Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Creating An EP

Well, many apologies for the silence the last few weeks but as you can see from the picture above I have been creating an EP for Acrimonious. I'm sorry I've left it this long but the mastering process has been a nightmare and the vocals have been even worse. To be honest I'm glad it's over and done with - I only released the EP to clear up some space on the hard disk drive of my DAW.

I've been creating an EP made up of four basic enough acoustic songs - folk songs really ( with a little bit of darkness added ). The EP is free to download and to listen to by clicking HERE. I am a strong believer that an EP should be a base for all the songs you like to listen yourself but are just not up to the standard for album release.

Basically no matter what the quality - noisy or mistakes included - throw it on an EP. It shows listeners another side to your music and makes you a little more accessible.

So What Comes Next?

A damn good question - glad you asked. John and I have created a pretty cool single release made up of three songs - one of mine ( the actual single ) and two of his ( two B sides ). We have a trick up our sleeve and we are on the brink of getting rid of a few hundred copies of the music - a trick I will be covering in detail in the next blog post.

Creating An EP

By creating an EP you are giving yourself a little time between albums and gigs to work on your next material. As I mentioned above it does not have to be your best work but make sure you stay true to your music - do not release shoddy shit that you yourself do not want to listen to.

For example - the last track on the EP is called 'Is It Any Wonder'. It's a nice song that I wrote within about five minutes. The problem is I used so many acoustic instruments on it it got real noisy, to noisy for professional recordings. It is a cool song and I like it ( even though my vocals go a little flat in some places ) so creating an EP and adding it was a perfect fit.

Stay tuned for the next post on what our next official release is and what tricks we are using to increase our chances of success with the music!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Home Recording Advice - For The Newbie Producers

Today I've got some important home recording advice that any newbie producer should take note of. Making your own music has become more and more easier over the last couple of decades with the introduction of budget home recording systems. People think that by purchasing one of these units they are set up to record beautiful music - no no! It's going to take a lot more than that.

My first bit of home recording advice involves microphones - basically do not cut corners with these, your recordings will suffer. My initial advice would be to start with one decent condenser mic to cover all your vocal and acoustic guitar lines. A dynamic mic is very durable so it is another necessity - when Acrimonious started out all we had was a Shure SM57 but it did the job, we got by. 

A lot of these stand alone DAW's have built in effect units - this is a big bonus but if you are one of the unlucky ones who does not then you have some outboard decisions to make. For outboard effects your first choice should be a digital reverb. Recordings without reverb sound like they lack space and are very dry and direct sounding. Reverb is an essential investment to combat this problem. 

If you have any cash left after purchasing the reverb your next port of call should be a compressor. These are very powerful devices and are very important in getting musical tracks ready for production. Multi-effects units are a good choice and they normally come with all the necessary effects included. Just make sure you do not purchase a very cheap model - you will hear the difference in  quality. 

This bit of home recording advice covers a pet hate of mine - audio cables. Now these necessary devices tend to have a very short shelf life no matter how much I pay for them. Always try and find a make of cable that is well known or well reviewed. I am constantly spending time chasing phantom clicks and humming noises due to poor cables.

A lot of people at this point will advise you to invest in a patch bay - I however, am not. There is nothing really wrong with these devices but I personally stopped using them years ago. Things have gone far to digital these days - the need for these analog patch bays is becoming less and less in my book. 

Last but not least the best bit of home recording advice I can give you is on monitors - basically you can never have to many of them. Using decent headphones is fine but you need to have another outboard reference point. Speakers are a must for this - even if they run off a consumer device. You need to compare mastered sounds on headphones and speakers/monitors to get a good cross reference.

I could go on about home recording advice all day long but lets just cover the important facts first. What we have covered here today are the most important starter points. A studio evolves with time and equipment is added and improves. There is other home recording advice all over this blog for the more advanced engineer so feel free to stick around and check out our work!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Oasis Cover Band

This is going to be more of a regular blog post than the normal more informative posts I make. The subject is a Oasis cover band! Why? Well me and John are embarking on a side project to get some extra money in.

I know the idea of juggling two bands may seem like a bit of a stupid idea but we have our reasons. Many of you may already know that controlling and running a band is hard work. The money is scarce when you are starting out and that is starting to hit me. 

