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Friday, 10 May 2019

Preparing for Mixing



A lot of engineers never prepare themselves for mixing, especially those who are just starting out in the industry. If you identify as a newbie to sound creation and manipulation and have just finished a song and want to mix it yourself, follow these steps!

-       Export all the tracks from your project; it’s always great to work with stems in a fresh session.
-       Sort all the tracks and create groups and subgroups for Bass, Drums, Synths, Percussions and so on.
-       Colour Code these groups, it is always a great idea to locate the layers of your mix. Example, bass gets red, drums blue etc.
-       Create Sends for Reverb throws and Delays.
-       Create group tracks for Drums and other instruments that way if you want to apply compression to the elements, it will glue them together nicely.
-       Have a “DEMO” Mastering Chain ready, but disable it when you send out your mix to a mastering engineer (this one is a kindness, and will benefit the master).
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How to Save CPU Power





-       Freeze or Bounce your tracks, especially on synths that need a lot of power.

-       Lower the voice count on your synths and samplers. If your 808 plays monophonic notes there is no reason to use your sampler in polyphonic mode.

-       If you don’t need direct monitoring with latency increase your buffer size in the driver of your audio interface.

-       Create two send tracks for reverb and delay, this way you won’t need to use a new instance on every track.

-       Instruments that need the same processing are better of on a group bus, where you can process them all with only one instance.


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Saturday, 24 November 2018

Phase Cancellation Coffee’s Guide to Music Technology eBook



 My eBook is now live!


I can’t believe I have my own book, something for the world to experience with me! The past few days have been insane!

I have no idea where to start…

I created this book for anyone who has experienced that ‘feeling’ about music. It’s the book you can go to when you need help understanding music jargon, it covers all the terms required in studio recording, sound creation and manipulation exams - as well as for professional musicians, those learning the fundamentals of acoustics, live sound and audio production. It will also be a useful quick reference book for concert-goers, CD-collectors, music journalists and radio listeners.

A-Z entries range across a spectrum of subjects, among them: acoustics, auxiliary sends, balance, bass response, BPM, clipping, decibel, equalisation, frequency, fidelity, gain, hertz, impedance, MIDI and many more.



 
It is your guide, your key to understanding music industry etymology. A must have, for all aspiring music technologists.

If you wish to purchase ‘Phase Cancellation Coffee’s Guide to Music Technology’ please choose a desired format for download below…


 

https://phasecancellationcoffee.bigcartel.com/product/ebook


For everyone who has shared, liked, and pre-ordered 'Phase Cancellation Coffee’s Guide to Music Technology', I cannot thank you enough for your support. I’ve had a lot of happy tears the last 24 hours.

I am beyond grateful, thank you.

My love as always,

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Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony - Remastered

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/138635772/tomb-raider-the-dark-angel-symphony

Peter Connelly is a video game composer and sound designer, best known for the action-adventure Tomb Raider Series. Many of us know the game and have spent various hours from the 90’s exhausting a controller, kicking ass as Lara Croft. Not only do we love the legend of the series, we love the journey the score takes us throughout it.

Peter contacted me recently and asked me to invite you to his Kickstarter campaign; Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony - an epic remake of Connelly’s original Tomb Raider soundtrack. Not just one, but all three, The Last Revelation, Chronicles and The Angel of Darkness. Also, if that didn’t get you excited maybe news that the brand new arrangement will be featuring Tina Guo and Julie Elven!
 

“The core of Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony is a suite of two albums: one recorded by an 82-piece orchestra at the prestigious Air Lyndhurst Studios, London, and produced by a world-class professional team led by Dr. Richard Niles (an world-renowned orchestrator for Paul McCartney, the Pet Shop Boys, Trevor Horn and more), for the most beautiful and moving Tomb Raider sound you will ever hear. The second is for an album of Peter Connelly’s original Tomb Raider scores remastered for the highest-possible sound quality.” – Peter Connelly

  Many of you who are new to Kickstarter, I’ll give you a little heads up!

Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform for creative projects. People ask for investment towards their project (in your case, a studio album called Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony) by showing off what they want to do, how they plan to do it, and what the “funding goal” needs to be to make it all happen. Individuals across the world can then donate money towards the project by “backing” a certain amount, called a “pledge”. These pledges include special goodies called “pledge rewards” – the more you donate, the more/better/more expensive the pledge rewards will be.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/138635772/tomb-raider-the-dark-angel-symphonyAfter the funding period (usually 30 days) is finished, and assuming the funding goal has been reached, the project organisers can then get on and create the item/service that they wanted funding AND produce the pledge rewards for their backers. Kickstarter is not a shop: products are not immediately available at the end of the funding campaign. The project managers will state exactly when they expect to deliver both the pledge rewards and the final product on their project page. Money is only debited from backers if the funding goal is reached. In other words, it’s “all or nothing”.
 
Supporting a Kickstarter campaign can have ups and downs. If the funds for the project are not reached then yes, the project is ended and will not commence further unless there can be changes to make it more effective. However if you have a goal that’s core is personal, the likelihood of it succeeding is imminent.

A fan of Peter’s work asked him what would happen in the event of the project not get funded in time after he and his team have put in a lot of time, money and effort...

Peter replied;

“We had an amazing couple of years trying to bring something great for classic Tomb Raider fans and retrogamers. At the very least we'll have memories and experience.”

Regardless of the outcome, there will always be a home for this incredible composition.
 

Not only does your pledge help fund this campaign it also rewards you for your generosity! 
  
 

A simple start off pledge at £5.00 will gift you a personal email from Peter thanking you for your support. Any pledges from £10.00 or up will receive a download of specific soundtracks, thank you credit’s in the soundtrack booklets, signed posters, surround sound DVD’s (you can listen to “Dance of the Lux Veritatis”, “By Moonlight”, “The Accused” – and all the rest of your favourites – as they were meant to be heard!), special edition vinyl records and custom handmade memorabilia!  

You can also add additional items to your pledge level by simply increasing your pledge too!

 

Listed below are the various pledge rewards you will receive by backing this campaign!

 

The team behind this project, making every effort to ensure it is piloted are;


 
 Tina Guo

Guo is an internationally acclaimed, Grammy-nominated virtuoso acoustic/electric cellist, recording artist, and composer. She is a frequent musical collaborator with Hans Zimmer and has toured with him as part of the Hans Zimmer Live tour.

https://twitter.com/JulieElvenMusic

Julie Elven

Elven is an award-winning Soundtrack and Filmscore Vocalist based in Munich, Germany. She has featured alongside James Newton Howard and multiple orchestras. She is best known for her soloist vocal work on triple-A gaming titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn, World of Warcraft: Legion (plus many other famous titles by Blizzard Entertainment), Riot Games’ League of Legends, and more.


Dr Richard Niles

Niles is a world-famous Orchestrator / Arranger / Musician. He has worked with a veritable who’s-who of pop, such as Paul McCartney, the Pet Shop Boys, and Trevor Horn CBE.
The team also includes Ben Fenner (Mastering Engineer), Isobel Griffiths (Orchestra Contractor), and Iain Mackenzie (Vocalist and Choir Master).

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/138635772/tomb-raider-the-dark-angel-symphony

 Please click the following to access this Kickstarter campaign and make a pledge towards Peter Connelly’s magic…

Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony


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Sunday, 3 June 2018

Q&A - Volume One




Hi everyone!

I’ve not been posted for a long while, I wanted to apologise for not keeping you all in the loop but I am back now and I have a great new post for you!

A lot of you message me on a daily basis asking about music creation, recording and various bits of technology so I wanted to answer a few of the most frequent ones I have received lately.

If you have sent me a message in the last few weeks please keep your eyes open on the new Q&A section that has recently been added to my blog! My answers to your questions will now be a click away so, have a little scroll and see anything else you might find useful to know!

For now, enjoy this new update and I’ll catch up with you all soon!
 
“Why does reverb sound different on headphones?” – Katie, age 17.

I hear people comment upon this regularly, and something I have also experienced myself, you’re not alone! I believe the effect is due to the very different way our brains process sound when it is presented. This is either through headphones, speakers and monitors. The fundamental difference, of course, is that when listening to speakers both ears hear both channels plus the indirect sound bouncing around the room, whereas with headphones each ear hears only one sound channel and no room contribution. So, as a result the different reverb signals in the left and right channels are interpreted as spate sources, not disregarded as part of the general room ambiance, and so acquire a greater prominence within the mix in our perception.

