Finally, our “House From beginning to Present” EP is out and can be found our official band camp account (RastaRebel.bandcamp.com) The EP consists of 3 fully mixed and edited tracks that Luca and I have been working on for the past six weeks. The final week has been a bit tough for us as we have been working hard to finish off the tracks and get them ready for submission in time and for representation to the class.
The photo below was take in the Audient studio while recording vocals.
This week we worked on editing the tracks to get rid of unwanted sounds where we cut out all spills and pops from instrument and vocal tracks. we used special tools in both Ableton and Pro Tools like the fades to fade in and fade out tracks to avoid clicks at the beginning and at the end of the cut tracks. I used the pencil tool in pro tools to clean up the sharp click sounds by redrawing in the sharp waveforms to stop the clicks from the tracks. In the editing process, we also re-arranged few instruments where we removed them from the original recorded place and moved them around to where they sounded good. We then balanced the volume levels of tracks before we started the mixing. Luca and I used both Pro Tools and Ableton to speed up the project as we were running out of time. Luca used Pro-tools and I used Ableton the edit, arrange the tracks then we exported the tracks out of Ableton to be mixed down in Pro Tools.
Below is the screen shot of an Ableton session during the editing process.
Sound designing and synth creation
We did a couple of sound designs using the techniques we learnt in class and came put with great sounds that we used in our tracks. we used vacuum, Xperia and Air frequency shifter to create one synth sound that was used in “This Face“track. We also manipulated the guitars using Guitar rig where we created our own guitar rigs as we tried to manipulate some of the old synths and rigs used in the early 80 house music. We faced a big trouble in creating of synth sounds as none of us knew music theory. So coming up with a melodies or chord that would fit in the tracks was a big problem for us. we had to look for help from the supervisor who came and placed us with the chord progression.
Below is a custom guitar rig we designed to manipulate on of the guitars
Mixing of tracks is the best part of production I personally enjoyed most as it is what I would like to do in the future. This project helped me much in practising and improving on my mixing skills as I learned a lot from the “Audio Mix Bootcamp” tutorial on Lynda.com.There are different Audio effects (dynamic process) we applied to clean up the 3 mixes. For example, we used equalisation on every track / instrument in the mixes to cut out unwanted or offending frequency in the mix.
Equalisation is the most useful tool used in mixing process. we also used it to Clean up the mix by separating instruments which offended each other or instruments that shared the same frequency range like the bass and the kick or sub. For the high-frequency instruments like the hi-hats and cymbals, we attenuated all the low frequencies below 2.52kHz and with the low-frequency instrument, for example, the kick and bass we had to cut out the high as the no sound presence within the high-frequency range of these instrument. Equalisation controls muddiness from the tracks and allows instruments to cut through the mix too.
Panning is another technique we used to separate instruments which made the tracks sound wide and added clarity to some instruments mostly the guitars which we panned left and right in all the 3 tracks. Quiet instruments like hats shakers and cowbell were panned had left and right for clarification. We also used delay as an effect in the mix and the reason was to create echoes in the backing vocals that made the track seem wider
A pro tool screen shot below show one of the track mixing processes
Design cd cover and Band camp account
The cd cover was designed in photoshop using the help of a youtube tutorial on how to design an album cd cover.This tutorial helped us much as we followed the steps that were shown in the video and came up with a great product that both Luca and I loved to use as our cd cover. None of us had experience or knew how to operate photoshop, but we watched lots of good and worse tutorials on how to use photo shop and got to know how to use it. We used a photo of a Tree a took using a film camera. The leaves on the tree are blown by the wind moving from left to right side and this motion in our production describes the movement of house music from the beginning to present. The present is represented by the future image of the bridge and lights on the sides of the EP cover.
Below is the final EP cover we designed in photoshop
After the mixdown of the tracks, we referenced the mixes in different monitors and speakers to find out what went well and what didn’t. We listened and adjusted the mix in mono to get a well-balanced track. And also to make sure we didn’t lose the panning settings.
Mixing in mono technique is used by a lot of sound engineers worldwide such as Joe Chiccarelli a Boston native music producer who has won multi-Grammy Award for producer of the year and best-engineered album. “I listen in mono an awful lot and find its great for balances. You can easily tell if something is fighting something else ” (Joe Chiccarelli. 2014 pg. 19)
We also searched for feed from our classmate (peer review) who we asked to listen to our tracks and help us with feedback. This was great as we resolved issues we hard in our mixes from the feedback we got. for example, some volume level were very high and others very low.
Problems that occurred and future solutions
They were few problem that occurred in all the project production process First was scheduling the musician for studio record was a bit hard as they all had to come up with their own schedules.
Not knowing music theory was a problem for us in both mixing and creating melodies (synth) for the tracks. we ended up having a track that was out of tune, but none of us knew that it was out of tune. This problem will be solved in the future as we going to spend lots of time learning music theory during the holidays. Next time we will schedule time for breaks and also make sure we follow the planned contract.
Fatigue and Ear tinnitus: – this was a problem during the mixing process as we were mixing for long hours with no breaks due to the limited time that was left.
With the major project, I have personally learnt a lot from it. I have learnt to work with team members, I have learnt how to work with musicians by taking the responsibility of a producer. I have improved my production skills when it comes to recording and mixing of tracks. Finally, I have how to design particular sounds using different synths and instruments (VST plug-in)