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Opening new music studio in Beijing, China

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

As i mentioned in my last blog, I’m moving to Beijing China, and setting up a fantastic, world class studio there.
It will be called Pro Soul Studios Beijing, in affiliation with my record label, Pro Soul Alliance.

It’s large a 3 room facility, professionally built by foreign expertise flown into the country along with specialized materials to soundproof and acoustically treat the rooms properly. It has full false floors and walls with large air spaces for soundproofing, but still lots of light from tall windows.
There’s even a built in guest room and kitchen/lounge in the middle.

Here are a few photos, then I’ll get into the technical details below for the gear heads…

The studio is in a building in an area that is a cool artist live/work residence neighborhood with art studios, restaurants, a French bakery, and a nice lagoon:
Shangri-La Culture & Art Community, Feijia Village

The studio has a funky traditional Chinese courtyard style entrance:

Studio entrance

studio entrance

The largest recording room, Studio B.
Tall soundproofed windows allow lots of light in, but no outside sound.

Large room studio B

Large room Studio B windows

Entrance to control room and studio A

Entrance to control room and studio A

The control room, below, has a custom desk with outboard gear rack panels on the left and right, and a Mackie xBus 200 touch screen console. These photos are old now, fabric on panelling has been replaced:

studio control room

Control room window with Mackie xbus console

Control room window with Mackie xbus console

Unfortunately I don’t have a great photo of Studio A, the main recording room, but it is a nice spacious room with lots of light from windows on one side:

Studio A recording room

The studio even has a guest residence upstairs, a kitchen, and large outside patio if you want to visit China to work on your music project:

Studio guest residence

studio kitchen

On to the studio equipment setup. In addition to my existing range of classic analog and cutting edge digital equipment, the new studio in Beijing will have the following new equipment that will make it the most powerful, highest quality studio I’ve had in my 20 years as a music producer and audio engineer:

  • A Mackie xBus 200 HD touch screen mixing console and computer controller capable of 192kHz resolution, configurable I/O via rear panel cards, penny & giles motorized touch sensitive faders & surround outputs.
  • 2 RME Hammerfall PCI cards allowing 32 channel high quality digital audio /MIDI channels between the computer and the console with zero latency (no delays!)
  • Apple Mac Pro 2.66 Quad Core Intel Xeon computer with 1.5 Terrabyte drive and 8Gig ram
  • 2 LCD computer monitors, 22″ each
  • Enhanced surround monitoring system with new mogami cabling and other small additions.
MackieXbus200

Mackie Xbus 200 mixer console and computer interface

The hardware mentioned will allow an incredible amount of flexibility in input and output routing, monitoring, and expansion as needed.
I’m arranging all the special cabling and other details required, and bringing equipment to Beijing from Canada to get the studio operational in the next 2 months.

I’ve put a huge amount of time, trouble and great expense to make this one of the best, top quality music and sound design studios in Beijing.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of some of my Beijing friends, you know who you are, Thank you so much!

The studio should be open for production by sometime in August 2010.

I expect to soon be booked full time months in advance in the near future, so please contact me now if you want to work on a project.
Check back here for more details and updates.

Improving vocal performance

Monday, September 14th, 2009

An important part of my role as a music producer is to get the best possible performance from artists in the studio both technically and emotionally.

I find I often fall short in this area though because unless they are professionals who have done large live performances for many years, most vocalists are often unable to deliver to their full potential. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t give great performances, it just means they could have done even better.

This is usually because the vocalist is not in optimal physical shape. Your health and physical fitness level has a huge impact on your vocal performances in the studio, and of course live. Sure, how comfortable you are with letting go and giving your all emotionally in the studio is also very important.  But to get a great performance, you really need to have a lot of power to deliver strong, clean vocal phrases. Without this power and energy, your performances will sound weak and shaky, quivering, particularly on the ends of longer words or sustained melodies and this drastically reduces the quality and impact of the performance.

Studio tools and tricks can rarely correct these problems effectively, so that’s why it’s so important for singers to keep in top physical shape if they want to give the best performance they’re capable of live and in the studio. Eat healthy food that gives you lots of energy, and adopt a regular cardio exercise routine at least 4 times a week.

Another recommendation, in addition to warming up properly before a performance and singing regularly in a choir, is opera training, or a great vocal coach such as Brennan Barrett, to help you get as much power as you can without exerting yourself more than you have to, and to assisting with effective breathing techniques that will give you better phrasing and power in the right places.

