Recording, Mixing and Competitions

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Fancy photo of me in the studio recording the EP

Been quite busy this week with my music production. I had a friend come down to Plymouth to stay with me and finish up his EP he started with me earlier this year. Couple of issues along the way due to technical issues and issues regarding booking studio spaces at my Uni….but hey ho we got what we needed done at least.

Mixing the EP is coming along nicely. For the main track on the EP called “Tail Light City” been struggling to get a nice snappy warm snare sound for quite a while. Glad to say I think I finally got achieved that sound. It was not coming through due to a “pong” sound that was being produced when the snare skin resonated. Bit of EQ and that pong was a thing of the past. Also, been getting quite creative with my being a producer side of things for the EP. Trying different effects and techniques to get a better sound out of the song rather than straight mixing and tweaking. Will give details on the progress of the EP as time goes on.

I’ve also found this week I’ve been playing the piano a lot more than usual. Really enjoying playing some tunes I used to love to play a few years ago. I’m considering putting a few pieces together and getting a small EP of my own done with just covers on it.

Screenshot of my Mix

Screenshot of my Mix

Finally this week I’ve been working on a mix for a competition on Indaba Music. I heard about this competition because I noticed one of my lecturers had been listening to a few submissions’ on his facebook. It’s really quite fun being able to take a multi track and just straight mix. No client or assignment deadline hanging over your head, just artistic mixing to the best of my ability. It’s a shame I don’t have any fancy plug-ins yet, I had to mix everything with just the stock plug-ins of Pro Tools 11. Don’t get me wrong, the plug-ins are great on Pro Tools, but they are more tools and they lack a lot of character. On the other hand, I find you have to make use of the tools to create your OWN character rather than relying on the character of a plug-in by, for example, Waves. But at the end of the day, you don’t win with brownie points, you win by having the best overall sound. Chances are I won’t win, but I wanted to try and I’m hoping to get some constructive feedback from it. Please have a listen and, if you wish, vote for me. Please note, I do accept sympathy votes.

Link to Indaba Music Mixing Competition Submission – http://indaba.us/ent8

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DAWs Part 1

Now I am an Audiophile. Being that I am studying Audio Production, I’ve got to be really. As such, I am passionate about things to do with audio. In this category of my blog which I am calling “Audiophile” I am going to discuss and rant about Audiophile stuff. I feel the best way to start is where I began getting into being an Audiophile, and that was with my first DAW.

For those of you that don’t know what DAW is, it is a Digital Audio Workstation which is a piece of software where you most commonly can record, edit, mix, compose, sequence, perform and create audio and music. You may have heard of a few: Apple Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton Live….FL Studio. These are probably the most commonly known ones. The screens normally look something like this.

Mixpad – My first DAW

In this post I am going to discuss the DAW’s I have encountered and what I like, don’t like or protest about each one.

Sonar

SONAR Home Studio 7XL

Ahh my first proper DAW was Sonar Home Studio 7XL. Before Sonar I had a DAW called Mixpad, but that feels like an age ago and I don’t really want to discuss that one. Sonar is my nostalgic DAW, it was what got me into recording music. I remember getting Sonar and just recording stuff for days. I never released any of the music to anyone, I just enjoyed using it myself although I did compose, with a friend, one my first proper pieces of music with it, which I did release.

Now what I liked about Sonar was its simplicity. There was no playing around. If you wanted to record something, you plugged in a Mic and pressed record. If you wanted to play around with levels and panning. Easy. You could look at a Sonar session and know what was going on. One of the sole parts that I love about Sonar, and I’m still yet to find anything as good, was it’s drum sequencer. The sequencer was SO easy to use, and you could get stuck in and creating drum patterns and loops in seconds.  The string virtual instrument as well was brilliant! You could tweak the perfect string sound you wanted and then record the MIDI right in.

The problem with it was though, was that it was TOO basic. Once I got to a level of learning basic audio production, small things were really hard to accomplish. Adding a simple fade in was a mission, editing multiple takes was time consuming, and I STILL to this day don’t know how to create a stereo input. Looking at how Sonar has evolved since then makes me smile. It’s like watching a child grow up, they really have come a long way since I last used it. I hope one day to purchase it again just to try it and see how far it has come.

Pro Tools

One of my Pro Tools sessions

Oh yes, Pro Tools. I remember when I first heard about Pro Tools when researching into an artist. I first came across Pro Tools when I did some work experience in London in a film studio and just from being there for a week, I witnessed how powerful Pro Tools could be when it came to doing anything to do with audio. Pro Tools is my current primary DAW (Pro Tools 11 to be precise) and I also currently hold a certificate in Pro Tools 101, which makes me a qualified Pro Tools user. *go me*

I couldn’t list all the features of Pro Tools. I really don’t think I literally could. I have a book which has MOST of the features in and it’s over 300 pages! What I really do love about Pro Tools is it doesn’t play games. If you want to achieve something, you have to do it yourself. This may sound like a bad thing but it really isn’t, as Pro Tools is so innovative, achieving most tasks is still easy but you need to get suck in add all the inputs and send yourself. The signal flow is incredible and it’s ability to move signals and audio around Pro Tools is amazing. It’s editing tools are so powerful. You can easily edit audio to the point where you can even zoom into the physical waveform. Like I said, I couldn’t list the features as it would take a VERY long time and there are books that can do that much better than me. It’s these capabilites that truly make Pro Tools the industry standard DAW that most Sound Engineers, Sound for Film and T.V Editors, Mixers and Sound for Games go to do their jobs.

What I don’t like about Pro Tools is two things. Price and lack of inspiration. Now with lack of inspiration, Pro Tools is great for everything when it comes to recording, mixing, editing and mastering. But when it comes to actually sitting down and saying “right, today I am going to compose a piece of music with just Pro Tools” I find it quite hard to do just that. It’s MIDI sequencing capabilities feel very long winded without recording yourself playing the MIDI information yourself with a keyboard. When it comes to automating Plug-ins, it’s quite difficult to set up even to do the simplest tasks. I can only assume it is like this because initially Pro Tools was never designed to do any of these things, and these capabilities are very new to Pro Tools anyway. And the price….well without student discount you can buy Pro Tools 11 with the discs, and an iLok, for £500+. It is an industry standard DAW I know but to be honest you don’t get a whole lot with it. I’ve been using Pro Tools for over a year now and all ready I am looking to buying some 3rd party plug ins. You’d think by spending that much money you’d get a LOT more plug-ins and instruments bundled along with it. And this is just for the standard Pro Tools package. If you want Pro Tools HD…which is basically and EXTREMELY powerful version of Pro Tools, you’re looking at spending well over £2,000+ pounds, although this does include a PCI E Sound Card and a sexy piece of hardware.

Luckily being a Uni student, I picked up Pro Tools 10 last year for £200 and I get 4 years free upgrades. Also, when that runs out, if I want to upgrade from say Pro Tools 12 to Pro Tools 13, it won’t cost me much more than £100, which isn’t TOO bad. I imagine I will be using Pro Tools for a VERY long time, maybe even ’till the end of my DAW career. But one thing’s for sure…I LOVE using Pro Tools!

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This blog post has been VERY long but I wanted to get stuck in with this new type of blog post. I will be posting another later talking about other DAWs so keep on the lookout for them if you enjoyed this one.