Mix-Remix Project 2013

                                               Mix-Remix Project 2013

 

Project Overview

“With the decline of the large studios and the increase in available and affordable technology, engineers and producers are having to become more creative with the spaces and techniques that they are using to produce commercial releases. Being able to plan and record in different situations is a valuable skill to have in the modern music industry. Within this project you will explore different skills and spaces to create your recordings. These can range from studios to laptop based mobile rigs, from control rooms to obscure but interesting / unconventional spaces. As well as using the studios you will also be exploring other spaces around the collage using a mobile rig with it’s own set of advantages and limitations.”

Task 1

In groups you are to take the Btec specification for Unit 48 Music Recording and with the group you are going to design your own project brief (this document) encompassing all the learning outcomes.

Task 2

Produce a multitrack with recordings using various microphones and other recording techniques in spaces of your choice paying particular attention to the genre and the recording techniques appropriateness for that genre. The resulting multitrack should be mixed and submitted as a CD quality (16bit 44.1khz) stereo file.

Unit 48, outcome 2: Be able to mic up musical instruments in different recording situations

Unit 48, outcome 3: Be able to record music from different sources for specific contexts

 

Task 3

Using your multitrack recording from Task 2 you are going produce a remix of this track. Feel free to use additional material whilst similarly you don’t have to use all the multitrack recordings that were in your previous recordings, submitted as a CD quality (16bit 44.1khz) stereo file.

Unit 48, outcome 4: Be able to mix and remix music recordings from different sources.

 

Task 4

Evaluate your 2 recording’s effectiveness, including a comparison between your recordings and commercial recordings of a similar genre (reference tracks). This document can be submitted as either

Word / Open Office document.

Audio recorded evaluation.

Video Documentary

Unit 48 outcome 1: Understand production characteristics of music recordings

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Task 1

In groups you are to take the Btec specification for Unit 48 Music Recording and with the group you are going to design your own project brief (this document) encompassing all the learning outcomes.

Task 2

Produce a multitrack with recordings using various microphones and other recording techniques in spaces of your choice paying particular attention to the genre and the recording techniques appropriateness for that genre. The resulting multitrack should be mixed and submitted as a CD quality (16bit 44.1khz) stereo file.

Unit 48, outcome 2: Be able to mic up musical instruments in different recording situations

Unit 48, outcome 3: Be able to record music from different sources for specific contexts

 

Different mics were chosen according to their versatility and technical specs, such as it’s sound response characteristics and polar curve, depending on what instrument it was to be used to record.

The whole class was involved in the positioning, setup and cabling of all the mics for each session.

Care was taken to only Phantom power the relevant mics, and de-power first before pack up.  

Flute – Rode NTK

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul01/articles/rode.asp

This mic was chosen because of the valve pre amp warmth, very wide dynamic range and flat frequency response so it would capture the quietest and loudest sounds for the flute’s frequency range, to a high quality.

It has a cardioid polar pattern so is quite directional to help limit spill from external sources.



Bodhran – Heil Sound PR40

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jun09/articles/heilsoundpr40.htm

This was chosen because it also has a flat frequency response for uncoloured sound reproduction but a large diaphragm to handle louder sounds from drums, without distortion:

*

Mudolica – Rode NT2A

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/mar05/articles/rodent2a.htm

This was chosen because it has a flat response in the lower mids to top highs to suit the Melodica’s range, and pad switches for cutting the bass response to avoid overspill frother instruments like drums.

  

Guitar – AKG C214

http://www.musicradar.com/reviews/tech/akg-c214-172209

This was chosen because it is a large diaphragm condenser mic, so is responsive to the dynamic subtleties as well as the louder dynamics of acoustic guitar without distortion, and has a wide frequency range from 20 to 20,000 Hz – well outside of the range of an acoustic guitar – the lowest note being bottom E at 82Hz, but still ensure all higher order harmonics are captured. It has a mainly broad cardiod polar pattern, so spill may be an issue, but was the best remaining mic available.

      *

 

Room – NT2A


This was chosen for the characteristics listed above and because they can suit what is required for a microphone that can capture a full range of frequencies for all instruments used simultaneously, as an option for mixing later, adding a natural room reverb to help affirm the actual recording space of the day. It has an omni directional mode so it captures sounds from all directions.

Portable Recording Kit  

To record to Logic on an Apple laptop via USB2, we used the Art Tubefire 8 multi input rack unit mixer for the XLR mic inputs. There is a review of this unit here:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug09/articles/arttubefire8.htm



photos courtesy of Leanne Wells

This mixer was chosen as it is a rackmount unit that is hand portable with 8 separate XLR inputs, so sufficient for all the instrument and room microphones required for this session. It has a USB2 connection so is easily attached to the laptop to enable real time recording straight to Logic 9. Independent headphone monitoring allows a reasonable mix to be obtained whilst recording if desired, and to check correct mic function such as level and bass response before the recording starts. The valve pre amps ensures warm, good quality analogue sound reproduction before digital conversion.  

