What Not to Forget When You Start a Band

When you start a band the idea of making the logos and going on tour is the dream, right? But, there’s always a catch. There are things that starting bands always seem to forget, something that can be very crucial for in the future.

Branding

Make sure you protect your logo and the band name you use. To find out if your name hasn’t been used before, the internet is your friend in this case. Don’t just Google the name, check social media too, because this is where you are going to spend your time promoting your music.

You don’t want to confuse people and you want to be original as possible.

What If the Band Splits?

Talk to the band about this. Don’t wait until you are in a courtroom. There are different things you need to discus, if the band ever splits. It doesn’t mean that you’re waiting to split, it means that you are preparing yourself for if anything does happen when there is a fight and the band wants to split.

Like, can the band still go on if 2 members have left? Can the remaining members still use the band name? Writing it all down on a written agreement makes things easier for later if this does happen.

That’s not the only thing you need to think about, what if one band member isn’t what you thought he was? And you want to get rid of him? What kind of vote in the band do you need to vote (or fire, it’s how you look at it) a member out of the band?

If you’re in a record label, this means a few other things too. Like, will the band be kicked out of the label if the band splits? What if someone gets out of the band to work on a solo project, will the label push the solo artists to be signed under them?

Remember this When you Start a Band

Ask yourself these questions when you start a band, do it while you’re still friends and everything is done on a friendly note.

You don’t want a split to be uglier than it needs to be.

Advice for Lyricists: Part Three – Getting People to Listen

So, you’ve understood the writing process and have even started writing your lyrics. Now you need to get people to listen to you, find out more in part 3 of our advice for lyricists series.

As hard as it can be, learning to accept criticism can be the most helpful thing you do. It is the first step in getting people to listen to your music. Although family and friends may want to spare your feelings, they are a good place to start, especially if one of them is particularly musical, creative or you just trust their honest opinion. It might not always be easy, but criticism isn’t always negative or personal and it’s a very simple way to learn and grow as an artist. Nobody says you have to take all (or any!) of their advice on board but putting fresh eyes on your work can give you new perspectives and will give you things to consider.

What Am I Writing For?

Before you can decide where to share your music and/or lyrics it might be important to work out who and what you are writing for. Are you writing for yourself or to sell to others? Are you wanting to make a career out of lyric writing or is it a hobby? What genre/s are you writing for?

Some genres of music lend themselves more to performance, some to public environments and some to individual listening. You should consider these when you begin to think about sharing or selling your lyrics, compositions or music.

Finding People to Work With

If you are looking for people to work with, whether it’s co-writers, performers, or producers, there are many places to look.

If you’re at university, even if you aren’t studying a music related subject, you’re in luck; universities are breeding grounds for creative types. Once you get talking to people it’s likely you’ll find someone that play instruments, are writers themselves, or are studying music in some shape or form.

The same goes for the workplace, although it maybe less likely to find these creative types if you don’t already work in the creative industries, it’s still worth having the conversation! You never know what people do in their spare time, or if not them personally, they may know people who could help you.

Social media is perhaps one of the easiest ways to get your name out there. You could make posts on your own social media pages promoting yourself or asking around for other musicians. Of course there are also websites that specifically cater to ‘musicians finding musicians’ that will be specific to your local area.

It may be useful to look out for music industry networking events. They are a chance to meet with other like minded people and other musicians, you never know where it could lead.

The main take-away from this should be to talk. Keep people in the loop about what you’re working on, what you’re looking for, get your name out there so people know to think about you.

Recording a Demo

It’s easier than ever to record your own demo without spending a ton of money. Firstly, you need to choose where you a going to record. Are you going to book a studio or are you recording at home? If you are recording at home, you may need to consider what equipment you will need and what the acoustics are going to be like.

The next thing to think about is how are you going to be recording and/or producing your track. You can choose to record a live demo; with all instruments and vocals being recorded in one take. Or you can choose multi-track recording, with each instrument being recorded independently. Again, this may depend on what exactly you are producing. You could also use MIDI instruments rather than live instruments and then record a vocals over the top.

After recording, your track needs to be mixed. You may want to get someone to help you with this if you aren’t used to mixing but as it’s a demo a rough mix is fine, so don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money on it. You can then master your track. Nobody expects a demo to be perfect, it just needs to showcase your potential.

Soundcloud, YouTube etc.

When you have your finished demo, its time to share it, which is very easy to do. There are so many platforms online now where you can share music for free – SoundCloud and YouTube as well as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even LinkedIn.

The main thing to consider when sharing your work in this way is intellectual property protection. Once your content is online pretty much anyone can access it so be sure to cover yourself. This is where copyright comes in.

