Tag Archives: studio

Audeze Reveal : Free mix room simulation software

To co-incide with the launch of the new studio flagship LCD-MX headphones, owners of Audeze headphones now have “Reveal”, a free plugin that helps you emulate a world class mix room.

This provides the listener with an experience similar to what you would hear from high quality studio reference monitors in an acoustically treated room.
The presets are not meant to fix any issues, but are designed to make mixing on headphones more natural compared to doing it on speakers. 

Some users will prefer their headphones without any DSP presets, while others will prefer the “room sound” calibration provided by these Reveal plugin presets.

The Plugin is available in VST, AU, AAX formats and should be inserted as the last plugin on either last on your monitor or master bus, just don’t forget to turn it off when you bounce the project down! 

Just select your Audeze headphone and select how much of the emulated tone to mix in. 

Here at Scan, we’re specifically loving this with the iSINE’s & LCD-i4 (suggest 50-60% mix), The SINE and closed back EL-8 headphones (100% mix).
The LCD-X and LCD-MX4 already sounds remarkably similar to an amazing mix room, so the difference isn’t as obvious, but it’s great to have a reference.

Download Now :  https://www.audeze.com/audeze-reveal-plugin#

Audeze at Scan : https://www.scan.co.uk/shop-by-brand/audeze

AMD Ryzen First Look For Audio

Ryzen is finally with us and it is quite possibly one of the most anticipated chipset launches in years, with initial reports and leaked benchmarks tending to show the whole platform in very favourable light.

However when it comes to pro audio handling we tend to have different concerns over performance requirements, than tends to be outlined and covered by more regular computer industry testing. So having now had a chance to sit and work with an AMD 1700X for a week or so, we’ve had the chance to put this brand new tech through some more audio-centric benchmarking, and today we’ll take a first look at this new tech and see if its right for the studio.

AMD has developed a whole new platform with the  focus based around  improving low level performance and raising the “IPC” or Instructions per clock cycle figure. As ever they have been keen to keep it affordable with certain choices having been made to keep it competitive, and to some extent these are the right choices for a lot of users.

Ryzen Chipset Features

The chipset gives us DDR4 memory but unlike the X99 platform restricts us to dual channel RAM configurations and a maximum of 64GB across the 4 RAM slots which may limit its appeal for heavyweight VSL users. The is a single M.2. connection option for a high speed NVMe drive and 32 lanes for the PCIe connections, so the competing X99 solutions still offer us more scope here, although for the average audio system the restrictions above may offer little to no real downsides at least from a configuration requirements point of view.

One thing missing from the specification however that has an obvious impact in the studio is the lack of Thunderbolt support. Thunderbolt solutions require BIOS level and physical board level support in the shape of the data communication header found on Intel boards, and Thunderbolt itself is an Intel developed standard along with Apple backing. Without either of those companies appearing to be keen to licence it up front, we’re unlikely to see Thunderbolt at launch although the little to say that this couldn’t change in later generations, if the right agreements can be worked out between the firms involved.

Early testing with the drivers available to us have so far proven to be quite robust, with stability being great for what is essentially a first generation release of a new chipset platform. We have seen a few interface issues regarding older USB 2 interfaces and USB 3 headers on the board, although the USB 3 headers we’ve seen are running the Microsoft USB3 drivers, which admittedly have had a few issues over on the Intel boards with certain older USB 2 only interfaces so this looks to be constant between both platforms. Where we’ve seen issues on the Intel side, we’re also seeing issues on the AMD side, so we can’t level this as being an issue with the chipset and may prove to be something that the audio interface guys can fix with either a driver or firmware update.

Overclocking has been limited in our initial testing phase, mainly due to a lack of tools. Current windows testing software is having a hard time with temperature monitoring during our test period, with none of the tools we had available being able to report the temps. This of course is something that will no doubt resolve itself as everyone updates their software over the next few weeks, but until then we tried to play it safe when pushing the clocks up on this initial batch.

We managed to boost our test 1700X up a few notches to around the level of the 1800X in the basic testing we carried out, but taking it further lead to an unstable test bench. No doubt this will improve after launch as the initial silicon yields improve and having not seen a 1800X as yet, that may still proved to be the cherry picked option in the range when it comes to overclocking.

