Posts Tagged ‘sound’

So its been a while since my last post, but there is a reason. I’m working on something big… real big… hopefully it will be up by the end of the year. But for now, some sound design info/mini tut.

Sound design is quite simple when you think about it, in a lot of ways its just recording the sound you’re looking for, then cleaning up the recording and using it, but sometimes you can’t find what you’re looking for… like when you need the sound of a dragon, or a giant vegetable monster (encountered both of these in the same project… lolwut) so what do you do? The answer is much simpler than you think.

‘When you don’t have creatures, be the creature…’ – Geoff Garnett (Wabi Sabi Sound – Dead Space 2, Dante’s Inferno, Left 4 Dead 2)

So start by setting up a mic for yourself, press record, and just go nuts. Make the most messed up creature sounds you can, but whatever you do, don’t hold back, you have to really go over the top. (If you’re too embarrassed, find a shameless friend.)

Now when you listen back you’ll probably think ‘omfg… am I retarded?’ and this is ok. Now, the optimum plug-ins for mixing are Pitch Shifter (for a lower monster sound), and possibly some light distortion (if you want a higher monster sound,) the obviously EQ, Compression, Noise Gate, the standards.

Low monsters: Pitch shift down as low as you dare, create a new track, C&P the recording onto the second track (preferably just slightly offset, like Beatles style double tracking) and put this one at a slightly different pitch (I like 3 semitones higher), you may do this as many times as you like, however once you start getting too high in pitch it won’t work as well. But feel free to add as many tracks as you like, even add in some different samples, this can make your monster sound really intense (but be careful not to make it just sound like 2 monsters), apply some EQ, probably to cut out a little of the bass you’ve most likely created that is now dominating your speaker system, compress to make the monster really loud and in your face, and noise gate out any of the noise floor if you need.

High monsters: This process is very similar to the first, only instead of pitch shifting down, you might pitch shift up a little, or maybe still down, just a lot less. Apply some light overdrive distortion to get your monster sounding less human and more screwed up. There are other plugins you can experiment with, like the harmonic exciter (this can give some wild monster sounds.) But the biggest thing is finding a good pitch, and (if needed) some light distortion if the monster still sounds like someone going (arahfarahrahrara!!!!)

That is my short tutorial on monster sounds,

Thanks for reading.

Doing a lot of live sound work, ear protection is a major issue, whether its a gig I’m mixing or a gig I’m watching I need to keep my ears protected, and I’ve found that the ear plugs from this site: are very good for the price. The frequency drop is decent across the spectrum, they’re cheap, skin coloured (so people will be less likely to see them and call you a pussy if you’re at a metal concert or something.) They’re easy to put in and pull out and come with a metal cylinder that you can attach to a key change to keep them in, I normally don’t keep them in the entire gig if I’m doing sound, mainly just because I end up turning everything up too loud, but I can still comfortably mix with them in. I highly recommend to anyone in loud sound environments often and don’t have very big budgets get a pair of these.

The Mix was an intense process. Without many instruments we had to create a full sound. With the help of Logic 9, I think it went pretty well.

All songs were recorded in the one session and each instrument had the same track for each song, so these settings were applied to all songs, then split off and minor tweaks were made (most of which probably won’t be mentioned because they’re not really very interesting.) Sam wanted his EP sound to be really consistent so we decided doing it like this would be a fun, challenging and interesting approach.

I started mixing the first song, which was probably the thinnest of the lot with nothing but guitars and vox. It’s quite an intense and raw song and I wanted the EP to start strong. I started with the guitars and did the usual pan each mic to either side, high pass and low pass EQ to keep out sounds not in the frequency range, some low mid cuts and a slight high mid boost to eliminate any masking, compressor and a noise gate. This got it sounding pretty good, but after mixing everything else the guitar just seemed to not… sit right, it was just a little overpowering in the high mids, so I decided to do something I tried in a different mix. I put a stereo spreader on both guitar mic tracks and spread the upper mids a little, order 11 for one and 12 for the other so the same frequencies weren’t being spread on either side. Being already panned to one side, this pushed some of those frequencies just a little closer to the middle, widening it at the loss of some of its power, perfect!


On the left we have the left guitar mic and its plugins, on the right, the right!


The vocals were a lot more simple, just a matter of EQ, compression, noise gate, and a tinyyyyyyy little bit of delay.


Now the lead guitar was interesting, for the electric lead solos we had 2 mics, one dead on and one to the side, so I panned them to show this. This sat the guitar slightly to one side but still gave a nice full sound, almost like if a band were playing and the guitarist had come up to do a solo and was standing just to the right of the singer.

Here you can see the centered mic on the left and the panned right mic on the right, as well as the EQ, compression, noise gate and delay decisions I made.

Next was the acoustic guitar solos, there wasn’t really anything special done here, it was recorded with a single mic so I opted against any crazy stereo imaging, quite a decent amount of EQ and delay, and more compression than I normally try to use, then a good ol noise gate.


The only other major instrument recorded was the double bass, once again a pretty simple process, decided to go for some more creative EQ to try and keep the clarity of the double bass whilst removing resonances and fixing some masking problems.


There were some other instruments used, including an egg shaker, a MIDI glockenspiel, a MIDI kick drum and some whistling, but I opted against doing those ones as they were very simple processes, but if anyone is interested let me know and I’ll show you how I did them, or help as best I can with mixing those instruments.

The final part of the mix was the reverb, this was done by setting up an auxiliary channel strip and putting the space designer reverb on it, then bussing all tracks to it. I don’t know very much about designing reverbs, in reality or in plugins, but I found the preset my ears agreed with most was the small booth reverb. It just sounded right and fitted the style perfectly.

