COMPARING LIVE SOUND VENUES

Hi everybody, today I want to talk about some different factors involved in creating the quality of live sound in different venues. We’ve all been to ‘that’ concert of a favourite artist and been let down by the quality of the live sound. So let’s look at why that might be…

GREAT ACOUSTICS

I’ll start this comparison at one of the original places people would come to see live music, a church. I went to Brisbane’s St. John’s Cathedral to record their piano and while I was there, noticed that the large ceilings and their arched shapes seem to enhance the quality of the piano I was recording. I didn’t have time to spectrally analyse the space, but decided to look further into the influence religious spaces have had on the development of live music.

IMG_1558There has been studies done on the Basilica of San Marco Church in Venice that indicate that complicated acoustic design was being practiced as early as the renaissance. It is believed that an intentional architectural feature of the church would create a stereo effect of the choir, especially for the seating area for nobility and royalty. It is well known how much music itself advanced through secular influence but I found it to be of great interest that most churches were not just built for beauty, but to amplify and add ambience to sound created within. Many of these advancements were later adapted to modern sound venues, with the main emphasis being on the shape and size of the room and material and style of the architecture.

REFLECTIVE SURFACES & SIMPLE MICROPHONE TECHNIQUES

In a University visit to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) I learned about the different acoustics and technical equipment necessary for both symphony music and theatre. Where the specifications of the room where symphony performances are played concentrate on a good reflection time, dampening where necessary (through use of curtains and various other structural and material dampeners) to create an honest representation of the performance with great reverb to enhance its qualities, the theatre room is more designed to assist performers by delivering a reverb that helps the actor to clearly hear their own voice.

IMG_1627In the symphony performance space, great expenditure has been made on the mixing console (Midas Heritage 2000 48-channel) and its PA system (12 x L’Acoustics Kara Line Array Elements, L’Acoustics SB18 Subwoofers), whereas a cheaper desk is used in the theatre space as most touring theatrical performance productions will have their own sound and lighting systems and technical staff to operate them.

IMG_1629In the symphony space, all microphone techniques are stereo and the space between performers and the audience is enough to provide the distance required so audience sound does not disturb the instrumentalists, creating a feeling that you as the audience are having the performance projected towards you, while in the theatre space, close microphone techniques are used to create the opposite effect where the audience feel a part of the story unfolding on stage. The more intimate experience of the theatre space is created through use of surround sound rather than the reliance the symphony room has on its natural reverb to embellish an acoustic performance.

HOW TO MAKE IT ROCK

My fellow students and I also visited the Hi-Fi Bar in West End, Brisbane. The Hi-Fi Bar is a renovated space created quite recently which has grown to be one of Brisbane’s top venues for medium-scale music performance. It has earned a place amongst venues like The Tivoli and The Arena, showcasing such artists as Public Enemy, Ghostface Killah, Gomez, Little Birdy and many more.IMG_1721

Basically the place was designed with the intention to play high-intensity music with large dynamic ranges to large audiences. Room acoustics in this space rely heavily on a good sized crowd, using high-quality equipment with a Digidesign Profile Mixrack Console and 12 x Outline Butterfly Line Array Speaker Boxes in conjunction with 6 x Outline Subtech 218 Sub Speaker Boxes, with an advanced monitor section using a Digidesign SC48 Console which covers the monitor wedges, drum fill and side fill for the stage.

IMG_1717From personal experience the front and center can be a bit boomy from the crowd’s perspective, but this problem is lessened when there is a large crowd in that area. The monitor section makes for good foldback sound for the performers. The mezzanine area has its own PA so sound does not dissipate if an audience is in this area.

IMG_1713In comparison to a church, the natural sound projection is not great (this is likely to be to its advantage, as loud instruments such as an electric guitar would not benefit from this) but through the quality sound equipment, a feeling that is both engaging to the crowd and a projected performance is achieved. It is almost a mix between the two effects created in the QPAC symphony and theatre spaces being less formal and detached than a symphony performance while more separated than a theatre show.

 

REFERENCES

QPAC Concert Hall (2013). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.qpac.com.au/resources/images/concert_hall_techs_specs.pdf

Sacred Architecture, Geometry, and Harmonics (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.crystalinks.com/sacredarchsgharmonics

The Hi-Fi – Features and Equipment – Brisbane (n.d.). Retrieved December 2014, from http://www.thehifi.com.au/brisbane/features

Trimester 4: Researching and planning a Recording Session LO9,LO17

All sessions were booked by week 4 with extra sessions booked in case of unforeseen delays, Trimester learning outcomes were analyzed and plans set in place to meet requirements.

All sessions were booked by week 4 with extra sessions booked in case of unforeseen delays, Trimester learning outcomes were analyzed and plans set in place to meet requirements.

These are all my session plans so far in the trimester, in this time I have recorded a new instrument; the Bansuri. I have also recorded drums, bass and guitar for a  metal band. For all of these I researched recording and mixing techniques suitable to the instruments and genre they were played in. Some useful websites I found were: soundonsound.com, musiccorp.com, musicradar.net and Pensado's Place on YouTube.

