AUS 230 : Trimester Reflection

Trimester 5 is now over and it is now time for me to reflect on what has been achieving over these 13 weeks.
Firstly, a lot happened in my personal life. It was and still is extremely challenging for me to keep up with school and I felt extremely anxious about some of the outcomes in this trimester. This has occupied my thinking for most of the trimester and sometimes made it really hard to focus on my uni objectives. Hopefully, a well-established communication in between the academic staff and myself made this module achievable and some of the work delivred was actually well received.

I’d like to thank some of the academic staff for allowing me to deal with some of the situations theses past weeks.
Our first task was the Sound Exploder project. It has been a helpful exercise and corresponds to what I’m looking for in this course. The point was to mimic a chosen producer and adapt one track to his style.  I chose Pharell Williams for his efficiency in production. He uses simple elements in a relly elegant way to achieve a full-on result. It was also quite humbling because sometimes his tracks can sound easy but in fact, it’s not. I had to use a mix of critical listening skills, composition skills as well as songwriting skills to come up with a product. I’m not impressed with it but it is good to see where I am in term of production skills. I need to keep working to get to where I want and this is going to apply to every discipline involved this trimester.

The next project was hen the tape one. We had the opportunity to record onto tape at SoundPark Studios for a full day session. I was lucky enough to source a band. I found a jazz trio through social media platforms and they were pretty keen on the project. We ended up recording 3 differents songs and gave the musicians the opportunity to record several takes for each of these. We recorded to ProTools and to tape so we could work with different types of sound. I think it was a really cool recording session and I liked working as a group so everyone knows what is exactly going on and what they need to do. We had to provide mixes and masters for at least one track. I’ve been mixing the whole thing and provided masters to musicians as well. I had some issues with the bass in mixesmxes but I think that it has been adressed in mastering. As a whole, I’m really satisfied with the project and I’m thankfull that I’ve been given the opportunity to use SoundPark Studios facilities. A huge shout out to David Turner who helped us get the session.
Later this trimester, we’ve been introduced to the wonders of mastering. We’ve got nto the mastering suite and got to learn about its gear and propreties. We tried to understand the differences inbetween an analog master and a digital one. We went exploring on some famous mastering techniques and we also tried to get a taste of what these techniques can achieve and when to use them. I really enjoyed this module and I’m looking forward to utilize it within my own work. I like the idea of having a very last tool on your tracks for it to reach its best strandards and if the mastering engineer’s really good, your track could almost reach it’s “true form”. I mentionned in my previous blogs that I stillwant to learn more about mixing firstg before heading more seriously into mastering.

I am actually still finishing the post production module as I write this blog but I thought it was important to mention in this reflection as well. I have been a bit away of the classes but I think the goal of this module was to work as a team on a post production project. The team had to divide itself into differents tasks such as sound design, editing or songwriting. They worked with film students on a web series and really improved it by implementing sounds assets and music along the video. Some of the effects and foleys used enforces the comic effect on the video and help it to transition smoothly in between shots. I’ve been helping a bit with dialogue mixing and editing as well as focusing on the narration. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get much more useful advice from Ant (our teacher) than the others but that was only relying on my ability to be present in class. I think that I’m not really into post production. I don’t really like to work with so many tracks for such a small results. But the industry is heading more and more into post production and these would be useful skills to use later in my career.

I’ve been working on some Hip Hop for my freelance side of things. I’ve been receiving stems all he way from new caledonia and had to provide a mix. I did already work with these artists but it feels different as I wasn’t supervising the production. I had to “guess” where the music was going and compromise with my vision. I think I imporved everything that has been sent to me but I’m a bit disapointed with the material I received. The Album lacks of vocal doubles and crucially of harmonies. I would have aimed for a ellborated vocal production from the recording stage rather than trying to invent it while mixing. It has been a good project globally and I’m super keen to finish the mixes as soon a I get the little more recordings I’ve asked for to make it realeasable.

To conclude, I’m glad this trimester is over and that I will have the opportunity to start the next one with a fresh mindset. I’ll focus on the learning outcomes of this trimester to make sure I didn’t miss on too much content because of my personnal situation.

AUS 230: Mastering Project

When I was first introduced to audio, I didn’t even know that mastering was a thing. Actually; I was more of a music addict than someone that knows what’s exactly going on with sound and its properties. As I didn’t know a thing about mixing, mastering didn’t seem much more of a challenge. It was like another step on how to make a record.
I was told that only good mixes could result in good masters and that only a few people were heading into mastering.
It seemed like something that you would never do or that you would only do, and if you look at the industry it’s kind of like that. The mastering engineer is now a full-time position in some major companies and they barely do anything for mixes and vice versa. Some mixing engineers are sometimes been given some 2 tracks to master but it isn’t prominent.
Of course, the expansion of freelance sound engineers in the industry makes mastering more available and better known within itself.

