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Archive for Music Production

DAWs, plugins, software, hardware and anything that has to do with the creation of music can be found in the Music Production category.

5 Ways To Spruce Up Your Live Show

This is a post I found on Echoes, Disc Makers blog, about how to add some punch to your live shows. As a mix engineer I think about this topic quite a bit. How do you keep things fresh while playing the same material over and over? For those of you who aren't professional mixers we will listen to the same song from 5 - 12 hours in a row to set the proper EQ and levels that will make the song great. That's our job and we live for it.

As a touring musician, however, you play the same set of songs for months at a time. How do you stay interested in the material and make sure your audience doesn't think that you're bored of playing it? Well, Cheryl Engelhardt explains a few tips below so that you and your audience stay interested. Enjoy!

Freshen Up Your Live Show – 5 Ways To Spruce Up Your Live Music Performance

by CHERYL B. ENGELHARDT

Make a lasting impression and your fans will return in droves.

There are lots of reasons to want to freshen up your live show. Maybe you hit a point where you are performing songs off your new-but-not-that-new record and feel like the show is getting stagnant – not just for you but for your fans. Or maybe you feel like you haven’t found the sweet spot of what your live show should be. Perhaps you want to experiment a bit but don’t know how.

The good news is that there are some easy ways to shift your performance, from “ever-so-slightly” to “total overhaul,” and you can gauge the results immediately – i.e. people start coming out to hear your live music, stay the whole set, buy more CDs, have great comments afterwards, YOU feel great, you feel like you hit a stride, etc.

Here are 5 ideas and performance tips to help you freshen up your live music performances without losing yourself in the process. Take one on, or all five and really shake things up. (And add some of your own in the comments section!)

1. Go crazy with cover songs
No matter what cover song you do, as long as you do it authentically as you, you really can’t go wrong. To me, cover songs are about stretching yourself, giving the unexpected, and being playful with your audience. I’ve covered Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (and folks, for obvious reasons, it doesn’t get much different than that) as well as Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Maker.”

"...Branching out into the amazing history of delicious hits is a fun musical expedition."

2. Change arrangements
I can’t tell you how bored I get when I do solo tours. Me and my piano, every night. On the other hand, I LOVE playing with my band (electric guitar, drums, bass), but I can sometimes overdo putting on the same show over and over. So, recently, I switched it up and did a show at Rockwood Music Hall in New York and had my guitarist play acoustic guitar and brought in Kristine Kruta, a cello player who played on my record.

3. Involve your audience more
I’m talking before, during, and after the show. While promoting on Facebook, Twitter, fan emails, ask people what songs they want to hear. Ask them what merch they’d like to see at the next show. Have a contest to see who can share the event page the most. Just before you start playing, go up to a fan and ask them to take on passing around your mailing list mid-set. Tell them you’d be grateful and honored and offer a free CD.

4. Switch up your lineup
This doesn’t mean permanently fire your band and hire new people with no reason other than you’re spring cleaning. It means making friends with some other musicians, doing a few gigs with them to see if anything sparks. Maybe these gigs are acoustic, or duets, or something other than your normal schtick. If you always play with the same people, it’s great to see what other musicians can do with your music. You may get ideas to bring back to your original players, and you may also forge a new relationship and want to add them to your regular lineup.

5. Change venues
Tired of the coffee house scene? The loud bar scene? The background-music restaurant, ski resort, hotel bar scene? Whatever it is you usually play, look into something totally different. Ask a friend to host a rooftop party. Call the booker for a bigger rock club you’ve been wanting to play and ask for an early slot six months from now, or start pounding the pavement to get an opening slot for a band you’d like to tour with.

"If you’re always playing loud venues, do a stripped-down show at a coffee shop to showcase your songwriting."

You can read the rest of Cheryl's article over at Echoes, Disk Makers blog for up and coming musicians.

A Guide To Recording A Killer Lead Vocal.

The article below comes from the latest edition of Electronic Musician (emusician.com). It was written by Michael Cooper who really seems to know his stuff. It's a long article, but if you are serious about recording great vocal performances you should read this in its entirety. I've been in this business for about 15 years and even I took away some great tips. At times it gets a bit technical, but continue reading. He blends advice for techies and newbies alike quite nicely.

Best of luck and please remember to contact us if you have any vocal tracking needs or simply want to discuss a technique in Michael's article. We love to talk shop!

