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Another Music Production Project Tracking Completed!

It’s that busy time of the semester again! The time where time itself is running out and the assignments are piled high! Recording projects are wrapping up and are in the final mix stages, essays are full speed ahead and how I wish there were more hours in each day!

Tonight I finished tracking my Music Production Project for semester 4. I haven’t blogged about the production process like I did last semester, so apologies for that! This semester FLEW, I think the Erasmus trip to Norway accelerated that, where does time go when you’re having fun, eh?!

I have been working on one of my own songs for this semesters’ production project. It is a song I started working on over Christmas, inspired by Electronic/Dance music I had been listening to a lot (and still am- I’m also currently enjoying various Dubstep tracks while walking, the Sound City album while driving and Evanescence while running!). I have been writing New Age/Chilled Electronic for a few years now as I really have been enjoying creating music “in The Box”. Logic Pro 9 is my little getaway place!

While I was in Norway I continued working on the piece of music, structuring and shaping the sounds and taking deep inspiration from the emotions and experiences of the Erasmus Programme and the natural beauty of the cold, snowy, sunny, fjord and mountain landscape. The programme was very intense emotionally as I struggled with homesickness for my friends, college, home and family, I felt slightly lost at times as workshops made me close my eyes, look inside myself and think about sound, light and creativity in new ways.

Inspirational beauty in Norway which inspired me
Inspirational beauty in Norway which inspired me
Random sign on my long walk through a Norwegian wood ;)
Random sign on my long walk through a Norwegian wood 😉

When I came home I had a draft mix of synths, beats and ambient nature recordings, which I was very happy with. There were only 2 lines of lyrics, which I tracked at home “Close your eyes/What can you see?”. I listened to my mix on the lovely Genelecs in the college studio just for fun and it was suggested that I make the the music into a song, go write lyrics and melodies and think about bringing the song to a whole new level, record acoustic drums and other instruments! Make it my production project! I was skeptical at first as I was rather attached to this piece of music (music for thinking to- as I saw it as), which I composed entirely by myself.

Enter Keith Caffrey. If you have been following my blog, you’ll already know that Keith is like the other musical half of me! He is my songwriting partner and close friend, the music I’ve written with Keith through the years has always had deep, personal meaning and a creative enjoyment I never experienced before. I sent Keith the draft mix and emotional ideas I would love to communicate through lyrics (closing of the eyes, looking inside myself and being more aware of myself yet still feeling slightly lost).

Very quickly the music turned into the song. Keith came down to my bedroom studio and we tracked the entire vocal idea. The lyrics were so deep, personal and emotional, Keith understood perfectly what I had been feeling (as spiritually close friends, there are few who understand me so well!). It was also as if Keith KNEW we had only been studying the art of vocal expression in college, he felt the song should have lots of aspirate on-sets and releases, creaks and shakes.

Keith writing lyrics in my bedroom studio during a late night recording session
Keith writing lyrics in my bedroom studio during a late night recording session

With minor structure adjustments and a guide vocal done (and a huge migration into Pro Tools 10!), the song was ready for addition instrumentation. I’m not going into the nitty-gritty details of my sessions but I recorded drums in session 1, harp, piano and electric guitar in session 2 and female vocals in session 3.

Craig Sullivan on drums
Craig Sullivan on drums

During my time in Norway I made lots of new friends and valuable contacts, Fiona McErlane being one of them. We met in the airport and sat next to each other on the plane from Dublin to London and hit it off straight away with giggles over drinks! I heard her singing in the music performance workshops in Norway and was blown away by her pure, crystal clear, angelic voice. I knew back then I wanted to work with her in the future but didn’t know for what project!

Having the craic with Fiona in Norway!
Having the craic with Fiona in Norway!

I asked her to sing on the project and play a little bit of traditional harp. She was excited about the song and the inspiration of the music and lyrics (she was actually present when I made the recording of the fjord shore in Norway).

