Having trouble getting gigs? Try this little exercise

I have previously posted a couple of blogs with ideas for getting gigs including DIY Venues etc (refer to previous articles) – here is another detailed thought for you.

 This idea requires a few basic assumptions (most of which I would expect from someone wanting to be a professional in this industry anyway)

  • You are good at what you do (whether a solo, duet, or band) – you know
    – your instruments (including vocals),  – ie technically competent
    – your music genre – what works and what doesn’t
    – you can deliver, entertain, etc as appropriate
  • You know enough to be’ good for a while’ – a whole night of sets
    You can put together (say) a minimum of 3 x 45 minute sets (with no repeats) of songs/pieces – and you “know the songs” enough to not be referring to charts/song sheets (or at least you as the leader shouldn’t be – band may be if bringing members/forming on the night/fill in etc)
  • You are prepared to be active and put in the effort –
    –  work enough to do some investigation, approach and talk to people who may be able to book you
    – help advertise the gig to get extra people there
    – etc, etc

 Okay so let’s say you have the chops ……..

 The issue with most artists starting out is they want/expect to get a gig at “that venue”, ‘ top dollar’, with all the benefits and without necessarily having the proof that “you can do it”.

Presuming the first points above, I have one basic assumption about getting gigs and continuing to get them (rather than just a one off time – which is why I needed to establish the above about ability) – – –  if you can put enough bums on seats by performing, and those who come will spend a little bit at the venue (whether cover charge, drinks, dinner, etc) – you will always be able to get gigs at appropriate venues.
Do it enough and be good enough and you will generate interest from the venue’s/area’s own regular clientele.

So to the exercise

Part 1 -Determine the possibilities
(Note: be real and be thorough)

  1. Presuming you live in a capital city/large town suburban environment for this one.
    A.  If you had a gig within 10 kilometres of your home – how many people could you get along to it? Think family, friends, work, school, church, partner’s friends, social, sports friends, music teacher, etc     
    B. Would all of those be willing to pay a (say) $10 cover charge, spend it on drinks, buy a dinner? If not, revise the figure
  2. Presuming you work more than half an hour from where you live or more than 20kms.
    A.  If you had a gig within 5 kilometres of your work place – how many people could you get along to it? Think work colleagues, those who know you in the area, and again family, friends, etc     
    B. Would all of those be willing to pay a (say) $10 cover charge, spend it on drinks, buy a dinner? If not, revise the figure
  3. Finally presuming you don’t work in the heart of the CBD of the town
    A. If you had a gig within 5 kilometres of your work place – how many people could you get along to it? Think work colleagues, those who know you in the area, and again family, friends, etc     
    B. Would all of those be willing to pay a (say) $10 cover charge, spend it on drinks, buy a dinner? If not, revise the figure

Okay so how many people did you get in each place?
(PS If the three areas described don’t work for you, adapt.  Consider 3 areas that work for you – where there is some network/associate/friends base (eg if in rural areas it might be three towns far enough apart)  

Part 2 – Determine the opportunities

How many venues/places that do/could have entertainment are there in each of these areas?  The parameters here are

  1. Only select places that would like (or might like) your style of music/act
  2. That would be the size to be happy to have your number of people coming to their venue.

Again be real with both. It’d no good putting down The Capital Theatre or the main auditorium of a large club – if you could only get 20 people along. But it would be realistic to put most restaurants or small bars, pubs, RSL clubs, music venues, etc.

Part 3 – Approach in a way to make it easy for them

Obviously you need a promo sheet, demo of what you do and approach in the right way, etc (perhaps refer to the previous blogs about the suggested kit and ways to contact a venue) – but what I mean here is …..
Rather than asking them straight away to book you weekly  – or just presume they will (or wont)- what about  ….

  • Offer them a trial gig at a fee – BUT getting your fee being based on you bringing a minimum number of people to the venue (and of course the figure you suggest would be way under what you are sure you can achieve through the calculations above) AND
  • If it works, they would consider booking you on once every month or 3 months

Part 4 – now work the multiples

If you had 3 places putting you on once a month = 3 guaranteed gigs a month.

If you could find 3 places in each area = you could make it even easier and ask them to book you once a quarter and still have 3 gigs a month.

So the advantages of this method is

  • You make it easy for the venue to give you a go
  • You don’t burn out your friends/following in each area by too many local gigs that you ask them to come to
  • You get a regular base of gigs per month  to leverage off
  • You are building your resume, your following (others who are at the venue), spin off gigs, etc
  • You don’t have to stop at only 3 venues (or 9)  – just depends how busy you want to be
  • Also if each area is far enough apart/having different friends attend – you only have to revise the sets of songs once a month or more

The observed results

Having seen a number of acts in a number of genres do this over a number of years – If you are any good at all (and venue appropriate) – by the time you have been at a venue 2-3 times, THEIR clientele start asking for you to come back, and probably be there more regularly, …. so it might not be long before you could have 9 regular gigs a month and the associated spin offs.