I personally find mastering quite interesting. I like the idea of having a second experienced ear in your mixing projects. It is understandable that sonic issues can happen in any environment even treated ones. Mastering would address these issues with different critical listening reference points and also different rooms. Mastering engineers tend to listen to a diverse range of genders they are able to draw upon their experience to apply appropriate adjustments in context with the piece of music. It is true that mastering can’t fix everything and a lot of times, mastering engineers are sending back mixes with generally some helpful and appropriate feedback.

Mastering also implemented a lot of standards in the industry especially in terms of levels and formats; here ‘s a list inspired by The Pro Audio Files website:

iTunes (standard), Spotify, and other online stores — 16-bit/44.1k WAV files
Mastered For iTunes — 24-bit/96k, 88.2k, 48k, or 44.1k sample rate WAV files
Bandcamp and SoundCloud — 24-bit WAV files (sample rates above 44.1k)
Compact Disc — DDP image or audio CD-R master
Vinyl — 24-bit WAV files (sample rates higher than 44.1k if available) with limited low end

Cassette — 16-bit WAV files (sample rates higher than 44.1k in some cases)
Music Licensing — 48k WAV files (with 320kbps reference mp3)

Here is also a quick guide to levels for digital distribution sourced from masteringthemix.com.

iTunes Store    

-0.1dBTP

-9 to -13 LUFS

>9DR

iTunes Radio

-0.1 dBTP

-15 to -16.5 LUFS

>9DR

Youtube

-0.1 dBTP

-12 to -14 LUFS

>9DR

Spotify  

-0.1 dBTP

-11 to -13 LUFS

>9DR

CD 

-0.1 dBTP

> -9 LUFS

>9DR

Club Play 

-0.1 dBTP

-7.5 to -9 LUFS

>8DR

Soundcloud 

-1 dBTP

-9 to -13 LUFS

>9DR

I haven’t been practicing mastering as much as other audio disciplines but I really enjoyed it every time I’ve done it. Sometimes it is a pain to work with too many tracks and mastering gives you the opportunity to see your music differently. The all-in-one plugins like Ozone from Izotope are really making the all process enjoyable even though there is a lot of different ways to achieve different results. Analog mastering is something that looks too hard for me at the moment and I want to understand more sound engineering before heading towards it. I’ve been really impressed with mid side processing techniques; a lot of producers tend to use more and more mid side properties in their music and it makes sense that these techniques can make the difference on the appropriate track.

Regarding my work this trimester with mastering. I’ve been having rough times with some of it and mint moments with the rest. The Sound Exploder project has been quite tricky to master even it was my own work. I wanted to get more low mids in the track but the vocals sometimes got in the way so I had to make fairly small changes not to affect it too much.
I really enjoyed mastering the jazz band, I think that when I like the music everything is going a lot better and I achieve better results. I was happy with the mix and the type of sound I went for so the master was just an extra step to achieve what I had in mind for this project. I also enjoyed the modules we had in class. It was a really good exercise to perform mastering in a certain domain or in a certain amount of time. It was fun to combine learning and challenging;

To conclude, I’d say that mastering is something I will practice in the future and that I enjoy doing. I just have different priorities regarding my audio learning and that this would be one of the final touches on my progress. I’ll probably need mastering during my career and I’m sure it will help me getting better results and closer to best standards.

AUS 230 : Tape Project

This unit, in class, we’ve been given the opportunity to record in a professional studio. We used SoundPark Studios facilities and equipment to record a Jazz Trio formed by a Grand Piano; an Upright Bass as well as the unskippable drummer. The final result is great and we operated as a group to achieve our best work.

But before every recording, you first need something to record. We had to source the band and organize the session. I tried sourcing mine throughout social media and ended up finding the Jazz Trio which got back to me pretty efficiently thanks again to social medias. It was a good experience as I learn to get in touch with other members of our industry, especially in a foreign country.

After sourcing the band, pre-production was the next logical step. We sourced our musician needs and matched them according to what we had available in the studios. We also looked for micing techniques as well as other recording techniques. We also decided to study a bit about the tape. Another thing was to plan the number of channels we would use, what mic on each channel, and match it to tools before coming in the studio. Pre-production gave us an advantage and some confidence to handle the session efficiently.