One of the interesting early reports that appeared right before launch was the CPUid benchmark result which suggests that this may shape up to be one of the best performing multi-core consumer grade chips. We set out to replicate this test here and the result of it does indeed look very promising on the surface.

Ryzen 1700x CPU id results

We follow this up with a Geekbench 4 test, which itself is well trusted as a cross platform CPU benchmark and in the single core performance reflects the results seen in the previous test with it placing just behind the i7 7700K in the results chart. The multi-core this time around whilst strong looks to be sat behind the 6900K and in this instance sitting under the 6800K and above the 7700K.

GeekBench 4 AMD 1700X

So moving on to our more audio-centric benchmarks and our standard Dawbench test is first up.  Designed to load test the CPU itself, we find ourselves here stacking plugin instances in order to establish the chips against a set of baseline level results. The AMD proves itself strongly in this test, placing mid-way between the cost equivalent 6 core Intel 6800K and far more expensive 6900K 8 core. With the AMD 1700X offering us 8 physical cores along with threading on top to take us to a virtual 16 cores, this at first glance looks to be where we would expect it to be with the hardware on offer, but at a very keen price point.

Ryzen DPC Test

I wanted to try a few more real world comparisons here so first up I’ve taken the Dawbench test and restricted it to 20 channels of plugins. I’ve then applied this test over each of the CPUs we have on test, with the results appearing under the “Reaper” heading on the chart below.

Sequencer AMD 1700X

The 1700X stands up well against the i7 7700k but doesn’t quite manage to match up with Intel chips in this instance. In a test like this where we’re not stressing the CPU itself or trying to overload the available bandwidth, the advantages in the low level microarchitecture tend to come to the fore and in this instance the two Intel chips based around the same platform perform roughly in line with each other, although in this test we’re not taking into account the extra bandwidth on offer with the 6900K edition.

Also on the same chart we  see two other test results with  one being the 8 Good Reasons demo from Cubase 8 and we tried running it across the available CPUs to gain a comparison in a more real world project. In this instance the results come back fairly level across the two high end Intel CPU’s and the AMD 1700X. The 4 core mid-range i7 scores poor here, but this is expected with the obvious lack of a physical cores hampering the project playback load.

We also ran the “These Arms” Sonar demo and replicated the test process again. This tests results are a bit more erratic this time around, with a certain emphasis looking to be placed on the single core score as well as the overall multi core score. This is the first time we see the 1700X falling behind the Intel results.

In other testing we’ve done along the way in other segments we’ve seen some of the video rendering packages and even some games exhibiting some CPU based performance oddness that has looked out of the ordinary. Obviously we have a concern here that the might be a weakness that needs to be addressed when it comes to overall audio system performance, so with this result in mind we decided to dig deeper.

To do so we’ve made use of the DAWBench Vi test, which builds upon the basic test in DAWBench standard, and allows us to stack multiple layers of Kontakt based instruments on top of it. With this test, not only are we place a heavy load on the CPU, but we’re also stressing the sub-system and seeing how capable it is at quickly handling large complex data loads.

DAWBench Vi

This gave us the results found in the chart above and this starts to shine some light on the concerns that we have.

In this instance the AMD 1700X under-performs all of the Intel chips at lower buffer rates. it does scale up steadily however, so this looks to be an issue with how quickly it can process the contents of a buffer load.

So what’s going on here? 

Well the other relevant information to flesh out the chart above is just how much CPU load was being used when the audio started to break up in playback.

AMD 1700X 3.8 @ GHz

64 = 520 count @ 70% load
128 = 860 count @ 72% load
192 = 1290 count @ 85% load

Intel 6800k 3.8 @ GHz

64 = 780 count @ 87% load
128 = 1160 count @ 91% load
192 = 1590 count @ 97% load

Intel 6900k 3.6 @ GHz

64 = 980 count @ 85% load
128 = 1550 count @ 90% load
192 = 1880 count @ 97% load

