In AUD210 this trimester, I’ve learned more about working as a professional in the industry than technical knowledge such as miking techniques or compression than I expected. While I’ve learnt a LOT about critically listening for compression artefacts, identifying test tones and EQ changes, the time we spent with real artists in the Sound-Alike project speaks volumes for the expectations of a professional audio engineer or producer. We watched a professional engineer handle a tracking session, in Trinski, and learnt that miking and pre-tape processing should be second nature, because encouraging and inspiring an artist to perform at their best is the ingredient to a great sounding and inspiring recording. I think we successfully achieved our own expectations for a recording that sounds similar in timbre, space and performance to the mastered original. The EMP unit was a lot more beneficial than I was (admittedly) expecting, and using software like Live really opened my eyes to how some great sounding records have been made. I learnt a lot of about manipulating and sound design, and creating whole new sounds from scratch. The outcome of the EMP unit was to successfully use Live to create a remix using techniques and sounds we’d learned to use and manipulate throughout the trimester. Finally this trimester, the jingle project really drove home the room to improve in my time management skills. Real life will always happen, but if I believe I can get something finished, I can, and procrastination only makes it more difficult.
The first assessment this trimester was to create a successful Sound-Alike, and our group chose ‘Hoops’ by the Rubens. While on the surface the song is quite typical, simple and catchy, analysing the mix taught me a lot about the depth in a professional mix, as well as how much the hands/feel of a player really affect a recording. A player can have similar or identical gear, but the performance makes or breaks a sound. An experienced player can attenuate the bad parts and create dynamics on their own. I learnt a lot about critically analysing sound, capturing sounds I hear in a room onto tape and appreciating how much of a ‘sound’ is in a performance. Being a part of sessions that Trinski pushed to emulate a real, professional session was a huge eye-opener, with. particular reference to the speed and efficiency that we need to be working at and the commitments we need to make to produce a professional product in a comfortable working scenario. We recorded drums with someone outside of our class, and Trinski explained that despite working closely with an artist, the levels, phase and pre-tape processing should be behind-the scenes and shouldn’t hinder a player while we choose compressors or fumble for a high-pass filter or patch in whatever we’re using. In (kind of) one fell swoop, we’d got heathy levels to ProTools while checking and re-checking the phase of our drum mics. We were ready to go, and a solid drummer meant the session was rolling very quickly. In processing and mixing Hoops, it really helped to have had to access to the critical listening exercises so that we could execute the sounds that were lacking in our recordings, or that needed to be attenuated to match the original, mastered version of Hoops. We did a lot of subtractive EQ to start, and could hear that the parts of the song were starting to fit around each other. Hoops is an oddly dense song, but with a very sparse feel to it, which I think is really interesting. We made everything fit EQ-wise, then used some outboard compressors to push and pull some instruments forward and back in the mix. We used some in-the-box reverbs to give instruments space, particularly the vocal, which in the original recording has borderline too much reverb to my ears, but in being on the edge it’s also the perfect amount. It really gives the vocal feel. Critically listening to and mixing Hoops really helped my critical listening, as it helped to put a ‘face to the name’ of the artefacts I was listening for, whereas critical listening exercises can help us hear identify these sounds in the recordings we’re being tested on, but not in other recordings of our own, at least in my experience.
Another big learning curve this trimester was using Ableton Live, a software that I’d never used before. I can now understand why Live is the go-to for electronic and remix artists, due the warping and synthesis capabilities. I’d never used Live, but I learned a lot about synths and how they can be used to apply depth and space to recordings, or alternatively as a feature instrument. I learned about learned about loops and warping sound to create remixes, and the ‘Simpler’ plugin to manipulate audio into whole new sounds. These kind of skills can be used to create new sounds to re-enforce recordings of my own. Another steep learning curve was processing film and video in ProTools, and using ProTools to sync audio to a video and creating a mood to target an audience. I have experience creating space in a recording, but creating space for foley was a different skill I had to master. Reverbs and space in musical recordings are more creative and open to interpretation, however I felt I had to more critically analyse the spaces I was trying to create in the Jingle projects. The walls and floor in the visuals and the way sounds would play off these. I had to be more critical of processing my reverbs, such as EQ before and after and some (or none) grit to give the feeling of the foley existing in (in my case) a factory.
