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Recording A Demo CD

Posted in Music Industry, Newbies, Recording Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Chris Bracco

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(Image from http://www.associatedcontent.com)

If you’ve ever been in a band, or attended any sort of event with local music, you have surely crossed paths with “demo cds.” Unsigned bands have been using these for decades, whether it be on vinyl, cassette or CD. They are an excellent promotional tool great to hand out to fans before, during and after shows.

Demos can be created in many different ways, but all too often bands are overwhelmed by the process and don’t even know where to get started. Here are some guidelines to head you in the right direction:

1) Pick the Recording Venue: Where are you going to set up shop? Do you have the cash to book studio time, or are you planning on recording from home? If home, try to find a room in the house that is relatively dead (low echo/reverberation). If you are a one man show (acoustic guitar/singer), recording from home would suffice. If you are a twelve man bassoon army, it may be worthwhile to save up some dough and hit up the studio.

2) Choose the Recording Method: This depends largely on your budget and your style of music. Hardcore punk band crunched for money? Record live. Pop music intending to be radio friendly? Multi-track that shite.

3) Choose Recording Equipment: If you book studio time, you should check out the studio prior to your recording session to see what kind of equipment you will be able to use. If you are looking to do a home job, there are several options both cheap and expensive:

– Super Cheap: Purchase a voice/mp3 digital recorder and stick it in the middle of the room. Results will probably be crappy, but if you have virtually no money to spend, it’s better than nothing!

– Cheap: Record one of your gigs. Talk to the sound guy and see if you can work out some deal to get a recording of your show. If possible, see if they can record straight from the mixer, that usually yields better results. Nice sound guys will do it for free 🙂

– Moderate: Rent/Purchase an 8 track recorder and some microphones. Recording equipment is pretty cheap nowadays, you can usually rent or purchase everything you need from your local music store. Ebay is a good resource as well for used gear. However, this could be difficult if you do not know how to set levels correctly or use EQ effectively. Do your homework before jumping into this option!

– Expensive: Buy a computer, audio interface (sound card), sequencing software (Pro Tools, Sonar, Cubase, etc) and some microphones and create your own budget home studio! Record into the sequencer, and either mix & master the tracks yourself or send them to a studio. This will run you at least a few grand, especially if you don’t have a sufficient computer for recording music. Check out Tweakheadz website for some excellent example home studios.

-Very Expensive: Book studio time. It’s expensive, but can yield great results for your demo. Just make sure you prepare thoroughly so you don’t have to book too much extra time to finish your project.

4) Mix & Master: Record labels and fans won’t expect your demos to sound perfect, so these steps are as critical as the actual tracking. If you can put together a rough mix by yourself, more power to you. If not, there are some studios that will offer mixing & mastering services for relatively low costs, just search around your town for them.

_chris

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Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth!

Posted in Randomness with tags , , , , , , , on May 10, 2009 by Chris Bracco

For some reason I recently felt the need to know how to destroy our planet. I mean hey, you can find out just about anything on the internet, why not look for something crazy every once and a while?

BOOM!

It took me about 5 minutes to find the top 10 ways to destroy our lovely home. Turns out it is a lot harder to do than originally thought!

One of the methods is to simply have no method. Just wait around, and hope that all 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in our planet spontaneously cease to exist. What?! Yeah, its possible; the chances are greater than a googolplex to one. Your chances of winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning within the same hour are exponentially better.

My favorite one by far requires only a light bulb. Yes, theoretically you can destroy our planet with a stupid light bulb. This theory claims that the vacuum within a light bulb contains enough energy to boil every ocean in the world! The only reason nobody has tried this yet is because no one has figured out how to harness this energy. Once you figure that out, stick this energy into a power plant and let the reaction run out control. KABOOM! Goodbye, Earth.

Here are some other methods from the article in case your interested:
http://www.livescience.com/technology/destroy_earth_mp-1.html

Disclaimer: yeah…don’t try any of these at home. 🙂

_chris

Why Radio & The Music Industries Suck Today (video)

Posted in Music Industry, Randomness with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by Chris Bracco

Just ran into this video over at distorted-loop.com, and it is really just fantastic. What Frank Zappa says in the beginning is so articulate & conducive to my own thoughts, I really don’t think I could have said it better myself.

enjoy!