Copyright

Copyright allows, by law, an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody. Copyright happens automatically once the ‘product’ is created so it is not necessary to register (except in the U.S where there is a registration process). Intellectual property protection comes in many forms (copyrights, patents, trademarks etc.) which must be made tangible in order to be protected. It is important to have proof of ownership. One way to do this is to post a copy of your recording, composition or lyrics etc. to yourself, keep the envelope sealed.

As a copyright owner you hold the right to copy, distribute, rent, lend, perform, show, communicate/broadcast and adapt your work.

Selling Your Lyrics

Music publishers are responsible for ensuring that songwriters and composers are paid for commercial use of their compositions. As a songwriter or composer, you can assign your copyright to a publisher, who will then license, safeguard and monitor the composition, and collect royalties and distribute them back to the songwriter/composer. Publishers also deal with synchronisation, so that the composition may be used for television and film.

If you are interested in music publishing see our sister company Anara Publishing.

Advice for Lyricists: Part One – The Writing Process

Whether it’s writing your first ever song or simply finding inspiration to write the next, a lot of people would agree that it’s the starting that is most difficult. Thankfully, there are many places lyricists can find inspiration and many ways to use it. It’s all about finding your inspiration and making a start.

Literary Techniques

Exposing yourself to language in all of it’s forms whether it’s other lyrics, poetry or novels is important; it’s helpful and rewarding as a writer to expand your vocabulary and your skills. Learning new words or literary techniques can also help to inspire you to write something new.

Certain literary devices can be important for lyricists to know and utilise in their writing. They can affect how your lyrics scan and how the song flows.

For example:

  • Assonance:

Assonance takes place when two or more words close to each other have the same vowel sound e.g. “I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless.” – Thin Lizzy

  • Internal rhyme:

As apposed to ‘end rhymes’, where the last word of a line rhymes with the last word of another line. Internal rhyme is when a word in the middle of the line rhymes with one at the end of a line. Half or slant rhymes are when the words almost rhyme but it is not a perfect rhyme. This often works well within songs because it means you are avoiding contrived and forced rhymes. It is worth making yourself familiar with the different types of rhymes and rhyme schemes considering songs can rely on them so heavily.

Lyricists can use some of the same devices that poets do. Therefore, even though the writing process is different, reading poetry can be useful in learning these techniques.

Wordplay and double meanings are other types of literary techniques that can add another layer to your lyrics. For example, Panic! at the Disco’s ‘Nicotine’ includes the line “Your love’s a f**king drag”, which is a double meaning due to the title (and theming) of the song. Creating these hidden meanings within metaphorical language can assist you to create a theme and a feeling for a song.

Themes

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas or lines for a song it may be useful to first think of a theme. It helps if this theme isn’t too vague (as ‘love’ is a very broad topic and probably wouldn’t get you very far). That said, it doesn’t need to be anything too fixed or literal, the theme can be an image, a word or just a sentence that sums up the meaning of the song.

Again, thinking about the feel of a song can be helpful too. For example, you may want your song to conjure up images of a nightclub (this is where connotation comes in!) You could create a spider diagram (even if it’s a mental one) of relevant words and this may eventually turn into full lines. At this point the lines you come up with don’t need to be particularly poetic; just note down what you want to say in plain language and you can make it sound better later!

You can base metaphorical language around this theme (as mentioned earlier with the Panic! at the Disco song). Or you can just use these ideas as reference so that you don’t stray too far from your original meaning when writing. Having a strong theme can help the audience empathise and can make an overall more powerful song.

If you are a visual person you may want to create a mood board instead of, or alongside, your theme. Visuals and aesthetics can help to stimulate and inspire you to come up with new ideas for the feel or content of your song.

Becoming Analytical

We often do this by accident but as well as simply listening to or reading other work it can help to start analysing this work. You may find this comes quite naturally or you may need to work at it. however as somebody who is interested in writing themselves you will probably find it quite easy to analyse other people’s work.

This will also help you develop your own sense of style within your lyrics. Try to work out why you do or don’t like certain lyrics.

This can also be applied to the music, down to specific techniques used or just the feel of the song. Try to work out how they’ve created this.

Just Press Record

If you aren’t sure where to start or you’re stuck in a rut don’t underestimate your subconscious! It’s amazing what you can come up with on the fly so just press record and start singing.

It may feel uncomfortable for a start and sure, some of it won’t make sense but you may come up with a line totally by accident that you end up using. It’s amazing what you can come up with on the fly!

Setting Goals

Another helpful method is to set yourself ‘songwriting tasks’ – come up with a topic for each week or month and write about that. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it’s just a way of getting you writing if you perhaps haven’t for a while or have never seriously started.

