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:

Production

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. 

Promotion

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. 



Monday, May 16, 2016

Artists to Keep an Eye on This Summer:

Radiohead

With the release of their 9th studio album five years after its predecessor, Radiohead is making a comeback into the music scene full force with "A Moon Shaped Pool". The band began their latest venture with an unorthodox publicity stunt of removing all social media temporarily and then releasing a new single, "Burn the Witch" with a strange child-like animation. The band is touring the world and selling out giant venues such as Madison Square Garden two nights in a row. Radiohead may not be a band you'll get the chance to see unless you already bought your tickets but their new music is worth a listen and I'm sure we will be hearing a lot about this album and tour over the next few months.

Chance the Rapper


With his latest project, Chance is on his way to owning the summer. With "Acid Rap" receiving massive amounts of praise, Chance made a solid name for himself in 2013 and has remained a familiar name among the rap community. While Chance is still a popular new artist he is still one that you can see live (unlike the above) and will be active this summer with personal shows and music festivals.

Red Hot Chili Peppers



A familiar name that has held its relevance since their 1991 release "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" after getting signed to Warner Bros. This album would shoot the band forward into the spotlight after its enormous success which truly was monumental to the evolution of RHCP. Their new album "The Getaway" is scheduled to be released on June 17th and the band is destined to do a worldwide tour in promotion of the new album.

Blink 182

With their much anticipated album "California" being released July 1st, Blink is bound to get the spotlight this summer. The band went on an indefinite hiatus after the guitarist Tom Delounge departed from the group, claiming that the three had grown apart and wished to accomplish different things with their music. The Trio now consisting of bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus, drummer Travis Barker, and guitarist and vocalist Matt Skiba. The Band has a busy schedule of shows lined up this summer and I'm sure we all will be hearing from them.





Monday, May 9, 2016

Lets Get Live: Los Angeles



Top 10 Places to Gig in Los Angeles



Last week it was Baltimore, and this week we're giving you a look at some of the best places to gig or catch new acts in Los Angeles.




AMPLYFi
AMPLYFi is an all-ages, non-alcoholic club so its great for younger bands or bands with younger audiences.  Despite being in the heart of Hollywood (right next to Paramount Studios) it gives off a serious underground vibe with just an 80 person capacity and the entrance being in an alleyway.  

Pehrspace
The Pehrspace is an artsy, intimate venue for non-profit which exhibits art and has music performances for local and touring bands.

The Airliner
The Airliner is a two-story bar which has Wednesday's Low End Theory concerts as their most popular events.  It's a great setting for experimental hip/hop or electronica acts to start making their names, so if that's you, here's your place!

The Echo and Echoplex
 Two venues that are essentially the same place, The Echo is the smaller upstairs room which often hosts lesser-known performers.  Echoplex is underground and has a variety of different theme nights including a funk/soul night and a reggae night.

Blue Whale
The Blue Whale is located in a multi-storied shopping mall of all places, and is an intimate reasonably priced jazz club, for jazz lovers and all lovers of live music.

The Smell
The Smell is another no drugs/alcohol, all -ages music venue which hosts punk/noise/experimental music acts.
The Hotel Cafe


This restaurant/live music menu boasts that Hollywood's great singer/songwriter's perform here before they make it, and why not?  It's got a great bar.

Largo at the Coronet
This intimate venue alternates music and comedy acts, so if you happen to do a double act as a musician/comedian this is the perfect place for you.

The Satellite


A mainstay of the LA music scene, this indie venue hosts bands that have already made it and those who are still perfecting their craft, and they take pride in helping those bands polish themselves.




















How To Start Playing Shows

So the basement jam sessions are going well and you are trying to step up to the next level, the band is looking for a place to have their debut show. Playing a show may be easy for some, but a true challenge that all aspiring musicians must achieve is to have a show that everyone remembers.


