Making Money from Music: Live Performances

In an age where music is basically free, the live music industry has become a bigger revenue stream for artists. As music sales has decrease, income from live performances have risen. Therefore, this means you should be striving to tap into this industry. Don’t forget to read part one of this blog!

However, your ability to make money from this depends on where you are in your career. It is all too familiar that artists rarely get paid for gigs, or even have to pay to play! When you’re incurring costs to get the gig in the first place, it can be costly to carry on gigging.

But, the algorithm is simple. Gigs mean new fans; new fans means bigger audiences at gigs; bigger audiences means more interest from venues. The more interest there is the bigger the pay check you could potentially receive. You do have to milk every opportunity you get though. If you do gigs months apart then the interest will fade and you may have to start this again.

Be ballsy as well… don’t always assume that you are playing for free. Don’t be afraid to ask “how much will I get paid for the gig”. If nothing then ask “could I at least get paid for my expenses or get a guarantee that if you’re impressed you’ll pay me to come back”. You could even try and negotiate getting a percentage of the bar sales in the venue! The venue needs to make money and if they pay you and no one turns up that’s a problem. Deals like this mean they can ensure they cover their costs before paying you. At the end of the day, sell yourself!

Making Money from Live Performances

As in the last part of this series, you can earn copyright royalties for your performances. If you are signed up to PRS and perform a song you’ve written, PRS will pay you for this performance. Every venue has a PRS license to cover the costs of paying out these royalties, so take advantage of this. Do your research on PRS to make sure you do what you need to get paid and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re unsure, ask the venue as they should know how it works. They aren’t paying you this royalty themselves so shouldn’t have a problem telling you how to get what is owed. Even if the venue is paying you to perform, you can still get money from PRS too!

As with most things discussed in the industry, promote, promote, promote! You should have active social media accounts and content to show what your music is like. This way venues will feel more comfortable putting that investment into you. If they are unaware of how good you are as an artist then it’s a huge risk to pay you.

Admittedly, when you are just starting out your main source of income will probably come from your intellectual property. However, it is still worth looking into other revenue streams such as live performance.

Quality Track Production and Skyrocketing Your Career

The relief that comes from quality track production is mostly felt when an artist completes the lyrics to a song, finalises the recording process and sends it off for the final touches.

The creation process has always been the most exciting part of writing a song. Without a good song, there is only so far a track will go publicity wise of course. Although still relevant, the post-production stages has played a bigger role in bringing about success for artists and their music.

We have 4 ways quality track production can build you a successful career but even increase your fanbase.

1. Synchronisation  

Synchronisation has played a key part in helping many new or even established artists by creating awareness of their music. Once something has been synched, it can open doors that’ll evidently expose you to a wider audience. When Music Supervisors search in hopes of finding something that fits their briefs, the better it sounds, the easier the process will be. It’s also more likely your track will stand out amongst other potentials.

2. Connections and More Jobs

If you’ve gained a history of testimonials based on quality track production you may have worked/or were featured on, you can use this to open doors to more connections, work opportunities and overall industry attention. For example, you may be approached to be a session singer for a producer or you may be asked to mix/master a track. All this can happen because they’ve heard your work and thought the quality was awesome. In the first couple of moments of listening all that really matters is the quality of the production.

3. It Can Make you Look Really Professional

As the distribution/creation of music changed, so did the way it was listened to. From the phonograph to radio, from the walkman and now streaming. The quality of music has become increasingly compressed, all with the goal of creating easily distributable files. Compression has often been blamed for stripping much of the intricate sounds in the track.

However, having a well mixed/mastered track without harsh editing can make you look quite professional amongst your peers. It shows others you know what you’re doing. It’s not just about getting the frequency of a record so small so it fits in a small file. It’s about creating an enjoyable / immersive experience for the listeners.

4. Major A&R Points

Although it’s not majorly important, an A&R executive will like to see that you know how to finish a track well that embodies the qualities of a good sound. If you consider the amount of tracks they might receive, a badly produced demo may not get the attention it deserves. If your songs sound like demos, it’s best to not pitch them to A&R’s. Aim for professionalism, mix and master well and let the sky be your limit.

We could go on and explain other ways a quality track production is key to success in the industry. However, you get our drift. It’s always something worth investing in and something you won’t be disappointed in the results of. If you’re looking for someone to work with to mix your track simply click here to login to our platform and create a project today. Better yet, get a track mastered for free by Grammy award winning Metropolis Studios, click here to find out more details and how to get involved.

Written by: Trudy Kirabo – A&R Marketing Assistant

Music Gateway is a B2B platform specifically designed to allow music industry professionals to connect and work together in a global capacity through sync opportunities and record label placements, the platform has established itself as the go-to platform for the music business.

Whether this is through hiring music professionals or collaborating with other industry creatives, it is a well-known platform that provides opportunities for international established clients who are looking for songs for television, film, and song placement briefs.

How to Get Better Vocal Recordings

In my previous blog posts on recording, I have covered drums and guitars. Once the main instruments have all been laid down you can add additional flourishes to your recording. However, eventually you will come to vocal recordings.

The most important aspect of vocal recordings will come down to the singers technique and ability in the studio. However, there are various things a recording engineer can do to make sure the vocal sits right within the mix.