Anyway – a thought, an idea and a method that you can try or not – it’s up to you to try or not.

Interested in your thoughts, and if you try it (diligently and thoroughly) let me know how you go.

Cheers,

Ian

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“The demo” may effectively be dead – but don’t lose site of the financial aspects when about to record a project

Okay, so first – is the demo is ‘effectively dead’? Well, in the most part it is.

Sure putting together a demo/guide as an initial idea to develop the piece/arrangements, for a producer as prepare to record or, in the approval stage with directors for a film score – all of that is still valid.
However, in general it is no longer valid to offer a demo for retail sales (& especially radio airplay), as a submission to an established artist or their management, or other pseudo commercial etc use. The listening public has become more demanding on quality (even through community stations), people have become time poor in the industry (and through that lost time for extended consideration/imagination over a piece).

 So if a song or musical piece is going to be “out there” it needs to be “good enough” both as a song and also in production quality.
What is ‘good enough’?

To me, the goal should always be to produce something hthat as “relistenability” ….that can be, and would want to be, listened to again and again by those who like your stule of music/genre ….. to do as good as you possibly can within your abilities, resources and budget.

There are artists who spend $35,000, $60,000 and much more (even those independent and unsigned to a label)  – have it recorded in a great studio, with top level artists, ‘name’ mixing engineers etc to get a really top line product, – – but most, due to their following gig schedule and reputation, know they will sell enough product within a short time to breakeven and move into profit. They have enough of a following to justify the spend.

 Unless you are being a little self indulgent or really don’t care – the consideration how much goes into a project, how extensive the resources/artists pulled in, the number of CDs pressed, the money spent etc – has to be based on some level of commercial reality ……

Yes, you have to spend ‘something’ and ‘enough’ to produce a good product – but I think you also need to be asking yourself  – after immediate and extended family, really close friends, discounting all the ‘have to giveaways’ to them and promotional purposes – how many CD’s and digital downloads will you realistically sell over, say,  the following  3 months, year or 2 years? How quickly will you break even and go into profit …. will you ever? Considering that 95% of artists sell 96% of their product at gigs – are you gigging enough? If not, how will you get sales otherwise? Can you do the ‘music video’, site and generated networking and other online marketing tactics needed to get the expanded digital sales?

Do you just produce product for online distribution (digital sales) and offer download credit cards as the ‘product’ at gigs or is having a hard copy CD important? Is it important in your genre regardless?

 I know of many new and emerging artists who have done the right thing on the production of a CD worth of songs,  – and then gone and pressed 2,000 copies because it was suggested to them …….. and 2 years later still have 1,600 or more stuck under the bed or in a cupboard, and the internet downloads have dried up. Maybe they should have pressed only 500 or even 300 (even though the cost per item is higher) and did another run if needed out of the proceeds (a number had also stopped gigging too).

 Here is a little (very rough) calculation sheet for you – plug in our own variables/change the numbers to suit your individual situation ……

  1. Determine the cost of producing a CD of say 10 songs to mastered stage (or change the number to suit you)
  2. Determine for you, and in your genre/area of the industry
    – what would be the expected ratio of hard copy sales to digital downloads?
    – of the digital downloads, what’s the expectation of download albums vs download singles (take those ratios to be percentages of sales)?
  3. Say your album will sell for $20, a digital album for $12 and a digital download single for $1.20 (change the figures if you want) ………. Based on the percentages as a breakup of the production cost – what is the quantity of each line do you need to sell to reach that figure?
  4. Of course it then needs to take into account a number of extra ‘costs which will change the figures a ‘bit’;
    – the pressing of the CDs (reduces per CD the higher the amount pressed)
    – the % of digital download sales held back by the distributors
    – bank money transfer fees etc
    – and also take off the freebies

After those adjustments, that will give you a ‘number’ of sales you need to achieve to break even…….. and before you start making any profit from the exercise.

Do you have enough ‘other’ REAL friends and fans who will buy that many?

If not, can you do the marketing to extend the reach? Are you, or will you be,  gigging enough, have enough events booked, have enough interest/fans to produce that level of sales?  And in what time frame?

Does that work for you?

Now before you answer, you also need to question the ‘best purpose of the recording itself’ and possibly think a little out of the square. In this changing industry there is a considerable reduction in the money people are making on their product. While genres like folk, roots, country and rock still have very good CD sales – sales in genres like hip hop, rap etc are mainly digital.  ……. (which means THAT much more product needs to be moved but you don’t have the pressing costs to add) …… but why do you want ‘product’ in the first place?

