Tag Archives: music

Hej! Yoe! Well!!! Erasmus IP Trip to Norway Starts!

Hej! Yoe! Well!!!

Yesterday 18 excited students from Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland travelled to the beautiful island of Stord, Norway. The trip is a 2 week intensive programme (CREAL- Creative and Aesthetic Learning Processes) in which international relationships are formed through creative collaborations, workshops, group work, activities, cultural experiences and performances. Part 1 of the programme took place last year when the students from Stord Haugesund University College, Norway and Artesis, Belgium came to DkIT.

giddy in terminal 2, Dublin ;)
giddy in terminal 2, Dublin πŸ˜‰

Our journey was 14 hours long, starting from the bus that brought us from the college to Dublin airport. We got the plane from Dublin to London and transferred there to catch the 5.00pm flight to Bergen (the 2nd biggest city in Norway). I actually slept through most of that flight after a reading a few chapters of Hitchhikers Guide…, though I had some strange, half awake dreams!!! πŸ˜€

travel!
travel!

We arrived in Bergen “The Gateway to the Fjords” (some snow still there and crazy huge icicles clinging to the sides of the rocky hill walls that lined the roads) and caught 2 buses (one of which was called a flybussen! I like that word!!!). The 2nd bus journey was 2 hours long but it didn’t feel so long because we got the ferry to the island of Stord in that journey. We were allowed to leave the bus and walk around the ferry as we pleased! I haven’t been on a ferry in YEARS and I loved it! I loved the fresh, cold air, the wind would take your breath away… I loved the sound of the waves crashing against us, I only wished it wasn’t 11pm at night! It was so dark, all I could see was the dark water around us and an even darker island in the near distance πŸ™‚ Onboard it was warm and spacious! The ferry did sway a lot near the end of the journey and some students were looking rather green, I actually felt sleepy! I would have sat there for longer but we actually arrived at Stord after 35 minutes! (hopefully we’ll get the ferry again in daylight!).

Ferry! :)
Ferry! πŸ™‚

We arrived in Leirvick just after midnight in the pouring rain and brought to the home were will we send the first week! I’m lucky to have my own room and share the house with Amy, my music production classmate! The couple we are staying with are soooooo lovely, they made us tea and light sandwiches and chatted with us until at least 1.30am! Their house is simply beautiful, I love Norwegian decor, so much timber and lovely angles and windows and little, soft lights! I want a house like this! πŸ™‚

Bergen at night (not a great snap but you can see the city on the mountain... amazing in reality!)
Bergen at night (not a great snap but you can see the city on the mountain… amazing in reality!)

After a good nights sleep, we met the entire IP group (Belgian students and Norwegian students) in the auditorium. Following the welcome talks and introductions we had a tour around the beautiful campus in small groups. The music rooms look super! (Personally delighted that the studio runs Logic Pro!) It was great to see the arts rooms (woodwork, ceramics, textiles to mention a few) and the students brand new gym!

We had lunch in the Kantine and then we had ice breakers. These were lots of little games so everyone could meet each other, there were many laughs as we lost our inhibitions while acting as cowboys and geisha girls! It was a different way to meet people, something I had never done before! Any worries or awkwardness that there may have been were washed away after all the little games!

Hej! :)
Hej! πŸ™‚

After that we had interesting presentations about our home countries and an energetic Zumba class!

My favourite moment was the icebreaker game when we made a little pretend film and performed it for the entire group! It was completely improvised! Everyone was laughing and smiling and there was a lovely, warm atmosphere. It was great to take part in a group and do something I wouldn’t normally do! (Let myself go!)

Having fun!
Having fun!
yep, thats me looking rather silly but it was good fun!!!
yep, thats me looking rather silly but it was good fun!!!

I also enjoyed learning the childrens nursery rhyme “Lille Petter Edderkopp”! Really cool to sing in Norwegian, hehe!

Tired now, can’t Β wait for the workshops tomorrow! I’ve made lots of new friends already and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in!

