16 Nov

Recording studio ideas for song writing

Planning an album at home

It’s a common practice these days to record one’s own demo material before taking it to a professional recording studio like Crash Symphony Productions. To save a lot of time and money I highly recommend planning your album and song writing in a flow chart. Know where you are going while at the same time being open and flexible. Consider a few important factors before moving forward. Below are some pointers and ideas about how to be prepared for the ultimate Sydney recording studio experience:

Getting an honest opinion on your song material

There are a few hard and fast rules about song writing. Yes, everyone has their own style and different lyric content. Yet there are things that you can’t do without. One of those things is the opinion of others! We may fear the opinions of others and be hesitant to ask. Don’t let this stop you from collecting as many ideas and opinions as possible. It is true that some people will have a different taste to what you are writing. The reality however is that most people can even hear a hit song in a genre that they are not familiar with. I cannot count how many times I have written 3 or 4 songs only to find out that my least favourite was popular with other people! You could be leaving gems on the shelf and missing obvious recording studio hits. When you walk into a recording studio it is often too late to be chopping and changing the songs you want on your album.

A consistent feel

While every song will not be the same on your album, certainly there should be a consistent “feeling” that comes through. You want variety of course but without sacrificing the general style of the album. Recording studios are the place to refine this sound and hone in on a common thread between different songs. A particular instrument or vocal sound. A recurring emotional theme in the lyrics. A common thread of production ideas. All of these things are ways to “unify” an album. Consider the great artists and albums like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Another great album is the 1976 “Hotel California” by The Eagles. Both of these classic albums have a very clear unification between songs. The guitar sounds, the production and even the lyrics all tend to “gel” and create a feeling. Similarly modern albums like “X” by Ed Sheeran have a very unified feel. Sheeran plans his songs and the feelings long before he ever enters recording studios! He knows what he wants and so should you.

Writing from the heart

Another important factor when walking into a recording studio is to have your heart on yoru sleeve. A good producer and Crash Symphony productions will always look for the heart of your project and try to reflect that in every aspect of the production. To some people this might sound overly emotional but the reality is – music IS emotional! You are aiming to catch peoples attention, not just with their ears, but also with their heart and mind. If they can walk away knowing they have been truly touched and influenced by your music, you can be sure the album will do well.

Who is your audience?

Consider the people who may or may not listen to your songs. When walking into recording studios, young artists often forget their intended audience. Sit back after you have begun a song and try to envision the people you are singing too. Music is a two way art form and the listener is as important as the performer. So many people walk away from recording studios disappointed with sales because they did not have a target. A classic example of this is someone who’s song writing is very old sounding (70’s or 80’s style) and is surprised when they don’t’ get any local modern radio play! There is nothing wrong with writing for a bye-gone era as long as you are aware that you are competing for a place among those genres. It can be harder to break into a scene that has already been flooded with great music. Having said that, you can write in any style you want if you understand the audience. People are always hungry for new music of ANY style. So don’t be discouraged!

Finding lyric material

Are you a detective? Are you an investigative journalist? If not, try and imagine that you are! Be hungry for new ideas and new lyrics. If your eyes are open all the time for new material and ideas, you will be surprised by your song writing. There are emotions, thoughts, behaviours and relationship stories all around you. When you walk into a recording studio you should be full of great lyrics and stories to tell to your prospective listener.

 

07 Nov

Recording Studio Techniques for Arranging

Arranging and voicing for different sized bands

Arranging is a broad topic and it is not nearly as intimidating as most people think. Recording studios that focus on film music in particular need these techniques.  You don’t necessarily need an impossible set of skills and years of experience. Rather some basic principles to help you understand how instruments blend. If you are looking to “fatten up” your sound and expand from the typical 4 – 5 piece rock pop band, consider these factors:

Thinning out the rhythm section

When adding brass remember to thin out the harmony instruments like piano and guitar when arranging. Often just removing a few notes from the voicings of accompaniment instruments can really create space. This allows brass harmonies to breath. Also ask the rhythm players to comp around the brass arrangements. Recording or re-recording chordal instruments after the brass lines have been recorded is better.