 Besides $$
Is it to have something to ‘connect after gig’ to an audience?
Is it to promote on radio, internet, etc etc to get people to know about you?
Could it be that you reorientate your thinking so that you don’t look to music production as a money maker – but a marketing expense, a calling card to get known, , get understood – get people to your gigs???

If that was the case then yes, you would still want a quality product – but you would be more comfortable to put your music out there and less not worried about the financial return – submit to streaming services, radio channels, internet radio, hand out to key centres of influence, booking agents and venue managers, etc etc  – because it becomes part of a marketing program and any return you may get through sales and royalties, just helps reduce the budgeted (and tax deductible) ‘marketing expense’.

Similarly, if you are not gigging (or not gigging that much), why would you press hard copy product at all?
I would have thought you would only do digital sales and maybe use the money that would have been spent on pressing to produce a really good music video (or a couple) – and work on getting those linked, hit, checked out etc.

There is of course no right or wrong answers here – it is all about what suits your music business and activity, what you want, how you see it all fit  – and then be happy and go for it with eyes wide open and informed expectations.

Hope this has been of interest.

Cheers,

ian

PS. If you would like to pursue some of the above points or have a discussion in relation to your own circumstances, intended production and putting things in context for you – send me a private message or email.

10 Tips for Better Lyric Writing

Came across this article Written by Robin Yukiko in 2012 thought it might be helpful to some of the aspiring song writers out there.

There are as many lyric-writing styles as there are genres. From conversational and literal to poetic, abstract, and even nonsensical.

Whatever style you embody, you can always improve your craft. Here are some tips on how to do that.

  1. Have a theme. Themes don’t make your lyrics boring, they make them cohesive. Think of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and its whimsical sky references (clouds, birds, stars, chimney tops). It’s about world-building that sweeps the listener away.
  2. Try to stay away from perfect rhymes. Day and way. Run, fun, sun. They sometimes ring as childish, especially if the context is not interesting enough. Be more adventurous and less strict (fade and wait, mine and kind, crazy and maybe, etc.).
  3. Make the context interesting. If you are singing the same old love song, say it in a different way. Build from real memories, real conversation, or unusual metaphors.
  4. Put the rhymes in unusual places (internal rhymes, in the middle of phrases). It adds meat to the bones of your song.
  5. Change up the rhyme scheme. An example from Pat Pattison, “Mary had a little lamb, fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, she sold the fleece to pay the rent.”
  6. Put the emphasis on the right syllable. As much as I love Alanis Morissette, she has an annoying habit of misplacing accents, making it incredibly awkward and difficult to understand (“an un-for-TU-nate slight,” instead of “un-FOR-tu-nate” in Uninvited). If you are dead-set on a lyric that stresses the wrong syllable, don’t be afraid to change the rhythm to set it right. You can also add or take away unimportant words like “that” or separating contractions. Personally, I know a lyric is right when it sounds as if I could speak it naturally.
  7. Make your choruses more general than your verses. This is not a hard rule, but it helps to “change scenes” after your verse.
  8. Be ruthless about clichés. Speak your lyrics aloud to spot them. When you find them (and you probably will), try changing only one word to something unexpected.
  9. Keep writing different versions of the same section. You can always go back to the original, but you never know what you’ll come up with on try #5.
  10. Don’t be afraid of the tools in your arsenal. Get a thesaurus. And a rhyming dictionary.  Even if you don’t use the words you find, they can sometimes inspire other ideas. So can novels, newspapers, facebook updates, and people-watching.

You may have sensed a theme by now. Always ask yourself if you can do better. You usually can. But eventually, like a new car, you have to take it for a drive and see if it gets you there. Play it live, get honest opinions from your peers and mentors, and revise. You can play it for friends and family, but don’t expect much more than general praise. Ultimately it’s up to you, as writer Neil Gaiman would say, to make good art. ,,,,,,,,And know when it’s done.

Hope you found it of interest – maybe you want to add a thought, input, different views or additional ideas for other readers.

cheers till next time

A great explanation of the role of a producer

Listening to a great interview with Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins today, he was asked the question ‘describe how you see the role of producer in a music project’. His ansgroin sums up what I have been trying to express of or a while (think I’ll use it from now on 🙂 ).

“Production is so important. The producer can be seen like the Director in film or TV.

They need to be able to see the beginning, the middle and the end.

How to take the initial ideas to the next level and onwards.

How to arrange it, the vocals, instruments, backgrounds – not over produce – like scoring a film, everything should ‘sit right’.

