Overall I feel like this internship was very helpful to me as a senior focusing on electronic music. Being forced to have four hours a week in the studio kept me productive, and allowed me to really scrutinize my composition and mixing abilities. While I wasn’t necessarily able to put together a big portfolio of things I did this semester, I feel I made some decent improvements to the studio, and was of help to several students who needed some assistance. Working closely with Dr. Pras was a pleasure, as I was able to pick her brain on many topics and ask advice on my projects and future endeavors. While there were several days where I didn’t necessarily work on audio projects, I was still able to tidy up the studio or at the very least get something for one of my other classes done. A suggestion I might make for the future of this internship would be to make this into a work-study position as opposed to an internship, as often times I felt like I was more of a TA for the ARP class, sitting in the studio working on my own things until I was needed for help.
This Thursday in the studio was used as a final check up and listen through on my Ableton session for my senior recital, as it was happening that coming Saturday (the 29th). I had done a great deal of preparation for the recital but it was nice to use the space and time to myself in a productive environment to sit and do some last minute tweaking. I plugged my computer into the patch bay so that I could work on the monitors in the studio, and while I have expressed some dissatisfaction with my mixing results in this space, it was nice to listen on a different system that wasn’t tweaked to my own preferences. I feel that my mixes really improve after moving them onto various systems, speakers, and headphones, taking every result into account. Something I really admire in professional engineers is the ability to have a mix translate well from a $10,000 studio monitoring system to laptop speakers and everything in between. If there’s a skill I feel I’m lacking in mixing, it’s this one. Anyways, I listened through each track, making subtle changes as it was helpful to hear my session through a subwoofer. Something I was concerned about was that I had not rehearsed the live set with a sub previously, and I was afraid of how the mix might translate in that space. I always felt that the lower end sounded a little muddy, and I wanted to avoid that as much as possible. In the end I think the mix turned out fairly good, not perfect, but good.
This day in the studio was a fairly uneventful one as I didn’t have too much to work on on this given day. Most of my senior recital stuff was finished, and whatever was left at this point was only workable in my home studio as that’s where all of my equipment was. The Computer Music EP was coming along nicely and I was waiting to receive some song ideas back from Tony, so there wasn’t much I could have worked on. Instead I used the time in the studio to work on some personal research that I was conducting on Austin, TX, as Tony, Nick, and I were (and still are) considering a move out there. I was able to have a phone call with a studio owner in a small town right outside of Austin, as well as do some research on housing and apartments. Of course I did my usual tidying up and mic inventory, but other than that this was fairly unexciting day
This Thursday in the studio was an exciting one as I had finally gotten the phono record player adaptor that Amandine had ordered. Originally, Tony and I had planned to use a bunch of vinyl samples for our Computer Music II EP and base our songs around those. We follow several artists who heavily sample older songs and repurpose them into really interesting beats, and wanted to give it a shot ourselves. We had a couple old vinyls that were kept in the radio studio (not entirely sure why they were there or how old they were) and tried to get some samples from those just to test the concept, signal chain, and recording quality. After trying various different types of cables, DI boxes with ground lifts, and different levels, we weren’t able to eliminate the hum that came from the turntable. After speaking with Amandine and doing some more research, I discovered that I needed a specific type of adaptor to get a better signal out of the turntable.
I was very excited when it arrived and immediately began messing with cables and getting a signal into Ableton. The signal was definitely cleaner but not by much, and in reality I like the aesthetic of the lesser sound quality, especially when using something as a sample in this context. Ultimately Tony and I abandoned this idea for our EP as we ended up making decent progress on other songs with other samples, but this has definitely taught us a few things about doing it in the future. Now the turntable sits next to the Synthi and is available for any student to use, should they be interested in attempting the same thing.
With my major rehearsal behind me and the bulk of my senior research finished, I decided to have a more relaxed day in the studio and work on some side fun projects. A couple friends of mine had asked to sit down with me and teach them some of the basics of Ableton and beat making as they were quite interested in doing it themselves. I mentioned in a previous post that I love teaching people what I’ve learned about producing and mixing, so I was happy to make time for them. After giving them a brief overview of the layout of the program and how it differs from other DAWs, I explained how Ableton was originally geared towards live performances, and now has other capabilities that rival Logic and Pro Tools in certain regards. They were particularly interested in sampling and sample based beats, so we went over the Simpler instrument as well as a few of my previous projects where I used samples. We hung out and worked on various things, piecing something of an intro to a song together for about 2 hours. I explained how EQ and compression worked and how they were often used in mixing and general tone production. As my studio time ran out, I explained where to get some of the sample packs that I used and that a trial version of Ableton was available. All in all a relaxing day after some super stressful work had been completed.