Ranges and tonality

Research the optimal range and tonalities of the instruments you want to add. For example if you were going to add a cello in multiple layers, try and get a grasp of what a cello sounds like in different octaves. I use cello for an example because it is remarkably versatile. It can sound extraordinarily warm in the middle register, (a 6th or so either side of middle C). With this in mind you may be able to cover the role of a viola or even a trombone for ballad style voicing.

Like wise, even the violin itself has different character in different octaves. You will find a violin will need far more overdubbing to sound smooth. Extra layers are essential to remove the harshness from the upper ranges of a violin. This is evidenced in many of the samples and plug-ins that allow for this factor.

Using mutes

Remember the availability of mutes and different techniques. For example, dramatic changes in tonality can be achieved with a trumpet by simply changing mutes. A cup mute can give a darker, swallowed and less intrusive sound. A straight mute will punctuate the instrument and cause it to stand out even at lower volumes.

Using unusual instruments

Consider the use of unusual orchestral instruments. A French Horn can add surprising clarity and smoothness to a ballad arrangement. Long tones on a French horn blended with trombone and flugelhorn can create a warm mystical flavour (think unicorns). This steers the sound away from the cliché’s of a standard brass line up.

Panning and mixing

Panning and mic positioning can influence the sound dramatically. Creating a natural “orchestral spread” is vital to give a fuller more authentic sound to your arrangements. Also using the correct eq and reverb for each instrument is vital. In recording studios, most of the magic happens around mixing.

Simple lines

Recording studio work can be taxing so don’t over think the lines. Often a simple 3 or 4 note pentatonic motif with some basic syncopation is sufficient for brass lines. Such lines can be sketched out on a guitar or taken from motifs and ideas with in the existing melody. Very often the first idea that comes into your head will be the one that is most congruent with the style of the song. After this point it is simply a matter of trialing the lines with the brass players and allowing them to suggest appropriate changes! Remember they play their instrument day and night and certain phrases “roll off the mouthpiece” easier than others.

Involving the players

Related to the previous point: Let the brass players experiment with their own lines. You could ask them to perform multiple takes with different inflections, fall offs, flutter tongues and blending techniques and even different turns of phrase. In recording studios this can reveal surprisingly workable lines and add to the originality of the arrangement as a whole.

Balancing instrument velocity

Recording studio equipment allows management of volume before mixing! Brass and wind instruments are not so different to tube amps and have different points of volume response for tonality. This is one of the main reasons they are far superior to any samples or plugins. Similarly, the interval between notes in a voicing can affect the impact greatly.

For example: Shifting the trombone part up a 3rdor 4thand closing the gap with the trumpet can create a much thicker sound depending on over tones in a composition. Be conscious of harmonics and the power of a 5thas opposed to the relative gentleness of a third. Bear in mind the science of the instruments and listen to multiple options. Sometimes it is simply not possible to tell on paper what a blend will sound like! Experimenting with voicing’s and changing intervals during a session can reveal some gorgeous sounds. The recording studio itself may have certain frequencies that respond to different notes in the same room.

 

30 Oct

Recording Studios Laser Physics

Recording studios

Recording studios are high-tech environments and there are many technologies that make a recording studio function in the twenty first century. In this article we will look at how lasers have made a difference to the modern recording studio. We’ll dive into the actual raw details about how lasers work and how they help make things function more efficiently. So let’s look at recording studios laser physics!

What Recording studio technology uses Lasers

Lasers have augmented the digital era dramatically. This is because lasers can be switched on and off very rapidly, and thus, can transmit binary code. In the recording studio lasers can be found in CD and DVD reader-writers, fiberoptic cabling aka “light-pipe”, and alarm systems. Read more about recording studios here.

Understanding how lasers work

The word ‘laser’ is actually an acronym for Light Amplified Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Few recording studio engineers actually appreciate this fact about lasers. Let’s explore how lasers work at the atomic level. Essentially, when energy is imparted to an atom the electrons respond by jumping up to higher energy valence orbitals. When these electrons will spontaneously fall back down to their ‘ground state’ energy level and release their energy in the form of light. This light is released in a packet that we refer to as a photo.

