Drum Miking Technique

I had an opportunity to learn drum miking techniques using a couple of different microphones both dynamic and, condenser and ribbon mics whilst ready to live track with loops. First important thing was to find an excellent position in the drum room to set the drum.

Kick drum

The first set of mics to be set where bass drum mics, the Beta 52A and AKG D112. The D 112 being the inside mic within the Kick Drum on the the short boom mic stand and angling it in through the hole to capture the low frequency and attack of the drum. The Beta 52A positioned a bit on the outside but the half ring of it within the drumhead making sure that it is not touching the drum skin as it will resonate which makes the tone change.

Snare

As for the snare the mic prefered was the Shure sm57. The mic was set over the snare making sure it does not hinder the drum from being in his or her way aiming for the center of the head to also avoid proximity effect. A second sm57 mic was placed a few inches away below the snare to get a buzz from the wires of the snare then the polarity was switched, in other words changing the phase.

Hi hat

Hi hats produce very frequencies and the mic was placed just a little above the hi hats about halfway between the center of and the outer edge. Getting the mic too close may cause tingling or bell sounds. I think more experimentation with placement is critical and drummer’s hi hats will sound differently.

Tom 1

The mic tom placed was an sm57 placed on a mic stand. I find it to produce a nice tone to the drum once it is placed a little bit above the the tom. The determining factor would be the presence of cymbals both physically and sonically as this can have an effects when editing each track.

Floor tom

I found the Sennheiser MD421 to be a very interesting mic on the floor tom placed on a mic stand placed almost on the top rim of the tom. It is much fatter, fuller and more bottom compared to the sm57 with a clean top end. I have only used the 421 before micing a guitar amp and does produce amazing tones.

Overheads

Rode NT5s were the choice mics for the overheads and the approach was and XY technique which I learnt in my first trimester. The mic placement was above the the drums over the left and right sides if the kit to get sounds from different angles. I find that to be an interesting technique and would how it would sound during the mix process to get the stereo image.

Room Mics

AKG C 414 were the chosen room mics to capture space around the drums. I understood that it is critical to get good drum sound as it is supposedly a glue that holds holds all the contrasting multi-miked tracks together and to capture a natural and ambient recording of the drum kit as a whole..The mics were positioned about one and a half metres in front of the kit and about less than a metre above the floor to give a good overall sonic picture of the totality of the drum kit.

Some interesting techniques that I will continue to put into practise whenever an opportunity arises and to continue to experiment with different types of mics on different sources just to get the feel of each mic.

Use of midi (Logic Pro X & Ableton Live 10)

This week I have had some reflection that we are in the modern age of music production and to become a creative professional I must have a collection of music production tools to choose from. Begin of the trimester I had my own preference DAW which is Pro tools. I have just discovered that after using Logic and Ableton also have their unique in certain tasks depending with the workflow.

Logic Pro X

I found Logic Pro X very friendly in building tracks. There are some options for virtual instruments from the EXS24 sampler plugin. Loading up an instrument is as easy your track and then selecting an instrument from the laid out library. Also I found Logic Pro X does a good job in organizing the content so it will be easy to access and incorporate samples in a session. The layout is very spontaneous and friendly working with midi and samples. The display of Logic makes it really easy to see what you are doing. It has the most organized media layout. The drummer feature allows me to build drum patterns based on genre, feel and the frequency of drum set elements.

Ableton

First time I have heard of Ableton was that it is associated with Djs and EDM music. However I took a chance to experiment with it and amazingly was able to create a beat with it. I found is easy to create a drum pattern idea out quickly . What I may need to spend more time is creating sounds from scratch using the vast variety of audio and midi effects. It’s all about spending more time practising Ableton on a daily basis to catch up with it. In as much as personal preference is regarded I do believe that these DAWs have different unique features that can help in creativity and would be best for me to master them. I have to use what I have and keep creating.

Drum recording in the NEVE Studio

On Friday this week (3), during our spare time, Roy, Dechlan, Tom and myself continued making progress on our band recording Drax project. With some organisation, we managed to get a large 4 hour session in the Neve so we could finally record the band’s drummer – so that’s what we did.

