Category: music recording studio in Pune.

It’s been easy at the studio!!

We are working on a new film and are recording new music, it’s shaping up really well and I’m quite excited about the final product coming your way.

Today’s post is the follow up to Part 1 , which describes how I go about the tracking process. We’ll be looking at editing, mixing and mastering. These 3 processes are basically post production. If you hear someone say “We’ll fix it in post (please hit them)”, they are basically saying they will use one (or all of the above) to make a performance that wasn’t quite up to the mark acceptable. Let’s dive in.

 

EDITING: Usually the place to start in post, editing deals with making corrections in the recording. Editing is basically ‘Cut, copy and paste (and delete)’. It can be used to fix or mangle performances depending on what kind of music you are making. As an example, let’s say we have 2 takes of a drum recording where the snare hits are a little ahead of the beat, the drum roll isn’t great on one of them. Using our basic cut and paste tools, we can take all the snare hits (look up strip silence and tab to transient) and push them behind in time to make them feel right. The drum roll at the end we can cut from one take and paste it on to the final one. This process is repeated for all the other elements in the song until everything sounds right. There are a variety of things you wouldn’t want on your recording, like a bad note, an out of time hit, an out of tune vocal or a friend who walks yapping just when you’ve finished a take you’re happy with. You would be surprised by how much editing happens to make a song feel right, that is if the performance isn’t good. If the performance is actually amazing you’ll find yourself just editing out the ends of the audio file to take out clicks and pops!! It can also be used to change the arrangement of a song. Say your song structure is Intro – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Outro and the singer is about to record. You feel the 2nd chorus should be twice as long. You can copy and paste the elements of the chorus to make it longer. Mischief managed.

 

MIXING: This is what one of my mix sessions looks like in Pro-Tools.

Mix Window Pro Tools with all the tracks Laid Out

All the tracks that I have arranged and edited in pitch and time are now laid out, ready to be mixed together. This is the part where we go from what sounds like a collection of sounds to one cohesive sounding song. A lot of newbies expect mixing to be this magical process that fixes any and every mistake. This is a myth. Garbage in, garbage out, this never changes. Mixing is all about making the most space for the most important elements, and accommodating every other element of the song. It’s the process where every element of the song is balanced in amplitude(volume) and tonality to with respect to the others. In a mix, the engineer changes various parameters on every track. Let’s take a look:

• Volume – Pretty straightforward, the engineer sets the levels of the instruments relative to each other. For example if the vocal is the main element that drives the song, the mix engineer creates a balance where the vocals are the loudest with respect to the other tracks.

• Panning – It’s where the placement of the track is decided in the stereo spectrum. Tracks can be placed dead center, hard right, hard left and in between. Using panning creatively helps you create a sense of size of a song. For example, everything might be dead centre in the intro + first verse of the song. When the chorus hits, you open up the stereo spectrum by placing your guitars (or synths) and the listener will perceive it as the song having more energy and excitement than before.

• Timbre – Say you have a dull sounding voice that lacks ‘the brightness and sheen’ and is pulling the song back. You can use an equaliser to add some highs(I.e higher frequencies) to taste until it sounds right. An equaliser is mostly used to make sure all the instruments work together well tonally.

• Compression – IS THE MOST MISUSED TOOL EVER !!!!! Let’s say you have a singer who goes from very soft to very loud in the same line. You could bring up the volume up on one or down on one. But now this is happening in every line in the song. This is where compression comes in. You can use a compressor to ‘compress’ or reduce the dynamic range of the singer bringing forward the quiet bits and controlling the loud ones. There is a lot more that compression is used for in modern music, we’ll be looking at some of these tricks later.

• Reverb – Reverb helps create a sense of space in the mix. You can take all your instruments and change the perception of where the performance happened by tweaking the reverb settings. Your options will usually be halls, chambers, plates, small, medium and big sized rooms.

