Thursday, March 31, 2016

Studio Time: Knowing When it's Time to Take a Break

Lock and load, it's off to the studio we to go. Yes, it's a project and depending on how big your band is and how much the band is planning to record, it could be a whole day event, a week-long event, or even longer.

Since in most cases you will be paying for your studio time, you want to utilize it in the most efficient way possible - but the key words there is MOST EFFICIENT. A huge mistake that is often made in the studio is not knowing when to take a break or call quits for the day altogether. 

It's common to want to keep going and get as much music recorded as possible no matter how tired and worn out you or your band is getting. But if you force yourself to keep recording when you are exhausted then the only thing you might be doing is recording it now, just to have to go back and record it again. 

Not only does your body, vocals and the ability to hit notes start to suffer, but your ears and the way you hear things suffer too. Your ears won't translate the same sound the same way to the brain when you are exhausted opposed to when you are refreshed and feeling good. 

That's right, pushing yourself when exhausted can result in the performance as a whole suffering, and after a good nights rest, you might listen to it the next day and be very displeased with what you hear. Like with every part of our body, our ears get tired, and no matter how long you keep playing they won't repair back to normal until they have had some rest.

It's just like sports and the reason why coaches have a second and third spring of athletes to switch in and out. When the main players get tired they are unable to play at an optimal level until they had some time to relax and rejuvenate. You need to treat your ears, vocals, fingers, arms and the rest of your body the same way, you need time to rejuvenate if you want to hear something spectacular on playback.

It may suck taking a break or quitting until the next day, but what is the point of recording if you are just going to have to record it again. Sure, technology these days can mask a lot of mistakes, miscues and half-hearted playing, but nothing beats a performance that is killer from the get go. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Putting Together a Demo for Your Break Into The Music Industry

As a band or as a solo artist, eventually you have to start thinking about making a demo CD for A&R reps, producers, production companies, and record labels to help market, fund, and traffic your music. 

Getting someone in the music industry to take the time to listen to your demo is not an easy task. Most demos are tossed in the garbage before they are even opened and if they are listened to, even if you only put three songs on the CD, most people in the music industry won't even bother listening to the whole thing. Don't take it personally; it's the music industry.

But if you do have something special and you are ready to put together a demo CD in the attempt to get the attention of the music industry, there are some things you need to know to be successful in this venture.

Put Together a Couple of Great Tracks 
First, you have to take some time and decide which songs are your best songs that will grab the attention of someone who might want to invest some time in you. Three to five songs are all you really need. 

Special Track Structure for a Demo
To improve your chances of having more than one song listened to you should set your demo CD up like this: take 30 seconds of each song and put those clips as your first three to five tracks. Next, create another three to five tracks of the same songs at their original lengths and put them at the end of the CD. This will help when someone important listens to the CD, they will hear just a little preview of each song and they can quickly move on to the next one. When and if they do hear something they like they can go forward to the track that contains the whole length of the song for more.

Important: Make sure that you label the CD cases with the information that tells the person who will be listening to the CD that the track structure is set up in this special way to avoid confusions. 

Also, make sure that all artist names or the band's name is on the CD insert or cover along with each member of the band and their responsibilities.

Press Kit
The ideal of a press kit is to essentially tell whoever picks up your CD to listen to it, who you and or your band are, what your accomplishments are, where you have performed, and any proof of a local, Internet, national and international fan base that you have acquired throughout time under the bands or artist name.

You may also want to have some live performances recorded at a venue you frequent or in the studio where you record. Yes, it would make more of an impact to have a live performance at a venue, but you can still do some really cool stuff in a studio with a camera.

In this press kit you also want to include a bio - make sure to include what ambitions and intent you yourself or your band has along with any other info that can help you or your band standout.

Make Contact
Take some time and network with people who are involved in the music industry - ask questions and make connections. The ideal here is to find places you can send your demo CD to that are worth your while. My first demo CD I sent out, I made the mistake of sending it out to every place that was or maybe wasn't excepting demos, and to this day I wonder just how many demos I sent out that never made it out of the package before finding its way to the trash can. I'm going to assume out of probably 150 demos I sent out, only about 2 percent of them made it into a CD player, that's a lot of wasted time.

