Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Vocal treatments

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I've spent a few weeks following up with music professionals that I met in Amsterdam at the ADE conference. I have been asked to write over tracks from Flashover Recordings which is a well-established electronic music label.  Imagem, who are a major publisher forwarded my tracks out to their writers and producers.  I must have sent my music out to 200 music professionals.  Overall the reaction to my music was pretty mixed.  For the first time ever I followed up pretty aggressively because I thought my project was decent and contained an interesting blend of current genres.  Hearing what these major players had to say was amazingly insightful.  Most of the negative feedback regarded my vocals.  I decided to sit through more tutorials to improve the sound of my vocals in my mixes.  After sitting through several tutorials I want to mention two tutorials that gave me tips which noticeably improved the sound of my vocals once applied. 

Here are 2 great tutorials regarding vocal treatments: 

The first tutorial is from a producer called Jupiter Ace.  He works in Ableton so all of the audio effects he uses here are built into Ableton's interface.

Here is the tutorial. It's worth watching all the way through:

These are his steps.  I tried them all on my own vocals so I have added my thoughts: 
 1. Adjust the volume of the vocal visually first using automation.
2. Use Ableton’s gate on its soft reducer setting and move the threshold so there is complete silence during the gaps in the vocals.
3. Use Ableton’s compressor as a de-esser by removing a few DBs at around 10.6 Hz. He explains how.  This is great.
4. Find the "boom" in your voice around 80 Hz and remove it with the EQ.  Loved this too!
5. Compress
6. Saturate (I did not like particularly this so I switched it off.)
7. EQ (whether you choose to do this really depends on your type of voice, I did not use i.t)
8. Limiter (this really thickens the vocal in the mix, I definitely recommend doing this.)
9. Add delay and reverb to taste.
10. Adjust the vocal’s volume to fit it nicely into the mix.

The second tutorial was done by Morgan Page.  I simply threw Waves Maserati onto my vocals like he suggested and heard a big the difference.
Here's the tutorial:

In my next blog post I am going to address vocal performance and introduce you to one of the best singing training websites I have found on the web.

I'll be back soon and in the meantime feel free to check out new content on my website www.mackiemusic.com and subscribe to my blog!   Enjoy! xo

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Amsterdam Dance Event 2015

Hello again!

I just came back from spending a few weeks in London.  While I was there I popped over to Amsterdam for ADE.

I have been to several music conferences around the world.  ADE or Amsterdam Dance Event is the largest I have been to by a long way, in terms of the number of panels and panelists involved.  Most people set up appointments outside the Felix Hotel where swarms of music business personnel are standing during the four days of the conference.  By doing that you can grab quick coffees with people who are at the tippy-top of the game.  Since I went to ADE in 2013 I know quite a few faces which meant that standing outside the Felix also allowed me to ambush people I had not made appointments with.  Tee hee!  I was promoting 5 records at ADE for which I had made all of the music and vocals.  Since so many professionals were attending from all areas of the music business I could focus my efforts on only meeting creative managers and music producers.  That is in short, the music makers and curators themselves rather than people working in other areas of the music business.  I hoped they could give me tips on improving my work or agree to do collaborations with me. 



I felt I could hold my own from a production standpoint and I was hoping the people I met with found I could bring enough value to the table to include me somewhere in the creative process.  Most hit records have passed through the hands of as many as ten creatives.  I want to belong to that army.  Because of the vast number of professionals gathering in one place I was able to book 30+ appointments and I spent the entire 4 days going from meeting to meeting without much respite.  If you invest enough time reaching out to people ahead of the conference your time can be superbly maximized at this event.  The event is also attended by publishers, audio-visual companies, entertainment lawyers, booking agents, event promoters, talent buyers for clubs and venues, marketing and social media experts and many more experts in the field.  There were over 300 names this year.  I added hundreds of names to my network and it was well worth the trip!

I'll be back soon and in the meantime feel free to check out new content on my website www.mackiemusic.com and subscribe to my blog!   Enjoy! xo

Monday, October 19, 2015

Music Engineering Tips - Part 5

Now here's a real treat. At 21 years old Garrix is a master in the game right now.  Garrix created the first big room house turned pop record which was one of the only instrumental hits that ever made it into the top 10 of pop radio. That game-changing and career-breaking record was called "Animals." The man himself breaks down the creative process behind the most successful record in his career and he does it track by track in this insightful video. Here it is:


Here are some highlights:

Garrix starts out by explaining that he is from a musical family.  This is crucial.  Although I noticed him laying melodies on the grid and inputting them with a mouse rather than a keyboard he knows chord structure as evidenced by his arrangement of the hook.

With regards to sound design Garrix breaks down his phat synth sound on the hook (this starts at 9:00.) He uses the Sylenth plug-in and Vandalism presets within Sylenth.  According to this video he only seems to use 3 layers, two of which are simple saws in which he cuts out everything but the mid/low end (a.k.a. a low pass filter.)  The third and loudest layer is what Garrix calls the “good sound” in this video.  It is the sound that characterizes the track. This is crucial guidance from the man that had the first big room hit in the market!

He also mentioned in passing that he uses a lot of reverb and automation.

He used the following plug-ins in his first hit record “Animals."

Soundgoodizer (Listen to how he uses this on the snare at 15:06):


I don’t use FL loops (where this plug-in is found) like Garrix does but I have since found that sausage fattener by Dada Life works in a similar fashion if I use the fatten knob.