_chris

Simple Audio Mixing Tips Part 3

Posted in Mixing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2009 by Chris Bracco

This is the 3rd and final installment of “Simple Audio Mixing Tips!” Here are 5 more intriguing tips to try out while mixing your audio! Check ’em out:

1) Turn up the monitors pretty loud, then leave the room and shut the door and listen to the mix from outside of the room. Doing this can sometimes reveal weird things in the mix that you may not have heard from directly in front of the speakers. It can also help with making sure the track levels are well balanced. I know this may not make much sense but try it out! It really does work, some professionals use this trick and swear by it!

2) A good rule is to stay away from the last 4 to 5 dB of a plug-in’s red zone. This is important to absolutely make sure your tracks are not clipping. Clipping is bad. Very bad. Don’t let it happen or the monsters in your closet will eat you.

3) If you are recording a singer/rapper on a LDC mic and you’re getting too much sibilance and popping even when using a pop screen, try adjusting the mic (hanging inverted) so that the capsule is lined up with the bridge of the singer’s nose. This tip gets the singer/rapper to sing upwards, opening their windpipe. This helps dampen those evil Ess’s and Shh’s that us engineers hate so much. Have the vocalist step forward or backward from the mic (depending on the sound you desire), and voila. Essless vox.

4) Vocal Compression Tip: Start conservatively by going to the hottest (loudest) part of the track and setting the compression plug-in parameters so you’re not getting more than 3 dB of gain reduction. Begin by adjusting the ratio at 2:1 or 3:1, then try using an automatic attack and release if available, or if you’re hearing the compressor grab and/or release too soon, aka “pumping,” go manual and set your attack to about 40 ms and your release to 300 to 400 ms to keep the compressor smooth on the attack and release. Lower your threshold until you achieve the desired gain reduction. Compression made simple.

5) Beginner Vocal EQ Tip: I like to start by setting up a 6-band EQ on my track (I like Waves REQ, but thats just me). You can add openness, presence and intelligibility by creating a high shelf anywhere from 5- up to 12 kHz. If more presence is needed, try adding a peak EQ in the 3 to 6kHz range, or taking away 1 kHz or adding a little bit of 2 kHz (the main frequency range where the voice resides). Boosting a bit of 200 to 350 Hz will add warmth and fullness, but too much will make your track muddy. These techniques differ from singer to singer and depend on gender. Once you are confident, train your ear by first listening to the vocal solo’ed while you add EQ and then listen to it within the mix.

And that concludes this 3 part series of “Simple Audio Mixing Tips!” Keep an eye out for some more monthly tips and tricks in other aspects of the recording process!

One love,

_chris

Digital Downloads — Penn State Gets It!

Posted in Music Industry with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2009 by Chris Bracco

As I strolled ignorantly to my theater class this afternoon, completely forgetting that it had been canceled, I decided to pick up a copy of PSU’s newspaper, The Daily Collegian. And I am SO glad I did, because I came across a very refreshing article.

Digital Downloads: City Lights, other music stores wary of future

To be honest, usually most of the articles that come out of our newspaper aren’t the highest caliber. But the author of this article really surprised me with her knowledge of the music industry! It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me because until today I had yet to meet someone at PSU with as much interest in the music industry as me. If you get me rambling about the music industry up here in Happy Valley, I usually get incessant nodding or eyes rolling from listeners — frankly, it seems like they would rather do a kegstand. Not that there’s anything wrong with kegstands… 🙂 Oh, college.

Anyway, here’s what I took away from the article (with occasional comments by me). Hopefully it is useful to you guys as well:

Digital Downloads
In the first article, author Alexandra Fletcher points out that the impact of digital downloading has finally struck good ol’ Happy Valley (aka Penn State University for those of you who had no idea what that meant 3 seconds ago).

The only local brick-and-mortar music store in the downtown area, City Lights, is predicting it will go out of business by next year due to the rising popularity of digital downloads.

Knowledge Drop:

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There were 428.4 million albums sold nationwide in 2008, down from 500.5 million in 2007, according to Nielson Sound Scan. As for digital music, 844.2 million tracks sold in 2007, and in 2008 that increased to almost 1.1 billion…meanwhile, 65.8 percent of the 428.4 million albums sold in 2008, were purchased digitally, according to Nielson Sound Scan.

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I’m sure most people reading this are already aware of these trends. Clearly the value of an album has diminished. DRASTICALLY. Why, you ask?

Alexandra goes on to quote local Roustabout! concert series promoter Jesse Ruegg, who believes that album value has decreased due to the recording industry’s business strategies throughout the 80’s and 90’s:

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The art form of the album was abused as the industry ‘padded out’ an artist. The industry produced albums of 12 to 15 songs with mediocre songwriting, forcing consumers to pay ’18 bucks to find a few good tracks,’ Ruegg said.