“Sound I avoid placing my tweeters half-way between the floor and ceiling?” – Rob, age 23.

There is some truth hidden in that advice, but it relates to the speakers’ woofers, not the tweeters. The wavelengths of the sound the tweeters produce is so short that it really doesn’t matter, from a room-mode standpoint where the speakers are, the reflected sound will be entirely random and chaotic. It’s generally a good idea to avoid placing the woofers on the mid axis of the room (side/side, front/back or up/down), because of the low frequencies which the woofer produces are likely to be similar to, or integral fractions of the dimensions of the room, so you’re more likely to excite string room modes that way. It’s much better to have the woofers off the centre room axes. The overall height of the speaker needn’t necessarily change, though you might find that you can solve any problems you can hear simply by turning the speaker upside down!

“Why do my final mixes always end up in mono?” – Segal, age 27.

This isn't as simple a question as it may at first appear, because you only need to make a mistake at one point in the signal chain and all the stereo work you've done up to that point can end up mixed down to mono. Assuming that you indeed have a stereo mix set up on your analogue mixer, which you can verify by listening to the headphone output, this can be recorded to a workstation in one of two ways. If the workstation offers stereo track capability, you can connect the left and right outs from the analogue mixer to the appropriate odd/even numbered inputs of the workstation, and record the results directly to the stereo track. This will preserve the stereo settings you created on your analogue mixer.

Where stereo track capability isn't provided, you'll need to record the left and right mixer outputs onto two separate mono tracks of the workstation, taking care to pan the one carrying the left mixer channel fully left, and the one carrying the right mixer channel fully right. Again, this will preserve the original stereo information from the analogue mix, and any overdubs made on the workstation using different mono tracks may then be panned conventionally to any position in the mix. The final mix can then be recorded to a standard stereo recorder by connecting the main left and right outs of the workstation to the left/right inputs of the recorder. Also check for any mono buttons (which usually only apply to monitoring), and for any hidden menu functions in your workstation that may be designed to provide you with a mono mix.

“Is it a good idea to use a subwoofer in my home studio?” – Jay, age 18.

I can think of very few music–making scenarios where you should need particularly accurate monitoring lower than that — and in those few cases you’d need a room that could cope. If your room can’t cope, and you really do need to judge the level of a 30–50Hz sine wave, then it’s a pretty trivial matter to check on a modern frequency analyser plug–in what’s going on.

With this in mind, I’d suggest that you start not by thinking about subwoofers, but by attempting to check what level of bass your speakers are actually putting out into your room: play some bass–rich material over them and stand in a corner of the room, where the bass build–up is likely to be greatest, and walk around the room boundary. If you can hear an increase in very low frequencies, then lack of bass from your speakers isn’t your main problem — and adding a sub will probably just prove to be an expensive way to make matters worse.

If your speakers are doing their job, you need to do something about the room. You say you’ve already installed as much acoustic treatment as you can, but perhaps you can reconsider the nature of the acoustic treatment you’ve installed. To achieve remotely accurate low–frequency monitoring in a domestic space the room must be treated with ample bass trapping. The idea is to absorb low-frequency waves so that they don’t bounce around the room causing all those nasty peaks and nulls. It’s pretty much impossible to install too much bass trapping, but often impossible to install enough!


“Are high-end cables worth the money?” – Jemma, age 22.

The short answer is no, they're very unlikely to sound any better. The longer answer is that there are complexities and subtleties involved that can, in specific circumstances, conspire to affect the sound when using different types of cables and connectors.

In essence, provided that the cable is appropriate in terms of its construction — particularly in having low capacitance and good screening — and the connectors used are of good quality and manufactured to meet the appropriate specifications, then there is no audible difference that I have ever detected reliably. The problem is that some inferior cables allow interference to get in via the cable or connectors, or have some inappropriate properties such as high capacitance, or they are wired in a way which creates ground-loop problems, and in those cases a properly made cable may appear to work better, simply because the reality is that the inferior cable didn't work properly. However, you should be aware that some very expensive cables are not built properly either.

“What is the best way to add sub-bass?” – Scott, age 25.