The best way to avoid wasting your time sending out demos to places or to people who won't listen to it is to make you're music solicited. Sounds tough right? It's not, a lot of bigger record companies do not accept non-solicited music, but all you have to do is talk to someone and get them to agree to listen to your music, and then you can send it to the address of which they give you and label it "Attention: corresponding name" and now you're solicited. This will help you and the company or person you send it to. A three-minute phone call will give you an exact address to send your demo to so it won't end up in the wrong hands and then tossed in the garbage. 

Get Some Representation
Let's say you have exhausted all of your connections and the Internet is a well ran dry of possibilities. You can always look to hire professionals to help you get your music in the hands of the right people. Yes, it can be expensive, yes it can seem like they're doing nothing more than what you can do, but the difference is that they probably have connections that you would never be able to get your hands on, that's their job. The question you have to ask yourself or your band is "will it be worth the money?" 

There will be a risk, let's face it, no one wants to think that they aren't good enough and no one should have to. But in this case, if you or your band still needs more practice and more experience, you should wait on spending the money on professional help until you and or your band can utilize it in the most efficient way.

You have to look at like this, if you are paying someone to help you and they know that you're not ready for this type of move yet, that person you are paying will not tell you because they want your money. Even worse, they will not give you or your band the time and the effort you are paying for, basically, because it won't be in their best interest for their career to promote your music to other professionals when they know it's not ready to be promoted.

But if you feel you are ready and you have an awesome press kit, bio and demo, and you're ready for the big boys but your connection just aren't powerful enough to get your music noticed, this could be money well spent.

Keep in Touch
Let's say you have made some contacts and you have some people who are willing to give your music a listen. There is nothing wrong with a follow-up phone call. Let's say you sent your music and the person or company has received it but has not taken the time to listen to it yet. This phone call could light the fire under someone to open the CD and give it some time, especially if you come off as someone who might just call ever week until someone does listen to it. You may also help yourself by calling if someone has listened to the CD and is on the fence about it. A phone call could show them the ambition that they want to see from an artist, and that might sway them in the right direction about what they want to do about the situation in general.

A Couple Last Things You Can Do
This is not a must, but it will help you look more professional: Get your music copyrighted. This won't only make you look more professional but will also protect your music when you're sending it out to different places. 

You can also help yourself and your band by using art work in the form of a label or a symbol that can be associated with the band or you as an artist. Again, this is not a must, but anything that can help market your name is just one more thing to add to your press kit and can help your chances of success.

One last thing that should be noted is that this is a process, making it big overnight will be like hitting the lotto. So unless you're feeling that lucky, get ready for the long hall.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Use Your Outboard Processor with Pro Tools

There's a trend for audio interfaces to include insert points on the inputs, greatly simplifying the use of line-level processors when recording mic or instrument-level signals. You'll probably need a TRS-to-dual-TS insert cable to accomplish this because invariably the insert will be sent and returned on a single TRS jack. Simply patch the interface's insert to the in and out of the processor, and the processor becomes part of the recording chain. Remember that anytime you involve a hardware processor with your DAW session, you must process and bounce in real time, even when using an external plug-in processor. 

If you're lucky enough to have an arsenal of outboard mic pres, simply route the output of the pre into a compressor or EQ, etc., and then route the output of the processor to the input of your audio interface. The signal will be compressed or EQ'ed before it's recorded. You now have a reason to keep some of your old hardware around!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Three Reasons Music Recording Engineers are Having a Hard Time Finding Work

Having a hard time finding work in the Music Industry as a recording engineer?

There is three big reasons why - the economy, technology and the Internet. These three factors have played a huge part in the loss of work for engineers, and here is why.

The Economy

Yes, a lot of people may think that the economy would not affect the music industry as much as it does, but in some cases it may be effected by the economy even more than most industries.

The music industry relies on people having extra money, and when times are tough, people don't buy CD's or go to concerts; a band that spends $4000.00 a year to have their CD recorded, if they can't afford it anymore than the engineers, producers and studios suffer.

