Studio

Screen Sharing In The Studio

When we first set up some kind of studio to record our music, we just put the mic up in front of the computer while recording. A problem then was that it picked up some of the noise from the computer. Later we got a recording booth and that has improved our recordings a lot. One problem though is the distance between the booth and the computer. You have to get in and out to start and stop the recording. Not to mention that the cat also gets in and out. We seldom use the setup with the singer in the booth and the producer by the computer. Rather we record our own vocals and at a later time review it together. So it would be convenient to be able to control the computer from inside the booth.

Nicko sjunger i tonfällan

Cubase iC ProI started to look for a solution based on the recording software that we use, which is Cubase. The developer do offer an app for iPad to remote control Cubase. First you have to install some additional software on the computer to complete the setup. For me it only partially worked, or hardly even that.

It wasn’t before later when I was working with operating panels for industrial use that I came across a more generic way of remote controlling another computer on a WiFi network or even over the Internet. It’s called VNC and it’s based on a server/client setup. You install the software on your computer and on your mobile device. Since the VNC technique is generic there’s a lot of apps to choose from, like RealVNC and TighVNC. If you’re using a Mac as I happen to be you don’t even have to install anything on the server side. It’s already there since and it’s called Screen Sharing.

Screen Sharing

Studio blunderings

Well, we’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes there’s no point doing things you don’t like and especially if you’re not that good at it (and lack the equipment), like mastering songs. We’ve hired Digitalfabriken for the task of mastering the Rachel Green EP and “I See You Now”. We liked the result and so we hired them for “A Rock For A Heart” too.

With “A Rock For A Heart” it rather turned out to be a circus. First Nicko and I managed to send the final mix of the song as mono tracks (omg…).

Then Niklas Winde was disappointed with the mastered result of his remix (to much compression), but got to work that out with the studio technician. Everyone was happy.

When we finally thought everything was satisfactory Nicko woke me up in the middle of the night (no kidding!) to tell me that during the second chorus the sound changes. I had noticed that just a few hours earlier, but dismissed it as my headset getting worn. In deed, some mastering hick-up that we (stressed parents of a 1.5 year old child) didn’t manage to hear when we tried to listen earlier.

Then, just to complicate things, it turned out that Digitalfabriken were moving and had packed all equipment. Therefore they couldn’t check what had happened instantly. But good things comes to those who wait and now “A Rock For A Heart” is released and just in the past week reached Spotify as well.

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Headphones

The latest addition to the studio is a pair of AKG 271 MK II headphones. We’ve had the same problem with all of our older headphones and I think it’s the aging plastics. If you can’t even move a bit without producing a creaking sound it’s not fun when listening to the recorded material.

There are generally three different types of headphones that are suitable for the studio, closed, open or semi-open. In our case we use headphones to record acoustic sound sources like vocals and acoustic guitar. Therefore the headphones have to be closed, otherwise the sound would leak into the microphone. Open and semi-open headphones are more pleasant for long time use since they “breath” and are by many preferred while mixing.

I usually mix with the sound played back from the monitors but from time to time I check the mix in the headphones. I do so because some effects like reverb and delay appears to be more detailed when listening through the headphones.

Headphones Circle

Double Tracking and Harmonizing

Singin Choirs

We’ve started to replace the smartphone samples that were recorded, split, time-stretched and sprinkled over the song’s timeline to build the draft and structure of Live Life To The Fullest. From now on the new tracks will be the final ones and recorded in the studio.

I started out with the acoustic guitar. To keep it simple my initial idea was to record just one guitar track. To get some inspiration on where to place the guitar in the stereo frame (left-right panning) I went on the internet searching for guitar based music. I haven’t really thought about it but county music is a big genre. I can’t say I found any progressiv mixing techniques for guitars though. Instead I went for double tracking the guitars, which means recording two identical mono tracks and panning them hard left respective hard right.

For choirs we wanted to double up the sound and create some variation with harmonies. If you record choirs very tightly you can almost make it sound like an organ. A slip in timing can either make the sound sloppy or add something interesting to the “instrument”. When all choir tracks are in place (and a few bonus unexpected ones) it’s time to decide what works, which tracks to keep and what has to go.

Testing Guitar Sound

I’m trying to avoid mixing to much of the song until most of the arrangement is in place.