In any computer-based tracks where you already have the MIDI information for the other parts, there are two core ways to go about this. The simplest would be to add a dedicated sub-synth channel, with your plug-in synth of choice set to output a pure sine wave — usually with infinite sustain but zero release, so that it immediately plays at full volume and just as quickly stops upon triggering/release, unless a longer release is required dynamically — and then copy the MIDI part for your bass track onto that track. You’ll probably need to transpose the notes to the correct octave or to set your sub-synth’s oscillator pitch internally, to make sure that it sounds in the octave below the original bass line.
However, this simple approach can lose some of the articulation of the original synth pattern, so I often find a second method to be better in many ways. If the soft synth you used for your main bass sound has the ability to generate a simple sine wave, create another instance of that synth on a new channel with the same patch, and then change its settings so that it is outputting a basic sine wave, as in the previous method — but don’t touch settings such as envelope attack or release, or portamento. This way, you’ll have a clean sine-wave sub-bass channel, but with dynamic characteristics identical to those of your original bass patch, so the two should layer seamlessly.
Where you don’t have the original MIDI parts and need to recreate them to add sub-bass, it can be difficult to hear the low notes accurately. A good tip is to play or draw in the notes a few octaves higher up, so that you can hear the notes more clearly, and then pitch them back down to the octave that gives you the nice warm sub-bass tone you’re looking for. Sub-bass shouldn’t really need any processing, as a straight sine wave creates nice, round bass, but sometimes driving it gently with a tube distortion plug-in can add some harmonics that fill a gap between the sub-bass and the more tonal elements of your existing bass. It’s very much a case of trial and error here, but do use your ears and a decent monitoring setup to make sure it sounds good.

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Saturday, 13 January 2018

Hearing Protection, How Relevent?



Hi everyone!

The past few weeks I have been suffering with a horrendous flu that has spanned well over Christmas into the New Year. The worst part is the ear infection I am now left with! I have seen so many of you suffering with the same thing so I wanted to make a post regarding our little ears and how to protect them!

So, listen up!

The most common cause of deafness is noise-induced hearing loss. Your risk is related to how loud the noise is, how close you are to it and how long you're exposed to it.

Your hearing depends on hair cells in the inner ear that transmit energy from sound picked up by the outer ear to the brain, through converting it to electrical impulses. Loud noises blast and irreversibly damage these cells, leading to hearing loss and sometimes tinnitus. Tinnitus is an unpleasant condition in which you hear ringing, whooshing or high-pitched whining sounds, when continuous it is extremely distressing.

Any sound can damage your hearing, some more immediate than others. A sudden loud noise like gunfire or an airplane taking off from a runway at close range can cause irreversible damage immediately. Repeated exposure to loud noise causes a more gradual hearing loss, with voices sounding muffled and distorted. Many people think that being exposed to music is the only way your hearing can be impaired, but it really can be caused in any profession at anytime.

For example;

My dad was a driver for many years. He travelled across the world for an interior design company delivering all kinds of stuff. I used to travel with him when I was young and have been very fortunate to go to the places I have. He did this job for more than 15 years. Everyday he would be in a lorry doing hundreds of miles a day exposing his ears to all kinds of sounds on the road.

My family and I noticed that my dad’s hearing had got worse, especially after he retired. Naturally as you age your hearing will be lost, that’s part of the growing old part, but his hearing had taken a dramatic spiral more than it should have. I noticed that he couldn’t hear even the little things and he was beginning to get aggravated by sounds that were not there, that’s when I took him for a hearing test.

At first he was in denial, being the proud man that he is refusing to admit that something was wrong. When the test came back it showed that he had hearing damage, quite dramatically. I looked at his test results and saw that his right ear was worse than his left ear, that’s when it hit me, driving had done that to him. All those years he would drive with the window open, in all kinds of weather. The noises from the motorway, other vehicles driving past him, construction sites he would sit outside for long periods of time, the open air. All of this had affected his hearing, but because it wasn’t instant he never noticed.

As hearing technology has improved over the years, people with hearing loss are doing things that were previously thought impossible. My dad was given hearing aids to help the frequencies he had lost, since then his hearing has improved a lot and he is grateful that he can now experience having his hearing back.

Whether you are exposed to factory noise or listening to music, risk to hearing arises from a combination of how loud the sound is and how long you are exposed to it for.

