Tag Archives: Pro Tools

My Beach Road Studios Workshop Experience :)

Since the beginning of time, (okay LOL!), since I can’t remember when, I’ve been aching to go to a Beach Road Studios workshop. After stalking/befriending JUNO award winning producer Siegfried Meier for many years on Facebook, the timing suddenly became RIGHT earlier this year. He announced he would be running the final ever Beach Road workshop this autumn and I knew, this was it! It was like the stars had alligned for me as it was happening on my week off! Within minutes (yes, I made the decision that fast) I had flights and accomodation booked, Canada, here I come!!!!

But how does a random audio girl from a sleepy, Irish countryside Nowhereness, find out about a mega, award winning, from Germany but living in Canada most of his life, music producer and his private, super-amazing-awesome studio?

Through Kittie.

When Kittie blasted onto Irish TV screens via the kick-ass medium that was (still is? is it? I don’t know!) MTV2 with the even more bad-ass video for their second single, “Charlotte” in 2000, I was hooked. Four kick-ass girls my age absolutely knocking it out of the park with a savage tune, how could I resist? Back then it was actually pretty hard to find out much about anything, even though we had electricity (LOL, Internet was dial-up and I wasn’t really allowed use it), I did my best to find magazine clippings about the girls. Metal Edge was the only place I could find anything about them and even then, I only ever got my hands on like, 2 copies, cos Nowhereness is in the middle of Nowhere, you know?! I got my hands on their debut Spit (produced by Garth “GGGarth” Richardson, 2000) when I went stateside that summer and it didn’t seem too long after that, their 2nd album Oracle (also produced by GGGarth, 2001) was released. That I did buy here in Ireland. The band developed and progressed over the years and while I kept an eye on them, Facebook brought them back into my world in 2010 and that’s when I discovered Siegfried Meier.

Kittie, circa 2000. Source: https://www.stereogum.com/1989753/heres-to-20-years-of-kittie/franchises/sounding-board/
Kittie “Charlotte” music video still, 2000.

So Siegfried worked on their Oracle album back in the day (credited in the album notes as Siegfried “Private Dancer” Meier!) as an assistant in Emac Studios (London, Ontario) and then became their producer for their 5th In the Black (2009) and their 6th, I’ve Failed You (2011), producing the band in his Beach Road Studios . Cue a new style, sound and sonic force of awesomeness for the band. Kittie has been a highly creative and unique metal band from the get-go but the Sig albums are f**king HUUUUGE.

Kittie In the Black, 2009
Kittie I’ve Failed You, 2011

Their 2018 Origins/Evolutions 20th anniversary release, which documented the band’s career, cemented my personal opinion that Siegfried was one seriously cool guy (I could discern from the Internet that he’s a musician, producer, songwriter, audio engineer, mastering engineer, cat lover, and all-round super dude). But the footage on that documentary simply blew my mind and I ached for the chance to visit. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait too long!!

Source: http://www.siegfriedmeier.com/about-2/

Fast forward a few months and I find myself driving an automatic VW Golf (black, shiny and sexy as hell!) on a 5-lane highway in Toronto, on the opposite side of the road. Huge trucks zooming by me and the setting sun in my eyes, my heart races with trepidation, I’M HERE CANADA! Immediately charmed by the picture perfect towns I drive through, hours out of busy Toronto, I just knew, this was a slice of Heaven right here and this was exactly where I needed to be (you know, you do kind of doubt yourself- am I mad to go to Canada for a couple of days?! How will I handle driving in another country? Will my Irish awkwardness ruin the vibe?! Am I still rock n roll enough to handle this?!).

The excitement!

I need not have worried. I may have been shaking in my runners driving down the magical road to the studio, parking the car after confirming I had indeed found the location and not some random persons house (imagine if I did that though LOL!), spotting drums through a window but the very second I opened the door and let myself inside (let’s face it, I still don’t even let myself into my fiances house 14 years on! I have to ring the doorbell and text prior to my arrival- that’s my own awkwardness, not their house rules!), I felt this absolute WAVE of love. Everyone smiled at me (walking into a room of 10 guys is a little bit scary!) and I was enveloped in Siegfried’s welcoming arms instantly. I actually didn’t feel shy!!! From the get-go I felt like I knew Sig forever and that it wasn’t my first time meeting him. It struck me it was a special connection and all my suspicions about him were confirmed- this guy IS the coolest person EVER! Larger than life itself, his warmth, genuineness, humourous wit, easy-going, relaxed, bubbly, passionate and humble personality shone like a white light. Just being around him made me feel an excitement and joy I haven’t felt in years. I probably looked goofy and starry-eyed as I openly gazed at him but that wasn’t for his incredible awe-inspiring career, it was for him as a human being. He’s the kind of person that you only find once or twice in your life and you recognise instantly he’s making the world a better place by just being in it.