Check this out:Β Bringar europeisk kreativitet saman – nyheter fra HSH.

Happy out! πŸ˜‰

My Music Production Project Recording is Complete!

Party over here! I have completed my 3 recording sessions for my music production project “December”, written and composed by Keith Caffrey and myself, featuring Shane Taaffe on cajon and CiarΓ‘n O’Brien on double bass.

Monday morning was my last 3 hour studio session, I had 3 blocks of 3 hour sessions over a 6 week period to record the song. Time was extremely valuable and every minute counted in these sessions (especially when the song itself is 5:02 long, one take alone eats up 5 minutes…).

In this final studio session we recorded the lead vocal (Keith Caffrey), my backing vocal (thanks to my assistant Shauna Kearney for engineering for me here!) and a rainmaker. The session was the most relaxed (for me at least!) and though we kept a sharp watch on the clock, we were not under as much time pressure as the previous sessions.

Although it wasn’t ideal to record vocals at 9am, it had to be done and Keith was warming up his voice from 6.30am. The set up was simple- a Neumann U87 with pop shield and reflection filter going through the Audient ASP 8024 to Pro Tools. It would have been ideal to record with compression because there is a broad dynamic range in the vocal performance but as we’re still in early days, the compressor wasn’t patched in. We recorded some takes adjusting the gain for the loud and soft parts and also recorded the contrasting sections separately. It did occur to me after the session that I could have set up an AKG C414 right up beside the U87 on a separate track and adjust the gains of each microphone, so one would have a lower gain than the other. Hindsight! Every day is a school day…

Keith in studio
Keith in studio

Nonetheless I got what I needed committed to Pro Tools. Using the same set up with a tad extra gain I laid down my backing vocal, taking care to double up. Backing vocals are not a requirement of this project but one of the defining sounds of Shock Sorrow (myself and Keith) is our vocal blending. My sweet, soft voice is a nice contrast to Keith’s powerful and deep rock voice.

The rainmaker was the next recording- we set up 2 AKG C414s (mono tracks, cardioid pattern, no filter), and recorded the gentle sway of the falling beads during the intro and outro, this is a nice falling rain-like sound as opposed to a rhythm. I have two rainmakers, one bamboo and one plastic, the bamboo one was the rainmaker of choice as it sounded much more organic and watery! The plastic one sounded like a hail storm!

Me and my bamboo rainmaker :)
Me and my bamboo rainmaker πŸ™‚

With 15 minutes to spare before wrap up time (once the clock strikes 12 we had to be out- mic’s put back into their cases, cables tidy, stands collapsed, wrap up time had to occur at 11.45), we recorded 2 lead vocal ad lib tracks for fun. I was impressed with Keith’s improvisation, counter harmonies, whispers and echoes. He gave me so much good stuff I can’t bear to edit them! πŸ˜€

Ready for your close-up Rockstar? :)
Ready for your close-up Rockstar? πŸ™‚

Later that afternoon after my last lecture, myself and Shauna headed to our beautiful, ambient Winter Garden in the college building. The Winter Garden is probably my favourite place to hang out between classes for it’s greenery and general peace and quiet!

I had my own recording set up with me- Macbook Pro (with Pro Tools 10), Cakewalk UA25 EX audio interface, Samson S-Amp and Rode NTK microphone. I wanted to record a couple of extra tracks to see if they might work in the project- violin and small djembe drum. I wanted the massive natural reverb so I placed my microphone in the middle of the garden and stood about 8 feet away.

My on-the-go recording set up
My on-the-go recording set up

I actually didn’t play my own violin (the Chinese violin my parents bought for my 13th birthday- too long ago!!!) although it did sound really nice. One of my lecturers actually loaned me his 100 year old German violin for the recording! I’m honoured to have played this violin and even more honoured that I’m the first person ever to have actually recorded it! Not even my lecturer has recorded it! It was beautiful. Beautifully smooth and amazing tone. It was slightly smaller than my own violin (it wasn’t 3/4 size but just slightly smaller than full size) and as light as feather.

