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Posts Tagged ‘production’

Latest production: Herb-One old school hip hop jams

Friday, October 28th, 2011

I titled this latest production, but actually, I’ve been working on so many projects lately, it isn’t the very latest… I’ll post about the rest soon.

Late summer I edited and mixed a oool album by Herb-One.
Herb has been working for years on tracks that he painstakingly and meticulously assembled and created from many different sources in a truly traditional fashion for old school hip hop (which made for some unique challenges for me in mixing the tracks). It’s a great collection of the first of many releases from him, and I think he did a fantastic job on it, not only delivering impressive ‘bragadocious’ rhymes & lyrics, but some classic old school hip hop reminiscent of the days when it was still creative, and innovative, and fun for the whole family (ie: expletive free)

Herb-One: The One & Only album cover

The other cool thing about MC Herb-One is he’s also living in China, and has even incorporated some Chinese traditional elements into the tracks in a subtle way, such as the background to one of my favourite tracks, ‘I Got It’ which you can take a listen below:

Check out the rest of the album online including the ‘classic LP’ artworkhere, and the facebook page here.

New Beijing sound studio nearing completion

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Since I had to abandon my first studio in Beijing due to the building being damaged from electrical fire, I’ve had to build a new studio.
I’ve chosen the location where I originally planned to set up the studio when I first decided to open one in Beijing, Real Life at Hegezhuang village.
It’s an amazing idea that China would do well to support more. They are taking traditional Chinese courtyard homes and modernizing them by renovating the inside. I’ve chosen to add a soundproofed booth and control room to the courtyard area of mine and luckily have found a great acoustic design company in Beijing to help me do it. Thanks Wayne from Snipersounds for the referral.

This studio will be unlike any I’ve ever heard of. It will have a traditional yet modern feel, with lots of light, and glass skylight which would usually be impossible acoustically, but I’m determined to break new ground and do away with the studio in a box idea. This is possible due to the latest in acoustic materials,  software and hardware to tune the control room (no more cheezy egg carton foam!). Maybe I’ll elaborate more in future once it’s all done.
The recording room is a double walled room within a room of course to ensure quiet but comfortable recording of even a full live band.
You can get more of a sense of the space and cool vibe this place has going on from these photos:

 

Studio entrance with courtyard skylight visible

Studio entrance with courtyard skylight visible

Recording room entrance (second sound proof door is missing)

Recording room entrance (second sound proof door is missing)

View of the control room from the adjacent room

View of the control room from the adjacent room

 

first wall goes up inside the recording room

Front door looking into open control room door

Front door looking into open control room door

The place will also have a kitchen and lounge, and a few bedrooms so we can live there and I won’t have to commute. There’s even a little guest room if you want to come visit.

I’ve never built a studio to this level before, but thanks to affordability of Chinese labor and materials, here, it’s possible.
Thanks to the many people assisting me to make it all happen, without them and a few miracles, it would never have been possible.
A few more weeks to go and I think we’ll have one of the coolest sound studios in Beijing!

Music for Infants

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
As you may know if you’ve read my blog before, I recently adopted a baby boy from Vietnam.
Of course as a music producer, the first music he heard had to be something I had composed, and appropriately I had some music created just for infants for a video project I was involved in that never got released.
So I thought I should share a sample of it I call ‘Wonder Funtime’:

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I am no expert when it comes to music and children, especially infants, but I did some research and used my instincts to come up with some music that I hoped was appropriate for young ears and delicate minds.
I’ll let you be the judge if I succeeded in that effort. Not sure what I’ll do with this music as I still own the rights, perhaps I should put out an album or license it for something…
Of course Evan loved it and was quite mesmerized.
He loves sound of all kinds, so the bells and vocal like horns seemed to appeal to him.
Next I think I’ll introduce him to some jazz.
Evan Binh Minh 7 months

Music production studio discoveries from my past

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

In moving the studio recently and consolidating things, preparing for a more mobile production setup, I discovered some interestng items from my past. Over the years, I’ve been so busy pretty much non stop that I haven’t had a chance to go through old boxes and files that have been laying around. Well over the last month I have, and I found some pretty interesting memorabilia:

Emax_Floppies_IMG_0849

Floppy Disks with song files & sounds from my first productions (now in some landfill)

I also found an original copy of a magazine with a full page feature, also mentioning me that I got for one of the first artists I professional produced, Emeline:

Emeline in Vancouver magazine (edited scan from original)

Emeline in Vancouver magazine (edited scan from original)

Found lots of other very interesting things maybe I’ll share when I have more time.

