Some of you may not have noticed the portion of my site where I offer guitar tracks for personal projects. This is something I love doing as I love working with others and hearing new music, not to mention playing new music. Well I’m running a summer deal right now for anyone who needs some high quality, great sounding tracks for their musical project. The first song is free and after that its $30/song. If the project involves more than 5 songs, all songs after the 5th are $20/song. I’ll make this deal valid all summer long. If you only need a single song it will be $30. Check out the HOW portion of the site for details and my BIO for some info on myself. Hope I can add my mojo to some great music this year and I look forward to working with you guys out in the global community. Cheers!
Years ago I recorded 2 demos with my old band right about a year apart from eachother. The first demo was our first professional studio experience. To say the least, we were not prepared. The songs were sketchy, off tempo and sloppy. We hadn’t even written all the guitar parts yet. The engineer told us after the fact what we needed to work on and how we needed to have all parts planned and practiced. He also told us to get comfy with a click track. I was thankful for his honesty. A year later we had the cash saved for our next demo and we spent months practicing to a click, nailing our parts and polishing our skills. The second time around, the final product quite honestly sounded commercial. Give or take a few timing and pitch issues(hey we were in high school still).
There are two perspectives here. One from the band or artist, the other from the engineer. If you have you ever had somebody come in to record that wasn’t anywhere near prepared, you know how frustrating it can be. Most of the time you end up hitting record over and over and over again while they try to either decide on what to play, or try to nail down an acceptable take. Super boring and really not a very fun time. Usually the musician winds up flustered and dissappointed with the final product.
Bottom line: if you are the musician, have your crap together. Be ready to go. Be well versed in the material and know what you will be playing/singing. If you are the engineer, make a point of communicating this info to the person or group before hand. This may be old news for some of you, but there is always someone out there that wished they had heard it long ago. Hope it helps. Have a great weekend everyone. Cheers!
Nobody enjoys being around an arrogant person, and unfortunately there are many in the music industry. Nothing strokes the ego quite like a Grammy award or hit album. That’s why I find it funny that there are so many egotistical folks in the ammature arena. They don’t have half the resume that a successful musician does, yet they strut around like they are God’s gift to the music industry. Don’t get me wrong, most of the professional figures in music are probably as nice as the next guy and have better things to do than brag about themselves all day, but I think there are many promising acts that will never move up to the next rung in the business. Their attitude turns away those that would otherwise love to work with them.
I wanted to share a personal experience I had with someone that was too “good” for their own good. This person was the lead singer of one of the first bands I played in. He was much older than everyone else in the group. To be specific, we were all in our latter years of high school and he was 28. We considered ourselves lucky at first because although we were talented, he was a down right amazing vocalist and songwriter. He also knew much more about audio production and live performance than we did at the time. We should have known there was a reason someone like this guy would want to play with a bunch of kids. We soon realized that despite his talent, the task of working with him would be no easy one. It was a constant fight and battle when it came to rehearsal habits, the songwriting process, and just working with him in general. He always acted like he knew best and our opinions didn’t mean anything. He literally would belittle us at times. He had played in multiple groups over the years and one or two of them had been semi professional. Believe me, he let us know it all the time. His most common saying was “This ain’t my first rodeo!”. In less than 6 months time, we made the decision to boot him out, and I became lead singer. All of the sudden, our rehearsals were fun again. They actually lasted longer, and much more was accomplished. We all kinda felt bad for the guy because he had so much raw talent. We all knew that he could be so much more if had a different attitude and if he humbled himself.
I ask you to take a good look at your own attitude and consider how you might appear to others in your profession. Would YOU want to work with you? I guarantee that most professionals would rather work with somebody who is easy to get along with and listens, than somebody that is a music guru but a pain in the a**. In a professional situation you need to know your stuff, but as a generality a little charisma and a humble attitude can get you pretty darn far. Regardless of skill level.
Lately I’ve been talking a lot about songwriting and approaching things from new perspectives, with the intent of opening up and expanding your creativity. I must admit that one tool in my studio that truly opened the door to thousands of possibilities is the midi keyboard controller. If you aren’t aware of or familiar with midi controllers and virtual instruments you are missing out on some seriously cool stuff. Not to mention the many uses a conroller has for workflow improvement. The device itself produces no sound whatsoever. It merely controls and/or activates the sounds within a program in your DAW. I am a Pro Tools user and Pro Tools 8 happens to come stock with XPand 2. I’m fairly certain that most DAWs come stock with some type of virtual instrument, if not several. Dig a little and you will probably find some really cool stuff you didn’t know you had.
