AUS220 Major Project Reflection

Introduction

I have now completed my major project for AUS220. The aim of this project was to build my portfolio both as a studio engineer and as an electronic music producer. Additionally, I aimed to both improve and hone my skills in producing music. For this reflection, I will be looking at evaluating the results of each of the three sub-projects to determine whether I have reached my objectives.

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Using the C75 to mix Palm Soma

Project 1: Palm Soma Live Recording

The aim of this sub-project was to test my skills in tracking a band live in the studio as well as to improve skills as a recording and mixing engineer as well as a studio producer. For this project I recorded local indie rock band Palm Soma live in SAE’s Custom 75 Studio. They smashed out three songs with no overdubs. As the producer, it was my goal to bring out their energy and to create an authentic live experience from Palm Soma. SO I worked with them to make sure they felt like they were playing at local Perth bars such as “The Boston” and “Mojo’s”. It was a bit tricky as there were many takes they did that they thought were great, but I knew they could do better and kept pushing them to give me more energy. Through a combination of both encouragement as perseverance, I was able to get my tracks. I do think I could have been a bit more gentle though.

A problem occurred before the session however. Around half of the microphones I planned on using (including an RE20 and Audix  D6 for the kick) were booked the night before.My original plan was to mic the entire kit. I had to be resourceful and use the Glyn Johns technique which also helped give the drums that live sound. I also used an AKG D112 for the kick, which did give it some thump but nonetheless made it sound hollow (I fixed this with some EQing). It was a bit frustrating but the experience taught me to be resourceful and adapt to the situation, which eventually proved useful in the remix project. It has also taught me to refine my contingency plans as prior to this project, it never occurred to me that other students would book so many mics on my list.

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Palm Soma performing in the studio

I mixed all three songs on Pro Tools at home. I used the Fabfilter Mixing Bundle (i.e. Pro Q-2, Saturn) to process the instruments. I also used Xfer OTT on the drums on two of the songs. The third song, a cover of “Blister In the Sun” was not as processed as much as the others as I wanted to simulate a true live experience. That being said, I did use subtle reverb and delay on vocals, guitars and overheads to create the simulation of a space (I mostly used “medium room” presets).

After the track were done, I played them to my lecturer. He thought the mixes were near-perfect aside from the fact that the rhythm guitars was being drowned by the bass. I quickly fixed those by adding saturation to the guitars and slightly boosting the 700Hz region and adding a little clarity by shelving above 12kHz. I realise that my drum and vocal processing is excellent but I do need to listen to more rock music before mixing another local indie rock band.

Project 2: “Repetition (Purity Ring Cover)” – Foley Recording

I was interested in how you make drum sounds simply by banging random items together. Inspired by this, I set out to make a future bass song and record kitchen utensils to make a beat. I called on my fellow classmate Chloe (who has experience in post-production) to help me record foley. In addition, she also contributed vocals. Originally the plan was to simply have her say random phrases and chop them up (a common technique in Future Bass), but it didn’t work out. Instead we chose to do a cover of electronic duo Purity Ring’s “Repetition”.

Various kitchen items such as whisks, jars and cutlery were used to make the beat. Microphones such as the RE20, AKG C414, Rode NT-5 and the K2 were used to get different timbres and sounds. Chloe’s voice was also recorded through the AKG. We used the TLA desk to record which also gave the percussion a nice vintage effect.

While the foley and vocals were recorded in Pro Tools, I opted to produce the song in Ableton Live as it is my DAW of production. Chloe sang a bit off-key at times and as I didn’t have AutoTune, instead I used manual fine-pitch editing which seemed to do the trick. I also used Ableton’s Vocoder to create the illusion that she was singing perfectly in key and to create a futuristic effect. The track ended up sounding well in my opinion although I have to admit, I do need to work harder on my vocal chops.

The key lead of this song was the result of resampling the sound of Chloe unzipping the RE20 case. It was a case of finding the best start point to loop the sample, and then completely loop it (by about 1 second), pitching it and adding reverb.

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Charles Taylor recording guitar for the remix

Project 3: “Touch (Carnivirus Remix)” – acoustic meets electronic

I wanted to practice recording acoustic instruments, specifically electric guitar and drums and use them in a trap remix. Originally I was going to remix “Ascension” by my classmates “Simple Existence” but the remix was not working out. I did get Simple Existence members Charles Taylor and Callum Ford to record guitar and drums respectively. So I chose to remix KSHMR feat. Felix Snow and Madi’s “Touch” for a competition. I was a big fan of the original and the producers, and decided to give it a shot to improve my remixing at a professional level to a set deadline.

However, similar to the Palm Soma project, half the mics I planned on using were booked out and I had to adapt to the situation again. I did use more mics on the drums this time and we still got some good recordings. The instruments were also recorded in the Custom 75 studio on Pro Tools. I gave the musicians a guide track I made to assist with their performance, and told them what I needed from them for the remix i.e. wacky guitar fx, crazy drum loops etc.

I produced the song on Ableton Live, and made most of my synthesized sounds from scratch. I got Charles to record some crazy guitar effects which I modulated and processed to fit with the vicious growls I made in the VSTs Serum and Massive. I layered Callum’s drums over some processed drum samples I had already prepared and the remix ended up sounding pretty heavy.

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Callum’s drum kit mic’d

Eventually I chose to rework the remix with a mate of mine Jaidyn “Nerdology” Green to give the remix an edge in the competition. Jaidyn and I formed the duo Carnivirus and thought the remix would fit with our dark, bass-laden sound. Jaidyn did some small touches and added the pad, but ultimately the production remained the same. Furthermore he also did the mastering which made it loud without destroying the track’s dynamic.

Here’s the mixed one, which was all done on my own:

And here’s the mastered one we did for the competition:

Conclusion

Ultimately through doing this major project I was able to find a production process that satisfied both me and the artists I worked with. I was able to improve my electronic music production skills and my mixing skills. Finally, I have some tracks to add my portfolio which should get me work in either the electronic music industry or the studio engineering industry. Next trimester, I hope to get better at mastering and produce a whole band’s EP from start to finish.

 

 

 

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