1. Picking the Show

Where do you even get the gig? You don't really know anyone in the network and you don't have the money to rent out a space. Well, there are a couple of ways to go about this:

House Show

Not the most doable option for some due to their living situations but if it can be done than make it happen! Nothing gets people out to a local music show faster than a house show, they are always a good time and easier to get people to come to. Have multiple bands play to bring a bigger crowd and spread the scene, you may invite a band who throws a house show and gives you a spot. Also have other incentives for people to show up like a cookout or a themed party (Halloween band/costume parties are great). 


While this option is nice because of its freedoms it also has lots of limitations. While you might get to make all the rules, you have to also enforce them and do all the setting up. So along with having the equipment you must also have people able and ready to manage the sound through out the show. These shows can also get a little rowdy depending on what kind of music you play you may want a couple of tough guy friends to play security and watch out for people who may ruin the night.

Open Mic Nights

Perfect for acoustic acts and those who can perform in mild environments, open mics can be a great way to network and promote your new music. Some places even have full band open mic where you can play in more of a concert environment. Look out for open mics around your area and branch out as far as you want to so you can get your music out to as many people as possible. A nice part of this is that a lot of the crowd will be fellow musicians who already are the people that you want to hear your music. Get your music and promotion to places where other musicians/bands will be because not only will they probably be more inclined to check out a local band but it helps with the networking and can create a wider ground-up scene as opposed to each band having their own schedule.

Venues
Playing at a venue has a stronger and more influencing effect than either open mics or house shows. Its a taste of the rock star lifestyle that everyone wants and everything sounds nice and professional (hopefully). Just make sure you play somewhere that people will be and/or your fans will come to, no one wants to play in front of an empty crowd section. Don't shoot too far up but don't be intimidated because there are still plenty of local music showcases at venues all around the country. 

Gorilla Music is an organization that sets up local music showcases and battle of the bands, while they may not have the best reputation among musicians they can provide a useful tool for bands trying to get into bigger venues. If its not about the money then look into businesses like Gorilla Music because while they may make all the profit they still can get you into nicer venues than you could get into alone. However, that doesn't mean you can't email some venues on your own, its just always nice to know someone.

Festivals

 Music festivals or any social gathering is a great opportunity to perform, go to where the people are instead of trying to get them to come to you. People may just walk by you but some of them may stick around and want to know more about your music. Try to get gigs that synchronize with your style so that you don't end up playing any awkward shows that don't make any sense (Ex. Death Metal at a Wine Festival). Look up local Festivals or even ones that aren't local to reach completely new audiences. For these it may be better to play covers or instrumental music that is easy to groove to, draw a crowd in with catchy recognizable tunes and then if you have some people hooked play an original and see how it goes but for these kinds of gigs its best to swallow your ego and play what you know people will enjoy rather than what you want to rock out to.
Practice Practice Practice

Have a well rehearsed set and an additional song in case an opportunity presents itself. This may seem like common sense but you can never be too good at something so make sure that when the moment comes where the spotlight is on you that you can perform the best you can. Jamming around is fun but people can tell the difference between a section that was just improvised and one that has practiced over and over with the band to roar even louder. To all the music nerds with elaborate setups and pedals, make sure all the settings are in place for each song and there is never an awkward moment where your pedals are not right. Using effects can change a show into a new beast but if it isn't done well the extra effort may only hurt you.

BE PREPARED FOR THE WORST


Anything can happen so have an extra anything you can bring, drummers get ready to break sticks, guitarists have plenty of picks and a spare guitar that's already in tune in case a string breaks. Have fresh but broken in strings to cut back on tuning and make sure that you are ready to load in quickly and not eat into your set time. Sometimes a quick setup can score you an extra song so always hurry. 

Also be very attentive while on stage and try not to get carried away because sometimes no matter how well you play, a band mate can still make a mistake that throws off the show. Be less concerned with how you want it to sound and more with how it is going currently because if you can tell that somethings isn't right it may be best to just roll with it until everyone is on the same page. For example if a guitar solo goes on too long then just keep it up and try to make it come back in smooth instead of just switching and hoping that the soloist catches on. 

