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....
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Monday, 25 November 2013
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.
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!!
Friday, 18 October 2013
Have to confess to not keeping up to date with the blog in recent months, but needless to say I have been busy musically none the less.
Scored another short film
Back I april I once again took part in the SciFi London 24hour film challenge, where you have exactly 24 hours to write, shoot, edit and submit a 5 minute short film based around a title and some other critera given to you on the day of the challenge.
This year we upped the stakes with a bigger team, a more full on story and even a spaceship set we had created!
We shot for about 10 hours straight on the first day and got most of what we needed in the can. The following day myself and the director Steve Hayes locked ourselves away for a marathon 22 hour edit session. Steve handled all the video editing and visual effects work while I got busy with dialogue editing, foley creation and mixing and finally music scoring.
I was an incredibly tough 2 days but also massive fun as well. Here's our final film - "Robot"
I love working on music productions whenever I can. Earlier in the year I was able to get James White into my studio to record a couple of tracks over the course of a weekend. This was a great opportunity as we normally only get to work remotely transferring files over the internet as the song progresses. Being in the same room for once really enabled us to work much more quickly and explore new ideas for the songs we were working on. Here's one of the tracks form those sessions - "Stranded"
Mixed an album
Had my first commission to mix an album last month when Rich Thomson came to me to mix and master the 8 songs he had recorded in response to the Beck Song Reader project. You can here the final mixes on Rich Thomsons Soundcloud page.
One of personal faves from the sessions was this number:
More work for Zoneone Studios
I continue to work closely with Zoneone, providing bespoke music tracks for the high quality video promotions they produce. Currently we have one in the pipeline, but here's one we finished earlier this year for a beautiful wedding venue in Kent called The Orangery
A very brief review of some of this years activities, but if any of the above has sparked your interest then why not get in touch? Perhaps I can bring your next project to life with music or sound?
Also why not check out my Soundcloud page for more examples of my work
Wednesday, 9 January 2013
So with Christmas and New Years celebrations now firmly behind us we set out into a brand new year ahead. I have resolved to focus really hard this year on getting more music done, and doing it better than ever before. Learning new skills along the way and honing existing ones too.
The downtime I get over the holiday season always spurs me on to make some music and this year was no exception. There was a track by James White I had been sent the demo of many months ago which had peaked my interest but I not found time to put any work into it and create a full production of the song. So as I relaxed into holiday mode I decided to crack on and get something done.
The demo was a simple piece consisting of some vocals, rhythm and lead guitar parts and a simple programmed drum loop. No real style was suggested by any of the parts so I decided to just let things flow and see what came. I originally started by recording a rhythm guitar part to improve upon the original part. With this down I added in some drums and a bass line and got the track off the ground.
Although the original track was at 126bpm it played heavily on the half beat tempo which interested my as that is very current in a lot of dance productions. This led me to start adding in some synth parts, moving me away from a rock sound into more interesting territories. Soon I had an intro, first verse and chorus all happening, but sounding very different for the original demo - Time to get James involved and check he is cool with this I think!
First Draft - check
By now the synths had completely taken over, with the guitar part I recorded moved into the second verse to give it a new sound after the first chorus. So I sent James a quick first draft mix of what I had, with his guide vocals laid in to get a go/ no-go seeing as it was his song and all!
Luckily James was pretty excited by what I had and after making a few suggestions gave me a thumbs up to carry on, which I did. One of these was to up the tempo from 126 to 130bpm which added a much better energy to the track. This btw was one full day session - from lining up the demo to a late night finish for a completed end to end draft. When the juices are flowing you just need get your head in the game and get it done!
The final thing I did that day was render off a mix of the new backing track to send to James so he could work on some new vocal tracks.
Vocals in a jiffy
To my surprise, when I checked my inbox next morning I had a message form James saying he had uploaded a new set of vocals already - Swift work indeed! So it was now back on me. I'd had a few listens to the track now and identified a few areas of the arrangement that I knew needed more work, so that's where I started.
The end of the song featured a double chorus to finish which comes straight after a build out of the dropped middle section. I'd had this as 2 full chorus's back to back but could see it was struggling to hold the power over such a long duration and still provide a powerful finish. I decided to do a double drop where the build out of the bridge leads to a stripped back chorus which allows the lift into the final chorus the build it needs.
