Category Archives: Blog

28 Mar
Sydney Recording Studios

Becoming a voice over artist

Becoming a voice over artist.

Becoming a voice over artist first requires knowing what to expect. What do you need to feel confident walking into a Sydney Voice over studio.

There are many different types of voice over jobs. Becoming a voice over artist for example may require a specific knowledge of languages and accents. If you have had personal cultural experience and training in a range of language contexts, this will definitely broaden your appeal to a voice over studio. I would hesitate to say that a 1 year course in French would qualify you to do a French voice over. But if on top of that you had spent a year or 2 in France and spoke and studied regularly, you could begin to think about such work.

In the same way, it is wise to expose yourself to a wide range of styles and contexts. Listen with intent to ANY advertisement you come across on the television or radio. Normal people listen to the songs and news on the radio. Wanna be voice over artists look forward to the advertisements coming on in between the songs! Listen carefully and repeat what you hear. Granted, not every advertisement will be your style, but the more different types you expose yourself to, the more prepared you will be for a random voice over studio call.

Voice over acting

On a whole other level, there is voice over acting. Many movie roles for animations fall to regular screen actors, but there are several “voice celebrities” of note that specialise in voice acting. One standout is Dan Castalleneta from the Simpsons. Dan is well versed in different types of characters and is a master of changing his voice. He has made famous the voices of:

Homer Simpson

Groundskeeper Willie

Sideshow Mel

Mayor Quimby

Grampa Simpson

Itchy

Krusty the Clown

Barney Gumble

Santa’s Little Helper (yep, he trained himself to speak dog)

Hans Moleman,

The Squeaky Voiced Teen

Blue Haired Lawyer

Arnie Pie

Charlie

Rabbi Drustofski

And at least 10 other random voices that are used as cameo roles.

Another legend of the voice over cast is Hank Azaria who fills in the role of over 20 cameo acts. Nancy Cartwright of courses is legendary for the voices of Bart Simpson, Ralph Wiggum and Nelson Muntz, as well as Maggie Simpson!

These are a very special type of voice over artist and will not necessarily be the goal posts for advertising, narration oriented voice over artists. None the less, they lay out an impressive work ethic and none of them achieved what they did with out hours and years of practice.

A regular voice over artist for advertisements

You too can become a proficient voice over Artist and walk into any Sydney Sound Studio with confidence.

 Part of becoming a voice over artist is becoming a fluent reader. You will often only be given the script at a moments notice. It is a great idea to expose yourself to a number of different scripts before even walking into a Sydney recording studio. Here are some practice scripts covering a range of styles and typical situations.

Each of the scripts contain ideas from a director and also important demographic info. They all feature a fictional business. Use them as tool building examples to help you understand how scripts are ordered and formatted.

The scripts also include information about the age of the voice you should portray, the gender (best not challenge yourself on that one…), the role, the accent and other concepts that may be useful. Most however are up to you to put your own spin on.

How to hustle for voice over work

  • Firstly, where is the voice over work? How do you land more jobs? This is a big part of the job because of the huge level of competition out there.
  • One interesting first step to take is to search for products that YOU yourself would buy. Something genuinely useful that you are interested in. When you buy a product from someone (a product that you genuinely need) you have an in. As long as you have a good email signature, marketing tactics set up with a business card and a web site. Providing this information as a customer of a company gives them an additional connection.
  • Particularly a smaller company that perhaps has advertisements and low scale videos on youtube, but not yet voice over. You’d be surprised how you can generate business for yourself if you highlight a very obvious need in a company that is slow of the mark to market themselves. This is all about getting a start. Sales tactics and networking are just as important as your training.

Take advantage of Linkedin. Create a professional profile. You’re not searching for social friends but clients. here’s a link to a helpful set of tips for creating a great profile.

 

Learn all the techniques and marketing strategies. Before you know it, you will be walking into a Sydney Voice Over studio like Crash Symphony productions and laying down your first advertisement!

Recording Studio

     

13 Mar

Understanding music theory

Bursting the bubble

Music theory is important. You would be surprised how many people there are who can make a guitar do almost anything. Yet those same people have very little idea about music theory or how to relate what they are doing to other musicians. I call it “the guitar bubble”. Often such people walk into a Sydney recording studio or voice over studio under prepared to communicate with those around them.

Learning piano helps with this a little but in the same way, pianists have their own way of thinking that often relies on notes on a page. Often in a Sydney Sound Studio there will be a pianist on hand to baby sit other musicians. But why rely on this!?

As far as song writing and communicating with other musicians goes, there is no substitute for sitting down and simply learning “how music theory works”. Its not merely necessary, its fun!  It will unlock many pathways to writing and composing that previously you were ignorant of.

An introduction to scales.

The variance of pitch in an organised fashion ascending and descending is basically what gives us scales. There are different ways of organising these pitches or “notes”. One stand out feature across almost all cultures is that note that seems to “repeat itself” and sound “the same” but higher. We call this the octave. It is between this octave that various scale patterns occur.

Modern Western culture recognises 12 tones per octave, arranged in semitones (what we call the “chromatic scale”). This is all the useable notes squeezed into one octave consecutively and essentially it is not organised into music theory yet.

The major scale.

