We wanted to share our experiences of making and releasing music with you. We’re by no means experts at any of this, but we hope that the song path may help to inspire you, or dig you out of any holes you have found yourself in, technically or otherwise..

 

Be-atletudes: Blessed are the Single Taskers

BlickCassetteSMALL

In the first of, we hope many blog based collaborations, we are going to share the words of Matt Blick. Matt’s site is over at: http://beatlessongwriting.blogspot.co.uk

All words are by Matt Blick, and are published on http://www.abubillamusic.com with his permission.

 

 

Blessed are the Single Takers

 

On 15th Aug 1969, while the Woodstock festival was kicking off in Bethel, New York, George Martin & The Beatles were in London laying down the orchestral overdubs for five of the songs on Abbey Road . For once the Beatles weren’t at the centre of the musical universe. But more remarkable from a songwriter’s perspective this was one of the few times they worked on several songs at once.

Saving the world, one song at a time

Like every other songwriter on the planet Lennon & McCartney always had numerous ideas on the back burner but one thing they habitually did (in terms of recording) was work on every song to completion. They very rarely focused on more than one song at a time.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

Picture just about every band you know. They go into the studio to record an album. First they lay down all the drum tracks. With b-sides involved this may be up to 25 songs. And 25 bass tracks. And so on. Weeks may elapse between laying down each instrument. Once the initial scratch tracks are done the rest of the band may not even be present. And even at the point that the songs are tracked the vocal lines and lyrics may still be unwritten. That’s certainly the case with Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, U2 and Metallica.

The Beatles however went in and hammered away at a song till it was finished and only when it was in the can did they move on to the next one. The only modern artist I know of with a similar way of working is Prince.

Ever wondered how the Beatles (and Prince) were able to handle such a wide range of styles convincingly?

Because this way of working allows you to totally submerge yourself in the song. It’s just too hard to switch gears between being children’s entertainers one minute (Yellow Submarine) and drug-fuelled visionaries (A Day In The Life) the next.

Rather than getting stuck in a “rhythm guitar overdub” frame of mind this approach allows you to get into a “song XYZ” frame of mind. After all, how unified do an album’s worth of bass lines need to be? Not as unified as all the elements of a song do.

Doing a complete song in a short space of time also gives you a much clearer sense of the song’s merits. How many rhythm tracks have been laboriously polished only to discover that, when the vocal track arrives at the 11th hour, the song sucks?

False Economy

So why don’t more people do it the Abbey Road way? Well, when it takes a whole day to mic up a drum kit, it makes financial sense to record as many drum tracks as you can in one go.

Here’s a bunch of observations on that.

This way of saving money leads to poorer songs. Poorer songs = lower sales. Lower sales = less money. So the strategy is “hey, if we spend less money, we’ll make less money!” Not a great idea!

Creating a perfect drum sound has become a quest for the holy grail requiring a mic for every piece of the kit, a channel for every mic & e.q. & outboard effects for every channel. No wonder it takes so long. Is the amount of time and money spent worth it?

There’s a stunning lack of unified drum sounds even on individual Beatles tracks. But be honest. Have you ever noticed the change in drum sounds on She Loves You  (1:23) and Strawberry Fields Forever (1:00) or the accidental phasing on From Me To You  (0:06)? Or is your focus on the song?

Maybe we would be less anal about drum sounds if we were trying to capture more of the bigger picture all at once. Is the kit fetish a symptom of engineers always having to work with vocal-less tracks. Who knows?

What’s best?

What’s best for the band and the song should never be overruled by what’s most convenient for the studio and the producer.What a band needs most is a large room with some separation, which is most like their normal playing environment.

In the 60’s Abbey Road was a combination of outdated gear and huge rooms that was pretty much at the Beatles’ disposal 24/7. By comparison many modern studios are overstocked broom closets too claustrophobic for any band bigger than the White Stripes.

Space matters more than equipment. Really.

Some Application

If your Abbey Road is a laptop and a few mics there’s little advantage doing any instrument wholesale anyway. So immerse yourself in the song, finish it and move on.

In a ‘real’ studio keep the time from the first count in to the final overdub as short as possible. Even if you go back later and remix or rerecord (as they did with Strawberry Fields, Ob-La-Di & Hold Me Tight) you’ve still wasted less time and focus. If one song at a time sounds too radical, try thinking of your album as a collection of 3 track EPs. Finish each EP totally before moving on.

Try to write something out of your genre. A kid’s song, a thrash metal song, a hymn, a comedy number, an R&B jam. Give yourself to it for a few days. Complete it, mix it and move on. Devoting yourself to a single (left field) project for a few days could produce amazing results and even refresh you as a songwriter.

How To Sell Your Soul

Terrifying advice from Ralph Murphy, analyzing pop and country number one hits.

Tom Robinson Talks About Lyrics

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Tom Robinson does a master class on songwriting as part of the BBC Introducing series.

Zane Lowe Hosts The Art Of Songwriting

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Part of the BBC Introducing series.

Gary Barlow Talks Songwriting

bbc-introducing

An hour with apparently the most fanciable member of Take That. Although I have always preferred Robbie, particularly after he made that video with Nicole Kidman. That video is similar to how I picture my future Christmas celebrations with Rosie and our many cats. Or, a cross between that and the black and white Glee Christmas episode.

Part of the BBC Introducing series

Tati vs The Internet: Songwriting Tips, Shot Down

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I am skeptical of songwriting tips found on the internet for the following really good reasons:

 

  1. Songwriting is a flexible art. Obviously. How-To guides on the internet tend to imply there are ‘better’ ways to write songs than the ones that may work for you.
  2. How-To guides often make things sound trite. No songwriter, especially bratty ones such as myself, want to feel that what they’re doing can be replicated by someone reading an article on ‘knowing your goal’ and ‘music vs robots’.
  3. Often they totally sidetrack off writing songs and start going on about why you should write songs sitting under the greenwood tree by a lake. For inspiration, yah?

 

Hopefully I am not entirely right about this (unlikely, as I am always right, about everything), as I am going on an epic journey that is, no question, going to turn me into a grumpy poop by lunch. I am going to trawl through the internet roadkill brought to me by Google, and see if there are diamonds hidden in the mangled innards of the ‘how to write songs’ articles I find.

 

21 Songwriting tips by Songwriter Ken Hill

Ken Hill uses a lot of analogies here, like ‘scratching in the dirt’ etc. ‘Minds are like flowers’ tells us, in a convoluted way, that if we want to become good at something, we have to work at it, and stay in practice. A very good point, Ken Hill. I am all for the ‘write one song every week, even if it is only 50 seconds long’ school of songwriting. Good work Ken. He also tells us there should be a reason for everything we write – don’t write filler. I also agree here. He says we should let the song take us where it wants, and that we should keep ourselves healthy. I disagree with these; firstly, health is irrelevant to songwriting, unless you can only write songs from mountaintops. Secondly, I believe that songs still need to be reined in; if you’re trying to convey something with a song, you have to keep it focused. Let a song run away and it ends up with dodgy rhymes and a seven minute long prog rock solo in the middle. That’s not what we want. Although this takes us back to problem no. 1; that might be exactly you want, and my opinion will be worthless to a lot of songwriters. The best thing I’ve got from this article, really, is Ken Hill’s advice to throw out average songs. Definitely agree. If a song is average, it’s not worth singing, let alone rehearsing and maybe recording, or playing to an audience. Anyone can write songs of a low standard; children do it all the time.

 

Robin Frederick’s Songwriting Tips

Robin actually has quite a few good tips here. She tells us to use contrast to get attention, and that we should force ourselves to be creative rather than waiting around for an idea. This is my music writing mantra, and it’s never more frustrating than when I force myself to be creative and all my creations come out smothered in their own BORING. But I maintain, despite the boring thing, that it’s pretty good advice. Only luvvies wait around for the inspiration of God. Try reading the autobiography of Hector Berlioz, definitely a guest at my invite-anyone-dead-or-alive dinner party in the sky. There’s a whole lot of wild inspiration and passion in there to make up for the fact that he actually has to study his art and work really frigging hard at it. There’s none of this composing-as-catharsis bull (and if that isn’t bull after all, then I am utterly jealous). Robin tells us to look for the melody in our lyric; that we should follow speech patterns to find a natural melody. Very clever, Janacek did that in many of his operas (spoiler: they all end horribly, even the one about the fox). She also tells us to stick to one genre, per song I imagine, rather than per career.

 

10 Tips On How To Boost Your Creative Side When Writing Songs

Oh dear. This one gets silly. So here, we are faced with gems such as what are your passions, tune into your emotions and do crazy stuff: ‘musicians lead colourful lives’, aka DONiT BE REALLY BORING. We do not want ‘my headband’ here.