You could get somebody else to come up with these themes or topics if you need more incentive. This is also a good way of writing about something different and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

Similarly, there is a method called the Seinfeld Strategy, in which the idea is basically to write everyday. You can make yourself a small goal to reach everyday (e.g. write for 15 minutes a day) and every time you do it cross it off. The point isn’t to reach a certain achievement but simply not to break the chain, this builds habit.

A lot of people may think that planning a song is blasphemy; that it destroys the art of it, that things should just happen. But let’s be real, writing is writing and sometimes it doesn’t ‘just happen’ as much as you would like it to. A novelist wouldn’t write a book without planning, why should lyricists be any different? Of course some of it will come to you when you’re in the shower or in bed (it’s never at a good time is it?) but some parts may need to be planned, and that’s okay! This plan can be based around your mood board and/or your theme. It doesn’t have to be solid and you can stray from it and change it as much as you want.

You Gotta Start Somewhere

Finally, the big take away is to just get writing. Try not to let perfectionism or judgement get in the way. You don’t have to write a masterpiece every time you sit down. Practise makes perfect, even if that practise doesn’t amount to a full song each time. If you’re passionate about it keep going! You’ve got to start somewhere. Most, if not all, artists do not start out being brilliant lyricists.

Part 2 covers what you should do once you’ve started writing.

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.

https://www.musicgateway.net

The Fundamentals of Filming a Music Video

Filming your first music video as a musician can be an exciting yet daunting experience, particularly when you don’t know what to expect. Here, the Directors of Epik Music Videos, Andy and Tai have answered some of the most common questions they are asked by their clients.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for my Music Video?

Andy: The saying “you get what you pay for” is highly relevant here. It is common for music video production companies to vary in terms of their minimum costs and most people tend to sway more towards the cheapest option. However, be realistic in what you envision the outcome of your video to be like and have an adequate budget for the creatives to meet your vision.

Tai: Totally agree. It’s really a combination of the concept of your video and your decided budget. Any decent music video production company will come up with ideas which reflect your personality without overstepping your budget, so it’s a good idea to have an ideal budget in mind, but be flexible with it when deciding what you want

What Determines the Cost of the Music Video?

Tai: The content of your video will be the main influence of the cost of production. Driving around London in a Rolls Royce throwing money around will evidently cost more than a green screen video. However, there many other production elements you will need to consider, including things like:

  1. The location,
  2. Equipment needed,
  3. Crew required,
  4. Hair stylist etc.

Andy: To give you a more definitive answer, you’re looking at around £1,500+ for a basic music video, or £300+ for a basic Lyric Video. But a chat with your chosen Music Video Production company will tell you how much you’re looking at for specific ideas and extras, so get in touch! Alternatively, read this article for a bit more advice: How Much Does a Music Video Cost?

Find out where your money goes, decide your maximum budget and then you can decide on a concept which meets this.

How Detailed Does the Brief Have to be?

Andy: Writing a brief for a music video is vital if you, as a musician, want yours to reflect who you are effectively. Firstly, you will need to decide how much you are willing to spend to know what type of video you can afford. The brief will need to be detailed enough to give the director enough information to come up with a concept, whilst giving the production company a rough estimate of how much it is likely to cost.

Tai: Your background, how you want to be perceived, your audience, previous music and videos etc. Basically, the more information, the better! If your budget is limited, we recommend you state this upfront as a reputable music video production company will be happy to work towards this. We would also recommend providing examples of music videos you like to give a better idea of the style you are looking for.

How Do I Choose the Right Director?

Andy: The relationship between the artist and the director is key! You should always choose the Director who shares a similar vision or at least understands the vision you have for your music video. The relationship between you and the Director is also integral for a smooth shooting day and a great result, so meeting them in person is important.

Tai: Creativity plays a part of this, can they interpret the song lyrics like you do?  Aside from this, there are many qualities to consider when looking for the best Music Video Director: passion, strong leadership, editing skills and knowing the medium well are all checkboxes you should use to determine whether a Director is worth their salt!

How Do I Determine How Many Crew Members I Need to Produce a Music Video?

Andy: The treatment and general plans for your video will form the basis of costs, so identifying your concept ideas and budget will be crucial in this. A treatment is a document which the Director uses to communicate their concept idea to the artist.

Tai: These two factors define the production crew you will need: the more complex the concept, the more crew you will need. For example, if you require a set to be built, you will need set builders. Decide a budget and go from there.

What Basic Equipment Do I Need to Hire?