As get to the end and into the mix – pick the right mixer (or be in the right head space if mixing as well on lower budget projects ….. But ensure the balance and mix is ‘right’, to ensure emotion and intention started from is not lost.

So the finished result achieves what was already pictured in the mind’s eye at the start, delivering the message and connection you were after”

______________________________________________________________________

Yep, that pretty much sums up the role in a nutshell. 

A Sound on Sound magazine ‘mix rescue’ article for 2 reasons

for this blog i wanted to include this mix rescue article from the Sound on Sound magazine for two reasons.
1. so those not in production have a little insight into some of the complexity of ‘things we may be doing behind the scenes’ to get that end result we are all striving for ……BUT mostly its to reiterate a point I harp on often ……….. the more time, thought and effort you put into pre-production, preparation, thinking and decision BEFORE you enter the studio (so the right sound, instruments, etc are captured and there ) …. the easier and quicker the process from recording to finished work can be.
 
concentrate on the first and last paragraphs in italics…. for the first, scan through the rest.
 
Note most pics referred to have been removed in the interest of space).
 
 
Putting in the effort at the front end of the production process can save countless hours when it comes to mixdown — as this month’s remix demonstrates.
Mike Senior
The key to putting together productions in a hurry and on a shoestring is the art of decision-making, and ‘leaving options open’ at the tracking stage all too often means not putting in enough effort to get a usable sound for each signal printed! Every time you defer a recording choice, it multiplies the complexity of the mixing process and frequently makes obtaining a good end-result trickier — not to mention a lot more time-consuming. This month’s Mix Rescue is a case in point, because many instruments were multitracked (presumably for mixdown flexibility), when a well-judged single-channel signal would have made mixing much less challenging.
Half A Guitar Sound
My biggest bone of contention was the main acoustic guitar, a centrepiece of the song’s rhythm and harmony, given singer-songwriter Cristina Vane’s folk influences and stylistic connections with artists such as the Cranberries, Dido, and Alanis Morissette. The decision to multi-mic important acoustic-guitar parts is understandable in principle, since it makes it possible to capture a more holistic ‘picture’ of the instrument’s frequency dispersion, and individual tracks can also be panned at mixdown to widen the image, which a lot of listeners find appealing.
That’s the theory, at least. In practice, this particular project’s multi-mic approach didn’t seem very carefully thought out. A microphone up by the instrument’s neck had caught plenty of potentially useful string jangle, but at a cost of rather too much mechanical rattle and buzz, as well as some unflattering booms and thuds from the instrument’s low mid-range resonances. The latter afflicted the second mic even more, as it had been placed quite close to the guitar’s sound hole, drawing a veil over the tone and providing little real harmonic density in the mid-range. Plus, when the tracks were mixed together, the spaced-mic configuration contributed an unflatteringly nasal comb-filtering effect, as well as questionable mono-compatibility if the signals were panned. The guitar’s direct output had been recorded too, but DIs always sound pretty lifeless, and this one certainly wasn’t any sonic ‘get out of jail free’ card. Even if I’d majored on the DI, that wouldn’t have remedied the periodically wayward tuning in the lower registers.
To me, these tracks imply a series of unmade tracking decisions. Are the strings in tune? Can I make the instrument sound better in the room? Do my mics catch a usable balance of string jangle, body resonance, pick noise, fret buzz, and so forth? Does the balance and phase of my second mic usefully complement the first? What’s the DI signal going to be used for? As a result of these unmade decisions, the three recorded tracks still only managed to catch half a guitar sound.
Salvage & Replacement
To add complexity to the upper spectrum of the supplied acoustic rhythm-guitar part, Mike created this super-short ‘micro-reverb’ treatment with Christian Knufinke’s SIR2 convolution engine. The impulse response in question is taken from a small portable radio.
In the first instance, I resolved to do what I could with the two mic signals. Fairly savage cuts cleared out some of the low mid-range mud, as well as de-emphasising that suspicious tuning. Fast, peak-sensitive compression from Melda MCompressor and a touch of tape simulation from Toneboosters TB_Ferox helped take the edge off the string rattle and picking transients, as well as helping with the general sustain, while Reaper’s ReaJS plug-in’s Phase_adjust module improved the phase interaction between the two mics to a degree. For an additional dose of sustain, I turned to a ‘micro-reverb’ patch (a 20ms burst of coloured-sounding early reflections with a narrowed stereo spread and 20ms of pre-delay) from Christian Knufinke’s SIR convolution engine, which also filled out the mid-range a good deal, as well as solidifying the centre of the stereo image when the mics were panned.
However, despite these measures (and a half-dozen smaller EQ and dynamics tweaks besides), it quickly became clear that some fresh recordings would be required to turn this mix around. I’m no acoustic guitarist myself, so I contacted Joe Lonsdale at Joe Public Studios for help, and he quickly pinged me back with a good selection of extra parts. By way of contrast, he’d managed to capture a round, even tone using a single Oktava MK012 omni mic in combination with one of those little stand-mounted microphone baffles. The parts were child’s play from a mixing perspective, so the few bits of processing I did use were mostly concerned with fitting Joe’s sounds around what was already in the mix: a couple of EQ cuts cleared space for the vocals and bass in the low mid-range; some fast HF compression ducked out some transients, as these were already prominent enough in the original recording; and some dynamics processing imposed Cristina’s rhythmic envelope onto Joe’s more sustained playing during the choruses, so that his added layer became less audible in its own right. The last of these I implemented using Reaper’s unusual Parameter Modulation facility, but if I’d been using another DAW platform I could have achieved a similar end by inserting an expander on Joe’s channel and feeding its side-chain input from Cristina’s.
Three Tracks Of Kick…