Intel 7700k @ 4.5GHz

64 = 560 @ 90% load
128 = 950 @ 98% load
192 = 1270 @ 99% load

So the big problem here appears to be inefficiency at lower buffer rates. The ASIO buffer is throwing data at the CPU in quicker bursts the lower you go with the setting, so with the audio crackling and breaking up it seems that the CPU just isn’t clearing the buffer quickly enough once it gets to around 70% CPU load at those lower 64 & 128 buffer settings

Intel at this buffer setting looks to be hitting 85% or higher, so whilst the AMD chip may have more RAW performance to hand, the responsiveness of the rest of the architecture appears to be letting it down. It’s no big secret looking over the early reviews that whilst AMD has made some amazing gains with the IPC rates this generation they still appear to be lagging slightly behind Intel in this performance metric.

So the results start to outline this as one of the key weaknesses in the Ryzen configuration, with it becoming quite apparent that the are bottle necks elsewhere in the architecture that are coming into play beyond the new CPU’s. At the lower buffer settings the test tends to benefit single core performance, with the Intel chips taking a solid lead. As you slacken off the buffer itself, more cores become the better option as the system is able to spread the load but even then it isn’t until we hit a 192 buffer setting on the ASIO drivers that the performance catches up to the intel 4 Core CPU.

This appears to be one section where the AMD performance still seems to be lacking compared with the Intel family be that due to hardware bottle necks or still not quite having caught up in the overall IPC handling at the chipset level. 

What we also see is the performance start to catch up with intel again as the buffer is relaxed, so it’s clear that a certain amount of performance is still there to be had, but the system just can’t access it quickly enough when placed under heavy complex loads.

What we can safely say having taken this look at the Ryzen platform, is that across the tests we’ve carried out so far that the AMD platform has made some serious gains with this generation. Indeed the is no denying that the is going to be more than a few scenarios where the AMD hardware is able to compete and will beat the competition.

However with the bottlenecks we’ve seen concerning load balancing of complex audio chains, the is a lot of concern here that it simply won’t offer the required bang per buck for a dedicated studio PC. As the silicon continues to be refined and the chip-set and drivers are fine-tuned then we should see the whole platform continue to move from strength to strength, but at this stage until more is known about those strength and weaknesses of the hardware, you should be aware that it has both its pros and cons to consider.

The Full Scan 3XS Pro Audio Workstation Range

Presonus Studio One V3 – Scan Launch Webinar

Presonus have offically announced the launch of Studio One V3 and to mark the event they leant us thier European product expert Lee Boylan along with his special guest, Russ Hughes from the excellent Studio One Expert / Pro Tools Expert websites.  Giving us an overview of the new features, they talk us through what to expect from the package in this hour long special which now available to stream below.
https://youtu.be/8DbIzmTrKhI
With new arranger track and scratchpad features, improvements to the browser, new synths, effects, a very powerful exteneded effects chaining system and a new way of multi instrument grouping and processing, the are most definitely a whole host of reasons to take another look at Studio One!

Whats New In Studio One V3
https://youtu.be/LEf7lTY9TBA

Studio One V3 Version Comparisons
https://youtu.be/BkVmre64tME

Presonus Studio One @ Scan

MunroSonic Crack Open the Egg100 Studio Monitors

MunroSonic Egg100

The MunroSonic Egg100 setup is the smaller version of acclaimed Egg150 monitor system, based around the same curved, infinite baffle design concept of its bigger brother, housed in a smaller shell with a four inch driver.

This new system has been designed for greatest accuracy in near-field conditions, taking into account the fact that it will be used on consoles or flat surfaces. The frequency response is continuously adjustable to allow for the bass loading that can add up to 6dB to the sound level. The bass port is angled and placed as low as possible to take advantage of this effect without phase error.

Near-field monitors should, by definition, remain unaffected by room size and acoustic conditions but this is rarely the case. Typically, small, rectangular cabinets and a horizontal focus plane create diffraction and reflections that interfere with both frequency and phase, both of which adversely affect stereo imaging and mix accuracy. The Egg100 has a variable tilt base that allows perfect adjustment of the upward angle of the listening axis, so avoiding interfering reflections from the mixing console or desk surface.

This has enabled Munro Sonic to make a supremely efficient speaker system – the phase coherent bass energy results in up to 6dB low frequency headroom – which means they pack a lot of punch for such small speakers.

