The Advantages of Tube Technology for Audio Mastering

Often, you may have heard other audio engineers and musicians that tube guitar amplifiers and equipment are the best to use when it comes to producing guitar sounds or mixing audio. However, tube technology is not always the best technology to use; it still varies from one audio engineer or musician to another. Here are a few things tube technology, both real and simulated, could do for your audio mix.

1. Smoothen Harsh Signals
Tubes could produce a harmonic distortion that is uniform and stable, which makes it appealing to guitarists looking for a fresh and powerful sound. For audio engineers, tube technologies in compression, equalization and other audio equipment make it easier for them to smoothen out harsh frequencies. It helps control the breathing and presence-filled instruments, such as vocals and bright cymbals.

2. A Little Sprinkly Sparkle
Tube equalizers, compressors and others could provide a good saturation when it comes to bringing warmth and a bit of brightness in a mix. If the conventional equalizer couldn’t cut through to bringing out the good sound in your mix, use a tube-based exciter. To get a better sound, it is important to use the equipment sparingly.

3. Not for Every Occasion
As tube technology could introduce only subtle characters in your mix, they only work for a specific purpose. Never be overshadowed by people saying that tube technology works best for all audio. Be sure to experiment with transistors and tapes to find that saturated sound that works for the instruments and the actual mix.

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A Few Things About Audio Mastering

You’ve finally finished your band’s tracks and you are quite satisfied with your mix. Before you congratulate yourself, you’re about to do some audio mastering. Mastering is finalizing the sound of your mix, namely, increasing its volume, adding a master equalization and ensuring that the sound is not too squashed. Here are a few things to remember.

1. EQ
Using a reference track, you could use the equalizer to ensure that your tracks translate properly. However, EQs can sweep a great amount of frequencies, so be sure to use them carefully and assign the proper filters for each frequency.

2. Saturation
Saturation does not only work on individual tracks, but also on your mastering. But be aware that you are adding artefacts to your audio, which means that some parts of the track might sound unnatural with too much saturation. You could select a good saturation plugin from this list.

3. Compression
Now you will need to ensure that your audio mixes properly, and compression helps instruments get “closer” to each other. This squashes some of the dynamics of your tracks, but it increases the overall volume and improves the consistency of your mix.

4. Limiter
A limiter is also a compressor, but it is designed as a brick wall to ensure that your audio does not pass the clipping stages. It is useful for increasing perceived loudness, but make sure that some dynamics are left in your track.

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Making Instruments Sound Thicker on Your Records

This post is specifically for rock and metal musicians looking to beef up the sound of their songs. Sure, a basic knowledge of recording goes a long way for much of the music and you could clearly hear the vocals, guitars, bass and drums, but having the right amount of energy in your mix is highly important. This is only achievable if you could make the instrument sounds thicker in your recording.

1. Saturation
For the rock and metal genre, guitars compensate for the popular appeal despite the strength of the music (especially with more extreme versions of metal). The beautiful sound, thickness, and warmth of a guitar you can achieve by using tape or any other form of saturation. Digital recording has made everything cleaner, so all signals have no biases, but a saturator helps add more harmonics and nuances to your tracks. This can also work on other instruments in the mix.

2. Compression
How do audio engineers whip up a pulse-pounding sound on the kick drum and snare while managing to make everything sound just about balanced in a mix? Compression makes the kick drums sound thicker. It could also bring out other nuances in your bass and guitar tracks, provided you use it with a speedy attack and release so as not to pulse the track around.

3. EQ
The loudness of an instrument is relative to its sound with the other instruments, so sometimes, a scooped guitar might sound louder, yet less warmer, than typical tracks. On the other hand, a mid-boosted snare or bass could bring out the body of a track. Mastering the EQ is highly important in production, so train you ears.

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Songwriting: Exploring Other Genres Than Your Own

I’ve been a fan of jazz ever since I was a child. My father used to play them on a moderate volume every Sunday morning before we heard the mass. Everyone was prepping, then a John Coltrane track was playing in the background. It brings back good memories every time I hear jazz.