Choosing the Right Microphone

Generally the microphone you use for vocals will come down to a personal preference. The main thing that will matter is that you use a condenser microphone with a large diaphragm. A larger diaphragm microphone makes it more sensitive to subtle changes in volume, capturing a more a accurate vocal take. Below is a list of microphones that are suitable for the job:

It is important to make sure that the vocalist is stood 6-9 inches from the microphone to avoid distortion. Make sure that you are also using a pop shield to avoid plosives and sibilance from becoming an issue. The vocalist should also be well trained in controlling their level near the microphone. This means that they should be pulling back from the mic when hitting louder notes, and vice versa for quiet notes.

With regards to the vocal microphone itself, there is room for experimentation with how much room sound you would like in the vocal. While a typical approach is to use a cardioid polar pattern in order to purely catch the direct sound, room sound can be useful depending on the location and type of music. For example, a power ballad requires a lot of space and reverb on all instruments, and a microphone that uses a bi-directional or omni-directional pattern would help to capture the room sound and create a greater sense of depth in the vocal.

Headphone Mixes and Vocal Recordings

When creating a headphone mix for the vocalist, make sure that they are as comfortable as possible as they will be basing their vocal performance on this. If the mix is too quiet, the vocalist will adjust and sing the piece quietly. Make sure that the mix matches the dynamic that the vocalist wants to achieve.

You will never get the perfect vocal take after one attempt. It could take some time to get the vocalist into a state where they can produce the best take possible, but as long as you make sure that the technical setup is correct, then it will come eventually.

Tips to Make Your Music Mix Sound More Professional

The first thing you need to think about when mixing a song is what genre you are working with (see also mixing basics). Each genre has its own characteristics however there are general techniques you can use when to improve your music mix.

Stereo Imaging

Using Delay as a Stereo Widener

One clever trick is to use a delay plug-in to introduce small delays in one or both sides of a stereo signal. in Logic Pro you can create this by selecting the Sample Delay plugin. Set the delay on the right to around 200 samples. Anything higher than 300 samples you start to hear the delays rather than a wider stereo image. This effect, often referred to as the ‘Haas effect.’

EQ and High Pass Filtering

Using EQ for clarity

To create space in the music mix you can EQ to remove problem frequencies. One technique using a parametric EQ to find the frequencies you do not want is to boost using a narrow Q width and go through all the frequencies until you can hear the dissonant/problem frequency clearly. You can then further narrow the Q width and reverse to from a boost into a cut, removing this frequency. Doing this on instruments will free up space in the mix making everything easier to hear and less muddy.

Using EQ to create space

You may have a few instruments that share frequencies. For example: guitar, synths and vocals. You need to think about which instrument you want to stand out the most. In most cases this will be vocals. To make sure that the vocals are not drowned out by these instruments you can cut the guitar and synths at around 300Hz-3kHz.

Leave Space for the Bass

A lot of producers use high pass filters on a instruments other than the bass and kick. This frees up all the rumbles/deep tones that are not needed and leaves room for the low end to be punchy not muddy.

Too Much in your Music Mix

There is always the temptation to go overboard when mixing. For example put reverb on everything, EQ everything. Sometimes less is more! It’s also important to take breaks from mixing as once you have heard a song hundreds of times over you begin to loose interest and stop hearing things like you did at the start.

The brilliant song Billie Jean by Michael Jackson was mixed 91 times by audio engineer Bruce Swedien before it was finalised. The final mix they went with was mix 2. It’s great if you have the time (and patience) to create that many mix versions but sometimes its important to know when to stop and say ‘it’s finished.’

The Singer Songwriter’s Guide to Recording Equipment

Soundbase Megastore is located in the upbeat Northern Quarter of Manchester city centre. It boasts a large open plan showroom set up to demo all the latest Studio, Lighting, DJ and PA Equipment. Simon, the author of recording articles at Soundable Megastore, has over 15 years experience working in commercial recording studios as an engineer / producer. His in depth experience provides Simon with the knowledge of recording equipment and techniques and places him in the perfect position to offer advice on music recording equipment in respect to what the artist is looking to achieve within their budget.

Home Recording Studio’s are becoming increasingly more popular. We will explore the basic essentials for all studios, plus further essentials and desirable attributes for a singer songwriter’s recording studio.

So Where Do You Start with Recording Equipment?

The most popular kind of multi-track for sound recording is currently a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). The DAW software you choose should reflect what you want to do and how advanced your production skills are.

After you’ve decided on your computer and DAW software, the next step is to pick the best audio interface. A high percentage of signal path fidelity is in converting your signal from analogue to digital and vice versa. So think carefully about how much you can afford to spend and how many inputs and outputs you’ll need. Also consider whether you require External Word Clock, S/Pdif, Optical and MIDI connections and if so, how many ports are you going to be using.

When buying an audio interface, read forums to see if any users encountered problems while using it. Especially with cheaper PCI soundcards you might find it isn’t compatible with the mother board in your computer.

You also need to think about how to monitor your song during recording, mixing and mastering. What’s best for you, passive or active monitors? What are the acoustics of the room you’re going to be playing and monitoring in like? Will your house-mates be trying to sleep while you’re slaving away on your next big song?