A producer can only do so much, and in my case, I can work a lot of miracles to make you sound great no matter what, but ultimately, I can only use the best you give me! Make sure that really is your best, as you never know who will hear your finished performance, or how far it will spread.
Recording vocals in studio

My latest production: Medieval Europe & the Crusades

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Last year, I edited video and did all the post production and consulting for an educational DVD, ‘Medieval Times in China and Beyond’. I recently completed the companion DVD for this series, Medieval Europe & the Crusades:

If your interested in these DVD’s which come with detailed teachers guides, visit TeachingForThinking.com

Branford Marsalis on the state of musicians

Friday, June 26th, 2009

“All my students are really interested in hearing is how right they are and how good they are, the same mentality that basically forces Harvard to give out B’s to people that don’t deserve them out of the fear that they’ll go to other schools that will give them B’s and those schools will make the money.
We live in a country that seems to be in this massive state of delusion, where the idea of what you are is more important than you actually being that.
All they want to hear is how good they are and how talented they are, and most of them aren’t really willing to work to the degree to live up to that.

Today, Stevie Wonder would not get a shot (in the music industry)”

– Jazz legend Branford Marsalis, from the documentary film, ‘Before Music Dies’

Check out the film, it’s a great, honest look at the music industry today.


Before Music Dies documentary

Thanks Sarah Lynn for sharing this film with me.

Music production in Beijing

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I just got back last week from another trip to Beijing, my longest one yet as I had 3 projects to work on and a number of meetings…

I was working with artist Elika Mahony as usual, she has just released a new album on the theme of Love, ‘Birds of Love’ that we were consulting about the promotion for, and developing a limited edition version of. We were also recording new material for an upcoming new age style progressive pop album as well as her instrumental album.

Those alone were very exciting projects and it was amazing to work in person with Elika, she accomplished what I feel are her best vocal performances yet on this trip… But I was also working on a Chinese spiritual CD with some local Chinese artists including Chinese pop music legend, Cheng Lin that I will talk more about in the future.

A new project I was working on there, and one of my most unique and culturally diverse was an ambient instrumental relaxation album for Green T. Living owner, Jin R, who is also a very talented artist and performer of the beautiful Yang Qin, which I think is my new favorite instrument.
There are so many talented artists in China playing traditional instruments in new ways, You can have all the experience in the world, or a degree from a music production school, but finding and working with undiscovered talent like this is one of the most rewarding things for a producer.

Jin R had quite an ambitious and creative concept for her new album, one that would provide a soundtrack for guests of her new bath house. The concept was ‘A journey with a cup of tea’, one that you would take without leaving the relaxing confines of the bath house, so I helped her develop the album so that it went from traditional ancient Chinese roots using such ancient instruments as the Gu Qin (over 2000 years old, to the Yang Qin, to the flute and synthesizer with various sound ambiances and real world elements.

I used a Rode NT-4 stereo mic to capture the natural ambience of some of these instruments.
It’s really quite something, you may have to take a trip to Beijing to get a copy though…

For the first time, brought the mobile equivalent of my entire studio setup to work on these projects, but ran into a few challenges when I forgot that China is on 220 power! Luckily, some of my equipment such as an external hard drive with all my sound libraries, and USB hub with all my software licenses were able to run on 220 without a converter. A very good thing, as I plugged them in without thinking about it in my excitement… Not a good thing for the preamp I wanted to add to Elika’s studio. We got it fixed very quickly there, but it never quite sounded the same.

www.flickr.com/photos/jaromematthew/sets/72157615008213764/

More about the music industry related aspects of my trip are on the Pro Soul Alliance blog.

Producer as artist manager

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I’ve been so busy lately that it’s been very hard to blog, not only because of the time issue, but because I have so much to blog about it’s hard to know what to choose…
Right now I’m in Beijing working on 3 different music projects and doing some other music business meetings.
As I’m working here not only as a music producer, but artist manager through my record label, Pro Soul Alliance, I’ve been thinking about this dual role I play.

In the past, it was considered a conflict of interest to be a music producer and artist manager, but it has always made sense to me because you would naturally want to see success for something you worked on and are invested in. With more and more artists taking the ‘Do It Yourself’ method, a traditional manager may not only be unnecessary, but also impractical for many artists.

I think in the internet age of the new music industry, more than ever, with the right person, this is a practical solution for artists.