So far, so pointless. ‘Writing whilst high?’: question mark allows for personal choice. Okay so everyone can rattle out the Beatles at this point, but I’m going with Thomas Hardy:

‘…however terrestrial and lumpy their appearance just now to the mean unglamoured eye, to themselves the case was different. They followed the road with a sensation that they were soaring along in a supporting medium, possessed of original and profound thoughts, themselves and surrounding nature forming an organism of which all the parts harmoniously and joyously interpenetrated each other’.

Translation: when you’re not sober, you’re probably really boring. And as I have mentioned already, no one likes a boring song. Or person. Just keepin’ it real.

Okay two other tips on this page are ‘leave the house’, ‘use a hat’ and ‘cheat’, so… I’m moving on.

 

The Essential Secrets of Songwriting: Songwriting Tips by Gary Ewer

Gary Ewer wants us to buy his e-book. These are everywhere. Urghhhhhhh. I really think if you’re that stuck, the worst thing to do is buy one of these books. Personally, I find it really interesting and often helpful (all the best musicians steal ideas) to talk to other songwriters, or listen to really good music (and not get depressed at how I’ll never be that good, preferably), or just read an actual book. Do something that’s actually mentally stimulating instead of buying some hokum book that helps you wallow in frustration. Grrr.

 

Blogging Muses

http://www.bloggingmuses.com/

This is actually a pretty useful blog. They don’t go by the list-generic-metaphors school of songwriting; there are actual articles in here that describe how I feel and are a bit soothing (mostly to know I’m not alone, even though I know I’m not alone because, lets face it, all creative people have similar problems. We none of us are that special. Deal with it). Have a browse.

 

Ultimate Song Writing: Songwriting Tips To Help You Write Better Songs

Probably the silliest songwriting article I’ve ever read, although we haven’t got to wikihow and ehow yet… Tip no. 1: focus on love. Because there’s ‘no point re-inventing the wheel’. Okay, I’m going to stop you right here and point out that this is how Jessie J’s dreadful first album was born. Not to hate on Jessie again, and, indeed, I don’t hate Jessie, I just can’t reconcile myself with the fact that no one mentions how painfully bad that album was etc.  She could produce way better content than she does. STEP IT UP JESSIE (Domino, whislt boring, was way better than the album, so maybe she already is)! Suffice to say, advice as generic as ‘focus on love…say what you feel’ is how this happens:

This enlightening songwriting guide to help you write songs also says you should stop thinking about the money (what money?! That’s just smug) and that you should re-write and polish your songs. Brilliant, so that’s what I should be doing with those half finished songs I’m not happy with yet! Wow, never would have figured that one out.

 

I told you I’d be a poop by lunch. The hungrier I get, the more the grumpus attacks. I don’t know what I’m going to have for lunch yet; we have bagels, but they’re the wrong kind (I like the onion-y ones) and I have some beetroot that needs to be eaten but I’m just not in the mood for salad, or health. I had a really delicious spicy chicken soup last week… mmmm….

 

Goodbye.

The Song Path: Idea

IDEA

This section is all about the ideas that become songs. Check out the following posts, or scroll down for more info:

Idea Generation – Getting Ideas for songs

Idea Generation – Inspiration vs Perspiration

Idea Generation: Getting ideas for songs…

We start every blog the same – we’re still learning and don’t position these ‘Song Cycle’ blogs as the lessons from masters.  These are lessons from amatuers, eager to share and eager to learn… In this blog, we talk about our experience around song writing ideas…. (more…)

Idea Generation: Inspiration vs. Perspiration

No, we’re not very good at any of this song-writing stuff.  And yes, everyone else is better.  But the spirit of Abubilla Music is a community that learns and shares.    So here are our views to date on the old inspiration vs. persperation debate about song-writing. (more…)

Voices: Eric from Boston: DIY Beat Boxing…

Okay, it is true I get distracted easily.  But, if you find yourself bored at work, and can’t find any dead flies, there here’s a nice little project for you:  DIY Beat-boxing.

The Song Path – Development

Development

This section is about all taking the ideas you’ve had in the first section, and working them into a song.
Check out the following posts for more info, or scroll down for more info:

Song Development: Collaboration

Song Development: Intro’s

Song Development: Song Structure

Song Development: Collaboration

We start each of these blogs with the same point:  we write these not because we’re good at any of these, but rather because were students of all things music.  As we learn, we share.  We hope you’ll continue to do the same, as well.  This is a little blog about collaboration in song development… (more…)

Song Development: Intro’s

More rubbish on song-writing…and we start with the same warning to you.  We don’t think we’re good at this stuff.  We’re learning.   But, we’re also committed to sharing lessons as we go…  So these are our lessons about intro’ss.  Remember this is about song writing, not pick up lines… (more…)

Development: Song Structure

Yep, you know the routine – we write these as students not masters and hope you enjoy the sharing.  This is a rough overview of song-structure to give you some basic vocabulary, a few examples  and then five basic  lessons. (more…)

Looking After Your Voice

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Auntie Beeb is here to help us take care of ourselves! Part of the BBC Introducing series.

Tom Robinson, Performance Coach

bbc-introducing

Tom Robinson offers some sensible performance suggestions and very neatly doesn’t embarrass his volunteers. Part of the BBC Introducing series.

The Song Path – Rehearsal

Rehearsal

This section is about all rehearsing and routine-ing your material, and how that can help you in the studio in the long run.
Check out the following posts for more info, or scroll down for more info:

Rehearsal: Outro’s

Rehearsals – getting the most out of rehearsal time

The Song Path: Getting the most from rehearsals

After booking rehearsal time, and arranging band members’ (and probably their better halves’) schedules to enable their attendance, the next thing you need to think about is what you are going to rehearse.
Whether you are rehearsing material to record in the studio or to play live, play through the songs. Then play through it again. Have a listen to it each time, and each time concentrate on your part – which bit could be better from a band perspective? If it is just an individual part that needs practice, then make a note of it and move on – there’s no point rehearsing a bass line when you have an expensive rehearsal room and a full band waiting to move onto the next song.

 

After you have rehearsed the full song a few times, move onto:

 

Starts and endings

Check the start of each song – practice who in the band starts – is it a click in from the drummer? A guitar riff or a bass part maybe? Make a note of this – if you’re a bit nervous about the gig, you can put it on the setlist. Rehearse the intro to the song a few times – stopping at the first chorus maybe.

 

Then think about how you end the song – does it sound tight and polished, or does it sound like the bass player has fallen over the drum kit?

Again, rehearse the outro a few times – from the end of the final chorus to the end of the song. Try it a few times – could you be doing it better? Work at it until it is tight, and then move on to the next song, and do the same again.

 

Full Run Through

Towards the end of your booking, set aside some time to run the whole set – especially if it is the last rehearsal before your big gig, or your session in the studio.

Listen carefully to the starts and ends – and make sure they are as you rehearsed. These are generally the most important bits of the song- an audience are more likely to forgive indiscretions with tempo or tuning if you start and stop at the same time, in a rehearsed and uniform fashion – remember the start is the bit that grabs them and the end is the bit where they clap, so these are generally the most important bits of the song.

There’s also a lot to be said for checking the set list to see how songs flow into each other – if 5 of your songs are in the same key, then maybe spread them through the set – if 5 are ballads, then maybe try for some more upbeat songs, unless of course ballads are your thing – and even then try to work something less soporific into your set.
Remember the golden rule – sometimes you’ll do something un-rehearsed and it will be amazing, but most of the time it will just sound poor and un-rehearsed….so… Failing to prepare means you prepare to fail.

 

 

Rehearsals: Outros

You guys have been giving a lot of feedback on these, but we still want to slap the warning label across – we’re rubbish and we know it, we’re learning and we show it.  These are our lessons.  So now a bit about outros, following the tour de force on intros. (more…)

The Song Path – Demo

Demo2

This section is about all recording a demo version of your song, and how this can help you to make decisions about structure, form and sound.
Check out the following posts for more info, or scroll down for more info:

Demo – Lead Sheets

Demo: Lead Sheets

Lyrics and Chord Charts

An important stage of the song writing process is to present your song in a way that other musicians can read and play it.

There’s no point having the best tune and chord structure that has ever been written, if you can’t give it to other musicians in a way which they can read it easily, quickly and play along to it.

So, here are 10 tips that we’ve found helpful with lyrics and chord sheets:
(more…)

Talent Management Continued…

12.06.05 Ripley

To attract musicians to the studio requires three things:  1) Pizza, 2) Coffee/Tea and 3) puppies.  We have referred to our talent management strategies in the past with early pictures of the new unnamed puppy (click here).     Here is the latest:

We are having fierce naming debates; here’s the short list:

1. Ripley

2. Shady

3. Roxy (but we just found out one of her sisters is called Roxy)

4. KC

5. LC or Ellsie

thoughts Welcome.

