Wednesday, 9 January 2013

2013 Off to a good start

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.

In Grey

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.

The mix

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:

  1. Eats up valuable CPU cycles  which could be used to better polish you mix
  2. 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!


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