Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Demos: Mason Dixon-Line

I originally wrote this song last summer and based it around the acoustic guitar. It has a similar structure throughout and isn’t incredibly complicated but I find the fingerpicking to be very soothing and I therefore think that’s what the whole song should promote.

Here is a rough demo to send to my session musicians:

As the name of the song suggests, the song has a very american country feel to it (The Mason Dixon-Line traditionally being the cultural divide between the North and South of America) and I will stay true to this factor and arrange my instruments appropriately. This is why I have decided to employ a pedal steel and and a banjo in the song as I feel it will truly bring the song to life. I also intend to record a fiddle as well to lift the song in certain parts.

In terms of reference tracks, I intend to create a song that has a similar feel to Ryan Adam’s La Cienega Just Smiled.

I hope to have a pedal steel that will sound something similar to the one used in New York City’s Killing Me by Ray Lamontagne.

I also wish for the guitars I record to have a similar reflection sound to them as Bon Iver’s Holocene

I can achieve this by recording two acoustic guitars separately and panning them wide left and right. In the mixing stage I would then use a mixture of reverb and delay mixed with a tape emulator to achieve a more natural sounding effect.

I’m really looking forward to recording a high quality version of this son with my professional musicians!

 

References:

Bon Iver. (2011). Bon Iver – Holcene. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oCPAO3bp4Q. Last accessed 28th March 2015.

Ray Lamontagne VEVO. (2011). Ray Lamontagne – New York City’s Killing Me (Live on Letterman). Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I_7yzbp6Fo. Last accessed 27th March 2015.

Ryan Adams. (2008). La Cienega Just Smiled – Ryan Adams. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2jYzr1FH0g. Last accessed 28th March 2015.

The Demos: Tell Me Lies

The second track on my EP would be ‘Tell Me Lies’. A song written specifically about meeting my girlfriend for the first time at home.

The lyrics haven’t quite been worked out yet but the focus was mainly to get the arrangement down to send to potential session musicians. The song features mainly acoustic guitar but I also hope to include piano, mandolin and drums as the track builds.

I also wish to include an organ to help this however this will be software emulated as I have a great selection of carefully sampled Hammond Organs at my disposal. I am to recreate an organ with a similar sound to that of the one used in the Volcano Choir track Tiderays. 

This shall accentuate the build up of the track further and enhance the whole song by providing it with a backbone. The drums shall come in just after the strummed acoustics do and they should be played heavily to aid their impact.

I’m really looking forward to recording this song!

 

References:

Jagjaguwar. (2014). Volcano Choir – Tiderays. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi3zdjJOZ2g. Last accessed 26th March 2015.

The Demos: Fireworks

This song was written earlier this year and specifically with this EP in mind. It has a blues sort of feel and I think would also fit well in that genre as well as folk! The use of seventh chords accentuates the track and provides the listener with a loose feeling which is contrasted by the snare which drives the track.

I have recorded and arranged a rough demo that will be used as a reference point to send to session musicians to give them a feel for how the song will hopefully sound. Much of the MIDI files are extremely crude but the important factor was that the arrangement was there which is key. Everything has been arranged by myself and I intend to use these arrangements (or ones similar to these) in the final track. The song doesn’t have a vocal over it yet but this shall be recorded soon enough and will be added to the track if required by the session musicians

Here is the song:

I think when arranging a track it is also important to have other songs to reference from and recieve inspiration from. The song in this case was You Are The Best Thing - Ray Lamontagne.

I really like the style of it and think that opening my EP with a similar song would really catch the listeners attention.

 

References:

New Music Channel. (2008). Ray Lamontagne – You Are The Best Thing. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ3xTjvj9tw. Last accessed 25/2/2015.

The LUMAS Awards

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Today I attended the first ever Lincoln University Media Awards Showcase. It was a great experience and I felt it was important for me to attend, as I really want to get involved with the collaboration aspect. This is something that many of the postgraduates highlighted during the evening and it was fantastic to hear the success stories of students who have been in a similar position. This has provided me with inspiration to strive to succeed something that is bigger than myself, and work with other creative people, for example session musicians and my assistant engineer Daniel Marnie.

It also reminded me of the reason why I took this course in the first place, ultimately to develop my skills in audio production but predominantly to enjoy my learning experience. This involves appreciating the work of others and as I saw multiple directors, artists and creative’s sharing their work with everyone it reminded me of a quote from Owsinski (2010),

‘Art is something you do for yourself. A craft is something you do for everyone else.’