This particular Thursday in the studio was intended to be a productive one, as I had a rehearsal for my senior recital that coming Saturday. I had a great deal of preparation that needed to be done with my Ableton session as I hadn’t finalized several things in it. I spent that day listening to the transitions between each track, considering the amount of time and how I might use my bass to make the blank space in between more interesting and cohesive. I also knew that there were certain things I wouldn’t have been able to finalize until I had the rehearsal, such as specific levels of my bass track and a few settings within my amp emulation plugin (Guitar Rig 5), or some EQ settings. Tony and I had done a quick rehearsal a week or so before this and so I had a really good idea of what needed to change, plus I had gotten to some great feedback from my hearing. After listening through to make sure each track was a consistent volume and adjusting a couple settings between tracks, I began planning out how I would map my MIDI foot pedal to control my various effects on my bass channel. I wasn’t able to finish this until I got home later that day and was able to have everything running in front of me. While I wasn’t always able to make use of the gear in the studio on these work days, the environment itself was incredibly helpful to put me in the right mindset to get this kind of work done.
On April 11th Tony and I had a great studio session as we spent the afternoon recording drums. For our electronic EP we wanted to incorporate real drums into one of our longer (and heavier I guess you could say?) songs. When Tony first brought his ideas to me and we first started working on it it immediately reminded me of Twenty One Pilots, and thinking about how they incorporate real drums into their mostly electronic songs, it inspired me to take a shot at it. I took an initial pass at this about a month before this session by recording drums by myself in the studio (which was incredibly difficult even with only 4 mics), and getting what were essentially scratch tracks. I was able to do a quick mix of these and showed it to Tony, who was then completely sold on it. So on the 11th, we set up 9 mics and did a legit drum recording session; this happened to be the most mics I had ever used on a drum kit and I was excited at the challenge of mixing everything. After setting up the usual close mics and overheads, I decided to set up an additional mic on the outside of the kick using the Rode NT2A, a room mic using the large ribbon mic, and a hi hat mic using the AKG C3000. I ended up being very happy with the results I achieved with the extra microphones as the room mic added some more ambience and space without compromising the perceived distance of the close mics, and the hi hat mic allowed me to be more precise in the mix with the main beat of the verse. All-in-all, I find the process of recording drums to be quite fascinating as every studio has slightly different practices and differences in mic choice, placement, and mixing. It’s an incredibly in-depth process in which I really want to improve.
April 6th in the studio was fairly productive afternoon as I worked on a large amount of paperwork stuff that needed to be turned in for my senior hearing. I was feeling quite nervous about getting all of my music notation for the album done in time as there’s just a lot of material and layers to every song. Not only that but a great deal of the content on the album is noise that was generated with all kinds of electronics that exist outside of any kind of pitch or rhythm, and I was unsure of the best method in which to actually do this, even after researching several “modern” approaches to notation. Ultimately I decided on exporting a picture of the waveform of the electronics and cut it into the bars in Finale, which achieved what I wanted to convey as the dynamics were the largest change over time. Anyways, my original plan was to create MIDI versions of every song in Logic, edit the notation in the Score Editor, and then export and print it. That day I was able to get another huge chunk of the MIDI done for several songs that I had just finalized. Eventually I came to find out that I was having formatting issues in the Score Editor and wasn’t able to get the header looking the way it needed to, and I was unable to get the instrument names to appear on the left side of the score to indicate what bars belonged to what part. It was an incredibly frustrating endeavor but in the end it came together.
Last week was fairly uneventful as it was busy for both myself and Dr. Pras. The studio didn’t really need much in terms of tidying up or maintenance, and I had ended up with a ridiculous schedule on both Tuesday and Thursday. Over the course of the coming week I intend to use my studio time to record upright bass and do some mixing on my album. Something I’ve noticed is that every time I mix in the studio and then bring back to listen on my own monitors or headphones is that it just sounds entirely off. This might just be due to me going in between two different audio environments and being used to one over the other. I’ve read several articles saying that it doesn’t really matter how detailed or amazing your speakers are, as long as you’re 100% aware of how to get your intended results with your specific setup. Next time I go in I’m planning on bringing my AKG K712 headphones (which were designed for mixing) so that I have a reference.
Today was was fairly uneventful as I did my usual cleanup and organization of the studio. As my senior research and computer music project deadlines are getting closer, I used some of the time to work on those things, doing a little bit of mixing and editing across several different Ableton sessions. One of my friends is taking over my position in the Hatter Media Network so the rest of the time was spent sitting down with her and explaining some basic podcast editing techniques. We went over gating, compression, and EQ, and how each of these are normally used in mixing and how those techniques might be tweaked when editing a spoken word audio project, as not all the same procedures always apply across the board. I gave her quite a bit of information at once so we’ll probably have another pseudo-tutoring session either on this coming up Thursday or sometime next week. I really enjoy teaching others about audio engineering techniques, although I don’t think I’m terribly good at it, which makes me really want to find better ways of explaining my understanding of the concepts I’m trying to get across. Goals for next week are to get the other rack set up in a more permanent manner next to the main rack.