A SOUP-TO-NUTS GUIDE TO RECORDING KILLER LEAD VOCAL TRACKS

By MICHAEL COOPER

Recording a Killer Lead Vocal

"Pamper the Talent", Michael Cooper

THERE'S A good reason why music-production illuminati dub the lead vocal the “money track”: If it’s not fantastic, you don’t have a record. To casual listeners, it hardly matters how good the instrumental tracks sound. The lead vocal is the thing that grabs their attention and impels them to listen to a recording, or hit the Skip button.

In this article, I’ll detail the techniques that have worked for me when recording lead vocal tracks over the past 30 years. My focus will be on overdubbing vocals to existing instrumental tracks, but much of what I’ll cover applies equally to tracking a singer simultaneously with a band. It all begins with common-sense tips.

Prepare Ahead of Time Nothing drains a singer’s mojo faster than waiting forever while his mic is set up, a preamp and compressor are patched into the signal path, a new DAW track is created, and a headphone mix is devised and routed to his cans. If possible, make sure all these tasks are completed before the singer arrives at your studio. That way, you can immediately get down to making magic together after a couple minutes of ice-breaking chitchat.

I’ll talk in-depth about equipment selection and setup shortly, but a few words about mic choice bear discussion now, before your session begins. If you’ll be working with a singer for the first time, ask her well before the session what her favorite mic is for recording; that is, one that has yielded flattering results on her other sessions. Try using the same mic model if you own it. If it’s not in your arsenal and you can’t justify renting it, choose another mic from your collection that has a similar frequency response, polar pattern, and bass proximity effect.

An alternative tack is to set up a few of your best vocal mics before the session and have the vocalist briefly sing into each one so you can hear which is the best match for her voice. The drawback to this approach is it takes time, something that the project’s budget might not allow. Fortunately, there is a simple way to choose the perfect mic on the spot. But first, a little feng shui is in order.

The rest of this article includes topics like...

  • Pamper the Talent (I wrote a similar article recently titled, Putting a singer at ease in the studio)
  • Hang it High - Microphone placement
  • Patch in Preamp and Compressor Before the Talent Arrives
  • Tweak the Cue Mix
  • Fix Now or Comp Later
  • Using Polar Patterns to Shape Tone
  • And much more.

To continue reading please head on over to Electronic Musician.

How to Write Songs That Stick!

Below is an excerpt from an e-course I subscribe to by Morgan Cryer. Morgan is a Nashville based songwriter who has had airplay and hits on commercial radio.

That said, he is also a songwriting coach amd internet marketer. He's the author of the e-book Strong Song Writing. I don't pay attention to most e-books, but Morgan's seems different. He cares more about providing in-depth guidance than fluffy content.

I don't own his book, yet, but I do plan on purchasing it very soon because my next big music endeavor is going to be based around songwriting. 

So if your main focus in this business is writing songs you're going to want to pay attention to my next few Round Ups. They're going to be all about how to sculpt the best song you can write - every time.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy Morgan's view on starting your song strong.

 

GET DOWN TO BUSINESS IMMEDIATELY

By Morgan Cryer

Morgan Cryer

Songwriter, Morgan cryer

One of the most overlooked secrets to writing strong songs is so simple you'll think it's stupid.   And yet it's so important that I don't know why songwriting authors and "teachers" have not made more of a big deal of it.

Here it is:  ALWAYS start your songs strong.

It sounds too simple to even be called it a "tip." I can hear you saying it,
"Everybody knows that!"

But do they?  Out of 100 songs I hear at writer's events, 97 of them will have weak first lines (actually weak first and second lines).  Just think of how crazy this is.  You book a flight, pay a registration fee, make sure you're in the right room for the critique session, and then you patiently wait through all the other writers' stuff.

It's finally your turn!  They announce your song title and your name, and press
"play."  ALL EARS ARE ON YOUR SONG!  AND...because you didn't
start strong, all that rapt attention just bleeds out into the carpet while your first
two lines dribble out of the speakers like warm mayonnaise.

No (or low) impact.  By the time your lyric gets up to speed it's too late.
The audience has quietly slipped you into the "just another wanna-be songwriter"
category along with 96 other people.

**Actually, you have 2 other "first impression" chances even before they hear
your first lyrics:  1) Your intro, which should "arrest" everyone quickly and reset
their mood, ...even before that, 2) The moment you walk onto the stage, or into
the room, or into the publishing company office, your personal presence can
greatly help or hurt your chances of being taken seriously.