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An upside to consumers purchasing/stealing music via digital downloading is the leveling of the playing field. Indie artists & labels can distribute their music & merchandise through the same digital mediums the pro’s use!

Chenjerai Kumanyika, a Penn State grad student in entertainment & media studies, and former member of hip-hop group The Spooks, had some very insightful things to say about this:

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This isn’t the first time the entertainment industry has had to change mediums. This is a time when listeners have more freedom to discern what’s good rather than have the music industry tell them what’s good…this is a time that has the potential to empower artists. Artists should try to use that power, and fans should recognize this as a time to choose.

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I concur, Chenjerai. I concur.

Anybody remember the transformation from sheet music to vinyl records? Well, if you’re reading blogs then you are probably a bit too young. But you get the point. Change has occurred before, the industries have endured, who’s to say we cannot endure again?

_chris

Facebook Pulled a Fast One On Us!! >:(

Posted in Music Industry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2009 by Chris Bracco

hey guys,

this post is just a short rant about Facebook’s decision to make their “pages” (which businesses, artists, and other organizations use) look exactly like a typical facebook profile.

WHATTT???!!!

What were they thinking? I don’t know about you guys, but I think this is absolutely awful. How are organizations supposed to differentiate themselves from individuals on Facebook now? Everybody looks the same, it’s absolutely ridiculous. What is the point of creating a “page” instead of just an individual profile now? You are getting the exact same features.

The only good to come of this is that page activity will be posted on the news feeds of their respective fans, and you can update your status….but those features could have been implemented without the format change! Now, my music player is all the way at the bottom of the page, squeezed into a little box….and so is my events widget & mailing list widget…these are most important to me, and now nobody will be able to see them unless they scroll down half a page!!! And i don’t know about you but I rarely click on those “tabs” towards the top that facebook claims are oh so convenient. People usually give a website a few seconds to find something to hook them in, how are organizations with facebook pages supposed to do this now? Its impossible.

you can go here to view all of the user comments about this new implementation…i encourage you to comment both here and on facebook, I am curious to see what you guys think!

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=54590719821

I’m really interested in hearing what you guys think.

_chris

Simple Audio Mixing Tips Part 1

Posted in Tips & Tricks with tags , , , , , , on February 2, 2009 by Chris Bracco

Most people search tirelessly for the quick & simple answer to fix a problem. With mixing audio, quick & simple are two words that usually do not factor in to the process. Unless a mixing engineer is blessed with perfectly recorded tracks (which is becoming less and less the case due to the increasing volume of homemade recordings), he is going to have to do some fiddling around to get them sounding just right.

Here is part of a list of mixing tips I have compiled over the past few semesters. These are not magic tricks to make your recordings sound crystal clear, or totally eliminate noise, or make your one guitar track sound like 48. Also, these techniques, for the most part, are not universal; they depend on your specific tastes, and the final sound you are looking for in your mix. These are simple tips, some rules of thumb, to create certain effects, enhance certain characteristics, or clean up some of the unwanted mess in your mixes.

For now I will give you the first 5…I have been able to try most of these, but some I have yet to explore….so try some of these out and let me know how they work out for you!

1) Make pretty liberal use of volume automation. 2-3dB doses here and there will allow the more interesting fills and mini-riffs for each track poke through the mix.

2) Low Cut Eq on just about everything. Unless you are mixing hip-hop/dance/techno/trance music that requires the subwoofers to rattle your bones….most of this sub-bass rumble can totally kill an otherwise awesome sounding mix.

3) NY/Parallel compression. Duplicate a track. Compress the hell out of one of ‘em, but not the other. Mix the two to taste (with the uncompressed one being your “main” track). The compressed one gives you the “punch/oomph” and the uncompressed one keeps the dynamics & “sparkle.”

4) Whisper track. Have the singer whisper along with the vocal track and bring this up under the main vox in the mix. I got very awesome results doing this in the song “Wonderland” by ASBPK. I have it best being used subtly under the lead vocals, but if you can make it sound cool cranked up loud I’d love to hear it!

5) Use batteries in guitar/bass stomp boxes, they sound better than power adapters. I am not really sure why, nor do I care, but this really is true I’ve tried it. Less noise & less tone sucking. If only 9V’s weren’t ten bucks a pop…. 😛

I will post another 5 tips shortly. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these!

_chris