The largest study into noise-induced hearing loss in musicians was published in 2014. Three million people were examined, including 2,227 professional musicians. They found that the musicians were about four times as likely to report a new noise-induced hearing loss compared to the general population.

Unknowing to many people, a rock concert can generate around 100db to 120db, which is as loud as a chainsaw. We‘ve all experienced painful ears after leaving a gig or a club; it's not uncommon to have pain in your ears, ringing or temporary deafness. It stops after a while and when we wake up in the morning we are back to normal, but if you go to enough loud concerts, combined with listening to an MP3 player full blast the rest of the time, your ears will be damaged.

If you're at a gig or any place where you can't hear someone talk to you from two metres away or your ears start hurting, then your hair cells are being damaged. You need to stand away from speakers, just take 10 minutes out from the music every hour and ideally wear earplugs, they will evenly reduce the level of sound.

I’m a sound engineer; I expose myself to sound all day everyday for long periods at a time. I will never prevent my own hearing loss, but I can help protect my ears as much as possible by looking after them. This goes for my whole team who work tirelessly making magic with records day in day out alongside me. I have to make sure that they are in a safe environment and they are looked after.

In the UK, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations sets limits for exposure to noise. The lowest action level is an exposure of 80 dBA averaged over a working day; about as loud as a heavily trafficked street. When this action level is exceeded, employers must provide information and training and make hearing protection available. When the upper action level of 85 dBA is exceeded, then employers need to take action to reduce the noise and hearing protection becomes compulsory. Of course music frequently exceeds 80-85 dBA, but what counts in assessing the risk to hearing is the average exposure. I have to make sure my team are offered the right hearing protection and are keeping in line with the working regulations.

I have a little table of noise levels that I have attached below. I refer to this table every time I train with my team on sound frequencies and decibels. It’s always puts in perspective how damaging some noise levels can be…


I have been asked these questions recently, that is why I decided to make this blog post so I can speak openly and share a little knowledge on what I know about hearing loss and hearing protection.

“What ear protection do I need at a gig?”



“I’m a musician and I don’t want to lose my hearing at a young age, can you help me with finding some hearing protection?”



“I want to wear earplugs at a show but I don’t want to look stupid...”



“Can you recommend any rehearsal earplugs? I’m in a heavy metal band and the space I record with my band is small and it’s so noisy”


I would recommend good-quality earplugs that reduce the overall level of sound but maintain an even spectral balance so that you can still hear everything clearly when you’re at a show, although the overall level is reduced it’s safer. If you don't want to wear earplugs when you're performing, consider wearing them when you're rehearsing, as well as at gigs. Disposable solid-foam earplugs won't give you this even balance and will adversely affect your enjoyment of the music. These kinds of plugs I recommend for traveling, long journeys, sleep or mediation. You can often find suitable generic ear plugs in the good musical instrument and equipment retailers. Beware that many musicians earplugs are available in different amounts of attenuation, the greater the number of dBs of attenuation, the better overall protection they offer.

If you’re really serious about ear protection and want a long-lasting solution, I recommend making an appointment with an audiologist. An audiologist will explain all the benefits of hearing protection and take a mould of your ear to create custom made earplugs to your precise specifications that will be comfortable to wear for long periods and easy to clean and look after. Custom made earplugs will cost more, but considering that hearing damage is irreversible, if you value your ears the cost should not be taken into account.

I have used ACS (Advanced Communication Solutions) in the past for generic earplugs and custom made earplugs. Please click the website link below to have a look through their products!

ACS

Or you could checkout my very own ear protectors!

They are available to purchase on my blog store, check us out! 


I want to make people aware that hearing loss is a fucking awful thing to suffer from and that you should take as much care as possible. If you’re at a gig and you have earplugs in, please don’t think you look stupid. It’s stupid neglecting your health for appearance. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a live sound environment, in a studio, in a car, at home, walking with your headphones in, just take the time to realise the underlining damage that can happen.

Even if you hate music picking up some earplugs is just as satisfying! Honest!

There are some really awesome hearing tests available online for free. So, if you’re curious as to how your hearing of frequencies is have a little go on the link below! Have a little fun!



Look after your ears kids, they are important!

Thank you for reading!

My love as always, 



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