Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Brushfire War Album Reflection

I wanted to go through all the songs that group C recorded during the semester; which were part of the record, 'The Brushfire War.' Upon the final mix down date, I felt that there were a bunch of overlooked ideas as far as how everything sounded and how instruments were treated. I have been thinking of many ideas while listening to the record for over a month now; different approaches that I can take if I feel the urge to remix the songs in the future. I'm going to listen to the record in real time and record my thoughts as to what went well and what wasn't so the end I also have a section of thoughts that can apply to the overall sound/mixing treatments of the record.

1. Caught Up

The march-in vox and snare rolls should be more together. There are 3 percussion parts at the beginning, make sure they gell better. The vox reverb to the left is a little off. The percussion on right side comes in harsh, maybe they could pump too. The kick and snare just don't sit quite right...too much replacement? Make the second vox mic sound distortion is clear and doesn't mask lead. I feel like the OH's are slightly Left heavy. I think this is the case throughout the album(for the most part...) perhaps the mics weren't at the same level and I don't think we went back and tried to get them balanced... Probably also why some of the tom hits(on right side) seem smeared... probably over compressed toms too. Could be better is they were also sent to reverb, or more sent anyways. The guitar solo has a weird effect on it, making it not up front enough....too much verb! The gates for the snare fills need to be automated better....

Overall feelings: I think this is the most balanced song on the album considering instruments to clarity aspect. The bridge has a great feeling happening and the hard part of the bridge is just slamming. Can't believe that I didn't catch that the OH's weren't balanced correctly. The mix verb seems to be a little lifeless as well, seems like there is a lot of space still (perhaps because we didn't use 2bus compression on the record....

2. Neon Cannonball

Guitar Levels need to be more cohesive. Gates need to be cleaner on the drums. Verb is nicer than on the previous song. Guitar distortion is not quite right. The vocals could me cut more in the lower mids during verses. Kick a little cardboardy... Have the drum flange cut out a little sooner on the bridge. Try using the backwards echo that wasn't used. Click can be heard at the end, before outtro. Vocal compression is a little heavy and is darkening the highs.

Overall Feelings: Song has great vibe. A few level adjustments are necessary, still feel like 2bus compression could help. Automation could give the song more impact.

3. United Tragedy

Let the drum gates stay open when they are the featured instrument! (like beginning). Too much bottom snare in there... Vocal sounds a bit weak, though alright cuz its just the verse. The kick is a little uninspired (kinda farty). Seems like some clarity gets lost during the chorus with drums. Maybe have dual vox wider, seems to be chorusing too much. Some highhat delay might sound great during verse sections. Maybe some rythmic delay on the bells to seperate from guitars. Make bridge have greater impact (maybe bombastic room mic?). Acoustic too loud. Acoustic could fade out to big verb to fill bridge to chorus space. Outtro rolls not very polite and reverse verb to present.

Overall feelings: Somehow the bottom snare got brought up come mix time but I think it's just too present. Other than that I like the feel. A lot different that the others. Very much a Joe song...

4. Lover's Tree

The electric/acoustic guitar blend sounds great. Too much vibrato on lead vox. Song has a dark feel. The snare sounds a little dull, but not it a good way. Aux percussion sounds great. Snare rude for the entrance of 2nd verse and kick is pretty clicky for the song. Snare rolls sounds unpleasant. Verb gives it a huge sound.

Overall Feeling: Like the lush verb, though it would be too much for other songs. The drums sound open and all the instruments sound cohesive in the 'room' sense...great. The guitars sounded great!

5. Cindy Lopper

Like the pumping compression in the beginning, but then the snare just looses its attack once everything comes in. Guitar's aren't loud enough. The bass is too farty...the distortion could be adjusted. Drums could be cleaned up and tuned.

Overall Feeling: Like how different the song is. We just overlooked aspects of the songs because we were rushed...easy to make sound great.