THE DETAILS ~

As usual, here’s a rundown of the setup we had going, along with the gear we used:

GEAR USED:
Neve Console
SAE Drum Kit (Snare, 3 Toms, Crash, Ride, Single Kick, Hats)
1 x AKG D112 – (Kick Drum) 4 x Shure SM57 – (Snare, Rack & Floor Toms)
2 x Sennheiser E614 – (Overheads) 1 x Rode NT2A – (Room Mic)
1 x Shure SM58 – (Talkback)

As an indie/shoe-gaze act, the band is after a more natural, raw sounding recording. We realised that in order to achieve this, it might be more beneficial to limit the amount of mics on the kit to avoid accidentally going overboard in the mixing stage, rather than miking everything up and feeling obliged to use every track later on. As a result, we got rid of the dedicated hi-hat mic, kick-in mic and snare bottom mic. As I see it, these are mics are meant to capture more detail within certain elements of the kit – details which are not necessarily required to get good, raw sounding drums.Some may argue that this decision is limiting in the end, but personally I find that doing this helps me mentally streamline my approach to mixing. In this scenario particularly, it will make sure I focus on the sound that the artist wants, and minimises the chances of me getting lost over smaller details which they don’t really care for. This simultaneously provides the challenge of mixing with less tracks, which is exciting and will help sharpen my production skills (which is never a bad thing).

SETUP PROCESS & DECISIONS:

We decided to arrange our drums in the middle of the room. There’s nothing too flashy about this decision, we just wanted to avoid the extra absorption from the baffles near the back of the room and the resonance that comes from the glass near the front.

As you might’ve figured, our actual miking techniques were pretty standard too. First we close miced the kick drum fairly deep in the porthole to try and get a more ‘woofy’ and ‘thuddy’ sound matching the some of the references we received (in contrast to more modern sounding kicks which are typically all sub and snap frequencies).Next, the snare and toms were all close miked near the rim of the skins, angled slightly towards the centre of the drum. These were tested by ear as we did them to make sure we got a good result for each of these elements, being adjusted appropriately throughout the session.

The overheads were an interesting task, as we initially wanted a basic AB stereo setup but ended up settling on something a little different. As we were measuring our distance from the kit and testing the sound of our overheads, we noticed the snare was having a bit of a phasing issue, so we re-distanced our mics equally away from the snare to counteract this. In doing this, however, we started to lose some of the right side of our kit (the drummer liked his floor tom and ride a little further out than usual). As an initial fix, we angled our right overhead slightly out a little bit, but this only seemed to bring back the phasing issue.  After re-measuring and adjusting the distance for this mic though, we were able to alleviate the phase while still encompassing most of the kit – so we decided to go with it even if it wasn’t ‘technically’ entirely faithful to the rules of the AB stereo technique. Even so, this was a satisfying solution that yielded good results; it was worth the effort. (The A-B Stereo Technique, 2016)

Finally, for the room mic, we decided to keep it fairly low to the ground in an attempt to get more of the ‘energy’ from the kit in the form of lower bodied frequencies. To avoid picking up the glass resonance from behind the mic, we simply used a cardioid pattern pointed towards the kit. Furthermore, we also wanted to make sure the room mic wasn’t ruining the sound of the kit we just spent so long testing, so we had to make sure it was in phase. The distance we ended up measuring between the room mic and the kit was the same as the distance between the overheads and the kit.

Overall, this mic setup ended up giving us a nice full sound overall that didn’t have wavering bass or washy cymbals. As a finishing touch, we ran everything through the Neve’s retro setting to try and get the kit sounding as warm as possible.

EXTRA DETAILS:

This was ultimately a very successful and smooth recording session in the Neve. As usual we had minor hiccups here and there, but not nearly as often, and they were solved very quickly when they did arise. This was definitely the most efficient session to date.Fortunately the drummer also knew his parts fairly confidently and was able to smash out multiple takes of each song in rapid succession, leaving us ample time to revise the takes and pack down before the session expired. This was one big relief for us personally, as drum recording is a large and detailed task – something which would be genuinely impossible to replicate exactly in a follow-up session unless we could leave everything set up there without it moving (which we can’t). Thinking about this now, I’m not entirely sure how to handle that situation if it were to occur in a future recording scenario beyond referring to session notes and trying to replicate it – this may be something worth looking in to in further detail.

References

The A-B Stereo Technique (2016). Retrieved from http://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-university/principles-of-the-a-b-stereo-technique
https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/comparing-stereo-miking-techniques

Synth Research (Ableton)

During class of AUD210 we had the opportunity to study and create Synths. In our first Synth session we discussed and learnt the basics of Synths and how to create different sounds and instruments from scratch. In our second session focusing around Synths we were tasked with creating our own Synth .The Synth that i decided to create was an organ sounding Synth. After playing around with some of the Synths in Ableton and Protools, I decided to do some research on different sounding Organ Synths. My research consisted of rewatching some of the Lynda tutorials, along with some Youtube videos and some googling. I also listened to YouTube videos of Organs as a reference.

