Drax Project 2: Post Mortem

Draxx project 2 had an extra member join it and we managed to record two songs, King Drac’s Lullaby ( Oh how I feel) and Burn your Cross. The aim of this project was to have at least 3 songs for an EP and both songs were written and vocals done by Roy.

The theme of theatrical and EDM was continued from the first project to the second project to keep the consistency for our target audience. It was a good challenge for me to integrate rock music and EDM as genre which I had never explode and experimented. For this project I gave one of the team members the opportunity to play keys on both tracks. I took the chance to add a little percussion using bongos on both tracks.

My perspective on the project is that we could have had a pretty good shot on our recordings for them coming out to be nice,tight and solid. What do I mean? First I loved the guitar done by Roy and shows experience and solidity. The challenge was the drum recording. I had suggested before that the drummer spend more time practising the songs so we can have a good take once we started recording. We almost did 10 takes or more for each song which really ate our time and was a bit discouraging. But I kept a positive spirit to have the recordings done and kept encouraging that we would the drums later in the edit session.

The EDM I felt like this needed more attention. I know Tom was responsible for EDM and I would expect him at least to be quick enough to work on it but it took a long time to have it. The difficult thing is that he uses software which none us uses (fruity loops). If he had adopted the use of the midi studio probably we all would have an input and work together to produce something unique in a short space of time. I have encouraged him to start thinking of working EDMs in the midi studio.

In terms of teamwork I think we did well working together, a few issues with one of the members not really available to work as a team, here and there would come but not constantly. Whilst the four of us are trying to record and get the signal flow working I would see our group member spending more time trying to catch up with personal things (wrong timing). We still did have chat about teamwork and kept encouraging. Communication as a team was pretty good through slack and direct phone calls. During group presentations everyone was involved and present.

Recording bongos for me was an interesting challenge. It had its positives and negatives. the positive being able to record and the experience. The negative would be the timing of the drums was pretty challenging even though I tried with a click track. It was a whole new experience for me and I endeavour to keep practising for I might come up with a percussive project in future. I also enjoyed my time as the the tech guy in the studio doing drum microphone techniques. With the knowledge acquired during the trimester with Guy Cooper I did implement some ideas of micing the drum to get some good sound out of it through the Neve. In Fact I did a quarter of the techniques which i learnt, but I would like to practise more in our next projects coming.

“Good recordings make mixing easy and fun”. A quote by Guy Cooper which I felt to be very important. We spent a lot of time trying to fix the drums putting them in time and I believe this could be avoided by having a good take. I got good tips on mixing that less is more, meaning use less buses and auxiliaries to cut the time shot and be more efficient. I resonated with that concept as I would like to be efficient, fast, effective when approaching mix sessions from now. Guy Gray gave great tips on 3d stereo imaging how the movement of sound can create imagery when listening

Online presence for me I feel like I should have done more. I did blogs weekly updating what i was up to but I feel I should have been more deliberate on showcasing my projects on social media. Probably I was not that confident to that and I have started to adopt the idea of producing more work and showcasing online and social media. I also need to work on more on my time management. I believe procrastination is the thief of time and I need to pull up my ability to a more practical level of managing my time on my projects. Applying professionalism is something I will start implementing and practising as preparation for excellence.

In as much as I feel I could have done more for this project, I believe we learn from every experience to grow to another level. I do want to keep working on my personal project to bring the best out of me day by day. Greatness is within me and I want to bring it out from what I learn.

Synth taught/ research Exercise

I used Analog with its default sound to make a different synth. To get the shape of the sound and to change the timbre and to get the right colours. Using the amp envelope or volume envelope and it has its default. By increasing the decay and increasing the release makes the sound fade out when I release the ke being played.

The sound became nice and bright but has a buzzy sound after which is not what I really want therefore used a low pass filter to get rid of the buzz. I picked the low pass 12 and reducing the frequency getting rid of the brightness. The filter envelope had more effect on the frequency knob changing the filter cutoff. I spent a bit of time on the envelope decreasing it and setting the freq knob (275) to where I want it to end up and its more like a dry wet scenario for the filter to change the knob all the time. The high the value the more the envelope has an effect on the filter giving it a nice percussive sound.

Next step was to work on the timbre or colour of the sound and the idea is to change the pitch on the beginning of the sound. To achieve that I selected voices to mono and this forces me to play one note at a time even if I play many keys then turned on glide which helps the change the pitch on the beginning of the sound. Glide makes the sound shift smoothly.

The next section I selected the oscillator pitch envelope which changes the pitch whether going up or down and the amount of time I choose also makes it sound different making it a little bassy with enough low end which sounds more like a synth bass. Pushing the shape up gives a high pitch more of a lead synth and the more I pushed it up it produced a laser sort of sound which would be associated with games and pretty cool. To customise the sound I then chose LFO1 selecting the synch mode then experimented with the rate knob. the pitch mode also gives a bit of an effect and too much of it distorts the sound which could be used once again for a game or animation character, quite interesting. I then changed the shape of the oscillator from a saw tooth and tried the square wave played a bit with the pulse width. increasing it made it sound like the old nintendo games that I used to play. Adjusting the pulse width and the LFO1 definitely changed the sound which produced the kind of sound I liked

The last step I selected the unison mode which gave a wide sound. By changing the detune amount and it stacks up multiple rectangles and the way setup it plays two rectangles. I can still use even fours voices if I select the unisone voices. There are many options that can selected at anytime to change the synth to sound different, it’s all about sitting down and experimenting more and get the sounds that I like.

Manzo VJ, Kuhn W. Interactive Composition : Strategies Using Ableton Live and Max for Live. New York City: Oxford University Press; 2015.


