session definitely went to plan, we were able to fit a fair amount of experimentation into 6 hours, despite the fact that we only had Pro Tools working for about 4 of those 6 hours. From previous sessions, I learnt that it actually takes a long time to pull a good drum sound, and that you cannot simply just mic up a drum kit and start tracking straight away. That is why I’m glad we put more time into testing mics, changing their positions and their gain levels and processing on the desk.

We’ll be back soon with another update on the project.

Project Update 5: Mastering and Reflection

The mastering for this project has taken place in the studio’s on campus, for my project 1 mix, I mastered at home on non calibrated monitors in a weird position in the room. The result was not very effective, nor was it what I would deem now, as an industry standard master. I have been mastering in the Audient 8024 studio on campus, the benefit of which is that there is the Avalon and an honest pair of Dynamic Audio monitors, far more honest that the Opals that I am used to mixing on. What I was hoping to achieve with this mastering process was to add, some quirky plugins and processing to really spice up the tracks.

When these track are released, which will be sometime next year, we aim to publish them on Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Youtube, sharing on Facebook and Instagram. These platforms have recommended formats for the audio that is uploaded to them. Bandcamp and SoundCloud both will accept 24 bit depth WAV files at the mostl, and sample rates from 44.1k upwards. They will also accept and MP3 encoded file.

Radio is a bit of a different story, song length has a limit on air time which is quite often between 3:30 and 4 minutes which is the biggest length that I am aware of. This is why I made a radio edit of Little Loco, I am unsure about Baby It’s You as I would be shaving off a minute and a half of audio from it. Little Loco is radio friendly territory already luckily. The section I cut out was just after the bridge solo, there is a random 12 second or so breakdown before kicking into the third chorus. It is not 100% vital to the track and is quite easily omitted and then faded back together.

Little Loco:

The track is a bit of a big rock song, so I aimed to add more edge and brightness. So I opted for some Mid Side processing, which enabled me to process the middle and sides differently. Straight away I tried to find the sweet spot with the mid track that would line with the sides tracks to be properly in phase, this spot was roughly 1dB above unity gain. I then added the Abbey road RS127 rack plugin, which adds “brilliance”, a real sweetness to the high end which I set to 3.5K and +4db. Then adding the same plugin to the mid track with +2 db.

The track was sounding much brighter, our lecturer then showed me something very cool. Basically, we split the track into two mono tracks and then one by one ran them through the Avalon, running it clean, only using the the EQ. He set the high shelf to 32K and boosted it by only couple of dB, but the effect was amazing, yet incredibly subtle, as if someone had removed a blanket from in front of the speakers. It added a lot of height and air to the top end. Finally, our lecturer showed me what a bit of multiband compression can do to just tuck everything in and tame the whole track, this was possibly the most subtle processing however it made the track feel just that extra bit cohesive and like it was being played from a CD. The limiter used was an Izotope Vintage Limiter set to “Tube”, the ceiling brought down to -0.3 dB to avoid any jumps from intersample peaking and just to keep it safely from regular clipping.

Baby It’s you:

For this song I went into the C24 studio, the benefit of this studio is the mastering outboard gear which I made good use of. The BAX EQ and the Foote Compressor, both of which a quite subtle for the purpose of detailed mastering. I ran the EQ after the compressor as I didn’t the compressor to flatten whatever EQ’ing did. I added in some 18k at around 3dB which like the Avalon for little Loco added some air and space. With the compressor Steph showed me this technique to set the sweet spot for the attack and release, where you absolutely hammer the ratio, ratio, threshold and the gain to slam the track, then roll back the attack until it’s not choking transients, and then roll off the release until it’s not choking the following transients. The ratio was fairly light on at 1.5:1 and the gain reduction maxed out at around -2.5 which is a very comfortable amount of headroom for dynamics to still have a lot of presence. I used the Izotope Vintage Limiter set to “Tube” again, with the ceiling brought down to -0.3 dB.