When I started a band, I wanted it to be a jazz band. However, my members had different influences, namely because many of them came from different musical backgrounds. I became bossy and told them some parts lacked the natural pattern of jazz and the musical flow needed.

Eventually, I had many lineup changes, until my latest band member, a bassist, showed me how a sax line went well with a rock and metal bass and drum background. I was astounded because I thought of it as absurd.

Then I realized after a few days that it was a splendid and fresh idea during the time. We developed the genre and I learned that I was just becoming a jazz elitist, and I was limiting my creativity in jazz by just sticking to the genre itself.

Every kind of genre has a special characteristic that one will find memorable. This memorable phrase will show itself in the music you create. This is how people develop new genres and beautiful lines from songs, from experience. One will find different experiences and sensations when listening to different kinds of music.

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Listening to Different Audio Reference Materials

A beginner producer should listen to a wide variety of music to know the intensity of instruments needed when they produce a musician or band’s album. Producers may have specialties in terms of genres, but to expand their network of clients, they need to be suitable in any musician’s genre. Here are a few things that could help you.

1. Softness and Loudness
Listen to some classical music because they are good material when it comes to determining dynamics. Trained ears know when the dynamics have become flat, or have become louder with the proper accompanying volume. Even if you may choose to compress all audio in your mix by the end of the recording session, knowing the varying softness and loudness helps in many different genres.

2. Equalization
Every album has a different master equalization and if you have trained your ears well, you could determine them easily. Listen to some soft music before you try to make a mastering bus for a rock or metal genre. Do the same vice-versa before you mix a jazz song. Remember to listen to moderate volumes or you risk tiring your ears before the mastering proper.

3. Fresh Ears
Allow another engineer to listen to your work and discuss with you his or her own opinion regarding your mix. A fresh set of ears can point out different trouble areas in your mix. Your ears get tired if you do not take a production break, which allows you to miss certain details in your mixes.

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The Importance of Taking a Production Break

Musicians are passionate people as far as I know. I’m a musician myself; I do not mind being tired from going on continuous tours with only 2-3 hours of sleep. When people sing your songs, acknowledge the expertise and craftsmanship of your music, passion definitely increases. In production, we are also passionate in recording our vocal and instrumental passages without breaks. Even in pre-production or in studying the sounds we want to include in our albums, we do not take breaks.

But it is essential to take production breaks. I learned this the hard way.

I had my recording engineer work with me in the studio to ensure that my voice is alright and that we have the right phase. We wanted to ensure that the vocals will sound right and sit well with the mix. I was singing for at least one hour, then my engineer said we should take a break. I told him to go ahead and so he went.

I ended up singing at least 3 hours and instead of recording music, or even just one song, we ended up having me home to treat swollen vocal cords.

I sang so passionately to see if the vocals will sit well with the audio mixdown. Indeed it did, but when recording time came, my voice was very hoarse.

According to my engineer, production breaks benefit me the following.

  1. A Sharper Ear
  2. A Better Voice
  3. An Open Mindset (according to him, the muscle memories get a bit stringy without breaks)

 

So I guess I learned the hard way, but then again, we’re just passionate as we’re dedicated to making music.

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Before Performing, Make Sure You’re Insured to Avoid Compensation Claims Troubles

Traveling musicians face a simple but devastating test as they set out to journey on their performances in different parts of a country, or even the world. Even if it is a job of passion and glory, it is still a taxing occupation. Performers must ensure that they are insured and that their insurance will help them even if they are already in foreign areas or countries.

The only difficult part of becoming a musician is that insurance companies consider you as a high-risk profile automatically upon evaluating your sponsors and the environment of places you are performing. The insurance premium increases especially if the musician is not of a big name.

One story of a traveling musician friend made me realize that it is not just about the music, but also about yourself and your crew.

He was performing in India at that time. He thought that his insurance company covered Australia, Russia and India, as these where his performances will take place. Regardless, his manager and he failed to realize that India was not included in the list and instead it was named for Israel. He failed to get the insurance to pay for his sudden contraction of a disease in the area. Good thing he had savings, or else he could have had a life threatening situation.