 

The Song Path – Record

Record

This part of the Song Path is about how to record your songs, and hints and tips to help you on your way:

Microphones: Cardioid

Naming your tracks in ProTools

Using Playlists in ProTools

Using Multiple MOTU Traveler Interfaces for Recording

Recording – how to build a home recording studio part 1

Song path: Recording: Cardioid Microphones

mg12dynamicmicsm58

In the Abubilla studio we have a variety of microphones, which do different things in different ways. Microphones are transducers – they convert one type of energy into another – so acoustic energy into electrical energy. They work in an opposite way to loudspeakers, which convert electrical energy to acoustic energy. You can actually use a speaker cone as a microphone, but more on this in another edition of the song path.

The way each of these microphones work is different, and as a result this affects the amount of sound they pick up.

One way in which they differ is in their directivity or ‘Polar Pattern’. This describes how sounds which come from different directions will be picked up by the microphone. This is a useful indicator, as you can use the directivity of the microphone to plan your recording and how different sounds are picked and recorded.

The first pattern we are going to look at is CARDIOID.

As the word suggests, it is shaped a little like a heart, but has also been compared to the shape of an apple without the stalk.

So, in the case of the microphone shown here, we can see the heart shape. The back side of the mic (or the cleft of the apple) can be seen to be very good at rejecting sound. So you can use this to your advantage. If there is something reasonably close to something else and you want to maximise the pickup of one sound source over that of another, you could aim the back of the microphone at the unwanted sound source and cut down on the amount that is recorded. In an anechoic chamber, the rejection would be very good, but remember in real world situations, there will be reflections of the sound source that come into the microphone at different angles, and so there will not be complete rejection, but it can help to achieve the separation you need.

The Shure SM58 microphone has a very good off axis rejection, which is why it is used extensively in Live sound for vocals – the back of the microphone often pointing downwards at monitor speakers, which have a sloping front to project the sound towards the listener – and hence the microphone as well.The SM58 also has a good inbuilt pop shield – to screen out plosives. The other cardioid microphones we have in the Abubilla studio include the Røde NT5, the AKG C214 and the C414 (which has switchable directivity patterns).

One effect that you must be aware of with directional microphones is that of the ‘Bass-tip up’ or ‘proximity’ effect. This is due to the way the microphones are constructed to ensure their directivity. It results in an increase in the low frequency response of the microphone when it is close to the sound source. This must be taken in to account when mic’ing sound sources.

We’ll look at the other microphones and their uses soon.

 

 

The Song Path: Recording: Naming Audio Tracks

Name in Comments

It is important to name your audio tracks carefully in ProTools, BEFORE you start recording. The main reason for naming before you record, is that it names your audio files, based on how you have labeled your tracks.

But why does it matter what your audio files are called?  

Well in a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter at all. In a perfect world, all of your audio would stay neatly in its own Audio Files Folder and never be parted from the session folder.

However in the real world, you sometimes need to import files into other sessions, or send them to people, or in the case of a corrupted session, you need to rebuild your session from scratch by importing all of the audio again. In this situation, it is better to have files with names that actually represent what they are, rather than ‘AUDIO 01_54′.

You wouldn’t name the word document of your CV with ‘Word Document_064′ so why your audio files?

Nightmare in your folder!

Also – its easier to see in the timeline what your audio actually is if you name it properly-especially when you are trying to edit quickly and effectively.

 

How to Name your tracks

Depending on the situation you may want to name your tracks differently based on the sessions you are working on.

In the Field

So, for our Singing Wells project, we name the tracks with the date, the mic and the take number. The reason for this is that we record a lot of takes in one day, and need to sync the recordings up with video -who are following the same take list. If we increase the take number throughout the day, then we are guaranteed that the Sync between the files remains – even if we have problems with the audio being recorded in the wrong session. We will be able to take the audio files with the correct naming structure and use them in a new session and be confident that we have the right set of files. So in that situation, we have:

DATE_MIC_TakeNo      – also we work in reverse date format – so YEAR MONTH DAY eg. 120310 – for the 10th March 2012.

This way the files will always auto sort by name – which can be a problem with some backup software that removes the modification date when it copies the files. (It will arrange them if you do it DAY MONTH YEAR, but this will not work from year to year).

When naming tracks like this, it is a good idea to copy the track names into the Comments section of each track, as in the screenshot – that way even in the narrow mix window mode – you can still see how your tracks are named easily.

In the Studio

If you are working in the studio then this may be overkill, but in this case you might want to chose a naming convention for your own studio that includes the instrument and the name of the player. So for me playing a rhythm guitar part: RGtr_AP. This way another engineer could quickly see what the track is – and again if your session becomes corrupted, you can make sure that you can quickly find your files.

The reason for naming the player of the part, is that sometimes band members will swap instruments – and when it comes to submitting credits for album artwork, or for PPL registrations, then you’ll need to know who played what, and unless you’re keeping good session notes (which you should be anyway!) then you won’t remember who played the guitar solo, on track 3 of 13 on the album..

 

That’s it for now. If you’re just dealing with the odd session in your own studio, of your own material, then it is not too much of an issue, but as soon as you start dealing with files of multiple clients, of multiple songs/pieces of music, then things become a bit more difficult..so get into the habit before you have to!

 

The Song Path: Recording: Using Playlists in ProTools

Playlists – you’ve probably heard people talk about them when mentioning Pro Tools (and for many years heard people bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t a dedicated shortcut to create a new playlist).

Well, there is a shortcut now, so there’s no excuse!! (it is control and \ by the way) The main question is: what are these playlists and how can we use them when recording?

A playlist is effectively what it says on the tin – it is a list of the clips that the track plays. Huh? Well, say you’ve recorded one take of a vocalist singing their lead vocal for the song. Next step you want to do another take. You don’t want to record over what you already have (which you can do and it won’t destructively delete the audio unless you tell it to), but you probably don’t want to create a new track and have to apply all the same settings. This is where playlists come in to the equation…

So you create your new playlist and record your new take in the new playlist. Suddenly the vocalist wants to hear the way he or her sang the last chorus. Easy. You can switch back a playlist and listen. Then create another new playlist and hit record to do another take. So at a very simple level, it is like having layers of tracks available within tracks – all of which you can switch between to listen and edit the audio.

Naming of the playlists is also taken care of with the number of the playlist incremented with each new playlist. So if you name your track ‘FM Vox’ then the second playlist you create will be called FM Vox.01 – which is not ideal since you will actually be on Take 2 by that point.

 

 

A good technique is to name your tracks as usual (ie FM vox) and then create a new playlist before you start recording. That way it will increment to 01, and you have the un-numbered playlist, which you can use for your Comp at the end of the session, with all your takes available in the playlists below.

So in the screenshot shown above – I have created a playlist called FM Vox.01 ready to record. The Piano and the bass tracks shown also that they are on take 01.

This is a technique used throughout the recording industry and made easier by the fact that it works with groups as well. So in the case of an orchestral recording for a Film Music session, the orchestra record tracks (including the room mics and the spot mics) will be grouped and named as suggested above. Then when the engineer opens the session for the cue they are recording, he will create a new playlist, rename the first track to have the latest take number in. Then click New playlist, and it will automatically increment the playlist title of all of the tracks to match that of the latest number in the group.

So in this next screenshot – I have grouped the tracks and changed the name of the bass playlist only to be .09.

 

 

So when I click the arrow at the end of the track name, and click NEW, or hit the key command (control and \) you end up with the following:

 

 

 

So it can be very useful to quickly re-name tracks on location – which is a great help in the field when you have a lot of groups to record and have both a schedule and a take list to adhere to.

There’ll be more on playlists soon, as part of the mixing section of the Song Path..

 

 

 

Using Multiple MOTU Traveler Interfaces for recording

Traveler Mk3

The Singing Wells Project is about to undertake its latest recording trip – to the Rift Valley of Kenya. The team will be travelling to more remote areas of Kenya to record the indigenous music of the area.

When we designed the mobile recording systems for the Singing Wells Project, we decided to go for the MOTU Traveler interface for a few reasons:

a) it has the option of BUS powering. – this worked out incredibly well when the power went out in Kisoro, Uganda, and didn’t come back on for around 12 hours..

b) sound quality and adaptability – it sounds good, has multiple sample rates available, and is robust.