The actual recording was a lot of fun. We got in an hour before the musicians so we could start to get some leads out and mics placed, we also had a bit of trouble figuring out the exact signal flow as some channels were bumped be we came to a solution without having musicians to worry about it. We recorded every take straight to pro tools and to tape and recorded back the tape takes onto pro tools. It gave us a lot to work with and also a choice of “color” for our sound. I think that musicians were pretty happy to record into this room so I’m glad I could find them. I wouldn’t like it if they were disappointed with anything.

Finally, we all went back home with the session so we could mix it individually. I really enjoyed mixing jazz and I had to watch hours of tutorials to get it right but it feels really pleasant and “mature” to mix such a delicate gender.
I went for a live type of sound and tried to enforce on some of the rooms aspects without getting to spacy. I could have used autotune on the bass but couldn’t get hold of the plugin in time. In the end, I think I’m quite happy with it especially after mastering.

I also enjoyed to developed some of my professional skills with this module. Sourcing the band and maintaining a good communication with them is something I really wanted to practice and this made it possible.  It is exhausting to deal with every aspect of production and I understand why big productions always involve a lot of people.
I think I achieve good job communicating wth the band but I really want to improve on that. I feel like that you can make someone feel really comfortable about what you’re doing and that sometimes I didn’t have enough confidence in what I was doing to act a successful producer.

Challenge is always part of a development and this module had been the perfect medium for it. I’ve learned a lot about differents aspects of our job and I’m interested in repeating the exercise by myself to get a better grasp on what I”m doing. It showed me that you develop yourself a lot in odd contexts.

Finally, I loved having to deal with a new environment. I think that music would be boring if it had to be resumed to a single room, a single console and a single way to do things. We have a multiple of techniques and a palette of differents sounds to chose from within our music and dealing with new things is something I tend to enjoy a lot. I don’t get too stressed by having to deal with new gear and at the opposite, I’m more curious to hear what it does and how it sounds like. We could have spent hours experimenting for sound n this studio but we also had to make the time available to record so it’s pointing out anther interesting part of the industry: session management. It’s awesome that we can go crazy with this stuff but also important to remember what is exactly achieved and what’s the best way to do it.

 

 

AUS 230 : Sound Exploder Project

This past weeks on campus, we’ve been asked to achieve the Sound Exploder Project. The SOP is a project that requires a number of skills to meet the requirements. We’ve been asked to produce a cover or an original in the style of one of the producers we admire. To achieve so, I’ve been working by myself aiming towards Pharell Williams’s the Neptunes kind of production. I’ve divided my project in 4 major tasks : Research, Composition, Recording and Mixing.

Dave Turner is teaching us this unit and came up with the project brief. We could consider him as a client for this project asking for a ‘Pharell Williams Type Track’ for his business requirements. (I’ve personally chose Pharell Williams but this is totally the kind of demands we sometimes get within the industry.)

 

The first step on achieving a Pharell Williams alike record was to first research on the techniques of production he’s using. To achieve so, I’ve been looking around Audio Engineering reviews and articles which are already breaking down his production.
They often mention gear and engineering techniques that can be later on used or reproduced on any record.

I found a lot of informations about the studios The Neptunes were using and the way their workflow was set up. I’ve also found interviews of their  main engineer discussing around the way they were producing their records.

We for example learn that they have been recording and mixing in a lot of different places and for that reason they do not have a TO GO set up especially when it comes to recording.
We also learn that their workflow consist of a patchwork of different ideas picked up through their travelling or their work within different studios and with different artists.

“Everyone winds up on everyone else’s record,” says Coleman (Neptunes’s Engineer) who worked with another engineer, Brian Garten, “to keep the wheels of a very busy machine rolling. ”

“We had a hard drive that was constantly floating from room to room.” Andrew Coleman.

These informations made me realise that their work consisted of taking elements here and there and combine it in a simplistic and ingenious way.
These informations also confirmed me that working by my self on this project isn’t a bad idea as I’ll be moving in-between different studios, picking different ideas just like Pharell and Hugo would.

There is also numbers of equipment mentioned in the articles such as ” Tube-tech CL1, Dbx 160, LA2A, Neve 9098 EQs and Summit EQ/compressors”. I would then research about their characteristics and aim for the same type of sound in the process.

The next step of my research was then to actually listen to Pharell’s and The Neptunes’s work. I’ve been listening to 3 different records and finally chose a reference to work with.
I’ve chose the song Frontin’ featuring JayZ. I felt like this song had a lot of elements I could aim for. I really liked this song as it’s simple and has a rap vibe to it.

After numbers of critical listenings on different tracks, I determined which of the elements were relevant to Pharell’s type of productions and selected a number of ‘goals’ to aim for.