Just try to stay focused and remember that its not over until the last note is resolved and the set is wrapped up. A band's last song can leave a sour taste and not have the show be remembered well even if everything else was perfect. While some may have empathy for a bad show, most people will just blame the musicians and go on about their day, and you don't want that reputation or their indifference.





Finally, just go out and play as much as you can for practice and than as promotion. Be yourself, be unique, be loud and interact with the crowd. Sell the audience their happiness not yours, and make the set so wild that even the staff  is grooving to you.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Evolution of Audio Recording
Part One: The Acoustic Era

-1877: The Phonograph




                 
             

Created by Thomas Edison, the Phonograph was the birth 
of analog recording. To record with a Phonograph the sound must enter the cone shaped piece of the device called the microphone diaphragm. This piece is connected to a small needle that vibrates with the sounds and notates a pattern onto a tinfoil cylinder. This process is reversed to hear the recording played back, however the quality of the audio was very poor and the device focused on recording speech rather than music. Also, the needle would wear down the cylinder for each playback and the recordings were all one take and impossible to edit.

 Here is a sample of what it sounded like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnGsHx7QD2o

-1887: The Gramophone
10 years after the phonograph, Emile Berliner invented the Gramophone which was an innovation on its predecessor with a more efficient means of storing its recordings. Berliner created flat circular discs similar to vinyl records that could be pressed in mass production, this was a step up from the Phonograph but the quality was still very poor. This restricted the birth of the recording music industry but it truly was a milestone for recording and while you might not of known what its name is, you know what a gramophone looks like and what it does.

Here is a video of a Gramophone playing a record:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfmLj_PKkyU

1898: The Telagraphone


Created by Danish inventor the Telagraphone deviated away from the previous recording traditions and introduced electromagnetism into the world of audio recording. It was able to send an electrical signal and then capture it on a medium able to playback the sound. While new methods were invented, new problems arose. The device was heavy and expensive to record with, a minute of recording would cost a dollar (which meant a lot more in 1898). It also still wasn't very clear and not ideal for commercial music recording.

Here is a Telagraphone recording:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzrB_pwi2TM


1935: The Magnetophon


Invented by Fritz Pfleumer, the magnetophon took the idea of electromagnetic to the next level by using techniques of the telegraphone but using less expensive materials that created a cheaper recording cost and and make the machine more available. It would be the beginning of recording on tapes and would change the industry with multi-tracking. Multi-Tracking is used in every professional studio to ensure the best take is used for the final project. Up until then everyone had one chance to get what they want or they had to start over. The tapes could also hole 10 times as much sound as previous methods which moved the game from singles to albums/ collections of songs. Still, the quality was not where it needed to be, even though this was the best quality heard at the time, the inventors knew that a music industry would not arise from the quality given.

Here is an early recording used with a magnetophon:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA1oDxRo_lI


Mothers of Music

Grace Slick

Lead singer of psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, Grace Slick was an outspoken and daring artist who's voice and message still roars to this day. Her daughter China Kanter is an American Actress who has been in movies including "Airheads", "The Stoned Age" and on TV shows "Home Improvement" and "LA Firefighters". Grace Slick was a big influence to all of the hippie movement in the late 60's. Apparently she had been given a chance to meet Richard Nixon and she had planned on slipping him LSD but was not allowed to enter the White House when they realized who it actually was. Grace now makes visual arts which can be found here:

http://www.areaarts.com/shop/product-category/grace-slick/grace-slick-original-paintings/


Nancy Sinatra



Daughter of Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra carried the torch passed to her from her father. Nancy has two children Angela Jennifer and Amanda Katherine Lambart, both now are artists and continue their family name. Nancy Sinatra is most widely known for her hit "These Boots Were Made For Walking" and continues to remain active with her work.

Yoko Ono



Yoko Ono, spouse of John Lennon, was an artist who performed both music and visual arts. She also did avant garde performance art bits including a gallery where she sat on a chair in silence and let the audience cut her clothes with scissors until it was just shreds. Her son Sean Lennon now makes music in bands such as Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger and The Lennon Claypool Delirium. 