• FX – You can use effects such as distortion, delay, pitch shifting, auto-tune, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo to make the sounds interesting. There are many ways to use these effects, which cannot be listed here. A good place to start is by finding out what effects were used on your favourite songs, and applying the same ones to yours. Youtube is a great resource for this.

• Automation – Automation is the process of automating certain parameters of the above over the course of the mix. Say you want the reverb on the vocals to increase during the chorus, you set the parameters for the verse and chorus and automation will make this change automatically for you when you go from the verse to the chorus. Most parameters in almost every plugin can be automated, giving you endless possibilities for sonic manipulation. If you spend some time with this, you will find that you are only limited by your imagination.

MASTERING: The final stage of the production process. The mix is tweaked using analog/digital tools to make sure that it translates well across all types of real world listening systems ranging from the cheapest earphones to the most expensive sound systems. This is done by tweaking the same parameters as above, though there is a marked difference in how the tools are used. This is a fairly complex process, and takes a fair degree of expertise to carry out. However, we will have a more in depth look at this process in the future. We’ve taken a look at the 3 core processes of post production and I’m hoping this has been helpful to you. Yes it is a lot of work, but with the right kind of engineer and team it does get easier. As I always say, do what you do best, Outsource the rest.

 

It’s been a very busy year for me at Gray spark audio, and this holiday season has been particularly rewarding. As a studio we’ve built up to a point where we have a steady clientele of established studio musicians, up and coming artists, as well as new musicians taking their first steps towards a career in music by being resourceful and dedicated to their craft. Being in the studio, I get a lot of questions from a lot of people about how to go about how to build songs, how recording works and what my process is. Today’s blog post is the first of many that will help you understand the recording process, from my perspective as a music producer and engineer. Let’s dive in.

Recording:
We’ve come a long way from the early days of audio recording. What started off with a handful of studios with just a few tape machines and mics and driven recording engineers experimenting with electronics for the next big breakthrough, has now morphed into a multibillion dollar industry, with millions of studios operating worldwide, using a wide variety of microphones, fancy AD converters and even fancier analog equipment like EQ’s, compressors, reverb units, rackmount units that are more expensive than some Indian cars and all of this operated by ‘audiophiles’ who claim these units will change your music and your life by taking them both to the ‘next level’.

While there might be some degree of truth to that, all you need to know is that the act of recording is as simple as taking your guitar (or a mic if you’re a singer), plugging it into an audio interface and hitting the record button on your music production software (also called a DAW which stands for digital audio workstation). Once recorded, you’ll see your performance as an audio file, and will be able to play it back. That’s it. While there is a lot more that goes into capturing a performance and making it sound like all the music you love listening to, being able to record yourself is enough to turn that musical idea in your head into a song.

When I’m engineering for artists, I follow a certain process that I’ve learnt and polished up over the years.

It all starts with the demo.

What is a demo?
A demo is the basic recording of your song that you just made. Most of the things that are on the demo usually make it to the final cut of the song. A good demo consists of a melody that works with the lyrics that will be almost done, being sung (or played) on top of the rhythm section and the music (also called the harmonic section), conveying a sense of beginning, middle and end in the context of a song. When all these things are in place, everyone involved from the engineer to the performers know what where goes in the song, as well as the tempo and feel of the song.

Let’s build a house
The final recording of song is much like building a house. The demo is the digging before the foundation is put in place, the rhythm section (in most cases drums and bass) is the foundation, the music forms the walls, the vocal is the roof and the cleanup and painting is like the mix and master process.

– Foundation
As with building a house, you first need a solid foundation. Make sure to have the grooves for your song figured out, and if you have a good drummer (or programming skills, I’m looking at you dance music folk), getting a good sound is a piece of cake. Next, you get your bass in place, preferably something that ties the drums and the music together and is the right amount of busy or sparse depending on your song. These days a good bassline or lack thereof makes or breaks a song, so always remember, bassline is king.