I also spent some time tightening the interaction between the kick, bass and bottom synth sound to lock the groove more tightly. While doing this I also stripped back some of the kick hits from each verse to allow a little more room for the verses to breath. I was pretty much there now.
|In Grey arrange page|
One of my music related resolutions this year is to give more direct focus to my mix sessions and deal with them separately to the tracking / production stage of creating a song. As part of this I will be getting back into the habit of rendering each final track as an audio file in Sonar before I even start mixing. This process can be quite time consuming but ultimately will pay dividends down the line.
Recently I have gotten lazy and had even been leaving soft synths running live at mixdown which is a bad habit for many reasons - 2 of which are:
- Eats up valuable CPU cycles which could be used to better polish you mix
- If you remove, upgrade or otherwise lose that plugin down the line your mix will be knackered!
James had provided some new vocals to replace the existing guide parts, but had also introduced some additional backing parts and even a short rap over the intro. After picking through the best bits of the new and existing material I was able to comp together a final vocal arrangement which used the best of both to good effect.
So with my bouncing and rendering and comping done I was left with a 36 track mix page to deal with.
This was quite a tricky mix as I wanted to get the bass really strong with a good defined kick drum, and I went through a couple of versions before I was happy. The result? Take a listen for yourself
So first week of 2013 and one new track under my belt - Happy New Year indeed!
Sunday, 25 November 2012
New tricks surely?
Hang on you're thinking, that's not how the saying goes, but read on because I do have a point. Having spent 20+ years of my life involved in writing, recording and producing music in some shape or form I consider myself very much an 'old dog'. As such, I know I must work hard to stay up with the times and be sure to learn as many new 'tricks' as possible in order to keep my productions fresh and current.
With the advanced software DAW's and plug-ins most of us have access to today there are plenty of new tricks to learn. Some serve to add new mixing and production techniques to our arsenal. Some extend the depth of the audio soundscape we create, and some simply ensure our final mixes can complete with the professional recordings we hear on the radio everyday.
But even today, working with the latest in multi faceted audio software the core principles of recording, mixing and audio engineering still hold true. If you are working with audio and terms like "gain staging", "EQ", "compression" and "spectral mixing" mean nothing to you I urge you to go look them up! Getting the basics right at source is still the real key to getting a great mix.
So what exactly are these 'old tricks' I've been alluding to? They really are too wide and varied for any singe blog post to cover i'm afraid. Some are techniques I learnt so many years ago that they are ingrained in my working practices, but every now and then I come across a tip somewhere that reminds me of a simple core principle technique that I'd forgotten about. It might be a neat vocal treatment idea or a best practice starting point for miking or EQ'ing a particular instrument - whatever. Point is it's very rarely new or complicated stuff, just great tools to have in the bag of tricks to get the job done. If your engineering 'toolbag' is empty it's time you went tool shopping!
Viva La revolution!
All this was brought to mind recently when I discovered The recording revolution. This brilliant site is an Aladdin's cave of tips, tricks, reviews and techniques. Some great new ideas here, but also plenty of the 'old tricks' we all need to learn and master so that they become second nature to us. It also has a youtube channel with a host of video tutorials to soak up and learn from. If you have any interest in improving your recording mixing and skills you should definitely take a look.
3 tips from me
In the spirit of a number of the posts on The recording revolution I would like to offer you my 3 top tips. Please take from these what you will but they work for me:
- Stop hankering after the next piece of kit - We all get 'gear lust' every now and again, but assuming that you have some reasonable kit assembled in your studio then stop lusting after new gear and take the time to really learn what your existing kit can, and more importantly what it can't do. Once you really know your gear and your software you can remove the barriers between an idea and a recording and get work done. This will serve you more than another new piece of kit you don't know how to use.
- It's 'Mixing' - not 'Fixing'! - Getting it right at every stage of the recording process will pay dividends when you get to the mix every time. Period. Most of us tend to mix as we record these days, but it pays to set aside a session to just mix your new track. Get all your recording, editing and arranging done and then break from the track. When you come back you can then concentrate only on the mix. Often I will remove all the plug-ins I added during tracking and zero the board so I can create the cleanest most focused mix possible.
- Never stop learning - I still learn something with every mix I do. I still look for great tips (new and old) whatever the source. I still soak it all up. I still practice 'critical listening' to recordings new and old every day. I'm always still learning! And so should you be.
Happy exploring people!