So you’ve got the basic idea of what gear you need to get started. Next we’ll look at what essential and variable peripherals are best for singer songwriters and the different types of equipment available.

Basic Singer-Songwriter Recording Set-up

If building a studio for doing demo recordings or DIY releases of new songs, DAW software such as Pro Tools, Cubase or Logic would be ideal. While this software is advanced it also means you won’t be limited in anyway by its capabilities. These programmes can be as advanced as a modern recording studio or as simplistic as a cassette 4 track. The more you get into recording, the more you’ll want to do with the software. Before long you’ll find yourself wanting to upgrade to a more advanced software package. So its always best to buy a more advanced music programme from the outset.

Audio Interface

For an audio interface for this recording set-up, a simple 2 in, 2 out USB, 24 bit 96kHz interface with XLR inputs is perfect. We recommend buying one with MIDI I/O as there is not much difference in price. Plus its better to have this option, rather than not, especially for you piano players.

When you increase your budget for an audio interface you essentially get better Mic pre amps and ADA converters. This is what gives you clarity and fidelity for your recordings. However, you may find yourself paying for features on the interface that you will never use. There are a number of audio interfaces on the market from as little as £80.

Here are a few recommended audio interfaces suited to budget recording studios:

Next Up, You’re Going to Need a Microphone

The SM58 is a close proximity vocal microphone and has been the industry standard for many years. Although you may want to look into some other options like the SM7. If you only want to use a mic for recording in your home then a condenser microphone would be better suited than a dynamic. Condensers are powered (48v) microphones and often have a larger diaphragm than a dynamic microphone. You get a warmer sound with more clarity as well as the signal to noise ratio being less noisey. For a dynamic microphone, Soundbase reccomend looking at spending £70 plus, and for a condenser £120 plus. Anything less than that and you might as well just flush your cash down the toilet, but do look around at what’s available second hand in the B Stock at Soundbase Megastore.

For a “budget” vocal condenser microphone Soundbase recommend sontronics microphones, they sound amazing for the price.

For the acoustic guitar, you might want to look into buying a second condenser microphone so you can record your guitar in the same performance as your vocals.

While you might enjoy the sound of your guitar plugged straight into the interface, a microphone gives you wider scope for recording. Another benefit is you could simply place the microphone in the room and capture a natural recording. There are no rules as to whether you should use a dynamic or condenser microphone to record your guitar.

Here are a few recommended microphones for recording both vocals and guitars, suited to a range of budgets:

Piano-based Songwriters

There’s a few different options to consider when it comes to how to record your piano parts. The most obvious is simply to place a good condenser microphone on an acoustic piano and hit record. This can be a very complex instrument to capture well, plus if your piano is out of tune then it will also be out of tune on the recording. The second option would be to buy a full size MIDI keyboard with weighted keys and a sustain pedal. You can connect this direct to your interface via MIDI or direct to your computer via USB. The signal from the MIDI keyboard will be recorded to your DAW and you only need a Virtual Piano instrument like the XLN Audio addictive Keys to playback a piano sound. The same MIDI controller keyboard can also be used to add string parts to your song.

All you would need to do this is a virtual string instrument, the same applies for other string instruments. A further option for those of you using a Clavinova or electric piano is to simply connect the line output of your Clavinova to your audio interface. Many Clavinovas also have a MIDI out on them that means they can also be used in the same way as a MIDI controller keyboard.

For a full size budget MIDI Keyboard Soundbase recommend:

Monitoring Your Recording

So you’re all set to record your songs, but you’re also going to need a pair of studio monitors or headphones to listen back to your recordings. While you could simply plug direct into your Hi-Fi from your audio interface it would be more suitable to listen back through flat response, uncoloured studio monitors so you can hear a true representation of what you have just recorded, in terms of both performance and signal clarity.

For a studio of this calibre Soundbase Megastore would recommend active studio monitors as you can simply plug them straight into the output of your audio interface.

Here are a few pairs of active studio monitors for under £250:

Are studio monitors the best option for your studio or would you be better suited for monitoring through studio headphones?

The first major benefit of using headphones is that if you wish to record backing vocals and guitar overdubs, for example, then monitoring the recording through headphones means that your song won’t spill from the monitors into the microphone while you’re recording. The second benefit of using headphones for monitoring and mixing your song is that you don’t have to be concerned with any noise restrictions. You can work on your songs anytime of day, in any place with the peace of mind that you’re not offending anyone.

Recommended Studio Monitor Headphones for under £120:

Complete your Recording Equipment Set Up

Last up you’re going to need to put a little aside in your budget for cables etc. For a recording set-up of this standard Soundbase suggest you put aside £40 – £150 of your studio budget for cables, pop shields and microphones stands etc.

The suggested budget for a recording studio set up for a singer songwriter is between £400 – £1900. If you are looking to buy a complete set-up from Soundbase then don’t hesitate to contact us for a package price, or simply view the following discount packages for everything you need to start recording your songs.