The first thing thing I did was open Operator in Ableton Live. I began adjusting the wave forms until I begun to get a sound that I liked. I used two oscillators to create my Organ Synth. Oscillator A had a basic Sine Wave, with an Attack of 624ms, a Decay of 28.3s and a Release of 969 ms.

The second oscillator, Oscillator B, used a Sawtooth Wave. It also had an Attack of 271ms, a Decay of 600ms and a Release of 855ms.

Combining these two oscillators created my basic Organ Synth. I tidied the sound up using the MIDI Effect “Major Chord” and “C Major”.

References

https://www.lynda.com/Ableton-Live-tutorials/Up-Running-Ableton-Operator/428721-2.html

https://www.lynda.com/Audio-Music-DAWs-tutorials/Synth-Programming-Basics/156759-2.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gF_GTn2lJk&t=89s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n54yutTdsXE

Music Production in Apple Logic Pro X & Avid Pro Tools

Today I had an opportunity to learn another DAW ( Apple Logic Pro X). On the surface, Avid Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro X are very similar. They basically perform the same overall functions and are both very popular audio recording software options. When it comes to audio recording software, the market is flooded with endless choices. Generally, they both do the same things and perform the same functions. I do have my preference which is Pro tools but I did learn a couple of intakes from Logic Pro X. According to my lecturers Pro tools more likely the industry standard audio recording software and more popular as a tool for music production, post production, recording bands etc. What I found more interesting on using Logic Pro X is that is more easier to manipulate MIDI even though both use MIDI. I still prefer Pro tools as it can perform on both MIDI and live recording on the go.

In terms of layout both DAWs are different. Using Logic Pro X I found thaudio recording tool has a loop library where you can choose loops, strings and just drag and drop them where I want and Logic puts it in time with the tempo of that session. The editing is a bit different to the Pro tools layout and is better in Pro tools especially when swiping, deleting and moving things around more efficiently during intense pressure sessions.

But in terms of composing a song I find Logic Pro X much easier than Pro tools. I used to use Garageband before so once I opened Logic it just came like a big brother.

Anker, K. (2015) Logic pro x power! : the comprehensive guide. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning

Nahmani, D. (2014) Logic pro x. San Francisco: Peachpit Press

Cook, F. D., Avid Technology, Inc and Cengage Learning (Firm) (2014) Pro tools 101 : an introduction to pro tools 11. Boston, Massachusetts:

https://www.factmag.com/2019/06/14/apple-logic-pro-x-10-4-5-mac-pro/

Track Teardown: FRIENDS

TRACK TEARDOWN: JUSTIN BIEBER & BLOODPOP – FRIENDS

This is a sonic teardown of Justin Bieber & Bloodpop’s, “Friends”
Written ByBloodPop®, Justin Bieber, Julia Michaels & Justin Tranter
Vocals Justin Bieber
Recording Josh Gudwin
Backing VocalsBloodPop® & Julia Michaels
Mixing Mark “Spike” Stent
Synthesizer BloodPop®
Bass BloodPop®
Keyboards BloodPop®
Engineering Josh Gudwin
Release DateAugust 17, 2017

(Genius, 2017)
I have chosen to do a sonic teardown of the track, “Friends” by Justin Bieber & Bloodpop. This is in the hope of learning how pop music is recorded and mixed. Pop songs always seem to have a higher level of sonic quality to them. By analysing this track, I will learn how this level of quality is achieved. I have used the drums for this song as a reference for a project I am working on. I aim to incorporate the same producing, recording and mixing techniques learnt from “Friends” in my own projects.

“Friends” is about staying amiable after a breakup. (Genius, 2017) The song was released through GENPOP Corporation, RBMG Records, School Boy Records, Def Jam Recordings and Republic Records on August 17 of 2017. It has amassed 243, 489, 984 streams on spotify and has peaked as high as number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.” (Wikipedia, 2017)

Song Structure

  • Song Duration: 3 minutes 9 seconds
  • Song BPM: 105
  • Song Time Signature: 4/4
  • Intro: 1 Bar
  • Verse 1: 8 Bars
  • Pre Chorus: 8 Bars
  • Chorus: 16 Bars
  • Verse 2: 8 Bars
  • Pre Chorus: 8 Bars
  • Chorus: 16 Bars
  • Pre Chorus: 8 Bars
  • Chorus: 8 Bars

Breakdown of Sonic Elements

Vocals

For a pop song, the vocals are the most important part of the mix. They must be clear and up the front at at all times. This is the case for “Friends”. Justin’s vocals are very bright and sound like they have been boosted quite a lot from the 10khz and up range. This gives his vocal the young and boyish nature his public persona is about. Justin’s voice has quite a bit of sibilance. The eses are quite strong, however they do not distract from the main vocal. The esess give his voice a very airy quality which suits his high voice range.