6. Brainwashed

I felt that we mixed this one the best. Verb sound correct. Lead vox is siting great. Love the bass, drums. Automation could be greatly utilized to get things to pop even more. Things just sit properly and everything is working together. Some of the drum replacement could be moved to become more realistic. The feedback in the bridge was an accident...something weird with the board, but its alright (we spent time automating a high frequency cut at that point in the song.) The cleaner guitar during the second part of the bridge is way to loud. Also the buildup back into the last chorus need a little something else... During the outtro the guitar solo/keyboard solo could use some random automation to spice things up.

Overall Feeling: The levels of all the instruments were almost there. Just wish a few things were caught beforehand. Love the drums, bass, most of the guitar, vocals and all the weird sounds happening. In the future it might be beneficial to use different guitars for each part because it could help to make things more individual... and not all sound the same.

7. Deconstruction of a Hollywood Ending

The guitars could be cut more in the lower frequencies. The 'ohh' s could be brought up, and all the vocals for the intro. Use automation! Song has a good drum sound as well. Love the impact for the first verse, though the vocals are a tad hot though out the rest of the song. The kick has some flab or somethings a little silly sounding. Left side guitar is a little low. Take gates off drums during empty sections! The drum beat is a little iffy during the last part of the second verse. Make the harmony parts during the 2nd chorus more clear and make it speak more. The outtro needs something so that it can be more driving...sounds and craziness!

Overall Feelings: Great ending with the reversed march to make the album more cohesive. Just pay attention to the certain levels.

8. Cherish Your Day

Great clean sound through out. Somehow the bass gets a little out of hand at points. The telephone effect on the acoustic during the beginning somehow got lost...? Kick too loud (maybe use fast compression to make fatter)? Felt that the snare was appropriate considering how bad it sounded to begin with. Like how the song is close to mono and then opens up for the chorus. Vocals are a little low? Solo has sweet tone! Vocal automation into last chorus got lost (super quite)?!

Overall Feeling: Love how clean it sounds compared to what the actual recording was...drums were in the midilab! Pay more attention to the stand up and make consistent.

9. All I Ever Do

Too much lead effect during the beginning. The longer echo probably not necessary. Got that vocal compression hitting well! Clear and up front. A little to much snare verb. Levels are good...maybe drums a little hot. Could use creative delay automation to induce some movement between phrases of verses. There need to be backing vox and just different sounding things during outtro to push harder. The ebow parts could be brought up. Instrumental outtro is cool.

Overall Feelings: Critical and precise production ideas could have made certain sections a little more interesting. Good L/R balance for drum effects outtro. The rain adds a little extra as well.

10.No Man's Land

Drums don't sound so hot...recorded in midi lab. Snare hard to listen to. Vocals seem a little thin. Guitars and electric bass balanced well. Guitars could loose some lower end. Good transition, though its pretty Love the spacious ethereal atmosphere for the middle section. Sometimes the guitar gets masked a bit by the vox. The ending verb and echo are very lush and appropriate. The snare delay cuts out a bit oddly.

Overall Feelings: For such a random and pieced together song, it has an appropriate flow. Without the echo and verb growing through out, I don't think it would have come together as cohesively.

General Findings and Ideas to Remember:
  • Automation
  • Over compressing toms (thanks to me...)
  • L/R OH levels more balanced
  • 2bus compression probably gels things better (this isn't a good example because we didn't use it for the record but I think it would have help a few songs on here.)
  • Take advantage of room mics and automate them with song sections
  • Compressors grabbing too much and making things dull. Use sidechains!
  • Pay attention to the bass and how much impact it is giving to the song.
  • Utilize Sidechains and effects, but don't overdo it.
  • Take some time to dial in verb and then make send levels according to where you can see them on a visual stage. Create a better sense of depth.
  • Understand that the MTA board isn't perfect and be ready for a ton of minor adjustments to make sure it isn't changing sounds on you. Though it might to something surprisingly welcoming like the feedback in brainwashed...embrace the spontaneity of the board!
  • Pay attention to the final limiting application so that you aren't compromising the sound and not just going to the volume.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Brian Eno Presentation