Energy is ‘pumped’ into the atoms. This continues until all the electrons have had their energy states elevated to the upper orbitals. This will cause all these electrons to elevate to higher energy levels. When all these electrons have fully occupied their higher energy levels we refer to this atomic state as ‘population inversion’. Now for the important part. When we fire a photo at an atom that is in population inversion it causes all the higher energy electrons to fall back down to their ground simultaneously. Therefore, all of these electrons will release photos, or light energy, at the same time. The atom will, thus, emit a large amount of light. Now you know how the words ‘Stimulated’ and ‘Amplified’ got used in the famous  acronym – LASER!

Fiber Optics and Lasers

Fiberoptic physics is extremely important in the digital age because this is how we harness lasers to transmit binary information at close to the speed of light. Recording studios utilise fiberoptic cables throughout. It may be a cable transmitting audio information from the computer to the audio-digital-converter or the internet cable taking data to another part of the world. Fiberoptic cables are the fastest that we can currently transmit binary information.

A fiberoptic cable is made from glass, glass-polymer, or polymers. The beam is aimed down the centre core. This how it reaches the other end of the cable. The refractive index of the core of the cable is varied according to the gaussian function and this is key to why the beam doesn’t escape the cable. The multiple beams (referred to as modes) arrive at the other end of the cable, simultaneously. The gaussian refractive index inside the core ensures that this occurs. This increases the efficiency of data transfer along a multi-mode fiberoptic core.

The future of recording studios with Lasers

Recording studios are becoming more digital-dominant and less analogue as technology progresses. It makes sense then that we will see greater use of laser technology in recording studios. There is new technology currently emerging that will assist recording studio engineers to place microphones on instruments robotically. These devices will use laser distance-guidance systems to help the computers determine the microphones location relative to the player and instrument. Recording studios are highly reliant on the internet.

Transferring large packets of digital data is becoming increasingly important! The internet is becoming a global recording studio. As the technology available for the internet becomes faster the latency will asymptotically approach zero. This will allow musicians, who are in geographically different locations, to jam with each other over the internet!

Solutions such as ‘wireless fiberoptic’ are becoming closer to reality. The internet could be sped up by astonishing orders-of-magnitude through the use of this technology. It must be noted that this technology is still about five years off in the United States! This technology is how we at Crash Symphony Productions stay ahead of the game in an ever changing technological world.

22 Oct

Sydney Recording Studio, Juan Carmona and the Sydney Opera House!

Sydney Recording Studio

Juan Carmona performing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House.

Crash Symphony Productions, our Sydney recording studio, had the honour of recording the internationally acclaimed Flamenco guitarist, Juan Carmona, at the Sydney Opera House. Sinfonia Flamenca was the official name of the event. The concert took place in early September and Juan was accompanied by the wonderful and flawless Sydney Symphony Orchestra. This is the story of that recording and how our engineers worked to capture a beautiful video of the event.

When the Sydney Opera House became a Sydney Recording Studio

The highest temple of musical performance in the southern hemisphere is the Sydney Opera House. It matches most other venues around the globe in both sound quality and architectural uniqueness. For any music lover to work there is an immense honour and extremely exciting.

There are some challenges in recording at the Sydney Opera House. Understandably, they do not permit cameras to be used on stage. This was the first challenge. It is important to the management of the Sydney Opera House that guests not be interrupted by cameras that are visible on the stage while the symphony is performing. Anything that would be considered a distraction from the musical performance is strictly forbidden. This means that our video crew required positions that were away from the audience. We needed to have very powerful high-definition telescopic lenses. These lenses would allow us to get in close to the musicians from far away.

How we used a Telescopic lens to get in close to Juan

In Juan’s case this is particularly important. Juan is royalty in the flamenco guitar world. The way his hands and fingers move across the fret board of his classical guitar was awe inspiring. We really wanted to capture that magic. Using the new Sony 100-400mm G Master series lens allowed us to zoom in close to his hands and make the viewer feel as though they were right on stage with him as he performed.

