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Behind The Scenes; Soundtrack. 1

by Jayme Gutierrez Posted in blogging | No Comments »

The music makes all the difference.
Ever watched a video with no sound? It’s has nowhere near the same impact as one with sound. Just think of the cinema, how dramatic is that!!?? (I like to stay until the very end, to be able to listen to the soundtrack in an acoustically treated room with a good sound system!) ;)

Anyway…
Most people hardly notice the background music at all (or at least what it’s doing), and that’s what you want to do. You want to put the emotion into the scene but without it sounding out of place. And when you do it right, people won’t notice you’ve done anything at all! So that’s why it’s so important to spend a lot of time getting it right.
It’s only when you do it wrong that it notices!

The soundtrack took quite a long time to do.
Before I could even start writing anything, I had to spend a long time just watching and thinking. I found it helpful to ask myself questions like; “What’s the mood of the characters in this scene?”, or “When and how should the music start and end?”
I think that that creativity comes from solving problems. So I like to see problems as a chance to be creative, by finding ways around them.
So I found that the more questions I asked about each scene, the easier it became to understand what to do.
And when I finally got it right, I’d listen to it and think; “of course, that’s so obvious! How come I didn’t think of doing it like that in the first place?”

The first piece of music that I wrote was a very simple sinister sounding atmosphere, for the first scene (the one with the monks in it). Then the monk pushes play on the tape recorder and soon after, the second track starts. Then the atmospheric music fades out, as the music on the tape starts changing from a radio sound into the live sound of Jayme and Joe! playing in the classroom.This wasn’t hard at all because it was just simply a matter of following what was going on in the visual.

Then it goes straight to the bar scene, with Joe! (years later) and the music starts the scene off. There the music is used as if it were playing in the bar.

After we finish playing, the next track starts at the end of the scene. I think that it really ties the scenes together and gives the whole thing more continuity, plus it complements the “9 o’clock on a Saturday morning” joke. It also gives off the feeling that something else is about to start, i.e. the next scene.
This track was the first one I worked on and it was very hard. I ended up having to dump the first song I wrote for it and write a new one because the flavour was all wrong. Getting the right flavour is so important!

It was also very hard deciding what to do with the music once it had started. “Is it O.K to just play it in the background, even though they’re in the street?” Answer; This particular piece of music isn’t in their world, so they can’t hear it! It is simply just part of the soundtrack. “O.K, but is that still O.K to just play over the scene…?”
So I simply tried it with and without the music..
I found that, due to all of the cuts and the way the scene has been filmed, there is quite a few continuity faults. So leaving the music playing over the whole scene helped to gel it all together by giving it more of a timeline and making it more like one long scene, instead of a load of cuts.

More soon…

Home Studio Basics

by Jayme Gutierrez Posted in blogging | 1 Comment »

Today I thought I’d do quick rundown of the basic things you need to set up a fairly efficient home studio, for those who are interested in setting one up.
So…

-First you’ll need a computer.
Desktops are usually more stable and powerful than laptops, plus you can upgrade parts later on.
Now the dilemma…
P.C or Mac? Well, this is a tough one:
1: Mac= supposedly better than a P.C
2: P.C= CHEAPER!

…Once you have your P.C, you’ll then need a DAW.
Digital Audio Workstation. This is where all the music is going to be put together. There are lots of diferent ones; Logic, Cubase, Sonar, Ableton Live, Pro-tools, e.t.c..
To me the DAW is like another instrument. It plays a big part in the way I write music, purely because I am able to manipulate whatever I’ve record, until I like the way it sounds!
Moving on…

-Then you’ll need some sample libraries.
Sampled pianos, organs, drums, e.t.c…

-A midi controller. (Keyboard) To trigger the samples.

-A microphone, or microphones.
Essential for recording vocals.
I would definitely recommend at least one condenser microphone for acoustic guitar and vocals because it is more sensitive than a dynamic one, so you’ll get a much clearer sound.

-An audio interface.
This is basically a sound card.
Choosing the right one depends on what you’re going to be doing.
If you need to use microphones for acoustic guitar recordings and more, then you’ll definitely benefit with more than 1 XLR input (a high impedance mic input). If the audio interface has phantom power as well then even better because some microphones, like condenser microphones, need it.
I used to use a mackie onyx 400f, but I don’t think that it’s available anymore. Now I use a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56.

-Some loudspeakers and amplifier.
For mixing, it’s better to use loudspeakers than headphones.
You’ll also need to treat your room so that you don’t get sound bouncing all over the place and bass collecting in the corners, giving you an inaccurate reading. Bass traps are good for this.

-And finally some headphones.
For recording guitar and vocals, e.t.c.. But don’t expose yourself to loud volumes for long periods of time cos you’ll damage your ears!

