Side Project (Foolish Ole Me) breakdown

Artist: Maroon 5
Album: Won’t Go Home Without You
Released: 2007
Genre: Pop
Recorded: 2006

A side project for Roy that we recorded with aesthetics from 2000 pop genre era called Foolish ‘Ole Me making reference to Won’t Go Home by Maroon 5, released in 2007.

I played drums, mix & recording engineer roles and keyboards as my contribution to the project. Getting the right gain structure for the drum microphones, guitar mics and DIs I would say it was excellent. The microphone choices and positioning was a reflection of the research we had carried out alongside decisions made on the day to offer us the flexibility and closest tonal quality for the targeted sound. The aesthetics of the song in contrast to the reference track was not that bad only the vocals were rather not pop like sounding. Recording Pop songs requires a lot of attention on tonality on the vocal itself. Using melodyne to tune the vocal pitch did a bit of magic so as to sound similar to the vocals on the reference track.

The lyric content of the reference track seem to be about the singer’s desire and love trying to impress for the one he loves and so the recorded song shares the same sentiments making it a mellow dirven song.

As for the drums I think it was best if I had tuned the drum well and select a better snare drum and also a bottom microphone to have better balance when mixing. The microphone techniques we used were alright but we learnt that its best to always do our research well before we make an attempt to record. Therefore we had to spend a little more time on drum EQ to get those bright snappy sounds that would balance well with kick drum.

The bass guitar on the reference track sounded warm in texture and to get that same feel in the song and so to get that medium low-frequency range we set 2 microphones track with Sennheiser MD421 and Shure B52A on the Roland amp and Di box track. Blending them together in the mix gave out that warmth colour.

As for the keyboard I used onboard sounds on my Korg PA588, acoustic piano sound and Church organ. Very little EQ was done on the keys just to brighten it up.

The project was fun considering that it was just the 2 of us doing it. I would say playing together and recording would have probably spiced up the project more. Playing drums over a recorded guitar was alright but if we played like a team same time there definitely would be big difference. It was a great experience working with Roy and it was such an encouraging trimester for me.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nUqc1SkFpKkeU_9Behx2YNPsZnayy8bb

Mix Breakdown (Give)

For the LO3 I will focus on 3 different techniques that are reverb, vocal EQ and compression.

Artist: Earth, Wind & Fire
Album: September
Released: 1978
Nominations: CMT Music Award for CMT Performance of the Year
Genres: Disco, R&B/Soul

On 26th of November we recorded vocals for the song “Give” and our aim was to to get the 70s aesthetic mix sound to suit the genre. The reference track was September by Earth,Wind,Fire. The track has elements of funk, jazzy, blues harmonic characteristics and a combination of brass sax section, piano, bass and drums. The beauty of the track is that all instruments give each other some breathing space which I find very creative and sweet to listen to. The use of automation made it very easy for the instruments to give each other some breathing space allowing the performance to be exciting for the ears. Several instruments blended well and some clashed and therefore those that clashed I made sure there had some automation set on them.

We used the Audio technica AT2020 in my home studio as all studios at uni were booked out and so I had to do my research in order to achieve our goal.
The recording went pretty smooth and easy and we did a couple of tracks and we discussed the sound that we wanted to replicate. It’s all about doubling vocals to get a precise attack of the verse and chorus and with some reverb with compression on the vocals. The compression helped to bring down the dynamic parts that are higher than the others so that we have all dynamics be the same. With critical listening to the acapella version of the the reference track I was able to make judgement of the amount of reverb that could have been added with a bit of delay in the vocal. I then pulled out a couple of different methods together to add during mixing. I had to choose the best take of the main vocal then duplicated it into into 2 and group 2 and separate the 3rd one which I would add compression. As for the vocalist it is her first time to record so there was a bit of fear in her but with encouragement she did her best. Most definitely vocals need to be on point and there is much need of professionalism required. I mean amateurs do well when they find a mentor, but if I need to take these projects seriously its best I engage with professional singers who will give me what I want during recordings.