Once the session was recorded and saved, the sound files and Logic Project were uploaded to Gdrive for all to access. These sound tracks were then previewed to decide what could be used to create a completely new separate project, or just mixed and augmented as desired by the student.   

Task 3

Using your multitrack recording from Task 2 you are going produce a remix of this track. Feel free to use additional material whilst similarly you don’t have to use all the multitrack recordings that were in your previous recordings, submitted as a CD quality (16bit 44.1khz) stereo file.

Unit 48, outcome 4: Be able to mix and remix music recordings from different sources.

 

The MIX Project – Track 1

 

I used the solo flute sample from the first lecture theatre recordings we did. I found this easier to create a track based on a melody from within Ross Harris’ solo flute part, as there were no other instruments playing, so microphone spill was not an issue.

We used a Rode NTK condenser mic + valve pre amp for the flute, and positioned Ross in the top left corner of the Lecture Theatre as the the corners tested as pleasant ambient sound traps for overall frequencies for the instrument placed here, whilst maximising distance between other instruments to minimise spill:




photos courtesy of Leanne Wells

 

I dragged the whole sample into Fruity Loops DAW Playlist window, then made a copy of it on another track before I started cutting suitable sections to create the overall track.

 

FLS Playlist window:


 

I had a serendipitous moment because of the copy track, which was not quite at the start of bar one, but at the next beat, which when played together gave an automatic delay, which I liked.

I had the idea of using this effect with appropriate stereo panning, to be the focal centre of the music, and building the accompaniment around this.

I found a melody within the playing I liked for the intro, so cut this section out and experimented with different flute parts played together and panned opposite from each other. To do this in FLS you have to rename the copy track differently so it appears in the sequencer window as a separate track which can then be assigned to a separate Mixer track, and panned there.

 

FLS Sequencer and Mixer windows


 

I played a simple synth bass line using a synth plugin called Sytrus, of 2 patches – Deep and Deep2 – to double that MIDI track to thicken it, shown in the Piano Roll window below:

 

I added soft synth pad chords with a 3rd Sytrus patch – Above Clouds – with the first “ambient/trip hoppy” Mix in mind.

 

It was at this point that I decided it would be easier to to structure the track overall by doing a more up tempo “Remix version” first, and work backwards.

This enabled me to get a feel for the track overall by adding drums/percussion and get a sense of timing “motion” by adding a single note arpeggiated synth line using another Sytrus patch – Ambient Echoes.


 

The rest of the track was built up over time using different looping samples sourced from a Magix Music Maker DAW sound library DVD.

FLS – like Logic – makes this process a simple drag/drop operation, as the samples automatically time stretch to the correct BPM (120) of the current Playlist project, as they are all pre beat-marked, as can be seen in the FLS wave editor, Edison:


 

I wanted a slightly Japanese feel for a mid section break, but could not find suitable koto, or shamizen samples nor keys sounds in FLS or the library, but stumbled on the Timpani and Bougarabou samples which I really liked, to give a very bassy dynamic to this break, and are not instruments I hear used much in many musical genres except orchestral/classical and (probably) World Music respectively.

I had to check Wikipedia for the Bougarabou detail, and found out its bass frequencies can carry for long distances:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bougarabou


 

It has a wonderful resonant bass drum tonality.

I thought a gong sample for a dramatic Intro would be effective also, which was found in the Magix library, and works well to give a sense of a Middle Eastern/Oriental pageantry setting, as some flute lines have a very Middle Eastern feel to them.

 

The total 22 track Patch List below:


 

After a peer review, I decided that I would remix and re-arrange the tracks in Apple logic 9 at college so bounced out all the tracks using the Split Mixer Tracks function in FLS:

 


 

These were then dragged into a New Project in Logic, and set to Mono, to enable a fresh mix. This did not go to plan as the original tracks were already EQ’d and mixed in stereo to 0dB, so summing in mono caused some signal level increase and tonal issues. This was overcome by dropping down the levels to around -5dB on the faders, re mixing, changing EQ, compression and reverb settings where required,  then splitting back to stereo tracks. This helped fix the boomy resonance that had occurred due to track summing.

 

Better quality Logic crashes replaced my library sounds.

 

The Project now looks like this in Logic:



Various stages of mixing processes such as EQ, reverb addition and adding sub-mix bus faders to simplify the mixing of groups of tracks such as all drums or percussion to alter volume:



Above – assigning multiple tracks to mixer sub groups

 


Above – Fade tool used to remove breathe noise from flute passages.



Above – unwanted flute passage muted out using the M key.


Above – compression and EQ added to the gong to give it more presence and authority.



