I’m holed up in the studio quite a bit lately. A lot of it is putting time into things that should enhance the music I’m creating. Most specifically with video. But there’s a learning curve.
You may not know that I originally graduated with a degree in film production. However, I never really went into the film production world after school. No, I went to more school and decided to go into music. Ouch.
The good thing about the film background is that it gave me a working knowledge on how to deal with aspects of film/video production. Though now, like music, film is constantly changing with tech. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean there can be learning curves. Since I’m wanting to get a lot done with past releases of music to marry them with video ideas, it’s given me an incentive to get Final Cut and Motion in order to put these things together.
I’m starting to get a stockpile of lyric videos. But I had originally been having issues with the size of the output screens from Motion. Despite setting them for 1920 x 1080 output, they were coming out at 2880 x 1080. It was driving me nuts! I got on the phone with an Apple Motion customer care rep and they started walking me thru certain things. We eventually found out it was the pixel aspect ratio that was throwing things off. But the silly thing is, it’s off from the get go based on Apple’s Motion templates!! Now that I’ve figured that out, I’ve made my own templates and lyric videos will get done faster.
I promise to drip out the lyric videos as soon as I get VEVO to me control of my VEVO Channel (long story there where it’s controlled by a 3rd party company right now). Once I get that control back in my hands, I will have a lot of official videos to put out.
TLDR (a this point this is about another project, not musically related to my artist career);
Beyond the videos for my music, I’ve decided to create a podcast with a good friend of mine, Chris Hellstrom. The concept is to talk about recording and production from a musician standpoint and express it from a producing and engineering perspective. We’ve been discussing the idea for a month or two and as of yesterday we recorded our first episode. The plan is to get about 4 in the can and then launch it as a weekly thing. Maybe run about 13 episodes to a season. Or if we really get rolling then continue on weekly as long as possible.
Instead of just doing an audio podcast, which would be the easiest thing to do, I mentioned that we should combine it with video of us talking. Much like how Stern, or Rogan do their shows. Though Stern is primarily radio first, it is fun to watch them. I didn’t really realize the complexity it would add to the podcast show. That being typed, we dove in and did it anyway.
First thing I realized is, we recorded the audio portion at 48k/24bit. Which is my 2nd favorite audio rate after 96k/24bit. However, video tends to record at 48k. Or at least most broadcast video is output with a 48k/16bit soundtrack. I opted to use a GoPro for this first episode. Massive mistake!!!
As much as GoPro makes it easy to get video at 1920 x 1080, the audio quality and the actual 1920 x 1080 video quality both leave a lot to be desired. Mostly because the video is slightly fuzzy at full size, which it shouldn’t be. Then the audio is actually recorded at 32k. Like who the fuck at GoPro decided that was a wise choice?!? To make matters worse it only records files to about 15 minute lengths. Which means it requires a shit ton of work to make it work well in Final Cut to sync with studio audio done at 48k.
Step one: use QuickTime 7 pro, which won’t run after Mojave, to export the file to the right video format and upsample the audio to 48k. There’s a few hours of time wasted. This prompted me to say it’s time to use the iPhone with the Filmic app. This will allow me to use a better camera, with the right FPS and the right audio sample rate. Plus it can do 1920 x 1080 without issue and won’t segment a file in to 15 minute bits. Thus it can go from start to finish. Which will be nice.
While those files were getting converted to workable Final Cut files, I spent time learning how to do some fancy text splash videos for our opening and closing spots to the video portion of the podcast. Then I took it a step further and made an animated logo as well. This took about 4 hours of time, that had I’d been a full time video & motion graphics guy, may have only taken an hour.
The good thing is, they’re now made and all I need to do going forward is plant them in the video outputs. So no more hours of time creating them, they’re done. I expect episode two will take about 1/10th the time it took for this first episode. I look forward to that time reduction.
Once we’re ready to launch, I’ll announce the website here. Plus I’m pretty sure it will be available at all the normal podcast outlets, plus video on the website and youtube.
I really did that?