Munro Sonic The Egg100 Key Features:

· Unique monocoque shell construction (rigid and resonant neutral)

· Near zero diffraction interference (smooth frequency response)

· No internal standing waves (greatly reduced smearing)

· Perfect bass port integration (superb transient response)

· Free standing control unit and integrated amplification with 3m matched speaker cables

· Volume Level control and LED headroom indicator

· Class-A headphone amplifier

· Custom-designed speaker holder for adjustable vertical alignment (allows for perfect sweet spot in both vertical and horizontal planes)

· Precision trim pots for bass (LF) and High Frequency (HF) calibration

The Munro Sonic The Egg100 Homepage

Munro Sonic Hardware @ Scan

 

Roland Namm 2013 Announcements

With the start of what is perhaps the largest show in the music tech calender only days away the announcements are starting to pick up. In what can only be described as a shotgun approach, Roland takes no prisoners by announcing all their product in one deft swoop.

So without further ado for the full line up you can rock on over to http://www.rolandconnect.com/and check the lot!

We’ve had a look through what’s on display and in amongst the guitar pedals & performance keyboards the are a few bits that grab our interest.

Roland Duo Capture MKII

The audio interfaces of course were always going to be the obvious ones. Expanding on the current range of durable recording options we have two new units the first being the Roland Duo Capture.

Roland Duo Capture MK2Roland Duo MK2 end shot

The beauty of smaller interfaces is that everything you need to know is probably on show in those two images; for the full run down however keep reading:

  • Small, convenient audio interface for mobile musicians
  • Compatible with Mac and PC; iPad compatibility via Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit
  • 1/4-inch MIC/GUITAR input with Hi-Z switch for connecting a guitar directly
  • 1/8-inch stereo input; 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch dual headphone outputs
  • Dedicated controls for input and output volume
  • Low-latency ASIO (Windows) and Core Audio (Mac) drivers; input monitor function
  • USB bus powered
  • Cakewalk SONAR X1 LE for Windows included

Roland Studio Capture

Now we get a bit more interesting. When Focusrite announced their new interface last week we mentioned a lack of choice when it comes to interfaces with loads of mic inputs for a reasonable price point. The Roland Studio Capture has 12 of them in a 2U USB based rack solution…. that’s a lot of inputs for a unit of this kind.

Roland Studio Capture Front

Roland Studio Capture Back

Once again the pictures give you a good idea of what we can expect here but its certainly worth going into more detail as the is a lot of features crammed into rather tight space.

  • High-performance USB 2.0 audio interface for studio and mobile production
  • 16 audio inputs and 10 audio outputs, including 12 premium mic preamps (VS PREAMP)
  • VS STREAMING delivers ultra-stable, low-latency driver performance for Windows and Mac
  • AUTO-SENS intelligently sets optimal input levels for all preamps
  • Individual input/output meters and input channel buttons
  • Four independent, software-controlled monitor mixes
  • XLR monitor out, direct monitor, and dual headphone outputs with independent front-panel level knobs
  • Coaxial digital I/O; MIDI I/O with FPT
  • Expand your I/O by using two STUDIO-CAPTUREs together, both controlled with a single driver
  • 2U rackmount ears included

 

I have to say we’re looking forward to seeing how this one does when it lands and at what price point. It offers a lot and at the right price could prove attactive to a lot of studios in various recording senarios.

Roland TD-4KP

So the obvious stuff out of the way, what else do we like the look of? Well we saw some inital details on this a few weeks back and it pop’d up on a few peoples want list on the staff here in Scan. It’s a portable set of V-Drums, whats not to love?

Roland TD-4KP

  • Renowned V-Drums sound and quality in an ultra-portable mobile kit
  • Innovative folding design for quick, compact breakdown and easy transport/storage
  • Includes TD-4 Percussion Sound Module, loaded with expressive sounds, Coach and Quick Record/Play functions, and more
  • Eight pads total: kick, snare, toms x3, hi-hat, crash and ride cymbals; FD-8 Hi-Hat Controller included
  • Snare and tom pads feature cushioned-rubber surfaces for natural playing feel
  • Options: custom carrying case (CB-TDP); mesh-head snare pad (PDX-6 / PDX-8); pad mount (MDH-12); drum accessory package (DAP-3X); drum mat (TDM series)

 

Small, lightweight and portable with the added bonus of being silent once you add headphones. For people living in locations where a large amount of noise could be problematic during practice, this kit offers up an ideal solution. Perfect if your living in a city center flat and don’t want to give up your sticks!