More thoughts on this can be found in the article here:
www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2008/08/the-producer-as.html

I’ve launched a new video on ProSoul.com featuring myself talking about what were doing for artists, but given my schedule, it still needs a lot of work…

My latest production: Birds Of Love

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

On this occasion of Valentines day, I would like to express my eternal love for my dear wife Felisha.I would also like to share my latest production, the befitting new CD and book gift set by talented artist, Elika Mahony, Birds Of Love!

Birds of Love is a treasury of uplifting words and spiritually inspiring songs specially created for weddings, anniversaries and for loved ones. I’ve been working on it for over a year with Elika, and it is a truly diverse collection. I also assisted with the development and design of the book of quotes.

The response to Birds of Love so far has been overwhelming. So many people have expressed how it is lovely to have music and a book on quotes on the theme of love and marriage, and what a unique and useful gift it is for their friends getting married.  There is also special limited edition option which comes autographed with a handmade card, I was just in the silk market in Beijing assisting in the selection of some exquisite metallic gold fabric with blue highlights for this book, and it must be seen!

You can hear samples and see photos of the product on Elika’s new website which was developed by Pro Soul, who is also assisting in the promotion and release of the product.

Pro Soul Alliance music 2.0 insights

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

I haven’t had a lot of time lately, especially since I’ve been blogging over at Pro Soul Alliance as well…

Check out some of the insightful music 2.0 posts over there to learn more about what’s going on in the new music industry if you haven’t already…

www.prosoul.com/blog

My top five moments from 2008

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Well, it’s the new year and 2008 has been a truly incredible one for me, with more traveling than I’ve done in a long time, so I thought I’d go through my top five moments from 2008 as well as my one most memorable moment of the year.

  1. Completing production and release of Elika Mahony’s Fire and Gold CD
  2. Traveling to China for the first time and then getting to go again the same year
  3. Getting to experience the most amazing and modern city on the planet, Hong Kong
  4. North American Theatrical release of feature film I was sound designer for, Sweet Amerika
  5. Launch of my new, innovative record label, Pro Soul Alliance

It was hard to pick just five amongst all the incredible things that happened this year, like the exciting new music I produced for Heather Dore, my trip to Las Vegas with Felisha, the collaborative music promotional project with talented artist, Laura Harley, ‘enjoy the cylons‘ which was viewed by over 16,000 people, the california Baha’i music weekend, Working with the talented Phil Morrison & Keith Williams, Jing R, and Cheng LIn in Beijing, and the completion of various other video and music projects…

If I had to pick one most exciting and incredible moment though, It would probably have to be getting stuck in the middle of a raging Nahatlatch river with my nephew Aaron while Whitewater rafting and getting out of it with barely a scratch!

I had a really tough year in 2007, so I had decided this would be an amazing year of travel and exciting things, and it sure was! Amazing how when you really set your mind on something, it happens.

As for last years resolutions unfortunately things didn’t go so well with them. In fact I actually managed to offend some people I truly care about with some of my blog posts and other casual blunt remarks…  So this year no resolutions, except a determination to improve balance in my life, and drastically simplify things over the next 2 years so I don’t have to work so damn hard all the time.

This first blog post of 2009 is particularly exciting for me because it’s the first one I’ve done using speech recognition software, Dragon MacSpeech Dictate, the best in the world. My typing is terrible ever since I quit that pre-widespread computer use high school typing class (because why on earth would I need to type people letters?)
So yes I actually spoke everything you just read, which I feel gives things a little more personal touch don’t you?

Enjoy 2009, and all the best to you!

China trip and the launch of Pro Soul Alliance

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

I’m back from an amazing and productive trip to Beijing where I got to meet and work with some fantastic new artists as well as the immensely talented Elika Mahony. I blogged all about it on the new Pro Soul site, where I will be posting a lot of my music business entries from now on: www.prosoul.com

Yes, that’s right, Pro Soul Alliance, the new innovative 21st century record label is now live and ready to take on the artists of a new music industry! It’s a very exciting accomplishment, and we’ve put countless hours of research and effort into creating a truly ground breaking solution for artists everywhere.
We’ve assembled an amazing international team that is consistently expanding to provide an incredible range of services and research to assist artists of all genres from all over the world to connect with their audience and monetize their music in new ways that reflect the changes in the way people want to hear music.
There is really nothing like Pro Soul out there for artists and you will undoubtedly be hearing more about it in the near future! Would love to hear your comments and feedback.

It sure has been an exciting year, and things are just getting going! Hard to beleive it’s almost December.