To come up with organised scales we apply patterns to each of these notes and arrange them in ascending order. The most friendly to the western ear  and used in most recording studios and voice over studios is the major scale which is comprised of the pattern of intervals: Tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone (TTSTTTS). This was popularised by the solfege names given it (as used in the movie “The Sound of Music” ) DO,REI, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, DO. In C major (C, D, E, F, G, A, B , C ). Most songs you hear on the radio are created using this formula with different starting notes, rearranging the notes into a melody.  Becoming familiar with this scale on the Piano and your specialist instrument (guitar or otherwise) is one of the first steps to conquering theory.

The minor scale

An important off shoot or “cousin” of the major scale is the minor scale. This comes in several different forms. A form popular in classical music and heavy metal is the Harmonic Minor scale which looks like this: TSTTSm3S

With m3 representing minor 3rd jump in the middle of the scale. Its somewhat exotic and lends itself well to some genre. A more commonly used and easier on the ears minor scale in pop is the natural minor which is: TSTTSTT. This is actually the 6th mode of the major scale. In other words if you were to start and finish on the 6th note of any major scale you would have this scale. E.G. Derived from C major:  A. B. C. D. E. F. G. A. Known as A natural minor or the Aoelian mode. We will discuss modes a little later in the blog.

Triads and chords

The next important foundational concept in music theory is chords and triads. A triad is 3 notes separated usually by thirds that make up the foundation of a chord. For example, derived from the key of C major, the C major triad is simply. C, E AND G. When played together they are harmonically compatible.

Another type of triad is a minor triad. For example C Minor would read: C, Eb, G. Notice only the 3rd is altered to differentiate major from minor. An invaluable exercise is to sit at a keyboard or piano and play through the C major scale forming triads of each of the notes. For example, from the second note of the C major scale we derive a D minor triad: D, F, A. From the 3rd note and E minor triad: E, G, B and so on. This alone is a great start to writing chord progressions for songs. Try using triads/chords built from the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th notes of the major scale (any key is fine) and notice that they lend themselves nicely to progressions. This is kind of a “tool box” for the song writer in any Sydney Recording Studio.

Unusual triads

Other types of less common triads are: The diminished triad which is simply a stack of minor third intervals (very suspenseful sounding) try the notes: C, Eb, Gb. Diminished triads are often a passing triad. A great example of their use is to move from the 5th to the 6th chord in a progression. Eg: in G major: D triad, followed by Eb Diminished and ending on Eminor. Another type of triad is the Augmented, which is a stack of major third intervals and holds it’s own unique kind of tension. Eg: C, E, G#. This is just one aspect of music theory.

Adding the 7th

7th Chords are just an extension of the concept of a triad. For example the chord Cmajor7 is simply a C triad: C, E, G,  with a B on top (the 7th note of the C major scale) creating a “jazzier” sound. An Aminor 7th Chord contains A, C, E, G. Adding further extensions and intervals like the 9th  above the root note will result in a chord like A minor 9: A, C, E, G, B which is even richer and lusher on the ear than a 7th Chord. Often these sorts of chords will sound inappropriate and over done in pop writing. They are certainly worth experimenting with in any Sydney Voice Over studio.

The Cycle of fifths

Moving beyond pop and basic folk music with their simple combinations of common chord progressions we begin to look at using the Circle of Fifths. This concept rightly needs its own dedicated blog but they nuts and bolts of its revolve around what we call a “cadence” in classical music. An example of a cadence is one chord moving to “rest” onto another chord very satisfactorily. One of the most common is the perfect cadence where the “5” chord of a key moves to the “1” chord. For example a G chord (more specifically moving (or “resolving”) to a C chord. The interval downwards of this motion is a 5th and it is the strongest movement in music, often at the end of a progression or even the end of an entire song. Try playing a G7 chord (G, B, D, F) and resolving it to a C chord.

Following through

To take this idea in music theory and follow it on from the C chord would see us landing a 5th below very satisfactorily onto an F chord. The F would fall to a Bb, the Bb to an Eb and so on and so on all the way back to a G chord. This in a nutshell is the “cycle” or “circle” of fifths. It creates a great too for song writing and can see a song move in different directions to what is expected. Elton John’s writing reflects some of this. (See the chord progression for “Your Song”).

 

Elvis singing

Singing technique and ideas

If you are worried about your singing technique and a bit down in the dumps this blog will hopefully get you up and running with a few simple exercises and tips. Sining is so central to any culture and to peoples personal lives. You want your voice in tip top shape every time you enter a Sydney Recording Studio. Even if you are not a professional singer, it is well worth your time to learn to utilise this most valuable instrument. After all, you take it with you everywhere you go and in any Sydney voice over studio!

Stay hydrated!



Before anything else, we really need to understand that the vocal chords are a sensitive, functioning part of your body. They are your instrument and you have to look after them in every aspect of your singing technique. A very simple tip is to drink lots of water. This will keep your vocal cords moist so they can easily operate. You can also drink any other water beverage other than alcohol. It is advisable that they are unsweetened also. A warm tea is fantastic. Cold drinks are a bad idea and can tighten up your throat. The best temperature is luke-warm.

