Nicholas Toone"I seem to have an audience of two."
“You cannot make a dehydrated steak taste like real steak by adding water. You cannot do it with vintage water or all-tube water or water with ceramic capacitors or water salvaged from an early session at Sun studios, because the dehydration process changes the chemistry and texture of the steak and alters more than just the water content.“
– Reaper forums (Nearfield vs farfield continued. post); on the use of digital reverb plugins – and other bullshit – to fix perceived sound issues.
This is a follow-up on the old post I put up about Neil Young and the way music sounds.
Through a small stroke of luck I’ve begun stepping into the world of vinyl records. I have a Fisher turntable and a Pioneer receiver (coupled together with a Realistic stereo preamp*) that came included with the house we bought two years ago, and a set of speakers that I bought second hand from Mez, Opium Winter’s drummer.
I wrote and posted this bit back in July 2015 after Neil Young announced he was pulling his music off of streaming services because of sound quality. I wanted to put it back here as it’s a nice precursor to a piece I’m finishing up abour vinyl albums.
To note: Neil Young’s music is currently available on all the streaming services. Guess that Pono thing didn’t work out as well as he thought it would. that being said, he’s still on his damn soapbox.
This entry is going to cover the editing/mixing portion of the recording process and my thoughts along each step of the way. This not going to be a step by step entry; I’m not going to cover every EQ setting and compression ratio on each track.
The recording process began in early April 2018. All instruments and vocals were tracked by the end of the month. The plan was to release the debut Opium Winter EP by the beginning of the summer. Instead it was officially released April 1, 2019… almost exactly one year later.
What happened? The answer is simple: Mixing.
“I’ve done football commercials; I’ve done everything; commercial and noncommercial: My attitude has been that they’re both the same. Why is it better to get a check every week from a university than to get royalties? Of course I’m a sellout. What else would I be?”
– Phil Glass; New York Times.
With equipment rented and drum tracks completed, it was time to move on to guitars, bass, vocals, and synth.
This was going to be a little easier as the basement in our house came with pretty excellent sound treatment. The previous owner had a home theatre setup down there and added decent insulation in the walls and installed a dropped ceiling complete with acoustic insulation tiles. Both the main room and the back room, which has become my home office, has that slightly “dead” feeling you get when walking into a pro studio. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not pro level perfect, but it’s more than I could ever ask for and I’ve been making good use of it.
My home office has a small closet that I’ve converted into a makeshift isolation booth. I stuffed a small Ikea mattress against the back wall and hung up some fabric to help cut back on reflections.
In my last post about cutting back/giving up on Social Media and the Internet in order to get back to being creative, I mentioned that I’ve been learning music production on my own. My reasoning was “there are no audio engineering teachers that offer lessons for like a guitar or piano teacher would; I’d have to enrol in an audio engineering course at a college somewhere. I’m simply not going to put that kind of time or sink that kind of money into something that is merely a hobby.”
I thought I’d expand a little on how I’ve been tackling learning something like music production using the Internet.
1: Download and print any user guides that are offered by whoever makes the digital tools you use. If they have an online how-to video repository, bookmark it and use it for reference when you get stuck.
2: On YouTube, figure out who has good advice and continue to watch their videos. Then figure out who is simply blowing smoke for sake of getting more clicks and forget about them. You’ll be able to tell pretty quick which is which.
3: Glean the basics from those channels you do end up watching. Don’t take what they say as gospel! Try their instructions, shitcan what doesn’t work and keep what does.
4: Watch interviews with well known producers and listen to them talk about their careers and how they worked on certain songs and/or albums. If you really listen to what they’re saying, you can pick up little tidbits here and there and incorporate them into your workflow.
5: Keep a burner email or two handy because if you find a site that offers multi-tracks for download, grab them and practice with them. The same goes for free plugins; download them and play with them. Sure some are crap, but there are some decent ones out there if you look.
6: Just do it. Set up and record, even if it’s just you playing an acoustic while recording with one microphone. Mix and remix over and over. Try things. Break things. Try things again. There is no right or wrong. Find your own voice.
7: Don’t overly focus on what gear is being used or suggested in the videos you watch. Not everyone can afford a U-47. Learn how to use what you have access to.
8: Don’t overthink. Keep it simple and always serve the song.
Im not going to start this post by saying “I’m not knocking Social Media but…” because, as we all know everything you say before the “but” is bullshit. So I’m just going to say it: In this post I am knocking Social Media.
… build things to suit your taste. There’s endless options out there; start with minimal pieces of gear and learn it. Give yourself time. If you start off in an endless search for newer pieces of gear, better pieces of gear, things to add, “this is cool”, you lose the focus you have when you’re working with a minimalistic setup. Once you learn that, and you work very hard to get variety in your work using a limited source of options, that’s when you really refine your skill.
– Kim Rosen – PLAP Interview, 2019.
It’s quite easy to be super artistic and it’s relatively easy to be really, really pop. There’s this tiny space in the middle that meets that very few ever get to where their song speaks to millions both on the pop side and the artistic side.
It’s difficult to be an artist in the sense that people often confuse self indulgence with artistry. There are a great many people out there who are behaving with immense self indulgence beleiving that it’s art when in fact it’s something that’s highly forgettable and will only resonate for a short time with those who confuse self indulgence with art … where the people who are capable of expressing themselves through a medium and are legitimately artists are few and far between.
Those who are able to marry art with commerce in a way where they’re able to touch people, to resonate with them, and make something that’s enduring? That’s a unicorn.
– Michael Beinhorn – PLAP Interview, 2019.
Opium Winter released our first EP on April 1. You can grab it on Bandcamp or stream it via the usual suspects (Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, etc). We’re pretty proud of this work and hope everyone out there enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.
I’d like to take some time, over a couple of posts, to go over how this EP came to its final form.
Searching for a decent audio interface can be intimidating. How many inputs do you need? Outputs? USB? USB-C? Thunderbolt? Firewire? Can it record all tracks at once? Does it need drivers? How much will it cost? What will you be recording?How serious are you? How trustworthy are reviews from music sites? Are said sites honest and impartial or are they thinly veiled shills? What do the “real people” have to say on music discussion sites?
If you’re just starting out, all of this is enough to make you want to just give up. There is, however, a single unit out there which no one seems to talk about at all for some reason. And it’s damn near perfect.
So here I am. I haven’t posted anything at all on this site in over a year, and the first thing I’m going to do is babble on about iPad apps.
It has been a pretty long and interesting year to say the least and I have a pile of stuff to write about but I decided to start with this one because it was pretty easy to put together. So here we go.
I’m Canadian, somewhere in my forties, married to my soulmate, have three kids, live in the ‘burbs, and work from home for a US tech company.
I mainly play guitar and bass, I mess around with keyboards, and I’ve recently begun drum lessons . I love to compose, perform, and record music. In the recent past I’ve played guitar in The Unavowed, bass and vocals in White Lake Mountain, and am now playing bass and synths for Opium Winter. I also mess around with visual art, video editing, and writing.
I love food. I love cooking. I love beer and wine. I love travel.
I dream a lot.
I do all the above when time permits, and time doesn’t give me a lot of permission these days.
Although it may seem otherwise, I have very little complaints about life in general.