“Full Stop” from my upcoming albu, “Tri!”
“Full Stop” from my upcoming albu, “Tri!”
Recently I haven’t done a very good job updating my blog regularly. I feel I should explain. Back in March my mother came down with the flu. As she is 90 this was a rather big deal and resulted in her hospitalization. She was only in the hospital a few days but while she was there she took a fall. Because of this they wanted her to go to rehab afterwards. My Brother and I found a really great place. At the same time as this my Father came down with a very bad chest cold and was practically bed ridden the whole time this was taking place.
As I am on an immunosuppressant as part of the clinical trial I am participating in, I didn’t want to go near either of them. I felt pretty helpless. Fortunately my brother managed my hospital stay and I got the church people to look in after my dad. While my mom was in rehab I felt it was safe enough to go there, especially since this particular facility received an “A” rating for infection control. I went to visit my mom nearly everyday, did her laundry and advocated for her care while she was there; which was for nearly a month.
They took great care of her and she had physical and occupational therapy every day while she was there. My mom was there for nearly a month. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that when my mom got sick (probably before she even made it to the hospital) she had a small stroke or TIA. A lot of her memory is gone and she has trouble remembering new things. This was quite sad for me in the beginning because my mom has always been my best friend and part of what made my mom my mom was just gone. Fortunately some of this is slowly coming back. She is slowly beginning to remember new things and she even figured out how to use her Kindle on her own. When she first got home she had no idea what to do with it.
Managing both my parents care and dealing with my own health issues pretty much took all of my available time and energy. I really didn’t have much left over for my music, thus my blog suffered. Everything appears to be status quo now so I will try to update my blog more regularly.
My upcoming album, “Bleak”. Newly remastered!
My brother got a new Teeter Hang Up inversion table, so yesterday evening he brought over his old Champ inversion table for me to use. I love it!
I have long recognized the benefits to be obtained from inversion therapy. I am not as crazy about it as Roger Teeter, who I think overstates things a bit, but I’m definitely an advocate. I was initially concerned about how my MS might make it hard for me to perform safely, but I am able to get upside down and back up with ease. It does make me feel a lot better. Initially, I am only doing it for four minutes three times a day, and I’m not quite at 60 degrees. Next week I think I’ll adjust it for a full 60 degrees and go up to five minutes. It’s amazing how 60 degrees feels like being totally upside down. I cant wait to try a full 90.
It fits neatly in my front room, where it is easy for me to get to and I’m more likely to use. I tried out my brother’s new Teeter before I decided I wanted his old one and the new Teeter definitely has some advantages: the foot clamps are more comfortable and the unit is generally more comfortable over all; I also can raise and lower myself just by swinging my arms on his new one. On my Champ, however, I have to grab the handles and scooch down a bit to get back up. I had to promise to always have my cell phone in my pocket in case of emergency since I live alone and if I got into trouble there is no one to help my get back up. This isn’t a lot of trouble to remember since I use the alarm on my cell phone as a timer.
I enjoy the experience of hanging upside down by my feet and it makes me feel a lot better. It helps with my general achiness and fibromyalgia. I also think it helps my posture a lot. I am thoroughly enjoying inversion.
I recently had a quantum leap in my audio mastering skill set and tools. It came in two parts. The first was getting a copy or Reason 7. I beta tested this version for Propellerhead so there was zero learning curve when I got the official copy—I had already become familiar with all the new features from beta testing. The second was getting a convolution reverb from Numerical Sound, “RiVerb - Up-front Spaces”. I was amazed and surprised by how different a convolution reverb is from an algorithmic reverb. A convolution reverb works by using measurements of the impulse response of real spaces and then convolving the sound with this impulse response by a series of Fourier transforms. This produces a near perfect acoustic modeling of real spaces. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a CPU pig. I often can’t run it live the same time as Ozone but I can work around that.