Our star engineer is Stewart Havill. Stew is the guy in our Sydney recording studio that has the most experience with videography. He operated the telescopic lens. Stew coupled the telescopic lens with a wide angle lens. This lens’ purpose was to capture the entire orchestra. We did this in 4k so that we could crop into sections if we need to do so. This wide angle was setup with a 4k recorder that allowed us to set and forget the camera as it recorded the whole performance.

The third and last camera was setup in the back of the auditorium looking down on to the stage. It had the eagle eye view. We were able to move between these spectacular angles quite seamlessly.

About the Performance

Importantly, there were two sections to this concert. The first was a small ensemble of seven musicians. Juan was the focal point and leader of the ensemble. Worthy of note, Juan had a marvellous flamenco dancer, Karen Lugo, that would take to the dance floor in front of the musicians. She had as much musical impact as the surrounding band members with her feet clapping away to the rhythm of the music. Her confidence and her musical grace was immense and, there’s no doubt, she certainly complimented Juan’s magical flamenco guitar work.

The second half of the concert saw the full symphony orchestra introduced into the musical equation. David Robertson conducted the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He brought them into synch with the latin group with absolute command and ease.

Thankfully the Sydney Opera House already has extremely high-end recording equipment. For an evening it became the superlative Sydney recording studio. French engineer, Lauren Serrano, organised capturing the audio captured by the orchestral microphones while the CSP team focused on the videography.

It is worth mentioning that the audio mixer and video editor. Lauren Serrano worked on the audio mixing of the recording. Luca, our video editor and sound engineer, worked on the final cut of the video at Crash Symphony Productions. Luca did a wonderful job and put in a significant effort. His skills in videography are completely remarkable. He used a lot of slow-fade cuts to show off the multiple angles, simultaneously. For these kinds of concerts this is a commonly used technique.

Contact us if you need a concert recorded

In conclusion, Juan’s performance at the Sydney Opera House was nothing less than dazzling, and as a result, we had a ball capturing the event. If you would like your concert videoed and recorded by our Sydney Recording studio contact us here. Alternatively, call us on 0408 300 402.

 

17 Oct

Bridge of Clay Audiobook Sydney Recording Studio

Bridge of Clay is the new novel by Australia author Markus Zusak. He earned international acclaim with his last novel, The Book Thief. Bridge of Clay is essentially autobiographical, however, elements are fictionalised. The audiobook was produced in our Sydney Recording Studio, Crash Symphony Productions. Our engineers worked closely with Markus (who narrated his novel) and the wonderful people at Pan Macmillan. It was a mighty effort by all people involved and this is the story of the recording process.

About Markus Zusak

The first thing that strikes you when you meet Markus Zusak is how young he is. When you think of an internationally famous and successful writer the literary-novice in me tends to think of some wise old sage. He looked the same age as me! Well, he is a bit older than me but not by much. The second thing that really stands out about Markus is how nice he is. He’s an absolute gentleman, incredibly polite, humble, and friendly. He has a great sense of humour which completely diminishes any star-stuck nerves you might feel prior to meeting him. Thirdly, he has a lot to say and it’s well thought-out, too. You can tell he thinks a lot and very deeply and this is certainly why he’s such a good writer.

Lastly, his attention to detail and work ethic is very much above average. It’s immediately apparent that this is a big part of why he’s been so successful. When he entered the recording studio booth he worked in there for hours and hours on end without exiting. Most narrators start getting tired and generally ‘over it’ after 4 hours. On some days Markus recorded for up to 8 hours with very minimal breaks.

The emotional attachment

We have recorded a lot of audiobooks in our Sydney recording studio. In fact, audiobooks and podcasts are becoming our specialty. Bridge of Clay was a very different experience to any other audiobook that we’ve record and here’s why.

The book was largely autobiography, but it was packaged in such a way that it wasn’t completely transparent. It was fictionalised. I can only guess that it was written in this way to allow Markus to fully explore the emotion of his story and possibly to protect the real people in his life. This is my guess. It is a really emotional story and it draws you in. There were times when you could hear the intense emotion welling up inside Markus as he narrated the story in our recording studio. This is a unique situation for our recording studio, and as a result, there was a higher sense of purpose attached to this audiobook production. We wanted the absolute best result for him and to honour the people in the story.