Breathing

Equally important and simple as far as singing technique goes is breathing habits. The best way to breath is from your diaphragm. Breathing from the diaphragm will give you far more control and force when you need it. Its better for dynamic range and consistency. It can take a while to get used to using your diaphragm. You should try lying on your back on the floor and place a hand over your abdomen just below your rib cage. When you breath in you should expand from here. Push your hand up as you breath in. Try singing a long note or a scale when you breath out and use this area of your abdomen to support the note. Do this a few times in a row and vary the strength and volume of the note. Experiment with this and become comfortable with this area of the body. It will pay dividends for all your singing habits. Another useful idea is to place a book on your diaphragm and aim to push it out when you breath in. This affects voice artists as well. If you enter a Sydney Voice over studio you want to understand these points.

Posture

One of the more overlooked and simple aspects of singing technique is posture. Maintaining a good posture will do wonders for your projection and strength. Try not to slouch or lean in odd directions when you sing. In order to really maximise your breathing and have a clear passage of air flow you want your back to be straight. A good way of training yourself into this habit is to stand with your back against a wall upright. Try singing in that position. Equally, lying flat on the floor will have the same affect.


Opening up your vowels and mouth cavity. Creating space in your mouth provides room for resonance. Ideally you want to practice keeping your tongue on the bottom of your jaw and away from the soft palette. The best way to do this is to open up your vowels and in particular sing the sounds “ah” and “uh”. This will automatically give you the goal of opening your vowels.

Once you have become accustomed to the feeling of an open jaw, try singing A-E-I-O-U with your jaw open in the same way. This singing technique will certainly feel odd at first but you will discover that it gives you much more flow and clarity when you begin to sing with this in mind. Of course there are exceptions in certain phrases and styles of music but generally and open jaw will give you more projection.  No matter how fancy the microphone, without correct projection no Sydney Sound Studio can help you.

The position of your chin



One of the more challenging aspect of control is keeping your chin parallel to the floor while singing. Odd as it may sound, we do have a tendency to raise the angle of our chin when we are reaching for higher notes. This unfortunately restricts the vocal chords and does the opposite of what we actually want. While it takes practice, it is certainly worth while and helps your over all control and strength.


Extending your vocal range

Once you have initiated all the above steps you can begin to think about extending your vocal range. Don’t rush this part of your singing technique! Firstly, find you range and know your limits. Don’t push out new notes and strain yourself. It is important to be comfortable with the range you already have and sing the highest and lowest notes with smoothness and clarity. When you have eliminated any airy-tone, you can begin to expand the range. Any new note should come gradually (most likely in semi-tones). Don’t add a new note until you have mastered all the notes in your range. There are safe ways to expand your range with a teacher. Get all the advice you can in this area and remember to proceed slowly with adequate warm ups. Make sure you warm up before entering a recording studio. There is nothing worse than pressing the record button and realising your vocal chords  are tense, un-lubricated and strained.


Different areas of your voice


Transition between the different voice areas. Your voice is made up different areas.

  • The male voice has 2 different areas: The middle voice and also Falsetto. The middle voice is the lower, deep chesty voice and the falsetto is a thinner higher range.
  • The female voice however has 3 segments: the chest register, the head register, and the middle register. These refer to the area from which the notes come in the body. The areas they resonate most
  • Head voice is where you sing high notes, they will literally resonate in your head. Try placing your hand on the top of your head as you sing these notes and notice the vibrations up there.  Likewise, the chest voice is where you sing lower notes, they resonate in your chest. The middle voice – other wise known as the mixed voice – is the area between your chest and head. It is the cross over area and requires work in order to create smooth transitions.
  • As you move from high notes to lower notes, you need change from head to chest voice. You will actually feel the notes moving up towards your head or down to your chest as you sing. Do not strain or try to keep notes in the same place as you ascend or descend, you want them to move through the different areas as this will create less strain.

 

Persisting with what you have learned

Save the above pointers on singing technique to your hard drive, sing daily and in a matter of weeks you will actually see progress. You will soon have the confidence to enter any Sydney Recording Studio ready to record a hit song.

 

voice over Sydney

12 Mar

Voice Over plugin chain

“Voice Over plugin chain” describes the order and types of plugins used on a voice channel. In this article we will describe the specific order that we choose to use. Furthermore, we will describe why we have chosen these specific plugins. This article assumes that the voice has already been recorded. What we are looking at, therefore, is the raw edited audio file. These plugins will sit on the channel strip within your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Read on to learn more about the audio plugins we use on our voice over chain.

Voice Over Plugin Chain

Low Cut Equalisation

The first plugin that we use is an EQ that will take out any unwanted low end rumble that exists. This is extremely important. This low cut filter will immediately improve the clarity of the vocal. I use the channel EQ in Logic Pro X very often. It’s easy to access and have a great visual analyser so you can see what’s going on.

Voice Over Plugin Chain

Broadband Compressor

The next on the voice over plugin chain is the broadband compressor. This is simply a compressor that compresses the entire vocal. I learn towards the UAD Teletronix LA2A because I know it well. It’s an emulation of the famous UA unit that has a slow attack optical attenuator. This has earned a name as being great for the compression of a vocal. It was originally used as a broadcast compressor and works perfectly for the spoken word. This helps control the vocal and stop the volume from jumping around.

