Archive for April, 2014
16 Apr

Another Contest- Flattery And Lies

Listen: Flattery And Lies

Mixnotes is a blog I like to follow, with a YouTube channel for reviews and how-to kinds of things. Occasionally, they run a mixing contest. They supply a group of pre-recorded tracks and offer prizes like new plugins and training materials.

I can tell you how hard it is to record myself all the time. I have to deal with my own inadequacies. And mistakes. Many, many mistakes. A contest like this is a lot of fun for me. A change in perspective and a chance to challenge my skills.

This contest featured a song by a singer songwriter named Caitlin Eadie. I enjoy her unique voice, she sounds a little like Blossom Dearie (also Blossom). That girlish voice is backed by an emotional maturity that gives real strength to her songwriting. It was a pleasure to work on this song.

My organizing idea on this song was to have the beginning closed off and have the song open up as it progressed. I started with the stereo field restricted at abut 50%. I opened it up a little at the chorus (70%), back down for the second verse, and didn’t open up fully until the bridge. I left the full stereo field under the outro to reinforce the resolution of the song.

I think this approach may be too subtle. It’s hard to hear changes in the stereo field. It may have been more effective in surround sound, because i  there I could make the difference obvious. While I love the spot where it opens up, the effect doesn’t really speak unless you are wearing headphones. Even there, it is hard to notice until you get to the bridge.

The only really fancy thing I added was the echo at the end. I liked the concept, but found the actuality distracting. I patched the delay through the reverb instead of the main output. This makes the echo an ethereal whisper, off in the distance- which is what I was going for. Ethereal whisper.

I am happy with my mix. I don’t plan on winning any prizes. My system is old enough now that the new plugins won’t load. I’d love some training materials, though. More new projects to mix.

I am adding a new “Mixing” category to my site. Songs like this one- I didn’t write, arrange, play any instrument or even record any tracks. I just realized the mix. It’s the perfect label for the technical work I did and do.

Categories: Mixing
09 Apr


Listen: Vehicle

I used to sing this song. Some may remember that I sang it at my wedding with the Dust Bunnies.  At that time, I was singing it in D minor. This version is in Eb minor, like the original recording (by the Ides Of March.) It’s harder to sing a half-step higher. But before I get to that , let me tell you the story.

I took a music production class at Berklee online.  As a midi project, the professor split us into groups to produce a song. I got paired up with a drummer and a keyboard player. I’m sure this was by intention, letting us all work at our strength musically.

The drummer did all the percussion parts, the keyboard player did organ and horn parts. I got the bass, guitar and solo. Neither of them wanted to do the vocals, so I took that as well. After all, I used to sing this song.

It may look like I got off easy, from a midi point of view. First off, I have a midi guitar rig. I was able to do the bass line on guitar as a midi file, which went to our drummer for quantizing. Second, we learned the real point of this group exercise was sharing files. Each had to have the midi setup correctly so we could work together; then there was synchronizing files, especially between midi files and audio files. It took many emails back and forth to get the details right.

So it was as a group that we decided to stick to the original key. I may have been trying to challenge myself, but we all know voices do not get higher as we get older. It was difficult to get an adequate take. Let me rephrase that. I did not get an adequate take. I had to use some creative tuning to make my singing track adequate.

At that time (2008) I did not have auto tune. Pro Tools had utility that allowed you to change pitch of audio. I had to separate the in-tune parts of the bad notes and adjust the out-of-tune parts. Manually.

I had one issue I had to leave in. In the last verse, listen to the word “star”. I call that an audible occlusion. A bit of digital weirdness that you can hear. It is very short, and if I didn’t point it out, most people wouldn’t notice. Still, it bugs me.

I enjoyed the guitar solo. I improvised a bunch of tracks, then created a composite. I learned that composite track and re-recorded it, playing it in one take. I kept the last part of the solo from the original. It has a hook element that sticks in my mind, and it didn’t sound right without it. I like that way it turned out.

I don’t know what happened to the background vocals. They are supposed to echo the words on the choruses. I’m sure they were on the class project, but I no longer have a copy of that bounce. I hate to think I deleted them from the master, but it’s odd that I kept backgrounds on the first chorus, but not on the rest. This isn’t going to be released anywhere, so it wasn’t worth the time to re-record them.

I remixed the old files to add some of my more recent production techniques. The track is pretty good. The vocals are adequate.

I’m not a great singer. I can do a pretty good job on some material, especially it I don’t try to push the high notes. Luckily, this project was about midi setup, sharing files and synchronization.


Categories: Recordings