Did I really do music that appeared somewhere? That’s what is sometimes surprising to me, the sheer amount of places where music I’ve done has shown up. There’s always a surprise each quarter as to where I’m going to have music having been used somewhere in the world, be it in film, on TV, in a commercial, or elsewhere.
There’s a long list and I decided to finally put a page up where I tried to make it as comprehensive as possible to know where you’ve heard music that I’ve done. Problem is, I’m only going back about 3 years here. Which isn’t all that far back. There are quite a few more years that I need to add, but the start of the credits page is already a pretty big list as it is.
There’s so many websites out there that claim to be the definitive authority on who’s worked with who in music, or who’s worked on what. Often times they’re incomplete, or incorrect and of course – they make it really difficult to correct the information (which is the biggest disappointment). Then other large services collate that incorrect data and it gets passed along as truth. Thus, I’m working on providing as comprehensive a list as I can for everything I’ve done in music. It will take me some time, but hey I’m gonna be the definitive source on all things music that I’ve done.
Therefore if you’re of the curious type you can shoot on over to the credits page and find out where you may have heard me, or who I’ve worked with, etc. Chances are there are even things I’ve forgotten about and if you’ve got proof, I’d appreciate the refresher so I can add it to my list.
In the mean I’ve got some more musical stuff to work on.
We’re quickly coming on the end of summer.
If the trees are any indication, we’ve already hit fall. If you’re a student, summer has ended as school is back in session. Which means you’re summer romance, the fling of your life has also recently dissipated or is about to dissolve into the ether.
Enter my new single “Till We Meet Again“, a candid song about those loves we’ve had in life that we hope to rekindle somewhere down the road.
The journey of this song is one of several start and stops and finally a go.
Originally the intent was to write an upbeat tune for a TV show and for a library. I pulled in a bass player friend of mine to co-write it with me. However, there was a bit of miscommunication and he got miffed about the situation, which ended the direction of the song as I had envisioned.
Next I approached another bass player friend of mine, Jesse Stern, and we started working on the music. As a direction it was still to be a library track, however as we got going with it, lyrics started pouring out. He was going thru some dark stuff and was spitting out darker lyrics. Musically as it was speaking to me it had to be a bit more positive, maybe a little more longing. Suddenly we got a song that embraced all of that along with the sounds we were laying down.
During the process of the demo we got to a section of the song and were discussing how to change one bar for it’s time signature. We spent a good deal of time trying to work out if we’d stick to the song’s common time signature (which happens to be 4/4), or go with either 7/4, 6/4, or 5/4.
Multiple different drum fills were tried out. It was a songwriter’s producing exploration into the wild blue yonder until we finally settled on one particular fill in 5/4 that provided such a sly feel to the section of the song that it was as natural as an organic ripe tomato.
Tracking the occurred in several studios. Namely mine for the acoustic guitars, synths, additional background vocals and drum programming. Yes, those are programmed drums. Jesse’s studio was were the bass was tracked and some additional synths as well. Finally the vocals were tracked at George Leger’s studio (Utopia Parkway Music) when it was located in Los Angeles.
One moment during tracking stands out to me. At one point George turned around in his producer’s chair to show me his arms. The hair was standing straight up. He says to me, while Jesse is sitting there:
“This is your Purple Rain. You’re giving me goosebumps.”
Chances are you don’t know George. He is a massive Prince fan. So much so, that he once took me to see Prince perform when I was down in the dumps going thru some tough shit in life. It was a shining moment. I digress. George was so taken aback by the vocal we were laying down and the quality of the song that he felt it would be my equivalent to Purple Rain. My reaction was “I sure hope you’re right.” Damn right, I’d love to have a song be as popular as Purple Rain. Hell, even half as popular would be ideal.
Another memorable moment came when George first noticed the bar of 5/4. He asked who the drummer was that recorded the part and who came up with the fill, he thought it was amazing. When I responded with, I programmed it, he thought I did a hell of a job. Very few people notice because of how natural it feels, it doesn’t feel like a bar of 5/4. This prompted a discussion between myself, George and Jesse, mainly because it was George who originally gave me the idea of adding an odd measure in a song.