So tonight was our final recording session, we tracked lots of vocals and had a very productive session. I was so happy with her performance, she gave it 110% emotionally and technically, she jumped right in with suggestions and gave it her all. I was also happy that I got to finally track using the Distressor compressor (gentle 2:1 ratio) and got to try out the Rode K2 valve mic, it sounded sweet!

Our session was the first official night time recording session in DkIT 6pm-9pm. Yes! Finally! A night time recording session!!! I’m a big fan of working in the evenings/nights (last semesters’ Monday 9am-12pm were not to my liking!). Energies are high, vocals are warm, people tend to be more relaxed in the evenings I find! So please, for next semester, more night time sessions please!

I better go to bed, it is 12:30am now and tomorrow is a new day of vocal editing! I will of course share the song “Close Your Eyes” when it’s mixed. Special thanks to Keith Caffrey, Fiona McErlane, Craig Sullivan, Gavin Clarke for their creative input and help and to my friends for their support!

I’ll leave you with this fun snap from tonights session!

Fiona gave it socks! ;)
Fiona gave it socks! 😉
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It’s Christmas!!!

I wanna scream and shout and let it all out!!!

Thank goodness the assignments are DONE (apart from the write-ups, DOH! but they are to be done over Christmas anyway, phew!) !!! I have to say the last 2 weeks in particular were an absolute killer! I love the busyness of college life but when life duties get in the way that’s when I get super stressed! But no matter, I seem to have made it out alive, once again!

I have learned an absolute wealth of information this semester, especially about Pro Tools and microphones. I was always very fraidy of microphones until really the last few weeks! I was unconfident as to selection and positioning but now I have a much clearer head and feel like I’ve learned something! I’m also not as afraid of the big, bad mixer console! I really got to grips with it in the last couple of weeks and finally it makes sense. Of course I understood it before but now I really do feel better about it! I was told I need to be more confident and get a little bit of attitude but I think it’s coming 🙂  I’m only just starting to feel like I can trust myself. I’m ever doubting myself. I need to throw that away and not be afraid to make a mistake.

DkIT CRM1 :)
DkIT CRM1 🙂

The last week or so you wouldn’t have seen me without my head stuck in Pro Tools on my laptop (unless I was in the studio playing violin on recording projects for fellow students!). I was busy mixing, doing small touch ups for my own music production project “December” by Shock Sorrow (the mix is now complete and will be shared soon). I was also creating a sample library of 4 instruments recorded separately in various acoustic environments with 3-4 microphones (close, near and far). I have put together a library of fiddle (recorded in a long corridor) traditional flute (in a big room), bass trombone (in the Winter Garden) and snare (in a small room). I shall blog in detail about that during the weekend!

I’m delighted to mention that after the Christmas exams in January, I’m heading off to Norway with the Erasmus programme! I can’t wait!

Can’t believe I’m halfway through this degree! I absolutely love student life at Dundalk Institute of Technology, I’ll be a sad bunny when I have to graduate in 2014!

Christmas shopping has to be completed on Friday, lol, I haven’t had the headspace for it this year! Only of course when it came to Christmas divil-ment in college earlier on this week! 😉 teehee…nom!!!

Now all I want to do is dance and have a drink, or two… Here’s some tunes I’ve discovered this week and they make me want to dance so much! (not that I can actually dance, but it would be awesome to hear these loud, in a club and be merry!)

Nice and dirty track with those great trancey vibes I love R3HAB for. I think Skrillex is the master of that robot synth and slick editing sound but this latest offering from R3HAB is well sweet! Approval! Play it loud!

I feckin DIG this! It’s so catchy! I heard it on the radio in work when I was in the stockroom, I literally stopped what I was doing and hid so I could enjoy it and hear who they hell it was. I was shocked when I realised it was Britney bitch! Rockin! Catchy vocals, awesome synths, simple beat, great hooks! Love this kind of pop production (but you knew that anyway!). Sexy stuff!

Happy Christmas all!!!!!!!!