To find all these and more at Scan : Click here

 

Alesis IO Mix – iPad Mixer

The Alesis IO Mix mixer for iPad is one of the first Musikmesse unveilings of 2012.

What they say…

 

Now, for the first time ever, you can mix and record up to four channels of audio into your iPad.

The Alesis iO Mix is the first device that turns your iPad into a powerful portable studio, allowing you to record multiple mics or instruments directly into GarageBand or any other compatible Core Audio app.

With the Alesis iO Dock, Alesis was the first to make your iPad studio-compatible. Now with the Alesis iO Mix, your iPad becomes your studio. All the connections you need are onboard, including four combo XLR-1/4″ input channels and balanced, stereo 1/4″ outputs. The Alesis iO Mix also has a video output, making it perfect for everything from presentations and corporate meetings to home entertainment and live performance visuals.

ROOM FOR FOUR
With the Alesis iO Mix’s four-channel capability you finally have everything you need for mixing and recording on your iPad, all in one device. There’s no more clunky dongle connections or USB cables needed. Your iPad is seamlessly integrated into a compact mixing console that will be immediately familiar and easy to use. When you close Alesis iO Mix’s hinged door, your iPad is completely enclosed and secure — you’ll hardly be able to tell that they’re separate devices.

CONNECT & CREATE
The Alesis iO Mix allows you to connect virtually any piece of recording gear to your iPad: microphones, instruments, speakers, headphones and more. Four combo XLR-1/4″ input channels are exactly where you need them on the rear of the unit. Each has trim, channel gain, pan, and low & high EQ controls located right in front of you. Push-button High Pass Filters are also available on each channel to eliminate low-frequency interference in live mixing and recording situations.

STUDIO TO GO
With its compact design, iO Mix is the perfect portable studio. Bring it to your band’s practice space, coffeehouse gig or weekend recording session. Switchable 48V phantom power allows you to use studio condenser microphones and iO Mix’s guitar-direct switch makes guitar recording easy. You don’t even need an amp! Simply connect your guitar or bass, flip the switch and use your iPad to add effects like reverb and delay. Balanced, stereo 1/4″ outputs and 1/4″ headphone output are also onboard along with a switchable limiter for clip-free recordings.

WIRELESS WHENEVER
The Alesis iO Mix is Core Audio-compliant, allowing you to use it with virtually any app in the App Store. Plus, your iPad’s WiFi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, and 3G connectivity, allow you to tailor your sound at a moment’s notice or playback audio through compatible wireless speakers. Download new effects or filters to deal with unexpected live sound needs, or download songs, videos or entirely new applications to keep your audience entertained during a gig or the band’s creative energy flowing during a recording session.

VIDEO VERSATILITY
Along with its four-channel mixing and recording capability, the Alesis iO Mix’ s ability to playback video makes it ideal for applications that were previously impossible. You can use the Alesis iO Mix to not only mix and record, but also playback live performance visuals behind the band. The Alesis iO Mix is also great for corporate presentations and business meetings, allowing up to four speakers to be mic’d and have video playing back simultaneously. With the optional Alesis Module Mount, you can attach the Alesis iO Mix to a nearby mic stand and have easy access to instantly adjust any mixing, recording or video-playback parameter.

Turn your iPad into a portable mixer and flexible recording studio, with the iO Mix, only from Alesis.