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I aimed for an average integrated LUFS value of -13.0. In the chorus and other louder parts the short term value was reaching -12.0 and the quieter parts such as the verses around -15.0. At this point the song was hitting the ceiling fairly regularly getting the tracks to a nice and loud level. The mastering I feel went fairly well, improving the tracks a lot. They sound far more lively than mixes and generally

Comparison to Industry Standards:

I feel like in terms of the quality of the performance, that I have reached near to, if not, and professional standard, particularly with my level of editing and performance correction in post. I’ve mentioned how in a previous blog how it’s generally a dead giveaway that the mix sounds ameteur if there are mistakes in the edit or performance. I have really put a great deal of time into getting the sound of the performance to a next level for myself.

If I had to compare these songs to a similar sort of production, I would probably go with Trippin’ The Light Fantastic by Ball Park Music.

As well as Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, as their Producer and Writer he is a big part of the bands inspiration and is a fantastic producer.

This is perhaps the area or point of view that I was missing from this project, the producer role. I relied quite heavily on the creativity of the band and the songs to make the songs special and a high quality “production”. When I listen to rippin’ The Light Fantastic by Ball Park Music, it just sounds a little bit more like a song you would hear on the radio, and like it has more character and production value. Not that the quality of the The Grüvs songwriting is any lesser, their songwriting is awesome! The production value I’m talking about, is generally having a push for certain tonal aesthetics, ideas, or even addition instruments or sounds. My project is pretty much just “the band”, which isn’t a bad thing, however it can be really beneficial for the development of bands sound and character.

I’ve compared Little Loco to Trippin’ The Light Fantastic, whilst the track felt like it was felt like it was fairly pushed, I think I could have pushed it a little more with the limiter threshold. Trippin’ The Light Fantastic is running at a couple of dB higher and is generally just a tiny bit louder, and a little bit more like a radio master with it’s higher level. I think I could have afforded to push the songs a little bit louder to be in the same ball park (pun intended). I think the mix was also maybe a bit brighter, I think throughout my process I haven’t mixed in quite as much high end, the brightening in the mastering process was effective however I only really added extreme high end and not so much the more aggressive and noticeably brighter high mids (roughly between 3k to 7k). I would say I was worrying a bit about having too harsh a mix throughout the process and I feel like for all of the resonant high frequencies that I removed, I should have replaced to some degree.

note: (On top is Trippin’ the Light Fantastic, below is Little Loco)

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Overall Reflection:

I have travelled a large distance with this project. I have really stepped up my recording quality level since the last EP I did in trimester 2, just going to the effort to experiment and research on techniques, principles and different tones for pre production really prepared me to get a better sound. My confidence in the studios has gone up also, the further use of the desks and the outboard gear has been a real benefit for my project. Things such processing the vocals and mix through the Avalon for recording and mixing, and using the 1176 compressor for the bass.

I have improved on my artist coaching and production, I felt very involved when it to electric guitars and vocals, the guys would often ask for my feedback on a harmony line or guitar part, and I would give my honest opinion in the kindest way possible. Especially with the lead guitarist James, as a guitarist we had a lot in terms of taste for tone in common and we were able to bond over it and he really respected my opinion, despite it being their song. Similarly with rest of the band it really helped getting to know them and their tastes, the relationship was really casual and relaxing and the bonus of this was they seemed quite comfortable performing in the studio.

I feel a lot more confident about taking on a musical project, as well as a project on my own. Managing it was a struggle at times with the band, although I could safely say that I managed my bookings and time spent on the project well enough to not lose lot of sleep. I did spend an extensive amount of time in the studio’s, I wanted to avoid mixing at home as much as I could mainly because of my limited plugin supply, but also due to the poor quality sound environment. I have learnt a lot about session management and workflow between stages of the project, so from recording drums to editing them, and then to recording bass, to editing it and so on.

I am a little disappointed that I couldn’t deliver all 4 tracks to the standard of a high quality master, partially because I did a lot of work recording and editing them and won’t receive any credit for it, however I will be back in the holidays as soon as I can. I believe this project, when finished with artwork could really give the band some traction in their genre and in the Indie/Alt rock music scene in Brisbane. Unfortunately I won’t be releasing a link to to songs as the band (hopefully) will be releasing the songs when they’re all back in the country at the beginning of next year.