I knew that adding a small amount of reverb to the whole mix was an important part of the mastering process but I was never able to get it to sound right with the different reverbs I have, so, up and till now, I have just omitted that part of the process. On a whim I decided to try RiVerb for this step, and voilla! Success! I was astounded and shocked how adding just little bit of the Full Studio preset tied my mix together and did marvelous things for my stereo imaging. I have always very carefully placed each sound that I use in a piece of music at very precise and different positions in my stereo field; but I never could really hear that when I was finished, and played the piece on my home stereo. Now, I can easily visualize exactly where each sound is coming from. I didn’t expect that.
I also discovered that I had previously been mixing my stuff way to hot going into the mastering sequence. With separate output buses in Reason 7 I can now run all the channels in my mix to a separate master-gain bus and make sure I am at -6 db going into the mastering insert bus. This gives me the necessary headroom for any gain changes I make in equalization and compression. I also now monitor this whole chain very carefully to make sure I am not clipping anywhere. I also now master to -8 db as measured with the Flower Audio Loudness Meter, previously I mastered to -6 db. I refuse to participate in the loudness war! My style of music needs should have some dynamic range. I can sure see the difference when I inspect the final mix wav files in an audio editor, which I always do as the last step. My mixes sound so much better and I now feel like I could proudly put them up against anyone else in the industry.
You can listen on my website using the links above or you can go directly to Bleak on Soundcloud.
You can listen on my website using the links above or you can go directly to Edge on Soundcloud.
For my mastering I use Reason 7 from Propellerhead, Trident A-Range Discreet Equalizers from Softube, 4Dyne Mastering Multiband Dynamics from Flower Audio, FET Compressor from Softube, RiVerb – Up-Front Spaces convolution reverb from Numerical Sound, Loudness Meter from Flower Audio, BX8a Deluxe Powered Monitors from M-Audio, MDR-7505 professional headphones from Sony Professional, Delta 24/96 Audiophile sound card from M-Audio and my own home-built AMD Pheonom II 6-core computer running at 3.6 GHz.
I recently acquired two new great sounding rack extensions (plug-ins) for Reason, the “FET Compressor” and the “Trident A-Range” equalizer from Softube. Unfortunately I discovered that I quickly ran out of processing power on my workstation if I used several instances of these plug-ins in a project. I was rather surprised, since I am running an AMD Phenom II 6-core at 2.4 GHz which gets a 7.4 out of 7.9 on the Window Experience Index. As a solution, I decided to try over-clocking. Fortunately this is quite easy to do on my ASRock motherboard. I simply enabled “Turbo-30” mode in the BIOS and got a 30 % increase with absolutely no stability problems. I am now running six cores at 3.3 GHz—that seems to have done the trick.
Both of these two new plug-ins are engineered to exactly model the sound of their analog counterparts, they sound amazing and are very easy to operate. I use the Trident A-Range as the master EQ and the FET Compressor as the master compressor in my mastering bus. I also use the FET Compressor to tighten up my kick drums and compress other unruly voices in my mix. I used both of these plug-ins on my latest re-masters of my albums Tranceformation and Hidden.
Here is what my mastering bus now looks like:
My signal path is now
Master EQ (Trident A-Range)
Multi-band Compression (Flower Audio 4Dyne)
Master Compressor (Softube FET Compressor)
Limiter (iZotope Ozone)
Real Time Spectrum Analizer (Red Rock Sound RE 60)
Loudness Meter (Flower Audio)
On my master EQ I boost 100 Hz about 3 dB to fatten up kick and bass and cut 500 Hz about 5 dB to get rid of muddiness. I also boost 12 KHz about 3db to add brilliance and air and accentuate hi hats. I set the saturation control to 12 o-clock to let the Trident A-Range add some of its magic color.
The settings for multi-band compression are very dependent on the material. I start with the “4-Band Mastering” preset and adjust the compression threshold on each band until it sounds just right. I also enable the gate below 125 Hz with a ratio of 22:1, attack of 286 ms and a release of 21 ms to get the drums pumping. I also adjust the make-up gain of this lowest channel to about +3 dB.
I use the stereo imager to remove most of the stereo signal below 125 Hz and ever so slightly widen everything above.
On my master compressor I set the ratio to 1.2:1, a very fast attack, and a medium release. I also set the set the low cut to 200 Hz and lookahead to 1ms on the detector. I adjust the input to get just a few dB of gain reduction on the meter and adjust the output gain to normalize to 0 dB.