This spectrum analysis display from Schwa’s Schope plug-in compares the spectrum of the AKG kick-drum mic (in green) with that of the Yamaha NS10 ‘mic’ signal. As you can see, the AKG mic’s signal already had plenty of sub-bass, which rendered the NS10 channel largely redundant.
The multi-channel theme pervaded the drums production too, with both kick and snare receiving three tracks. The main kick-drum mic was an AKG model, presumably their ubiquitous D112, given the characteristic emphasis in the sub-200Hz and 2-5kHz regions. This mic can be just the ticket for heavy rock bands, where the low end needs to thump you in the chest and you want the beater to slice through a swarm of anti-social guitars. In this song, however, it felt rather out of place, the mass of LF energy making the mix bottom-heavy and the groove sluggish, while the upper mid-range peak brought the drum too up-front relative to the overall balance. The drum’s true mid-range tone, on the other hand, seemed recessed, such that it came across as rather gutless, despite the thundering subs and HF attack.
Some microphone repositioning might have helped here, of course, although it’s possible that the engineer had already tried to make the best of the situation in this regard, given that I was able to achieve a more suitable tone with a few careful EQ cuts. However, it mystifies me why anyone then chose to put up an NS10 woofer (wired for use as a microphone) to complement the D112, when all it added to the mix was a superfluous layer of sub-bass, even once its polarity was suitably matched.
The third kick track featured an added sample, carefully triggered from the live performance, but this seriously softened the combined kick-drum timbre with its default polarity, and even when inverted, it still featured an incongruously strong 99Hz pitched resonance, almost like the ring of a tom-tom, which cluttered the mix’s low end. As with the NS10 woofer, I was left scratching my head about its intended role, so both of these tracks bit the dust in my mix, while the D112 made it all the way to the final product with little more than EQ.
…And Three Tracks Of Snare!
The snare’s trio of tracks comprised top and bottom mics, and an additional sample. The cymbals overwhelmed the snare in the kit’s overhead mics (especially once I’d shaved off a good deal of woolliness with high-pass and low-shelving filters), which put pressure on the close mics to provide the bulk of the drum’s sound. Unfortunately, it sounded as though the ‘SM57 an inch away’ approach had been taken over the snare, which tends to militate against sonic realism. Indeed, once I’d notched out an exaggerated 245Hz resonance, what remained was mostly stick attack!
Fortunately, the under-snare mic was actually quite effective in returning some of the noisiness and body to the timbre, although not until its polarity had been inverted, so this may not have been fully appreciated during tracking — hence, perhaps, the decision to add a trigger. Either way, though, the choice of sample struck me as ineffective, simply because it mostly provided the same kind of ‘attack’ and ‘punch’ components as the mic signals, rather than complementing them by enhancing something less well represented, such as sustain, width or ambience. If there’d been masses of spill on the snare close mics, there might nonetheless have been a solid justification for it, but the close-miking had actually caught the snare sound pretty cleanly in this situation.
Once again, three ‘options’ fell short of delivering a satisfying sound, where fewer tracks could almost certainly have achieved better results. For example, the overheads might have been positioned from the offing to deliver a better snare sound, reducing the pressure on the close mics. In that context, a bit of attack definition from a close SM57 might have been enough to complete the picture on its own, without any need for under-snare or sample channels. Even if the overheads had deliberately been left quite cymbal-heavy for later balancing purposes, a few inches more distance on the top snare mic could have made all the difference in the world to the naturalness of the sound without introducing unmanageable levels of hi-hat spill, potentially rendering the sample-triggering redundant.

