What’s an Artist?

I go on these spurts every once in a while where I’ll revisit some of the forums that I’m registered at. Depending on my workload or how I’m feeling, this will be every other week or every other month. It’s kind of like this blog on my site – not really a regular thing. Just when I feel that I have something to say or I’d like to poke around a bit to see how people are doing. I got into a discussion with a few guys (at least I’m assuming they’re guys … wouldn’t matter anyway) that evolved into a general discussion of what is considered an “art form”. The original posting was asking whether Mastering was an art form and hence were folks who do mastering “artists”? If you’ve ever participated in an online forum, you’ll know that there are always a few folks who get on the threads who just seem to want to rock the boat. Don’t know whether they’re doing it to just get folks to flame them or whether they truly believe what they’re saying. Of course, there was one of these guys on there who dug his feet in stating that the only true artist in the chain was the person who wrote the music and everyone else involved was a facilitator. He equated a recordist, mixer and mastering engineer to being similar to the guy driving the truck to deliver bricks to a construction site. I can sort of see where he’s coming from. Depending on the project, there are different functions that COULD be viewed as contributing more than others to the final outcome. BUT That does not preclude the fact that there is a creative element being evoked by each and every person that touches the album along the way. Those creative elements require skill and experience, but they also require VISION. Being able to realize that vision is being an artist. If everyone involved after the initial author of a piece of music was simply a facilitator, then there’d be no differentiation on who you had play your music, who recorded it, who mixed it and who mastered it. You’d be able to pick ten different people from a sea of possible candidates and get the exact same product every time. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Every person brings a different perspective to the table – there are those you’d trust and there are those you stay away from. To me, being and Artist is about creating or manipulating something (tangible or abstract) with the intent of eliciting an emotion from the “art consumer”. I see everyone in the process having an active hand in that goal – that’s why they’re...

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Cheep (rim shot) Speaker Stands

My new space, “The Incubator” finally gave me the room and opportunity to PROPERLY have two sets of monitor speakers for mixing. I had built my original monitor speaker stands back 10 years ago, and they’ve served me quite well through two moves back and forth across the continent. The cool thing about them is that they’re easy and cheap to make AND they’re mighty effective too. I spent probably less than $30 on materials and put them together in around an hours’ time. They’re a simple design with both sturdiness and speaker isolation in mind. As you’ll see in the photo gallery, I build the stands so that there is a gap between the top/bottom plates and the post. The intent here is to make it very troublesome for sound vibrations from the speakers to travel down the post. Vibrations lose signficant energy as they move through different materials – forcing them to transfer from the plate, the brackets, the post, the bracket and then the final plate before hitting the floor is the idea here. A possible upgrade to this design might be to insert rubber or some other dampening material grommits / washers between the brackets and the wood plates / post. Materials: One 4×4 post cut to two 3-foot lengths. A nice piece of thick (3/4″ or 1″) plywood to cut into top and bottom plates 16 shelving brackets Bunch o’ screws Tools: Drill / Screw driver Level / Angle Ruler Pencil / Marker The Materials Draw an “X” from the corners to get the center of the top and bottom plates Aforementioned “X” Measure and mark center-lines of each side of the post and line up with “X” on plates Position shelving brackets Mark where end/center screw will go Attach brackets to plate Position post into brackets and leave an (approx.) 1/4″ air-gap between plate and post Ah, heck, screw in all of them… A good square is your best friend as you attach the brackets to the post The finished...

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Taming the Clucks – Part II

I know that these posts are slow and infrequent – appologies for that, but a LOT of different things have happened in life, work and everything lately. The IHR podcast has suffered unfortunately, but will definitely be propped up in the weeks to come. I’ve actually finished and been using the “Incubator” for the past month or so – really enjoying the space. There’s always going to be SOMETHING that needs to be tweaked, improved, adjusted in the studio, but, I’m extremely happy with the result. I’m always excited to fire things up and work on stuff in here. Here’s a pic of the final product: For this post, I thought I’d present a gallery of what I did to construct corner bass traps. I’ve been mulling over different designs out there when designing the space: I opted for option 1 (wedge) with a bit of some space behind them as this looked to be the best “bang for the buck” option. I had the space and materials to accomplish this, so I went for it: Insulation saw and angle = essentials A wedge A pile o wedgies Frame anchored to floor Crisscrossed suspended ceiling wire to secure wedges Long edge of wedge overlaps frame and wire holds it in. A stack o’ wedgies – with space behind Front view of stack o’ wedgies Burlap stretched across frame The finished product!  ...