There are a lot of cables when you have a midi based studio, even though I’ve gotten rid of a lot of analog equipment, and still am selling now as part of this process…

StudioCables_IMG_0028

Audio, midi instrument, power, data, speaker cables for the studio

Moving the studio

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

That’s right, after 3 great years, I’m moving my studio to my home next week. I had planned to blog about it much earlier, but then we were suddenly told to drop everything and go to Vietnam to adopt a baby (An update on that & what has happened in my next blog…).

Because I will be doing a lot more work overseas next year, I decided it didn’t make sense to have a separate studio here that is costing me when I won’t even be here! So I’m moving the studio to my home and will be working with a friends studio locally when recording is necessary in Vancouver.Jarome Studio 2006

It was a hard decision, as this was definitely the best sounding studio I’ve had, interesting as it was quite a simple setup, but there was something about the sound in there that gave this lovely air when mixing, and it had a comfy homey feeling when recording.
Had some fantastic times in there working with amazing artists like Elika Mahony, Heather Dore, Laura Harley, and Bahiyyih.

We custom built the studio as a double walled enclosure, and acoustically treated the walls, and put in wood flooring.

It seems every time I build a studio, the time I actually get to use it before something happens becomes less and less… Hopefully my next studio will last more than 3 years! I really thought I would be there and use the space for a lot longer than I did, but life changes.

In terms of how this will affect my work, things will be continuing as usual as far as what I can do and the quality of my work. I’ve made sure those things won’t be affected. What will change is my availability in Vancouver. If you want to work together on a project, make sure you schedule it now, because my time here next year will be limited!

In going through everything I have to prepare to move, I found some pretty amazing memorabilia from my music past… Im going to post some of those things in future blogs, so keep an eye out.

I’m also selling some vintage analog gear as I part with things I don’t use as much to make room for new additions that I need more now with my work and the way technology changes. If your interested in an Emax 2 sampler, Korg SDD-1000 delay fx, Behringer MX 2642A Mixer, or a Symetrix 528 vocal processor/preamp channel strip, then let me know.

I have to say, I’m really looking forward to all the time I’ll be saving not having to commute, and the money that will be saved as well. This has been a really tough year, and I really need a break and to make some major changes in the way I work, badly.

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

Is professionally produced music important anymore?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’ve had no problem getting work as a music producer, even in a recession. I’m working on 6 albums and keep getting calls for more, but then I’m cheap as far as many music producers go with my experience. Most of my clients hire me because I also compose and engineer in my own studio, so I’m a one stop shop.

This regular work has in no way filled me with delusions about the importance of professionally produced music to the general public though. I have found myself asking more and more, what is the point of what I do for artists anymore? Is there a future in professionally produced music? Do the majority of people care?

Before you scoff at this question, peruse these valid issues that have partially led to it, such as:

  • The decline of record labels and shift of the industry into the hands of DIY artists with limited budgets
  • The proliferation of affordable music production equipment and software allowing artists to Do It Themselves at home
  • The popularity of live, reality ‘Idol’ type music shows and Youtube
  • The proliferation of poor quality music formats like 128 kb MP3 files
  • The popularity of poor quality music playback devices like iPods with headphones
  • The question of the value of music in a world of free downloads

One could argue that people are used to professionally produced music, and so they will still demand it, despite the shrinking budgets for artists and music lovers. There is no question that the world is shifting towards enjoying more music than ever before, and that music is increasing in popularity.

But my most significant argument for the rapid decline in value for the music producer is, given the above, can the average person even tell the difference between music with no producer and that which is professionally produced? Will they be disappointed with acoustic versions of songs?

Tests I’ve done have proven the answer is no. Most listeners primarily want to hear the singers voice, and the melodies sung with simple instrumentation, and everything else seems superfluous.

I think a producer contributes significantly not just to the quality of sound of the music, but to:

  • The performance, emotion, and confidence of the performers
  • The arrangement of the song, including lyric phrasing and song structure
  • The melodies and musical instrumentation of the song
  • The accuracy of pitch and timing and sonic quality of the recorded parts
  • The range of tone across the frequency spectrum of the music
  • The mood, feeling and energy of the song

But of course, I’m biased! And as illustrated, these are decreasing in importance to the general listener.
In industries like film, TV, and advertising, these elements have become standard, so there is no question that they will require professionally produced music.
For music in general though, the question remains, given it is proven most people can’t hear the difference, is there a future for the professional music producer?
Will a shift in the importance of the arts and education in society affect the demand for musical perfection only an experienced producer can provide?

recording in bedroom

Latest Production, remake of an 80’s classic, ‘Fascination’

Friday, September 19th, 2008

So after dusting off some 80’s analog synth hardware, and researching licensing internationally for digitally released cover songs, Heather Doré’s new song is finally released and available online! Listen here!

