Final Project!

Here we have the final project for the Advanced Production Techniques module.  It is a recording of a song I have been developing for some time.  I played all instruments on this track and mixed and mastered it.  Even on the day of recording parts were added, removed and changed.  This has become a regular occurrence whenever I record.  I am happy that after all this time of having the song I have been able to record it to a good standard.

The drums were recorded first in the university studio, without a click, using the SSL desk.  Some minor editing and mixing was done before recording but the majority took place afterwards.  Guitar and bass were then recorded at a home studio, where all the mixing and mastering took place.  This was all done on Logic.  The guitars were double tracked through a Marshall amp and the bass was recorded directly into the desk.  Effects such as echo and reverb were added to parts of the guitar tracks and the usual compression and EQ was applied to everything.  I then grouped the drum tracks together and applied more compression.  Next, I grouped the guitar parts together and the bass parts together and along with the drum group, sorted out levels.

When mastering, I listened to the track next to some other songs I would group it with to see how it sounded.  (For an idea of my reference list, look at my mixtape track listing).  I bounced it down and listened to it on as many different speakers as possible.  I realised it needed some minor changes including rising the bass levels to create the warm sound I was going for and turning certain parts, such as the lead guitar parts, up in volume.  Finally, I needed to turn the volume up of the entire song as I realised it was a bit too quiet next to other songs.  Having a list of reference songs was important when mastering this song.

I am happy with the outcome and hope to keep up this standard of work when recording future songs.  So, here it is…

Mixtape

The third task for the APT module was to create a continuous mix of music that lasted at least 20 minutes and featured at least 8 songs – one of which was an original piece of my own.  The idea is to hear one of my own pieces of music alongside artists I would like to be in the same area as.  As I had used the one song I recorded for PDAR in my samples task, I chose to use the other one I have recorded for this mixtape.  It is an instrumental piece so I included some instrumental tracks in this mix but also included some with vocals.  I didn’t follow a certain BPM or key but instead tried to focus on the mood.  I included various types of artists ranging from full bands, to solo musicians and even a friend of mine who sadly passed away this year.  These are all influential artists to me and so it was the best way to hear my song alongside those, instead of hearing it against songs with the same BPM or key.  In my chosen area of music, that sort of thing is not so important.  It is more about creating the mood and keeping it flowing.

Outcome

I am happy with how my mixtape came out.  I had already attempted it once but after some reflection I wasn’t pleased with my first effort so I scrapped it and started again.  I felt that the first mixtape didn’t flow as well as I pictured it in my head.  This was a good learning curve though as it taught me to listen more instead of simply assuming it will just fit.  The second time I was able to collect a good selection of songs that all, at some point, have influenced my song writing.  This is the first time I have ever done anything like this but I found it very rewarding and may try doing more in the future.

Here it is:

 

Track Listing

01: Colour Haze – Tempel

Album – Tempel  Label: Elektrohasch

02: Brant Bjork – Porto

Album – Gods & Goddesses  Label: Low Desert Punk

03: Stoned Jesus – Bright Like The Morning

Album – Seven Thunders Roar  Label: Moon Records

04: Birth of Joy – Devil’s Paradise

Album – Life in Babalou  Label: Suburban Records

05: Ben Hughes – 33

Album: Crow Valley (in progress)   Label:  Unreleased – my original piece

06: Scott Jones – Biomechanoid Dirty Beastz 2

Album – Risk Assessment  Label: Unreleased – late friend’s home made CD

07: Weird Owl – White Hidden Fire

Album – Nuclear Psychology.  Label: none – self released

08: The Myrrors – Warpainting

Album – Burning Circles In the Sky   Label: Strange Design Records

Samples

My second task for the APT module was sampling.  We were taught about various sampling techniques and shown plenty of examples of where they have been effective in the past.  It is something I have only tried once or twice in the past but not something I am particularly interested in using.  I did however try and give it a good go.  We were asked to use a sample of our choice in one of our own pieces of music.  So, I chose one of the songs I had recorded for the PDAR module and added in a snippet of an interview with the famous 60’s villain – Charles Manson.  I chose to use this sample as I had recently watched a documentary about him and there was certain things he said that made me think.

The lyrics in my own songs are;

“Cause I’m, Free

The world, In front of me”

Charles Manson was talking about how he felt free in his head and that it was only his physical body that was locked up in prison.  He believed that the real him was out in the hills enjoying life.  It made me think and I thought him feeling free, and me singing about being free may, in some strange way, work together.  So, I gave it a go and added some echo and reverb effects to make it sound that bit creepier and chilling.  I then applied Melodyne on my own vocals to try and enhance them.

Here is my sampling mix:

Drum Recording

As my first task for the APT module I had to record and mix a drum track.  I, along with 2 others, set up the drum kit in the uni studio and took into consideration everything we had learnt about drum placement and mic phasing.  We pulled the drums out of the corner and used the floor tom as a guide to where the drums would sound best in the room.  We found our spot and as I was the one who would be drumming, I set up the kit in the way I would feel most comfortable.  We had a variety of microphones to use so we tried a few different techniques.  We ended up with microphones on the following:

Bass drum

Snare – one on bottom, one on top

Rack Tom

Floor Tom

Hi Hat

Overheads – one left, one right

IMAG0148 IMAG0147 IMAG0146 IMAG0145 IMAG0144

We tried first of all listening to how the kit sounded with just the overheads and to our surprise, it actually sounded decent.  One by one we added in the other mics and did a small amount of mixing before recording using the SSL desk.

Outcome

After hearing it back, I think we recorded the drums quite well.  We had a slight problem with the floor tom as we were getting some unwanted buzzing and that was still not 100% solved even in my final mix but other than that everything sounded okay.  In terms of mixing I had some difficulty getting a nice sound from the kick drum but after a lot of fiddling with the EQ and the Compressors I managed to make it sound a bit better.

I helped someone else with their drum recording a few weeks later and for that we used a similar mic set up but there was only one mic on the snare and we added a room mic.  Also, we surrounded the kit with the sound walls.  If I were to do mine again, I would consider using these techniques as I found they were quite effective.

Here is the final mix:

 

First Task

To begin this new module, I will start by showing a short song I recently made and where the main influence came from in terms of the overall sound and production.  So here is a link to my track “DrainPype Rat”:

And here is the main influence behind it:

I randomly picked up this album in a shop and bought it even though I had heard none of the tracks.  I was familiar with John Frusciante but not so much with his solo work.  The entire album got me thinking about how many different things are possible within music and how it can go from complete chaos to a blissful calmness within seconds.  So, I began messing about with these techniques I was hearing.

I chose this song in particular because I liked how the drumbeat kept the piece moving – allowing anything to happen on top of it. It repeats certain parts and other parts are there only once.  I attempted to follow this idea in my track by doing the same thing – having a drumbeat keeping the piece moving from start to finish and placing random pieces on top – some of which repeat and some of which don’t.

This was my first attempt at something like this and there’s plenty of room for improvement.  I could add a lot more sounds and even try getting vocal parts included.  A second attempt would probably be longer too, with this one simply being a trial run.  Although I am not trying to completely copy Frusciante’s work, there is plenty that can be learnt from it.