Step on it

Another small piece of gear arrived today…

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M-Audio SP-2 Sustain Pedal.  This will replace the cheap little footswitch that I currently have with something actually usable and playable.

My monitors arrive tomorrow.  Next on the list: the Focusrite Scarlet 6i6.

Building the Studio (Part 1)

Ok, so I’m going to chronicle the build of my new studio.  Right now all I have left from the previous studio is my keyboard (a Roland Fantom Xa), a Korg padKontrol, and a Midisport 2×2.  Since my previous setup, I’ve acquired a Traktor S2 DJ controller – I had fun for a while playing DJ in my room.

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Today my first piece of new gear arrived: my studio monitoring headphones.  For this studio I selected the Beyerdynamic DT-990-Pro-250 headphones.  For the price, these are some of the best: they are semi-open backed which is the preferred style for mixing in the studio, have awesome dynamic range and response, and are very comfortable for wearing for extended periods.

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I have also already selected and ordered new studio monitors.  My previous monitors, the first-generation M-Audio BX-5, have irreparable speaker cone damage.  If I could replace the cones, they would be great secondary monitors – or I could sell them.  As is, they probably aren’t worth much, but the current generation of BX-5 is one of the best selling studio monitors in their class, so I think I’ll hold on to these and see if I can replace the cones someday.

My new monitors are due to arrive in a couple of days, and they are the Fluid Audi FX8, in white.  I’ve not listened to them yet, and it may be considered risky to buy monitors that you haven’t heard.  I ran across these by reading an article of a reviewer that saw the monitors at the recent NAMM show and he absolutely loved their sound.  So I did a lot of research and all of the reviews, both amateur and professional, rave about how pristine their sound is.  I did go and listen to several other monitors, but was unimpressed with everything I’ve heard – so I’m jumping in and going with Fluid Audio.  I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

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My previous studio was built around a consumer-grade PC, running Sonar X1 Producer as the DAW.  I now have an iMac that I’ve had for a couple of years, so I will be using that as my main studio computer now, and will go with Logic Pro X for the DAW.

The rest of the gear and software I’ve selected, for the first phase, is:

  • Focusrite 6i6 Audio Interface
  • Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61
  • Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate 10
  • NI Strummed Guitar
  • Output’s complete line of instruments (Signal, Exhale, Rev, etc.)

After I have that up and running, I plan on adding gear to record vocals.  I’m definitely no expert, and I’m not even really experienced in recording vocals, so this gear may change, but here’s what I’m thinking for phase 2:

  • MXL990s condenser microphone
  • Stand, pop screen, etc.
  • Isolation screen

And I want to add these instruments (possibly) over time as well:

  • iZotope Creative Bundle
  • Wide Blue Sound’s Orbit
  • Omnisphere 2

I’ll probably do the iZotope bundle first, because once I have 2-3 tracks worthy of mastering, I’ll get iZotope and start learning how to master the tracks as best I can.

So that’s my plan for now, and things are just getting underway!

 

 

 

I’m back!?

Yes… 3 and 1/2 years later.  Lots been going on these last few years which has kept me away from creating music, but I’m about to embark again on a musical journey.  After I finished “The Seven” in 2013 I wasn’t able to really work on any more music and had to dismantle my little studio.  It was fun while it lasted, and I learned a lot, and I created a piece I am (mostly) proud of.

Now I’m fortunate enough to build me a new little home studio.  This one will be more extensive and capable than the last one, and I have serious plans on pieces I want to actually finish this year.  I’m revamping this little blog to basically just journal my journey with writing and producing music at home.

My next post will be about my planned setup.  I’ve already started to acquire some of the components, and I’ll document in pictures the creation of my studio as it grows.  So now… onward… again!

 

The Seven is complete!

I’ve finally finished my latest song, “The Seven”.  I started working on this about 10 months ago… always in my spare time.  For about 3-4 months in there, however, I left it alone and didn’t do any work on it.  I finally picked it up again and finished it, and I’m very happy with the results!