RX 7 Spectral De-Noise

The RX Spectral Repair plugin is a real game changer for getting good clean voice overs. It is the noise reduction stage of the voice chain. You’ll need to find a clean piece of room tone on the audio file. Once found let the plugin run over that section while on the ‘learn’ mode. Once it analyses the room it takes a grab of it and can then easily remove the hiss and room sound of the audio. This is a must have, in opinion, to achieving great voice over recordings.

Voice Over Plugin Chain

RX 7 Mouth De-Click

By now you can see that izotopes RX advanced is a very useful suite to own for getting good voice overs. The RX Mouth De-Click is a new addition to the RX Advanced 7 suite. It looks at the audio and removes annoying mouth clicking that is all too common on voice over recordings. We can’t recommend this plugin in highly enough. Another serious game changer.

Voice Over Plugin Chain

Noise Gating

Now that we have a good clean voice over recording we look to reduce the noise between lines. You need a good noise gate. We use the UAD API Vision channel strip. We can adjust the settings so that the breaths and noise between vocal lines is completely removed. You’ll only be left with the spoken words. It’s important to listen through the voice over recording to make sure that there are no words that cut off. This is the downside of setting a noise gate as opposed to manual cutting the audio in between the lines. Most of the time the noise gate handles the audio very well.

Voice Over Plugin Chain

De-Essing

Harsh sibilant frequencies are common on voice recordings. This is where the ‘s’, ‘t’. and ‘ch’ sounds can be too loud. The de-esser plugin removes these ferocious sibilant frequencies. We use the Sonnox De-esser. This is a precision de-esser that is effectively a compressor for sibilant sounds. it was recommended to me by Michael Brauer himself when he was mixing one of my client’s tracks in New York. Ever since getting it I’ve been extremely happy with the results. You can see when the frequencies are and visually place the compressor component in the right place.

Voice Over Plugin Chain

Limiter

The Limiter is the final plugin that we use on our voice over channel strip. This simply boosts the overall volume of the vocal to the required level. The UAD Precision Limiter is a very reliable limiter and hasn’t failed us yet.

Voice Over Plugin Chain

Voice Over Plugin Chain Complete!

And so you have it! Our voice over plugin chain. This particular iteration of the voice over plugin chain has been about fifteen years in the making. It has developed in conjunction with technological advancements in the audio industry. This is particularly true for the plugins by Izotope. Their plugins are really making big improvements to our audio voice over capability. For that we thank them warmly.

10 Mar

Getting started performing live

Why perform live?

Its gritty, its real, you connect with people at every gig and you are under the knife of public opinion constantly performing live! This is why it is valuable. Being a working covers musician in a city like Sydney is a grind, but it is also a learning curve. Countless bands and solo performers throughout history have forged their path forward from this point. The Beatles themselves were a house band in a humble German establishment for many years before producing the act that would change music history!

Week after week when you play covers you learn from the great song writers. Every time you add a new song from the radio into your repertoire you grow a little, musically and vocally. It’s the shear repetition of this that makes you polished and sharp. Weather you end up in a Sydney pub or in a Sydney Voice Over Studio, it’s time to start thinking about making serious cash from your craft!

Where to start?

So how does one begin? Well first and always foremost is the craft itself. Don’t compromise on your guitar or piano skills. (I refer here of course to the solo musician). Learn from a professional teacher weekly and keep yourself challenged and accountable. Don’t get into stagnant habits where you play the same few songs and licks over and over. Keep pushing the envelope and don’t neglect all the chord shapes and scales that come your way. Once you have a good set of skills to accompany yourself you can be sure the foundation is set for being a strong performer.

Vocals are the most important and for every piece of education and work you put into your instrument you should really double it for your vocal production. Again, get lessons and learn the proper, sound techniques for taking your voice to the next level. I say that your singing is more important than you playing because that is the first thing that people listen to and hear.

The playing is important too, to create context and feeling around your voice, but the average punter really has no idea what is going on with your instrument. He or she “senses” skill and will feel comfortable or not, but with your voice, its right out there for everyone to hear and understand. A strong voice will always get you the call back in a band or in a Voice over Studio Sydney!

 

Other professional tips:

Be punctual. Turning up with plenty of time to set up and spare is important both in pubs, at weddings and in a Sydney Voice over studio. Not only for your own sanity and comfort, but it also looks good to a manager and gives them the confidence to know you are a person of your word and reliable.

Equipment

Whether you are performing live in pubs or a voice over studio artist, you need the right tools for your trade. Make sure you have a clear, lite weight P/A that can get your voice and instrument across clearly. No matter how much work you put into your skills on the instrument or voice, it is all wasted if you go through a muddy sound system! You shouldn’t need to spend more than $250 on a mic to get started (in fact, Senheiser have changed the game with a base level professional mic for $120 that will do just fine).

What you don’t’ want is a $50 mic from JB Hi-Fi or Tandy.  Next, get yourself some powered speakers. QSC’s seem to be an industry standard and are very reliable sound wise. Yamaha’s have similar quality speakers for slightly less, but it is worth doing your homework.