-The walls
The music section comes next. Coming back to the house analogy, your music forms the walls that hold up your roof. A well written music section supports and elevates the vocal (or solo instrument), As one of my clients says, ‘melody moves the person, harmony moves the soul’. Your walls can be made of glass or can be thick stone walls. Lorde’s “royals” is a good example of glass walls, while a song like MJ’s “earth song” is an example of a dense one. One is minimal, the other intricate, but they both serve the same purpose. This is also the part of the recording process where you get to set the tone and aesthetic of the song, so figure out what kind of instrumentation & chords you like best for your song before building your walls.

– The roof
This is the centerpiece of your song and what your listener is going to connect with at their first listen. Your job is to write the catchiest melody for your song, and perform it in a way that is moving to a listener. I’ve seen a lot of artists come into the studio, and they all have unique approach to this. The important thing is to write something well and practice it well before you get to the studio (sometime artists enter the studio on their bad days too).

The contractor (I’m sick of using the house analogy repeatedly but this is the last bit, promise)
In everything we’ve covered so far, you are the architect and designer of this house, but a house also needs someone who’ll guide you through the process. The engineer is the contractor and the studio minions the labor that are the last pieces of the process. A good engineer is going to make sure your performances are well recorded by using the right mics for the job, and once the recording is done mix and master all the elements so that they have the maximum impact. In theory you could do all of this yourself, but having a dedicated engineer taking care of all of these aspects helps you focus on what’s important, which is your performance and your song.

In the second part of this series, we will talk about what happens after the recording process. I hope this post gives you some clarity about the process, and helps you plot and plan your upcoming musical projects.

We usually see a very high volume of people who come to the studio to record their vocals, but often enough, what seems like an easy/ fun job usually end up becoming a daunting task. This blog is written with the intention that clients know what preparation is required before they step into the recording studio and it becomes considerably easier for them to record their vocals. Gray Spark is one of the best song recording studio in Pune with diverse range of solutions and services for all your recording requirements.

  • Know your Vocal Range:

Yes, everybody wants to be able to sing like ‘Adele’ but not everyone has a vocal range like her. Knowing how high or low you can sing and what key is ideal for your voice is always a good idea. Knowing this information, you can inform your recording engineer about this and ensure that you don’t end up stressing your voice, in turn getting a better recording of your voice

  • Dynamics:

This is singlehandedly one of the things that sets apart the amateurs from the professionals. Recording inside the studio is like looking at your voice through a magnifying glass. Every small detail and artifact gets enhanced, unlike singing in the bathroom where it’s mostly just the reverb. Among the things that get amplified, the one thing that people miss out on most is Dynamics.  Dynamics essentially is the control you have on your voice in terms of volume and expression.  Imagine this, the microphone is like an ear that captures your voice, when placed in front of a voice that has a very big dynamic range i.e. can be too soft and loud, your ear will find this sound unappealing. But on the other hand, a trained voice will know how loud certain parts of the song should be, how loud or soft certain words should be so that they bring out the most emotion.  A good way is to look for the dynamics in the song you want to do and practice them over.

  • Pitch:

This one goes without saying, if you can’t sing in pitch it’s going to sound bad. Yes, there is always auto tune, but there is only so much even a computer can do. If you’re out of pitch and use a tuning plugin, it most definitely ends up sounding robotic. Usually, it takes time to be able to hear pitch and if you’re going sharp or flat. There is a very simple exercise to amend this; it’s called a ‘Tanpura’. Tanpura is an instrument with a drone like element that plays different notes from the scale that you choose. The idea is to pick out a note form the Tanpura and keep singing it so that your vocal chords get used to the note.

  • Expression:

This one is also equally important and usually left out. This is what defines your voice from any other voices out there. The expression of your voice is what gives your vocals a certain ‘goosebumps’ like character. It takes time to find your expression, but once you know which direction you want it to head in then it’s just a matter of practice.

If you need any further assistance with vocal recording, you can subscribe to our newsletter by dropping us your contact details at contact us@gray-spark.com and we can keep you posted about workshops that we conduct at our music recording studio in Pune.

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