Me playing the beautiful 100 year old violin in DkIT's Winter Garden
Me playing the beautiful 100 year old violin in DkIT’s Winter Garden

I played the djembe for the first time in my life (it’s been sitting in my house for years as a decoration!), I just wanted the simple accents, “snap” sounds with that lovely reverb. It actually sounded really lovely and different! My right hand is in absolute bits, 3 lovely bruises on the insides of my fingers! But definitely worth it!

We actually spent 3 hours in the Winter Garden, it was busier than I thought it would be and most takes were spoiled by the noise of people opening doors, walking by, chatting, cleaners hoovering, you name it, I heard it through the sensitive Rode mic! I did expect such noise in the public space and it was really after 5pm that we started recording “clean” tracks.

I was absolutely shattered after all this but after 2 hours of chilling out at home I was back in Pro Tools, editing and starting the first rough mix until the small hours. Of course the point of the project is to not fix anything in the mix but I did need to comp the vocals and go through the violin takes while it was fresh in my mind. All I have left to do is some fades, an micro edit here and there and adjust the mix balance.

Then the write up… πŸ˜‰

So expect to hear the final mix of “December” on my SoundCloud in… December!

Music Production Project Session 3/3 is Tomorrow!

This is the second last blog about this semesters music production project!

Tomorrow is our last 3 hour session! We’re on schedule with the plan and tomorrow will be main vocal, backing vocal and rainmaker recordings!

I will also be recording some additional instrumentation (bongo and violin) in the ambient Winter Garden after the studio session. I definitely will not have time to record all this tomorrow morning, but I would really like to commit these extra ideas I have to Pro Tools in case I decide I want them during my final mix! I’ll be bringing my Macbook Pro, Roland Cakewalk UA-25 EX audio interface, Rode NTK mic and AKG headphones to the Winter Garden (some name dropping there… hint hint! lol) for these recordings!

Seems like I can never go to college anymore without a ridiculous amount of stuff with me!

Christmas is coming………

πŸ˜‰

 

 

 

Music Production Project Session 2/3 is Tomorrow!

Very excited for tomorrow! Part 2 of my music production project is taking place! I’m recording double bass and acoustic guitars and one electric guitar for “December” the song myself and Keith Caffrey (we’re better known as Shock Sorrow!) wrote together this summer. The parts are all written and ready to go! Keith is going to play a fantastic guitar solo, it’s all very exciting! πŸ™‚ I will be advancing my recording skills by applying a little (and I mean a little) bit of compression when tracking! I’m looking forward to this!

I’m all packed (I’ve a ridiculous amount of stuff to bring with me, hehe, I’ll be the crazy music lady walking through the college corridors tomorrow! Roadie position is available! haha!) and I’m off to bed, tomorrow’s an early start!

Reflection diary plus photos will be online tomorrow evening, like the last time!

My gear, ready to go tomorrow! Lola the cat (she wants to be my roadie) must not be brought to studio! πŸ˜‰

Sleep tight y’all! \m/

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! πŸ™‚

 

 

Music Production Project Kicks Off Tomorrow!

I’m very, very, VERY excited!

After a lovely reading week which turned out to be a brilliant balance of study, work, play AND industry experience (see recent post where I described my day recording location audio on a film set!), I’m all set and raring to start back to college (part 2 of semester 1) in the morning!

I’ve spent the last 6 weeks preparing for my music production project and tomorrow morning we go into the recording studio to start tracking! It’s an early start and I hope to record cajon, a guide vocal and acoustic guitars. I’ve chosen to realise a new Shock Sorrow song called “December”, myself and Keith Caffrey composed during the summer.

I’m very excited to have my classmate and good friend Shane Taaffe play cajon and new friend, bass master CiarΓ‘n O’Brien play double bass on this recording! I’ve never recorded both instruments before and I’m very excited! Keith Caffrey will of course be singing lead vocal, playing guitar parts (yes, a solo!) and a secret percussion instrument! πŸ˜‰ I will of course be playing a small bit of guitar and maybe piano if I’m lucky, my regular studio partner Shauna Kearney will be assisting me (I can’t imagine being in studio without her actually!).