  • Basic Vocal Recording Studio Equipment Package – Click Here – £489.00 inc VAT
  • Intermediate Songwriter (guitar) Studio Equipment Package – Click Here – £805.00 inc VAT
  • Intermediate Songwriter Studio Equipment (keys) Package – Click Here – £1025.00 inc VAT
  • Advanced Studio Equipment Package for Vocals and Keys – Click Here – £1215.00 inc VAT
  • Advanced Studio Equipment Package for Vocals and Acoustic Guitar – Click Here – £1200 inc VAT


How to Get Better Guitar Recordings

In my previous blog post I tackled recording drums in the studio. Things get a bit simpler in this post as we look at different guitar recordings. I will be mentioning a few different microphones and other pieces of equipment, some of which I previously mentioned in the drumming blog, but for the sake of simplicity I have listed them below along with their retail prices.

Electric Guitar Recordings and Electric Bass Recordings

Before recording a guitar there are a few procedures that you should go through:

  1. Consider if you need a new set of strings on your guitar. If they are discoloured or show signs of wear, then you most likely do.
  2. Check that the intonation and action of the guitar is correct.
  3. Make sure your guitar is tuned (this is a must)

There are two ways to approach guitar recordings and bass recordings, and these come down to personal preference in sound. The first way is to purely DI, or direct inject, the guitar into the mixing console using a jack cable. This method is simple to record and also allows a lot of possibilities when it comes to editing. This includes being able to use impulse responses from other guitar models and mimic the sound of almost any guitar or amp you like. DI also provides a very clean tone to use as a base for editing. When using this method make sure to use a DI box to avoid an impedance mismatch between the guitar and mixer, particularly on guitars with active pickups. If your guitar requires a battery, then it will be using active pickups.

There is also a best of both worlds way to record guitar and that is through the process of re-amping. Re-amping is when a guitar part is recorded using DI, and then played back through an amp and recorded again. This works by using a re-amping box that takes the output of a mixer and routes the signal through an amp. A great box to use for this is the Radial Pro-RMP listed above.  When re-amping, using a combination of three different microphones in different positions on the speaker cone is a good way to experiment. You can also work out what recordings sound right for you.

guitar recordingsThe diagram on the left, shows the general area of the cone you should aim for with each microphone. Popular spots to try are just off centre from the middle, halfway between the centre and outer ring, and on the outer ring. Marking the outer ring and centre of the cone with tape is useful and saves you time when replacing mics.

Try to experiment with the distance from the amp as well in order to catch more room sound. Often the reason producers re-amp a guitar is to capture the sound of an echo chamber or specific style of room. Note that some of the mics I have listed above are condensers and some are dynamic. Make sure to only try condenser microphones in your guitar recordings, and preferably clean guitar at that. More distorted tones will not sit well with the sensitive diaphragm of a condenser, and leads to clipping in takes. Alternatively, condenser microphones work well to pick up more bass than a dynamic mic.

Acoustic Guitar Recordings and Acoustic Bass Recordings

Things get a bit more traditional when working with acoustic guitar or bass. Whilst many simple guitar parts can be recorded with one microphone, a stereo recording always produces more clarity. It also give you more options with mixing. Condenser microphones are particularly good as they capture more of the high and low end detail, unlike a dynamic.

There are several techniques that you can use to record an acoustic guitar, each producing slightly different results. From Blumlein to Mid-Side to X/Y there are various techniques that can be applied to recording.

If you are using two or three microphones, there are specific areas that will best capture the guitar’s frequencies. The bridge of the guitar, or the sound hole directly, will capture the body and warmth of the instrument, whilst also providing a lot of the bass frequencies for the instrument. This may be the one area of the guitar where a dynamic is suitable to use. At the opposite end of the frequency spectrum, a lot of the highs will be clearer to capture at the headstock or first fret. Finally, there is a sweet spot on a guitar around the 12th fret that will provide the mid range frequencies. If you only have one microphone to use, make sure if you are close-micing to record this spot.

When it comes to placing your guitarist, there are also a few tricks that can be tried and experimented with. If you require a lot more bass in the performance, try having the guitarist face the corner of the room with a microphone behind them to capture the early room reflections. This works with amps as well. Lifting the amp off of the ground or tilting it upwards will also help to prevent phase cancellation.

With bass, a large diaphragm condenser like the NT2A aimed at the bridge of the guitar (experiment by listening) will provide the most well rounded bass sound without losing clarity. In both cases try and prevent the musician from moving around whilst playing, as this will ruin the consistency in any of your guitar recordings.

Recording guitar requires a lot of experimentation, and can take many hours to find a sound you are looking for as a result. This is why preparation is key when recording guitar. Make sure the guitarist knows there parts and has the exact sound they want already arranged. From there only a few tweaks should be needed to capture the sound of the room and give great clarity across the wide tonal range of the guitar.

In the next post I will be covering vocals, from knowing how to deal with the singer’s ego to capturing that perfect vocal take.

How to Become a Better Vocalist

It is important to spend at least 10 minutes to warm up before singing. Just like an athlete wouldn’t go and run a race without stretching you need to think of your voice in the same way, you don’t want to strain it! Here are some simple yet effective warn up techniques to help you become a better vocalist.

Useful Vocalist Terms

Belt: When you produce a well supported powerful sound. (Think Whitney Houston ‘And I’ from the song I Will Always Love You.) Even though it will be loud it should not be forced. If you are belting correctly it should be comfortable. This is the reason you are able to produce a loud and powerful sound.