Time Based Effects

The vocals have a delay on them. This is a stereo delay as the delay is left and right not in the centre. This could possibly be an H delay. There are a lot of pitch effects on the vocals. Some are pitched up and pitched down. There is also a female backing vocal in the verse and this is panned in the centre. The vocal delay has a reverb on it and most of the backing vocals are heavy with reverb. A lot of the backing vocals and vocal effects have low pass filters on them. This is most likely to not take attention away from the lead vocal. The delay also sounds to be automated as in the verse it only comes in after each line has been completed. This allows the delay to be heard clearly but also not muddy up the lead vocal. It also allows space between phrases which allows the listener more time to register the lyrics. Like most Pop/EDM tracks the hook of the song features a chopped up vocal that almost sounds like a synth lead. This was most likely accomplished by putting the vocal through a multi sampler and playing it on a midi keyboard.

Synths

In an EDM song, the synths are an integral part of the production and can make or break a track. “Friends” is no different and is layered with many different synth sounds. The synths are prominent in the mix but still reasonably quiet in comparison to the lead vocal and kick drum. The synths also leave a lot of frequency space for the vocal. This was most likely achieved by EQing out some of the 2 – 3k frequencies in them. It is hard to tell what type of synths are being used but they sound like they could be square and saw waves. At parts in the song, the synths also seem to have been automated with an EQ high pass filter. This adds dynamics to the song and allows the track to stay interesting even though the same chords and structure is being repeated.

Drums & Bass

The drums and bass are the engine of a Pop/EDM track. They must be able to have impact and be felt on any sound system. The main kick drum of the song sits at around 70hz. This is quite high for a kick drum and this gives it a lot of punch. There is also a sub kick layered underneath the regular kick that sits at around 40hz. This adds weight to the punchy kick. This is the most prominent bass sound in the track. It’s strongest frequency is 40hz. However, it covers a lot of frequency range and goes up to about 60hz. With the kick drum sitting at 70hz and the bass covering from 40-60hz, this keeps the kick and bass separate and makes the bass sound very big. There is also another bass element in the track, the arpeggiated synth bass line. This isn’t very loud in the mix compared to the sub kick.
It appears to be played an octave lower than the main pads that are playing. It gives the bass its rhythm and movement but is deceptive because it is not what is providing the majority of the sub frequencies. The arpeggiated synth bass appears to have been stereo spread. It does not sit in the middle of the mix but to the left and right equally at around maybe 30 – 35 degrees panned if you were panning in Logic X. This allows the synth arpeggiated bass to be heard independently from the kick and sub kick. The hi hats and cymbals appear to predominantly sit in the 10 khz range. They are not very loud in the mix.
The hi hats and snares are in the centre of the mix. Some of the rim shots are panned slightly to the left at maybe 10 degrees. The snares and hi hats are not the focus of the mix, this allows the driving 4 on the floor kick beat to take focus. This is common in dance music as the kick is what gives the track its groove.

Summary

To conclude, Justin Bieber & Bloodpop’s, “Friends” is a great sonic example of a well recorded and mixed pop song. All of the recording and mixing decisions were made in conjunction with the songs target audience and in what circumstances the song would be heard. This is backed up by the findings that a lot of the integral sounds are in the centre of the mix. This was most likely a conscious decision as the song is in the genre of Pop/EDM and was made in the hope of playing in a lot of clubs. Because most club’s sound systems are in mono, not hard panning the most important elements of the track allows the song to better translate to clubs as well as other speaker systems. As it is a pop track, it will mainly be listened to by people who don’t have great sound systems e.g. on laptops, phones, basic earphones and in public spaces. The vocal is also very clear and at the front of the mix at all times. This puts all the focus on the artist which is important for branding and promotion.

In summary, this track teardown was a great learning experience. I now aim to incorporate the techniques learnt and improve my work!