If you are only beginning and don’t have much to invest, some second hand JBL Eons will do the trick for under $1200 a pair. Mackie also have very good priced “thumps” for DJ’s and solo artists performing live. Thought they don’t’ have the clarity of the QSC’s they can certainly get your voice across loud and clear for any basic pub solo gig.  A mixing desk is quite easy. A small Beringher will suffice if you are on a budget.

The more recent phenomenon of digital mixing on an iPad is also a great option. Pre-Sonus can sort you out with a great mixing app, a stage box/router for less than $700 if you are iPad equipped performing live. And lets face it, most people need an iPad for lyrics anyway! Don’t be ashamed of using an iPad, even in popular voice over studios these are used as prompts.

Setting up your music and repertoire

On that topic, lets talk about iPads and their use. With an iPad holder and a mic stand, an iPad can be your best friend. While I don’t recommend cold reading of songs for the first time at a gig, you can certainly expand your repertoire by the dozens by having a solid collection of classic hits in a lyric and chord app.

Ultimate Guitar Tabs is free and enables playlists. Beware of the versions you use in Guitar Tabs and make sure they have plenty of user rated stars. There are some flat out wrong chords in there! But with good ears and a couple of listens you will be able to sort out the sheep from the goats as far as chord progressions go!

A preferable app in my opinion is OnSong. This costs a little but is far better organised and reliable than UG. You have to upload your own songs onto OnSong, but once this is done they are accessible and far more readable than UG when performing live. The auto-scroll function is very user friendly and the format just seems to jump off the page for easy readability. Like UG it also has good transpose options You can take songs from E-Chords online and automatically import them to OnSong to save you writing and uploading a whole lot of Word Documents.

01 Mar

Voice Over Studios – Clean and Fast

Voice Over Studios specialise in delivering ultra high quality spoken word recordings. Recorded spoken word is Everywhere! It’s so common and all around us, and as a result, can be easily taken for granted! This includes all the recorded voices we hear on the TV, radio, and web through to when an AI communicates to us through our smartphones. All this spoken material needs to be recorded professionally and at the highest quality possible. Crash Symphony Productions is one of the best voice over studios in Sydney so read on to learn more about how we work!

In this article we will discuss how we deliver the best voice over that money can buy! We’ll discuss the types of voice over studios like Crash Symphony record, our use of equipment, capturing the best performances, accessing the most professional voice talent, our plugin chain, and lastly, how we deliver fast and clean voice over to you on time.

Voice Over Studios

Types of Voice Over

We group voice over into a few different categories. Television and radio commercials are historically the most common types of voice over recordings and this is what people think of when ‘voice over studios’ are mentioned. However, ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement)  is another form of voice recording. This is where an actor will look at the video of a film production and synch to their own lines. Voice over recordings are becoming more frequently requested for AI related products like smartphones, GPS systems, and other modern high-tech equipment. Podcasts and audiobooks are on the rise, too, with the increasing bandwidth available to customers. The above mentioned types of voice over work indicate the increasing variety and need for recorded spoken word in our modern world.

Recording with the Right Gear

Voice over studios need to make sure that they have the very best gear available to record spoken content. In a world where everyone has easy access to record equipment on their iPhones and laptops we need to make sure our gear is significantly better. This is how we stay relevant.

The microphone is one of the most important tools in a voice over studio. There are two microphones that immediately spring to mind: the Neumann U87ai and the Sennheiser Mk416 shotgun microphone. Microphones, such as these, are veterans of the voice over industry. The Neumann u87ai is a low self-noise large diaphragm condenser microphone that provides detail and clarity. The Sennheiser M416 shotgun microphone is a highly directional microphone that has a frequency response suited to delivery through common listening devices. Both microphones are a must for every serious voice over studio!

The preamplifier is another crucial part of the voice over recording chain. There are many different types of “pre’s” out there but the winner for voice over work is the Grace Audio m103. This is a transformer-less channel strip that has an EQ and optical compressor. Engineers designed the m103 to be ultra clean. This means it has the lowest possible noise-floor. This unit, coupled with the above microphones, gives a clinically clean signal which is exactly what is desired for high-end voice over audio recordings.

IPads are another hidden gem in voice over studios. Too often page turning gets captured on dialogue recordings and proves to be very difficult to edit out. The iPad solves this problem by removing the page completely. Brightness can be varied and font size easily and quickly adjusted. This is another must-have in a truly professional voice over studio.

Recording in the Right Room

Voice over studios must have treated isolation booths. This is a small padded room where the voice over talent will record within. The interior is treated to be acoustically inactive or ‘dead’. This reduces the sound reverberating around in the room, hence, plays a significant role in the recorded voice sounding clean and focused. Thick, heavy, and dense walls ensure that the room is impenetrable to outside noise.

Capturing the Right Performance

It isn’t enough to have all the greatest gear in the world. As a top voice over studio we provide guidance in how to capture the best performance. This involves giving feedback to the talent on their reading tempo and fluency, their diction and inflexion-placement. Capturing the right performance is equally important to having amazing gear. The engineers at Crash Symphony Productions have decades of experience in recording voice over and providing measured feedback to the talent.