Pre-production session with Keith Caffrey, myself and Shane Taaffe πŸ™‚

My mind is racing from the sheer excitement of this project and I’m getting ideas all over the place! “Oooh wouldn’t it sound great if I did this!” and “I’d love to slip in a little harmony there!”, it’s so easy to get carried away! The main point of this recording is to capture the sounds as accurately as possible, get the sounds right at the source! “I’ll fix it in the mix” attitude is bye-bye, out the window! There are of course plenty of other criteria to check, good production, instrumentation, record with hardware compression (mmmm Avalon baby) etc!

My primary aim is to record a polished studio version of this song that includes a full band of musicians but with a stripped back approach.

I aim to not only meet the instrumental requirements of this project brief but also extend beyond that by capturing one or two additional instruments and vocals, creating a sonically interesting and more varied recording.

I also aim to create a pleasant and relaxed working environment and enjoy a successful recording process.

I will post a blog tomorrow night about how the session went!

In other news I got to play an Irish harp tonight! I had such fun! Shane Taaffe is one seriously gifted musician, I already knew he is very talented with a guitar, cajon, voice, anything musical he puts his hands to, but I never got to hear him play Irish harp before now. Wow! I could have listened to him all night! Such beautiful music he played. I’m a big Irish trad fan from my fiddle days and lately my influences have been creeping back into my solo material. He played beautiful Turlough O’Carolan tunes, airs, reels and even treated me to “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica), I pretty much just melted into the floor by then!

Having a little play with Shane’s harp πŸ™‚
Shane Taaffe treats me to an Irish reel, his fingers were moving so fast as you can clearly see!

So! Expect a future recording featuring Shane Taaffe on the harp! I would dearly love to compose a traditional piece myself and record it. This will happen!

Off to pack my school bag and equipment bag for tomorrow, where’s that list I penned up? πŸ™‚

Six Songs Of: Stephanie Caffrey.

My task for this evening is to pick 6 songs that have significant meaning to me. I am supposed to complete the blanks on the Guardian Music’s page http://www.sixsongsof.me but most of the songs I pick do not link up with the Spotify app! I have decided to write up a quick blog instead!

Of course it’s INSANE to ask anyone never mind a music enthusiast like myself to pick just SIX songs which fit into the categories asked! There’s so much amazing recorded music out there and I can think of heaps of unrecorded music also I would mention! I’ve been racking my brains all evening and this is the list I’ve settled on. I hope you enjoy it and discover or rediscover a tune or two!

1: First Song You Bought?

“To The Moon and Back” – Savage Garden (1997)

Not strictly the first song I ever bought because I asked for the self-titled album from Savage Garden as a gift way back in 1995! I loved this song then and i still love it today. It’s amazing pop songwriting!

02: Get’s You Dancing?

“No Limit” – 2 Unlimited (1993)

An oldie, but they don’t make music like this anymore! I remember hearing this on the car radio as a kid and thinking “WOW!” If i heard this in a club today I would break into one hell of a dance! I can’t resist that hooky synth and straight up kick combo and that soaring vocal. Genius.

03: What Song Takes You Back To Your Childhood?

“Thundercats Theme” – James Lipton (1984)

I honestly couldn’t pick a commercial record for this. In my childhood, I was subjected to so much 60’s thanks to my Dad and so much 90’s thanks to my Mum. I watched an insane amount of cartoons as a child and this is one of the first I remember absolutely loving! What a theme tune! This upload brings me right back to my earliest childhood.

04: Perfect Love Song?

“Wicked Game” – Chris Isaak (1989)

Extremely hard to pick, it’s a toss up between “Nothing Else Matters – Metallica (1991) and this. I love this for the beautiful lyrics and singing and of course that breath-taking guitar. I find this deeply haunting and I have a thing for music thats written in B Dorian. This, for me, is purest beauty.