These are all my session plans so far in the trimester, in this time I have recorded a new instrument; the Bansuri. I have also recorded drums, bass and guitar for a metal band. For all of these I researched recording and mixing techniques suitable to the instruments and genre they were played in. Some useful websites I found were: soundonsound.com, musiccorp.com, musicradar.net and Pensado’s Place on YouTube.

My group and I have also been planning for a film clip, this has been a learning process, though outside of audio I have found the challenges involve a great deal of planning and learning new skills. The film clip has lead to contacting professional Master Engineer, this will hep make our mix of the song the best quality for YouTube.

My group and I have also been planning for a film clip, this has been a learning process, though outside of audio I have found the challenges involve a great deal of planning and learning new skills. The film clip has lead to contacting professional Master Engineer, this will hep make our mix of the song the best quality for YouTube.

Emotive Music

Music’s purpose is to trigger an emotional response from the listener. Whether it is to engage the audience with a certain feeling in the lyrics, such as in Soul, or to create excitement, as in powerful ballads in Rock n Roll, such as in songs by The Muse and Rolling Stones. In these ballads the aim is to use a combination of rhythm, melody and harmony to create a feeling of detachment from the intended listeners current surroundings and emotionally teleport them into the theme of the song. Some music such as techno or disco are produce to compliment and even enhance the environment they are played in, i.e. clubs. Together with strobe and laser lighting an almost tribal connection with the rhythm is created which allows a DJ to instigate an almost trance like state. Often fans of techno will feel this is how they get a primal sense of release when the music reaches a peak, quite alike to tribal music traditions, with the DJ playing the role of shaman in the ‘ritual’. In a love song the use of major chords to create elation will often be matched with as many minor chords for desolation, possibly a reflection on the connection we make with the contrast of love and tragedy.
Great Examples of Emotive Music in Film
Reservoir Dogs
The Sound track in this is used masterfully. Intense parts in the film are made all the more surreal with music being present to the characters in the film while intensifying the scene for the audience. In the now famous torture scene, Director Quentin Tarantino to make an already twisted scene all the more confronting by making the song playing (Stuck in the Middle with You- Stealers Wheel) the dominant sound source with the sounds of the act of violence becoming the background sound, meaning the Foley is played behind the soundtrack with less dynamics in its EQ post processing. This sonically puts you in the room with the characters adding to the already eerie effect of such an upbeat song being played in the process of murder.
Carrie
I felt this carried on the tradition of Hitchcock. Made in 1976, it used the now cliched combination of string and horn made famous by Bernard Hermann. In this Film written by Stephen King and directed by Brian De Palm, the use of non-diegetic suspense music plays like a stage performance with an orchestra present. Sharp stabs with the horns becoming deeper while the strings rise and vice versa create a feeling of discomfort that helps to embellish the scenes fear factor. This is a technique film makers likely adapted from opera and plays.
Johnnie Darko
The 2nd scene in this film throws the audience deep into the complex story line. Through choreography and the use of slow motion the director manages to have the song play in the foreground to us the listeners, while having the movies characters flow to a rhythm not present to them in the plot of the film. Depicting an almost innocent and naïve dynamic in an ideal American rural town, the song choice (Head Over Heels-Tears of Fears) possesses simple enough lyrics so as not to overwhelm the viewer and distract them from the skilfully delivered visuals.

Progress in the studio and out

Its a new term and I’ve jumped straight into it. been really busy in and out of the studio. Here’s a quick update on what I’ve been doing.

In the studio I have two projects well under way. One being a group of backing tracks in a Hip-hop style.
So far i have recorded the drums, the only new thing here is I added a microphone to my thirteen mic setup…so its now a fourteen mic setup..using a Shure 57 to capture the floor tom with all the Sennheiser MD-421 being used for the other 3 Tom drums.
I’ve captured a Bansuri thanks to my Lecturer Akshay Kalawar. This was a great experience and I am really happy with these recording. I also got bass and have looped my favorite bits over the drums (bansuri got added last), nothing too new with that but a realization that the quality of the instrument is vital to the recording…you get what they paid for. To add to this I have organized a location recording at St. Johns Cathedral where I will be capturing the piano, organ and chuch bells. The place is amazing with its huge arched ceilings, built with what is called sacred geometry in the architecture. i am confident this will turn out amazing.

The other project is an ‘adopt a band’ idea that Akshay came up with. It’s great as it gives me time to work with a group i have been recording and plan to do an EP with: EXILED IN EDEN. The idea is to record while doing a small documentary ( we will likely use ours as a teaser), produce a 3 song EP and create a music video for one of these. I recorded the drums and have done a preliminary mix on them (where once I got a nasty lesson on quality instruments when mixing the cymbals…make sure you have quality cymbals!!), i recorded the bass and gave it a quick mix, as a group we recorded the guitar where my team member Stewart Geddess showed us all a cool trick with phase inverting where you phase invert on the desk and move the mic to the spot with the most phase so when you flip it back you have a clear signal with no phase at all…quite useful, we also began the documentary filming and got a few quick interviews of the band.