Eno started out as a minimalist painter growing up and going to art school Britain. The first band that he was involved him that gain attention was Roxy Music. After a couple of big releases Eno wasn’t getting along with the front man and he left the band. Though Eno has produced a lot of famous, great sounding records, his contribution to music is mostly through his philosophical ideas toward the art. When growing up, he was really interested in the echo in Elvis's song ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ and was always curious as to how the effect was achieved. While attending school, he was interested in the production of art and the process, rather than participating directly in it. One Eno’s thoughts is that you don’t have to play the music if you understand how its done and can appreciate it. One of Eno’s unique contributions is his ‘Music for Airports’ project. For the project, Eno took many aspects of an Airport into consideration. He wrote the music on the record based on public spaces, sounds that fit in the frequency spectrum that were above and below the human range as to not interrupt human speech, the songs should last a long time and they don’t interfere with public spaces and can still be considered art. He worked with David Bowie on three albums between 77 and 79: Low, Heroes, Lodger. He is quoted as saying the song Heroes saying ‘it was like a game,’ in that he was trying to find a really unique sound and then bettering what he would find. He also worked with Robert Fripp and Talking Heads to develop creative sounds. Another influential idea that is created to Eno, as well as partner in the idea John Zorn, is ‘Oblique Strategy Cards.’ These cards ‘take the chance out of chance,’ and allow an idea to be made by choosing a card and deciding fate. When working with the popular band, Coldplay, Eno made the band create music by listening only to the lead singer’s demo tapes. From here they decided the best approach to record the songs. Another famous songwriter, Joni Mitchelle, uses a similar approach in that a guitar part will be recorded, then it will be muted and then recorded again. When listening back, different parts can be put together to create a unique sound where the instruments are more spontaneous in nature. ‘Eno wants to be inspired by something and then go for it... He hopes to provide counterpoint to todays faster/cheaper thinking mind set and promote slower/better thinking.

Friday, April 30, 2010

408 Production Synopsis 9

This week our group spent most of our lab time setting up the tracks for the mixing process. This was done by creating group sums for each prominent section of the songs (drums, vocals, bass, rhythm and sometimes others.) We spent some time tracking gang vocals for one song in room 100 using a 414 in cardioid. We decided to not use baffling so that the sound would be more spacious sounding and not dead. We had a piano part that we recorded last week and used it as the vocoding instrument for a vocal line. It took us around an hour for us to tweak the vocoder to sound like what we were envisioning, but we are really happy with the sound now. Earlier today we spent most of our time doing drum replacement and vocal comping. We have the kick and snare sounds dialed for about half of our songs now and we are all getting really fast at the replacement process. We also did a few background vocal takes for Neon Cannonball and Chad feels that everything is completely tracked for the song. We are planning on meeting up in the next couple of days outside of class to complete the rest of the drum replacements.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

EQ for Cyndi HeadLauper

On MTA 980 board

N/A = 12:00, 0 boost/cut

Kick: Lo EQ-10:00, +3; LoMid EQ-11:00, -10; HiMid EQ-N/A; Hi EQ-12:00, +3
Snare: Lo EQ-N/A; LoMid EQ-11:00, -5; HiMid EQ-N/A; Hi EQ-11:00, +3
Drum L: Lo EQ-N/A; LoMid EQ-11:00, -5; HiMid EQ-N/A; Hi EQ-11:00, +3
Drum R: Lo EQ-N/A; LoMid EQ-11:00, -5; HiMid EQ-N/A; Hi EQ-11:00, +3
Bass: Lo EQ- 1:00, +3; LoMid EQ-11:00, -3; HiMid EQ-12:00, +3; Hi EQ-12:00, +1
Guitar: Lo EQ-11:00, -4; LoMid EQ-11:00, -4; HiMid EQ-N/A; Hi EQ-N/A

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Structural Phenomena As Observed in ‘All Along the Watchtower’