 

On the first Singing Wells recording trip in March 2011, we recorded music in the coastal regions of Kenya. We were finding our feet, and so most recordings used no more than 4 microphones – and hence we used only the one interface (each of the two recording kits has one Traveler). Each Traveler interface has 4 mic pre-amps, 4 line inputs, and 2 optical digital ports.

So, when we came to the trip to Kisoro to record the Batwa, we had added a few extra microphones to the setup. We had a few extra Rode lavalier microphones, for picking up individual sources (vocals, instruments etc). Our first idea was to link the two interfaces by Firewire to create an aggregate device using the built in OS X aggregate device setup in the OS X Audio Midi Setup, however, the combination of this and ProTools 9 wasn’t a happy collaboration. Ordinarily we’d spend a bit of time trying to get this working – through downloading new software – latest drivers etc, but by now we were at the top of  Ugandan mountain, so internet access wasn’t readily available..

By the next day, and after devouring the manual, we had developed a scheme, by which we’d use one of the interfaces as a MASTER interface. The other acted basically as a external mic-pre. Using the routing software, we set the second interface to send the signal from the 4 mic pres to its Line Outs, which we then connected up to the Line inputs of the Master interface with balanced Jack – Jack cables, which worked fine, although we used our whole supply of balanced jack cables.

 

So, for the next trip, we’ve purchased 2 ADAT optical cables. This will enable us to pass 8 channels of digital audio between the two interfaces. We only really need 4 channels for the 4 mic pres, but this is transferred digitally, rather than via the Jack to Jack cables, so as well as being less susceptible to interference from the outside world, it doesn’t use our full supply of Jack – jack cables.

You may ask – well why do we need 2 cables when we only need to send audio from the secondary interface to the Master interface? The reason for this, is that because we are using the digital connection, we need to make sure that both units are running at the same speed. This is called clocking and with the second cable we are sending a signal from the Master interface to the secondary interface. This signal is a reference, and tells the second interface what speed to run at. This ensures the signal it passes to the Master interface will be clean and not affected by cracks and pops.

 

So, how to connect the two interfaces up?

Connect your mics as usual – to the Master interface and to the secondary interface. Connect the firewire cable between the Master Interface and the Macbook Pro. You’ll need to power the second interface using the Wall wart style adapter (although you can power it by chaining the firewire between the two interfaces, but this isn’t recommended) You will need to connect the interface up to the firewire port to set up the routing, but while actually recording, you will be able to just power it from the mains.

Next, connect the ADAT optical cables. Use the A ports on each interface (the MOTU traveler has two ports – A and B). Connect the IN from the Master to the OUT of the secondary, and the OUT of the Master to the IN of the Secondary.

So, at this stage you will have your firewire interfaces connected to each other by FW400 and the Master connected to the computer with a FW400 – FW800 cable. When you switch on the computer (which already has the software installed), it will automatically bring up the MOTU audio setup window. This looks a bit like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, with having two interfaces connected up by firewire, there will be two tabs at the top which say Traveler MK3. One for each of the interfaces. For the MASTER interface you need to make sure the clock source is Internal. The Optical Input and Output for Bank A needs to be ADAT Optical. Clock source for this MASTER interface should be set to internal, as it is the MASTER clock source.

For the second interface, you need to make the Clock Source the Optical Input A. You also need to set the Optical Input and Output to be ADAT optical as above. At this point we are nearly ready to record, we just need to tell the interface to send the audio from the mic pres to the ADAT outputs.

For this we need the CUEMIX software, which should also be installed on the computer as well. Here are some instructions from the MOTU website:

In this example, an Traveler mk3 will be configured as a standalone A/D converter using its ADAT optical output by patching its analog inputs to its ADAT outputs:

  1. Connect the Traveler mk3 to the computer by FireWire, and turn on the interface.
  2. Open CueMix FX. Choose the Inputs tab, and then enable the Stereo button on the channel strips for analog inputs 1, 3, 5, and 7. (They will now appear as Analog 1-2, Analog 3-4, Analog 5-6, and Analog 7-8.)
  3. Choose the Mixes tab, and select Bus 1 in the mix bus menu.
  4. Set the mix bus output to ADAT A 1-2 by selecting the output pair in the bus output menu above the mix bus master fader. Set the master fader level to 0 dB.
  5. Mute all input channels except Analog 1-2. Set the Analog 1-2 fader to 0 dB. Set the balance control to 0.
  6. Select Bus 2 in the mix bus menu.
  7. Repeat the process with Bus 2 to route analog inputs 3-4 to ADAT A outputs 3-4. Then continue with Bus 3 (Analog 5-6 to ADAT A 5-6) and Bus 4 (Analog 7-8 to ADAT A 7-8).
  8. Open MOTU Audio Setup. Set the Traveler mk3’s sample rate and clock source appropriately.
  9. Wait about one minute for the new settings to be saved to the Traveler mk3’s internal memory, and then disconnect the FireWire cable from the back panel of the interface.
  10. Connect the Traveler mk3’s ADAT A output to the ADAT optical input of another device.

Hopefully this guide will help you to extend the possibilities of your recording setup with a second interface.

Recording: How to Build A Home Recording Studio 1.0

Okay, so this is a blog about creating a home studio for audio recording and it will involve 7 steps.  It will be told from a Home Studio for dummies perspective but be warned — you need to be really dumb to find this useful.  Andy will chime in on technicals because he knows what he’s talking about.  Be warned.  It is also written to those with human relationships, where you have to consider … others.  (more…)

Kissy Sell Out On Producing & Remixing

Kissy Sell Out discusses things I’m not really sure of, but they seem very interesting.

 

The Song Path – Mastering

mastering

This section is about Mastering your music. Scroll down to read more, or click on the links for further info

Mastering – File formats

Mastering – Choose a Mastering Engineer

Mastering – What is Mastering?

The Song Path: File Formats for Mastering

So, you’ve decided to get your tracks mastered, you’ve chosen an engineer, how exactly do you go about getting your files to him?

 

He/she will probably have their own method of FTP, or file transfer, which may even be you posting a CD, but check their requirements carefully, as you don’t want to taste time, effort and money having to re-send discs because they asked for data not audio etc etc

 

So, what format should the files be in?

 

Your files should be at the highest quality possible. Definitely no MP3 or other compressed files will do really. Engineers will ask for uncompressed audio files.

So if you recorded at 48kHz, then the mix files should be 48 kHz. You should really be recording at 24 bit, so your mixes should be 24bit masters (and hence an audio CD may be returned as it will be at 16 bit as per the CD standard)

 

Why?

Well, you want the mastering engineer to do the best job that they can, so you need to give them the best quality files that you can. 24 bit recording gives you a greater dynamic range than 16 bit (as there are more bits with which to record the data).

Some engineers will convert anything that isn’t already at 44.1kHz to this sample rate, but that should be their decision, and they can use their own tools to do it.

As for why not MP3 files, well, an MP3 (or Mpeg 2 Audio layer 3) is what is known as a ‘Lossy’ format. It reduces the filesize (good for streaming online, or fitting on your ipod) but in doing so degrades the audio – it throws things away, it thinks it does not need, and as such reduces the data size of the stream.

 

So, giving a mastering engineer an MP3 to work with is akin to asking him to start off with something that is already seriously degraded. The expression ‘polishing a turd’ comes to mind. Now, you may think you can’t hear a difference between your MP3 and your wav files (and at higher bit rates, you may be right to a point), but once the mastering engineer begins to work on the material, by compressing and limiting the material, and generally ‘making it sing’, this will bring the sound of the artefacts that the processing generates, to the forefront of the balance, and you’ll hear them..

 

Dynamics Processing

As with quality of files, you really want to give the mastering engineer mixes that do not already have any dynamics processing on the main stereo output at all. Whereas some engineers like to give clients mixes which they have put through an L3 limiter (by Waves), it is best to give mastering engineers dynamically un-limited files.

 

Why? Well again, you want your mastering engineer to have the best chance at processing the track, and this will include some dynamics processing, so give him he best chance he can have a this. By all means, send  them a copy of the ‘Limited’ mix that the engineer gave you and ask him/her to refer to that.

 

Zipping Up Files

If you are uploading your files to a dropbox, or FTP server, it is a good idea to zip them up before you upload them. There are a few reasons for this, filesize not really being one of them. The system offers a system of error correction, so the file that your engineer gets is more likely to be the one you send..

 

 

Ask Your Engineer

Don’t be afraid at any stage to ask your engineer if you don’t understand something. Remember – you are the client here! You should be confident in the money you are spending. Even get your mastering engineer to speak to the engineer who mixed your tracks if it will help..

 

The Song Path: Choosing a Mastering Engineer

Choosing a Mastering Engineer

 

So, you’ve got your finished album, and you’ve decided to get it mastered. There are a few ways you can go about it, and there are a multitude of engineers out there… so how do you go about choosing one?

