Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bellows that ring through Pop Culture history.

This summer will mark the 89th anniversary since we first heard "the victory cry of the bull ape" from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes. As the summer lumbers on, we will be graced again with another attempt to accurately portray Tarzan on the big screen this July when Warner Brothers release The Legend of Tarzan on Canada Day in North America.

But we are here to talk about sound, and we shall we great satisfaction. The Tarzan Yell, you know the one, has been used in countless movies has a lot of controversy around it. More over, it's not the first bellow that was heard from Tarzan. In 1929, in the film Tarzan the Tiger was the first yell of Tarzan portrayed by Frank Merrill. This cry is not the resounding bellow that we all know and emulate whenever we swing on objects, but more closely resembles the drunken chanting of a fraternity pledge. Luckily, in 1932 Tarzan the Ape Man was released and brought forth the iconic yell. The controversy around the yell is about it's inception, and whether Weissmuller recorded it as is, or the studio MGM layered Weissmuller's track with a second track of Weissmuller's voice (amplified), a backwards track of a hyena howl, a female soprano holding a note, a growling dog, a camel bleat, and a violin G-string.

Regardless of how precisely this track of American Cinema was made, it rings on in our society's collective memory. But this is not the only scream that we all know and love. Since 1993, Jurassic Park brought us the memorable Tyrannosaurus Rex roar that made the fake dinosaur come to life with the help of a slowed down baby elephant trumpet, an alligator's gurgling, and a tiger's snarl.

Finally, an iconic bellow that rings through cinema history is from a childhood cartoon character that many of us grew up with.

The "Goofy Holler" was coined back in 1941 for the Disney short The Art Of Skiing. Hannes Schroll, an Austrian Alpine Skier, coined the iconic cartoon's yell back in 1941 for the specific cartoon short. People who saw the short fall in love with the "Goofy Holler" and it is now a staple requirement of the character.

What all of this comes back to is that sound doesn't just have to be music to be memorable and give people joy. Be it a much beloved track blared over a boombox at a picnic, or a spine tingling laugh that fills us with apprehension and exhilaration in the movies, the creation of these different sounds and yells and moans make up most of our understanding of pop culture. Between sight and sound, more people will try to mimic how something sounded in a song or on a show, than how it looked.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Make Sure Your Mix Translates Well

You’ve spent hours editing you mix and you think you have it all done but when you go to show it to your friend you notice that it sound completely different than what you head while you were editing. The reason is probably because you were listening to your mix through one platform. It’s one mistake that all audio engineers make at one point. You think that because it sounds good through your speakers it will sound good through all platforms, but in reality there are many steps that you need to take before you can be completely done with your mix. In this article I will take you through the steps to make sure that you mix is ready to be put out into the world.

First, be aware of the space you are using to mix and master. Adam Schwartz, Towson audio professor, suggest that you “mix somewhere you trust and are familiar with”. That way you have a better understanding how sound reflects in that space. If you get the opportunity to use a studio take notice of how they have set up their space. Do they acoustic panels, bass traps, or diffusers? But even if you get to use a studio and it sounds great on the speakers you cannot just stop there and assume that it will translate well through other platforms. You have to test it through other speakers and headphones, but we will get to that later.

(Manta Ray Records in Baltimore)

Second, make sure your recording sounds well from the beginning. You want to understand the final product when you are starting. And it’s not to say that somewhere down the road you will change your mind but its still good to understand the direction that you are going in. Also it may be awesome to have a ton of cool instruments on the track but less really is more. You want your instruments to sound well when played together. It may sound cool to have ukulele or a mandolin on it but if they have to battle another instrument just to be heard, then you have to decide on whether you really need it. 

Another tip can be to have a song that is similar to the song that you recorded as a reference track. You don’t have to copy exactly what they are doing but it is a good way to see how they differentiated the instruments, what they increased, panned, etc. After you have finished recording and are in the processes of editing it is good to alternate the way that you are listening to your mix. If you are listening through speakers, put on a pair of headphones and see how it sounds through there. Also be aware that there are many ways for people to listen to your music. Headphones, speakers, phones, tablets, car speakers are just a few of them, and even with those there are multiple types of headphones, speakers, phones, etc. that will give off a different type of sound. The more variety of platforms that you test your music on the better. 

