Hey, I hope all is good on your end. I am still mixing “Sleeping Alone Again”. A little unbelievable but, I have received more feedback from trusted musician friends so, the process continues. It was suggested to me that the background vocals during the chorus need to “pop” so to speak. So, I increased the volume and played around with a long reflection reverb and I believe those vocals are solid. There is also a short reflection reverb in there to add tonal warmth. My lead vocal was sounding distorted because I was trying to create more of a presence with that throughout the song. Through the process of elimination…by turning the plugins on and off…I deducted it was my compressor settings. I am using two in the channel strip. So, I went on a hunt for some good guidance on setting compressors and where to insert them in this digital set up. This is so not an analog world…there is no forgiveness…no headroom so, the compressors need to be set on the less aggressive side, in increments to avoid unwanted coloring. I found a wonderful website that explains vocal compression beautifully. On Musician on a Mission you will find a wealth of resources. They also offer courses and workshops. But, back to vocal compression…click HERE to go to Musician on a Mission – Vocal Compression: Learn How to Mix Like the Pros. I followed the advice given and although I tonally want to change my lead vocal with more tweaking of the effects…I am satisfied with the volume and lack of distortion! Keep learning!!

I hope all is as well as it can be for you. I am still working on mixing “Sleeping Alone Again”. I watched on YouTube the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Logic Pro Master Class Part 1 and approximately one half of Part 2, when the instructor started working on the edits of a vocal part that was just recorded. He started using Flex Pitch or what could be called pitch correction and then started to show and demonstrate the other parameters one could control, such as vibrato and note length. Well, I knew I could correct at least 2 notes that I had recorded in my lead vocal. So, I somehow managed to get to the editor that the instructor went to, and I say somehow because if you asked me now how I got there…I couldn’t tell you. I ended up “fixing” 6 notes but not entirely because I wanted the vocal part to be real and not perfect. The amount of correction is adjustable. Then I started to think that with so many options, tools, and parameters available, in the process of mixing you could “correct” everything. Drum tracks can be quantized, beats manipulated, guitar parts changed… either the rhythm or the notes. You could change the melody line, add virtual instruments, change sounds on the fly, and add effects anywhere. I know folks are recording very cool stuff without knowing a lick of music theory or knowing how to play an instrument. It just all makes me pause and think about what is art? What makes something humanly created? I did figure out some volume “automation” on a cello part I recorded on keyboards and that was very cool because it was a “trial by error” process. I hadn’t learned it by video yet. I’m used to faders. Apparently, I can use my iPad as a remote controller….but, that is just more to learn. I’ll get to that later. Be well!

With all the social distancing going on, it took a long while to have another pair of ears listen to what I had done with “Sleeping Alone Again”. Thankfully, I believe I’m on the right path because my colleague/friend, who has performed, conducted, and taught music for 30+ years, simply said it sounded great. That’s a relief because I must have listened to the song 500 times…and your mix can sound deceiving if you mix too long in one day or too often. Resting your ears is critical because they get “tired” just like your brain gets fatigued by listening to the same passage over and over. Do your best to take a break every 30 minutes. I haven’t always followed that advice because I get caught up in adjusting a section or part and 30 minutes turns into an hour and a half! At the 2 hour mark I just leave the whole song alone and save it.

I find it remarkable that everything was recorded in three days and not even a whole day on any of those days. I recorded 6 different vocal parts, 5 different guitar parts, one bass part, one stereo drum track, and 5 keyboard or synth parts all in real time. The mixing…that’s a different story for sure! Stay well and healthy. Sue

It’s been a couple of weeks, at least, since my last post. All of my audio files have been imported into Logic Pro from my Fostex decks. Right now, I have 32 tracks of audio. Just for the record, I have never mixed 32 tracks in a studio. I know there are some songs that end up being a hundred tracks…I’m not ready for that! I’m not sure if I’ll double the lead vocal. If I do, I’ll EQ it just a little different and have a little different effects on it. There are nights I listen to my vocals and question, is that what I want? Eventually, I will “bounce it off” a couple of trusted music friends to get their suggestions and thoughts. I find myself spending 1-2 hours a night “working” on “Sleeping Alone Again”. I’m still in mono and will need to learn the “Automation” tools of Logic Pro in order to adjust the volume and panning of parts. I know I will be moving some parts in different parts of the song. I wanted to check out a tutorial from Guildhall School of Music, but I haven’t found the time. It’s on YouTube and in 2 parts, each about an hour long. I’ll have to make the time…the more familiar you become with whatever software you are using the better your end result will be if you are going “full in”. There have been several audio engineers that have suggested using multiple compressors and multiple reverbs. I didn’t understand why but, I have a better sense now. The plugins or effects, are so precise and you can edit every parameter, that sometimes it takes multiples of the same effect to get the overall sound you are searching for. Using software like Logic Pro is almost limitless in its possibilities. I am trying to keep things simpler. There is no way during this first song I’ll learn all the “ins and outs”.