Lola kitteh IS looking forward to Santy.... :)
Lola kitteh IS looking forward to Santy…. 🙂

Studio Session 2: A Reflection :)

I must be getting old or I must just be a hard worker! After the 3 hour session in the studio this morning, I was left absolutely exhausted for the rest of the day! Teehee! Only now, at 11pm after a long, hot shower and a couple of headache tablets do I feel like my normal self again! 😀

Studio session number 2 for “December” went fantastically well! In short I got everything I hoped to record committed to virtual tape/disk/the digital land that is Pro Tools! 😀

I recorded 3rd Year Applied Music student Ciarán O’Brien first thing this morning. Ciarán is an expert in all things bass! Armed with a double bass and a bow, Ciarán gave me unexpected goosebumps, I couldn’t help but squeal with the sheer audio-pleasure! Hehehe! I literally could have listened to that all day long. But time was precious so we had to get to business straight away and track pizzicato bass for “December”. We had to keep a very strict schedule as I only had 3 hours from the minute I entered the studio to the minute the gear is checked off when I wrap up! So working quickly, I set up a Neumann U87 about 14 inches away from the bridge of the bass. Time was ticking faster than I thought and we got 4 takes (20 minutes-the song is 5 minutes long). I will have to comp a little here and there but I’m absolutely delighted with what Ciarán played. He’s a little star, a pleasure to work with, very professional!

Ciarán O’Brien and the Neumann U87

Next was the recording of my own 12 string acoustic guitar. My assistants Shauna Kearney and Shane Taaffe were absolutely brilliant help here. They set up my microphones as I required; an AKG C414 in a corner, cardioid pattern, 1 overhead, omni-directional for some room ambience and a Shure SM57 at the 12th fret. A sparkly 12 string with some bass presence. The corner idea may seem odd but trust me, the warmth it offered works in the production.

Myself in my multi mono mic set up

In case you were wondering, Shane played the guitar in the style of the song while I monitored the sound in the control room and asked Shauna to move the mic here and there, an inch or two closer etc! Only after I was happy, did I sit down (on my cajon actually, brought it with me just to sit on it-best seat in the house for guitar playing!) while took over the recording process for me.

Ever watchful of the ticking time, I spent exactly 30 minutes tracking my part. The only problem I had was of my own right hand on one part which decided to have a mind of its own, when I got over that, we had a few takes which I will comp together later.

Following that was Keith’s 6 string guitar parts using the same multi mono mic set up. Keith owns a gorgeous Tanglewood jumbo guitar which a lovely bass presence. His parts are complimentary to mine, filling in single strums for the chorus’s (two separate takes, one left and one right for the mix-down), an arpeggiated fill for the final chorus and of course the big solo. Keith was so in the zone he played the main rhythm and solo in the same take, much to my delight and the ticking clocks! The arpeggiated fill took the longest to record like myself, one finger refused to be told where to go! It happens to us all huh? 🙂 But Keith is also a pro and nailed it.

Keith recording in studio

Looking at the watch, 20 minutes left? Let’s record one more thing before we leave! Pop the Shure SM57 in front of the Marshall Valve-State combo (to one side of the cone), whip out that Fender American Stratocaster, plug in the Boss DD6 Digital Delay pedal and pop that bottleneck slide on your finger please Keith! Make me some noise, anything at all! Soulful cries of a Strat, yes, this is an element I wanted indeed for that final chorus.

Keith feels it out on my Strat 🙂
Excuse my mess but with minutes to spare, Keith tracked electric guitar like a pro 🙂

Ten minutes left…. tidy up, fast! All hands on deck as we backed up the project, tidied away the mic stands, leads, guitars etc!  Bang ont he stroke of midday we were ready to hand over the studio to the next session team!

Not a single minute was idle and I have to thank my production team for working so hard, they deserve a well earned drink! Thank you Keith Caffrey and Ciarán O’ Brien for your artistic skills, very creative and especially appreciated before 12 Midday! Morning studio sessions are never easy! 🙂 Thank you Shauna Kearney and Shane Taaffe for the technical side, you were both stars and complete professionals with the equipment!

