Sunday, 22 June 2014

June update

Been a busy time here at SquareSpiral over the last few weeks with plenty of tracks going out the door, but here is a quick update of just one of the latest projects I have worked on.

Bridal Enchantment

Here's a short fashion shoot video by Zoneone Studios of a photo session by The Image Cella featuring a huge back stage cast of talented creatives and 2 beautiful models. Check the credits at the end of the video for all the details.

The musical brief was to create a darker more interesting track than your usual bridal shoot backing track. So, out went all the strings and instead I started with some ethereal pianos over a modern percussion beat. I then switched it up in the middle with the addition of trashy guitars, filtered synths and big beats.

Check it out - and remember that you can find this and plenty more tracks over on my SoundCloud page.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rich Thomsen - Blackbird

Just a quick post to announce the international release of 'Blackbird' by Rich Thomsen - Produced right here at Square Spiral.

Building on the successful collaboration between Square Spiral and Rich on the electro pop track 'Eyes that say I love you' late last year, Blackbird is a feel-good traditional rock song perfect for kicking off your next road trip or lifting your spirits during a hard day.

Check out Rich's blog to get updates on everything he has going on.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Mixing metal!

Anyone who has read this blog before or checked out the things posted on the SoundCloud page will know that while here at Square Spiral I like to work across many genres, never before have I ventured deep into the dark woods that are heavy metal!

Well I can now say that I have.

Stone the Hydra

So how, you ask did I end up in such a place? Let me explain. Over the past years I have done several tracks and productions for singer/songwriter James White. Recently James became the lead singer with the metal band 'Stone the Hydra' and they recorded a demo of their brand new song 'Dead men tell no tales'

And that is where I got involved..

They contacted me and asked if I was interesting in mixing the demo for them, and of course I said "yes!" because I love mixing, and to get a chance to mix a style of music which I have never worked with before it was a no-brainer.

James (Microphone Assassin) White - Vocals
Joe Howe - Guitar/ vocals
Liam Underdown - Guitar/ vocals
Steve Clark - Drums / Percussion
Jim Wilkinson - Bass

Reviewing the multi-track

So the guys sent over the mix they had done of their track 'Dead men tell no tales' along with a raw audio session file of the multi-track so I could import it into my DAW ready for mixing.

I have to admit that on first listen the mix they had done themselves was pretty good. The music was well played and had been cleanly multi-tracked by the band. The session was well labelled and laid out logically across around 18 tracks - Vocals were split out over different tracks for each section of the song and for the two different vocalists. Guitars were split over 4 tracks - 2 for each guitarist (playing doubles of their parts with different amp settings) and a fifth track reserved purely for the amazing solo. Finally there was a track each for the bass and drums.

I spent some time working up a static balance of all the tracks before starting to focus in on the individual tracks. 

Drums first

Which brings me to the drums - Fortunately the actual performance by drummer Steve Clark was excellent. The many and varied intricate rhythms were played with considerable skill, but unfortunately the recording in the multi-track consisted of only a single mono mixed track of the kit as a whole - Not the best place to start when you need to build a drum sound big enough to compete with 4 tracks of guitars, bass and a screaming lead vocal!!

Ok, so without access to a multi-mic'ed drum recording I would have to get creative with the eq and compression to give it some weight and cut.

First though, I ran the mono track through a stereo delay with the left at 16ms and right at 12ms, mixed in low this added a little 'fake' stereo width to the mono source. Next I added a little splash of room reverb to add a little space around the kit and further enhance the stereo image.

Now it was the turn of eq and compression to bring some bite to the sound to help it cut. It took quite a bit of juggling as the part was quite ride and cymbal heavy in places which all started to sound a bit 'splashy' if I overdid either the compression or eq. In the end I ended up boosting the low end at approx 80Hz by around 2dB dipping the mids a touch and boosting the top around 2kHz by 1.4 dB. I also added a gentle roll of of the highs above 16kHz to help tame the cymbals a little.

It took a couple of passes to hone these setting, but eventually I was happy with the way they sat in the mix, and started to craft the rest of the tracks.


The four main guitar tracks consisted of doubles of each players parts with differing amp settings. The original mix they had done had the guitars panned with each player slightly left and right, and with the two parts fairly close in level. I spent some time trying different balances of the parts and eventually settled on one from each player that I felt had a tone which carried the part best and then panned these (almost) hard left and right. This gave the track plenty of width and also made space for the drums, bass and vocals up the middle. With these parts in place I then brought up the level of the doubles but at a level below the main parts to fill out the sound. These were panned left and right but far narrower than the other parts.

The guitar amp tones chosen required very little in the way of eq - mostly just some high pass filtering to remove the low mud and not a lot else.