Acrimonious are currently in the process of finishing off two EP's ( as I mentioned in my last post ). As I produce and write most of the stuff we are doing I have very little time to earn a living. By starting a Oasis cover band we are going to tap into the local live market and make a bit of much needed cash.

Keeping a band moving forward is really hard work. The new stuff I have recorded for the EP so far is very good. We are even branching out and including live recordings - recordings through one condenser mic set up in front of either me or John. These recordings are very organic and have no holds barred - clicks and pops through the mic are all included. We are trying to show our more traditional side of music - more singer songwriter. 

Anyway, all this is costing money - money we do not have. Using a Oasis cover band ( or any cover band for that matter ) is a nice quick way for a musician to earn extra money. People like to hear songs and music they are familiar with, especially if they are having a few drinks. Pubs and clubs in this area are no different, live music is quite big around South Wales. 

Don;t get me wrong - you will not earn a fortune if you go down this cover band avenue but you will get work. This is the main point for any struggling musicians - work. Anyways - I felt I had to write this post as this is a step Acrimonious is having to take to get our next music 'out there'. A Oasis cover band may not be for you but there is bound to be a popular band that is - make music work for you!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Writing Your Own EP

I thought I'd write a post centering around writing your own EP this week as that is what I'm currently in the process of finishing. My personal life is pretty much in the shite again and John and Becca have not been available for a time now so I've carried on regardless. 

As far as tips for writing your own EP go I'm not sure I've got many - this is more of a short diary of events. I'm aiming for four songs - all acoustic and all me! The first two tunes are nearly complete and are sounding quite good. I have had a bit of trouble with the vocals though ( as usual ). 

I tend to do the vocals in sections an then glue them together at the end. You cannot do this live obviously but as recordings are a one off - who cares! After all, you want the best on a recording. I often use this technique on instruments as well as vocals. 

I've sort of enjoyed doing it so far. The music is pretty much organic and sounding pretty cool. The songs are no longer than three minutes and flow pretty easily. If I had known writing your own EP was this much fun I would have done it a lot sooner.  I know Acrimonious is a band situation but it's my band - I don't mind writing and producing everything. I plan on Acrimonious being the last musical name - I will take it to the grave with me.

I have been listening to Bon Iver's 'For Emma Forever Ago' album during my run the last couple of mornings. It is a great example of one band member ( Justin Vernon ) writing an album and getting a little help in from the other band members along the way. The majority of it is just Justin by himself acoustic - this is what I'm aiming for. John has already mentioned that he hears a lot of Bon Iver influence in my music. 

So I've got a couple more tunes to go. I think the next one will be a simple and short Ukulele tune I wrote last night - may lay the track down tonight. I'm excited - the album is out but I'm bored of that now - I need to move on and move on fast. Success will only come with work and I want my Acrimonious backlog to be second to none. 

As I said at the start of this post I am not an expert on writing your own EP. As a matter of fact this is the first EP I am producing to be released. I guess I just wanted to write this post to point out you should never stop writing or producing. Never rest on you laurels and keep the music flowing - no matter what the rest of the band are up to.  Writing your own EP is a great way to keep the music flowing. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Writing Music As A Band

Recently I've received a few mails regarding writing music as a band. To be honest I've only done this with two of the bands I've been in. Once was many moons ago in Leeds and now it's with John in Acrimonious. 

When writing music as a band it can help if you all have different music tastes - at the same time it can end up in a big argument. Keeping everyone happy is going to be hard work - 3 of you may love the new song and the other one may hate it. Who is going to be the singer? If he/she's not happy then you are going to have a tough time of it. 

So keeping the singer happy is primary - if the singer is you and you wrote the song then half the battle is already won! It's also a good rule to always finish the song you have started. It does not matter if you think the song sucks - finish it. Otherwise, you're nothing more than a dabbler, someone who toys around with instruments for fun. You can't be truely creative until you've completed a song, and then moved onto the next one.

On the Acrimonious track 'The Things In Life I Choose To Ignore' I wrote and produced all the music and even did the backing vocals before John had even heard it. This was writing music as a band in a brave new way but it certainly worked out well. When John Got to the studio we got relatively drunk and spent a short amount of time writing out some lyrics - worked like an absolute dream.

