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Posts Tagged ‘music production’

New China only music release ‘T. Journey’

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Last year, i had the pleasure of working on quite an incredible Chinese project with the renowned Beijing artist Jin R (pronounced Jing R).
It has recently been released in China, it’s called ‘T. Journey’

T Journey Bath House CD coverJin R is a known world class Chinese chef, restaurant owner, and sublime improvisational Yang Qin performer and artist.
Best known for her Hong Kong and Beijing restaurants ‘Green T House‘, Jin R was recently flown to Vancouver to cook her incredible culinary creations for the VIP guests of the 2010 winter Olympics.
Many attempt to copy hear ideas all over Beijing if not the world, and she truly represents a new era of China.

Last year Jin R developed a new bath house called Green T House Living Bath House & Residence which has already won the Wallpaper* Design Award 2010 – “Best Spa” and “AsiaSPA Magazine Awards 2009 – “Best New Spa Design” and “Best Day Spa”. Jin R wanted to create a unique soundtrack for this spa experience that took you on a journey through ancient to modern China and beyond. She asked me to produce and engineer the album as well as do some sound design.
Jin R playing Yang QinWe discussed what the album would sound like, I played Jin R some sound effect ambiances, chanting, and other musical elements and she eventually became inspired to envision the entire album, with all the performers and instruments she wanted to be a part of the project.
It was quite a diverse selection! I told Jin R, “not only is this not going to be relaxing, but it will be very challenging to make it work musically!”
But she was determined to make it more of a journey, and felt the spa treatments would be relaxing enough, So we proceeded.

Yang Qin, Gu Qin, Chinese traditional opera, Shao, and Chinese percussion, it was an amazing journey for me into Chinese music and instruments unlike anything else I have done before. I blogged more about the production here.
I was amazed at how quickly she rounded up some of the most amazing talent in Beijing, many of which had never been recorded!

Amazingly, it all worked out and it’s an diverse and unique album, another product of the original and creative mind of Jin R.
I owe much thanks to the talented and lovely Elika Mahony for not only introducing us, but assisting us with this project and allowing us to generously use her studio.

You can’t buy this album though, only receive it as a guest of the Green T House Living Bath House & Residence! So make sure you visit when your in Beijing, China.

Jin R’s ‘ancient meets futuristic’ Yang Qin performances on this project reaffirmed that the Yang Qin is one of my favorite instruments in the world.
It’s hard to get a sense of the album from a small part, but you can hear an excerpt of the album below:

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New Music Production: ‘Plaything’ by Laura Harley

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Over the last few years, I’ve been extremely busy with many productions in various genres with different artists. Most of them haven’t been released and are just starting to get out this year, so you’ll see a lot more postings about them here!

I’m excited to share with you my latest production. it’s a song I started many years ago with the talented Laura Harley and it’s just now been completed.

We started with the music bed tracks which I composed and then Laura added vocals and guitar to.
Vocals were recorded in Vancouver, where I also produced and engineered it, except for some mixing I did in China.

To describe the feel of this song, imagine yourself in the year 2020 deep in the heart of India where on a path of spiritual awareness you find yourself in a struggle with the insistence self, trying to escape the grasp of your own ego.

Laura talks about the meaning behind the words on her website…

I think it really turned out well and it’s a very unique from all my other productions including previous songs I’ve worked on with Laura.

You can download it free on Laura’s website now!

Let me know what you think.

My latest production: Elika’s Edge of Forever

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Over the last year I’ve been working on some very exciting new music with Elika Mahony that I have co-written, produced and engineered.
I’ve always felt the music Elika has done in the past has not shown all of her musical potential and talent, it only represented one aspect of her musical influences and interests. So we’ve been on a musical journey to more completely represent and express Elika’s creativity and interests through the music. That journey is ongoing but we have the fruits of our initial efforts in three new songs, Edge of Forever, Missing You, and Listen.
(click on the song links to read more about each song on Elika’s blog)

Each explores different musical styles combining progressive electronic elements with Latin, Persian & Middle Eastern, New Age and pop styles. I think they all merge together very well with Elika’s beautiful voice and pleasing melodies. These songs will also be enjoyable to new listeners who may not connect with Elika’s previous music.

Another goal of these new songs was to convey more of Elika’s feeling and emotion in the vocal performance with more nuances and latent facets of her voice and I think through great effort and striving she has accomplished fantastic results.

We decided to release the songs in batches as an ‘EP’ CD rather than have you wait for the full album to be completed.
Get the full details and links to download the songs online here: www.elikamahony.com/music/edge-of-forever

Let me know what you think. Elika Edge of Forever artwork

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

New trance/pop production: I know I Should Run

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

I’ve been working on a new trance track for songwriter Deborah Caldwell over the last few months called ‘I Know I Should Run’. It’s about when your madly in love with someone who is totally wrong for you to be involved with and you know it.

Deborah wrote and recorded the song some time ago but wasn’t happy with the style and feel of the song. I redid all the music as a more trance pop dance style at her request, but so that didn’t distract from the well written song, while trying also to enhance the emotional impact of not only the music, but the vocals. Hopefully you’ll feel we achieved that. My role for the track was basically arranging, programming bed tracks, music production, audio engineering and mixing/mastering. I assisted with some minor melody changes as well in some key parts of the song for more emotional impact.