05: What Song Would You Want At Your Funeral?

“Nutshell” – Alice In Chains (1994)

Such a hard question! Of course no one wants to think about such things! I do like this song alot. It’s beautiful. Just, WOW.

06: Time For An Encore. What Song Makes You, You?

“I’m Alive” – Shinedown (2012)

The hardest question of all in my opinion! The song that makes me feel me changes every few weeks! So much music from various genres excite me and make me feel awesome! This song I discovered a few weeks ago and I just LOVE it! It’s so catchy and it ticks all my boxes of excellent listening material! It’s upbeat, got hooky guitars, catchy melodies, great harmonies, awesome lyrics, great mix and sounds! It makes me run and literally lifts my mood right up!

That was the most difficult playlist I’ve put together in my life! I had to share these choices with my classmates last week and that was a tiny bit scary! I was really nervous getting up in front of people but I quickly got over that! I was surprised my classmates didn’t know some of my song choices, this was down to the fact I am 9 years older than most pupils in the class. I didn’t mind sharing my choices, I wasn’t afraid of being judged, perhaps 10 years ago I would have been! My choices were met with open faces and friendly smiles.

Happy out!

New Song – “The Key” by Stephanie Caffrey :)

I have been feeling creative lately! I’m announcing the follow up track to “Ashes Forever” which I posted online a couple of weeks ago… “The Key”. πŸ™‚

Composition for this piece started about two weeks ago in my bedroom studio. I wished to complete it before my trip to Oxford so I could mix it over there, but feeling this song was coming from somewhere very deep inside me,Β I didn’t want to rush the creative process.

I had composed all the music by the time I got to Oxford and there I mixed what I had and structured half the song.

I returned home to Ireland in a whirlwind of emotions and penned the lyrics and vocal melodies shortly afterwards. This song is a deep one to me and I hope the listener enjoys my creation.

It’s the first time I’m publicly showcasing my violin skills on a recording and also my lovely B flat tin whistle, I was really surprised how nice it recorded, adding just a touch of reverb! It’s probably also the first song I’m actually not playing guitar! Written, composed, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered entirely by myself with the exception of giving my friend Lee Fitzpatrick some deserved credit for advising me on my equalisation curves at the early stage of mixing!

Me and my violin! (This picture is back to front, I’m not left handed!)

So put on your headphones, sit back, relax and breathe and enjoy “The Key” πŸ™‚

Steffy xx

Have You Heard the Voice That Belongs to Monica Heldal Yet?!

Monica Heldal 2012

I’m so excited to share this with you! This is a project that I have been working on for a couple of months and I’m delighted to introduce you to one very talented young lady- Monica Heldal.

Monica is a singer-songwriter from Bergen, Norway and at 21 years old, she has already taken the international music scene by storm and is one very busy lady! Her love for American country-blues and the music of Irish legend Rory Gallagher has brought her on a very busy musical journey so far. After playing the Rory Gallagher Festival in Ireland last year, Monica has been invited back to play again this summer during her busy Norway-Netherlands-France tour.

I have produced this song “Silly Willy”, a personal favourite from Monica’s original set. A delightful, bluesy, shuffling song which brings a smile to everyone’s face who’s heard it already! Monica exhibits raw, natural talent in her advanced acoustic guitar fingerstyle performance and in her alluring vocal on this recording and I think you’ll agree with me when I say that this lady is blessed with a gift!

Drums were performed by Daire Stanley, bass was performed by Sean Moher, electric guitar was performed by Darren Mc Eneaney and my recording assistant was Shauna Kearney. I recorded, produced and mixed the song and threw in some additional keyboard and electric guitars.

I really enjoyed this creative process and I’m pleased with the mix-down. This was my first full-band mix on Pro Tools (Logic Pro user!) and I hope you enjoy the song as much as we do πŸ™‚

You can find lots more Monica material on her Facebook artist page:Β Monica Heldal.

Monica Heldal
See Monica perform at the Rory Gallagher festival this month