After getting all the vocals tracked, George and Jesse also sang some backgrounds. Once back in my studio, I felt I needed some additional voices for the backgrounds, so I enlisted the help of Val and Julia to sing some more parts.
George and I tackled the mix and eventually George did the mastering (as he’s also a fantastic mastering engineer as well).
Now it’s finally been released and is ready for your listening pleasure. I hope it gives you goosebumps like it did for George. Cause that would mean you’d tell others they need to hear and playlist it, like you will.
More music coming soon.
The G League, I wonder how many fans of the NBA are actually aware of it?
There’s a few new changes in the basketball world in this past year. Actually since roughly February of 2017. Prior to that the NBA’s development league was known as the D League. Now in a multi-year deal with Gatorade its known as the G League.
Another change is the number of teams. Previously there were 17. The total now is 27.
Why do I know this
I wrote a song called Do You Want To Play that has multiple versions of the song. Like lots of multiples. I’ve done versions for basketball, baseball, football, and hockey.
Once I completed them I wasn’t sure that I’d ever pull them out again. However, the change of the league name to G League and all the additional teams left me with a gaping hole. So I dug it out.
My recording software has been updated substantially since I last worked with the song. One of the handiest new features is something called Track Alternatives. Which gives a producer the means to make edits to little portions of an audio without increasing the need for plugin load, or massive track counts.
I took the needed vocal file for most of the song and clipped out where I needed to update team and G League parts. This made it real easy to quickly sing new parts.
A side effect of doing parts for the G League is a new mix. Much like the updated recording software, there are also updated plugins. All this led me to saying, I don’t want to do a whole new mix, but alas, I couldn’t stop myself.
After getting the original files transferred into a new file template, it really made sense to just do a new mix. I was able to get a crispier sound on the guitars. A little more punch and depth to the drums. There’s a bit more sizzle on the vocals and the bass gets a little deeper in vibe. Its crazy how a little adjustment in a song mix can alter the feel. These are subtle changes individually, but together it adds up.
Along with a new mixes for the G League, I have to do new masters. In case you’re not aware there is a process called mastering that provides a song recording with its final sheen and gets it to sound good on a variety of sound ups.
In the couple of years since the last compilation release, the state of music delivery changed drastically. Now instead of a single master meant for being super loud on a CD, there’s one master for Apple Music (and services that operate at -16LUFS, that’s a relative volume level for the laymen out there) and there’s a master for Spotify (and services that operate at -14LUFS).
Yes, I’m that bizarre that I do specific masters for the service the music is going to. I do that so that I’m not left wondering what the music is going to sound like based on automated volume level changes that occur to meet those service outputs.
All it really means is that the music will sound more dynamic.
I’m currently doing all the master outputs as I’m writing this. Listening intently for any output errors. Thus one goal is to make sure I release this set of songs before the next season starts. Thus if you’re a fan of any team in the G League, I do hope you’ll stream your team’s song.
Looking into contacting Gatorade’s marketing team, as I do have an advertisement idea as well.
Oh and I’d like to get in touch with various team’s marketing departments to talk about doing a pregame performance of the song for fans of the team.
Looking forward to the G League’s season later this year!
Now that I’m back in the studio, there’s been a desire to do some vocal experiments on my part.
One of the things that producers worth their salt will do is experiment with different combinations of gear. Though there’s still some bronchitis to deal with, I have been getting a few hours here and there to try out some new signal chains and see how they affect the sound of my voice.
Thanks to modern technology, its actually extremely easy to try out a much wider range of gear without the insane costs. Thank you Universal Audio and the Apollo system!
There’s a project for TV music where we’re in the final phases of recording and mixing. In this project I’m spending some time to run some vocal experiments to hear the differences of what comes out. My most recent chains have included and API vision strip into an LA-2A. Then the absolute newest chain has been a Neve 1073 into a Studer Tape Machine followed by an LA-2A. Each lends itself to a different vibe. Don’t think I don’t realize that those gear terms likely all sound greek to you. They’re all geek to me!