XPand has been an invaluable tool in my songwriting/music producing ventures. From organs, pianos, strings and effects, to drum kits, loops and many other types of samples. Not only does this program offer these sounds, they sound quite good. I used to approach songwriting with a guitar and notebook and while that still remains a common method for me, my midi keyboard and the stock virtual instruments that came with my DAW have proven to be more useful that I ever had imagined. I have even began writing music in genres I never knew I had the potential for. If you are not using this tool in your studio you are hindering yourself. You can find controllers fairly cheap at your local music store. I am using the M Audio Oxygen 49 and it’s a great keyboard for $150, but there are even a few under a hundred bucks. Like many others, the Oxygen 49 has a bank of faders, knobs and buttons that can be programmed to operate practically any function within your DAW. There’s really no limit to what you can do with these things.
What are some of the ways you all are using a midi controller for in your studios? And for the newbies, what programs come stock with the other DAWs? Drop some comments below. I’d love to hear what you guys got going on. Cheers!
The inspiration for today’s post comes to you curtesy of my good friend Freddy. We were discussing a new song that he sent me and the process he used to write it. He wanted to approach songwriting from a different angle and get out of the same chord structure he always finds himself playing. Though he’s not necessarilly a bassist, he picked up a bass and mapped out a bass line at the very beginning before he even had a melody in mind. He found it to be a great way to open up his creative possibilities and the song is definitely different from anything he and I have collaborated on before. I’m liking it a lot! You can check out his site HERE and listen to some stuff he’s working on.
For those of you who are fellow guitarists, I am sure many of you will relate to this. When you pick up your guitar with the intent of writing something new, do you find yourself playing the same chord progressions, licks and phrases over and again? I know I do. Maybe it’s habit, or a subconscious thing we do out of comfort on the fret board… heck I don’t know. I just know I definitely get frustrated with this very issue. I especially deal with this in my soloing. I have to consciously keep myself from playing the same lick and note runs or I start repeating. It definitely helps to approach things from a foreign perspective from time to time. Sometimes I will sit down at the keys to work up new melodies or find new chords to play with. I recently acquired a bass so that will be making its way into my songwriting process from now on. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional. If you haven’t watched the video I posted of Gotye writing and recording his newest album, click THIS. He uses some of the most random and unusual ideas for turning sounds into music. There are no rules in writing music. Inspiration can come from a billion different places, and the most unique songs usually come from unexpected sources.
So what kind of processes do you use to find new inspiration? I want to hear from you guys. I am always looking for creative ideas to change things up in my studio. Cheers!
If you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to write mostly about personal experiences related to music production. In addition, I write a lot about the little problems I’ve faced, that most of us face when writing, producing and recording music. Some of my posts might be geared toward more advanced audiophiles, and some more toward newbies and hobbyists. Keep that in mind.
Recently I started collaborating with a guy I met through CraigsList. He sent me 13 tracks that were in the hip-hop/rap genre. They were all vocal tracks he recorded at his home. He didn’t send me the loops he had for the song, and they were all out of order with no timeline. I was to write a melody, create some loops and basically use his lyrics and vocal tracks to put a song together. It sounded like a challenge and although the genre isn’t necessarily my strong point, I was eager to put my skills to the test and impress this guy.
As I started listening to each track, naming it and arranging it in Pro Tools according to its placement, I noticed right off that there was immense bleed through in his mic. I think he actually played the loops through his loudspeakers when he recorded his vocals. No matter what I did, I could not lessen the effect of hearing the loops behind his voice and it completely prevented me from doing anything useful with the tracks.
As it turned out, he admitted he was new to recording and hadn’t even thought about this issue. He asked me what he could do to fix the problem. So for anyone out there who is just starting out or hasn’t dealt with this yet, you will almost ALWAYS want to record your vocal tracks using headphones. I recommend circumaural headphones. That just means that they completely cover your ears. This will prevent your microphone from hearing the sound from a reference track and give you a nice clean track to work with. Now even with headphones you have to be careful because some things like drums or a click track can still bleed through to the mic. It’s always a good idea to listen closely before hitting record.