Getting the Right Voices

Voice over talent is not common to find. It’s a skilled job that many people work very hard at doing well. Our voice over studio has worked with the absolute best in the industry. We know the best agencies who provide amazing voice over talent. We have created our own database of freelance talent that we work with often. As a result, we can provide options to our enquiring clients very rapidly in order to turn around their job quickly.

 

 

18 Feb

Guitar Pickups

The importance of guitar pickups

Pickups are all about character and style. The pickups in your guitar are what amplifies the sound and picks up the vibrations from your guitar strings. Yet they are much more than that. They emit ideas of an era, an intensity and a different collection of sounds. Brian May spent a fortune on his pickups and had many different switches for different parts of the songs in the band Queen. They’re definitely as important as the type of wood your instrument is constructed from, your amplifier, and your gauge of strings. It is important when buying a guitar or entering a Sydney Recording Studio to give a lot of consideration to this area of the sound.

Naturally pickups exist in different sizes and shapes. They also aim towards different musical goals. For example, you’re not going to use the same one to play rockabilly that you use to play old rock or Heavy Metal. If you don’t choose the right pickups for what you want to perform, you’ll find it hard to get the tone you are searching for.

Below is a basic introduction to the different types of pickups available. Its not exhaustive but it will certainly get you started. This blog doesn’t go deep into the science or construction but it will give you an important overview. Then you can begin to understand what pickups are right for you when you are recording in a Sydney Sound Studio.

The basic construction of a Pickup?

Basically a pickup is a magnet with wire wrapped around it that transforms the vibration of your strings into an electronic signal or waves. This can be applied either on an electric instrument or on any acoustic instrument also.

Electric Guitar/bass Pickups

There are basically three main categories of electric pickups:  humbucker, single coil, and P90.

Single Coil


Single coil pickups use a single magnet. The Fender Strat is a great example of these kinds of pickups. Single coil pickups have a huge range of tones and styles and are used on much more than just Stratocasters. They are considered to be brighter and crisper than humbuckers or P90s.  Rockabilly, Chicago blues, country and surf rock all utilize single coil pickups effectively. Having said that, they sound fantastic in any genre depending on the mix and eq as well as effects applied. The one thing Single Coil pickups do not do well is heavy metal. Some bands and musicians make this work but generally they don’t take to distortion well. The sound doesn’t break up consistently with high levels of distortion in a Sydney Recording Studio. For this sound you want to be looking more at a Humbucker:

Humbucker

 


Humbuckers are basically two single coil pickups together. Single coil pickups utilise what is called a “60-cycle hum”. This refers to the fact that background electrical noise is transferred to your amplifier along with the vibrations from your strings. Humbuckers were designed to enhance or “buck” this hum and as a result have higher output. This can make them warmer and more useful for jazz or blues. It also lets them receive and put out much more distortion.  Humbuckers are by far more versatile and are a safe bet. A single coil pick up comes with a unique sound and style but can be a real risk in some settings. Arguably the humbucker will not perform country, rockabilly or anything that requires a “twang”. For that you can stick with your single coil!

P90

If you are looking for a compromise and something in between the single coil and humbucker sound.  P90 is for you. They have a higher output than single coil pickups, but not quite the heaviness and force of humbuckers. Their tone has more warmth than your standard single coil, but will never be as deep as a humbucker. Often blues artists will walk into a Sydney Sound Studio with a P90 because they want to get that blend of warmth and twang.

Here is a great guide online for  Electric Guitar Pickups.

Bass Guitar Pickups

There are a number of different categories of bass pickups : J-pickups (Jazz Bass), Split-Coil pickups, Dual-Coil pickups, and Soap Bar pickups.

  • J-Pickups
    J-pickups were first used by fender on the fender Jazz bass as early as the 50’s and this is the reason they are named so. They have a warm and clear sound, and are often used by soul, blues and jazz bassists. Having said that, plenty of rock musicians use them. Noteably Duff McKagen from Guns and Roses. 
  • Split-coil
    Split-coil pickups are two halves of a single pickup that are split in order to cover a wider range of the neck versus bridge sound. They are much more punchy than jazz pickups. Imagine a huge hammer with a lot of weight that is coated in cotton wool and butter. This might get you close to a visual image of the Split coil sound. They are used on the infamous P-Bass or Precision bass. They are also the most popular pickup because of they’re warmth and ability to punch through a mix in any Sydney Sound Studio. 
  • Dual-coil
    Dual-coil pickups create a humbucking effect for the bass. They are much warmer and fat and great for a vintage sound. Dual-coil’s are subtle and good for a small band where the mixing is clear and has lots of space for the bass. They will not cut through well in a large ensemble if you are performing live. Keep the Dual-coil for intimate settings. 
  • Soap bar
    Soap bar pickups are J-bass pickups with a wider casing. They are sealed and last longer. You will find Soap bar pickups in a lot of modern basses. They also have pins that protrude from the bottom of the pickup in order to facilitate different wiring combinations. 

Hitting the town with your new information

Armed with this basic information, you should be able to make a serious start in selecting the right pickup for you and your instrument. Use your ears, continue researching and enter a Sydney Recording Studio like Crash Symphony Productions with confidence!!