 

1 – Who does you favourite artist use?

If you like the music your favourite artist produces, then it follows that you might like the work that their mastering engineer does. Saying that, if your favourite artist is a Thrash metal star, and you are producing an English Folk album, that may not follow, but as a general rule, it can work. So, if you love Ed Sheeran and want to use the same engineer and facilities that his ‘+’ album, then you could try Christian Wright at Abbey Road Studios in London. Note this can work out to be expensive – read the budget option below for more info..

 

2 – Location Location Location

If you want to ‘attend’ the mastering session (an ‘attended session’) then it’s a good idea to be in the same area, or at least part of the country that your mastering engineer is, so you don’t then end up spending an extra few hundred pounds getting to the studio.

By the way, some engineers don’t allow attended sessions due to their setup and location, and some may charge more… it’s a good idea to enquire when you first book the time…

 

3 – Budget

Money matters, so whereas you may love Ed Sheeran’s album, and you may live in St John’s Wood (see point 2 above) you may still not be able to afford Abbey Road mastering. However, some studios, Abbey Road included, now offer an Online Mastering service. Abbey Road charge £90 (plus VAT) per track, with extras on top for whichever format you decide upon (CD, Vinyl or DDP). This is for an unattended session and you don’t get to name your engineer.. but may be a way of getting your album mastered in a top class venue for less.. http://www.abbeyroadonlinemastering.com for more info. Metropolis studios also do this: http://www.imastering.co.uk where £90 plus VAT also gets you an un-named engineer or £125 plus VAT will get you a named engineer.

 

4 – Ask people…

Word of mouth is a wonderful thing.. So ask your friends who have used mastering engineers, who they used and their experiences of them, even if your friends are a thrash metal band and you are doing English folk..

 

We have used Dan Dan Fitzgerald of SoundSound.ie for the pat 3 SMCC albums, and we found him through the fact Andy had worked with him previously on a few other projects. He has now also mastered Ketebul Music artist Winyo’s debut album.

We’d obviously also recommend him… http://www.soundsound.ie

 

The Song Path: What is this ‘Mastering’ I hear you speak of?

Mastering is the final process that your audio goes through before it goes to the plant to be burnt onto a CD, or to be uploaded to your Aggregator to be pushed online to iTunes and Spotify etc..

 

The question a lot of people ask is: What do Mastering Engineers actually do? In the past they would prepare the recordings for release – so they would work on the recording and eventually ‘cut’ it to a vinyl acetate – hence they were and still known as ‘cutting engineers’. They were then needed to create the files required for CD plants, but these days that is less necessary as we can burn our own CDs using most desktop PCs and Laptops, so what else do they do?

 

Well, that’s a bit like asking a magician to reveal his secrets, but here are a few reasons why it’s a good idea to get your album mastered.

 

The first of these is that it’s a second pair of ears. Your engineer has probably spent weeks working on your mixes, and to him, they sound great. However, the room that the engineer has mixed in may not be your typical listening environment. The mastering engineer will have treated his or her room so that it is an accurate listening environment. They can make precise decisions on the low end, the top end and everything that is in between. They will apply EQ to even things out and compression to make things punchy and even.

 

The second is that they’ll make your album sound as one. So, where you may have recorded bits of your album in your bedroom, some in your mate’s garage and 3 tracks in your rehearsal room, your mastering engineer can process everything so that they sound a bit more cohesive and ‘of one’ piece of work.

 

The third is that they can provide you with a Red-Book CD of your master to give directly to the plant. This includes ISRC meta data (more on this in a future blog – you’ll have to provide these yourself), CD text and other data.

 

Another good reason is that they can make your track sound good alongside other records.. 99% of all music you hear on the radio has been through the mastering process, so your track may not stand out as much to the casual listener, but if it sounds great to the man in his transit van, or the man listening on his £5000 hi-fi,  then the track is a success.

 

There’s a few reasons there, but its all a matter of time, budget and quality. Some of the best recordings ever were made with one microphone, and recorded to a wax cylinder, but that aside, this is the last chance you really get to add finishing touches to the project, so find an engineer and work with them, and build up a relationship of trust. If you’re planning on making a lot of records, this can reap major rewards.

Gotye Is Adorable, Talks Very Fast

Oh he’s darling. Here is Gotye displaying his naughty fangs as he touches on what’s happening in the club and working with Kimbra.

The Song Path – Reviewing

Reviewing

Here we look at how you review your mixes before they make it onto the final CD, or download store.

Either scroll down or click the links for further info:

 

Sharing Mixes for Review

Reviewing

 

The Song Path: Sharing Mixes for Review

soundcloud-logo

Once you’ve done some mixes, you’re going to want the rest of the band to listen to them.. but how do you get the mixes to them?

 

So, back in the old days, the only way of passing a mix around the band, or indeed listening to it away from the studio, was to create another copy of it – so through copying to another reel of quarter inch tape, or in the 80s, running it off to a DAT, (or for a very short time DCC). This of course required you to have a quarter inch machine, or DAT deck at home. Cassettes were OK but not really the high fidelity that you had spent time in the studio trying to record. Mini-disc came along and left again. CD-Rs were the answer for a while – and studios charged through the roof for a copy.

So lets fast forward (pun absolutely intended) to today’s project studios and in particular, home located, DAW based studios. predominately we will be recording in ProTools, or Logic, and the output will be a data file – a stereo ‘mix’ or balance of the multi-track audio. So, how can we share this around the band?

Well, there are a few ways – each differing in desirability.

Email

 Email is all well and good for sending messages, a few photos and the odd mp3 file, but if you’re sending across 44.1kHz 16bit wav files, then inboxes start to become full very quickly, especially when there can be multiple revisions of the files.

 

 

Dropbox and other ‘cloud’ based services

 http://www.dropbox.com is basically online server storage space. This space is reachable through both an application that you can download to your computer to sync up individual files, and via a web browser interface, so in theory, you have access to your files anywhere. So far so good.

As part of the application, it creates a local folder on your computer (on Mac its in the User folder), and any files you put in this folder go straight to the dropbox, which is great! Except that when you mix your song, you want your mix file to live in the project folder, ideally in a folder called ‘Mixes’, so to get it in the Dropbox folder you would have to copy the file – which is duplicating it. Now, if you’re happy to have two versions of your file on your local computer then great! But if you have a lot of mixes, then this starts to fill up your system drive, and that’s not great either…

You can create things called SYM links, which are a little like aliases. Creating an alias to the mixes folder in your Dropbox would mean that the alias was copied, but not the files themselves, whereas the SYM link forms a Symbolic link between the two. I’ve found these to be a little unpractical in practice.

 

Also, once you have the mix uploaded to the Dropbox, you then run the risk of it not being playable on the computer that your lead singer is using. Say that he is off on a trek across Europe to find himself, and he is in an internet café in Serbia – you don’t want him to download the file to that computer, and you don’t want him to have to install any extensions to make playing the track possible.. Which is where we come to Soundcloud…

(by the way – other cloud based storage space is available – StrongSpace being one of them)

 

SoundCloud

 http://www.soundcloud.com has been around for 3 or 4 years. It is basically a website where you can upload your sound files and they will be available to play direct from the browser.

You can upload different types of soundfile  – wav, mp3, aiff etc and the upload mechanism takes care of everything. So, once you upload the audio, you have a few choices –

a)     do we want it to be downloadable or not

b)    do we want it to be publicly listenable, or not

 

By setting the track to be downloadable, you can make sure that the members of the band can download it to burn to a CD to listen in the car or whatever.

 

Note: whatever file format you upload, the streaming, embeddable players all stream a 128kbps MP3 conversion of the file, however the download is always the original file that you uploaded, so perfect in the case of burning to a CD at home.

 

By setting the track to private, it does not show up on your soundcloud page, and can not be listened to by anyone who does not have the secret link. Giving members of your band the secret link means they can access the file and play it back (without giving them the username and password).

 

Avid clearly think this is the best idea, as they have built a new feature into ProTools 10, which uploads your mixes directly to a linked SoundCloud account.

 

They have a variety of accounts- the cheapest one being absolutely free. They come with different amount of ‘Tape’ which is digital tape, as in minutes of storage space on their system (rather than file size, so you can . Check it out at http://www.soundcloud.com for more info. Their range of embeddable players also make it incredibly easy to put music on your website.

We have used it since the beginnings of Abubilla Music, and also use Dropbox to store images and other files.