I also used a concert hall reverb on the vocal echoes in the first song, ‘Heaven’.

If anyone has any advice for my mixing process for future mixes, please don’t hesitate to send it my way!

Also, please look up Sam Luff on facebook! or soon iTunes! He will be extremely grateful and is very much worth your time!

A friend of mine organised to record the bass exam of another friend, he had some really awesome originals, a jazzy pirates of the Caribbeany thing, a very Dream Theater like one and some others, all awesome songs.

Anyway the mix:

Most of it was just tweaking EQs and gains to get levels right and keep from masking, but I experimented a bit with stereo imaging using a stereo spreader with the keys, guitar and sax (keys center with a massive spread, guitar and sax with smaller ones but panned to the left and right a little) this gave an incredible stereo image. The keys sat really wide throughout the mix and the sax and guitar sat in areas slightly left and right of center. I highly recommend experimenting with spreading to give a sound a wider sense of space in its position, especially when you don’t have many instruments.

This is just a quick tip I remembered whilst doing some live sound today that I thought I’d put on here.

If you’re in a live situation where you have to change between different bands/setups quickly, remember, a mic is a mic. This sounds silly but when you’re in a rush don’t worry too much about finding the right mic, if you chuck pretty much any mic on anything it will work. There are of course exceptions if you’re using large diaphragm condensers or ribbon mics or anything too sensitive (in which case just don’t put it on anything too loud) but if you’re using mics like those I would assume you know very well what you’re doing and time probably isn’t an issue. But for people who aren’t as clued up or trying to find ways to speed up changeovers, should you need to a kick drum mic will work on vocals, a piano mic will work on a guitar amp (this one I used today in fact) and the result will still give a useable result.

My dad bought this old Holden ute for us to bush bash around in at our farm. But me and my quest for experience couldn’t see this as anything less than a perfect opportunity to get some car audio experience, before this all I’d done is put a new head unit in my own car which was a simple remove dash, pull out old unit, cut off wires and attach wires for new unit job.

The ute however, started like this:

It didn’t matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get the Bluetooth working! And the fact that the speakers had been removed from the doors didn’t help either.

So I decided everything needed to be replaced. I went down to Jaycar and picked up a cheap head unit with radio and MP3 input and a pair of 6″ drivers to work with.

First part of the job was to remove the old unit. This required tedious screw removal from the glove box and under side of the dash to get it off, and eventually I figured out to get the unit itself out I had to unscrew the knobs on either side. After that I decided to just cut all the wires as it would be safer and easier to redo it.

To make things more difficult this units hole was smaller than the new unit. So after some awkward angle grinding, eventually I got the size to what was needed, and inserted the head unit frame.

Next was the speakers, this was a pretty simple put them in the hole and screw them in process, then I ran the wires through the doors, behind the floor mat and around to where the unit was.

Then comes the fun part, wiring. First I wired up the positives and negatives for the 2 speakers to get them out of the way, then I could concentrate on the power. My original plan was to wire both the ACC and the Battery wires straight to the car battery, but a friend of my dads showed me I could wire it straight into the fuse box. We tested what fuses were there to find one that would give constant power without a key in the ignition and one that would only give power when the key was on accessory, which meant I could set it up like a normal car head unit! So we pulled out the 2 fuses and stuffed the end of the Battery wire under the fuse without the constant stream and the accessory wire under the one with the constant stream.

*Blue – Battery Wire

*Red – Accessory Wire

Then all that was left to do was tape up the wires to the wires coming out of the attachment for the back of the uni…

Plug the attachment into the unit, plug in the antenna cable, slide the unit into the frame and put the underside of the dash back on!

And that was my super old car audio makeover!

Tonight I went to go see a Russian pianist performing a complete recital of Chopin. It was absolutely brilliant, his technique was incredible and all the pieces were extraordinary. As much as I would love to discuss piano technique and performance characteristics of tonight, instead I’m going to talk about my thoughts on it in relation to composing, particularly for film. It’s often common practice to just use a high quality MIDI plugin to emulate the strings, and provided you write good enough music, this will do divinely. But whilst listening to this performer I thought about how no matter what you do with a machine, it’s doubted the result will be as moving as a real performance, obviously recordings generally still aren’t as powerful as a live performance, but still more powerful than MIDI. However, recording an entire orchestra for a film score is a very long, difficult and stressful process, as I know from talking to a friend of mine who worked on the recording and composed some of the music for a new Hollywood zombie movie called ‘Christmas With The Dead.’ And still wasn’t overly happy with the result. But then you have the great film scores of Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jaws, ET, Jurassic Park, and many more written by John Williams and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, these are easily some of the most notable film sound tracks and the reason for this is both the score and the incredible sound of the recording/talent of the orchestra. This is the most extreme of the best, however, the music for Pirates of the Caribbean, another epic film score that is very notable and gripping, was recorded with a group of musicians later given the name The Hollywood Studio Symphony, over the course of 4 days.

All the orchestral music I compose, I compose with MIDI, but the one piece I have had performed was only performed by the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra, and even with my best synthestrated scored, that performance will always be more memorable. Which means if a youth orchestra can capture the emotion of a piece well enough to surpass a MIDI recording, that means the main struggle lies in the recording, which is no big surprise. People generally don’t get much experience recording orchestras, its so complicated and time consuming you’d have to be crazy to want to, but as John Williams has showed us, with the right stuff, the hard way is definitely worth it.