07 Feb
Recording studio

Buying a drum kit and understanding construction

The importance of Drums

Drums are vital in a band context. No doubt about it. They are the engine room for rhythm and create the atmosphere and the “groove” from which all the instruments int he band draw their “time and feel”. James Brown was a huge supporter of the idea that the drummer is the most crucial element for feel in a band. Not only the rhythmic feel but the style and “era” of the song are captured with drums. Different drum kits have different sounds. In fact, different drum kits with different tunings have different sounds! As a drummer in a Sydney Recording Studio you are a time keeper – yes, but you are also an artist with a palette of paints and colours to choose from. From where you place the stick to how hard you hit and which tom or cymbal you choose in any given moment, you have a heck of a lot of power to affect the mix in a Sydney Sound Studio and the feel of any song or band.

The importance of the style of kit

Lets be real. You can’t create a brilliant power ballad 80’s drum sound, or a funky mid 90’s RnB shuffle with a piece of trash drum kit. The last thing you want in any mix is to hear “pots and pans” sounding kits, or the thud of cardboard sounds because you tried to save money on a kit from China! Having said that, you do not need to spend a fortune. Its more about the type of wood and the basic construction than the price tag. With a little research you can find yourself a drum kit to record in a Sydney Recording Studio like Crash Symphony Productions. 

   If you’re learning drums and thinking about buying a new drum kit, its time to think about the gear you will use. Lets talk about finding the right hardware. It doesn’t matter if you play heavy metal, R&B, country, pop, reggae, rockabilly, jazz,  blues, or 50’s old rock ‘n’ roll, this blog will help you find a kit from which you can craft your trade in any recording studio.

Beginners and those snooping around for a new kit

When Buying a new drum kit, a full kit will usually contain all pieces of hardware that you require. For those who already have some hardware, purchasing a shell pack can save you a lot of cash. A shell pack contains the drums with no extra hardware except tom mounts and rims. If you already own a kit but want to add to it, an add on pack is a great way to go because the cost is often less than buying each drum on its own.

Of course if you are a total beginner and own nothing you can purchase a beginner drum set. These contain all the drums, hardware and cymbals you need in one hit. Remember you can upgrade later and add as you go. Let’s face it, in 6 months you might change your mind and decide to be a guitarist!! If you’re shopping for your child, make sure you go for a “junior drum kit” NOT a toy. Yes there is a big difference in quality but not in price. You will want to ask a music professional and stay away from the internet and large department stores. Head to a local music shop and chat about a small scale drum kit that is properly designed. A toy will only give your child a discomforting start and create bad habits and posture.

The type of music you play

Generally its a great idea to choose drum sets that fits the style of music you mostly play. Are you into Metallica or Ed Sheehan? Do you idolise Steve Gadd or Connie Kay? A basic rule is that kits with less and smaller drums are a good choice for jazz, traditional blues, and other acoustic styles, while drum kits with bigger drums are better for heavy metal, rock, and other louder styles like punk or even fusion.

Types of Woods and builds: Three main types

When buying a new drum kit, a crucial element that you should consider is the type of wood used in constructing your drums. Different types of woods are used for drum construction, and all have unique sound qualities.

  • Maple is the most common wood used for drum making. It has a warm tone.
  • If you are going for a harder and brighter sound that you want to cut through the mix in a Sydney Sound Studio, Birch is a great choice. Its tough, with a harder, crisper sound.  Its loud, bright tone makes it fantastic for recording, as it easily cuts through the mix. Birch has less muddy mid range and clear highs and lows.
  • Mahogany  is the wood you want if you are going for a vintage sound. Drummers who dwell in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s eras love this wood. Its got less crispness and harshness than both Maple and Birch and is especially great for music like The Beatles, James Brown old school funk, early Cream and even old rock like early 70’s Pink Floyd. Beware however that it is a very specific sound. Lovely and warm but don’t expect it to cut through the mix on a heavy metal track or a modern Nashville country band! It just won’t work for that!

Woods for those on a budget

  • For those on a budget when buying a new drum kit, consider Poplar. It has very similar sounds to Birch but is not a hard to come by and therefore much cheaper.
  • A really great tip for those on a budget or just starting out is to know that Falkata is often used as a substitute for maple. It costs less yet has very similar sound qualities and acoustic results to Maple
  • Basswood is another cheaper option that can be a good replacement for Maple or Birch. Basswood has a smooth grain that takes look great with lacquer.
  • Lauan wood is another replacement quite specifically for those searching for the Birch sound. Again its cheaper but can get surprisingly similar results.
  • Oak is very similar to maple but slightly brighter. Though a whisker cheaper, many drummers actually prefer Oak over Maple. This is more about taste than anything else, and if you are just starting out, either will be fine.

Drum shells consist of several layers of wood know as “plies”. Generally speaking, drums with more layers of wood have a brighter sound and higher “fundamental pitch”. Drums made with less layers of ply mostly are fatter and warmer with a lower fundamental pitch.

Other nuances with drum building

Buying a new drum kit takes in to account an understanding of construction. Drum making, just like drumming is an art form in itself. Though this blog doesn’t go in depth, if you are a more experienced drummer and want to know more about the construction of drums its worth checking out other sites. (A list is provided at the bottom of this blog.) Things as simple as the angle at which a drum shell’s edge is cut makes a big difference in the sound. A steeper or sharper edge angle will give a bright sound with more cutting highs, while a more rounded edge gives a deeper, more mellow sound. It really is a science all its own and at Crash Symphony Productions we understand that science in its relationship to recording.