Reviewing: The Go/No Go Decision

For folks that have erred way too much on ‘go’ vs. ‘no go’ we have no right to write this blog!  But, we have to share lessons, even if the biggest lesson for all of you in this context is:  for goodness sake don’t do what we’ve done! (more…)

Kissy Sell Out On Producing & Remixing

Kissy Sell Out discusses things I’m not really sure of, but they seem very interesting.

 

The Song Path – Mixing

Mixing

Whether you are sending your files off to be mixed elsewhere, or you are mixing yourself, then this chapter should give you a few hints on what to do..

 

Using Playlists when mixing

Preparing your sessions for the Mix

Start low and watch the levels

 

Song Path: Using Playlists When Mixing

Duplicate Playlist

So, in an earlier edition of The Song Path, we touched on how Playlists are helpful when recording in ProTools. They can also be very useful during editing and mixing.

Editing

Say you want to dramatically alter your song by editing out the middle 8 or taking out the second chorus. Ideally you want to make sure that you can return to the original edit at some point in the future – just in case you change your mind!

One way to do this would be to just save a version of your session file and append the name with EDIT. This is all fine and well, but if you have made a load of other mix adjustments in the meantime, returning to your session will mean that all of these are lost.

So one way to do this is to select the ALL group and then click on the DUPLICATE PLAYLIST command. This will duplicate the current playlist into a new one, meaning you can edit the audio to your heart’s content, and then switch back easily by switching the playlist – and all your other mix choices will be intact.

Duplicate Away!

(By the way – its always a good idea to name your sessions as you change things anyway… so do this as well… there’ll be another Song Path article on Naming Sessions soon)

 

Mixing

So playlists can be very useful when recording and editing, but how when mixing? Well, there’s a little technique that you can try when mixing to make multiple mix stemming a little more bearable…

Sometimes an artist will want to take away 5 or 6 different mixes, and in most cases it is always a good idea to produce an instrumental of the track as well as the full version – just in case it is ever needed in the future. So, one way to produce these would be to just Bounce each one out in turn – using Bounce to Disk. However another way to try this would be to set all of your tracks to output to an unused BUS – eg. BUS 23-24. Then create a master fader which is also assigned to that BUS (and hence controlling the output of the BUS). Then create a Stereo Audio Track, and set the input to the BUS. Once you put your track into RECORD, you will be able to monitor your mix though the track and record the mix live to that track. That way you can make any mix adjustments on the fly if you want to.

How do playlists come into this? Well, you can name your track DATE_Trackname_Mix and then when you have finished that mix, you can mute the vocal, create a new playlist on your mix record track and name it DATE_Trackname_m7instrumental and hit record straight away. This ensures a few things –

1) your naming remains constant

2) the mixes stay alongside the audio that generated them

3) if you switch the track to PLAYLIST view, then it will show you all of your mixes together – easy, quick and reference-able, when you can’t find your mix notes!

And again, it is a good idea to save a version of your session before your mix print – so if it is Mix 8, then append your session name with MIX8 PRINT.

 

The Song Path – Preparing your ProTools Sessions for Mixing Part 1

No matter whether you are mixing your own tracks or asking another engineer to mix your tracks, there are a few things you can do to your ProTools sessions to make them a lot easier to work with when mixing.

Track Ordering

Some engineers will change this anyway, and at the top end of the scale, will have assistants to prep the sessions for them, but as a starting point – try assembling your tracks in order:

Drums – Kick, Snare, Hats, Toms, OHs, Room

Bass – Amp and DI

Guitars

Keys

BVs

Vocals

There are many longstanding reasons that this was the way that sessions were laid out – some of it goes back to the use of analogue tape where there would be a roll off of response at the edge of the tape – so the Kick was always track 1 (or sometimes the Bass). The Vocal was always towards the latter half of the tape so that the fader would be close to the mix position (and hence easy for the engineer to reach).

 

Defeat the Mutes

If any tracks are Muted because you don’t want them, then right click on the track and click HIDE and MAKE INACTIVE. Doing this will ensure that the tracks are still there in case the engineer decides to use them, but he can assume with confidence that you didn’t want them to be included. If you have muted regions (or ‘clips’ in PT 10), then decide whether you want them or not. If you’re sure that you don;t want them, then delete them, or remove them. Or copy them to a new track and make it inactive and hide it. Whatever you do – get rid of them.

 

Grouping

Again- another engineer may have a different plan for this, but its a good idea to tidy up your groups especially ones created in the heat of the session – and thus called Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3. So, if one is your drums, label it so. If one is the BVs in the first chorus, then label it so.

 

Colours

Try colouring different tracks, or type of tracks differently – so all drum tracks could be RED, and then all electronic percussion ORANGE. This will help the engineer to listen through the track at the start of the session.

 

Markers

Get rid of any markers that aren’t important – so if you have added a marker to cue your singer, then remove it.

 

We’ll add another of these guides soon.. there are more things you can do to save your mix engineer time, effort and ultimately, your money!

 

 

 

Mixing – start low, and watch the levels

There are a few standard tricks employed when mixing, but generally everyone works in a different way to achieve the correct balance of sounds in the quest for the perfect sounding recording.

One important technique that every engineer should undertake when mixing is to keep a close eye or ear on the monitoring levels.

 

It is very easy to turn things up loud straight away and go from there, and things end up getting louder and louder – and to your ears sounding better and better all of the time, but in reality you’ll suffer from fatigue, possible hearing damage and poorly balanced mixes..

So, start low and work up from there. Reach a maximum at the end of the day, and go no further. You can purchase SPL meters quite cheaply from Maplin or other electronic dealers on the internet. measure a safe listening level and mark your monitoring controller.

Take regular listening breaks. If there’s a song you want your track to sound like, have a listen to that every so often.

 

As with the Hare and the Tortoise….slow and steady wins the race.

Talent Management

12.05.20 Elsie

Running a little music label ain’t easy – for us, the hardest thing is keep all the great musicians motivated to come to the studio, especially at the end of an album cycle during endless over-dubbing.   Here’s a tip:  puppies.  Well, specifically cock-a-poo puppies.  Musicians love them.    We brought little Lewie in our lives and the studio was full for about 12 weeks. Sadly, he’s yesterday news for the musicians, although still a critical part of the family lives.  So, with Toby’s passing, we’ve gone for a little friend for Lewie – a little girl, black with some white.  Born a couple weeks ago, and able to come to the house in June. 

She’s the one in the middle.  Looks like sea lions on a rock.

[Update: since this blog, we’ve received a second picture of our new little studio dog…here she is:]

We expect some busy studio days this summer!

Song Path – Overdubbing

Overdubbing

This section is about recording new performances over your basic track.
Check out the following posts for more info, or scroll down for more info:

 Overdubbing and the death of personality

Overdubbing: Less is more, but lets start with more

Overdubbing and the death of personality: Case Study

11.10.16 X factor

We’ve discussed a lot the danger of over-producing new artists and destroying their unique voice.    Three quick case studies of this happening:

1.  Cher Lloyd:  So we remember her from X factor – Turn My Swag On:  So here now is a classic example of over-production, where she sounds like anybody and nobody:  Swagger Jagger:

The youtube video has twice the dis-likes as likes.  Because it is awful.   She’s not awful.  It is awful!   In contrast, here’s a wonderful example of under-production – Superheroes -and she’s fantastic: 

 

2. Diane Vickers:  We know her from Carry You Home:

 

 

And then they destroyed her with Once: 

 

And now we have Janet Devlin.  Please don’t ruin Janet.  And we promise not to totally ruin Tati:

 

 

Jimmy

Over Dubbing: Less is More, but start with More

Remember the rule:  we don’t write these because we’re good.  We’re learning and hope to share our lessons, most of which are derived from small and large failures.  Today, we take on over-dubbing and we’ll change things up a bit… (more…)

Five Lovely Pictures

jessie-j-who-you-are

Combining a brief from Jimmy and flicking through the new music I nabbed from Rosie, here are five album covers I think are really cool.

Angus and Julia Stone: A Book Like This

An absolutely lovely little drawing. I adore the weird mix of characters, the town on one side, the forest on the other…. I also enjoy that the title is really relevant to the cover – they make each other make more sense, if you see what I mean. And not in the boring – this is ***’s album, so here is a BIG PICTURE OF THEIR FACE kind of way.

 

Babyshambles: Down In Albion

Although I think that book Pete Doherty wrote is pointless and awful (and pretentious, because everyone writes that sort of thing on napkins when they’re drunk, we just don’t then get them published in an expensive volume), I do like his little drawings. They seem to be pointless in a self-accepting sort of way. They go – yes, I am pointless, but I am not pretending to be otherwise. And when there’s a lot of aforementioned HERE IS MY FACE REALLY BIG ON MY ALBUM BECAUSE IT’S MINE album artwork, the simplicity here is refreshing.
Not that the my-face-my-album thing can’t be effective, it’s just… I am so bored of (everything, and also) girls with interesting, edgy make up on the cover of an album. It’s not a beauty spread, and it doesn’t really say anything interesting. Unless Grace Jones is doing it. I heard she once slapped an interviewer because they asked her a boring question.