The song ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was written by Bob Dylan and is featured on his album entitled John Wesley Harding which was released in December of 1967. The track only took 5 takes to record and in the end take 3 and take 5 ended up getting spliced together for the master. When listening to the recording, it is obvious that very minimal instrumentation was used. This is due to the fact that Dylan was trying to get back to his folksy roots and move away from the sound of his 3 previous electric albums. The song has an ABABAB structure where the Verse section (A) lasts for 16 bars, or 2 phrases of 8 bars. The Channel section (B) last for 8 bars and features Dylan on harmonica. The actual instrumentation of the song consists of Dylan’s vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica with bass guitar and drum accompaniment. The feel of the song creates a forward movement with a fairly simple steady folk drum beat (that only changes once throughout the whole song, bass drum pattern changes at 1:30) and the bass playing the root and function notes of the chord. The song starts with a 4 bar intro of guitar, then drums, electric bass and harmonica come in to support the main focus of the song, which happens to be Dylan’s lyrics. The song is unique in that the lyrics never repeat themselves and there is no chorus. Also, the main chord progression, C#m-B- remains the same throughout the entire song, which also reflects how important the lyrics are intended to be understood.
In contrast, Jimi Hendrix’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was released on the album ‘Electric Ladyland’ in September of 1968. Hendrix actually heard Dylan’s version of the song on January 21, 1968 when he was starting the recording process of the album at Olympic studios in London. Jimi’s engineer for the album, Eddie Kramer, noted that Jimi started working on recording the song soon after he heard it. Session player Dave Mason was in the studio and played the acoustic rhythm parts for the song. During the session, Jimi’s regular bass player at the time, Noel Redding, had some issues with how things were being handled and ended up leaving. Jimi took up the electric bass and played the part for the recording we hear today. Kramer’s final mix of the song happened 5 days later, but when Jimi listened back to it, he felt that it needed something more. Jimi went on to overdub guitar parts during June, July and August, at a studio on New York called the Record Plant. The master tapes of the song moved from the original 4 track to a twelve track, and finally to a sixteen track recorder. This allowed Hendrix the time and opportunity to swap out solo and go back and forth between takes.
Jimi’s version contains an extended solo section, a revision of the guitar rhythm from the one Dylan had created, dense instrumentation and many more differences. The rhythm motif of the piece happens a little differently in Hendrix’s version, with a slower half time feel with the second chord landing on the second beat, while the Dylan rhythm emphasizes the the change on the ‘and’ of 3. This difference creates a much heavier feel. Along with the big drum fills, Jimi practically playing solo bass lines, newly invented guitar tones, auxiliary percussion, and many overdubs, the whole sound is plain huge and heavy sounding.
Many of the sounds Jimi had in his mind when producing and composing songs such as ‘All Along the Watchtower’ can be traced back to the principals of African music. Many of these same principals can be used to explain theoretically what Jimi was hearing when he chose the rhythms and voicing he used in his songs.
Much like what is heard in African music, Jimi uses interlocking pitches and rhythms as individual parts; when these parts are joined together, we get the powerful sound that we hear in songs such as ‘All Along the Watchtower. An example of this can be heard in the into of the song when the vibra-slap is used to fill the quarter note rests. The song keeps the energy moving forward in a much more consistent manner, rather than letting the momentum drop with space in between the rhythmic hits. Joined with
Buddy Miles playing tom fills between the rests, the prominence of the two percussion instruments create a very powerful effect. The giant sound is then continued with tambourin panned to the opposite side of the vibra-slap, consisting of constant eighth notes to make an even denser mix.
The next quality of sound that can be traced to African music is the songs ‘buzzy’ timbre. Hendrix was one of the first to use very high amp levels when recording electric guitar which caused harmonics to be produced which are very pleasing to the human ear. The performance that we are hearing is very clean, though most of the audio is overdriven to the point where it sounds sweet and inviting. I think that the reverb and delay that was used in the song helps to accent the overdriven sound because it feels like the dirtyness continues throughout the whole song as every instrument is super wet as though it is being sustained. Jimi’s solos never seem to end with this type of mixing treatment.
During the extended improvisational period of the song, each phrase of Jimi’s solos seem to be independent of each other. There is a call and response type feel to what the guitar is playing. The guitar is being panned from left to right and then back again to embellish the technique and create an open rhythmic sound similar to that of a hocket, or a back and fourth melody line between instruments. In the case of Jimi and his virtuosic guitar playing, he can do it by himself.
Throughout the entire Hendrix version, the same 4 bar chord progression is heard for the whole song. Though it might seem redundant on paper, the song is kept on its ‘toes’ by including tasteful variations of the ostinato rhythm throughout. The way that the chord progression starts out in the song is very different as the song progresses. Right away at 10 seconds in, the acoustic guitar strumming pattern expands from the rigid hits that we hear in the beginning. Jimi also does strong electric guitar strums in between vocal phrases to add emphasis and continuation to the lyrical line. I believe that the guitar solos that separate the verses could actually be considered choruses when related to pop music. They serve as the hook to the song as the same tone is introduced every time, other than during the extended guitar break (which would be where the conventional guitar solo section would be anyways).
That leads to the discussion of the solo section and how each 8 bars introduces a unique guitar tone and feel. During the first 8 bars, Jimi plays a solo that is in the form of a minor pentatonic and in context, is a fairly straight forward sound for the time. This set up Jimi to go in numerous directions; he decides to bring in a slide (“METal on METAL”) to create an open and wandering feel. This leads to a wah explosion where the back and forth panning occurs. The last phrase is when the instrumentation comes together as Jimi chugs out chords in an acceding manner to reach the climax of delivering the last verse.
The last point that is worth a mention is how the tempo fluctuates and changes throughout. The song has a very ‘alive’ feel in that the song seem to ‘breath’ faster and slower, wavering around a stead beat. The beginning of the song starts out somewhat slow, and when the guitar part comes in, it is sped up slightly until it winds back down during the verse sections. Every section where the guitar is a focus point, the drums and rhythm section speeds up as if to keep up with Jimi and also try and hold him back. I believe that in relating this to the theory of music and that of African Culture this can be tied to a type of community participation. The repetition of the chord progression further exploits the example of community participation because as the song moves along, the more momentum it gains. Every band member is feeding off someone else and you can hear the energy though out the recording.