Some advice on buying headphones… you must consider what use you will have for them. If you are tracking vocals or instruments, you might not need the most expensive or highest quality, but if you are mixing with them, I recommend the highest you can afford. I will also say that you should use closed back cans, as open back will let out much of the sound for a mic to pick up. Open backs are mostly used for mixing purposes and closed back for tracking or mixing. Personally I use Audio Technica ATH M50s. Not only are they perfect for tracking, but they are very clean and flat for mixing as well. Yes there are more expensive cans out there but it’s what I use and have had great success. So there ya go. I hope that helps some of you. Don’t hesitate to write me if you are having issues in your home studio. Cheers!
When working on a given project, I often find myself reaching for all the different tools I have to work with. It makes sense doesn’t it? Why am going to keep this midi controller here if I’m not going to use synth pads, organs, effects and other virtual instruments? Why shouldn’t I add some piano parts? I’ve got basically unlimited tracks too, why not double track 3 guitar parts and pan them all crazy like for a giant wall of sound? Then acoustic guitars… then vocals… then a bunch of back ground vocals… Yeah! Lets do it!
NOT! I have learned from my last few projects that less can and most of the time WILL be “more”. The song I am currently working on really is teaching this concept moreso than others. So I got a basic format laid down. A single acoustic guitar, one rhythm and one lead electric, a B3, bass, drums and vocals. It’s really not a lot going on so far. At the end of my last recording session I was right about to add some piano parts and guitar over dubs but I had to leave for work, so I bounced a stereo file and converted it to MP3, put it on my phone and took off in the car. (the car test is kinda my bench test because I’ve listened to music in there so dang much I know how it should sound)
To put it quite simply I was blown away by how great the track sounded, even in the beginning stages and as an MP3. Tight bottom end, full sounding mids and just a bit of sparkle. I decided that there was no need for anything else other than the BGVs and a final vocal track. It’s still hard backing off from some piano but it sounds so clean to me and I like the simple feel and lack of muddyness.
Moral of the story is, if you find your tracks super busy, complex and muddy, maybe you’ve simply got TOO much crap going on. Isolate the basic feel and direction of the song and ask yourself if there is anything that can come out without affecting that direction. You would be surprised how far you can get with just a few well recorded, well performed tracks. This might not always be the right tactic but it helps sometimes when your song feels cluttered. Hope it helps you guys. It’s sure helped me!
For those of you working in Pro Tools, or any other DAW for that matter, you’ll want to check out my friend Graham’s blog over at http://therecordingrevolution.com/. He’s a genius with Pro Tools and you will learn much from his videos. Here’s some helpful workflow tips that will probably work the same way in most DAWs. Check it out and go have a look around his site. Remember to leave comments and also you can now subscribe to my blog right to your email. Cheers!
I was working on a song yesterday morning that I had been thinking about all night. There was a guitar solo that I had recorded the previous day that I wanted to “fix”. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it but I wanted to change a part. So I nestled into my studio and began re-recording that part. 30 mins later I had probably tracked it 15 or 20 times, and still didn’t have a keeper.
We’ve all been there. That point at which you are tracking your part, be it guitar, piano or whatever. You just cannot seem to land that perfect take. Over, and over… and OVER again and it’s not happening. No matter how hard you focus, for whatever reason, every take has some issue that causes you to try another. I will tell you if it gets to that point it’s time to walk away. Come back later. I’m not sure what happens exactly, I just know that when it does you have got to clear your head and listen to something else for a while. Most of the time when it’s happened to me I was not in the “zone” as I like to call it. I’ve talked before about being most productive when you are the least distracted, and this is very similar. You are zoned in and the music just flows and comes out of you.
I went back to the original track that I had recorded, and there was something about it that just sounded better. More emotion in the notes and a less mapped out feel. I ended up forgetting why I wanted to change it in the first place. I remember when I laid it down I had done 3 runs through the solo section playing with some licks, and on the 4th run I had decided which direction to go, and I nailed it. It took no time at all because I was in the “zone” and didn’t even have to try.
So next time you are stuck in this situation, don’t panic, just go get some food. Go take a nap. Just take your mind off it and come back later. More than likely it will jump out of you fingers at that point.
Hope this helps some of you, it’s helped me a lot even recently. When this song if finished and mastered I’ll be sure to post it for all of you to hear. Drop me a comment and keep in touch. Cheers!
I came across this short film recently and really enjoyed watching it. It’s just more proof that you can make great music anywhere, with any tools you might have. He didn’t use $5k mics or $100k worth of equipment, he used decent gear and a bunch of random instruments along with his own creativity. What’s your excuse? I know I have my own but ultimately I know I have all I need to make the music inside my head. Check this video out folks and start pumping out your ideas. Get creative and be unique. You are all that is holding you back.