Interdisciplinary Project

To achieve LO16 Interdisciplinary Audio assets I contacted my young brother who is based in Perth if we could work together on a project. He is currently studying in the multimedia field and has completed his diploma and heading for the BA.

He came up with a script and named it Dog eat dog and did the shooting of the video and he sent it through google drive. Roy and I decided to be creative on how we would add some interactive music to it. Using Pro tools we exported the video and Roy added an acoustic guitar to it with a bit of a jazz feel. I did some sound design by adding a horror effect during the suspense moments. I also added a piano playing in G flat major and minimal drums (hi hats & snare brushes).

I feel good about this project as the communication between the disciplines was easy and effective within the short space of time. The communication was based on messages, phone calls and emails. Roy and i spend more time in the studio discussing how to tackle the challenge and I am glad we were both on the same level and mindset.

I gave my brother some feedback on using multiple microphone for the next project. The challenge we had in this project was that all the vocals were recorded on one mic. It was then a challenge for us to separate the vocals and mix it. Multiple microphones would have made it more rich. This project has helped me once again on my communication skills. The more I make clear communication chances of a good outcome would be high enough.

Drax Reborn: Mix session

We had our first mix project session for Drax reborn as a team in the Audient 8024 studio and we were fortunate enough to have Guy Cooper in this session. Before we mixed we recorded the percussion using only bongos with an sm57 microphone with me playing them.

Recording bongos was not as smooth as I thought, one reason being the timing of the drums and the guitar. I requested to have the click track increased so to try and play along with the track. At least it’s another learning curve for me to make sure we have the right take in every recording and to at least do the recording together with percussion on the very day.

Guy Cooper gave us very good advice. “A mix is much faster and easier to do when the right recording of all instruments is done in that session”. That will ensure that no retakes and also if we come ready prepared knowing the songs and have had intense practise everything would go smoothly. That was my take home advice and I will gladly make use of it in the next projects to come.

Most engineers have a different ways to approach a mix. Last week we had Guy Gray who prefers to to do the analog mix. As for Guy Cooper he prefers the doing the mix in the box. I would say both engineers have fascinating ways of approaching their mix. He has so much exposure to pop rock and the first advice he gave was to work on the drums and the bass. The drums being out of time we had to try and put them in time and the interesting part was that we did not use beat detective or elastic audio. Guy advised that we try do manually to set the timing and we spend about 5 minutes and got it right. The next thing we put some work on EQ on the drums and bass guitar as these bring the punch and the drive for the whole band. Adding filters helps with changing the sound from its original state to a modified state. Each track had a filter to get rid of any external noises such as white noise or spillage from other mics and we also added compressors and limiters a on to have loud sounds go quiet and quiet sounds go loud using plugins.

Once we were happy with the balance of instruments we then started working on the vocals adding EQs and effects such as reverb and delay. I find the use of bypass very useful as it gives you the original sound and the modified sound reflecting how much work has been processed. once we were satisfied with the vocals we made sure that all was balanced. Another take from Guy is that let vocals are the song and need to clear so to be heard, instruments are just accompanying vocals in as much as it is punchy and groovy. Having done all this process we went back to have a look at how the limiters, compressors and EQ whilst the song was playing and doing more adjustments as we all have different ways of hearing. I would say we spent a good amount of time on this song although much advice from Guy was we should be able to do the mix within 2 hours to the most. The best experience is to continue practising on how to mix especially with studio monitors.

A satisfying session we had and very grateful for learning from an experienced mix engineer.

Mixing & Mastering with Guy Gray

All this while I thought mixing and mastering were the same thing. The simplest way I can describe the difference: Mixing is the process of taking all the parts that were recorded for one song and making them sound good together. Mastering is the process of taking all the songs on an album and making them sound good together. They are different and you do need both According to Guy Gray (Guest Lecturer).

Guy put a recording which needed some mixing and it was a live track recording. The very thing he kept mentioning was, it is better to have a very good mix done so that when its taken in for mastering the job would be easy. The most fascinating aspect i got was that mixing in Pro tools and mixing on analog mixer are totally different and he pointed out that analog mix is better . The reason behind it is that when preamps have been heated up they produce a warm feel to the mix. I thought that was an interesting concept as I had not heard it. The mix was done in analog also using outboard gear such as reverb, delay and a limiter using the patchbay. Guy highlighted that it is of paramount importance to know the patchbay. Once I know how to work with the patchbay then it’s much easier to maneuver any mix and make the workflow pretty easy. I Tri one and two I do remember one of the lecturers emphasising the need to know the patchbay, and she said it’s not a day’s process to know it but continuous practise will build the confidence high.

On the mastering, Guy showed us the need to make sure the volume levels are consistent maintaining a peak level of -14db to avoid distortion and clipping from the tracks. An important point he mentioned was that anything higher than that peak will not be accepted by any mastering engineer, instead they will return the files to redo the mix. I believe there is a lot of work required from the recording itself having the right gain structure which then will make mixing very easy then making mastering pretty easy too.

Some of the things that I learnt were:

  1. Changing from stereo to mono for mixing
  2. Applying filters on all channels
  3. Adding tape inserts in console to add character on a track
  4. Removing 250 db to remove muddy on low frequencies
  5. Sweeping and unmasking the bass drum and accurate use of knob toe get clarity on kick drum
  6. 3D imaging of sound using aux with delay
  7. Adding an EQ and compression on a master.
  8. Compressor reduces the loud and limiter gets quiet things loud.

It would be great to be able to add these techniques in our group projects and even my personal projects.

Owsinski, B. (2008). The audio mastering handbook (2nd ed.). Boston, Mass.: Thomson Course Technology PTR.
Cousins, M., & Hepworth-Sawyer, R. (2013). Practical mastering. New York: Focal Press.
Owsinski, B. (2014). The mixing engineer’s handbook (Third ed.). Australia: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.