Usually I record the guitars as they are intended to sound directly to the track. This time I’m instead recording the direct signal (clean sound) and I’m using an amp-simulator to shape the sound. As there are many settings and combinations to test I got tempted to at least try to tweak the sound a bit.

Songwriting & studio update

There’s been some progress with the ongoing songwriting of “Live Life To The Fullest”. We’ve now made the full structure of the song out of the smartphone recorded samples and also drafted some lyrics/vocals.

To the category technical difficulties we can add a malfunctioning microphone that had to be replaced with one that we’ve been using earlier. Just like the other it’s a multipurpose microphone that you have to remember how to set up correctly because of the different characteristics on each side.

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We’ve also started to clean up in tonfällan (our recording booth) which lately has become a storage area for different equipment. I’m building a shelf now for this purpose. When tonfällan is accessible we can start the recording of guitars and vocals.

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Studiorapport

studiomossgubbe1000px_wI sommar har jag passat på att uppdatera vår studiomiljö. Främst för att vi har dragits med en del tekniska problem och ett onödigt komplicerat arbetssätt. Att greja och åter greja med utrustning som man har är förvisso väldigt lärorikt men även om du är tekniskt lagd kan det periodvis bli jobbigt. När hårdvaran uppenbarligen inte längre fungerar och man inte längre problemfritt kan uppgatera mjukvaran är det dax för något nytt. Nu gör vi detta för att skapa en studiomiljö vi båda förhoppningsvis kommer att trivas med.

Tidigare har vi i princip använt oss av två inspelningsdatorer. En windowsdator med musikprogrammet Cubase. På denna har vi haft problem med ett tjutande USB-ljudkort vilket har gjort att vi i princip bara har använt den till MIDI.

Den andra datorn har varit en linuxdator med musikdistributionen Ubuntu Studio. Denna har vi främst använt för inspelning av audio dvs riktiga instrument och sång. Ubuntu Studio är fri mjukvara och innehåller musikprogram som i den kommersiella världen skulle ha kostat tiotusentals kronor. Det är därför jag blir lite förvånad när jag hör Alexander Bards beskrivning av musikvärlden:

musikvärlden består inte av finniga tonåringar med ett crackat Reason

Om det syftar på att allt kostar pengar, så har han inte haft koll på vad som har hänt inom området Linux Audio de senast 10-15 åren. Mjukvara som faktist har tagit oss ända till radio och tiotusentals spelningar på youtube.

Det nya systemet då? Det blev en Mac med ett thunderbolt-ljudkort och en återgång till Cubase. Vi känner också att vi har växt ur det här med att jaga gratis plug-ins så en vettig sampler och 12 dvder med instrument på det. Huh, tänkte inte på att iMac inte har någon dvd-läsare men det löste sig efter två dagars installation över närverket.

Det kommer säkert i fortsättningen också att finnas saker att greja med men det känns skönt att få greja med något nytt.

Mitt Soundblaster16 ligger nu i kassen för släng. Det var tider det när vi spelade in albumet Waterlilies. Allt var så okomplicerat, bara koppla in mikrofonen och dra på en ratt. Ljudkortet kommer jag nog inte att sakna. Skulle man lyssna på Waterlilies igen så inser man nog att vårt ljud har utvecklats en del sedan dess. Men det är lite av den känslan vi vill tillbaka till.

The master of I See You Now

We decided to have the new song professionally mastered by Digitalfabriken. The master arrived a couple of days ago and we spent the evening listening and comparing.

Things we like about the master:

  • How the distance between vocals and guitar vanished
  • Well of course, the volume
  • For some reason we always manage to mix with too much base, that was nicely leveled out, but without loosing the drums or the base.

Sista fixarna på studiomixen av I See You Now

Det har varit mycket fokus på annat ett tag och I See You Now har fått ligga och vila lite. Inget fel i det, tvärtom brukar det kunna bli bättre då. Man hör saker som man inte har hört tidigare. Nu har vi fått gå och klurat på några körer till och att lägga shimes (min fina födelsedagspresent).

Så en grå lördag masade vi oss in i studion för att fixa de sista småsakerna.

studio

Nicko lägger sina sista körer.

Nickosjunger

Jag lägger shimes (lättare sagt än gjort! Shimes gör lite som de vill…)

annelikörskimes

Och studiokatten är med och lite överallt förstås!

studiokatten