Peace!

Bibliography:

Perkins, J. (2014). The 2014 Mastering Guide to Audio Formats and Delivery Mediums. The Pro Audio Files. Retrieved 8 December 2016, from https://theproaudiofiles.com/audio-mastering-format-and-delivery-guide-2014/

https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/1696878?hl=en&ref_topic=2888648

Film Dialogue Project

Just recently I was asked by a film student whom I have worked with previously to help him out with recording some dialogue for their major project. The project was to create an old car advertisement, for the Ford Falcon GT-HO, not sure of the particular model. His request of me to was to record, edit and mix the dialogue of 3 different voice actors in the studio and bounce the separate tracks for him to add in to his final video. The audio was to be modern and clean with a bit of colour to help emphasise the emotion and style of the voice.

Something very interesting I learnt was how a film director will director will direct a vocal actor, which is very different to how us audio people will coach our artists or produce a song in the studio. The film student, named Bunitj, directed his actor more by trying to tap into their emotional position or to put in other words, he would try and establish a setting or persona for the actor to follow. Whereas in the music vocalist recording scenario, the song is motive and the performance and how it will be performed is more or less already known, just has to be executed to as high a quality as possible.

We initially began recording in the Raven MIDI on campus, which is not as dead a sound as I was hoping for. However we were able to move later on into the Audient B which has a big carpeted live room and is dead and dry as a bone. The three actors were, an elderly man, who was trying to achieve a voice similar to that of the race car driver Allan Moffat, I believe, the role of the older generation in the ad. Secondly was Bunitj himself, as the adult age role, and thirdly was a young boy called Henry who play the role of the child in the ad.

I record the voices with a Rode K2, I also auditioned a Shure SM7B, however the K2 was more balanced and cleaner. We took several take and then went back through finding the best takes and swapping parts and chopping up where needed. We also dropped the pitch of the older actor and Bunitj’s voice by around -45 to -50 cents, which just gave the voice the deeper tone it needed. There was a rough time bracket we had to fit in to, which meant we were finding more spots in the takes to shorten or lengthen gaps which made a more natural feel to the voice.

To Brad’s voice (the older man) we wanted it to sound a little more gravelly, straight away I reached for the Izotope trash 2 plugin, I managed to find an overdrive preset that fit the bill, it added a little more aggression to the tone. I also made a point of de-essing his, and all of the actors to keep the sibilance in check. Bunitj and Henry’s voice fine with the tone recorded, these two were to been more modern and clean as they were younger roles. On each of these I added in a small room reverb, the reverb was very subtly blended in as we didn’t want it to sound like they were in any particular room, but just enough to take the dry edge off, whilst still sound like a commercial voice narration. I also added in compression to tame the peaks of each take.

They didn’t require any specific sample rate or bit depth so I just bounced each of the tracks out at 48/24, as they might as well have a better quality if anything. I tried to get each to peak at around -10 dBFS, as the Australian standard peak is -24 LUFS for TV advertisements.

Here is the link to the final project…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTvpqxXzlso&feature=youtu.be

Bibliography:

Australia Government,. (2010). FREE TV AUSTRALIA OPERATIONAL PRACTICE OP- 59 (p. 2).

Project Update 4: Final Mixes

The past couple of weeks have been a massive effort to complete all of the editing, final recordings and mixing. But I’m fairly happy with how the project has come together over that period. The mixing was a very gradual process as I tried to experiment and clean up and process tracks as I went, with the bulk of the creativity and colour being added toward the end of the mixing. In this blog I will talk about my mixes, specifically the processing and techniques I used and why. Aesthetics and production techniques has been a tricky topic, trying not to have to make too many compromises with booking the right studios and getting the right microphones, outboard gear, plugins, monitors etc. that I’ve needed, luckily I managed this fairly well.

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Drums

With the drums I made a point of keeping the kick and snare at the front and fairly dry, part of achieving this sound was just pulling back on the rooms and over heads, which really emphasised the “dry” factor.

