Unconventionality… Rock It!

Hey everyone! Back from a 2 week hiatus and ready to roll! Getting more and more accomplished in my home studio here in Houston and soon will be dropping videos into my arsenal of goodies for you. I’ve got a lot of things planned but life is a roller coaster and my hands are in the air. I always say “Have a plan, but be willing to roll with the punches and make changes when necessary”.

As I have been rolling with the lastest changes in my life I have been reassessing my motives for writing music. I’m trying to get back to writing for the way it makes me feel, instead of how my songs might make someone else feel. Yes, I hope that my music will have an impact on somebody, but as I have tried to write songs directly for that purpose I have found myself in a slump. I haven’t written as much lately. While trying to get back to my roots, I’ve been forced to do things a bit of the unconventional way in my studio and it begs the question: “How far are you willing to go to finish a project?”. I’ve put several things on hold over the last 6 months in the hopes of upgrading my interface and really my whole setup here. No doubt I am limited in what I can do at the moment, but I guess I would rather finish some of these songs and projects than sit around and think about how they will sound eventually. In the long run I am satisfied by the final products and my clients have been satisfied thus far as well. I guess that is the ultimate test. When life gets out of the way and I AM able to upgrade, things will only be THAT much better.

I’d like to hear from you. What kind of “unconventional” methods have you been forced to use to finish a project? What kind of unusual methods? What’s the weirdest studio experience you’ve encountered? Drop a line in the comments. Cheers!

 

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Need Guitar Tracks??? Look No Further!

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!

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Before You Hit The Studio…

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!

 

 

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Tip Of The Week: Tracking With Headphones

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!

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Tracking Your Parts In The Zone

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!

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The Making of Gotye’s Newest Album

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZXLyeatI0s

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Should You Always Trust The Engineer?

Have you ever been sure of something, but someone of “supposed” higher authority said that their way was better, so you kept your mouth shut? Then  later you suffered because he was wrong all along. I thought I would share a personal experience with you today and hopefully give some insight into a possible future issue.

When it comes to music, or in this case recording music the engineer should know that ultimately his job is to please the client. On top of that, the engineer I worked with was just ignorant. My band recorded an EP back in 2003 in a professional studio. The owner and lead engineer was well known in Nashville and had quite a respectable resume. However he assigned his intern fresh out of school to engineer our project. While the EP as a whole came out fantastic in our eyes there was an issue with it I still have today. The end of each song is abruptly faded out. When we were actually recording the songs, as the final note rang out the engineer would stop recording after barely 4-5 seconds. I knew I wanted the songs to ring out naturally at the very end, and it didn’t turn out that way. I brought it up to him and he said… “We’ll fix it in the mix”. If you ever hear an engineer say those words, let it be a tip that he’s either rushing you to finish, or he’s inexperienced. You always want to get it right at the source. Get the sound you want in the initial process, don’t count on “fixing it in the mix”. Some things very well can and will be fixed at that point but it should always be your goal to get your song RECORDED the way you want it to sound, then make any changes you feel need to be made later. This will save you time, and money in the long run and leave no room for doubt as to what the end product will be like. While I was only 18 yrs old, I knew it would bother me later, but I kept quiet because the engineer told me it was good. Lesson of the day, follow your instincts and work hard to get things right the first time, dont be afraid to step on toes, especially when you are paying for it. Good luck everyone. Cheers!

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How I Record Guitars

Hello friends! I was thinking the last few days about my next project in my home studio, and which direction I would take when it comes to recording my guitars. Many of you are home recordists like myself and and maybe you have had a difficult time getting good guitar recordings, so I decided I would tell you about the techiques I use and how I go about it. I’ll cover my process with electric guitars in the future. With acoustic guitars, I hope you don’t think that a $3000 vintage mic is a necessity for a good recording. I assure you it is NOT. Use what you’ve got and get good at using it, that will result in better recordings.

AT4033

I happen to use an Audio Technica AT 4033. It’s a middle of the road large diaphragm condenser and occasionally I’ll use a Shure SM81 SDC. Most of the time I go for the 4033 as it doesn’t require quite as much gain from my budget pres as the SM81. I usually prop up a spare mattress in a corner where I have some carpet hung and kinda box myself in so the non-treated roomisn’t as heard, and it works. Hey it’s a home studio, you do what you can. Acoustic treatment is going up tonight actually. I might add that I always use fresh Elixirs on my Takamine when I record. Now as far as mic placement goes, there is no golden rule here. I’ll move the mic around and listen several times before I reach a final spot, but I almost always wind up about 8-10 inches from the strings aimed right at the soundhole. A lot of folks will tell you to aim at the 12th fret… hey if that sounds the way you want it to then go for it. The key is finding that sweet spot for yourself. I happen to love the deepness and fullness from the soundhole. Now if you are using stereo mic techniques for capturing your guitar, play with the placement and remember to listen for phase issues. I don’t record in stereo much because I like placing my acoustic guitar somewhere specific in the stereo spectrum. Well people that’s about it. That’s my basic procedure. What kind of process do you have? If you would like to hear an example you can check out the audio section of the site and listen to the second track. Also I want to recommend another blog if you want to really dig in and learn some invaluable knowledge and skill. My friend Graham at www.therecordingrevolution.com has some helpful recording tips I know you will benefit from. Check out his ReThink Guitar series for the complete down-low on recording your guitars. Ok that’s all I got for today friends. Remember to comment and leave suggestions. Be easy and have a good week. Cheers!

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