A lot of the processes I/we followed in our group and solo assignments were because of the learning curves we faced in this trimesters. The assessments this tri were more analytical and required all of my experience and then some. I struggled to trust my own ears in the critical listening and Sound-Alike and found myself hearing things, understanding the different layers of sound and processing, but assuming I was incorrect because of my inexperience. I experienced similar issues in the Jingle project, finding myself asking questions that I knew the answers to. I struggled to trust my ears and experience this trimester. For the Sound-Alike, Hoops, we had access to the stems Analysed stems + recordings and attempted to re-create them in the recording sessions. I could hear from the recording that the guitar had been an old amp, as there was a lot of hum and an obvious cooling fan in the recording. The guitar parts sound particularly Telecaster-esque so I chose a guitar that could have a similar pickup arrangement to a Telecaster as a part of my process for preparing for the recording. In the EMP project, I chose an industrial style for the remix that was quite reminiscent of the metal style of the original recording. I used my knowledge of reverbs and delays to create space and some darkness with EQ, which seem to be more ProTools-esque techniques tan Ableton Live (e.g. a lot of the loops were used already sounded great, whereas ProTools tracks mightn’t). I applied some things I’d learned that are closer to how I would use Live in the real world, e.g. re-enforcing and retaining acoustic recordings.
Overall I’m happy with the things I learned and the quality of my output this trimester. Overall, I’m happy with a few of the epiphanies I’ve had relating to my future work in the industry, such as dealing with artists and inspiring great performances. While my quality of work was good, could always be better with better time management, however I felt myself being more prepared and organised for some of my freehand work with friends’ bands. I’m proud of the high quality of our Hoops Sound-Alike, and how similar we managed to get our version sounding, even against a mastered version of the song. I think our focus on capturing great sounds at the source ultimately led to a great mix, because the sounds were there in the first place. My biggest concern was that we were trying to match an EQ’d and processed recording, without knowledge of how the original recordings sounded. My EMP remix could be better with some practice in Ableton, as I’m still not as confident as I’d like to have been using the software. I can use it, however referencing my notes and Googling controls etc. really disrupted my workflow and reminded me that I was being assessed. While this isn’t a bad thing, the project was ultimately creative and I deviated from that, and would’ve liked to create something more musical. I was proud of my main Jingle for a Jack Daniel’s ad that I replaced with a heavy metal soundtrack and more factory-like foley, as well as the short musical loop I created for my Charlie Chaplain film.
On top of my assignments this trimester, I worked with a few bands. Unfortunately, all three managed to organise themselves at the end of the trimester, but I’ll have ongoing work for the holidays. I did pre-production for a band that has no name yet, and we ran through all the songs on the demo they wanted me to record. Unfortunately, my recordings were the first recordings the band had heard of the songs, so they wanted to work on the structure more before settling on recordings. I also did some DI tracking for a band called, Colossvs, who are releasing a single from a forthcoming album. They have an engineer lined up in Perth to mix and master, who had programmed drums for the track and it was my job to record DIs for guitar and bass, as well as vocals. I completed these tracks to great success over a few months of sessions at my house and SAE. The tracks were delivered to the mix engineer, and in the following weeks I had to deliver my own mixed version of the songs with marker at the beginning for the band to record a video to. It felt good to network and lease with the photographer and videographer. Finally, I’ve just started a short demo that has a friend written for his baby daughter’s first birthday. We’ve done pre-production and the songs are already sounding great. I’ve explained my proposed timeline and that seems to work for him, to make sure the songs are recorded and mixed, ready for her birthday in October.
My work across this trimester can be heard at ravenshallrecordings.wordpress.com, or in the embedded YouTube videos. Our jingle projects can be viewed at lpjcommercialsounddesign.wordpress.com, subject to the YouTube’s copyright laws and Australia’s Fair Dealing Policy that we’ve discussed across this trimeter aswell.