Little Loco: On the kick I used blended in the sample and original to taste, this ended up with the recorded kick being the strongest as it felt like the deeper sound that a rockier track like this one needed. I also teamed that with some parallel compression and a transient shaper to add some extra punch. The snare had a strong blend of the original recorded sm57 track, with a blend of the sample to make it feel maybe a little synthetic that I originally thought I would want, this track just feels a little too rocky for a synthetic drum sound.

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Baby It’s You: The kick and snare blend involved a lot more sample in this song, it’s a little less organic and bit more dreamy, with the reverbed guitars and the driving pad sound. The kick in particular has a much more boppy sound.

The toms on the track were the original recorded only, I had a little bit of trouble getting them to stand out in the mix without making the cymbal bleed in the tracks sound weird, I experimented with transient shapers to boost the attack and fiddled with getting the fades on the tom hits to sound natural in context with the track. I tried to pan them around where they sat in the stereo spread of the over heads.

The Overheads and Ms Room mics were side chained to the kick drum, I used this effect to help open up the kick drum further without having to push it too loud on the faders. But only enough to make the kick a bit more present in the mix. The rooms were blended in fairly lightly, even less so in Baby It’s you to go with the dry synthetic approach. I spent a fair amount of time cleaning out resonant frequencies in the drums and a lot of other hissing and whistling that just made the rooms and overheads very abrasive.

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Bass:

The bass was a little bit of a struggle, I think just getting a decent tone out of a fairly cheap bass guitar is a tough thing to do. I tried to clear out the midrange a bit with an eq and then distort what ever was left of it with the Fabfilter plugin called “saturn”. Having been a straight DI sound I wanted to beef up the low end a bit. For this I used some multiband compression to clear out mids and boost lows and highs a bit, I aimed for the presence region to be almost but not quite as prominent as the lows. I also ran the ran through an Ampeg SVT UAD plugin to add some colour to the track as it just sounded to dry. In Baby It’s You, I rounded of the high end and let some of the mids back in just to smooth out the bass sound, I wanted it a little more aggressive for Little Loco.

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Keys:

I real didn’t do much to the keys other than EQ and add reverb as the sound already had a lot of character, one thing I noticed was the amount of noise coming through on the track. I used the Izotope RX de-noise to get rid of as much as possible. The keys in general with both tracks sounded fine, but in the context of the mix seemed dull or weak in comparison to the drums and guitars, it was smooth but kind of glassy. Turning them up didn’t really solve the problem, so I added in a fair amount of high end and compressed it to flatten out the frequencies and get it to cooperate with the mix a bit more. Here is one of the level automation and clip gaining I did in Little Loco.

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Rhythm Electric Guitar:

Given that the lead guitarist is playing a lot of single note sort of stuff, and not very often playing chords. Its straight away lacking a thick presence in the mix, so I tried to compensate by making the rhythm a lot bigger and fatter. I did this by duplicating the rhythm auxiliary that the tracks were running through, and I used the Izotope plugin “Trash 2”, a distortion, EQ, dynamics and everything in one plug in really, to change the tone and therefore the waveform so it would sound more like three different guitar tracks. I cleared out the midrange in the guitar a bit to make room for the vocals and spent some time clearing out resonant frequencies.

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Lead Electric Guitar:

I tried to thicken up the lead  and make it a bit sweeter, the tone was fairly lively having been recorded on a valve amplifier but still very dry. Again a made a duplicate and blended some different overdrive sounds from the Trash 2 plugin. It worked really well in making the tone not only a more distorted but it was really effective at creating a boost or clean type of overdrive sound which I was very fond of. I had the verses, pre choruses, choruses, and bridge all in separate tracks to easily be able to process the parts differently. I each part to have its own level in the mix, effects send levels and so on, this would save me having to automate a single track very heavily. However there was still volume automation done on all of the guitar, bass and keys tracks across the sessions. The bridge lead octaves in Little Loco were double tracked and panned left and right to create a massive sound, however I had to edit the different takes to sound almost seamlessly different. The tiny differences between those two tracks are the main reason it sounds so big, just duplicating and panning a track hard left and right will leave you with a centered and louder track..