In the face of the facts, however, my plan of attack began with the sample track’s Mute button and the aforementioned polarity and EQ notch tweaks. I then used a series of processors to try to reduce the top mic’s attack spike: another instance of TB_Ferox and some fast, hard-knee compression from Fabfilter’s Pro-C.

 Pro-C compressor was set up with fast attack and release times to rebalance the snare drum’s attack spike against its more characterful release envelope.

 This inevitably brought up the hi-hat spill, so I compensated by gating out 6dB of this with Fabfilter’s Pro-G. Once the under-snare mic was in the balance, I snuck in a snare sample from Slate Digital’s Trigger as a final touch, deliberately removing all its attack so that it only supplemented the sustain of the drum’s envelope tail.

This screen shows the additional snare sample Mike triggered alongside the live mic signals. Notice the 20ms attack-time setting, which removes the samples onset transient so that it functions only to enhance the width and noisy sustain of the composite drum timbre.
Building The Backing
The remainder of the drum set came together fairly easily: Crysonic’s Transilate helped to smooth out some cymbal stick noise in the overheads, and an instance of the Sonalksis CQ1 dynamic EQ expanded the floor tom’s low spectrum to rein in some uncontrolled LF ringing in sympathy with the kick hits, but otherwise the processing was just a few bands of EQ, as one would normally hope. The bass processing was also pretty straightforward.

This dynamic EQ setting from Sonalksis CQ1 was used on the floor-tom close mic to reduce sympathetic ringing at low frequencies in response to kick-drum hits.

 The main EQ fended off some unhelpful woofer flapping with a 12dB/octave high-pass filter at 28Hz, and a 7dB high shelving cut at 3.3kHz prevented the instrument’s upper-spectrum mechanical noises distracting from the vocal.

To control the bass DI’s inherently fairly wide dynamic range, I first inserted Softube’s Summit TLA100A emulation, laying on about 7dB of gain reduction and choosing a medium-attack, fast-release setting to increase the sustain without killing too much of the instrument’s rhythmic pulse.

Although Softube’s emulation of Summit’s TLA100A compressor did a fine job of controlling the bass levels in general, it responded a little bit unpredictably until some low-end inconsistency on the recording had been ironed out with Reaper’s ReaXcomp multi-band processor.
 

However, I was unable to get this compressor responding as smoothly as it usually does, because of some LF inconsistency in the instrument’s DI signal, so I preceded the Softube plug-in with a stage of sub-85Hz squeeze from Reaper’s built-in ReaXcomp to tackle that.

Despite my quibbles with some of the other multi-miking on this project, the two wah-wah electric-guitar parts had been nicely captured with both a Shure SM57 and a ribbon mic, providing two contrasting but complementary sounds that worked very well together in the mix. As a result, I only needed to thin these parts a little with my high-pass filters to fit them into the mix, although I also applied some compression to each part to keep them firmly balanced, from Melda’s MModernCompressor and Stillwell Audio’s The Rocket respectively.
Two keyboard parts had been supplied: an auto-panned electric piano and a Hammond-style organ. I didn’t want to major too heavily on those, for fear of losing too much of Cristina’s folk tinge, so I did EQ quite heavily, dipping the low mid-range on both parts to avoid muddiness, as well as reducing their mix ‘cut-through’ by carving 5dB out of the Hammond’s 1.4kHz zone and by low-pass filtering the electric piano at 5kHz.
Vocals Processing
The vocals were nicely recorded, so my mix processing was, again, fairly minimal. There was a little too much proximity effect on the mic, but a super-gentle 25Hz high-pass filter from Fabfilter’s Pro-Q and 6dB of broad-bandwidth low cut with Softube’s Active Equalizer soon sorted that out, so that the vocal’s low mid-range slotted nicely into the mix. Further small EQ tweaks were mainly a matter of adjusting the tone to taste: returning to the Softube plug-in, I applied a broad peak at 1.6kHz to bring Cristina forward a little, but also dipped 2dB with a narrower bandwidth at 4kHz to tackle a touch of harshness, a task I continued in the more surgical Fabfilter plug-in using three small, high-Q, peaking-filter cuts at 1.6kHz, 4.3kHz and 9.9kHz.

Dynamics were pre-processed with a fairly slow-acting setting of Melda’s MAutoVolume, before the signal was passed to Stillwell Audio’s more assertive The Rocket, working at a 4:1 ratio with a 150ms release time for more ‘syllable-level’ control. As usual, the faster compression brought up sibilance levels, despite a bit of 7.3kHz EQ boost I inserted in The Rocket’s side-chain, so I ended the plug-in series with Fabfilter’s Pro-DS de-esser working in its split-band mode.