The image above is of my current favorite. What makes it strange is that when I solo a vocal recorded with this chain, it actually doesn’t sound all that great to my naked ear, but in the right track… It causes the vocal to sit like I can’t believe. The ultimate in vocal experiments, when you think the sound is bad, but its oh so right for the song.
Along with the plethora of original tunes for this project are 10 cover songs that are so different from the originals that it may blow your mind. Hell not even may, they will blow your mind. A few of them are very different vocal experiments for me. It all comes down to figuring out the right way to present each song so that it has the right twist to give the song a double entendre.
And therein is my one reason to ever do a cover, to give it a new meaning!
I’m gonna go right out there and say sore throats suck. I’m pretty sure there’s very few people on this planet that actually like them.
Right after I pretty much get my digital life back on track, I came down with some mild bronchitis. Maybe its some sort of bodily retaliation for spending so much time on something other than music?!? Eh, no. I don’t believe that. Obviously I came into contact with someone somewhere that probably had it.
It might have been the trip to California. Namely the plane ride. Recently read that you’re only likely to get ill within a few passenger rows of someone else. Which means it would most likely have been the flight to Los Angeles. As that flight was full. The return flight was probably 10% full, if that. Very light flight.
Around Thursday of last week I started feeling rather beat when I woke up. Mind you this would have been about a week plus of incubation. I woke up to feeling a little lethargic and coughing profusely and wanting to get something out of my lungs.
Could I have been singing to hard the several days before that? Tough to say. Yes, I’ve been in the studio working on a few new projects, especially now that my digital life is up and running again. I had been pushing pretty hard on a couple of heavier tunes destined for film/tv worlds. My throat was a little overtaxed, but nothing that a night of sleep wouldn’t cure.
Instead I started hacking up bright green goo. I hate sore throats, and shortly after the goo, one kicked in.
As things go, being ill means it progressively gets worse before it gets better. Not the case here. It has remained mild enough that I’m still quite functional. Not 100% full capacity but still functional.
Despite feeling beat down for the past few days, I’m taking in as much rest as I can – while still attempting to get things done. Which means that today I’ll be opening up to singing again. I’m coughing less, throat is less sore. Will need to keep an eye on it, because pushing too hard means I may fall completely down the illness rabbit hole where I don’t want to be.
Wish you well and hope you’re in great health, have a great rest of your Monday.
p.s. – join my newsletter.
If there is something I’ve learned – everyone wants to be heard by someone else; they also want others to want them. Have need for them. To love them.
There really isn’t a more definitive song about wanting others to want you than the infamous song penned by Rick Nielson of Cheap Trick.
I Want You
Actually I wish I had written this song. I’ve toyed with it for a long time. When I play it live solo acoustic, I slow it down and I stretch it out.
I tried recording it once.
Then I tried recording it again.
I was never quite satisfied with how I was conveying what I heard in my head as I interpreted the song.
If you didn’t know, I’m working on musical endeavors outside of my artist persona. Thus I brought the concept of how to cover I Want You To Want Me to a co-producing friend of mine. We’ve been toiling over 30 original tracks for the past year and I decided we should heap on 10 more songs, 10 covers of classic hits in the style of our project. This is not something I would have considered even a year ago.
Last week I began rethinking and retracking all the parts, while I let my partner come up with a viable drum part and a few other odds and ends. The biggest trick was how to approach the vocals so that they became modern but were an ode to the era they came from.
Two days ago I finally finished the mix and got it mastered.
I want you to be able to hear it.
Turns out that friends who have already heard it have been saying things like:
“Dig this version!! Great vocals!”
“Love, love love how your voice sounds on this!”
“I just might love this better than the original.”
I’m not sure how soon it will come to the light of the world via streaming services or via a license for use. But I Want You To Want Me as reimagined by Razor Wire is definitely something you should hear. I hope it will be sooner than later.
p.s. – subscribe to my email list to stay informed of releases!
Perfection can lead to trouble. The deep divide is coming. It seems everywhere I’ve been turning lately there is a deep divide based on people’s ideals of what they believe is perfection. Whether its in music or in ideology, people are becoming less tolerant of those who do not share their same taste or view.