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Vocals:

I went a bit crazy with the vocal processing, the main effect I used was New York compression, which is a form of parallel compression. However, it has an extra duplicate track that is compression and distorted to the max, it just sounds like trash. Lightly blending that track in with another heavily compressed track, and the original makes it super crisp and lively. Kevin’s voice is very smooth and not too bright, this processing helped me to bring out a bit more of the Bruno Mars sort of character in his voice.

The vocals in Little Loco are fairly dry, I made it that way as it feels like more of a rock song that’s fairly full on, none of the references I’ve had for vocals for this song in particular have a very strong reverb, or on very many songs in the same genre for that matter. For Baby It’s You, I wanted the sound to be a bit more roomy and weird. So I used some parallel compression and delayed the parallel track by about 12 milliseconds, this creates a cool room sound echo effect. On top of this, going with the weird effect, I dialed in a stairwell reverb sound and a UAD Space Echo. The combination of these three effects was fairly cool and definitely felt like it worked with the feel of the song. I also ran all of the vocals through the Avalon in our Audient 8024 studio, I boosted the preamp gain to get some more warmth out of the vocal and compressed everything to level the tracks out smoothly.

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BV’s/Harmonies

The BV’s were all recorded through the Avalon as well, the sound it gets for vocal is much warmer and sweeter than the plain dry Audient preamps. I didn’t want theses tracks to stand out very much so I kept it to the basic EQ, compression, reverb. I had to use Melodyne on of these the straighten these out, especially for the oohs and ahhs, which were sustained notes that the vocalist had to sing swapping between chest and head voice, which is fairly challenging.

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FX:

The standard reverbs I was using were the ReVibe 2 small, medium and large studio reverbs, which don’t have a lot of character, the level i dialed in with them made them fairly transparent in a full mix, I myself really only noticed how much the reverbs were doing until I muted the reverb auxiliary. I also used Mod Delay 3 to create a quarter note delay on Little Loco for the Lead Electric in the Bridge solo.

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Mix Reflection:

The quality of the mix I feel is fairly good, although I realised yesterday, again, that I need to involve reference material in the mix and master process just as well as the recording process. I’ve found it hard in the past also, continuing to work with references, just as I don’t always want to stick to them exactly. I think the main thing that helped me in the recording phase was my vigilant use of references for each instrument. If I kept that up throughout the whole project I think my song would be far greater in terms of their industry level quality.

Little Loco – The mix turned out well, I wish maybe I would have looked into processing keys/synth tracks, I think in the back of my mind I thought that all the effect and processing was in the recorded signal, however in comparison to the other tracks which had a lot going on, it sounds a little bit weak and in the background maybe? The synth sound are a bit less thick than most of the synth references I was given. The drums and vocals are dry like I intend, however maybe a little too dry, I have been second guessing myself since one of the band members mention this upon giving his feedback. I’m fairly stoked with the sound from the electric guitar tone, particularly the lead tone. The Izotope Trash 2 plugin was a major part of helping me shape the tone. I’m very happy with the overall levels of the mix, every is coming through quite clearly, the only level change I would make is to the synth in the second part of the bridge, which I would boost a tiny bit.

Baby It’s You: I liked the FX I used on this track, the vocal sound felt like it felt the vibe of the song. I struggled a bit with the bass tone in this song, I’m unsure why but it sounded very boxy and weak despite my fiddling with the processing. It came to the point where I had to go back to the dry track and just throw on the Ampeg SVT plugin and ditch my extra processed track, which I think was treated poorly before committed it to audio. I like how I’ve made the drums a little more sample oriented on the kick and snare, however I wonder if given that, I could’ve supplemented some Tom samples also. I’m fairly happy with the level balance in this song.

Tomorrow I will be finishing the remaining mastering for the song Baby It’s You, so be expecting a blog then. I have also to cut radio edit of these songs, however I am unsure how I will cut one and a half minutes out of Baby It’s You, I could potentially leave out the radio edit for this song also.