We auditioned a lot of singers to get the right performance and feel for this song, and decided on the talented Isreali singer, Noya. She did a great job of conveying the emotion and was a total pro to work with.
We had a specific sound in mind for the vocals and despite this being different to her typical jazzy style, she gave us exactly what we wanted.

The song isn’t really written specifically to sell to a ‘trance music’ audience, but is more to license in Film, TV, and Ads, or to be covered by another artist.
We’re also working on a slower acoustic version.

You can listen here.

Let me know what you think!

New song Persecution for Baha’is in Iran

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Artist Elika Mahony has made a special release of a song we worked on called ‘Persecution’ dedicated to Baha’is in Iran who have been persecuted for their Faith despite posing zero threat to the government, or showing any signs of aggression in any way towards anyone.

You can find out more about it, and listen/download it on Elika’s blog post about it here.

It was a rushed production, so not as refined or elaborate as usual, but Elika wanted to get it out without delay to help spread awareness… The amazing thing about this kind of web release though is that within 24 hours of mixing the song, we were getting feedback from hundreds of people who had listened to it and downloaded the song! It was also impressive to see the web activity of people sharing the song online. Immediate feedback, rather than months later was very exciting.

Head of Baha\'i administration in Iran recently arrestedLeaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran, recently arrested for their beliefs

The plight of the Baha’is in Iran is a truly sad one, many have been martyred, including Elika’s own great uncle, and the current head of the Baha’i administration in Iran were recently arrested soley for their beliefs, although the Iranian government makes up all kinds of other reasons for detaining them. Information from a friend who knows a relative of one of the prisoners who was finally able to talk to them said they use psychological torture on the prisoners, such as keeping them in a white room, in white clothes, with white food for weeks on end without beds or chairs. This is apparently so there are no signs of physical torture. The ultimate objective is to get them to recant their beliefs, as the fundamentalist clergy in Iran feel the Baha’is are a threat to Islam.

The bizarre thing is that Iran feels that by disrupting and eradicating the Baha’i Faith there, they will somehow affect the Faith in a concrete way, despite the fact that there are Baha’is in over 220 other countries and territories around the world! But perhaps the most interesting thing is the backlash that is happening in Iran and worldwide as a result of these recent arrests. Many Iranians who know Baha’is personally know this is an unjust and cruel act on the part of the government, and is causing an uprising against the government giving them more trouble than they could have every imagined.

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.

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.

Dusting off the 80’s synths

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Actually I never dust off my old hardware synthesizers, there’s something about an old electronic thing like that with dust on it that is appealing… It isn’t so good for the hardware thought, the dust gets in the pots and sliders and you get all kind of crackles and noise when you turn the knobs and use it.

What I mean is I am working on a new 80’s inspired pop album for artist Heather Dore. She’s a real sweetie, she even wrote a blog entry about me without even knowing how much I love being appreciated.
The interesting thing about Heather coming along and requesting I rejuvenate her music career by helping her create her favorite kind of music is that I have spent the last decade telling myself “the 80’s are over, things have to sound modern now, 21st century” (which is interesting as a producer in a way, because the production values and attention to detail on a record in the 80’s have never been equalled).
And now that I have finally almost mastered that, I have to go back to my roots that I love and forget discipline from using dated sounds for Heather’s 80’s inspired music. But we will be combining modern elements too, so stay tuned for that, it will be very interesting.

Anyway, it is cool to fire up this old hardware for her music because I have really been into virtual instruments lately in the computer because they save so much time. They aren’t better, they just save time and money. But the old synths have all kinds of crackles and buzzes and stuff that keeps things interesting (and technically challenging from the spoiled computer use). Today one old synth, the Roland MKS-50 that I used (which is a keyless Alpha Juno) started outputting this weird low frequency feedback drone noise which would come and go by itself when I wasn’t using it. Not surprising when using a device that is creating sound using real current generated oscillations. That’s the beauty of old analog hardware, it’s alive.
Now I just have to get these old beasts to behave long enough to capture their essence.

Dusty Old Synthesizer
ahhhh, dusty old synths…

The intricacies of modern music production

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Most people have no idea how much is involved in producing music, and that includes the artists and musicians themselves. That’s right, most professional artists don’t really realize what goes on behind the scenes in producing their music. They leave it up to a professional like myself, a producer (if they want it done right).
The idea of sculpting a bass sound on repeat for 4 hours is just beyond their comprehension, but that is the kind of thing that goes on amongst mixing together many competing elements so it all blends perfectly.

Today was an example of that in recording the last of the Cello parts for Elika Mahony’s album which will be completed this month. I’ll tell you more about that 3 year project soon.
It was very cool to hear someone play something I composed on keyboard on the cello, but professional players aren’t fond of working with non professional composers (ie: composers that don’t write out scores for performers to play). Even though I had the parts professionally scored, the timing didn’t match up with the parts I composed because the piano wasn’t played strictly with a metronome. This means that when the parts are scored, it is very difficult to figure out the beats and bars. There are ways around this but they require a lot of work like creating tempo maps which I won’t get into now.

Basically what it comes down to is that since artists don’t know what’s involved with these kinds of production details, it is hard for them to know how to prepare for them. Generally, if you want to add any instrumentation, music needs to be played perfectly to a click when it is first started, if it isn’t, it will require a lot more time and money.

It’s all part of the many intricacies of professional music production. It’s hard to believe how much goes into a song sometimes, even for myself. But when it’s done right, it sure sounds amazing. It can capture the heart and stir your very soul.