When I was in Rufus Quadrangle I wrote absolutely everything and produced it to. Saying this - when it came to live performances Jase chipped in with a few pretty cool ideas that we could not overlook - they worked live to.

I suppose it's all down to how comfortable you are with letting other people have input on your ideas. If you are arrogant and over-protective with your material you could well miss out on the tweak that makes you a hit. Then again this could work the opposite way - you could listen to a band member and ruin a hit by doing so. 

Writing music as a band should be fun - as soon as arguments come into the fray then the creativity will disappear. Me and John get on well in a studio environment and writing comes easy ( the alcohol certainly helps ). Write when you are all relaxed - not when you are all at each others throat's. 

We hope you found our 'writing music as a band' interesting and informative. As I pointed out I have had success writing alone and in a partnership situation. See what works for you ( and always finish what you've started ). 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Miking Electric Guitar Amps

The beauty of miking electric guitar amps is that you can closely replicate the actual tone produced by the guitarist. Miking electric guitar amps also give us the opportunity to change frequency response by simply moving the mic around the speaker cone ( which is a pretty cool trick! ). 

Most guitar amps are fitted with one or more speaker cones and here's how they work. The center of the cone produces high frequencies and the outside of the cone produces the lower frequencies of the tone. 

So there's a few of the basics - lets get into the guts of the matter. What do you need when miking electric guitar amps? First you are going to need a microphone ( dynamic or condenser - I tend to go along with dynamic for this particular task. Next an amplifier ( obviously! ), a microphone stand and a flashlight.

Right - the first thing to do when it comes to miking electric guitar amps is to find the cone of the amp. You use the flashlight for this - shine on the guitar amp grill at an angle and the cone of the speaker will show itself.

Next comes the mic placement. Now you don't want to get the mic to close to the grill of the amp. As a rule of thumb try to get at least an inch between the diaphragm of the mic and the grill of the amp. As I mentioned earlier in the post placement of the mic will effect the frequency response of your recording. Here we have three parts to the amp speaker - the dust cap, the cone and the surround. 

If you point the mic at the dust cap you are going to have a higher frequency response. Alternatively if you point the mic at the cone or surround you are going to get lower frequencies. People tend not to realize that you can use two microphones in this situation to expand the amount of frequency response caught. Why not use one close and one about 8 inches back - also one at the center of the cone and one to the surround of the speaker. 

When miking electric guitar amps you are not limited to just the front of the amp. Putting a mic in front of the amp and then one behind the amp will give a great tonal scope between the two. 

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you found our posting on 'miking electric guitar amps' useful. Below is a link off one of our sponsors. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Noise On A Microphone Recording

There is nothing worse than playing a great line on an acoustic only to find you have noise on a microphone recording. The initial level of your mic recording is always going to be low and you may not notice it first of all. When you bounce and boost the level of your recording you will boost the noise level to.

The best way to get a good, clean recording is to avoid noise on a microphone recording in the first place. It is possible that the signal level from the microphone isn't adequate for your recording device - that is a big problem.

If you go out and see a mic you like for $100 don't expect miracles - $100 is nothing for a decent mic. You get what you pay for and a $100 sound is not going to blow the music industry away. The more you pay for a mic the less you are going to notice noise in a recording.

Bear in mind that if you boost the high end of your recordings then you are going to be boosting the overall noise level - high frequencies tend to harbor a lot of noise. Remember - no matter what you are using to record your audio - digital, analog, PC based - there will always be a rule of thumb: They will all produce their own noise. Having a mic adding to this can completely ruin a recording.

Noise on a microphone recording can be reduced by using a minimum signal path. Try to keep the devices between the mic and the console at a minimum. I only use a DI Box in my signal path to the console. Constantly check your cables as well - these can be a source of 'hum' which is another very irritating source of noise.

Not all noise on a microphone recording is electrical - musicians can be a right pain in the arse to ( I know John is when I'm recording him ). Shuffling feet and lyric sheets, breathing in between singing and even traffic from outside can cause your recordings to suck. If you have a shock mount for the mic stand then use it.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you took something useful from our 'noise on a microphone recording' . Below is a link from one of our sponsors ( Gotta feed the kids see! ).