Project Update 3: Repairing Audio and Performance Correction in Post

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….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFptt7Cargc

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.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByPzMC6XGO5gejlxN0pXS2thaWs/view?usp=sharing

Update:

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.

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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!

Project Update 2: EP Progress & Repairing Audio

At this point in the EP project I have almost finished recording, the only tracking left to be done is backing vocals which is happening very soon. In other new the 4 tracks is being dropped to 2 track, just for the sake of getting to a more professional standard, I believe I overscoped this project a lot and didn’t take into much consideration other learning outcomes that I had(have) to tick off that aren’t related in any way to this project. The obvious thing to do at this point is to get 2 of the 4 song up to as high a standard as I can for this unit, and then come back throughout the holidays and finish the other 2 tracks. The band is planning to release anything until next year anyway.

I’ll now go into a bit about the instruments or elements of the tracks and how I went about recording them. Excluding drums as I already completed a blog on that component… https://lucaswillmermusic.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/ep-project-update-1-drum-recording/

Bass

The bass was a mexican Fender Jazz that we ran through a DI direct into the desk in our Audient 8024. I also ran the bass through a Urei 1176 compressor and a Qure SPL tube EQ. The aim of the EQ was to run the input of the bass in fairly hot and get more colour, as well as a low end boost. The compressor was set to a quick attack, a ration of 4:1, and a high input as well, again just to add colour and fatten up the low end. There’s nothing cleaner and thinner than a flat DI sound. The reference sound for bass that the guys sent me was Mr Beat by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, check out the song below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUzsSIflpjc

The song has a very 1970’s psychedelic tone and feel about it, the bass isn’t too aggressive, it’s sounds a bit boppy even. I did some research into the bass for the band and how they achieved that tone. I discovered there is an actual technique called “dampening”, it basically involves putting a piece of foam underneath the strings at the bridge. The reason for this was that back in the 70’s it helped the base cut through more on the radio. It’s created a certain tone associated with the genre and period of time. We racked all of the songs with a piece of foam in the bridge, the bass player Billy enjoyed the sound and had apparently never heard of it before. I’ve since then experimented with the bass tone further, using a fabfilter plugin called “Saturn”, you’re able to distort different frequency bands with different tones, with the plugin i could really saturate the mid and low range, it thickened up the bass a lot. A the moment I’m working with the original DI and blending a duplicate in with the Saturn plugin on it to still get a bit of honky high end from the original track.

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Keys/Synth

The keys and synth were track with a Nord Stage 2 keyboard in our Synth/Midi/Raven studio. Initially I went to record through 2 basic active radial DI’s, however the preamps in there are really nice API 500 series ones with FET direct inputs, so I just used those. Either way it didn’t make a great deal of difference to my ear, the main reason I wanted to swap was to see if there was any major difference.

One thing I’ve noticed with all of the instruments/vocals, however lately the keys/synth, is that every is very smooth and rounded of in the high end. Even the more aggressive synth patches sit back maybe a little too much. I noticed this when I was trying to boost some of the different clip gains in the track and just the track level in general, I was struggling to get it to cut through at all. That will probably be something I will try to rectify with an EQ and some multiband compression in mixing. In hindsight, I should’ve tracked MIDI through USB as well, at the time I didn’t see the need, until Steph our lecturer came in and recommended it so I could add sub bass in post if there wasn’t enough low end.

Electric Guitars

The rhythm electric guitar was tracked in the Audient 8024 with a mexican Fender Telecaster and Roland Jazz Chorus amp. I got the amp of the floor for recording, I have been doing research on the physics of how the room and surroundings can affect the recordings and tone of the amp. Getting the amp off the floor uncouples the amp from the floor which means there is no messy low end resonance from the floor. More research explained to me that the angle that the amp is pointed in the room can create random reflections from the wall that the mics will pick up, to although I don’t believe I’ve encountered this issue before, however just to be safe I angled it in an odd position that would stop any dry reflections. Which is why I’m assuming most electric guitars amps sit in the deadest and driest rooms for recording.