Chest Voice: When you sing in the most comfortable part of your range. Singers often find the sound vibrations resonating in their chest and throat. Most of the time Pop/Rock singers are aiming to use this sound the most.

Head Voice: You naturally use your head voice when you sing in the highest part of your register. The sound is a lot lighter than chest voice. Female choral/classical singers use head voice a lot.

Blending: When you transition between head and chest voice smoothly, therefore they aren’t as obviously different. The spilt between chest and head voice for males is E-Gb above middle C and  for women around an Ab-Bb above middle C. Blending is when the transition between chest voice and head voice isn’t really obvious.

Mixed Voice: When you have a good blend between head and chest voice.

Larynx: Another word for the voice box.

Soft Palate (Velum/muscular palate): The top part of your mouth.

Become a Better Vocalist

Breathing: This should be simple right, we all do it everyday? However as a vocalist learning when and where to breathe is essential to the expression of the song. A vocal technique to help you sing through phrases is the counting technique. What you do is: breathe in for 1 count, hold your breath for 1 count and then exhale for 1 count. Then you increase this each time. It will seem easy at 1 count but you will start to notice it becomes more difficult with each count. This will increase your vocal stamina and the ability to sing through phrases. (Obviously never go too far so you pass out, because that definitely will not help your vocal technique!) A good number to aim for is around 10-12 when you first use this technique but build up to this gradually.

Diaphragm: One thing you will come across as a vocalist is people telling you to support from your diaphragm. So it’s important to know where it is! A quick way to find where you diaphragm is and what it feels when in use is to make a harsh “shh” sound. When doing this a few times in a row and you should be able to feel it working. The aim is to have this feeling every time you are singing. Using your diaphragm is so important because it supports your voice. If you are trying to belt but are not using your diaphragm you will end up pushing from your throat which is NOT good and you will not have as much vocal stamina!

Smile: Smiling stops you from going flat as the action of turning up the corners of your mouth slightly sharpens the note you are singing. Also when you are smiling it is more appealing to your audience. No one wants to watch someone who looks like they don’t want to be there. At first it will seem unnatural but when you watch yourself back it will probably seem like a natural expression. As a singer/performer it is always important to record yourself and watch/listen to yourself back.

If you feel like your voice is tight DO NOT push from the throat as this could potentially damage your vocal chords. A lot of singers with bad technique can produce a  loud sound but are straining their voice. The general rule is if it feels like a struggle then your technique is wrong. The most important thing to remember when singing is to be as relaxed as possible in your throat. Humming a song or scale doesn’t put any pressure on your voice so is brilliant if you need to rehearse but you are feeling a little under the weather. Singing is very psychological, if you think you can’t sing a part of a song you probably wont be able to! That’s why it’s important to use vocal exercises to remind yourself that you actually can sing the song!

One psychological technique is picture some stairs in your mind. Every time you have a high note picture yourself singing to the bottom of the stairs. The worst thing you can do is think about reaching for the note because by thinking about reaching you will probably end up singing/straining from the throat. Most of the time, the reason vocalists can’t sing a section of the song well is down to the fact they are using incorrect technique. However, singers tend to think “I can’t sing” if this happens.

Below are a few techniques to try out. The aim of these is to make you more relaxed in the throat and improve overall vocal technique with the ultimate aim to improve your confidence in your voice. Become a better vocalist with these techniques:

Singing with an ‘Open Throat’:

Sing an ‘ah’ – like you would at the dentist with your tongue out – to a scale. It might look a bit weird sticking out your tongue but it is a simple way to stop yourself pushing from your throat when you can’t quite reach that high note. This also will make you realise what it feels like to belt without pushing from the throat therefore you can transfer this to how you sing normally. The aim of this exercise is to have a raised soft palette and lowered larynx.

Vocal Fry:

So this one is hard to describe but when you were a child you most likely did an impression of a zombie or monster by using this vocal technique. It sounds like a sort of crackling buzz. Vocal fry is great for extending your range and if you are finding it difficult to reach lower notes in your register.

Vocal Siren:

Sirens is great for extending your range and making it easier to hit those high notes. They work well on sounds such as ‘eee.’ All you need to do is start at the lowest note you can reach then slide up and down (mimicking a siren.)

Vocal Coaches

Taking vocal lessons will improve your voice massively. Below are some great vocal coaches with online resources that can help you become a better vocalist (also look at a previous blog for vocal coaches around the UK):

How to Get Better Drum Recordings

So you’ve managed to get that all important studio time! Lets talk technical…

When it comes to drum recordings, they are the most important and often difficult part of the process. There are so many ways to experiment with your microphone placement that you can waste a lot of time, which leads to wasting money if you’re hiring a studio. Here, I will break down the process of choosing microphones and where to place them. I will also give some tips that will save you time when laying down the foundation of your track.