  1. I’ve noticed that his works revolve around the drum idea.
    For example, in Frontin’, the drums stay unchanged throughout the whole track.
  2. I’ve noticed the simplicity of each of his songs.
    Only a few elements are playing at the same time completing this drum beat.
  3. Pharell would generally use real instrument recordings and then would have them chopped up and arranged within the track.
  4. It needs to be dancing/almost sexual.
    It almost feel like a joke but almost every song P. Williams has been involved in has a sexual approach to it. The drums and the bass are locked together to make sure you move your butt along the track.
  5. Vocals are generally mixed in front and heavily harmonised.

 

With all these informations in mind I was in a good direction to start my composition and writing of the track.

After being guided by Dave’s advices, I decided that I needed to extract the drum groove from Frontin’ and include it within my own track. I used Ableton groove poles tools to extract the feel of his track and apply it to my own drums. I also chose to use a similar pattern to make sure I was aiming for a Pharell type beat.

I’ve selected some real recording drums samples and extracted them so i could arrange them according to my MIDI. I finally came up with a locked drum idea that would lead the track.

Then I had to figure out the chords, I came up with 4/5 different chords within the key of Bb Minor. I had to figure it first then I would know the scale I would use within my track.
The chords and the drums together finally gave me ideas for the rest of the track.

I’ve decided to use Pizzicatos as I’ve heard them a lot into Pharell’s work as well as Wurtilzers and Electric Pianos once again really present into Pharell’s music.
I had to arrange them and find the right rhythm for them that could complement the overall groove of the track.

The Bass is also one of the main elements and I’ve decided to use a Moog Bass along a Sub Bass. The Moog reminds of Pharell old sound selection and the sub bass anchors within modern productions hip hop.

Once all the elements were arranged in a proper order I really felt like the song was going into a good direction : It actually sounded like a Pharell track.

I could have completed and elaborated the instrumental track for ages but I also know that I don’t have Chad Hugo’s talent on keys neither Pharell drumming nor singing.

The track felt really chill and made me want to dance to it a bit. So I’ve decided to work my lyrics around it. They’re written in French and are mainly rap. They rap about partying and the simplicity of human needs. I’ve recorded all the rap vocals and then decided to harmonise some of the parts to get closer to Pharell type of production.  I’ve included low and hight harmonies on the chorus as well as mid range harmonies all along the track.

That way, the track is lasting for 3mins and would be up for radio in such a format (maybe with a shorter intro).

 

As most of the instruments were MIDI or samples, I only had to record vocals. I went reading once again on Pharell’s recordings and did not find any microphone within the school that could reproduce the legendary AKG C12 sound. I’ve decided to use the C414 as the polar pattern is quite similar and I’ve already experienced good results for my own recordings. I still had the signal sent thought the Avalon 737 which Pharell is normally using. That gave me a really crisp sound that I was aiming for.

Then it was just a matter of mixing. As I already balanced the instruments within the instrumental track I’ve decided to only do some corrective EQs on the instrumental stems to make to vocal more in focus but did not mess with their levels. A lot of the sound were a bit muddy as they aren’t proper instruments but dodgy plugins or synths.

My goal was really to get these vocals as the main focus of the track and also to keep a nice low end with the sub so people could dance to the track. I’ve tried to balance the volumes and the frequencies towards Frontin’ mixing style.

I haven’t used a lot of reverbs or delays on the instruments which I could maybe have done a bit more. The vocals are mixed through Izotope Nectar 2 and are being affected by numbers of effects at the same time. Saturation was a major requirement to get closer to the Pharell sound once again.

In the end I think I came up with a nicely done original in the style of Pharell Williams.
Of course, I’m still considering that Pharell Williams would have put way more efforts into production but also has a lot more resources. I feel like this assignment really made me realize the amount of work required in EVERY single record. It also helped me understanding that engineering is a work of patience and that  step by step and documented goals are an efficient way to come up with professional work that feels good to listen to.

This assignment also gave me the opportunity to answer an open-ended and non-prescriptive brief form an outside client. It first seemed like a massive challenge but now I understand that with some research and some good planning, big projects can be achieved in no time. It also lit up the importance of communication with the client to make sure you’re on the right track to  achieve their goals.

I’ll now reconsider my work flow and come up with better project plans in the near future.

 

 

 

 

AUS 220 : Final Blog

This final post is a critical reflection on this trimester’s audio unit and the work we achieved in it. It will break down according to the different assignments we’ve been
submitting as well as some other freelance projects I’ve participated in.