It has taught me that while I must appreciate the artistic nature of my project I should also respect my craft and realise the positive impact it can have on others. I now feel a sense that this project isn’t just for myself but for everyone involved in the production, from session musicians to tutors and ultimately whoever hears the final product. By taking this approach I feel it takes my ego as a producer further out of the equation, which can only be positive when making tough decisions during the project.

It was also great for networking also and I managed to talk to many industry professionals who seemed excited at the prospect of my project. The role of Producer takes on many different connotations in today’s society and the Artist and Repertoire aspect cannot be ignored. Networking events such as these are great opportunities for me to develop these skills. Although I didn’t win anything this time around it has given me the hunger to work hard at my chosen field. Who knows, I may be at 2nd LUMAS awards next year giving advice to eager audio production students!

 

References:

Owsinski, Bobby, 2010. The Music Producers Handbook: Hal Leonard Books

Test Recordings in the Live Room

After Arriving at the Studio I started by setting up a microphone (AKG 414) in the middle of the Live Room, setting it to a cardioid polar pattern and placing a screen directly behind the guitar to help absorb any unwanted reflections returning to the front of the mic. I set up all the necessary functions on the desk including adjusting gain and arming Pro Tools to record.

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I made a conscious decision not to add any E.Q. or effects to the signal, as I wanted the best possible natural sound. This would help me later in the process as it would involve less tweaking to the sound, which ultimately saves time, resources and provides a tone more consistent with an unrefined Parlour guitar.

I decided to set up a three different mic placements that I would apply to both the live and dead room. This would provide me with a controlled experiment so I could accurately compare the two environments and mic placements. Let’s begin with the live room recordings…

 

The first placement was at the 12th Fret, 30cm away:

At first listen, the recording sounds very clear and you can tell the microphone has picked up a slight room ambience, which suits the guitar nicely. However, upon further inspection I noticed that the recording was slightly too boomy. This will be due to the closeness of the microphone to the sound hole, even though it is not directly in front of it. As White (1999) suggests,

‘When working with instruments such as guitars that have soundholes, try not to aim the mic directly at the soundhole – it may produce a seductively large signal, but it is likely to be too boomy and coloured… All cardioid-pattern mics exhibit a proximity effect, which means they produce more bass when used very close to the sound source.’

Proximity effect, or ‘bass tip up’ is described as an,

 ‘Increase in low frequency response which occurs at distances less than about 1 metre from the pressure gradient operated microphones’ (Borwick, 1980)

Or,

 ‘Distortion caused by the use of ports to create directional polar pickup patterns… Depending on the mic design, proximity effect may easily result in a boost of up to 16 dB, usually focused below 100 Hz.’ (Sweetwater 1997)

Due to the increased bass presence from the proximity effect, I deemed the recording technique as unsuitable for my E.P.

(Further information on Proximity effect can be found here) – Why Does Proximity Effect Occur

 

The second technique used was at the 12th Fret, 60cm away:

This method proved to be highly effective and it reduced the proximity effect considerably, however listening back I feel with no effects it is still slightly too bass heavy and the recording sounds a little ‘boxy’. The chances are that the microphone was either pointing slightly closer to the lower strings on the guitar or it was still picking up too much of the soundhole. However this technique still produced far better results than from 30cm away.

 

Finally the third was also on the 12th Fret, but 1 metre away:

This recording has the greatest room ambience, as you might expect but it also features a considerable amount of bass as well. Looking back it would have been a better suited to place the microphone slightly further up the neck to capture more detail. Why was the microphone picking up so much bass despite being much further away? It wasn’t the proximity effect as the mic was too far away. After further in depth research I discovered the cause. Diffraction.

 

References:

Borwick, J. (1980) Sound Recording Practice. Oxford University Press.

Sound On Sound (1999) Using Microphones – Frequently Asked Questions [online] Sound On Sound, Available from http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug99/articles/micfaq.htm [Accessed 20 February 2015].

Sengpiel Audio, Why Does Proximity Effect Occur [online] Sengpiel Audio, Available from http://www.sengpielaudio.com/WhyDoesProximityEffectOccur.pdf [Accessed 20 February 2015]

Sweetwater, What is Proximity Effect? [online] Sweetwater, Available from http://www.sweetwater.com/insync/proximity-effect/ [Accessed 20 February 2015]