Firstly, there will be a lot of microphones mentioned that are suited for different parts of the kit. Whilst there may be cheaper alternatives, these selections are widely regarded as the best for their price range. Below I have listed the microphones and their online prices:

Thud, Thud, Thud

Lets start off with the kick drum – the foundation of drum recordings! A D112 is one of the best kick drum microphones money can buy. This is due to its brilliant low frequency response and 100dB roll-off. With placement, angle the microphone towards the beater for more of the initial click of the drum. Or point it towards the body of the drum to catch more of the ‘boom’ and tail of the hit. You may want to use a sound with more click if you are making metal and heavy rock music as the low end can often be dominated by the bass guitar and low tuning used in that genre.

Drum Roll, Please!

The other most important part of the rhythm is the snare drum. This one is fairly simple to record, you should only need a dynamic microphone like a Shure SM57 or SM58. Angle the mic towards the edge of the drum skin for the resonance of the snare. You can also angle the microphone straight across the top of the drum to capture the initial ‘pop’ on each hit. If you have a second microphone, place it beneath the drum to catch a separate resonant track. This will give you more to play around with when it comes to the mixing stage. If you do this, be cautious of phasing as the microphones could cancel each other out. This can be fixed using phase cancellation.

So you have the two most crucial parts ready, but how do we capture the rest of the kit sound? This is where you have to decide if you want to spend the extra money to isolate each of the other parts of the kit, or cut down on cost and record using one or two microphones. If that’s the case, then you will want overheads!

Use the Space Around You

Overheads will capture the sound of the entire kit from above. Using condenser microphones will give a nice crisp sound to the cymbals. Overheads can be recorded either with a pair of 414’s or NT5’s depending on your personal preference or money situation. Though in both cases you will have to test what height you want them above the drums. Around 30cm usually gives a nice distant sound, though it is important to capture the cymbals as much as possible.

If you want to use more mics, then toms are the next best thing to record. These are very simple to set up as the e604’s are clip on microphones that just snap onto the rim of the drum. Angle it how you like to capture more or less resonance and away you go!

The hi-hat is also an optional part to isolate as it can be picked up by the overheads, but their is no harm in doing it. Using a C1000, you can either mic it up from underneath to reduce spill from the other cymbals, or from above to capture more of the sizzle. Angling the microphone more inwards towards the bell will also tighten the sound of the hat, and further away will get more of a full sound.

Now Get Creative with your Drum Recordings!

From here you should be able to get decent drum recordings. However you can keep layering up to give you more options later on in editing. For example, using a stereo pair of room mics will capture the listeners perspective of the kit, and add room reverb. This can be done with a pair of 414’s or any other condenser with a wide polar pattern. Make sure they are a reasonable distance apart and decide whether you want to use an omni-directional polar pattern to record both the kit and room or just the room itself with a cardioid pattern.

Finally you could also try some other unique techniques to get some different sounds. Using a sub-kick on your kick drum (essentially a speaker cone used as a microphone) can capture a lot of sub frequencies and give you more bass. More bass will mean more powerful drums. You could also use a PZM microphone on the opposite wall to your drum kit to capture more room sound. Or place it inside the kick drum to get more of the click of the beater. There are so many ways to complete your drum recordings that experimenting is usually the best policy, just remember that you should always keep track of what microphones are placed where so that you have no issues when it comes to mixing.

The type of microphone used will also heavily impact what the end result is, so make sure you get the best drum recordings possible. Contrary to popular belief you cannot fix a bad drum take in the mix, so get it right from the start!

Phew, that was a lot to get through, I promise the next blog will be a lot less intense as we cover bass and guitars.

Careers – Broadcaster / Radio DJ

A broadcaster / radio DJ are very similar roles in that they both play music on the radio. The main difference is broadcasters have another element to their show, including more dialogue with guests or interaction with listeners. In this sense the music on the show becomes of secondary importance. For a radio DJ the music is of primary importance and that’s the main focus of their show.

What Does the Role Involve?

One of the primary roles for any broadcaster / radio DJ is to constantly listen to and source new music. They also have to liaise with any guests and artists also who could be performing a live session. They have to schedule the running and the format of the show and make sure it all goes to plan. The bigger the radio station the more people are involved in the running and coordination of a show. The scale of the show depends on the size of the radio stations they are working with, and their audience.

How to Make Money as a Broadcaster / Radio DJ?

A lot of Radio DJ’s start at their local station and build up their experience and reputation before moving upwards. Many broadcasters come from journalism and media and use their show to express points of view and instigate debates with listeners.

Making money as a broadcaster / radio DJ depends entirely what level you work at. Some people who present local shows do so alongside other work commitments whilst others can earn enough money by being on the radio. A lot of work in this field is based on experience and perseverance.

A good way to get started can be to find your own niche and to even start your own podcast. This way you can work out any nerves and get comfortable before approaching local stations.


Interview with Castle Rock Studios

Deep in the countryside of Cheshire lies Castle Rock Studios. Focusing most of its time as a recording studio, Castle Studios is also an established artist management company and label. We caught up with Managing Directors Stret and Alex to ask them how they got where they are today. Here is what they had to say…

How did you both get into working at Castle Rock Studios and the music industry in general?

STRET: In 2005 we purchased the building that is now Castle Rock Studios. I had been working with bands within entertainment as I owned an events company and we booked acts for events.

We’d been contracted to deliver production elements for The Stereophonics, Joss Stone, etc. so I was working with lots of bands. Coincidentally my business partner’s son wanted to be an Audio Engineer.