(Left Audio Technica / Right JBL Studio Speaker by Angrydonat)

With technology becoming such an important part of our lives, some companies are having computers mastering your mix for you, and while that seems convenient what happens when you get your mix back and there is something that wasn’t done right? Or you have changed your mind about how you want it to sound? Do you really want to have to send it in every time with a new description and hope that the computer understands exactly what you want? This is where having an actual human doing your mixing and mastering is beneficial. They are there to communicate with you about your idea and work with you to understand what you want.

Now that you know how to make sure your mix translates well, it's time to get back to work and share your work with the world!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Making Music in 2016

Making Music in 2016 

For some people, the radio seems like torture and there hasn't been a top 10 song that you actually liked in a few months (or maybe as long as you can remember). The whole motions of pop music seems staged and every day you try to escape the inevitable surrounding of Justin Bieber and Kanye West. You pick up your instrument and try to write a catchy tune that has the right balance between what YOU want and what the people want. Finally, the song is done and you show it to the regular friends but its made clear they won't go home and rock out to your tracks without you asking them to. 

Welp, this feels like it.... the end of a career that never really started. You begin to wonder if your aspirations are pointless and your hopes and dreams slowly slips into an abyss of complete nothingness...with your instrument beside you, you are alone.

Well snap out of it!    

Because music is doing well

Often people will say things like "They don't make 'em like they used to..." or "back when the songs meant something..." but what those people don't do is dig into the underground of new music and try to find something you have to look for.

 So many bands are out there right now in the hustle, playing as many gigs as they can get and putting out tracks with their own money, but why isn't it paying off? Because we aren't looking into the music hard enough, we let the same big name artists hog all the attention while thousands of little guys put in the most that they can for a taste of their hero's success.

So what do we do about it?

Go out and support the scene yourself! Don't ask people to come out to your shows but not do the same for them, be a fan and get the rest of the crowd engaged. Sometimes the only thing holding a crowd back from really enjoying the show is the fact that no one else is active. Be the person grooving to every song and provide the energy you want your crowd to have when you are on stage. If you want local music to gain recognition it can only happen from the ground up, so go out and play your part as the support as well.

Understanding the importance of Production and Promotion in Music today:


Well, its no shock that the recording quality of music has gone way up since its beginning. We have gone from one take to record the whole song without any sort of editing to entire albums being recorded with computers and digital effects. With these changes came new possibilities for both the artist and the business industry of music. Regardless of what it is that's selling, music labels will sell it, because why not?

What this also brings us is a higher standard for music recording quality. While other factors are obviously important, a recording is only as good as it is produced. If the greatest musicians in the world all came together and wrote a magnum opus for all of mankind but then recorded it with a Rockband mic, it probably wouldn't go very far.
If you're a musician who really wants people's attention then what you need to do is take the time to make high quality recordings so that when you show people your song it matches what they are used to hearing. While making home recordings is fun and great for getting down in the dirt with the whole process, the end product may not hold up as strong as you went for. If you really want to put out a worthy piece of music out of your room, it is possible, but be ready to spend a lot of time with trial and error. So don't be afraid to bite the bullet and get some professional help because the world is filled with experts that can help you make your song sound like you've always heard it in your head. 


The Internet has changed everything, music is no exception. Anyone can go and record a track and post in on a site that anyone with a computer can reach. The industry is tightly held by big labels and record companies who can let the whole world know when an artist drops mew music. While this may decide what is and is not mainstream music it does not completely kill the scene. 

Musicians who really want to make money off of their work need to understand that less and less people actually are paying for their music. Even big names like Chance The Rapper and Mac Miller put out free music simply to reach a bigger audience and hopefully get better turnouts at shows. So take note of this tactic and think less of making an album that will make you all your money and instead make the music a hook to attract people to events that raise you money and then selling merch at these shows. 
Distribution websites can put your music up on iTunes and Spotify which is a essential move for musicians who want to take the next step up. While Bandcamp and Soundcloud may get the job done these are more basic ways to promote your music out and will not get you as much of a serious impression. Also, after the recording is done and you have a hot new track for the world to hear, make a video that really hooks in your audience. So many bands get new listeners sold on their videos because of its extra ability to display a message. It doesn't have to be a top of the line cinematic masterpiece but videos definitely leave a stronger impression and give a new window of creative opportunity. 
So don't give up!

The music industry is tough to crack into but don't give up because its not easy. Keep showing up and be ready for conflicts because no one got to the top without a struggle and all the time you spend waiting for your chance can be time spent mastering your craft. This way when you do get your moment to shine you will have the artillery to make your dream happen.