In my book, Strong Songwriting, I go into great detail about how to "ace"
all these first impressions.  You can check that out by clicking here.

How to write songs that stick!

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING FOR?

Your goal is not to make every song's first line into an epic event.  Sometimes a song calls for an understated beginning.  However, understated is not the same thing as boring or un-engaging.

Here's what I believe you should shoot for in EVERY first line you allow out of the house:

"Your first line should entice, dare, tease, or otherwise promise the listener that if they will listen to the next 3 lines, they will be happy they did."

Remember that a song is a two-way communication.  A listener must literally give your song the time of day to even experience it.  If you don't make (and keep) a worthwhile promise right up front, a split-second decision will be made
to bypass your song.  So keep this simple thought in your mind:

"Make the promise in the first few seconds, then keep the promise with the rest of the song."

For Morgan's next tip, he'll talk about the simple differences between boring songs and interesting songs.

The Problem With Music by Steve Albini

For those of you who's only dream is to get a record deal I highly suggest you read this article. It's from the 90's, but the story is practically the same today.

Thanks to the folks over at Negativland.com for sharing it with us. They wrote "This oft-referenced article is from the early '90s, and originally appeared in Maximum Rock 'n' Roll magazine. While some of the information and figures listed here are dated, it is still a useful and informative article. And no, we don't know how to reach Steve Albini."

The Problem With Music

by Steve Albini
Steve AlbiniSteve Albini is not happy wdsith record companies.

Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says "Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke". And he does of course.

Every major label involved in the hunt for new bands now has on staff a high-profile point man, an "A & R" rep who can present a comfortable face to any prospective band. The initials stand for "Artist and Repertoire." because historically, the A & R staff would select artists to record music that they had also selected, out of an available pool of each. This is still the case, though not openly. These guys are universally young [about the same age as the bands being wooed], and nowadays they always have some obvious underground rock credibility flag they can wave.

This is a very long and interesting article so I'm going to cut to the chase. A band got a deal and found money being thrown at them and taken from them at an astounding rate with many people taking a cut. In the end, per Albini, "the band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11..."

 

Advance: $ 250,000
Manager's cut: $ 37,500
Legal fees: $ 10,000
Recording Budget: $ 150,000
Producer's advance: $ 50,000
Studio fee: $ 52,500
Drum Amp, Mic and Phase "Doctors": $ 3,000
Recording tape: $ 8,000
Equipment rental: $ 5,000
Cartage and Transportation: $ 5,000
Lodgings while in studio: $ 10,000
Catering: $ 3,000
Mastering: $ 10,000
Tape copies, reference CDs, shipping tapes, misc. expenses: $ 2,000
Video budget: $ 30,000
Cameras: $ 8,000
Crew: $ 5,000
Processing and transfers: $ 3,000
Off-line: $ 2,000
On-line editing: $ 3,000
Catering: $ 1,000
Stage and construction: $ 3,000
Copies, couriers, transportation: $ 2,000
Director's fee: $ 3,000
Album Artwork: $ 5,000
Promotional photo shoot and duplication: $ 2,000
Band fund: $ 15,000
New fancy professional drum kit: $ 5,000
New fancy professional guitars [2]: $ 3,000
New fancy professional guitar amp rigs [2]: $ 4,000
New fancy potato-shaped bass guitar: $ 1,000
New fancy rack of lights bass amp: $ 1,000
Rehearsal space rental: $ 500
Big blowout party for their friends: $ 500
Tour expense [5 weeks]: $ 50,875
Bus: $ 25,000
Crew [3]: $ 7,500
Food and per diems: $ 7,875
Fuel: $ 3,000
Consumable supplies: $ 3,500
Wardrobe: $ 1,000
Promotion: $ 3,000
Tour gross income: $ 50,000
Agent's cut: $ 7,500
Manager's cut: $ 7,500
Merchandising advance: $ 20,000
Manager's cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer's fee: $ 1,000
Publishing advance: $ 20,000
Manager's cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer's fee: $ 1,000
Record sales: 250,000 @ $12 =
$3,000,000
Gross retail revenue Royalty: [13% of 90% of retail]:
$ 351,000
Less advance: $ 250,000
Producer's points: [3% less $50,000 advance]:
$ 40,000
Promotional budget: $ 25,000
Recoupable buyout from previous label: $ 50,000
Net royalty: $ -14,000

Record company income:

 

Record wholesale price: $6.50 x 250,000 =
$1,625,000 gross income
Artist Royalties: $ 351,000
Deficit from royalties: $ 14,000
Manufacturing, packaging and distribution: @ $2.20 per record: $ 550,000
Gross profit: $ 7l0,000

The Balance Sheet: This is how much each player got paid at the end of the game.