As long as the economy is not doing good or even when it bounces back, if it's still at an unstable state or at least in a rescission state, the cycle will continue and it will be hard to find people who are willing to record their band or their self to make a CD that might only sell a few hundred or even a few thousand copies.

The economy also affects record labels and production companies as well. Record companies and productions companies are the financial backing to a lot of work that comes available to studios and engineers. They can pay for studio time that an artist or band may not be able to afford, but if sales down, then they will be restricted to how much funds they can use to promote a talent.


Technology is great for the D.I.Y. (do it yourself) people, but for a recording engineer it makes trying to get work very hard. Technology is making it capable to have a small home studio with big professional results at an extremely affordable price.

A studio that could have been put together 15 years ago for about $50,000.00, can now be put together in someone's garage or basement for just about $5,000 dollars, and believe or not, it can sound just as good.
Even worse for the engineer, if you're just a solo musician or a really small band, it can take even less money and even less space. Hand held recorders, computer software, compact MIDI keyboards, MP3's, flash drives etc. are just some of the products playing a part in taking the need of an educated, experienced engineer out of the equation.

The Internet (Information World)

Here is the third and final nail in the coffin for the independent recording engineer. If you have access to all of the equipment mentioned above and more, and want to learn how to use it, the internet has unlimited resources to learn from. Although, there are some things you just can't pick up from reading or watching videos - if you stick with your hobby long enough, you might just be able to be just as good as a professional without the need for schooling or an internship.

Adjust Your Game Plan
Just think about some of these factors when you go out looking for work. Understand, it might not be you or your talent that hurts your chances of getting work, but it could be that the Music Industry is changing and recording engineers are suffering from it. My suggestion to everyone is to see how the industry is changing and change with it. Find out where and how other engineers are making their money in the industry and adjust your game plan.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Recording a Great Album: The Golden Rules 31 - 37 of 37

Ready Mix

31. Listen in the studio to CD's you're used to hearing on your home stereo to get an ideal of how the studio's system sounds.

32. If mixing somewhere other than the recording studio you recording in, try and make sure you use the same type of speakers and set-up. If you don't, the mix will sound completely different.

33. Once you have selected an engineer (or a producer) to mix your recording, have them do the first mix. Their ears are better trained than yours. Try to keep an open mind and try to learn from the person you're paying.

34. Think about the songs as a whole and don't signal out instruments, otherwise everyone will want their instrument louder in the mix.

35. Determine a band spokesperson ahead of time. An engineer getting five different opinions on how to mix will grow tired and might cause him/her to rush through the job.

36. Decide which format you want the finished mixes to be on: high resolution .wav or .aiff files on CD-R, DVD-R, or flash drive are the preffered formast, however an audio CD or DAT are viable options as well.

37. Budget and account for unforeseen delays.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recording a Great Album: The Golden Rules 27-30 of 37

Monitoring the Mix

27.  Listen to your music at moderate levels in your car or on a boom box. This is how most of your fans will listen to it, and mixing at loud levels will fatigue your ears and distort the "true" sound.

28. Sometime it's good to take a day off and come back to listen. The same applies for mix-down. Ears don't last very long in the studio.

29. As you review each mix, make sure you can comfortably hear all of the instruments. Tweak the mix on a small pair of speakers at an extremely low volume. Headphones are also very valuable at this stage. You should be able to pick up each instrument even at this level.

30. Learn to recognize ear fatigue. You're better off quitting a session early when you're tired than wasting time making a bad mix that will have be redone anyway. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Recording A Great Album: The Golden Rules 20-26 of 37

The Recording Process 

20. Don't necessarily double track everything. Doubling a lead vocal can hide all the subtleties that make a song personal and likable. (Although it can work well for a chorus).

21. Know when to quit for the day, if your tired if will show.

22. Keep guest out! It's your recording. Guest will distract you can menu sway your opinion of how the music should sound.

23. Make backup copies after every recording session.

24. Turn-up often!

25. Singers: always bring water but don't use ice! Ice constricts your vocal chords. Hot tea with lemon and honey works well to relax your vocal chords.

26. Always get a track listing and accurate time log from the studio.