The main part of this unit was the podcast.
I have to say that I can’t be disappointed about our final result, I’m fairly happy with it to be honest. The all project idea was to work as a team over a 12  weeks period and we managed to meet the requirements which would be a success in a professional environment. We dealt with the issues we faced during the recording stage and came thought with a professionally acceptable product.
The only ‘regret’ I have on this unit is that I’ve stayed back of participating in the narrative as English isn’t my first language. But I assume at the same time it could be a good decision as I could have make mistakes and slow the process while an over team member could have done it more accurately.
I was in charge of mixing the edited product and aimed towards a radio-like sound with a lot of de-essed high end and levelled lows and mids.

An other unit I wanted to reflect on was the music production unit.

I really dig the production aspect of the industry, even thought it s too often associated with money, an artistic production aspect is always a lot of fun. I feel like there is too many aspects that are uncovered by the sound engineer and so much miscommunication
between musicians and their industry relatives. Producing / managing / directing an artist offers enormous opportunities to both parties and I can imagine so many ways to help an artist reaching his artistic goals by leading in his songwriting, sound design and also his attitude. My first client is myself and I really feel like reaching a record as a whole now, I had a lot of reflections about this before the unit and had confirmations during the practice. I took major decisions on the product and they are part of the ones that contributed in the final product success. Whereas the ones that I had a bad feeling about ended up clashing with some of the other elements in the song.
Once again, it is harder as a group and I start to understand that we just can’t control it.

 

Regarding the other elective units that was just loads of fun and moments I really enjoyed. It is always good to stand back a bit from the studios and get on something LIVE !

Finally I have been participating in multiple freelance projects this unit.

I have been asked to compose beats for the third volume of New Caledonian rap/reggea compilation. It is almost finish and tried to produce different styles to get different feels out of the artists. Here is an extract of one of the tracks on the last compilation :

 

I am also mixing the second episode of the EP Chavi L’Abscene by the artists Chavi and Koyo. The last episode has been nominated to multiple rewards this end of the year and proudly represent the coulours of a modernised music in new caledonia which is quite uncommon against the rather lively and dancing rhythm of island music and religious based music. I have worked with David LeRoy which is one of the top engineers for French and New Caledonian Television music. I am impatient to realease this new project.
here’s an extract of the last EP.

 

I have finally also worked in a lot of different photographic and videographic projects to explore my art further.

I’m really tired of this all unit and I hope my teams and my teacher will appreciate my work and demonstrate their encouragement for the future units.

Week 12 : AUS 220

This is the last week of this trimester and I’m going to discuss about the Music Production assignment. So we’ve been given a demo and we needed to transform it into a record.

We’ve been assigned to the same group we worked in Live Sound Assignment and a pretty similar group to the Sound A Like one so we kind of knew everyone strengths and weakness. We all agreed on the material we anted to work with and that simplified the job a lot.

Trinksy was in charge of showing us the new studio (Neve Genesis Console) and led us through our recordings and planning for the track. He wasn’t in charge thought, we had to make our own decision and commit to them.

I was assigned a lot of the digital audio content. I feel like digital elements are really important nowadays in popular music. The audience is used to it and I tried to reproduce some of the sonorities I hear from times to times on radio. I also worked a lot against our reference tracks so everyone could have a fell of where I was going with my ideas.

The biggest challenge in this assignment was once again the session and time management. It is really intricate to work as team and for every one to meet the same deadlines. But I like challenges and I feel like we managed to get close enough to what we wanted. We bounced several final mixes in real time by moving individual faders along the recording (old school automation baby!)

I’ve finally decided to master the track at home for my future demo purposes like a portfolio for example.

I’d like to shout out Trinsky for his precious advises and the effort he decide to put in the process.

Hope you’ll enjoy the demo.

Week 11: AUS 220

This week’s blog is going to reflect on our Live Sound assignment.

We’ve been asked to find a couple of acts to perform on the School Sound Stage.

We were assigned groups and then each groups divided into different roles.

After being formed by Tim Dalton several weeks, I’ve been assigned to the task of ‘Gig Producer/Gig supervisor’. My role was basically to make everything was going alright and that every one was sticking to their tasks. The team work went particularly well and we overcame the issues we encountered.

Oliver Young opened the act with a vocal/electric guitar set up. Everything went well until we did not realise not the pics we used for his cab pick up was missing. The information did not went through the team and no one seemed really are why it moved. But it has been noticed pretty fast and unfortunately changed by Tim and not one of our team members.

Polykyte was the main act and it was just sensational. They are a pretty young band that might need a bit more confidence in doing what they do but they totally rock their instruments and gave us a easy-mix performance. I really think of contacting some of the members for future recording projects.

I’m pretty happy with the team I’ve ‘supervised’ and I think we all did a good job in the end.

A great experience.