Yolandi Visser



The female half of Die Antwoord is a mom, and yes, ninja is the father. Yolandi is a artist who seems to do most of her work with Die Antwoord both in music and movies like "Chappie". Yolandi has gotten the attention of the masses with her distinct voice and overall weirdness with songs like "Evil Boy" and "I Fink You Freaky".



Monday, April 25, 2016

How To Get The Most Out of Studio Sessions:


Having well planned recording time is as important as having solid and disciplined band practices, sometimes even more because in the studio what you play is what will be heard over and over and OVER again. A lot of people may feel a form of mild (or less mild) anxiety about being in the booth, while some may think that it’s no big deal and they are going to knock out a whole EP in one day. No matter how you feel about it, it is important to go into the studio with a well rehearsed schedule that is ready to be executed.

1. Practice and Plan The Songs




Don’t go with a whole bunch of songs in mind and choose which one seems best, practice one song until it’s consistent to the slightest degree and then keep practicing. Try to do all the bad takes at home where it is free to practice the same solo for an hour.
Another aspect of this is to not try and over do it in the studio and waste your time going for that note you should’ve practiced for. Furthermore, keep in mind that unless it’s a solo album it is not YOUR album, let the band mates have a say in how the song is produced before the same track is heard countless times and drives you crazy for not saying something in the studio or poorly planning the trip.

2. Manage the Time You’re Paying For



Time is vital in the studio for most of us, so try to make the most out of everyone’s time while maintaining the quality you are paying for. Don’t get so caught up in getting everything down so quick that the recordings aren’t even worth the effort. If you just can’t hit that high note today and have other sessions booked, it may be best to just give it another try later, don’t be afraid to come back and put finishing touches on songs instead trying to finish everything completely and move on, your motivation may just go against itself in this counterproductive trap.





Between sessions give the songs a decent amounts of listens, all the way through and with different people to give input. You can feel if someone thought a note was sour that you had overlooked, do this on your own time instead of trying to figure out the song while you are on the clock.

3. Be Professional






Have the money you need, show up on time, consider traffic, consider loading in, consider setting up drums, consider everything that may eat up your time. A studio may let you go a little over if you were at a late start but definitely not if they have someone booked after you. Just remember it is a business and should be treated seriously. Bring tuners and constantly tune your instruments. Don’t party all night the night before a session.


To all the Rockstar vocalists and aspiring rappers out there, don’t do anything that will mess up your voice before the session, it is important that your delivery is clear because you will have the spotlight 9 times out of 10 and no one wants to be one of the groups where people say, “The Music is great but I hate their singer”. The Vocals are very essential to the final product and should be taken for seriously (but don’t sound like a robot either, remember you want people to feel it not just understand it).

4. Drum tracks 



Rock Groups be ready to lay down the drum tracks first because that’s what will most likely happen. To all the drummers reading this, have the songs memorized by yourself without the band and with a metronome. Have each fill rehearsed and sounding clean so that time isn’t wasted trying to show off for the record. Make sure your drums are tuned and that everything is adjusted, don’t use that shattered china cymbal that sounds like a trash can, try and borrow one from another fellow drummer because these sounds will be heard over and over again and we don’t want to make the mistake Metallica made in their choice of snare drum on “St. Anger”.

5. Do More Than One Take




So everything is practiced and to the dot, you go into the booth and the first take seems perfect. Unless it is a very simple part you’ve done countless times than just do it again. There is a difference between “Good” and “Good Enough”. Don’t feel so constrained on time that your whole project seems like a well recorded demo. Do multiple takes to ensure that the finished project is as perfect as it can be but still remember that you are limited for time. You may even save time in the long run by not having to redo anything once a song is almost finished, don’t get caught up on songs but still take your time to an extent.

6. Don’t Too Stressed

Whatever it is that helps you get into your zone whether it’s meditating, listening to Brian Eno or watching paint dry, take some time before the session and do it. Come in with a motivated and realistic sequence of events in mind and go at it. Remain comfortable and on topic because time flies while recording and lots of time and money can be wasted in the booth if it is not treated as seriously as it should be.