Above – compression on drums

 

I am not overly happy about this track as I don’t like the drums samples I chose originally, so would change them in future if time was no constraint.

https://soundcloud.com/dragdropmonkey/tracks

 

The REMIX Project

 

I took the essential doubled, delayed flute elements in the Mix Project to create the Remix, by trying them over a partially written previous musical idea I had already, which worked well.

JB had played some keys for me on this track, to a piano melody I had created some months back, which is in the key of C.

This meant the flute – originally recorded in D, had to be pitch shifted down two semitones, this time using the Logic plug-in:



The Mix slider has to be at 100% so there is no flute heard in the original key of D.

 

The REMIX Project looks like this with the oiginal flute tracks in blue:



There is automation in places – reverb, volume, pan and fades:



Above – reverb wet volume for the intro piano – used in conjunction with dry volume below



Above – dry volume fade in.

 

This effect is used to give an impression of the piano moving closer, and away from an echoed environment to an almost completely close, non-echo space.

Above – volume fades on the start and end of some flute samples to cut breathe noise.

 

I decided to experiment with a harmony flute a 5th interval above the original also, using the pitch shifter again to raise the main flute 7 semitones (-2 to +5), whilst leaving the original delay in place, now having 3 simultaneous flute tracks in places.

I quite liked this, and it brought the focus of the track back to the flutes.



I added volume automation on these to remove the harmony and delay flutes from the percussion section which is busy there, and not overuse the effect.

After a peer review, these 3 flute tracks were altered in places again – volume and pan – to retain interest and no overuse the effect, for example, using Pan automation to bring the main flute back to stereo centre when the harmony flute track is not playing.


Colour was added for easier track identification before some further tweaks were made, such as EQ and reverb on the kick and snare drum track, and the bass tracks EQ notched to allow frequency space for the kick drums:


https://soundcloud.com/dragdropmonkey/tracks

 

I am really happy with how this track has turned out, and feel it is one of my best pieces of work to date, owing much to great performances by Ross on flute, and John Bickersteth on solo keys parts.

 

Task 4

Evaluate your 2 recording’s effectiveness, including a comparison between your recordings and commercial recordings of a similar genre (reference tracks). This document can be submitted as either

Word / Open Office document.

Audio recorded evaluation.

Video Documentary

Unit 48 outcome 1: Understand production characteristics of music recordings

 

I compared some TripHop/other tracks containing flute, as the closest genres to my mixes:

 

LYOD – Folkloflûte (Flute Trip-Hop Instrumental) Mp3

http://www.freemp3go.org/track.php?id=elROTlZ3U3lBR3c=

 

Kick Bong – Cosmic Flute

http://www.freemp3go.org/track.php?id=VmFlOWdLeHZTbW8=

 

AFRO PROJECT 24 – COSMIC FLUTE mp3

http://mp3bod.com/afro-project-cosmic-flute/

 

Electro flute solo (great stuff!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGVQMPU6mZE

 

Bia – The Flutist (nice if not for the worn dub step cliches)

http://www.freemp3go.org/track.php?id=cy14YURBME9YNkU=

 

I think the quality of Ross’ flute recording is as good or better than these examples in most cases, and the RE-mix track, is better in terms of mixed aspects – flute track FX treatment giving more clarity and definition.

 

On the whole I think a very good job was done in the original session recordings to capture the best quality sound, to enable the best possible chance of a quality finished track.

 

The production characteristics of some trip hop can be very spacious in terms of the delay and amount of reverb used, to produce a sense of general relaxed, drums beats (if present) that could build to energetic dance tempo if desired. This genre is very open in terms if the choice of instruments used, from traditional folk instruments to electronic, with or without drums, and wide ranging tempos, so can be relaxing or danceable.

 

It may utilise synths or heavy effects processing or not, because of it’s mixed roots.

Wikipedia describes it as:

 

“Europe’s alternative choice in the second half of the ’90s”, and “a fusion of
hip hop and
electronica until neither genre is recognisable.”[4] Trip hop music fuses several styles and has much in common with other genres; it has several qualities similar to
ambient music[3] and its
drum-based
breakdowns share characteristics with
hip hop.[3] It also contains elements of
R&B,
dub and
house, as well as other
electronic music. Trip hop can be highly experimental in nature.”  

 

Personally, I don’t know or care much for most recent musical genre definitions, other than as a form of identification, only seeing them in terms of subsets of more major historical genre’s – Dance, Blues, Jazz or Classical for instance, as all of these are now so diversified it’s almost impossible to track history or be accurate in interpretation. I judge an individual piece of music on its elements and how they fit together overall, not it’s genre so much – either good music or bad music. Combinations either work or they don’t subjectively.

 

As pieces of music I like the Remix, but not the Mix so much, though would have improved the Mix given more time, but in summary of comparison to similar genres, I think both stand up well enough to those linked above in terms of imagination, original recording quality, final mix and finished product.