Apart from these activities I have also been recording my own groups album and experimented with using overhead mics on vocals. This has been interesting and is proving to be a good way of separating a voice from a backing track while still feeling a part of the song. This is done with a few tricks in mixing like using the Haas Effect and using parallel compression. I’ll discuss this and its outcome further in future blog.

Well that’s my time spent up to now. Stay tuned for further updates…until then keep chasing the muse.

me getting some more train sounds...what i can i say, I like trains

me getting some more train sounds…what i can i say, I like trains

Mr Geddess on the drums

So excited about this recording

So excited about this recording

Getting lyrics with overheads

Getting lyrics with overheads

Mr. Geddess on the desks phase inverting

Mr. Geddess on the desks phase inverting

The Jargon: Communicating with your musician

As a music producer/emgineer student without classical training my first attempts of recording were a confusing affair. Lack of music theory can and often will lead to mistakes being missed, your artist becoming frustrated with the communication and a general interruption to the flow of the session.

There are a few ways to combat this issue. Often doing a little study on the particular instrument and genre you will be recordings as well as getting as much session information off the artist as possible.

Important session information:
-Tempo (ie. 120bpm)
-Beat Signature and whether or not it changes throughout the piece (ie. 4/4)
-Key of the melody (ie. A)
-Structure of the song (ie. verses, choruses, solos, breakdowns, etc.)
-Do the band performers want to overdub instruments/vocals
-If you are live tracking (recording a band together in a studio)
-Drawing a diagram indicating where each artist was positioned. This can help in the mixing process when panning and add FX for depth.

Things to be aware of in the mixing process are:
-The drummers hats on the 1/4 note, the 1/8th etc.
-DOE’s the tempo have swing (a consistent shift in where drums and instruments land on the beat)
-Will the song benefit from using tools like beat detective to quantize the drums or keeping the human quality and fixing mistakes in manual editing (Its important to address this with the group but as a producer the final decision is on you)

This basic knowledge will help in both capturing a piece of music, mixing and mastering it into a professional product. I hope this is some help. Keep chasing the muse.

A Breakdown of Putting Words Over a Breakdown

A new trimester has begun and before I get into the business of addressing LO’s I’d like to cover something that is a personal passion…

…writing Hip Hop/Rap (these 2 are different things but that’s another matter).

1- Before embarking on writing Hip Hop lyrics it is good to have an understanding on poetic techniques. Theme, topic, tone, mood, imagery, repetition, personification, contrast, symbolism, simile, metaphor, allusion, hyperbole, ambiguity, rhetorical Q, alliteration, onomatopeia, absonance.

A good link to get a grasp of how these are used is http://www.leavingcertenglish.net/2011/04/poetic-techniques-terminology

2- After you have poetic technique down, to begin with, throw it out the window and just start with simple statement. Remember to choose subjects that are close to home but also will entertain, inspire or challenge an audience.

3- MUSIC KNOWLEDGE
Nearly all Hip Hop is in a 4/4 pattern. This means there is your usual 4 counts per bar and there are 4 bar sections. Many verses are 16 bars but don’t feel restricted by this.

4- HOW THE WORDS FIT
It is important to understand that rapping isn’t singing. Though some groups such as iconic 90s rap group The Pharcyde sing their raps but this is still different to traditional singing in other genres. A good way to look at is that you are drums syncopating with the drums in the beat (check out “How Music Works” by Howard Goodall, Episode 2 on YouTube). Which brings us to patterns.

5- PATTERNS
These are how you design your bars. In the 70s & 80s Hip Hop was quite simple. Through artists such as Rakim lyrics became more technical. In current times the wordplay has evolved to an even more complex state, such in the case of Eminem. Think of each pattern as a letter always starting at A, as in A,B,C,D. A simple pattern is an A,A 2 bar.

A: “I wear my adidas suit real real tight”
A: “Just so I can do my windmills right” (lyrics by Xzibit)

A more complex A,A 2 bar would go:
A: “The cost will be felt if your shell is self righteous”
A: “Lost in a world of living hell is still sightless”

This is the same thing but I have matched my pattern syllable for syllable.
An A,B pattern has to be done in a 4 bar.

A: “Check the syllables I write, they’re tight, I’m one of a kind”
B: “Fresh off the press, don’t stress with lesser beings”
A: “Send riddles through a mic insight, out of my mind”
B: “A mess at times but blessed so better believe em”

With this I have matched nearly all the patterns but the parts I haven’t contain the same amount of syllables. A good thing to remember is that each syllable is equivalent to a drum hit. Not all words have to rhyme exactly or at all… but the syllable count must remain to retain flow. There are plenty more patterns and tricks to it but I will leave that up to you to discover (as that’s a big part of creating your own flow and style).

I hope this is useful, not just to an aspiring MC, but to a producer and engineer looking to record Hip Hop. Remember the lyrics are the true art in rap, so like an instrument it’s important to understand how they function.

Keep chasing the muse