Mike deliberately pushed the Fabfilter Pro-DS de-esser plug-in to process more than just the sibilance on this lead vocal, in order to smooth out a touch of harshness that crept into the vocal tone from time to time.

 Because I was still a little concerned about upper-spectrum harshness from time to time, I deliberately increased the sensitivity of the algorithm a little beyond the point of just de-essing, so that it also turned down the HF of any over-bright notes. Fortunately, Pro-DS has a Range control which allows you to do this without incurring lisping side-effects by over-processing stronger sibilants.

The only other vocals were a lead double-track and two chorus harmony lines, and although they had presumably been recorded in a similar manner, I didn’t feel the need to process them in as much depth, given their background role, so they all shared the same ReaEQ and ReaComp settings: a 400Hz high-pass filter removed them from the low mid-range picture; 3dB of shelving cut above 5.5kHz helped push them behind the lead; and 6-8dB of 8:1 compression gave the levels a firm hand.
Effects & Final Balancing
Although there were eight different send effects on this particular mix, all were sparingly applied to avoid over-varnishing the basic parts. The heaviest of them was a small room from Lexicon’s LXP Native bundle, gelling the close mics and adding a clearer acoustic signature. Starting from a likely-sounding ‘Hard Tight Wall’ preset, I shortened the reverb time to keep the ambience tight, but opened up the Rolloff control to 14.5kHz and increased the RT Cutoff parameter to flatter the kit’s high frequencies. This patch was also used to glue most of the acoustic guitar tracks into the rhythm section. 

The main reverb on this remix session was a small-room emulation from Lexicon’s LXP Native bundle, with the reverb decay made shorter and brighter using the plug-in’s Reverb Time, Rolloff and RT Hicut parameters.

The rest of the effects were far more targeted, such as four treatments that were applied only to the vocals. A simple, short ‘Dessert Plate’ preset from LXP Native gave all the vocal parts some bloom and warmth, but I increased its pre-delay to 18ms to help maintain a fairly up-front impression. Then, just for the lead vocal, I used a bright, wide, 50ms-long plate impulse response (running in Christian Knufinke’s SIR2) to enhance the singer’s high frequencies and stereo width, as well as a touch of my usual Harmonizer-style, pitch-shifted-delay widening effect. For the choruses, I supplemented this lead-vocal line-up with an additional tempo-sync’ed delay from Softube’s Tube Delay, setting its Tone controls for a mellow, middly echo that would lengthen Cristina’s sustain in an unobtrusive manner.

I’d chosen to keep the lead vocal subjectively quite dry-sounding in this mix, so I took the precaution of feeding its effects a heavily de-essed signal to stop them picking up too much on consonants. I created a separate, de-essed channel for this purpose, unassigned from the mix bus, feeding all the effects from there so I wouldn’t have to change my main dry-signal processing at all. This method also meant that I didn’t need to keep adjusting the de-esser threshold if I automated my reverb sends later in the mix, as I’d have had to if I’d been de-essing at the start of the effect-return channel’s plug-in chain. My last effects sends were a single-tap, quarter-note echo thickening up the chorus guitars; a complex stereo ping-pong from Fabfilter’s Timeless, embellishing one of Joe’s chiming final-chorus overdubs; and a long, rich Lexicon LXP Plate wash accenting a few of the acoustic-guitar spread chords, wah-wah guitar lines, and electric-piano lines.
Finishing off the mix was then a question of some careful fader automation, particularly on the vocals, bass, and guitar-solo lines. Given the subtle nature of many of the effects, and the importance of the guitar/keyboard balances, this was one of those mixes where it was tremendously useful to drop out the bass and drum parts temporarily, and I spent a good couple of hours working that way in order to settle all the internal details into their intended places using fine fader and EQ adjustments.
Arrangement Refinements