 

  • The world’s first mixer/multi-channel interface for iPad
  • Mix and record up to four channels, or a stereo mix into your iPad
  • Works with mics, instruments, speakers, headphones, video monitors and projectors
  • Four combo XLR-1/4″ input channels, each with trim, channel gain, pan, and low & high EQ
  • Switchable 48V phantom power for use with studio condenser microphones
  • Guitar-direct (DI) switch for guitar recording without an amp
  • Balanced, stereo 1/4″ outputs and 1/4″ headphone output with separate volume controls
  • Direct Monitor switch for latency-free input monitoring while recording
  • Switchable limiter for clip-free recordings
  • Hinged door completely encloses and secures your iPad
  • Core Audio-compliant: works with virtually any app in the App Store
  • Video output for connection to TVs and projectors: perfect for presentations, meetings and VJs
  • Mountable to a mic stand using the Alesis Module Mount (sold separately)
  • Complete routing and signal-management controls
  • Power supply also charges your iPad

 

What we say…..

 

Whilst claims like “The Alesis iO Mix is the first device that turns your iPad into a powerful portable studio” are not exactly true (Mackie DL1608 comes to mind), the Alesis offering will almost certainly come in well under the mackie pricepoint and value for money is a phrase always associated with Alesis, although i’m not exactly sure that i would prefer this solution to using a RME UCX and some multichannel audio software if recording. The slight downside is that it lacks the wireless possibility of the mackie, which really was one of the best audio uses for the ipad that i’ve seen.  We hope to get our hands on the Alesis io Mix at Musikmesse in Frankfurt this week and report back with some in-depth analysis.

A free Windows based software studio guide.

Everyone loves something for nothing and it has to be said the are some astounding free or donationware plug in’s and even sequencers out there.

This morning I stumbled across Synthgeeks “A free Windows based software studio” guide over on KVR and thought we should bring it to the attention of our readers, as the’s whole host of cool plugin’s there that even us guys here haven’t seen during our extensive time trawling the web. Having spent a bit of time working through the huge list that’s in the article we have to agree that the are certainly tools there suitable for both the newest user and even the seasoned pro and given the price of pretty much nothing (donations always encouraged) the really isn’t an excuse not to check them out.

So grab a nice comfy chair and make yourself a coffee then check out all the goodness over at the Synthgeek site.

A free Windows based software studio guide.

Reverb. (Where will it all end?…)

Todays Digital domain allows musicians and producers a phenomenal selection of plug-ins and treatments. From physical modelling of original spring reverbs, through mathematical models of the Grand Canyon or Wembley stadium, there is a huge wealth of possibilities out there, and with those possibilities must come responsibility.

Too often people are tempted to use whatever the’ve got, wherever they can, without a thought about how this might sound in the final mix. So lets have a quick look at a couple of scenarios, which might help you think a little more about your reverb treatments…..

 

The Basic Idea.

 

From a Guitarists point of view, reverb was an effect that gave a a ‘Twang’ on a guitar, a very satisfactory ‘ring’. Listen to early guitar groups like the Shadows and indeed early Beatles to here how the spring reverb (literally a spring in a metal box) that was a feature on a lot of early amps, was used to give depth to what otherwise would have been quite a weedy tone by todays standards.. 60’s producers seemed terribly keen on this sound, and consequently it appears on albums featuring everything from vocal groups to sitars.

From a producers point of view however,, reverb is a much more useful tool in achieving a satisfcatory end result. A good reverb can make it sound as if all the instruments you use were recorded in the same spatial area, i.e. it makes the song sound more ‘believeable’ even if the component parts are samples and virtual instruments.

A good reverb can form the glue that holds some mixes together, although it should be said, its never a good idea to rely on your effects to do that for you.

Even where a track has its own reverb applied, either because it s a live sample or a guitarists ‘tone’, a nice reverb across the master buss can allow a track its own space to stand in.

 

Avoid.

 

One thing that does make me queasy though, is when I hear a mix with a different type of reverb applied to each instrument, and none bear any relation to the next.

There is probably an argument for using different reverbs creatively, but in that case, the overall ‘believability’ will always suffer.

There are some bands/records that can get away with the Guitar on a 5 second rev tail and the Vocals on a .2ms slap back, but not too many.

 

Also be aware of how a reverb can ‘swamp’ the timbre of things like voices or violins.

Many amateur singers like to sing or at least monitor themselves with plenty of reverb.

Its not that they think it makes them sound more in tune, it just smooths out any rasps or harmonic glitches, and consequently gives the illusion of sounding more complete and less stark.