I think forward. I’m always thinking forward. If a new sound comes out, I want to hear it. That’s the musician side of me.
I think perfection. I didn’t always think perfection. Always do the best you can do, that was beaten into my head while growing up. I now take that very seriously as I produce music. As I start achieving what I hear as musical perfection, I notice how so many others do not understand it.
I love to help out musician friends and other up coming talent. What invariably happens every time I do this is a culminating point of frustration with the person I’ve brought in to work with. This is especially true with those who work day jobs outside of music. The general reason for the frustration stems from being unable to execute an idea.
Usually a budding musician will want to play their instrument or sing. I get it. Its a pride thing. As a full-time musician and often a producer, I’m more interested in the perfection of the performance and I care how I get to the end result. I wasn’t always that way, but I developed that mindset. Its not a common mindset.
Throughout the history of music there are numerous cases of where the writer/composer/artist is not the person on the recordings. Some cases become public, but most of the time no one is the wiser. In some cases, even the artist isn’t aware that its not them.
Is this problematic?
This could be determined by whether you believe that content is king. I’m one of those that believe content is king. The song is the master. Everything has to serve it. The performances, the mixing, the mastering, they all contribute.
The only time when I believe its a major problem is when attempting to use one singer’s voice as the voice for another front person. Aside from voices for the artist, I’m fair game with anything else to make sure that performance works. Why? The human voice is extremely personal and one that you can’t replace – a voice is the same as a fingerprint.
Often when confronted with the technological advances in recording, musicians will reference the purity of the Beatles and their recording process. What this tells me is that they don’t know how the Beatles used the technology they had available to them at the time they were in their heyday.
If you, as a listener or musician, fall into the camp that the Beatles were pure about their recordings, then its likely you’re not aware of all the techniques they used. The Beatles used every available trick in the book they could to achieve their goals. Sometimes going as far as to invent new ways to record sounds. One of my favorites is that they would change the tape speed in order to slow down the tape to make it easier for them to play a part. Then they would speed the tape back up to full speed to make it sound like they performed that music at tempo.
I believe the Beatles would have used pitch correctors, and time shifters to their advantage had the technology been available to them. Why? Because they were cutting edge and strove for perfection.
For some reason, when a musician uses today’s tools at their disposal they are considered to be cheating when going after that perfection. When in reality they are attempting to achieve the sonic goal they hear in their head. At least that’s how I envision it.
I’m not going to hide the fact that I make use of all kinds of technology to make music happen. In the recording process, I use a computer to track everything. In the mixing process I use all kinds of plugins to remove noise, correct timing (if its not grossly out), tune pitch (sometimes for a performance, sometimes as a means to create an entirely new sound), create space, etc. My entire musical chain is Digital from start to finish including my guitar rig when I perform live.
When I confront an artist that I’m working with or producing, I will explain the how’s and why’s of making use of the technology. Often once its explained, they have no issue with it.
I don’t use technology to deceive, I use it to enhance.
Its late at night. I’m in the studio working on different rhythms for the vocal and lyrics in a new song.
This particular song has been going thru a long process of rewrites. I had the initial idea for it a good long time ago. I laid down a demo of the song, then left it in a pile of 70+ other songs that were eventually going to pulled back out and tweaked for release.
Those 70+ songs got voted on in an effort to eventually do a classic example of a album. Voted on by a select group of fans. Then I wised up and took a look at how people consume music – they listen to streaming services and singles. Understanding that led me to switching spending time on each individual song as its own entity to be polished to perfection.
I was poking around my hard drive of songs and realized that recent events really dictated that I pull this particular song back out and give it some serious attention. I took it out of its original hard driving hard rock format and turned it into a pop bound rocker that is much more modern in arrangement. Keeping the same drive but really adding a slew of elements to propel the song in to a much wider audience of listeners.