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Taming the Clucks in the Incubator

I’ve neglected updating my blog AND getting IHR 101 out. Life has taken over my … well, life lately and between dealing with work, family and building out the Incubator, I haven’t had much time to pay attention to tossing up a post. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of fodder to throw your way and here’s the first picture blog of building sound treatment panels (some call them traps) for my studio. Background I researched a lot through various “DIY sound treatment” search variations on Google and found a LOT of different designs. Gary Cable has a very good design detailed on the IHR site. I got inspired to design my own based upon one simple principle: to maximize the exposed area of insulation batts. With this in mind, and considering that, at maximum, two batts are relatively light-weight, I opted to construct a relatively thin frame to which the batts would be attached with fabric. I chose to construct the rectangular frame out of 1×2’s and use burlap to wrap the whole thing up. All-in-all, the material for the 8 panels I built cost well under $200. I’ve JUST gotten the opportunity to test out the room with the panels, corner bass-traps and cloud (more on those in a later post) in place and … I am freakin’ impressed. Here are the pics: At the outdoor fabric store on Kingsway in Vancouver … Gortex anyone? Cutting 10 meters of burlap. I’m sad to say that I know my way around Home Depot far too well now. Opening the Roxul Safe ‘n Sound insulation – interior sound-proofing variety Pile o’ burlap The pieces of the frame – used 1″x2″ lengths to maximize absorption surface The workhorse of the operation – the reciprocating saw!!! Arr! arr! arr!!! Prepping top/bottom pieces of the frames with guide holes and screws. Assembled frames (with floating ceiling wire “X” to support batts) Ditched the wooden corners and opted for metal bracing instead Used floating ceiling wire to create an “X” to support middle of batts in frame. Put two 3″ batts on top of burlap, and wrapped around stapling back to the frame. Like wrapping Christmas presents! The assembled products ready for hanging Final step: use 4″ screws to “float” panels off the...

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Three Reasons Music Theory Could Help Your Mix

You’ve heard of all the pre-mix “rituals” and administrative things that you’re supposed to do before you mix … haven’t you? You know, all those things about organizing your tracks, editing your tracks, putting in markers, colouring things, loading templates… all that stuff. Well, of course, that’s golden advice! Anything that’ll help you work more efficiently and effectively is going to be a plus. I like to include creating chord charts (and possibly lead sheets) of the track I’m mixing as one of those key pre-mixing essentials. I haven’t taught music theory at Ai for a while now, but when I did, I’d always have a course pre-amble about how music theory can help the audio engineer. Sure, it’s not absolutely necessary and you can definitely create a good mix without them, but hear me out. Pitch Correction I am participating in Brandon Drury’s Slate Digital Cup event – a year long mixing competition where there are monthly mixing challenges that forum members compete in. March’s mix challenge was a very non-standard song – non-standard in structure and in harmonic content. It was a very cool song – you can listen to my mix of the song if you’d like. I started out by trying to figure out the basic sections of the song and inserting the appropriate markers – while listening to the tracks, I could tell that the chords being used weren’t your standard I, IV and V chords. I then went through and dove into chord analysis mode only to confirm what I’d suspected – the song was using non-diatonic chords throughout. This meant that there wasn’t a specific “major” or “minor” scale from which all the chords were being derived, but rather the chords being used were borrowed from a variety of keys and scales throughout. The singer had a very interesting voice, but his pitch was challenged in some places. … In comes the pitch correction plug-in (I like to use the Waves pitch corrector).   What most pitch correction applications will allow you to do is pick which scales to limit the pitches to (or you can do this manually by selecting notes you’d like to include or exclude). In the instance of this song, if you assumed that the first or “home” chord you heard was the key of the entire song, and you set your pitch-correction software to limit pitches to that key, then once the chord changed, you’d be excluding notes that might be crucial to and possibly including ones that clashed the next chord. A couple of mixes unfortunately fell into this trap and nothing sticks out more than a pitch-corrected singer hitting the wrong note. Having knowledge of the harmonic content of the song you’re mixing and how different notes will work with that harmony will definitely keep your pitch-correction adventures from going down the wrong path – you know, the path with quicksand at the end… Mixing & Matching Unless a band or artist has explicitly told me: “DON’T MUTE, ADD OR MOVE ANYTHING AROUND”, I’ll venture into those territories to see if there’s some added value that I can provide. I’ll very rarely pull out my musical instruments and add my own tracks to someone else’s song – unless they’ve asked me. Rather, I like to see if there’s something I can do with the included material to give the client a possible alternate spin on the track. It’s usually subtle, but sometimes, inspiration strikes! My rule when doing this is to be able to mute or take out my changes easily if need be –...

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Tethering the “Incubator”

Yeah, yeah… I haven’t been posting for the past little while. And I’ll skip the excuses, but please head on over to the IHR site to get a hint about what’s been taking so long… In Vancouver, the sun was out and Spring seems to have arrived. I took the break in weather as an opportunity to tackle one of the most important projects on my list to bring the Incubator into reality. For those who don’t know, the “Incubator” is what I’m calling the shed on our property – I blogged about it back in the fall with my plans to convert it into a studio. It’s got power, but it does not have network connectivity. I had to fix that. Earlier in the week was a trip to Home Depot to pick up 40′ of 1/2″ PVC pipe, some joints, Cat5e cable and other useful stuff. So here’s a photo album of how I rectified the connectivity issue: The path from the house Enlisting child labour … key to success Bribery with video games works best The work in progress WIP II Some of the materials – 140′ of Cat5e Cable Poked through with conduit next to power. Laying out lengths to plan for connection Other end (house) successfully infiltrated PVC pipe cut and test fitted Measuring out the double run of Cat5e cable Wire placed ready to be pulled thru conduit Pulling the wire through conduit in sections Using some nasty stuff to fuse PVC together Everything ready to be covered PVC entering the “Incubator” PVC entering the house The well deserved final step. ;)...

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