He also uses Vocodex:


..and Camel Phat and Camel Crusher:


He found the loop in the first 16 bars of the intro in Vengeance.

He uses Ozone for mastering and discloses his preferred preset.  I use Ozone 6 myself and I like to use the preset called "Classic Dynamics."

The description regarding the composition of the synth really helped me to produce the hook in my soon to be released record "On My Own." When you watch Garrix's video you can't help wondering whether he should be handing out secrets so readily but then again, as a music producer I have to remind myself just how hard it is to put together a compelling record no matter how much training you receive. You have to have a sensitivity which can't always be taught and Garrix's sensitivity abounds.

I'll be back soon and in the meantime please connect with me on my social media pages via my website www.mackiemusic.com and subscribe to my blog!   

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Music Engineering Tips – Part 4


I did a lot of listening this month.  I listened to the Beatport top 10.  I listened to a Tomorrowland selection of 50 songs chosen by the Chainsmokers which was intended to exemplify the songs that will be played at Tomorrowland in Georgia next month. I went through the top picks of radio promoter sinternet from their new music page on sinternet.com. I also checked out new music from blogs Edm Sauce and Dancing Astronaut as well as numerous other blogs which you can find by visiting my Twitter page. 

In my humble opinion you should listen to music for at least the same amount of time as you make music. That's because the intricacies of today's sound palate are a vast ever-changing world.  Listening without intensity wastes a lot of time. As you listen to a piece of music there can be dozens of layers playing at one time. If you only listen to one particular part of the song, such as the vocal, you might have to listen to the record from start to finish several times. If, however, you listen to as many parts as possible while the track plays you can get more accomplished.  Let’s imagine you start by logging the specific pattern and sound of a repetitive part such as the snare, you can then quickly move your attention to the next part such as the kick and so on.  By doing that you cover a lot of ground on the first play through. I also deconstruct the melodies and score them so I may refer to them in the future. As I do that I can identify common patterns.  When I first did this it was a game-changing moment for me. I discovered that there are families of rhythmical patterns that are commonly found in my genre.  There are certain rhythms of melodies that sound good and are used repeatedly.  Once I started deconstructing other people’s music, making my own music became so much easier for me.

Personally I like to listen intently to a record all the way through just once and move onto the next record because there is so much music out there. It also gives me more of an incentive to concentrate because if I miss something it's gone forever. I close my eyes. In fact I put my hands over my eyes and lean forward with my elbows on my desk. I find that to be the best way to maintain concentration. I remain aware of my level of concentration. When my concentration lags I get up to make tea or do something else. I can only listen to a few of records in a row before my concentration lags at which point I take a 5 to 10 minute break.

Once I have finished a record I mix it by listening to other commercial works.  I find a commercial record which is more or less in the same genre and I listen intently to that entire record without stopping it, sometimes twice.  I listen out for the detail of its arrangement and sound design as well as the big picture visceral effect and the overall sound/fullness of the master. Once that is done I go back to my record which I listen to with the same intensity.  I ask myself whether it compares in every respect.  I like to do this with a bounced copy of my work so I am not tempted to stop the record at any point to make an adjustments.

That’s my thought process when it comes to listening. 

I'll be back soon and in the meantime feel free to check out new content on my website www.mackiemusic.com and subscribe to my blog!   Enjoy! xo

Friday, July 10, 2015

Music Engineering Tips - Part 3

Hi Folks!  Here's another treat.

Calvin Harris posted a cappellas for all you DJs out there.  Throw them over your latest mixes and have some fun!


I'll be back soon and in the meantime feel free to check out new content on my website www.mackiemusic.com and subscribe to my blog!  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Music Engineering Tips - Part 2

Hello again people!

I have a real treat for you today!  People may try to put him down but David Guetta could be called one of the godfathers of EDM.  He is largely responsible for bringing EDM into the mainstream and his talent is undeniable.  This video shows a rare moment when Guetta reveals some of his production tips and thought processes.

The most memorable tips for me were:

- Side-chain "everything!" 
- Experiment with moving the trigger point of the side-chain fractionally to make the "ducking" fall perfectly between the kicks.
- Place stereo delay on high hats.

Enjoy a true masterclass!


I'll be back soon and in the meantime feel free to check out new content on my website www.mackiemusic.com and subscribe to my blog!

Cecilia xo

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Music Engineering Tips - Part 1

Hey folks!

As a music producer I learned to use Digital Performer first, moved to Logic and now work in Ableton.  I make House/EDM/Pop Music.  I did not go to audio-engineering school but I have a Masters in Physics and when I started I had the hubris to think I could figure it all out on my own!  Well it is a long road!  With the help of tutorials and many nights of frustration I was able to produce the tracks that you hear on my soundcloud page today. 

I am going to post the audio-engineering tutorials that I learned the most from over the next few weeks.

This first article is an interview with hit music producer Darren Tate.


Here are my favorite tips from the article:

- Side-chain the delay and reverb sends by putting a compressor on the send track.

- Open a filter just before a turn around.

- If a bass line is not even in different pitches you may need to eq for those pitches rather than only compress.

- Bounce all the drums, strings and bass in separate mixes and listen to them individually.

- Put flanger and phaser on vox.

I'll be back soon and in the meantime feel free to check out new content on my website www.mackiemusic.com and subscribe to my blog!  

Cecilia xo