The Lead electric was tracked in the Neve studio with a mexican Fender Jazzmaster through a Vox AC30 Tube amp. I spent the first hour of the session getting the signal running so that the guitarist, James, would be able to sit in the control room with me for tracking, but of course with the amp in the live room. The signal flow was a little confusing, it began with running the guitar into a passive DI, then with a mic input lead into the desk, i pulled that out and used a gender bender to turn the input into a send and plugged the guitar passive DI output into it. Basically that reverses the signal flow to send the guitar signal out into the dropbox in the live room. I then ran the signal from the appropriate channel, into a reamp box, which is basically turning the signal back into an unbalanced TRS jack line to go back into the guitar amp in the room.

This all worked great, however all the trouble shooting I managed to do in 30 minutes didn’t solve the issue of noise. It came to the point where I got James to go into the live room and plug directly into the amp, and the noise remained, unless he stood in certain positions in the room. This means that the issue is the pickups in the guitar. So I made an executive decision to record with him in the live room. It wasn’t ideal however it worked well and I don’t have very much noise in the recordings at all.

All of the electric recordings were kept fairly clean most of the time, we did some experimenting for both of the sessions and it was really fun producing the guitars, particularly with James. He is a very proactive guitarist and we had a lot of fun coming up with layers for bridges/chorus and using different effects on these parts such as tremolo, chorus and delay. I didn’t want to track with any reverb initially however I was happy enough with the guitar tone from both of the guitarists to record them.

The mics I used on the recordings were all very different, I made it so as I wanted to audition them all and see what sound they all had and what their character was. I also made a point of recording the talkback mic in all of the sessions as you never know what cool or weird sound you can get from them. The mics I used on the rhythm tracking were a Sennheiser MD421, Royer 121, and an AKG c414. The 421 has a very flat response in comparison to most microphones, especially in comparison to the c414 which is very bright. The mic I was relying on for the main body of the tone was the 121, it has a very warm tone.

The mics used for Lead were a Sennheiser MD421, Rode K2, Royer 121 and a DPA pencil condenser, the last 2 were swapped around a bit, we swapped out the DPA for the 121 for the smoother and softer songs.

Lead Vocals

Vocals were tracked in the Neve Studio with a Neumann U87, a traditionally clean and bright microphone. I wanted to use the Neve as the preamps are great for more rock styled vocals, according to our lecturer. Our Audient 8024 studio also has an Avalon preamp/EQ/compressor which I would have also been happy to use, and will be using for BV’s, it’s more suited to a pop vocal.

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We experimented with doing full takes for a song and then, breaking it up into verse, pre choruses, choruses and so on. We used the broken down method on all of the songs, as it meant Kevin wasn’t singing for very long periods at a time, and it also helped me zero in more on the individual parts. One thing I struggled with throughout the session was Kevin’s experimenting, he would often to little things like hesitations or frequently changing little parts in the melody. The lacking in consistency is making it harder to edit the parts as they are all very different. Having a variety to edit with is great, however only if there are enough GOOD takes of each part.

Repairing Audio

Just after recording rhythm guitar, as I sat down to compile and edit the tracks, I’ve discovered in a select few of the songs, there are clicking noises from effects pedals. Although I told the guitarist beforehand that we would record the parts with different effects separately, I’m unsure about how clear I was about it, as I didn’t mention that it would appear in the track, even tho his pedal board was metres away from the microphones.

Part of this trimester has covered, repairing audio and performance correction with plugins such as Izotope RX and Melodyne. The obvious desire is to get it right in the recording, but I can quite honestly say that sometimes it’s not so simple, and little accidents are going to try and kill your tracks.  

I used Izotope RX de-click to try and clear out the deal clicking in the recordings. In Izotope Audio editor, it makes it quite simple to visually see in the spectrum where the evil noise is in the track.

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The way you get rid of the clicks, short of erasing the audio, is to use instant process and select de-click and it will target the clicks at where ever you click on the waveform. Or you can select the click module on the right and try to clear them automatically. The video below is very clear on explaining how RX works for de-click.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsB_igerSuc