How To Write A Song! 14

by Jayme Gutierrez Posted in vlog | No Comments »

So I’ve finished the mixing!
I was quite annoyed because just at the final stages, when I was just about to do the final bounce down, I spotted a problem in the main vocal! Right at the beginning of the first and last chorus the word “can’t” is sung with a different vowel sound to the harmonies. I sing “cAn’t” (with an american accent) but the harmonies sing “cAHn’t” (with more of an English accent to it) so, when sung over the top of each other, it doesn’t gel together as well.
I should have sung it the same vowel sound as the harmonies.
Talking about accents..
I like to try and sing with an accent that feels comfortable to me and not ‘put on’. So sometimes bits come out sounding American. I don’t know why but sometimes it does feel easier singing with a slight American accent, even though I have an English accent. But I do have trouble with the words “can” and “can’t”. When sung with an American accent they both sound identical, except for the ‘t’, and it sometimes can be hard to hear the difference between the two, in a song. But when sung with an English accent it’s not just the ‘t’ that changes, but the vowel sound too, making it a lot easier to tell the difference.

So anyway, seeing as it would be a lot of work to fix the “can and can’t” problem, and seeing as I’m too lazy, I’ve decided to let it slide…

How To Write A Song! 13

by Jayme Gutierrez Posted in vlog | No Comments »

Mixing.
Now, before I start I just want to say that I don’t consider myself to be that good at it.
All I’m going to say on this post is what I have picked up over the years. So there’s probably lots that I don’t do, am doing wrong or should be doing at all! So please excuse me for that.
Anyway…
Now that I have the harmonies and everything done, it’s time to start mixing.
I usually find myself mixing the song as I’m putting it together. This results in a lot of cpu usage, from all the fx used on each track. So I usually end up having to work with high latencies (to gain more processing power). When the overloading cpu starts getting ridiculous, I start bouncing down the tracks that I am pleased with, or freezing them (a handy function in Cubase) to then be able to get rid of the xf, thus freeing up more processing power!
So anyway, by the time the song is ready for mixing I already have a small amount of it done!

The first step I take, I like to call ‘clean up’, is basically going through each track, rolling off (cutting out, by equalizing, EQ for short) the bottom end of any track that doesn’t require any bass. The more tracks you have of something, the louder it becomes. So by doing this, the bottom end of the spectrum remains clean, leaving more clean space for anything that does require bass.
Then I go listening to each track “soloed”, checking for clicks and pops that could have been created from badly chopped audio. Then I check the sync to make sure that there aren’t any notes or beats out of place that could cause a problem later on.
After that, I’ll listen to the whole track and decide what sounds are the most important and when they need to stand out.
The kick-drum and snare-drum are quite important, seeing as they are what define the beat. But sometimes the bass-line can make it hard to hear the attack of the kick-drum, when there are notes that coincide.
A way around this is to move the bass line slightly so that it plays a bit later than the kick, just a tiny bit after, I’m talking milliseconds here! That way the kick gets heard before the bass, as if it were the sound that you hear when plucking a bass note.

I’ve usually already spent ages tweaking the guitars throughout the recording of everything, so it’s just a case of getting the right volume, and the smallest of adjustments make all the difference!

The main vocal is the most important, obviously. But it can sometimes stand out too much; if a song gets quite busy, the vocal needs to be turned up, but turning it up so that it’s clear enough to hear can sometimes make it sound almost too up close. A handy way to be able to get more volume without the vocal sounding out of place is to give the illusion of it being further away by putting on some reverb or delay on it (room sound or echo), making it sound like it’s in a far away room. Getting the right delay or room sound can take a while because it may sound good on it’s own, but then when played with the whole track it could sound rubbish! That’s why it’s a good idea to mix with everything playing, that way it’s easier to hear what the changes, that are made to each part, actually do to the whole flavour of the track.

I am being very vague about all of this, and have left out lots because otherwise this post would be too long and boring, so I’ll cut it short and leave it there for now…

How To Write A Song! 12

by Jayme Gutierrez Posted in blogging | No Comments »

Today I’ve been working on some harmonies for ‘Hannah’.
I decided to leave the new song (‘Clean The Fan’) for a day. Sometimes I find myself getting too familiar with a song, and start messing around with it too much that I end up nowhere. So sometimes it’s good to be working on more that one song at a time.

I’ve done one verse and one chorus. The choruses are usually the same, but I like to make each one slightly different. I like to add different harmonies or slightly change the bass line or something like that.
I like to think of it as mixed bag of sweets. Having lots to choose from makes them more interesting, but if it’s filled full of cola bottles or boot laces then it becomes a bit too boring. Also, having too big a bag, i.e. a song longer than 4 minutes, can also make it a bit boring.

Anyway, what I’ve done is:
I’ve made 9 mono audio tracks and panned 3 left, 3 center and 3 right.
Then I’ve listened to the whole song, with the microphone on, ready to record and roughly sung the ideas that came to mind.
Then I went back to the start and slowly proceeded to develop those ideas as I went along.

It’s hard, deciding where the harmonies should come in. I find that it makes it easier if I treat them as three different groups of people, listening in and voicing their opinion when they’ve got something to say or want to emphasize a certain point.
I also like them to say things in the background. But that can sometimes be confusing if you don’t do it right. A good way that I’ve found is to construct the background phrase out of words that the main vocal is singing at that particular time. That way it lessens the amount of different words you have to take in.

So, all I have left to do is the second verse, the break and add a few extra harmonies on the choruses…

UP! UP!