So next to do on the list is some minor edits and minor comping. Then we get ready for our last session in 2 weeks time where we nail the lead vocal, harmony vocal and creative element track! 😀

And after that? A small mix and Christmas drinks! 😉

Studio Session 1: A Reflection :)

It’s only 7.30pm and I’m exhausted! I can barely keep my eyes open but it’s all good, today was a lot of fun! Session 1 of the 3 part music production project was a great success!

As I mentioned in last night’s blog, I aimed to record guide vocal, guitar and cajon in today’s 3 hour recording session. It was a busy morning and not without obstacles but we successfully recorded guide vocal, guide guitar and complete cajon.

The main problem was with the lack of sound in one of the studio monitors. No matter what we tried, no sound would come through and the studio technician said the problem was certainly not a faulty connection or lead but within the desk itself and would take time to fix! So instead of abandoning the session we carried on with one monitor and trusted our DT100’s.

Another slight obstacle but definitely one worth the trouble- the patch connections for the live room were all taken out of the patch bay! Only through setting gain levels did we figure out where exactly to plug in! Trial and error! Well worth it.

So with these minor inconveniences sorted we ploughed on! My plan was to record the cajon in the live room using two AKG-C414’s and AKG-D112 and set up the guide vocal in the control room with a Shure Beta 58 and guide guitar with a Shure Beta 57.

AKG-C414 http://www.akg.com

 

AKG-D112 http://www.akg.com
Shane Taaffe and microphone setup. Note the drum kit in the background had to be disassembled and remaining toms covered with available jackets to stop unwanted resonance.

From the above picture one can see an AKG 414 in front of the cajon to capture the snare sound, the D112 at the sound hole in the back for the bass and there is also an AKG 414 to Shane’s left capturing the room sound.

Thanks to pre-production sessions we had already settled on a tempo of 103BPM so I had a shaker track made up to serve as a click track. This actually turned out to be a hindrance and distraction so the song was played live without the click track and the second take was “the one”.

By this stage it was already 11.15am (45 minutes left already!) and we decided we would at least try to record the 12 string acoustic guitar. Initially I set up the microphones in the middle of the room (AKG 414 above the sound hole, Shure Beta 57 at the 12th fret and AKG 414 directly behind the guitar- the guitar tends to lack bass and placing the microphone here added bass).

After quick evaluation of this sound, we agreed the sound wasn’t quite warm enough. How do you get more bass from a non-bassy instrument? I suggested moving the guitar closer to a wall and mic-ing from there- my trust assistant Shauna Kearney did one better and suggested we set up in a corner! She quickly took down the makeshift bass trap of rockwool and triangular foam in a cardboard box, placed two foam panels either side of the corner and a small panel on top of these, making a cosy house for one of the 414’s. Now with the guitar facing out towards the room, the higher frequencies were allowed travel out and the bass frequencies were instantly projected into the corner, like magic, an instant warmth was apparent as well as that shimmering top end I like my Ibanez 12 string for.

Keith Caffrey and the makeshift bass capture technique!

Alas time was not on our side and with pressure mounting to get the right take in time before the next students came in for their slotted time, I was unsuccessful in getting a full track. I was not disappointed as we found a good microphone set up for the guitar that we could easily assemble again!

Session 2 is in 2 weeks time, another 3 hour session. Of course I will have to draw up my plans again for this session as I need to make time to record the acoustic guitars as well as double bass.

Session 3 is in 4 weeks time, another 3 hour session and in this session I will record the lead vocal and additional percussion and perhaps a Yamaha upright piano.

So very tired now! But my own music production project is not the only one in my schedule, I will be assisting Shauna Kearney in her production (and playing any instruments she needs to compliment her singer/songwriter Lauren Murphy- I recorded Lauren last Christmas for a similar project!) AND I am playing violin for my classmate, hip-hop producer Scott McLoughlin!

It’s great to be busy in music! My special thanks to the wonderful musicians who made today happen- Keith Caffrey, Shane Taaffe and Shauna Kearney. And thanks to the studio tech! 🙂