Works Cited

Bjorner, Olof (May 7, 2000). "Still on the Road: Bob Dylan Recording Sessions". Olof Bjorner.
McDermot. Kramer. “Setting the Record Straight.” 1992. Grand Central Publishing.
McDermot, Kramer & Cox. “Ultimate Hendrix.” 2008. Hal Leonard Corporation

Friday, April 23, 2010

408 Production Synopsis 8

This week all the main lead vocal parts were finished for the album. We used the same set up and settings as we have been using for the previous weeks: CM7, Neve, Distressor. Everything has been going fairly smoothly with the exception of myself getting a little frustrating with my singing takes...I just need to practice and get better. We met twice outside of our scheduled lab time this week in order to rough in mixes so that we will be one step closer once mixing OTB time comes around. The first step that we are trying to accomplish is to use replacement on a lot of the snare hits. We also have been messing and playing with guitar tones as we tracked almost all the guitar parts dry and have been figuring out what tones we want coming out of the sansamp plugin. There are so many choices! On top of that, now that we know how to use elastic audio, it seems like we will never be able to work on the mixes enough to how we could ideally make them sound. Other than the snare replacement, we are working on cleaning up the drum sections, making the bass fit in the middle with the kick and snare, as well as getting the vocals to sit appropriately. We plan on finishing up all recording with a few auxiliary sounds such as wood block, tambourine, piano, vocoder, backing vocals and gang vocals.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