 

For particularly amusing reference, check out and compare with the cover of Carl Barat’s solo album, ‘Carl Barat’. I can’t tell if it’s ironic.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Okay I already had this one but I think it’s cool because the trippy-washy-yet-defined look matches their sound, and I also didn’t think this was anything at first, but now I think it’s a sousaphone.

 

Kate Rusby: Awkward Annie

Kate Rusby always (often) has totally gorgeous album artwork. Again, I love how simple it is. You could sew this stuff.

 

Procul Harum: Shine On Brightly

Who knows? I love it. Very Dali.

The Song Path – Artwork

Artwork

Here we look at how you produce your artwork to accompany your CD or download product. Scroll down or click on the links for more info.

Preparing your artwork for Production

Artwork and Templates

The Song Path: Preparing your artwork for your CD

If I Were a Little Birdie

Our partner for Artwork and Design (and SMCC bass maestro) Rob Skipper, has put together these bits of info which may help you as you prepare your files for production. Of course if you want a professional to do it, then we can recommed Rob at Camden Electric Art.

First up – get the relevant artwork templates from your chosen CD production company. They are all slightly different between companies, so make sure you get the right ones. These can usually be downloaded from their website.

If you are going to use Quark XPress, InDesign or Illustrator to prepare your artwork then you probably know what to do and this article is not for you.

If you are using Photoshop or another image editor then here are a few tips that will hopefully help things go more smoothly:

DPI
For printing, the accepted standard for images is 300 DPI (dots per inch). Your Photoshop template should already be set up this way so don’t change it. Make sure the images that you place in the template have enough resolution.

CMYK
It’s OK to work in RGB whilst you’re building your designs but the final artwork must be in CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key(Black) as those are the four ink colours used on the printing press. When you turn your design to CMYK some of the colours might look a little less vibrant. It’s a long story about transmitted light (colour subtraction) versus reflected light (colour addition).

BLEED and CROP MARKS
On the paper parts, if any of your artwork touches the edge of the paper you will need to extend it over the edge by 3mm (3mm of bleed) to allow for the accepted tolerance of guillotining the booklet or inlay after printing. This is not needed on the CD face as the printing always stops a few mm from the edge.

FONTS
If you are working in Photoshop with fonts on layers then Saving the final artwork as a Photoshop PDF and choosing ‘Press Quality’ setting should ensure that the fonts are embedded in the PDF. This will make the fonts much sharper and more legible – particularly at smaller point sizes.

It would probably be good practice to keep your working files as .PSD and then when you’re ready to go to press, save them as Photoshop PDFs.

Finally, if you have any questions, get in touch with your CD production company who should be happy to help, and importantly get the right files to the right places at the right time – ensuring that you get your order on time, and looking like you expected it to look!

2. From Band to Bytes, Artwork: Templates

12.01.02 Blleed Area

We use Copysound for our CD production.   Your artwork needs to fit a standard CD template, but most importantly, the template of the company you will use for CD production.

Here is a link to Copysound’s templates page.   Using these templates gives the correct about of bleed.

 

You choose the booklet side you want.  For our Discovery CD with Tati we used the  TP03 – the 4 page booklet.  You simply download that booklet and off you go.   Print resolution is a standard=300dpi.

Kissy Sell Out On Producing & Remixing

Kissy Sell Out discusses things I’m not really sure of, but they seem very interesting.

 

The Song Path: Production

production

This part of the Song Path can help offer advice on getting your physical product produced.

Scroll down for the articles or click on the links to go straight to the page.

Choosing a CD production partner

Choosing a CD production partner

So, you have your Mastered CD, you have your artwork. Now what you need is a production partner (ie a Duplication House)

When asking for quotes there are a few things you should check out for:

Things to check:

How much will it cost? in an ideal world, cost wouldn’t be an issue, but good value is important if you ever hope to make any money from your CD.

How Long will it take? again – a major factor in the ‘Cost-time-quality’ triangle – the idea being that you can usually choose 2 of them only. So things can be cheap and high quality, but they won’t happen quickly. They can be High Quality and produced quickly, but they will cost more and finally, they can be quick and cheap, but they won’t be the best quality.

What are the delivery charges? don’t be caught out budgeting for the CD production, but not factoring in the actual cost of getting the product to yourself.

Is there a UK landline phone Number? In the world of the internet, it is easy for a company to pretend they’re in the UK, when they’re actually miles away. While I’m not suggesting that companies outside the UK are not as reliable for quality or reliability, you will be protected by certain laws when buying and paying the UK. It will also make it cheaper for delivery, and it is always nice to confirm things are on track by telephone.

 

 

We have used Copysound for nearly all of our CD projects. (the only project we didn’t use Copysound for was a CD where they referred us to someone else).

Nigel offers a very personal service and can help you at all stages of the CD production.

 

The Song Path: Distribution

distribution

This part of the Song Path is about Distribution – how to get your music to the masses

Scroll down, or click on the links for more info:

PPL Registration

Sell your CDs at your gigs!

Digital Distribution

 

Song Path: PPL registration

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If you have performed on your recording (which if you’re reading this, you probably will have been…) or you own the rights to recordings (which if you have made them yourself, and you paid for them, then you do) then you should really register with the PPL…

The PPL exists to make sure that members get fairly rewarded for the talent, time and investment they make in recordings. So whether you are a performer, or you are a record company, or in some DIY cases you will be both – this is a good idea to join.

Hang on – I though the PRS did that sort of thing?

The PRS looks after the rights of (and collects money on behalf of) songwriters, composers and publishers, whereas the PPL collects money on behalf of performers and rights holders of the recordings themselves.

Although if you are a composer, it is a very good idea to also register with the PRS, and we’ll be looking at this in a future post.

 

Back to the PPL

So every public performance of a piece of music in the UK is subject to a fee for the usage. So if that is a performance on the radio – a radio play – or a shop playing a CD, or even a company using your CD as their hold music – the user of the money should apply for and pay money for a license to be able to use your music.

Now – most shops, pubs etc pay a blanket fee for the year and that covers their playing of the music for the year. Some shops and bigger chains pay a separate company for ‘Sound-a-like’ tracks to avoid paying these fees. You’ll see that a lot of them have a sticker on the front window which says they are PPL license holders. This is what this means.

So Why should you Join?

Well, if you have performed on a recording that has been played in public or broadcast on the radio – then you are entitled to some of the license fee or payment that has been made – and given that it is free to join – they why wouldn’t you?!?

How to Apply

So, if you are thinking of joining the PPL, then start at this page: I Make Music – here you make a choice of whether you are an owner of repetoire (ie a rights holder – record company etc) or you are a performer. You will need to give them bank details so you can be paid.

Do you get a lot of money then?

Well, it depends on the level of usage and the amount of usage…

I wouldn’t rely on the income to pay your rent, but it is nice to get the extra money you are rightly entitled to, from the use of your performance/recordings/both!

 

 

 

 

 

The Song Path: Sell your CDs at your gigs

This may sound very obvious, but take CDs to every gig you do. And mention that you have some.

You don’t have to sing about your CD in every song, and mention it in the intro to every song, but it is good to let people know what you have.

And be prepared to give them a good deal – chances are, that if they’re coming to see you play – then they already know that the CDs are available, so make them Buy One Get One Free or give a sticker away with the album. Try to make it special for the audience, and they will return the favour.

 

Here’s our Hannah manning or ‘womanning’ the merchandise desk in between sets at the Half Moon in Putney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Even if you only sell one CD – that is one more than you would if you’d just shouted ‘You can get it on iTunes’.

The Song Path: Digital Distribution

So, you’ve written your song, you’ve rehearsed it, you’ve recorded it, you’ve mixed it, reviewed it, mastered it and had a CD produced.
How do you get this to the people?

Well, there are a few routes you can go down here. We are going to look at Digital Distribution.

 

Digital Distribution

 

So even though you’ve spent time, effort and money on getting your artwork ready for your CD, and had your CD produced, you should realise that there are a large number of people who won’t buy it, not because its not amazing, but because they get all of their music online.

So, how to get your music on iTunes and Spotify is the question…

The Old Days

It used to be really difficult – in the case of iTunes you had to be a VAT registered label whom was registered with Apple etc. but now there are a number of services that can help you get your music out there.

These services generally involve you uploading your mastered tracks to their servers and giving them all the track information (like Names, artists and ISRC and publisher info) and they then

Different services do things in different ways and charge differently respectively.