When we spotted the building we are now based in up for auction, we knew it would be a good place. We created a recording studio with rehearsal facilities and a base for the label, representation and talent procurement.

ALEX: I’ve always been into recording and production. Since I got my first 8 track Tascam minidisk recorder when I was 14 I was hooked. I’ve been playing guitar for most of my life, and have toured in bands since I was 17. Whilst at university studying Philosophy I went to a local unsigned gig night and started chatting to the engineer there. He said that I could come down and shadow him so the next week I did. It was a fairly small scale operation (only about a 200 capacity bar), but a great learning experience.

On the second week of my shadowing, he got stuck in Liverpool so we were without an engineer. The manager of the bar came up to me and said “You’re a sound guy aren’t you? You know what you’re doing?” to which I replied “Yep, no worries” even though I wasn’t totally sure. So I set everything up and it seemed to work and then in walks the band – The Courteeners. Thankfully everything went well and I got offered a job there but it was quite nerve-racking to say the least!

Have you got any advice you could give to aspiring producers and engineers?

STRET: For me this is about standing out from the crowd. Get as much experience as you can and work with as many different people as possible. Somebody needs to give you a chance and my advice would be to research as much as possible. I’ve had people approach me and ask to shadow me, and not known even the basics of what Castle Rock Studios offer.

We recently exhibited at the Manchester Music Show where there was a Q & A session with some music high flyers, and someone asked the question:

“How do I gain experience in the business? I want to be a recording engineer.”

The advice given was to get qualified, which in general is the right advice, but I‘d take that further. Get yourself qualified to a high level of expertise. Alex Miller, our Head Engineer, is a Pro-tools expert level operator. At the time he qualified, he was only one of 10 in the country. So when the latest batch of engineers approached Castle Rock Studios, Alex stood out from the crowd because he’d worked hard to gain an expert level of expertise.

The sheer quantity of people looking to work in this very specialised sector of the industry is phenomenal. I can’t imagine there is sufficient quality paid work to satisfy the demand.

One young guy came up with a great way of standing out from the crowd. Instead of sending the usual email asking for work experience, he researched and discovered I was a Deep Purple Fan. He then recorded himself performing ‘Smoke on the Water’. He then posted it on You Tube saying “this is for Stret at Castle Rock please let me work in your studio”!

I contacted him and asked him to learn ‘Mistreated’ also by Deep Purple… a far more challenging track. He did and made a cracking job of it, even adding his own solo at the end. I then asked him to perform it in our gig room in front of bands that use the studio. I gave him a fortnight’s work experience, and he went on to join a band called The lost37. They then rehearsed and recorded at Castle Rock Studios and supported Ocean Colour Scene.

By the way that trick won’t work again, so don’t go sending me recordings of Deep Purple tracks. The message is be creative, stand out and research your target.

ALEX: You have to be prepared to commit everything to the job. It’s not a 9-5. It’s 10-10 most days, and longer than that on others. I’ve done 23 hour runs in the studio before now. Sure it’s long, but I’m doing a job I love so I don’t mind so much. It’s still fun, even though it’s hard work. It’s just how this industry works.

There are a frightening number of people trying to work in this industry. When you look at the number of people each year going to audio schools it’s crazy. You have to be more dedicated, and more proactive than all of them. As Stret said, don’t just send a CV addressed to “To Whom It May Concern”. At the very least drop it in yourself. We get about ten CV’s a week via email and at that volume they all just blend into one another.

Commitment is a big thing for me, so bringing it in personally shows you have that extra bit of enthusiasm most people don’t. If you email it, find out a little bit about the studio, and address your cover letter to them. “To whom it may concern” and “Dear Sir/Madam” makes it look like you’re sending out a blanket email. Include things about the studio that you like or are interested in and why you want to work there. Tell us why you are better than the others asking for a job.

But while you’re doing that, you also need to be doing the fun stuff. Record yourself, record bands, listen to your favourite albums and listen to the production. Ask yourself, why doesn’t your record sound like that? Then figure out how to make it sound like that. Come down and look round the studio, and find a way to bring a band here to record. I started to get more work at Castle Rock Studios when I started brought many of my projects here.

You also run a label and work in artist management, can you tell us a little more about this? What artists are you currently working with?

STRET: Our Label is very much in its infancy. We launched Sandbox UK Records in January 2014, signing three Artistes – Milla Muse, Alex Buchanan and Rian Peters.

All three artists are either completing recordings, or working on finishing touches for live performances.

Milla has recently completed recordings with Rory Ruadhri (Ed Sheeran, Mumford and Sons). Alex had great success with The Voice and is close to completing commercial recordings of his original music. He is off on tour to Australia for three months. Rian has also just finished recording with Alesha Dixon for a potential release in 2015.

Our representation division was born out of the passion I felt when I heard Milla’s voice for the first time. I had such a strong connection with Milla that I wanted to help her gain a career in the music industry.

The same happened with Purge. They had rehearsed at Castle Rock Studios and then they recorded with us too. I loved the recordings – the tracks reminded me of bands I grew up listening to. The Riffs were very catchy and when I saw them perform live I knew I wanted to be involved. I approached them to offer myself as their Manager and was delighted they agreed. The band have now performed in front of 8000 people at Chester Rocks supporting Razorlight, and were asked to perform at See-Rocks festival in Austria in 2015.