Walking into his control room, my breath left me. What a beautiful room! Surrounded with a mix of vintage and modern equipment, yet with a vibe of home, I can see why musicians come to make music here. His welcoming personality is mirrored by his creative space. If I was a musician in a band, I would be extremely excited about making records there!

Source: http://www.siegfriedmeier.com/studio/

After a short introduction where everyone (Sig, the students and the rock band, Breaching Vista) got up and said a little something about who they were and confirmed they were indeed cat-lovers also, Sig dived into audio theory and concepts to ensure everyone was on a similar level. Notes were passed around and we were invited to jot down as much as we like. Standing on a footstool behind his amazing rare Amek/TAC Magnum console, Siegfried explained higher level educational audio concepts in a logical and exciting format. Hanging onto every word he said, my mind raced to keep up.

After coffee breaks and lunch, the fun really kicked off.  The importance of preproduction was explained and a guide track was loaded into Pro Tools. Track tempo was discussed and experimented with and yes, I even learned a new thing. Sig gave us a golden nugget concerning click track headphone bleed (I admit I actually made that f**k up on my own most recent recording and even kicked myself afterwards for not paying enough attention). Drummer Micheal Sferrazza (also a talented pilot, no less) was invited to take up his sticks and we all ushered into Sig’s, huge live room. I momentarily got starstruck as I recognised the wall of guitars and the placement of the drums, for I had seen this room on Kittie documentaries and photographs before (imagine being starstruck by a room! NERD!). My jaw dropped at the sheer size of the converted barn (Sig built and designed the entire studio in 2006, with the help of his colleague Lee While, acoustics professor from Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology), again, huge but welcoming! The room was chock-full of equipment, instruments, consoles, computers, microphones, amps, cables and more. I do believe in that moment that I died and went to Heaven.

There we experimented with a dedicated Pro Tools 6 rig and Sig explained the importance of gain structure, what exact signal flow he was implementing and set up the Glyn Johns drum recording method. A method I’ve read about and listened to all about since the beginning of my audio schooling, but one I’ve never actually witnessed for myself. Well wasn’t my mind blown?! A great kit in a great room played by a great drummer with only 3 (also great) mikes equalled MAGIC. Hell, that was a drum sound I would killed to have gotten in my production projects in college.

Drum miking techniques with Siegfried Meier

After that the room was set up for the actual recording of the single for Breaching Vista. 20+ mikes were set up- close mikes, room mikes and even bulls***t mikes. Each mike was explained in fine detail and I got to meet many of which I had only read about in my studies and some of course, I had never even heard of before. Jet-lagged like never before, I think I was probably swaying standing up, I wondered was anyone noticing I was ready to start sleep walking! But that wasn’t going to last for long because before I knew it, we were back in the control room, listening to the sounds of the drums and setting up appropriate levels. Snapped awake by the exciting sounds, my heart raced as Sig explained what he was going to do next: track the drums in the digital domain AND on analogue 2 inch tape! WOW! Tape!! I remember I was asked in an interview in Derry in 2014 which I preferred, analogue or digital? and I fobbed off a bulls**t answer. How could I answer such a question when I had basically zero experience of analogue? I think I said I liked the idea of analogue but really all I knew was digital and therefore I liked the good things it had to offer. Maybe that wasn’t a bulls**t answer afterall, but I always thought about it afterwards, feeling like a twat that I couldn’t actually REALLY give an opinion about that subject. Sig gave us a highly detailed history and informative block of information which detailed tape anomalies, machine care, and so much more. Brand new stuff for me. Please let my brain absorb all of this!!!

A very small (surprisingly small- there have been sessions where I pushed 12 takes out of my drummer, the poor unfortunate soul) number of takes later, along with the band for guides, the drums were recorded. It was already getting close to midnight and Sig bounced the analogue drums back into Pro Tools, using the Studer tape machine as an audio processor to get a very different sonic character. There we ajorned for the night, for tomorrow there would be more- drum editing, bass recording, guitar recording, vocal recording, editing, mixing and mastering. I left Sigs close to 1am and drove back to his local town, my mind racing and my heart bursting. I fell into my bed thinking I’d probably never sleep but boom, I was out like a light.

Feeling surprisingly refreshed, the next morning there was a beautiful spread in my B&B. The sun was shining and with a spring in my step, I drove to Beach Road, feeling confident about driving on the correct side of the road and feeling like a local because I knew the roads already. I practically skipped in the studio door, proclaiming I was not jet-lagged and took my seat behind Sig’s racks. He kicked off swiftly, explaining he was up since crazy AM, editing last nights drums and showed us swiftly exactly what he did and how he did it. We A/B-ed the Pro Tools, digital drums with the tape, analogue drums, understanding the sonic differences between the two and the benefits/downfalls of both.

With the drums edited, it was time to get really serious. Bass guitar (Mike Chhangur) was up and there, Sig explained that he was not going to use just one mike on his bass amp (hang on, you can use more than one?) but four AND run more sources (okay this bit went a little bit over my head, studio routing is not an easy thing to get initially) but there, the audio concepts discussed yesterday came back into play and yes, it made sense. The importance of using the same tuner for the entire band (the very same tuner, not the same brand, but the same actual device) was explained and boom, we were away! Again, a few takes later, we had a phenomenal bass track recorded and edited.

Bass, bass, bass

Next up were guitars, rhythm (John Maksym) and lead (Al Malnar), I’m not going to go into any sort of detail but it was more mind blowing stuffs! Definitely the kind of stuffs this guitar girl loved. Again, epic players using using gear in an epic room, produced by epic ears. More editing tricks, beautiful recording methods and tactics, next up it was vocals. Vox were a sheer delight to watch. Using a mike I actually own myself but never ever use, I was enthralled. Sig’s vocal chain was delicious. I’ve never been so gear hungry in my life! After editing and comping and a host of processing, I was delighted to be affirmed that what I do myself is actually correct and I learned a few little extra things too.

Shortly after that, dinner was up and can I say right here, that Sig’s wife Rachel is the most talented cook I’ve ever met, as well as a fantastic studio momma and all round lovely, lovely person?! Her food was out of this world and she looked after all of us like her own. Her presence added more love, light and sparkle to an already sparkly, beautiful, heavenly place. I didn’t realise so much joy was possible in one space and I was sent to pick up my fiance who was invited for the party. Brotherly “I know you!”s were exchanged as I watched the love of my life meet the inspiration of my life, and Sig swept him up into his world, a world he knows just enough about to be floored by what he saw. That’s when I saw Sig has a huge salt lamp upstairs near his mastering suite, of course! Good energy huh!!! After all of that, the class resumed and the final touches of the workshop were completed, mixing and mastering to quarter inch analogue tape- SHREDDER!

Slay indeed bae

We partied until an absolutely crazy hour, how Sig wasn’t totally crashing out (for he was up at the crack of dawn to edit drums, remember?) I’ll never know. Maybe it was the amazing maple syrup we ate raw from a dessert spoon?! Or the giant bag of those peanut butter M&Ms John brought and we all devoured?! The sheer joy of 14 like-minded people in the same room, simply enjoying each others company, exchanging thoughts, ideas, stories and culture, I suspect is what kept us all on Cloud 9.

My experience at Beach Road studios was simply second to none. I left Ireland thinking I might learn a little thing or two but instead I learned a brick tonne, felt joy and love like never before, got swept off my feet and felt a whole-ness I never felt before. I’ve definitely left a piece of my heart in Canada for I can never bear to say goodbye. Poor Sig had to get Rachel to pull me off his leg as I wept “Don’t make me go home!” I’m kidding of course but inside I was dying.

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I just had the best 3 days of my life and I've met the most wonderful people. I'm simply blown away by the warmth, passion, wit, humour, generosity, skill and the generally all round awesome person @siegfriedmeier is! The man is my spirit animal 😂 it's such an honour to attend his workshop in his AMAZING studios. I don't want to leave Canada, I'm going to have to be DRAGGED on that plane tomorrow. #beachroadstudios #beachroadworkshops #music #musicproduction #musicproducer #canada #studio #recordingstudio #recording #daw #reverb #digital #analogue #tape #recordmusic #playmusic #protools #production #audio #studiolife #siegfreidmeierdrums #gear #songwriter #audiophile #musicislife #mixer #instadaily #audioengineer

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What an honour it was that I was allowed into Sig’s very special creative space, into the amazing building he built on a foundation of pure love and light. No wonder Beach Road has housed amazing musicians from so many genres, it’s the kind of place you gravitate towards and it wraps you up in a big cuddly blanket of passion for music. How lucky I am to have walked around those famous rooms and to have studied under the most passionate, intelligent, talented, skilled, witty, loveable and humble human I’ve ever met in my life. I’m so very grateful. Siegfried Meier is the producer I aspire to become one day. I can see why he makes brilliant records. Brilliant artists, brilliant gear, brilliant rooms, brilliant ears, brilliant skills, brilliant home. I haven’t even remotely touched on his history as a music producer- I urge you to visit his website Siegfried Meier and to pop his name into a Google search, you’ll be blown away by what you read and understand why I literally jumped onto a plane to visit a country I’ve never been to before, a journey of 5366kms each way. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I hope I see my friends Sig and Rach and the rest of the class group again in the near future.

I believe if everyone met Siegfried Meier, even for just 5 minutes,  the world would be a much better place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1st Annual Final Year Showcase of BA Music and Audio Production

Tomorrow night is a big night for us Third Year Music and Audio Production students at DkIT. We are presenting our major production projects in the Spirit Store and we’re very excited about it!

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We were the first ever intake of Music and Audio Production (2011) and our production  projects combine everything we have studied over the last three years.

We have worked with teams of musicians from the BA Music Applied plus other courses in DkIT as well as musicians outside of the college on our individual projects.

There will be something for everyone at this event- our songs range from Folk to Rock, Pop to Dance and Celtic New Age to Metalcore!

We are looking forward to celebrating our hard work and hearing each others final mixes.

Entry is free and doors are at 7.30pm, do come along!

More info: 1st Annual Final Year Showcase of BA Music and Audio Production | Dundalk Institute of Technology.

For course details please visit: BA (Hons) Production of Music and Audio | Dundalk Institute of Technology.

What I’ve Been Up To Since Semester 4 Finished!

I’ve been terribly naughty as I’ve been absent from my blog for a while!

Semester 4 has come and gone in a flash! Where did Second Year of DkIT go?! I can’t believe my 4th YEAR of studying has finished. This has been the best 4 years of my life without a doubt! Thank goodness I still have a few years still to go! I think I’m one of those types who likes studying somehow! (nerd!)

Results have already come out and I’m just delighted. A weekend of partying was had and many much-needed laughs!

Cocktails, vodka,pizza and music trivia board games is how we celebrate exam results!
Cocktails, vodka,pizza and music trivia board games is how we celebrate exam results!

The sudden appearance of summer has left me almost winded! I had a couple of weeks of “Oh no! What do I do with myself now?!”. The first thing I did was finish reading the 4th Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book. (Awesome! Now to get the 5th one!)

I’ve been feeling a bit blue due to a writers block. I wanted to jump straight back in with new material but nothing was happening! I hate times like these! My acoustic 12 string was the only thing which felt half good and brought about a few ideas. What I’ve been really wanting to do is start a new Logic Pro project and create a new chill-out song/instrumental.

With not much musical inspiration I decided to throw myself into the next best thing- running! I’ve been running like a mad thing and slowly starting to shake off this block. Energy, self esteem, positive self image, motivation, creativity- is all returning.

I’ve also been doing a bit of creative and personal writing online! That’s a lot of fun actually.

And I’ve been taking in some amazing scenery around Northern Ireland on my days off from work.

I did indeed walk in the Giants footsteps!
I did indeed walk in the Giants footsteps!

It looks like I’m embarking on a new musical project with the fabulous Lauren Murphy. We’re great friends (since the first week of DkIT) and we’ve been planning songwriting sessions for a while now. Ideas have been emailed back and forth and it’s looks like the collaborations are going to start very soon!!! (Watch this space).

Queen of rock, the fabulous Lauren Murphy!
Rock goddess, the fabulous Lauren Murphy!

Tonight I decided to remix a project which I thought the world deserved to hear. Until I decided it was another days job (if I ever feel it musically again) and started writing something new. Something chill-out, something deep. We’ll see if the feel stays!

Ideas are coming...
Ideas are coming…

Until the next blog… Happy out 😉

New Song: “Close Your Eyes” feat. Fiona McErlane and Keith Caffrey

Today I’m sharing my latest music production project “Close Your Eyes” which features my guest vocalists Fiona McErlane and Keith Caffrey.

I talked about the creative and recording process in my previous blog post.

I finished the mix last night and I’m delighted with the response already to the song. This was yet another very personal and emotional project. I hope you enjoy it!

“Close Your Eyes” was composed by Stephanie Caffrey and the lyrics and vocal were written by Keith Caffrey.

Female vocals: Fiona McErlane
Male vocals: Keith Caffrey
Acoustic drums: Craig Sullivan
Traditional harp: Fiona McErlane
Acoustic piano: Stephanie Caffrey
Electric guitars: Stephanie Caffrey
Synths: Stephanie Caffrey.

Recorded, produced and mixed by Stephanie Caffrey.
Special thanks to studio assistant Gavin Clarke.

Recorded in Dundalk Institute of Technology Feb-May 2013.
Copyright Stephanie Caffrey.

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…. 🙂

DkIT “Popcast”- My Role (Part 2).

This blog post is a continuation of my role in the Music and Audio Production class group project for our module “Communication and Popular Music”. Our project is a 4 part series of podcasts which show the importance of popular music to the wider college community. As I mentioned last week, I am on the production team and specifically working on the promo.

I collaborated with my classmate Mark on this and we worked closely. I contributed the initial idea/structure of the promo which I posted both on my blog and Moodle. Mark sourced a lead guitar lick to kick it all off and a crackin’ tune for the background (composing and recording a jingle was just too time consuming with all the other assignments going on). He sent me a rough demo via email so I could get a taste of his vocal approach for the script we collaborated on.

We had a very manic, busy week in college between final studio production sessions and sample recordings but we managed to get a 2 hour block which suited us both to get together and record the real voiceover.

We recorded in the isolation both in a Mac lab using Mark’s Rode K2 microphone, my Roland Cakewalk UA25 EX audio interface and my Macbook Pro using Pro Tools SE 10. We recorded a lot of takes and after 25 minutes we were happy we got everything we needed.

Recording the voiceovers in the isolation booth. We weren't using the tie-lines as we were using my Macbook Pro instead of the dedicated iMac.
Recording the voiceovers in the isolation booth. We weren’t using the tie-lines as we were using my Macbook Pro instead of the dedicated iMac.

Later on I edited down to those special takes, the ones I wanted to comp into the final playlist. I popped in some fades to get rid of any nasty pops and glitches that occurred through the editing process. The lead guitar track needed a low pass filter to get rid of some high frequency crackles and I also popped some eq and compression on Mark’s voice.

Ready to edit?!
Ready to edit?!

I had fun with the end of the promo with the wildtrack of Mark ad libbing “DKIT!” and “POPCAST!”. I added 2 new tracks with the same eq and compression settings and added a short delay on both. I panned each hard left and hard right and dragged the right track slightly behind the left one. (You’ll hear the effect when you listen to my SoundCloud link at the end).

Fun radio effect on the "DkIT" "Popcast" samples.
Fun radio effect on the “DkIT” “Popcast” samples.

For an extra bit of fun I created another new track, added the first sample of “DkIT”, chopped out the “kIT” leaving me with only the “D”, inserted a medium reverb directly onto the track, bounced out… I then brought this bounce back in to a new track and reversed it, giving me a lovely swell of “ddddDDDDDD” which I popped in leading up to the “DkIT” sample.

Reverse "ddddD"'s :)
Reverse “ddddD”‘s 🙂

So my finished promo looks a little something like this:

Final mix of promo #1
Final mix of promo #1

Listen to it via DkIT Popcast Promo by Stephanie Caffrey on SoundCloud – Hear the world’s sounds.

More work to do… I will be putting together small separate episode introductions next.

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 Ciarán 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 🙂

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! 😀

Ready for your close-up Rockstar? :)
Ready for your close-up Rockstar? 🙂

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… 😉

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………

😉

 

 

 

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! 🙂