The chorus had some harmonies in it and I panned them close to make stereo image just to add excitement in the record. Added a bit of delay and reverb in the harmonies making reference to the reference track which has lots of reverb in it. Listening back to the reference track made me think that it needs to be a large reverbs larger than plate reverb. So I chose the Church reverb which has a longer tail and reduced it to 50%. The verse on the reference track is quite rockin and the chorus is much smoother which is similar to the recorded track and the contrast of the two does give the song a lift with added reverb and a different EQ.

The reference track has a couple of guitars that have been overdubbed and panned whether far wide right or left which I found to be very exciting and rejuvenating therefore I intended to have the same kind of feel and had the guitarist come in by my house to add more guitars then added EQ, reverb and compression then panning the some left but living the rhythm guitar on the centre of the mix to give a balance in the song. When mixing we then discovered that the rhythm guitars were all over the place and they were not complimenting each other. Therefore we decided to stick to the one rhythm guitar that holds the rhythm section. The aesthetics of the track I would say the guitars and brass were recorded with high quality microphones of that era and the dynamics and frequency content are high enough with low ends with more emphasis on the mids.

If only we had taken time to listen to the reference track before jumping into recording we would probably would have a better take. However this I take as learning in progress as I try to emulate production techniques used in the reference track. Most definitely high end microphones were used in the reference track but just to get my knowledge skills and trying to come up with similar techniques has increased my understanding and how to demonstrate.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oYskDg3_XSD2CTDBCUUzRjpCizMu3WZY

Mix breakdown (Wabaraka) Instrumental

Artist: Oliver Mtukudzi
Album: Tuku Music
Title: Ndima ndapedza
Released: 1999

I chose to use this song as reference to the instrumental that we recorded with the bend. The track conveys a mood of energy and dance as the music is invigorating with a solid bassline that has a pure relationship with the kick drum. It has a soca afro fusion feel which is quite upbeat.

The mission was to replicate the energy level and dance mood into our song with the same soca afrofusion style which again upbeat. Using the production methodology during mixing with the feedback we received from Stephane, we made sure we align the bass intime with the snare drum. Whenever we finished aligning we would put crossfades to ensure the continuation of the bass and kick without a glitch. It was quite a tedious job but I would say it was better than using elastic audio or beat detective. I mean we did use them but they would mess the audio up and so at time shortcut is not the easy way. Despite being time consuming we managed to get it right.

Tuning the drums was quite a challenge for the drummer on the recording day. one of the toms had missing items that made it impossible to tune it and therefore we had to leave it. We had two snares and he tuned both then chose one to work with although they were not sounding the best. He made the best out of those drum anyhow and what was important was the vibe in the live room that was alive and fun. I do feel that such a vibe allowed the drum to be nice and solid. less EQ was done and we spent more time working with compressors as we had spill from other mics. Not that spill is a bad thing but we just wanted a solid outcome just like how the drums sound on the reference track.

WIth all these elements in mind and the vision of what we wanted on our final product to sound, I do feel that we a reasonable outcome. It may not fully stand up to the commercial standards but at least it carries the aesthetics we were aiming for. I do believe that the more time we spend listening to reference material we will get the essence right. Working together during recording, editing and mixing made our work between Roy and I awesome. We worked as a team and we managed to do majority of our tasks within the stipulated time frame. As a whole, this project was fun and had opportunities for learning through experiments. It has been a great exercise to complete and shows the skills needed to be creative and the ever evolving audio industry.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=13KRuioW7hyNb82VqmXi9FhhU8_wYTx5q

Vocals recording (Production technique)

Vocal recording in the studio is one important production technique that requires a lot of attention to be able to have a good outcome. It is a concept that I believe I will be learning all the time and it will further advance my own knowledge.

To record a vocal we do need to have a microphone and there are various microphones that can be chosen depending with the genre of the music. For a pop vocalist a large diaphragm condenser microphone is recommended as they are much clearer in comparison to dynamic microphones. There are more balanced, accurate and sweeter than their powerful counterparts. They are very sensitive which makes them perfect for softer and brighter sounds”(Berton, 2018). On the other hand dynamic microphones are less sensitive and they are perfect for live shows and recording aggressive rock vocals.