Andy: Put simply? Camera. Playback. Director. Location. The concept and resulting treatment for the music video will determine what other equipment is needed. Are you in a studio and need special lighting or are you filming outside? What camera is the Director using, and does this require different lenses? Do you need to build a set? Green screen music videos are often filmed quite minimally, with the special effects added in post-production.

Tai: Your production company will help you get the best equipment for your needs, so concentrate on the concept you want and the rest will fall into place.

How is a Shooting Day Organised?

Tai: This is the responsibility of the production team who organise the day based on the shot list, which is inspired by the treatment. A typical shooting day will start off with an on-location run through to confirm shot angles, lighting set ups, character positions etc. Then, for practical reasons, all scenes with the same lighting, makeup, location etc. will be shot together to save time. The Director will take “test takes” with stand ins to get the lighting and composition right, and then you will more than likely want to rehearse your performance before you begin shooting for real.

A Treatment is the Directors written expression of how the video will be constructed and how it will look.

How Would I Go About Organising All My Crew During Filming?

Andy: It is the job of the Producer and Director to turn the treatment into a production by identifying exactly what needs organising. You, as the artist, won’t have to worry about a thing. 

What Do you Have to Consider When Researching, Choosing and Securing a Location for a Music Video?

Tai: Filming days are often very long and demanding. Is the location affordable and available when you need it? Can it be lit properly? Is the location easy for everyone to get to? Will there be electricity points available? All of these questions can be answered by organising a “recce” – a viewing of the chosen location to give a better idea of how everything will be set up and to diagnose any potential problems etc.

Andy: Insurance is often needed for location shoots, but the Directors will handle this for you. All you need to think about is whether the location is the right look for your music video and the right price for your budget. All the practical issues will be the responsibility of the Producer and Director as they will have their treatment to hand to help identify any requirements or issues.

How Do I Set and Manage Timelines and Deadlines?

Tai: Similarly, this is the job of the Director and Producer. They will often intentionally overestimate how long things will take to complete. This is to ensure a little bit of leeway so everything is done either when it is meant to be, or before. Why? Well firstly it is good practice for life in general, but mainly because it would be incredibly expensive to organise a reshoot day!

How Do I Keep Track/Ensure the Budget/Deadlines are Being Met?

Tai: Although this is primarily the responsibility of the Producer who will only shoot to budget; we would suggest managing your budget on a spreadsheet yourself. By doing this, you can firstly communicate any problems with your Director and Producer straight away, but this also enables you to identify if there is enough budget for any extras you may want. Our directors are always happy to accommodate additional requests providing they are feasible!

Can Old Footage be Incorporated into the Music Video?

Tai: It sure can! Haim’s music video for “Forever” is the perfect example of using old footage of them integrated with present day footage, and it is an awesome video! It is easy to do with the right soft and hardware, and wouldn’t cost any more unless it is VHS footage. A skilled editor can easily integrate them both seamlessly.

What is the Best Format to use for a Music Video?

Andy: Platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Myspace typically accommodate most file formats. However, there are many other factors you will have to think about: compatibility with different players, file size, loss of quality and such. MP4, H264 10ATP or .mov, a QuickTime movie file are your best bet for distributing online.

What is the Best Software for Editing a Music Video?

Tai: In our experience, there are 3 unbeatable heavyweight editing tools:

  1. Apple’s FinalCut Pro,
  2. Adobe’s Premier and
  3. Avid.

You have to pay for these, but they are by no means restricted to professionals – they just require a little training. It is worth the money if you are editing your own music video.

Who Owns the Rights to the Music Video? Artist/Producer/Record Label?

Andy: That’s simple. Whoever paid for the music video has the right to do what they like with it. As a musician, it is vital that you are aware of the Copyright Act and how to protect your Music in the UK, so get on it!

How Do I Get the Video to the Target Audience?

Andy: To start out with, we would recommend sending your shiny new music video to a small circle of friends, getting their opinion and then communicate any changes to your Director and Editor. We are always happy to tweak your video for no extra costs. When everything is perfect, this is where the fun starts. There are plenty of ways to promote your music online, social media and your own website being the most obvious. Successfully promoting your music on social media is a sure fire way to get yourself heard with your target audience, but having your own website is your most valuable asset.

Protect Your Ears

Your ears are your biggest assets so don’t take them for granted. There’s no coming back from serious hearing damage or Tinnitus (ringing in your ears). Make sure you protect your ears!

Try to limit your exposure to two hour blocks (not always possible). Then rest for 30mins (do some quiet editing). My Engineering professor would also recommend complete silence for 15 mins if time was tight.

Sometimes I’d even put on ‘construction’ ear protection (the big ones that fit over your ears). After long periods of exposure to loud music the hairs inside your ears get tired and they need a break so they can ‘wake up’ again.