However, the fate of his crew, who were also part of the insurance deal, was regretfully not similar to his.

To avoid compensation claim troubles with your insurance policy, it would be wise to contact a no win no fee advice line to consult about your insurance before you leave for your performance.

Remember, music can be life, but the road and the world has many dangers to the musician.

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Jazz Helps Explore the Similarities of Music and Language

John Hopkins University Researchers have found through eleven high proficient jazz players that music and language holds similarities in terms of the way the brain perceives them. The 25-26 male jazz players recruited by the researchers spent 10 minutes inside an MRI machine and were tasked to create a musical improvisation.

According to Dr. Charles Limb, the senior author of the study, jazz helps them know about the neurological basis of interactive musical communication outside of spoken language.

The study had the musicians exchange musical ideas back and forth in four-bar melodies. Each of the musicians introduced new ideas in response to the other’s musical ideas. The musician then plays on the specially designed piano keyboard while in the MRI to have his brain scanned.

Dr. Limb and colleagues have found out that upon improvisation, musician’s brains activate similar brain functions that receive syntax and language processing in the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior superior temporal gyrus.

They found that jazz musicians are lost in thought while they are trading musical exchanges, but they understand they are not waiting for their turn to play. Instead, they are using the syntactic areas of their brains to “communicate” their own message through a series of notes that have not been previously composed or even thought about.

Source

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Ear Training and Its Importance to Audio Recording

A common misconception with recording is that you spend more time perfecting every track on your song and trying to fill in parts with creative ideas to “balance” its dynamics and entire feel. That is only one part of the recording process. Pre-production and post-production make up the modern song recording process and making your recording sound competitive with the mainstream industry, you will need to train your ears.

The equalizer is the most basic tool there is in sculpting audio. As easy it is to use, it is hard to master. An equalizer controls the amount of frequencies an audio track has and each audio track is unique from the other in terms of frequency, harmonics and dynamics.

The equalizer is useful in helping your ears know the “sweet spot” of certain sounds, namely for instruments and samples.

One exercise is to add gain to one frequency then roll over different frequencies to see where the instrument sounds best. However, if you are not using a good pair of monitors or headphones that kill or “flatten” frequencies, you might not distinguish the different frequencies properly.

This website actually features a great way to learn about frequencies. This chart can show you the usual sweet spots of certain instruments. When you’re effective in determining the “sweet spots” of frequencies, you could also learn how to find the right kind of phase in your mixes.

Train your ears and take care of them properly as well. They will be your tools in making your songs sound great.

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Would You Rather Go Indie or Go With a Record Label?

The internet is more than just a massive source of information; it is also a massive source of media and digital material. Anybody with varying income or capital could begin a business with it, and if you’re a band, you could make a name for yourself in your local community, state or even country if you persevere enough. The internet makes self-publishing easier, but will it actually help you gain the success you need?

The music industry today is actually panicking because of piracy causing large cutbacks in records sales for musicians, driving many established musicians to perform for small to big audiences in different kinds of economies. If you get signed with a major record label today, you will have all the chance you need, but the disadvantage is that some things are beyond your control.

A friend of mine who recently signed in with a major record label (we won’t drop names here) told me that despite the past successes of the record label, her music is hard to sell. Television programs are exceedingly picky with the music they feature because airtime is expensive. Some record labels have actually asked my friend to change her genre of music into something that will act as a “friend” of the general public, which guarantees a better sale of her records and more invitations for events.

When you go independent, you could publish your music in your own social media page. However, you will need to organize your own team for your endeavour to be successful. The bright side is that you know the workings of the entire process of marketing and selling your own album, but you will need to shell out money on your own. You will also need to know effective advertising and marketing skills in the internet. However, you limit yourself only to marketing in the internet, not unless you hit a break in your endeavours.

In general, the situation of being a musician became easy because of the internet, but it always boils down to the amount of effort the musician or musicians are willing to put in to make themselves successful.

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