What advice can you give to young bands that are looking for representation and want label and management deals?

STRET: Again, it’s about standing out from the crowd. In this day and age it’s vital bands engage with their fans or those that come across them. Nowadays it’s easier to get your message out there, but because it’s easier means more people can do it.

If you do manage to attract the attention from management or a label, they will be checking your social media platforms. Not just the number of people who “Like” or follow you, but the creative content too.

I’m not saying labels don’t sign emerging talent from home recordings, but it’s rare. The quantity of demo discs they receive is huge. So if your demo looks good, has been duplicated professionally, and the recording is professional, there is more of a chance of that A&R guy giving it a spin.

To break a band from the pub/club scene is a very hard and long road in my opinion. If you get a crowd of 200+ fans, management will be attracted and should take you to a larger audience.

What’s your favourite piece of equipment in the studio and why?

ALEX: It’s always nice to have great gear, but without a good musician and a great sound it doesn’t matter.

The best thing about Castle Rock Studios is that there is no real weak link in the chain. A vocal chain could be: 414 > 1073 > 1969 > SSL > Pro Tools. All quality, great sounding gear. But that’s all no good if you don’t have great rooms.

So really, I think the best things are the rooms and monitoring – without them you can’t hear what you’re doing.

What top tips can you give to bands and artists who are looking to go into the studio for the first time?

STRET: Visit the studio beforehand, meet your engineer, book a listening session or rehearsal the night before. This way you can have your gear set up and ready to rock when the session starts. I see bands come in all excited, as they should be, to realise recording can be a laborious process. Setting drums up and “breaking the ice” can take 2-3 hours. By the time tracking commences, the guitarist and singer realise they won’t be playing today, unless it’s a live recording.

I would also say it’s very important to ensure you and your equipment is fit for purpose. Consider putting new skins on the drums, and re-stringing the guitars. Do it a few days before and bed them in.

And get tight, know your material inside out. If your first take is the one, then it’s the one. It leaves more time to spend on the mix. We’ve even had some bands writing lyrics whilst the engineers are wanting to crack on with recording. All the while the clock is ticking and you are wasting your money.

ALEX: As Ginger Wildheart put it “Before you spend a fortune in studio expense, rehearsing the fuck outta your songs makes a lotta sense.” You should be able to play your songs blindfolded, backwards. Sit down and listen to what you’re all playing in the practice room.

I’ve had occasions with two guitarists; one plays their part for the other to say “what are you playing? That’s not gonna fit with what I’m playing…” We then spend half an hour figuring out whose part to change, and what to change it to.

It’s hard to hear this stuff loud, so unplug and make sure you’re all on the same page. If you can, record your practice, listen to it back. How’s the momentum? Is the tempo shifting? Is the song too long? Are the drums accenting the right parts? Are there too many cymbal hits? Is the kick drum consistent… the list goes on..

After that, make sure all your gear works. Get your guitars set up by a professional, so that the intonation is spot on and there’s no nasty fret buzz. Re-string them before you come in. Re-skin your drums, polish your cymbals, check your amps aren’t making any horrible buzzing noises. Remember, we’re recording tracks that are going to be out there forever.

What do you prefer – analogue or digital – and why?

STRET: Speaking as a non-engineer I like the warmth and fullness of analogue, but it’s not practical.

ALEX: For tracking, I love the sound of analogue tape, but it’s such a pain I don’t use it anymore. I did one album totally to tape a few years ago. It was a good experience but during mixing the machine broke, and we couldn’t get it fixed in time. So we mixed off the Pro-Tools backup files we ran along with the two inch. Steven Slate came to the rescue with his Virtual Tape Machines plug-in. I compared it to the tape after the machine was fixed, and I actually preferred the sound of the plug-in.

We’re seeing so many analogue emulation plugs at the moment that I don’t feel I need analogue multi-tracks. The flexibility of digital wins for me every time. It’s faster, cheaper, and still sounds great. Mixing is a slightly different story. I prefer analogue consoles to mix on because I feel I’m more creative. But I find myself mixing hybrid more and more these days, mainly for speed and ease of recalls. Things like side-chain the bass to the kick would take about five minutes with the physical routing and patching. Whereas in Pro Tools you’re done in 20 seconds.

If you could record with any artist/band in the world who would it be and why?

STRET: Deep Purple. I would ask Alex to record it and then have it mixed by Andy MacPherson (The Who, Saxon, Buzzcocks, Blondie).

Why Deep Purple? I’m a fan… I’ve followed them all around the world. If you do get to visit Castle Rock Studios you will see purple sofa’s, carpet with purple lines in; and my pride and joy vinyl collection of their 19 studio albums.

ALEX: The Offspring. They are without a doubt, to me, the greatest band in the world. Every album is amazing from start to finish, and I listen to at least one of their albums every day. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them. I don’t know exactly what it is about them, but the music just grabs me. Ever since I first heard “Ixnay On The Hombre” when I was about 12 I’ve not stopped listening to them. So being involved in the production of one of their records would be a career highlight for me!