Friday, 17 August 2012
Mixing the track
So this is the final instalment of this particular series where I have been detailing the writing and recording process of my song 'Play it again'.
After the brilliant studio day, we returned from the studio with a nicely recorded, and reasonably well mixed version of the song - But Colin and I both felt that it needed a little more.
|Play it again - arrange page|
For me the song was lacking what is often refered to as 'ear candy' in music production circles. These are the quiet sounds that sit in the background or the appear only a few times giving depth and interest to the production. Something for your ear to latch onto outside of the main musical parts without even really knowing it.
First on my list was the introduction - There was good energy in what we had but I felt it needed something a little more. I added the arpeggiated 'guitar' part to the very start. I also deliberately set it to a lower level than the main opening chords of the song - this is an old trick which can cause the listener to turn up the track when it starts thinking it is quiet gaining you extra impact when the song actually kicks in!
Over the main introduction I also added some strummed guitar chords - well, an acoustic guitar patch from Dimension Pro anyway. This for me helped to sell the introduction much better.
As the track gets into verse one the arpeggiated 'guitar' sound drops back to play a series of long notes with a slide transition between. This for me was just enough to draw the ear into the back of the track and add some movement.
Come the verse middle and chorus, I doubled the piano part with the same acoustic guitar patch used in the intro, just to add a bit of sparkle and texture.
Verse 2 is treated to a simple riff from the new acoustic guitar patch - a 'picked jangle part' set way out in the left of the image. The verse middle sees the return of the sliding note motif, and the same sound makes a return in the bridge alongside the picked acoustic.
And that was it - just enough extra material to add some interest and variation to the soundstage.
The mix - my mix!
Nick had done a solid job of mixing the track at the studio, especially when you consider he only had around 30mins on it, but for my taste there was a shade to much reverb on the drums and backing vocals. Also the drums were a little to upfront which was fine while the track was quite sparse, but now I had added some extra instruments I needed a little more to sit everything in.
|Play it again - mix page|
I started my mix by applying gates to all the solo drum tracks. This was partly to help me separate the sounds ready for individual processing, but also allowed me to shape the attack and decay of the individual drums. This was particularly important for the toms which drive the groove of the drum track. They had more decay and ring than I needed and by carefully setting the gate I was able to keep the attack and drive but lose most of the ring which was robbing space for the other parts.
I added gating and pretty heavy compression to the snare too to give it plenty of edge and ensure it cut through well in the mix. All the drums were routed to a drum bus and additional compression and EQ applied along with a little splash of short bright reverb. The only exception was the kick track which I heavily gated to remove all the spill from the rest of the kit, compressed, EQ'ed and routed directly through to the master bus so that it was not treated to the drum reverb.
The other tracks received the usual array of EQ, compression and reverb treatments to might expect and were routed via busses to the master output.
The final touch was to apply some low ratio / low threshold single band compression to the master bus, followed by a more targeted multi-band compressor to glue everything together. Final icing was added with Sonar's excellent 'Boost 11' limiter to give it that extra loudness required to compete with commercial mixes.
And that was it done....
And here it is if your still interested ;o)
Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings
All the best
Saturday, 11 August 2012
|Nick Lowe (4/6/69 - 3/8/12)|
Although Nick had battled for many years with his personal demons, recent times he really appeared to be on a positive path, and was fitter in mind body and soul each time I saw him. This made the news all the more shocking and hard to grasp.
Nick was a prolific songwriter and had a way with song structure that I always found intriguing. He was also totally fearless when it came to melody writing, simply reaching for the note he wanted regardless whether it was in his range or not - this was to his credit, and always produced interesting results. To me his melodies never felt stale or predicable because of it.
Best of all for me as a producer he was totally open to trying new ideas and styles for his songs - giving me freedom to take the song in the direction I heard in my head. He was always keen to receive critique of his new ideas and like a sponge for tips and techniques on how something might be improved.
We spent endless hours talking about music in general, and each others song writing efforts in particular. Sadly in the 9 years I knew him we only managed to finish 8 studio recordings of his songs.
At the time of his death, I had a demo of his in my 'to-do' list which I had promised him I would turn into an upbeat modern pop/disco track. I had loved the song first time I heard it, but had not found the time to work on the track.
Inspired by the sad events, I set about finishing the song using the guide vocal from the original demo he had given me. He never got to hear this version, but I think he would have loved it.
This ones for you Nick - Rest easy now my friend