After the arrangement was up to snuff filled with little nuanced tracks, it came time to work on lyrics. The track is flowing with such force that I felt the original lyrics were lacking. The idea was there but the focus was off. Not as laser sharp as it should be; and this was already the 3rd incarnation of the lyrics. I started bouncing rewrites off of friends. I removed two lines and replaced them with a better idea. Where my first idea was saying the same thing as another line in the song (but the second line said it better). Then I changed the title / hook of the song. The original title was apparently too passive and I wanted action!
Once the lyrics got tweaked, it required retooling the melody, or rather retooling the rhythms of the verse. Why would I work on different rhythms? Primarily, I had to get used to the new flow of the lyrics. Also I want to make sure I keep the song going in a way that the listener wants to hit that repeat button to listen to the song again and again. Which is where I sit right now. I spent a couple of hours trying various ways to play with the rhythm of what I was singing. I narrowed it down to two different rhythms that I really like.
What gets me is how people react. A first reaction can tell me if I’m really on the right track. Usually I don’t bring a lot of other people in on the process of my writing, but I felt like hey, I could use some help on which different rhythms I should go with for this verse.
I already know the chorus is an anthemic banger. Yet I need to make sure my verse compels you to get to my chorus. Its that simple. Once I have which of the different rhythms I’m going with for the verse, I can start going to town on the vocals and really make it fly.
My goal is to get this particular song ready and released by January 20th. There’s a significance to that date for this song and if you’re a U.S. citizen – you would be well to know why. If not, I weep. For everyone else, its still going to be an awesome song to bounce along to and play loud and proud in an arena or your party.
When Good Monitor Goes Bad
A couple of nights ago I was working my way thru the re-recording of a song demo. It started with a guitar part that maybe 2 people in this town could play, me being the other one. There I was going knee deep into the studio zone of percussion. I had finished the drum parts when I started to take on adding additional epic cinematic drum hits. Midway thru the 3 track of said epic drums there was a sudden quick drop in volume and low end.
Where Did It Go
I tilt my gaze over to the left side of the studio thinking that maybe a Gremlin, or quite possibly a house elf, had taken the monitor speaker to another dimension. Alas my eyes weren’t being deceiving as the monitor speaker was still there. Dammit.
Nothing like losing half the sound right in the middle of the take.
Next up was an endless series of troubleshooting steps. First thought was, hey, maybe the power went out. Flip the switch on and off, still no sound. Maybe something went out in the monitor volume device. Nope. After switching the cables between speakers it was still showing as working out of both outputs for the remaining speaker.
Call A Friend
Pensive, not quite panicked, phone call to a fellow studio friend. Explain the problem of the monitor speaker. Words come drifting back thru the speakerphone saying “Did you check the fuse in the speaker?”
I take another gander at the speaker’s enclosure. Search high and low. Up. Down. Left. Right. Front. Back. Nada. There is no fuse for the speaker to blow. Dang it.
Knowing that the speaker is no longer manufactured, I grudgingly pull up the website to see if there’s information about getting repairs and to peruse the what-replaced-this-model version of their speaker line.
After drooling over what could replace the model I have in the studio, I make a note to Siri to remind me call the company in the morning to get a repair ticket going.
Here Come The Headphones
The disappointment of a monitor giving up soon abates. How do I proceed with my next recording session? A recording that needs to be recorded, mixed, and mastered before 11 am the following morning. Hmmm. In come the headphones. There is no other choice after a certain time of night when all normal humans have gone off to visions of sugarplums and cherries.
Producing high quality recordings via headphones isn’t the most ideal means. However, when the chips are down and the music must go on, you make do by crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
It All Works Out
I got the session done. Turned it over to the co-writer for the purposes of submission to a distant land for a commercial use. When you get feedback stating “It sounds great.” You thank your stars that you didn’t have to attempt to mix without some form of stereo sound.
The beauty of it is, the speaker company is able to repair the monitor for a price considerably less than the new alternative. The added icing on the cake is that you now have an in to chat about possible endorsement. That’s priceless.
I can’t wait for you to hear the fruits of this labor. Unfortunately you will have to wait until sometime early in the new year of 2017. There’s still more recording and production that needs to be done. Ooh, and mixing it. Finally mastering it. Its a process that will be interrupted by a little thing called Christmas and New Years.