And last but not least..

The vocals came last for me in this mix. After adding some low cut and a little high end boost I dialed in plenty of compression to provide enough 'thickness' to the sound to let it complete against the rest of the mix. Normally I wouldn't use as much compression as this on a lead vocal, but this style of singing isn't really known for its dynamics so I didn't feel too bad!

In the original mix, the band had added quite a lot of delay to the lead vocal, but to my ears this wasn't working well and I felt it better to go for more of an 'in the room' sound. I added a splash of reverb to the lead which the main effect you can hear, but there is a short delay mixed in very low to add a little spread to the sound. This remains pretty constant throughout the song apart from in a few selected spot locations (like the final vocal scream) where I pushed up both the reverb and delays for effect. The vocals had been doubled which helped them to sit better against the backing track - the original mix had these about level with one another on the mix, but I opted to chose the strongest take and lead with that and just add support from the double track.

By now the track was sounding really strong, and by A-B'ing againt the original mix I was able to tell I had added real improvement to the clarity and power of the song.

Finishing touches

With the mix really happening I added some basic mastering to it to give the band a finished track ready to share out and promote themselves with. This consisted of some very gentle compression in the master bus. I added this in in my normal way, in stages but stacking two compressors in series. The first was only at a 1.4:1 ratio but low threshold to provide a little overall squeeze and the second a little more aggressive at 2:1 but with a higher threshold just to thicken the sound. Final touches were added with a gentle 'smile eq' curve and a small amount of overall limiting.

During the process I had sent some work in progress draft mixes to the band and we had also discussed a few small timing fixes they wanted me to address - With these sorted all that was left was for me to deliver the final master to them.

Here's the track on their SoundCloud page

 They loved it, I was happy - Job done!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Welcome to the (Audio) Jungle!

A new year, a new website (SquareSpiral) and one more final property for the you to check out.

As of yesterday a limited number of Square Spiral productions are available for license at very reasonable cost at my AudioJungle marketplace page. Watch this space closely over the coming months as I plan to populate it with more high quality tracks just waiting to be incorporated into your media productions.

For now though, here's wishing you all a very happy and productive new year!


Friday, 27 December 2013

A new home for 2014

The Square Spiral blog has been running for around a year and a half now, and I admit to being guilty of not being very prolific on the posting front! I intend to keep the blog running and will try to give it more attention in 2014.

However, the purpose of this short post is simply to promote the new home of Square Spiral on the web at

The commercial work that Square Spiral has been doing over the past 12 months has been slowly gathering pace and I am hoping for big things in 2014 for the studio, and so the website is born. Initially it will be a simple affair providing what amounts to essentially an on-line business card, but over the coming months I will expand the scope of what is there.

So take a quick look there to see what things are coming out on my commercial side - And of course, check back here for updates on everything else coming out of Square Spiral's studio.

Wishing everyone a happy new year!


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Liberty ship - Martin Barlow

This is one I forgot to mention in my recent updates, but it is well worth a mention as its a truly beautiful song. Martin approached me with his acoustic demo of the song recorded with his former bandmates Dan Tucker and Monique Houraghan and asked if there was anything I could add.

After taking a listen to the really well recorded and performed demo I could hear space for a little extra instrumentation, so I set about with some additional production work.

The original demo came to me as a finished stereo track consisting of all the acoustic guitar parts and the vocals. To this I added bass, drums, piano and some synth textures. I also added some electric guitar to the chorus. The result very successfully enhanced an already excellent demo by adding a touch more power and drive to the arrangement.

Martin loved the new version - maybe you will too....



Monday, 25 November 2013

Autumn update

Just another quick update from Square Spiral for you all..

More video scoring work live on the web

In my last post I mentioned that I had a project in the pipeline for ZoneOne studios, and while the final web site for Greysons Restaurants is yet to be finished by the creative teams, the promo video is now live on the landing page. Why not go take a look and hear my track 'Busy work' in context with the video it was written for here.

The final site redesign for The Orangery is also now complete and features my track 'One Beautiful Day' alongside ZoneOnes fantastic promo video - You can find it here

Beck Songreader - remixed

After the recent mix and mastering session I did for the artist Rich Thomsen to finalise his creations from the Beck Songreader project I decided to do a little remix of my own.

Working with Rich's great vocal track I remixed 'Eyes That Say I love You' giving it a modern EDM spin complete with dubstep basses and a rock solid rhythm track. I was a little unsure how it would be received, but Rich was pleased with this new version and even commented that he liked it more than his original! Praise indeed.

Here's the track for you to take a listen to.

Suffice to say, Rich an I are currently working on some new material so watch this space!!