 

Early Reflections:

 

There are some reverb manufacturers who include a function within their reverbs called ‘early reflection’.

There are some manufacturers who think this is a load of cobblers.

For those of you with the option to twiddle with early reflections, the idea is that after the initial sound reaches your ears, but before the onset of proper reverberation, there are tiny ‘slaps’ of sound that come back at you from walls, ceiling etc. and using these, the brain is able to ascertain information about where the sound is with reference to its initial source.

Other manufacturers such as Lexicon, maintain that reverb is a one stop process that can’t be broken down into stages like this. Lexicon prefer words like ‘Spread’ and ‘Shape’ to describe different parts of the process, and I think I tend to agree. However,, these controls are popular with some folks, so its horses for courses I guess.

 

Pare it Back (Arranging within the Box 2)

PARE IT BACK!

 

Sometimes its possible to find yourself in the middle of a tune or song, and feeling like you have nowhere left to go. You still believe in the track, but you cant like it at the moment.

Answer: Pare it back.

 

If the song is strong enough, it should be good enough for a busker to sing it with just a guitar or accordion for backing, (remember we’re talking ‘songs’ here not electronica….)

So start hacking away at some of the tracks.

Take it back to maybe just bass and drums or guitar and percussion.

Often parts that you record later, say a string line or a 2nd piano part, are much more unexpected if you leave them alongside the main vocal or melody, taking away the obvious stuff can reveal the prettier ideas and lines.

In some cases, removing a part or a whole track can leave too big a space, but you can still make some impact by reducing volumes right down.

This way of working can actually be very creative, and allows for some radical re-thinking of your work

A Band Mentality (Arranging within the box 1…..)

A ‘BAND’ MENTALITY FOR THE SOLO MUSIC PRODUCER…..

 

One of the great things about being a musician, is the chance to play with other musicians. It is indeed the life blood of many players, allowing them to learn and grow and develop their abilities alongside other people doing the same thing.

And it shows in the music. Generally speaking a good band will bring something else to a song or track, which is seemingly more than the sum of its parts….

It comes from the communication between various band members and builds over time, to become part of the arrangement, and in some cases can turn a mediocre track into a great one.

The key is the way musicians listen to each other.

Lets delve a little deeper.

I remember being in one of my first bands, I was the youngest member at 14, the other guys were a couple of years older, but I was tall, smoked a mean cigarette, and I could play…

We used to play an eclectic mix of Rock music, and our bass player at the time had only recently taught himself to play, however, there was one tune where he had embellished the end of the verses with a line that really pushed his ability. As a consequence, knowing how proud he was of the line, I would take it upon myself to quieten down (never easy for a red blooded rock guitarist) and allow him the space for his fancy line to shine through. To this day, I can’t hear that particular track without preferring his version.

Other instances occur when people play off one another, (a good drummer can ‘Lift’ a song at will by pushing the dynamics, and everyone else in the band can instantly hear it it and respond appropriately), Bass players and Drummers tend to gel very quickly, with the Bass man able to guess what sort of fill is coming where, Singers can ‘quieten’ down the band at certain parts of a song with hand actions or fingers to lips, effectively controlling the dynamics of a track live.

So these few examples, and there are many more, show how the human element in a band, can go towards affecting the overall performance of a song, and this is something that we as music producers should bear in mind, as we sit toiling alone in our studios past midnight.

Take a song that you’ve recorded yourself, all the parts, just you.

Now listen back to it and pretend that you’re a bass player who’s just joined the band. This is the first track you’ve played on, and you want it to stand out showing what a great job you’ve done for the band. How would he play it? (and I dont mean ‘Overplay’ it!) Do the lines just ‘run’ into one another? are there any little areas that could use a little flamboyance? Is the bass REALLY playing along with the kick drum?

Are there any keyboard pads or big chords that are getting in the way of guitar parts?

Its very easy for us as lone players to play the part ‘right’ and move on, without any thought to how it would play out in a real band.

Are there any strings filling all the space in?

Is there an opportunity where a singer would quieten the band down live? This maybe something you should consider on the record itself.

Taking 5 minutes out to think like you’re in a band, can sometimes make the difference between a good track and a worldbeater.