“The Beast”

Our editor, Adam Xycore, needs a shout out. His effort throughout this book was nothing short of epic and very much unsung. He didn’t get to meet Markus but was working on the project as the chapters were being recorded. Bridge of Clay was one of the longest audiobooks that we have recorded in our Sydney recording studio. It was so large, in fact, that Adam began referring to the book as ‘the beast’. He spent so much time surgically editing and scanning the audio to make sure that the quality of the audiobook was second to none.

Stew Havill had the job of recording the audiobook with Markus. Stew is a particularly gifted audio recording engineer. We’re extremely lucky to have him working in our Sydney recording studio. Stew has a very humorous and friendly personality that gelled very well with Markus. Basically, they got on with each other wonderfully.

The girls from Pan Macmillan deserve a warm mention. The audiobook was organised and overseen by Victoria Stilwell and Kate Faherty from Pan Macmillan. They were both very lovely to work with and extremely professional. Kate would come in to the recording studio daily to help produce the audiobook as it was being recorded. There’s no doubt that it would not be the polished success that it is without their direct involvement and oversight.

It was my job to proof the novel. Once a chapter had been recorded it would be sent to Adam. Then Adam would send the edited chapters to me. I would listen through the chapters and create a document indicating where I thought there could be quality improvements or if there was an error that I had discovered. Once all the chapters were done in this manner any re-recording was done by Markus and Stewart in the recording studio. Adam would then act on the ‘re-edit’ recommendations and then I would do a full re-listen. So, yep, we all listened to the book twice. We now know it well.

The Generosity of Mr Zusak!

As you can imagine, completing this audiobook was very cathartic for us all and particular Markus. This was the final stage in the process of releasing this huge novel. It took him almost 14 years to write and it was a huge relief for him when it was completed. Markus was also extremely generous to us all when he finished the book. He gave us all signed copies of the book and of his original international bestseller, The Book Thief. He also gave me a copy of the famous epic, The Odyssey by Homer. This epic features heavily in Bridge of Clay. Not only did he give these to us, in the recording studio, but he gave copies of his books to my mum! Mum’s a huge fan!

We recommend Bridge of Clay to everyone and hope you all enjoy the book as much as we enjoyed recording it!

Bridge of Clay

Stewart Havill with Markus Zusak. This photo was taken during the recording of the audiobook of Bridge of Clay. This is Markus’ new book release.

25 Jun

Recording a Song called Wounds

Recording a song can be a challenging process. As if the songwriting part wasn’t hard enough! Bringing life to a song in a recording studio is both a technical and creative journey. When the end is reached it is the best feeling that I, in my short life, can think of. But recording a song has some challenges and I would like to use a project that I’m working on at the moment as an example. The song is called Wounds. It’s been written for a while, and even recorded once before, but the new version is proving a little tricky. Read on and I’ll explain why!

Recording a Song

James Englund is an Australian Singer-Songwriter Producer.

Recording a Song can lead you down infinite pathways…. but you can only take one!

The main issue that a producer will come to find when they begin recording a song is that there are a million different ways that it can be recorded. You can choose different tempos and keys, choose a traditional acoustic arrangement or a modern sound. All the different choices that the producer makes along the way make a huge difference to how the song will be at the end of the production. And that’s the way people will come to know the tune. The way they hear it. So, you’re asking “what’s the problem?”.

Here’s my first major issue when it comes to recording a song that I’ve written; I usually default to recording it the way that I wrote it on a certain instrument. So, if I wrote the song on an acoustic guitar, it’s so much easier, intellectually and creatively, to just go right ahead and record it on an acoustic guitar and maybe add a rhythm section later. After doing hundreds of tracks like that for many clients over the years I have realised, more than most, how boring that approach really is. It may have worked well in the 1960s but now it just puts me to sleep.

One Approach to think about

The trick, for me, is finding an interesting instrument or effect or melodic device to make the song sound unique. That’s really hard to do because it means I need to think about it for a long time. Often, I look at the lyrics and wonder what I can do to bring out the emotion of the song. I search through my mind, and even other resources like Youtube, to find something that will be really unusual for the listener.