Drums have a number of different finishes and its good to understand this when buying a new drum kit. The most common is a vinyl finish which protects the kit and gives it longevity. However many people prefer a lacquered finish for the exposure of the beautiful wood grain. These things are aesthetics but lets face it, when you are not in a Sydney Recording studio, you need to be on your A-game as far as appearance on a stage is concerned. The drum kit is by far the largest instrument and visually it is the centre of the bands image whether in a Sydney Recording Studio or on a giant arena stage.

Sydney Recording Studio Cuica

16 Jan
recording studio

Jazz Harmony concepts for beginners

Understanding Jazz Harmony

Jazz harmony can be intimidating for many musicians. Looking at a jazz standard on a piece of sheet music can be quite baffling. Chords sometimes seem unrelated and with all the alterations they have it is often easier just to say “this is not my bag”. So many people walk away from Jazz because they are intimidated by jazz harmony. You need not be! There are foundational principles that can get you through any well known jazz standard when tracking in a Sydney recording studio. 

Simplify the voicings. 

First of all, for chordal and accompaniment instruments in a sound studio it is rarely necessary to add alterations such as b9, #9, 13 or #5. These are colours that are often expressed in the melody itself. In fact sometime adding the alterations can clash with the melody if it is there as a passing note. Yes, ideally we want to use them to give the standard its colour. However if you are struggling with a first reading of jazz harmony, it is totally acceptable to play the basic foundational chord. These reduce the amount of shapes and voicing you need to grapple with. Here is a chart of 5 basic chord qualities without alterations:

Dominant 7th.     1.   3.   5.  b7

Major 7th            1.   3.   5.   7           

Minor 7th.           1.   b3.   5.  b7

Half diminished.  1.   b3.   b5.  b7

Diminished          1.   b3.   b5.  6

 

Simpler than it looks

Quite seriously that is all you need to find your way through a jazz standard. Also it is worth bearing in mind that you rarely even need to add the 5th of the chord. The 3rd and the 7th are what gives a chord its unique character. Even in a Half Diminished chord where the b5 is unique, a beginner jazz student can still play 1,  b3,  b7 (the same 3 note voicing as a minor 7th chord) without interfering with the harmony or the rest of the band in a Sydney recording studio.

There is just no need to avoid jazz any longer. However start with what you know and add to it slowly. Just playing through the tonic, 3rd and 7th of every chord in a standard will give you a beautiful insight into the “harmonic flow” of the song. 

Other useful approaches can be applied step by step once the above method is conquered. For example if you are comfortable with simple 1 3 7 voicing’s (or better still ONLY 3 and 7 voicing with out tonic. Yes that’s right 2 notes are more effective than 3 when there is a bass player in the band!) Having said that, we can now begin to approach the extensions in a non intimidating way. 

Simplifying extensions

Approaching the b9 in jazz harmony is easier than we think. When you see a dominant 7th b9 chord you can simply choose to play ANY diminished triad off the b9 itself, the 3rd, 5th and 7th. This is because the entire chord is a diminished chord with a different bass note. Remember the bass note/tonic is not your responsibility when there is a bass player in the band when jamming in a music studio in Sydney. For example: 

C7b9 you can quite safely play any of the following:

Edim. (Built off the 3rd)

Gdim. (Built off the 5th)

Bbdim (Built off the 7th)

Dbdim (Built off the b9th)

Most importantly the aim of this article is to make life easier for intermediate/beginner players when reading or recording a jazz standard. So when you see a progression like this:  Dm9.   G7b9.  Cma9#11

Your options can be very simple and very tasteful. 

A D minor 7th chord with no 5th will suffice – though the 5th is ok also if its easier (try 5th fret root note voicing from the A string)

for the G7c9 Just play a D diminished from the same position!

Landing on the Cmajor is a simple 3 note voicing going downwards from the 5th fret, voicing: G B E

All the above is accomplished with hardly any movement and can be applied time and again in any key for any II V I progression.

The next step

Let’s use the same example and try a different position and add perhaps 1 more extension.

Try from the 10th fret:

Dm7 3 note voicing (E string root note on 10th fret)

G7b9 –  Ab diminished (from the Ab on the A string)

Cma9#11 – Similarly, the simple major 7 shape (3 note voicing) with C root note on the 8th fret. If you are ready, you can leave off the root note: C and play the upper 2 notes B and E (9th fret D and G strings) and simply add a D on top (10th fret high E string). You could simply play a G major 7 triad (this contains G, B, D and F#). This is particularly allowable if the there is a pianist in the group that will cover the 3rd of the harmony. Another option is to simply play an Em9 chord or Em7. This covers the upper harmony of a Cma9#11chord quite comprehensively. However, that is slightly more advanced and will be covered in another blog about recording in a Sydney sound studio.

Beginning to think in full triads and chords that start on the 3rd and the 5th of the chord you are comping will give you a head start for playing extensions!

Some other useful shapes and ideas are located here at Learn Jazz Standards.

Various 3 note voicing positions: