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!
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.
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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
So my finished promo looks a little something like this:
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…
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!
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! 😀
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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! 😉
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.
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.
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! 🙂
Oxford, baby! What can I say?! My first time in the U.K was a real mind opener! I’m just totally blown away by Oxford, particularly by the world famous SAE Institute!
I was invited to Oxford earlier on this year by my dear audio-adoring friend, Lee Fitzpatrick who I know from my previous life in Ballyfermot Music Production. He is a student at the SAE Institute and wanted to show me what his amazing college has to offer.
Straight off the train after arriving from Birmingham International, we walked through the beautiful main streets of Oxford city, Lee drawing my attention to the pub where Tolkien wrote the Lord of The Rings. I was struck by the gorgeous sandy colored buildings, the architecture was indeed very beautiful.
Onwards to the SAE Institute! We wasted no time in getting there! I was trembling at the excitement of finally visiting this amazing place I had heard so much about!
And I was not disappointed. Audio Heaven. A fast paced tour of the building with its endless secret stairwells, glassy corridors and many, many doors leading to various media-related treasures left me breathless. Every room was filled with the very best of audio gear I have only imagined in my dreams. The building was quiet and had a very relaxed, creative atmosphere, it was a Bank Holiday so there were no classes that day. Students were indeed hard at work on their day off, I had the pleasure of listening to projects and watching students at home in their creative academic environment. They were so friendly and warm hearted, delighted to hear I was from Ireland studying Music Production also. The overall vibe was one of disciplined hard work with a relaxed atmosphere.
After being introduced to the fabulous Neve studio (the one I have been waiting for!) and the 7 other studios, we went to the cosy SSL studio and mixed one of my personal projects. Every Mac computer in the building (and there are MANY!) is fitted with the latest versions of every digital audio workstation known to man, and my Logic Pro 9 project worked like a dream. Logic Pro and Pro Tools are both taught in the institute, something which really impressed me as a Logic fan. I was among kindred spirits who had the same passion for the intuitiveness of my favourite DAW. I felt right at home!
Later in the evening we set forth, back to the Neve studio where Lee had booked a long session to continue one of his projects. There we spent an intense few hours recording vocals and overdubs, again working with Logic Pro 9. I have a tendency to be shy of studios and especially top of the range gear, I was honored to be assisting Lee and watching how he worked.
Taking a break, Lee introduced me to the magnificent Steinway grand piano in the main live room.
After wrapping up the session some hours later, we made our way to the film department and set up for a shoot, another one of Lee’s many projects! The popular Nerd Vs World series on YouTube. I was delighted to watch the visual set-up and delighted to help with the audio end of it. Something I never did before. The session ended pretty late in the night (or should I say early in the morning?!) and that was my first day in Oxford.
My second day was fun also, a proper school day, Lee attended his morning classes as I worked on my own project in the Practical Room, a room full of Macs and mixing desks, racks of equipment and controller interfaces. Everything I was permitted to use, thanks to my BCFE qualification, even though I felt like I shouldn’t even breathe near the stuff! I was assured I was most welcome to use anything I wished.
Later in the evening, after meeting the kind staff of SAE, I was invited to attend the guest lecture which was due to take place that day. The building was abuzz all day, the lecturers walking through the corridors, nabbing students, reminding them that a very special guest would be attending and not to miss out.
The very special guest was the very, very mind-blowing, beatjazz master, Onyx Ashanti. Onyx is the creator of a futuristic, improvisation based technology which involves live looping with software synths created (not triggered mind you, everything is live) by devices attached to his hands and mouth. Hard to explain, which is why I’m leaving a link here: Onyx Ashanti: This is beatjazz | Video on TED.com. I enjoyed his two hour lecture, despite being highly aware I was the only girl in the room (and the only non SAE student hahaha!). Onyx passed around the various parts which make his technology work, explaining in fine detail his technology, pure data and what inspires him to do this music. I was truly honored to be in his presence and I am very grateful to have been permitted to attend this lecture.
Exhausted from so much information, we chilled out with friends and remembered that we are Irish and Oxford has fantastic night clubs, it would have been a shame to pass up a dubstep night out! In Irish style, we partied in Oxford city centre until the small hours, enjoying wonderful music through the safety of ear plugs- never leave home without them!
And so was my experience of Oxford! A truly wonderful place with wonderful people. Oxford was every bit as exciting and educational as I thought it would be. I am left with a great desire to attend this wonderful college to pursue my own studies but alas, I am already 1/4 of my way through my current degree programme! I will surely come back to Oxford in the very near future and further explore the city, see my friends and exchange more music ideas and thoughts!
Thanks so much for the invite Lee and thanks to the kind people of Oxford 🙂 Until we meet again 🙂