Stay safe and healthy!

Alright, I hope all is as well as it can be with you and your families. If you have loved ones who lost their lives in our Armed Forces, you have my condolences and sincere gratitude. Interesting dynamics across the USA right now in regards to “opening up” for business and possibly “opening up” many more cases of COVID-19. We’ll see…

Since my last post, I did receive my new “old” Mac mini. Since a new one runs around $1,100, I chose a 2014 model for under $650 on eBay. She has a clean install of Catalina OS with 2 TB of hard drive storage. This unit, I am dedicating to Logic Pro and DSP Quattro, which is my mastering software. Other than that, it has the bare bones.

I’ve imported 17 of the 30 tracks that I recorded on my Fostex V160exs. I have 2 of them linked together via a midi cable and Toslink optical cable. One is the “master” one is the “slave”. It is true the Fostex records at CD quality, which is less bit rate and sample rate than any DAW set up. But, I went this route because I can implement some of what I am familiar with, in other words, actually playing an instrument and using “outboard” equipment to lay a solid track down. I have ended up mixing as I have been importing. I import at a higher bit rate and sample rate for a little extra headroom. Everything is in ‘mono’ right now and will be until I finish all added effects. Panning will happen last. After each import I have been using mild compression and usually some EQ. I am making sure that sonically no two parts are cancelling each other out because they are “sitting” at the same frequencies.

I had recorded five different guitar parts and five different keyboard parts. Not really on purpose…I had an idea and recorded it…then another idea sprung up. You get the picture. It is true they are all doing different things and sound different but, I will be interweaving these parts as, to me, it will just be too busy. If a part isn’t helping the overall sound or feel in a section of the song… best to leave it out.

Thankfully, I own a boat and the marina opened up about 10 days ago…so, since the boat is 25 years old…she needs a serious wax job every year. I’m off to get it done! Stay well!!

So, I’ve been getting tutorials from Chris Vandeviver, a mix engineer, at Why Logic Pro Rules or WPLR. If you would like to check out his site, click HERE. Chris has created templates that he gives to you, after you sign up for his emails, so you can practice mixing and he does a very good job at explaining the different functions within Logic Pro X. He has multiple YouTube videos and I had been doing a lot of research listening to a lot of different audio engineers explain Logic Pro. He seemed to me to be the most detailed and emphasized you have everything you need within the program if you choose not to spend money on third party plugins. Today he sent a message about Logic Pro and the update available and the new features. It is version 10.5, which adds a better Sampler and integration, Live Loops, a Step Sequencer, and improvements in the Drum Machine Designer. Alright, so I tried to update Logic Pro X on my Macbook Pro…only to find out…it’s too old to get the update! I do have a Mini Mac that could handle it but, it is in an office area, not in the music studio. I’m using that computer for video projects (my largest display is there) and office “stuff”. Well, it looks like the laptop will be used for streaming purposes and for my BeatBuddy updates. I ended up buying another used Mini Mac, a couple of years newer than the other one…I’ll put that full time in the studio when it arrives. Now Chris will be making new and updated tutorials and I will be attempting to learn the new features. Actually, I’m grateful that this came along before I started the actual mixing on the laptop. I was really close to uploading the audio files and starting the process. I would have had to transfer everything to the new Mac. C’est la vie. Stay safe and well!

OK, another week flew by. Before NY went into it’s “Pause Mode”, I was making arrangements to start shooting the video for my first recording. Of course, I could wear my mask if I do any shoots out in public…I wouldn’t have to lip sync…no one would know! Well, all of that is on hold. But, I did “find” a little project for myself to do which is important for branding purposes and it potentially will make my videos look more professional. That little ingredient is a Logo Reveal. Essentially, your logo with your brand or company name is presented for a few seconds at the beginning of your videos, just like the big picture studios. Now, you can go online and find some really cool templates if you want to pay for that. There are literally hundreds to choose from. There are several companies that offer a monthly plan so you can use whatever they have whenever you like, or you can pay for the one template you choose.

Well, being the true DIY person I am, I choose to create a logo reveal using Motion. One of the very cool things about Motion is that you can create a Generator for your Final Cut Pro projects. So now, it will be readily available anytime I need it. It may not be as fancy or “polished” as some of the templates I saw. Some were amazing! But, being that I never used Motion before, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to figure out (kinda, sort of), and within 2 sessions with myself…it was done. I hope you like it! Feel free to give me some pointers.

What only plays for seconds, takes hours to create!