This screenshot shows the full arrangement of the acoustic guitars in Mike’s final remix. The orange tracks contain sections of the original recordings, multed to allow different effects-send amounts for the verses and choruses. Below these, the green tracks are those Joe Lonsdale added to fill out the mix sound and introduce some extra performance variety.
So much for the mix. Equally important to this month’s project, though, was some judicious rearranging, because I felt that more could be achieved in this department, especially now that I had additional parts from Joe to play with. I set my sights on the choruses first, as the original multitracks all but repeated the same arrangement every time. Flexing the mute buttons helped to clear some headroom earlier on, by jettisoning the organ and backing vocals from the first chorus and adding vocals progressively afterwards: one harmony for the second chorus, two for the third, and the lead double-track for the fourth. Joe’s main chorus guitar was vital from the outset for sonic reasons, so that couldn’t be dropped for build-up purposes, but an additional oscillating single-note part provided a nice lift for the third chorus, and a higher-register variation was then introduced for the fourth.
By retaining too full a texture throughout, the third and fourth verses made it almost impossible to maintain momentum between the first and second choruses. Again, the mute buttons brought a solution here, silencing the drums, bass, original acoustic guitars, and electric piano in order to zoom back in on the lead vocal and a gutsy, low-register alternative rhythm part that Joe had supplied. Progressively reintroducing the missing parts during verse three then generated a nice build-up into verse four, from where the lead electric-guitar line and acoustic-guitar strums could carry the baton into the chorus.
The introduction was shortened, too, losing the opening drums section to bring the vocal entry forward by about 10 seconds. I then decided to highlight the lead electric guitar more in the mix as a melodic hook, as well as fading up the other wah-wah rhythm part only halfway though the intro section, to add something new over the chord progression’s second iteration. Finally, I shuffled the vocal harmonies in Melodyne to make the three-part texture more uniform. The original lines frequently doubled each other, but not in a consistent way, so that the vocal group as a whole wasn’t really holding its own against the other instruments, for me. Some of the pitch-shifts were quite large, so the backing lines sounded a bit synthetic in solo, but in the context of the full mix they were just fine.
A Stitch In Time
Project-studio work is all about making the most of limited time and money. Although it’s tempting to cut corners on front-end arrangement work and engineering decision-making, this often turns out to be false economy, storing up difficulties for mixdown. This month’s project demonstrates that quite clearly: a production that should really have taken no more than a day to mix, had it been more thoughtfully tracked and arranged, ended up requiring three times as long.    823455

 

“Turn Up and Do your Best”

In 2011 I ran a seminar in Sydney called ‘Empower Your Musical Career’. It was a great day ful of music industry participants (mainly the businesss side with a couple of performers) from a range of areas imparting information to new and emerging performers, songwriters etc.

As part of that day we organised a series of videopops from well known artists who had words of advise for those attending.  One of those was Tommy Emmanuel and his message was  ……………….. “Turn Up and Do Your Best”.      

Now in itself this is a quick little bit of advice that could be seen as contrite, a throw away line etc – HOWEVER, when you break it down and drill down you see its a phrase that could be part of the regular reminders of what is needed to be a sustainable working musician today. 

“TURN UP”

That starts off by saying that to me that you have something to ‘turn up to’ ….. so it is a reminder of the activity leading up to that

  • all the  contacting, phoning, discussions, agreements and then orgainising that goes into getting gigs, or appearances or recording session or support casting or ….
  • then the background of what will happen when you get there (technical areas from support musicians, transport, bump in/out, ensuring AV needs are met, time of arrivals etc etc  
  • then there is all the marketing to get people to those events who need to be there (whether thats, your job or someone else’s)  –
  • and all the post event stuff to ensure things are finished and you maximise the potential to leverage to the next thing you have to ‘turn up to’ (so from financials to email lists , referrals/support statements, etc)
  • etc, etc, etc

So “turn up”

“DO YOUR BEST”

To do your best at a particular ‘thing you are turning up to’ you primarily need to have

  • thought about it in advance and planned what will happen
  • developed your repettoire and order for the gig etc
  • practiced and rehearsed

But as we drill down it could also include all those things that take time to develop  (sometimes years) before and ongoing including

  •  be the best you can with your instrument or song writing  training, or
  • be the best you can in production, or
  • marketing, 

………….. ie. do be the best you can be in everything you do.

So to me  “turn up and do your best”  is quite a profound little catch cry/reminder phrase to keep with you.

What do you think? 

Looking for a quick way to showcase your music, your productions????

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A great little piece of advice paraphrased from an email by Joe Gidler.

Looking for a way to showcase your music, your production???? …… while a website is fine …. why not simply set up your music portfolio on Soundcloud.com and then give people THAT link when they ask for examples of your work.

I’ve got nothing against building a website, obviously, but if you don’t want to bother with it, Soundcloud is a PERFECT solution for you…….. even if you already have a website  – you can  embed that soundcloud set right into your website page or share the link there, on your ReverbNation page  as well as on your social media sites ….

And it’s FREE.It’s easy to set up an online portfolio in a couple of minutes.

Here’s how:……….

  1. Create an account at Soundcloud.com
  2. Create a “Set” and name it “Portfolio” or ‘Samples of my work’ or something that appeals to you
  3. Upload the songs you want to add to your portfolio. 
  4. For each song, click on the “Add to Set+” button and choose “Portfolio”(or the name)

That’s it. You can go to that set and re-arrange the order of the songs, but other than that, you’re done.

Now you can give people the direct link to that set.
Pretty easy, right?

Now, the only possible difficult part is filling up that portfolio with great-sounding music 🙂