Bibliography

Genius. (2019). Justin Bieber & BloodPop® – Friends. [online] Available at: https://genius.com/Justin-bieber-and-bloodpop-friends-lyrics [Accessed 8 June. 2019].
En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Friends (Justin Bieber and BloodPop song). [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friends_(Justin_Bieber_and_BloodPop_song)[Accessed 8 June. 2019].

https://www.puremix.net/mixcheck-mix-analysis/sorry-justin-beiber.html

https://www.theringer.com/music/2017/8/17/16164482/justin-bieber-friends-single

https://genius.com/Justin-bieber-and-bloodpop-friends-lyrics

Critical Listening

CRITICAL & ANALYSIS FRAMEWORKS

I have learnt that it is vital to have critical and analytical skills to display quality listening. To analyse a piece a music requires a framework that would enable to break down the song such as EQ, Filtering, Spatial Effects, Panning, Reverb and Delay, Dynamics Processing , Stereo Image , Dramatic signal processing , Timbrel control etc , to understand exactly what you are listening for. In this trimester I will be doing these basic frameworks and they are both different categories when used to evaluate a a piece of music.

ANALYTICAL LISTENING

Feeling and meaning I believe are part of Analytical listening, sound gives us meaning and some perspective in our lives. The overall sound and feel of the music or track, emotionally is vital in order to get the correct message across. My listening knowledge, experience and analytical reasoning do play an important role in understanding music messages within various musical styles.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

Critical listening on the other hand comes from the point of view of the engineer. As an engineer my perspective I would be listening to the physical details of the music. Stereo imaging, tone, dynamic range, frequency response and how instruments blend together. I believe my brain will be challenged by understanding how to interpret the sounds that i hear and how it reacts which will determine probably how I make decisions.

I am hoping to get these techniques and practises to be able to get good results in music production and engineering work. In conclusion analytical and critical listening are both different and are both important.

Neve Signal Flow

A transition to a new a new studio in most cases is little tricky. For me having to learn new, large mixing consoles with knobs and faders gave me moment of anxiety.

Signal flow is a very important part of learning how to run a Neve console together with a DAW. I was so excited to learn this console for the first time and at the same time confused with the structure design, which is different from the Audient consoles that I became used to. It has an old school looking panels and old school stylised VU meters, solid pots and buttons. It has an interesting “Retro” option that changes the modern mix bus to the old style voltage mix bus. I believe the more I practise the Neve console to get my confidence up. It is a new challenge that needs more consistent learning to improve my skills.

I set to learn how make sure I follow the correct procedure like turning the consoles powerboard, the interfaces which run 32 inputs and outputs then lastly the monitors. I managed to get the hang of it on the following day and did a recording with my group mates. The sweet thing about this console is that once you get the basic signal flow and the patchbay then things do run smoothly. Tip: It is very important to familiarise with the patchbay and practise more often to get more confidence.


Project Pitch

One thing I have learnt is to be well prepared when it comes to presentations for a project pitch. Over the weekend I did spend time preparing the powerpoint presentation and did some good research for out project. However I did discover that a group may have a pitch prepared but when you have no proper communication on how you present it then it becomes a challenge.

We did present our pitch but we started without one of team members and I believe that when we present a project pitch in the industry with probably CEOs or managers present its best to be together as a team to show organisation and teamwork. It was rather a bit discouraging as it was one man presenting which we had communicated that we all take part. Communication surely is essential to get the work done. The next project pitch I would endeavour to have the pitch well presented and stick to 5 minutes other than the 8 to 9 minutes we spend due to pure organisation.

The project we intend to create would be one that would have a lot of experimenting as we all listen to different genre of music. With our differences of genres coming into play, I felt that it we can create a breeding ground of new music that can be conceptualised from jellying or mixing two or more genres together to become one. But then we needed to have a theme to work with as the idea was already thought of. The theme agreed is vampire or Dracula related and the song name would be Blood Sucker.Therefore the experiment was to have two or more music genres and we decided to choose metal music and EDM music. Absolutely different but very interesting. How to experiment this idea is to do research. Taking time to listen to Metal music and EDM music required to be a very critical listener on how the music was designed or created, the instruments involved and vocal recordings what effects were possibly used. Thinking of the target audience helps me think of their tastebuds to the genres and giving them a new taste of the music with merged genres. Its more like having metal & EDM fans coming together for one big concert. Our group name emerged from the song name Blood Sucker and name it DRAX (Dracula). I believe it carries the aura of dynamism, dramatic, supernatural kind of feel. With such kind of thought process, I imagine sounds that I will create or produce to be horror like with intriguing blood rushing effects. I will experiment more with a couple of sample sounds from my synth pads and some organs.