I actually wrote the song back in 1987 during my first semester in college.  I went away to school, and while there I got a job transcribing the Music Director’s hand-written scores onto a computer.  The computer was an original Macintosh, and it had Mark of the Unicorn’s Sequencer and Publisher programs on it.  Sequencer was a MIDI sequencer, and Publisher was a musical notation word processor.  The computer was also connected via a MIDI interface to several synths: 1 Yamaha DX-7, 8 Yamaha TX7 (as a TX-816), and my very own Yamaha DX-21.  I wrote this song, plus about 4 others, down in that lab over that semester.  While that recording sounded good, this version is far, far superior.

I’m not sure what is next.  Right before graduating High School, I composed a piece for symphonic band.  I wrote the complete score and also created the sheet music for each instrument – all by hand on pencil and paper.  On the last day of class the band played it, so I got to actually hear what I wrote.  I have since lost the music, but I have it in my head and recorded a short variation of it many years ago.  I may re-compose that piece… it actually should probably be done as multiple related parts or “movements”.

Anyway, if you would like to hear “The Seven” then leave a comment and I’ll email you a link to the MP3.  I want to see about actually publishing it on an independent label, so I don’t want to publicly upload the track just yet… but if I know who you are, I’ll be more than happy to share the pre-release with you!

 

The Seven… coming soon!

I’ve almost finished “The Seven”. It’s just over 4 minutes long now. I’m working on the drums/percussion parts now, which always seems to be the last thing I do. Almost a year in the making (in my very rare spare time), I’m very proud of the outcome. Stay tuned – I should be releasing it in about 2 weeks!

The Seven – progress

So the new song I’ve been working on, I’ve titled “The Seven”.  I had originally been titling it just “Seven” but that was just because it is in 7/8 time.  I was talking to my wife about what images the song invokes, and what came to my mind was something out of fantasy writing, like The Lord of the Rings.  In my mind, this song makes me think of a lone armor-clad warrior, the last survivor of a band of seven kings who were on a quest, telling his story.

Anyway, I got quite a bit of work done on the song over the last few days.  It’s up to just over 2 minutes long now, and most of the themes are written and in.  For the song structure I need to finish out the rest from where it currently leaves off.  I also need to re-balance the levels, and start doing some real mixing work – the current is pretty raw.

You can listen to it here…

So, I’ll be real glad to hear feedback on the song so far!  Thanks for listening!

Recording Tommy

My friend, Tommy Hall, is a semi-professional singer and today he came over to my house so that I could record him singing.  Tommy sings pretty often for local audiences – he uses karaoke music and sings along with the tracks.  He has also performed with live bands in front of larger audiences.

Today I recorded him singing “Easy Lovin” by Freddie Hart, and “After the Lovin” by Englebert Humperdink.  I then worked on the tracks in my DAW (Sonar X1) for a couple of hours… you can listen to samples of the results:

After the Lovin:

Easy Lovin:

The setup

I recorded using two tracks in Sonar – one for the music and one for the vocals.  The first thing I did was to set the volume levels on the tracks to make a decent mix.  Then I started working on the vocal track.  Using Sonar’s ProChannel strip, I added compression to even out the volume using the PC-76 W-Type compressor. This is a nice and warm compressor which handled the vocals just right.

The recording, having been done in a room with Tommy standing right next to a wall, seemed to have a bit of an overload in the harmonics around 170Hz, so I used the ProChannel’s EQ to pull that down while boosting the bass some.

Then I added Cakewalk’s SpecraFX processor to put a bit of a chorus and stereo expansion on his voice.  This plug-in actually does a lot more than just that, but that’s all I needed to do and it sounded nice.  After that in the FX chain is the Sonitus:fx Reverb processor.  I used it’s default reverb preset, and tweaked it just a little bit.

For the music track, I added Cakewalk Studioverb2 to , and dialed it down pretty low – just enough to give a little sheen to the music to match the vocals better.  I also turned on the PC-76 compressor in the ProChannel, and EQ’d a wide Q around 183Hz down a little.

This song is a hard one for Tommy to sing cold because of the higher range.  Thanks to Sonar’s V-Vocal plugin, I was able to take a couple of spots in the song and (ever-so) slightly adjust the pitch of a note here and there.  Made a lot of difference, though!

Finally, I went through the track a few times, tweaking the volume of the vocal track (recording the automation) to make sure to compensate for spots that were a little too loud or soft.

I copied the track settings to the recording of “After the Lovin”, tweaked a few settings, and that song was done very quickly.  I’m very pleased with the results!!