This trimester so far I have picked up an AKG C414 to be a favourite and have learnt more about it as I have used in our recordings. It is very important to attach a pop filter to avoid all pops and to preserve clarity on the overall sound. A pop filter or pop shield is a noise protection filter for the microphones and typically used in studios. The mechanical impact of fast moving air on the microphone causes popping sounds and also the accumulation of saliva on the microphone element causes damage as saliva has salts that are corrosive. Therefore a pop filter may improve the lifespan of a microphone (Wikipedia, 2019)

With research a bit of practise in the studio I have found out that just of the central place in the room is an ideal positon to place the microphone. Don’t position the microphone in the center of the room (due to a buildup of standing waves. (Berton, 2018) But also a good vocalist the vocals will sound good regardless. Position the microphone as far away from walls/reflective surfaces as possible”. (Berton, 2018). Changing the polar pattern on the microphone depending with what you are using it for. In many instances the polar pattern will be set to cardioid if you are to record a solo pop artist.“Cardioid is the most widely used pattern in professional microphones. It provides reliable performance in both stage and studio settings—making it an excellent “jack of all trades” polar pattern”. (Rowling, 2013)

Once all is set work out the phantom power is on then work on gain structure and check the signal going into your DAW of your choice that its not less or too much in most cases clipping. I would encourage to add some reverb and compression on the vocal channel and send to the headphone mix while recording and that is not the only process. If the vocalist is comfortable throughout the entire session trust me it is a good and professional effective way to have a smooth session and this probably will ensure a much better ending product.You’re responsible for making the artist comfortable. Otherwise, you won’t be happy with the performance. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make the musicians comfortable. It’ll be well worth the effort”. (Stegsie, 2011). Once done then we get to the mixing stage given that quality vocal recording has been achieved and as an engineer we are there to bring some life in the vocal. Whether we are distorting or adding effects such as vocoder, EQ, compression, delay,reverb, automation, there is no rule its all up to you. Most definitely EQ on the vocals is important to have a professional sound. every vocal is different but you can follow the same procedure. Cutting out the low end bits removing the muddy stuff in the mix can be achieved by removing 200-300 hertz then bood=st and cut all the frequencies you like and times it may take time and may need to add extra EQ. It does pay off once EQ’ing is done.

Adding compression is an important aspect too as it adds consistency overall quality to the mix. The whole idea is to aim on mixing vocals making them a dynamically consistent as possible. They do need to sit on top of the mix at all times.Every word should be clearly audible, and every word should be a similar volume”. (Hudson, 2018). Add some reverb to make it sound nicer and make sure the pop lead vocal is clear and you use pre delay and short reverbs tim)es. Using short reverbs in popular styles is there to keep the vocals close the front mix. Use short reverb times so that the vocal does not sound too far away or muddy”. (Benson, T). Techniques such as delay,automation and sidechain compression can also be important to make vocals sound cool too.

These are some of the techniques you can incorporate in your vocal recording and mix production to sound professional. A good tip is make sure that the vocals sit right on top of the mix.

References

Berton, L. (2018). Musician: The 3 Different Types of Microphones (And When To Use Them). Retrieved 23rd April, 2019
Reid Stefan. (2016). YouTube: How To Mix Vocals With EQ, Reverb, Delay Ableton Tutorial. Retrieved 23rd April, 2018 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm4Vyg51ugw&t=4s
Stegsie, K. (2011). Home Studio Corner: Make The Singer Comfortable. Retrieved 23rd April, 2018 from http://www.homestudiocorner.com/make-the-singer-comfortable/
Benson, T. (2012). Musician Self: Reverb Effect Explained. Retrieved 23rd April, 2018 from https://musicianself.com/reverb/
Hudson, M. (2018). Musician – On A Mission: Vocal Compression. Retrieved 23rd April, 2018 from https://www.musicianonamission.com/vocal-compression-how-to-compress-vocals/