Alternatively, it helps to have a track that is inspirational and similar to where you want to go. For my song, Wounds, I love the sound of John Mayer’s Gravity. I’ve listen to the song a few times. I feel there are similarities in the message and vibe. I’ve analysed John’s song a few times and wondered what it was that made it so emotionally impacting for me.

As I mentioned above, what I really love is that he doesn’t just default to the boring old acoustic guitar (Not that I hate acoustic guitar. I mean I spend my life playing it live and for pleasure). Instead, he has an organ / pad sound that brings the song in and holds down the main chordal harmony. It’s a sound that is somewhat familiar to us all as listeners, but yet it has an element to it which is different. The electric guitar plays the main riff over the top. This brings us to our next idea, the riff!

Recording a song with a unique Riff

Some call it cliché but I’m a real sucker for a riff. I love putting this kind of content into my music and it seems to be a reoccurring theme, pardon the pun, in many popular songs. A melodic stamp, if you will. My song, Wounds, certainly has this element. However, I’ve written the song on an acoustic guitar and I immediately recorded the song on acoustic guitar. Straight away it felt very meat-and-potatos.

I think that this is why I looked for a reference track. To guide me away from creating another boring song that has a stock-standed arrangement. Doing that is a sure way to have your song go completely forgotten and unnoticed. However, over the years, it’s always been the hardest thing for an artist to do. Most new artists can be very afraid to do something with their music that is dangerously original. It scares them and makes them feel like they’re doing something wrong.

Let’s make this first post – part 1!

I have so much more to say about this topic. In the next post I’m going to look at perfectionism and how it is the great white shark that feeds on songs. I’ve learned (after recording many songs for other artists) that keeping the ball rolling, and not getting caught up on details, is the key to success! This has certainly been my problem when I’ve worked on my own songs. It’s as much about psychology as it is about music. Until next time, happy producing!

03 May

Recording Studio: Mick jagger Part 5

Recording Studio Sydney: “We have performed in many special places during our long career, but this show in Havana will be a milestone for us, and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba, too,” the band said in a statement.

The show at Havana’s Ciudad Deportivo sports arena was the band’s first concert in Cuba and part of its 2016 South American tour.

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Recording Studios: Mick jagger Part 4

Recording Studios: While screen success escaped him, Jagger remained a popular rock star. The Stones had several hit albums in the 1970s and early ’80s, including Sticky Fingers (1971), Exile on Main St. (1972), Some Girls (1978), Emotional Rescue (1980) and Tattoo You (1981). But by the mid-1980s, the relationship between Jagger and Richards had become increasingly strained. Jagger focused much of his energy on a solo career with mixed results. While his first effort, 1985’s She’s the Boss, sold well enough to go platinum, his second album Primitive Cool (1987) failed to interest music buyers.

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Recording Studios Sydney : Mick jagger Part 3

Recording Studios Sydney: By the end of the decade, Jagger and the rest of the band were enjoying huge success. Beggars Banquet was released in 1968 and featured a straightforward rock style. One of its singles, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” hit the No. 1 spot on the U.K. charts and reached the top 5 in the U.S.

In 1969, the Stones went through several big changes. Jones left the group that June after his many drug arrests prevented him from leaving the country for a U.S. tour. He was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor. Jones was found drowned in his pool less than a month later. The coroner’s report found that Jones was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of his death, and ruled his passing as “death by misadventure.” In response to Jones’s untimely demise, the Stones performed a free concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969, two days after their former bandmate’s death. Originally scheduled as an opportunity to present their new guitarist, the group dedicated the concert to Jones.

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02 May

Sydney Recording Studio: Mick jagger Part 2

Sydney Recording Studio: Jagger, Richards and Taylor soon joined up with Jones, who wanted to start his own group. Pianist Ian Stewart was also an early member of what would become the Rolling Stones. By 1963, Charlie Watts had joined the band as its drummer and Taylor departed, replaced by Bill Wyman. Stewart, however, stayed on to serve as road manager, as well as playing and recording with the band. Under the direction of their manager Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones were marketed as a group of wild and rough rockers. The group’s wild style helped them land a deal with Decca Records. Jagger was a key ingredient in the band’s growing success, attracting audiences with his stage antics and sex appeal.

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