She is a great lover of 80’s music, so it seemed fitting to remake an almost forgotten 80’s classic, so we chose The Human League, ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ which I have always loved since I was a teen. I wasn’t sure how I could do justice to the fantastic original production, unique sounds used, and great male and female vocal tracks, but a little ‘future disco’ treatment, and Darryl Kromm of Strange Advance on background vocals turned out to be a winning combination in my biased opinion!

We have some very exciting things in progress for Heather‘s next songs, so look forward to more soon!

Poor Quality Sound: Now Standard!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

In my last post I talked about how the quality and natural dynamics of music is being destroyed through digital software technology that allows unnatural processing of audio.

But there is a much greater threat to the quality of audio that has been the subject of my thoughts for some time now: The way we listen to sound.

Back in the 1970’s the quality of sound recording technology, production techniques and playback systems reached a pinnacle with some of the most incredible music and sound humanity had ever known, and this became further fine tuned in the 1980’s. Brilliant, rich full spectrum sound that went beyond the range of human hearing, but influenced the richness of the sound through frequency harmonics that enhanced what we could hear with our ears.
Two things initiated the downward spiral that has led us to where we are today: The Walkman and the CD.
Very briefly, the walkman influenced music lovers to listen to music on crappy little earphones, and the CD chopped off audio at 20kHz without researching the influence of harmonics above that hearing range on sound we do hear. This is why vinyl records really are better sounding than CD’s in many ways.
From there, the convenience of sound gave way to clarity, and quality until we come to the present day world, of massively widespread use by the majority of music and audio listeners of terrible sounding MP3’s played on the worst possible sound producing devices humanity has ever experienced: earbud iPod headphones, computer laptop speakers, and cel phones! And this doesn’t even begin to cover the music and production tools and techniques prevalent with the trend of do it yourself computer production.

To a producer like myself who has spent over a decade mastering the subtle art of trying to perfect music and sound, this trend is devastating to say the least. And if you ever compared how music sounds on a really nice hi fi stereo system (you know like the ones they used in the 70’s) with a computer laptop speaker, it would make you nauseous. You lose something like 80% of the sound! But that introduces another problem- people don’t really know what sounds good and what doesn’t, maybe because they have become so used to listening to terribly reproduced sound, in my humble opinion and experience.
(Just as a benchmark, and cost is by no means an accurate measure, if your speakers cost less than $500, they are probably cheap garbage that sounds terrible!)

This has brought up all kinds of questions for me with regard to what I do as a profession… Why create great sounding 24 bit 96kHz audio if it is going to end up at 80% of what you created? For the 20% of people that like good sound?
My only answer is to become more involved in the film industry side of audio production as a sound designer, since at least sound is formatted and reproduced in higher fidelity than with music. So that is what I have gradually been doing. A film I worked on last year is hitting the theatres in September here…

I truly feel for the future of music in an environment where it is so under appreciated. It makes me wonder what the future holds for someone in a profession like myself and wether or not there will even be the need for professional producers and engineers if no one can really appreciate or notice their efforts.

For those of you reading this who don’t really know what I’m talking about, you don’t know what your missing!

The way audio was meant to be heard...

A pro stops by the studio…

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Yesterday, I got a long overdue visit from a friend and professional musician Darryl Kromm from 80’s band Strange Advance who I worked with on Past Becomes Future and many other brilliant songs he has written that have not been released (yet). He came in to discuss future projects and Heather Dore’s current songs that I am working on. I wanted some background vocals for one of her songs, and despite not hearing the song much or knowing the words, he threw down an almost flawless recording in 15 minutes, as he has always done. When I asked him about it, he said “when your singing professionally for paid gigs, you can’t fool around, and that’s where I started”. Early in his career he performed/recorded with Bryan Adams, Bob Rock and Paul Dean of Loverboy, and released a number of hit recordings.

It was a great experience to work with such a pro in the studio and get such strong results so quickly. Looking forward to more of that Darryl!

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Darryl sings his rework of Bowie’s ‘Fame’ from the Past Becomes Future CD.