techniques of 408 6

4 Independent Headphone Mixes

  • Create 4 Stereo Aux tracks.
  • Create independent bus mixes from each instrument track and send to any of the stereo aux outputs.
  • Send the 4 HP aux tracks to B1, B2, B3, B4. These are now mono summed HP outputs.
  • Go to the I/O menu to name each buss HP mix is going to be for each player (drum hp, bass hp, vox hp, guitar hp).
  • Send TT out of B1, into HP 1 amp, out into A of room 100 HP patchbay.
  • For multiple outputs of the same mix, create a send under the send section from an already outputted HP mix.
  • Stereo In, Aux mono out; otherwise only 1 side of HP will work.
Memory Locations
  • Apple, 5 on numeric keypad. Memory location menu comes up of all memory locations.
  • Press Enter to pull up memory location dialog box. Select 'no time properties' (none). Under general properties, track show/hide, zoom settings, track heights, group enables.
  • Erase everything you don't want to see (all except drums).
  • Name 101 and select what you want (drums).
  • Vocals 102...ect.
  • To recall memory location, on keypad press . 101 . or 'period 101 period'.
OTB Compression
  • Line 1 inputs
  • Unity gain all faders
  • Pan positions set
  • Activate line 1 buttons
  • Line 1 pot fully counter clockwise
  • Engage mix button for each track
  • Take off 2 track and mix button on master
  • engage group 3-4 and take out mix button (after initial settings, sums to stereo)
  • Put up group 3-4 monitor level almost full and pan hard left and right.
  • One dry, one compressed...mix to taste.
  • Engage group 5-6 for compressed sound.
  • Group insert send, to compressor.
  • Group insert return, from compressor.
  • Bring up dry drums, then mix up compressed drums underneath to taste.
2 Stage Compression
  • Take group 3-4 and make insert send to Millennia.
  • Instead of going back to insert return on group, send to 2 new channels on board.
  • Use the 2 new channels on the board and group to 5-6.
  • Now Millennia compression is going into Distressor and then out. Adjust to taste.
Drum Replacement
  • Doing by hand is the most efficient approach.
  • 1st create new audio track.
  • Select drum section that you would like to use and copy.
  • Make sure the tab to transient button is engaged.
  • Press tab to go to transient.
  • Press semi colon to go to blank audio track below.
  • Press V to paste audio.
  • Press P to go back up to original track.
  • You should you the version that is the latest copied version so that it is the closest to the unadjustable threshold of the tab to transient.
  • Apple + or Apple - is right hand side of region adjustment (on keypad).
  • Option + or option - is left hand side of region adjustment (on keypad).
  • Adjust the grid resolution to fine tune region selection.
  • + or - to nudge region back and forth.
Elastic Audio
  • Used to tweak performances.
  • 2 modes of analysis.
  • 5 different plugins.
  • Polyphonic - for guitar, voice, orchestras.
  • Rhythmic - drums and percussion.
  • Monophonic - for bass, violin.
  • Varispeed - affects pitch and acts like a tape deck.
  • X - form - renders audio before playback so that CPU isn't utilized.
  • To affect Vocals: Choose Polyphonic, go to analysis, protools selects markers for regions (event markers).
  • Assign markers in analysis view.
  • Option click to subtract markers.
  • Double click to add markers where needed.
  • Or remove by select selection, delete.
  • You can also right click audio for elastic audio menu (when is analysis mode).
  • Adjust sensitivity of event markers.
  • For long sustained sound, don't use a lot of markers.
  • Usually at start of transient.
  • Add a bunch for glitchiness sound.
  • After analysis, create warp markers .
  • In order to change things, use 3 types of warp.
  • Telescope - default setting - good for long phrases.
  • Accordion - Shift click for 3 warp markers.
  • Range
  • Use the trimmer tool (time compression expansion tool or TCE) to adjust and warp region.
  • Monophonic is just used for a different sound.
  • Varispeed changes pitch and time.
  • Most elastic audio plugs have window selection - window acts as a gate, while 'follow' is how the plug handles the regions dynamics.
  • In rhythmic, 'delay rate' in window adjusts the gate time reaction.
  • To fit bass and kick together, use monophonic. Assign analysis points. Put the bass transient slightly behind the kick (up to 15 milliseconds) so that tone sounds like it is coming from kick and EQ/Compression of the both instruments don't conflict.