Whether you are a songwriter, poet, novelist, painter, sculptor, or cartoonist, the events and societal aspects are changing so fast, one can find inspiration every day or every hour. We see the bravery and strength of our first responders, medical providers, scientists, and the folks working in our supermarkets or other essential businesses…the compassion…seen in the pictures of food banks, or cars lined up for food, or the social services agencies still providing services to a myriad of populations in need…the fear…not only because of the virus itself, but the lack of food security and financial security. So much so, that some are losing their sense of public safety or civic duty to each other and want their “lives back” even though the truth is, no one’s life will go back to what it was. Some of us have been changed dramatically, some of us may reevaluate our lives…what is needed and what is not. We see the sadness…so many have died and so many have not been able to have the closure that we have come to expect. We see the joy…those loved ones who have recovered, the parades of cars…for someone’s birthday or wedding, the simple pleasures of spending time with family or taking a walk. This time period should never be forgotten…or it may happen again…those of us in the arts…well, I’m counting on us to find a way to keep the “good” going and to acknowledge and preserve the more difficult memories. Stay safe and healthy.

I hope you and your families are well. We are all having to find other ways to make our lives happen in the best manner possible. I am used to performing for audiences two to four times a week. Well, I don’t see that happening at least for a few more months, maybe more. So, I went on a mission last week to find out how I could live stream. I figured there are thousands of people doing this for all types of learning or sharing everyday and I could potentially do it too. Since, I don’t want to invest a lot of money into something I don’t know how much I’ll actually do, I did a bunch of research. Hopefully, you may find some of it helpful.

You may already know that Facebook and YouTube offer streaming free. Facebook has Facebook Live and YouTube has YouTube Live. Facebook doesn’t require much setup at all. You just need to go to your “Create” line and click on “Live”. You get your streaming key for that stream session and plug that into your steaming software. In YouTube you need to enable your account to live stream by going into your settings and then you need to verify your account. A text or phone call from Google allows to get a verification code and then you input it. You will need to wait 24 hours for it to be ready to use.

I chose to learn how to use OBS Studio, or Open Broadcaster Software. It can do video recording and live streaming. It is free and it is flexible and easy to use. It works seamlessly with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and many others. (If you plan to live stream on Instagram you will need a little piece of software called YellowDuck. It is also free.) OBS is open-source, so developers create plug ins and useful tools as they see fit. I highly recommend getting the Advanced Scene Switcher plug in so that you can sequence your screen shots the way you like. I plan on using two cameras and am currently looking for another Logitech webcam that will work well with my Logitech 9000. The reason being is the built in camera on my Mac Book Pro behaves completely different and is not adjustable. The two camera shots look too different. I know there are a couple of pieces of software that can address that, but I am opting for a similar camera so that I can use them both with other computers I have. I found a free piece of software from phoboslab.org called CameraControl. Logitech has no software for Mac OS and the Logitech tends to over expose the shot. With CameraControl you can adjust the exposure, white balance, and gain. That’s just enough control to improve your picture.

I also did some learning, courtesy of YouTube tutorials, about lighting. This week I will be getting a lighting kit so I can set up a three point lighting system. Proper terminology is the “key light”, “fill light” and “back light”. For improved audio I will be using a Samson Go Mic, which is USB.

I also wanted to create a watermark for my videos. That’s for branding and copyright purposes. I took a .png of my logo and made a transparency out of it. That took a while as my logo has a lot of nooks and crannies. I am familiar with Photoshop, but I chose to use a free open-source piece of software called GIMP. Again, thanks to YouTube and a couple of tutorials, I was able to complete the task! With YouTube you are able to upload your watermark and then it will automatically be placed on all your uploaded videos. With OBS you can also layer your watermark on your live streams and recorded videos.

If you want to live stream on multiple platforms at the same time you will need another tool. A simulcasting host. This will cost you on a monthly basis and the prices are varied. Castr.io seems to have the best pricing and if you pay annually you can save 20%. Ok, That’s enough for now! Good luck and be well!

Empowering and Protecting Your Family During the COVID-19 Pandemic Video Dave Price, ICU Weill Cornell Medical Center NYC
I hope this message finds you and your loved ones well. This video was so helpful to me, I felt it would be a disservice not to share it as much as possible. A friend and ex colleague of mine, who is a psychiatric nurse, sent this to me a few days ago. I watched it twice and found it enlightening, practical, clear, and empowering. It is 57 minutes long, but I think it would be safe to say, you may have had worries (fear), anxiety (fear), concern (fear), and a general lack of concise knowledge in regards to keeping yourself, your family, or other loved ones safe…for more than 57 minutes (it’s worth the time).
Dr. Dave Price, who is an ICU doctor at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, also explains in the same simple terms, what is best practice if a family member does contract Covid-19. If you find this at all helpful…please share it. Stay safe, healthy and  grounded.  Thank you, Sue
Please click on the link for the Vimeo video: Empowering and Protecting Your Family During the COVID-19 Pandemic

#covid19 #covid19resources #bestpractices #coronavirus