On my Ozone limiter I use the IRC II mode and a speed of 4.0. I adjust the threshold until I get -6 to -7 dB with the loudness meter on the loudest passages on the track. I set the margin on everything I do to -0.3 dB on everything I do because normalizing to 0 dB can cause problems with MP3 encoding, which is usually my target format.
A photo from my friend Stanton’s production of Hamlet at NIU for which composed the music.
I was contacted by a service called “Buy SoundCloud Plays” http://www.soundcloud-shop.org and invited to try their service. Their website was so professional and the service sounded so intriguing that I decided to give it a try—big mistake… I paid $30 to get 10,000 plays on my latest single, Undeniable Love vs. Mercury Rising. I have now determined that this service is a SCAM and this is my rationale:
1) While they did deliver well over 10,000 plays, this increase happened in just a few hours—that seems impossible.
2) I received not one single user comment on my track.
3) As the owner of a “pro” account on SoundCloud I have full statistics. My statistics show none of these 10,000 plays in the location or sources statics or in the list of individual listeners of my tracks.
4) SoundCloud Shop did not respond to the one support question I sent them.
What they have done is find some clever way of artificially raising the play count on a track on SoundCloud. Perhaps they have hacked the system in some way.
I was aware of the risk going in, so I am just considering this a $30 experiment gone badly. I am hoping by posting this entry on my blog that I might prevent others from wasting their hard earned money. L
My childhood friend, Stanton Davis, now teaches theater at NorthernIllinoisUniversity in DeKalb. He specializes in voice, speech and fight choreography. Back in November he approached me and asked if I could compose the music for his production of Hamlet in February. He was going for an industrial, dystopian setting, using the music of Laibach as his inspiration. I had never composed music to suit a specific purpose before; but I composed several pieces or music and gave him and his sound people access to them. Some of the pieces are based upon actual music from the period that his sound guy sent to me. I had to struggle a bit to make the music not sound like dance music, which wasn’t what they were going for.
I was really expecting more of a dialog throughout the process, like having them ask me to change the music in some way to tailor it for their specific purposes, but I didn’t hear much back from him or his sound people. Well, the play is running right now and evidently they just liked what I did because I just found out today that they used everything I wrote plus a few tracks from my first album, String Theory. I wish I was feeling well enough to take a trip and go see it; but my MS simply prevents this.
I am now considering taking the pieces I wrote and basing another album, or perhaps an EP, on them; expanding on the themes I wrote for the production and making them longer. This could be an interesting project. I quite like several of the themes.
I finally figured out how to do proper DJ-style mixing in Propellerhead Reason, my primary DAW software, including equal-power crossfades. Equal-power crossfades are essential because linear crossfades just don’t cut it. I owe a debt of gratitude to Jeremy Janzen from Nucleus SoundLab for this bit of wizardry.
For my first remix I mixed together two of my favorite songs that I have composed so far, “Sunbeam Transit” from my upcoming album Bleak and “Free” from my upcoming album Odin! I am very pleased with how it turned out. This was a great choice for my first mash-up since these songs turned out to be very compatible—same BPM and compatible keys. It was actually a lot of fun doing the remix rather than being a technical nightmare.
I decided to make this remix a free download for my SoundCloud and Twitter followers and for the subscribers of my e-mail distribution list. I am using bit.ly to track the download statistics. I am finding it very difficult to get people to just listen to my music, much less purchase my albums. I am hoping to use this remix as a showcase to attract more fans. I am going to use it as my showcase piece and make it available to everyone for streaming only. I know there are people out there that would really dig what I am doing if I could just get them to listen to some of my music.
As part of this process I had to upgrade my SoundCloud account from “Solo” to “Pro” because I had exceeded my minutes. I know! It’s hard to imagine that I have composed over 12 continuous hours of music; but I have. I now have 36 hours which should last me quite a long while. As a bonus I now get full statistics. The best part is now knowing from where my SoundCloud listeners are coming. I am hoping this way I might be able to better figure out where to focus my efforts.