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Archive for December, 2010

Zappa Re-Assembly & Module Evaluation


Today I reworked my track in the style of Frank Zappa. I took my 1st piece and mashed up the introductory parts with the middle part of my second track. I applied a number of polyphonic time-stretching techniques as well appropriately placed reversing and looping of the different parts.

In the image below you can see how I’ve time-stretched the audio of the one of my parts to sound over a longer period of time. The effect has granulated the sound which I feel adds to the mix and makes the track sound more interesting.

Notice the stereo track at the bottom of both images to the left and above (green) this is the introductory part of my 1st piece, notice how I stretched the length of one loop and reversed the signal on another. I’ve also applied some more volume automation to the drum track.

I aslo applied some time-stretching to the end of the piece as well as automating the volume to fade out for each part.

The final track can be seen below and the final audio bounce below that:



The final mix of my track I felt was relatively good and I had implemented the recording and production techniques of both Phil Spector and Frank Zappa but having listened to the work of my class mates I still feel I have a lot to learn about musicality, harmony, chord expression scales and keys. Originally I assumed it was as simple as taking a few notes from scale and putting them together with the same notes from different instruments but having gone through the production techniques, listened to all the different sections. I feel I could have done better, having said that, Im not a musician and this was a particularly difficult task for me.  Despite this I’ve learnt a lot and enjoyed the module very much. I hope that you like what you hear in the final mix down and I look forward to studying more on this subject matter.

Daniel James. Onwards & Upwards…!

Studio 2nd Ass – 3rd Session Report


My final day in the recording studio, thankfully today I was able to finish the recording side of my 2nd assessed piece. Today I recorded Vocals, Synth and Lead guitar sections. Implementing the XY mic setup that I had not used as yet using 2 AKG 414 mics.

Having already opened my pro-tools session I proceeded to the loud-room to record Andy playing the Electric guitar. I first recorded into 2 mono tracks a Rhythm section and then a lead section, which both sounded very nice. I bounced these 4 tracks into 1 mono track. At this point I’d now used up my 4 track limit so I was going to have bounce more than one instrument together if I was going to be able to finish the piece successfully. Given the Lead and Bass sections were of similar tone it was at this point I knew they were going to be laid down together in the final mix down.

Next I recorded a Synth line using the Vacuum VST Synth in pro-tools and the midi keyboard provided. Using my 4 note scale, I played around with some sounds until I found something I liked. In the end I laid down a single note for the duration of the chorus. (Initially I planned to bounce both Synth and Electric-piano tracks together).

The image below represents how I have automated set controls within the Vacuum Synth to change through out a set duration. As you can see the filter controls cutoff and resonance are automated. The line is drawn by physically moving the control whilst the track is playing to do this make sure you have taken the read drop-down off and is now to write, deselect once set.

Next I recorded my vocal sections. Using 2 mono tracks for my left and right channels. I used the XY setup and laid down a high verse and a low humming chorus section.

Notice both verse and chorus parts, the pink track is bounce down of both.

Once I’d captured my 3 new parts I went on to bounce the different parts to appropriate mono tracks so I’m left with 4 mono tracks ready to be mastered into a stereo interleaved mix. Using channel buses, ins & outs. See the image below, I decided to bounce both Synth and Vocal tracks together because at this point I noticed my EPiano track was in need of some careful EQing otherwise I felt the Vocals weren’t going to sit in the mix compfortably this is a part.

The following Reverb effect was later applied to this Vocal/Synth track.

I also decided to bounce my Lead and Bass tracks together as they both held similar acoustic qualities.

At the beginning of the track the bass was unexpectedly clipping and creating a distorted tone, to stop this from clipping the master out on the final mix down I applied some automation to the volume on this track introducing the Bass and Lead section moments after it was initially meant to play.

I also moved the Drum track back to the start of the first Chorus section, also with an automated introduction, to fill out the drums mix I also applied a small amount of short delay.

I also applied a small amount of EQ to bring out the Snare so it was more punchy by boosting the mid-range and also reduced the hi so the hi-hats weren’t so sharp.

Once I was finished getting  the drums section to sound how I wanted. I then applied that EQing I mentioned before to the EPiano track to remove the hi and low end so I was left with only the mid range frequencies which I felt allowed room for the vocal/synth, Bass/Lead tracks

Each of the 4 tracks were applied with a small amount of compression to boost the output with out clipping the signal (distorting), by decreasing the threshold on each compressor a marginal increment and then increasing the output gain to compensate.

To finish the mix I also did some panning I moved the EPiano to the left and Vocal/Synth track to the right. Kept the Drums in the middle and panned the Bass/Lead to the left a small amount. This made the track sound considerably bigger than previous and each part also sat in the mix better.

To make the track sound as loud and powerful as possible I inserted two Mono Master faders to monitor both left and right output channels of the mix. Then I applied Maxim plugin to each which is a compressor designed for mastering a whole mix, boosting the volume of the whole track with out again clipping the signal causing distortion. I reduced the threshold by a -4.6 dB which made the track alot more impressive after I increased the volume faders on each of my 4 tracks.

The final Bounce before applying some Zappa techniques sounded like this:

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Studio 2nd Assy – 3rd Session Plan


This coming Sunday I’ve got the studio booked all day. I currently have my Drums, Bass & EPiano parts recorded. On Sunday I’d like to have my Vocal, Lead Guitar and Synth parts laid down. I’d like to try and implement the Synth automation techniques we looked in class last week automating the cut-off, resonance and possibly LFO effects so the synth sound is a prominent as the EPiano within the mix. Continuing with the limitations of Phil Spectors recording techniques in the late 60’s I will still be using just 4 mono audio tracks. Given that I’ve already used 3 of them I’m going to have to record some of the new sections over some of the previous recordings. I think it would make most sense to record the Synth parts over the EPiano tracks as they are most likely to have similar sonic qualities. Similarly the Lead guitar sections over the Vocals section as they are also likely to have similar frequency ranges. Once I’ve got a 4 mono tracks that I am happy with I wll proceed to produce to the best of my ability applying mastering techniques that I know and understand were available to Spector in his time. Once finished with this second studio production, Mastered to a good standar I’d like to move on to do some chop up and rearrangement in the style of Frank Zappa. Using some of the effects available in Pro-tools and the use of my previous studio production create a piece which switches between the two productions in a similar way to that of  Zappa alternative works.

Taken from Wikipedia.org:

Frank Zappa b. 1940 – 1993 was an American composer, singer, electric guitarist, record producer , and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rockjazzelectronicorchestral, andmusique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist.

Aside from working prestigoeus artists like ….

Zappa did some clever alternative work rearranging his own productions like a cut up DJ’s “2 Many DJ’s” or “Krafty Kuts”. The following youtube clip describes his work:

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