Don’t Mix At Loud Levels

Around 80 to 85 dBSPL is a good average. Use an SPL meter if available. If you can’t get your hands on one, the trick is that the mix level should be quiet enough that you can have a comfortable conversation with someone in your room. Headphones are harder to judge so be careful.

We’re all guilty of blasting mixes until our ears tingle. It’s fun, but very dangerous, like gator wrestling. You should also be careful with “city” listening. City sounds (cars, subways, construction) themselves contribute to ear fatigue. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the tendency is to turn up your headphones to compensate (which is a vicious cycle).

Monitor the levels you’re pumpin’ into your ears. Once those inner ear hair cells die, they can’t be repaired and don’t grow back (unless you’re a frog or a bird).  Total Bummer.

The realities of the Fletcher-Munson curve (aka. Equal Loudness contour) will affect your mix too; Mixing at loud levels usually makes for an unreliable/unbalanced mix. Having said all that, it’s sometimes unavoidable to crank it every once in a while so you can really feel the track! Just be careful.

Good Ear Plugs with Protect your Ears

They’re essential for live shows, but also handy in many studio situations. You can easily spend hundreds on custom molded plugs (e.g. Sonomax), but more affordable options are available too (e.g. DUBS).

One last thing about earplugs (and Q-Tips), is that overtime they can push earwax into your ear canal and eventually create a blockage. About 10 years ago I thought I was going deaf in one ear. A quick visit to a local health clinic fixed me right up. They flushed my ear and a nasty slug of wax was dislodged. It was gross, but was also the best feeling ever. After weeks of suffering and freaking out that my career was over, it felt like I was hearing for the first time!

Don’t Wait For Something to Happen to You

You’ll regret it. There are varying degrees of hearing loss. It can slowly degrade over time, or you can suffer from one loud sound (e.g. Captain Kirk got Tinnitus from an explosion on the set of original Star Trek and he still suffers 45 yrs later).

Too many concerts (or even one bad one) without ear plugs cause harm (the ringing you hear after a show is not a good sign). Many don’t even notice their hearing loss.

I’ve worked with tons of musicians over the years and I can tell the ones who can’t hear certain things anymore. They ask me to crank certain frequencies because they can’t hear them. It sounds terrible and painful to me, but they love it. I correct the EQ later and the neighbourhood dogs are happy again.

Protect your ears now and you will be thankful further down the line.

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

 

Top Apps For Musicians

The world of smartphone apps is ever growing and it can be hard to sift through what is bad versus what is good. Fortunately, we are here to do the hard work for you! We will be highlighting useful apps for musicians, and where better to begin than with an app called Road Trip!

Road Trip

Road Trip is an app available on iOS that helps you to plan out fuel economy and costs for any journey. It is vey extensive, allowing you to see graphs with details of your MPG over the course of the trip, add in any extra expenses such as service and maintenance repairs, check how much distance you can cover until you absolutely have to refuel, and export all of the data to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for you to use. The graphs show various statistics about your trip, with the average cost per day, total distance and fuel used, total fuel cost, and average cost per mile being key figures to help economise on a journey.

While this app sounds useful for any driver, the uses of these apps for musicians are unparalleled. The more money you can save while on tour the better, as many independent artists will profess. A lot of bands that are on their first or second tour will inevitably lose money in the end because they did not economise, but for those that do, they can often come out with a profit. As this app also lets you track the cost of repairs, its also great for making sure the band split costs evenly when on the road.

Road Trip – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/road-trip-mpg-mileage-fuel/id298398207?mt=8

Songwriter’s Pad

Songwriter’s pad is an app available on iOS, Mac and PC, with the promise of release on Android and Windows phones coming soon. It allows users to write song lyrics into it like a standard notepad, but with a twist. This app helps people with writers block, by suggesting ideas for lyrics using a word generator. The artist can choose where they need a little hint of inspiration in their song and the app will make its suggestions. You can even change between different moods depending on the tone of the song to receive different suggestions.

The app will leave an annotation by that line of the track reminding you to look at the lyrics there so you can keep track of where you are in the writing process at any one time. It can also help with arranging the lyrics, allowing you to swap verses round and alter the structure.

The app also includes a voice recording feature with cloud storage so that you can record a vocal idea or melody whenever inspiration hits, chord notation for laying out the basic structure of the song, and a built in Dictionary or Thesaurus for finding alternative words to go into the lyrics. All of this, together with the ability to import backing tracks to write lyrics over, make this one of our top apps for musicians.

Songwriter’s Pad – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/songwriters-pad-songwriting/id380151611?mt=8