 

Record company: $ 710,000
Producer: $ 90,000
Manager: $ 51,000
Studio: $ 52,500
Previous label: $ 50,000
Agent: $ 7,500
Lawyer: $ 12,000
Band member net income each: $ 4,031.25

"The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11..."

You can read everything that happened in between here, The Problem With Music.

Surround Sound Mixing – Part 4 of 5

This is a guest post by mix engineer, Unne Lilijeblad over at www.mix-engineer.com. This is the fourth article in a five part series about his experience with mixing in this still under utilized medium for listening to music. Recording and Mixing in Stereo. This week he talks about Mixing in Surround.

Unne Lilijeblad - Mix Engineer

Unne Lilijeblad - Mix Engineer

 

Mixing in Surround 
Now what about surround? Obviously, the panning of mono sources in a surround mixing environment works very similarly to the way it works in stereo. It gets more complex of course, as the panner has to divide signals between more speakers, and you now have a three dimensional sound field with both an x and a y-axel, rather than just a simple two dimensional field between left and right. The panning via delay technique works too of course, and naturally, the two can be combined.

Read More »

Mixing tip: Bump the chorus about +1.5db to +2.0db

Rick Rubin

Here's a tip that I believe came from Rick Rubin.

We all know to push the elements in the chorus, right? It's kind of a no-brainer. When mixing we usually bump the lead vocal or whatever instrument is the main melody of the chorus to separate it from the rest of the track and establish the hook. This is mixing 101. Well, Mr. Rubin has gone one better...

The chorus is the money part of a song. Without a good hook in the chorus the listener won't be inclined to stick around so now your "hit" song will be just another song that they skip. Rick has a little trick up his sleeve that helps push the chorus even further.... He bumps the master fader!

Yep, he performs the ultimate no-no while mixing - touching the master fader.  I was taught that the master fader is the last bastian of output from the console to the mix down medium. It needs to be set at zero and not touched - at all! As it happens, Rick Rubin doesn't pay attention to the rules of recording and has this little trick up his sleeve.

"When the chorus starts push the level on the master fader from +1.5 db to about +2.0 db and then bring it back down the for the next part."

Genius! Why is it that the simplest of changes to the norm produce such magnificent results? I ask because I tried this recently on a song I was mixing and it made a HUGE difference. The key is to leave enough headroom so that you feel the energy in the song, but don't hear more distortion in the mix.

If you do this with your mix already being slammed up to 0.0db your mastering engineer will not be happy with you at all. He may even consider you a hack. And no mix engineer wants that now, do they?

Surround Sound Mixing – Part 3 of 5

This is a guest post by mix engineer, Unne Lilijeblad over at www.mix-engineer.com. This is the third article in a five part series about his experience with mixing in this still under utilized medium for listening to music. In the last article Unne talked about the being disappointed with DVD audio discs. This week he talks about recording and mixing in stereo.

Unne Lilijeblad - Mix Engineer

Unne Lilijeblad - Mix Engineer

 

Recording and Mixing in Stereo
There are many different ways of creating a stereo mix. For example, when mixing multiple mono sources, such as recordings of an electric guitar, an electric bass, a saxophone and a vocalist, done with one microphone each, they can be panned across the stereo image through the use of the pan knobs found on all mixing consoles and in all DAW:s. The pan knob divides the signal between the two speakers. Turn the knob to the left and it will send more of the signal to the left speaker and less to the right, resulting in our ears interpreting the sound as if it originated somewhere to the left of center.

Another way to achieve a similar result is through the use of delay. With a real acoustic sound, such as someone clapping their hands in front of you, but a little to the left, the sound waves reach your left ear slightly before they reach your right since the distance from the source to the right ear is greater than the distance to the left. To achieve a similar effect while mixing in stereo, you can delay the signal being sent to the right speaker slightly, and the result will be that the listener “hears” the sound coming more from the left. There are limits to how much delay can be used though, because at a certain point, we start distinguishing the two signals as separate signals instead. This technique also always causes phase issues to some degree

Read More »

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