DITTO MUSIC
Our experiences are all based around Ditto Music and their offerings.
At the risk of this sounding like an advert for Ditto Music, I’ll give you a description of our dealings with them and how it all works.

 

 

Your first port of call is to register an account with Ditto. Once created and logged in, you find yourself at what is known at the dashboard. Here you click ‘Create Audio Release’ and this is where is all begins. First step is to upload the audio. These need to be the files you have received from your mastering engineer.

Once your files are uploaded, you need to enter your track information. This includes titles, publishing info and ISRC number. This stands for International Standard Recording Code. More on this in a future post. Ditto can provide this for you, if needed.

You then make a choice of the stores you want your release to be available on (such as iTunes, Amazon, Tesco, Play.com, Spotify etc etc) and once you’ve paid a fee, that’s it. As easy as all that.

 

Of course, it doesn’t always go smoothly.. We uploaded Tati Kalveks’ album Graceless in good time for the release date of the 22nd January 2012. It arrived on iTunes a week or so late and was missing a track, a problem we’re still waiting on resolution of..

UPDATE: not long after posting this blog, James Cherry from Ditto got in touch to say he’d read the blog and to apologise that we’d had an issue with the system. We sent over the track that day, and it is in the process of being re-packaged and re-uploaded to the various different services. So, much kudos to the guys at Ditto, for keeping track of articles on the web about them, and making sure that we were OK. We’re very grateful to James at Ditto for getting this sorted out for us.

We’ll let you know when Graceless is up and running again..

 

 

 

Tati’s Journey, Part 8: Art I Would Starve For, Art I Wouldn’t

original.0

Today I got a little bit of loving in return for all the emails I’ve been sending. I awoke to find a message from the team organising screenings of Miss Representation for media bigwigs. Miss Rep is a documentary on the misrepresentation of women in the media; the team want to use my response song to the movie as one of the pieces of accompanying footage during their screenings.

This is hugely heartening, more on a personal level than anything else. Miss Representation is one of the finest, most powerful documentaries I’ve watched, perhaps because the issues they discuss relate so directly to my own life. Self centred? Maybe. Or just naturally skewed interest. I don’t expect anything to come of this opportunity, but I’m enormously proud to be even involved to that tiny degree in the work Miss Rep do. You go, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. You are excellent, good job.

The other email I got was from a creative directory that has recently been establishing itself called the Young Creatives. So I spent some of the morning writing up a profile to give them.

 

I’m about to go away for two weeks, so I guess I’ll see what responses I’ve got when I come back; some people are slow to reply to emails, particularly emails from people they don’t know and probably aren’t bothered about. That’s fair enough. Having spoken to people who have been working in and around the music industry for a few years now, though, I’ve discovered that this is a pretty unorthodox method. Hopefully some reviews will come out of the contacts I’ve tried to make; advice and opinions are always helpful. But part of me thinks maybe I just have to do a few more years of developing and growing and honing my talent (and see if it stretches far enough to be honed). As a composer, I’ve been honing for years and weaselling into all sorts of events and projects and, even though I get good reviews, I still have a few hurdles to go before I hit my stride. Maybe I should be more hypercritical of everything else I do? My compositional development shows it to be a recipe for improvement, although it does involve being really stressed out all the time.

 

It’s hard to throw your all into something when your all is already smalls-deep in something else. I’m not sure how far contacting communities will take me when I’m pretty certain that the real way for me to get success would be:

Constantly fundraising/working a billion jobs to earn money for tours

Practicing my instruments, productively, every day (the relevant ones to the singy/songwritey bits like ukelele and piano, not my clarinet) so I am an unstoppable force of comfortable-in-the-limelight on stage

Working on my stage presence, productively, every day (I don’t know how I would do this, singing to the mirror with a hairbrush probably, which I’ve never really been into. I helped my clarinet-stage-presence a lot by filming myself playing and then reeling in horror at my terrible posture etc)

Gigging. All the time. Ed Sheeran does over 300 gigs a year or something crazy. He did that for yonks and supposedly almost gave up just before he was crowned King Ginger and wrapped in the UK top 40 cape.

Recording and recording and recording demo after demo to work out the exact sound I want. Getting them as close to perfect as they possibly can be. Sending them everywhere.

Being everywhere an industry scout might be. Finding out who these people are and doing some crazy detective work to get in the know as to where I could find them. Know who everyone important is, in the way Holly Golightly knew who all the millionaires were. In the way I know the history and fate of every original cast member of the original Addams Family telly series, and can list every Muppet with an anecdote about their back story. Talking of which, Kevin Clash has released a movie called Being Elmo… EXCITED!!! I cried watching the trailer. Kevin is absolutely one of my heroes.

Being really lucky. And maybe getting Rosie to wear a T-shirt with my face on it, which I know she would totally be into.

 

Basically I have to do what Rachel does in Glee, but with hipsters rather than musical theatre. As she says to Tina in season 3 when Tina is whining (does anybody even like Tina? Shut up Tina):

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to be me?…. It’s exhausting being me. I get up at five in the morning just to get all this prepared in case a solo is thrown my way. I have the entire Sondheim, Hammlisch, Lloyd Webber, Elton John songbooks memorised, including every single Katy Perry hit as well. And I do all of this while keeping my boyfriend interested and physically satisfied and being the captain of 16 clubs and keeping a 3.68 GPA.

 

Gurrrrl you got it going on. You have a life plan and you’re sticking to it, because you are righteous, if a little irritating at times. Fortunately, Rachel only has the one life plan. As I said – you can’t commit to something 100% if it’s not your main thing. And I can’t do all the dead sensible (in terms of making it big, not in terms of getting a job and buying a house one day) things I’ve just listed. It’s just not possible. I can’t keep all that up along with my degree…. Because I’m not at uni for the degree.

 

A degree is just a really awesome thing I’m going to get on top of being able to spend three years (only three!! And I’ve done one now!! And I’m never getting it back, and I spent half the friggin year in a fury because of that electro-noise-music module) studying the art of composition. Reading Berlioz’s gorgeous treaty (edited by Strauss… dream team!) on instrumentation and orchestration, and realising, as I mop the saliva off the page, that I have some kind of fantastic, all-consuming fever-plan of what I could do with a serpent and a tuba. Spending an entire afternoon humming and tapping things and clicking and whispering, and knowing it has been an afternoon well spent, according to the paper all over my walls that I’ve scribbled on, and my peace of mind. I’m beginning to sound like a ridiculous luvvie now so I’m going to stop, but not before pointing out that for me, composing is what I want my life to revolve around. That, and real human relationships, because otherwise I would get lonely. I would stick to spending £10 on food a week and living in my parents’ basement (we don’t have a basement, we live in a flat but you know what I mean) for SEVERAL years if I could keep my unlikely Plan A of getting to write people music AND being paid for it alive a little longer. I don’t have the same commitment to forcing upon the world the songs I’ve written about my breasts. And if the feminist/musical communities online don’t care about my breasts, who will? Aside from Boyfriend. Maybe it all boils down to illusions. I have illusions about the fancypants music I write for concerts, plays and imaginary ballets. I don’t think I have illusions about my career as a singer/songwriter.

 

Incidentally, my mother believes that, in order to become a successful pop star (which IS going to happen, apparently), I need to get my clarinet diploma so I ‘look more credible’. Never mind that I’m studying towards a degree in music, so a diploma would be a redundant qualification anyway. Oh dear.

How To Sell Your Soul

Terrifying advice from Ralph Murphy, analyzing pop and country number one hits.

Tati’s Journey, Part 6: Rosie Gets Involved (Five Years Ago)

2012-07-10_spam

Tati first played me a song of hers when we were about fourteen and from that day onwards it became my personal mission to make her into a successful musician.  My lack of knowledge about the music industry and inability to speak without showering people in spittle due to the impressive set of braces I was rocking did not occur to me to be problems.  Similarly, Tati’s near total lack of scientific understanding didn’t stop her testing me on the Krebs cycle for my multiple biology test re-takes (Tati has being a righteous musician lady; I have passing Biology exams).  My point, aside from re-iterating the fact that we’re a rad team and you should really come to our dinner parties, is that working for Abubilla is great because people are actually into me trying to promote Tati.

This weekend my tactic has been ‘contacting’ musicians’ facebook pages about Tati and Chris.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not contacting them, I’m spamming them.  I’m doing it terribly politely though.  In an attempt to avoid people becoming enraged by the irritatingly chirpy message I could leave along with the youtube videos, I’ve been playing it very understated.  You might like my friend Tati, she’s quite similar.  This guy is kind of cool.  Perhaps this makes me a terrible promoter.  That or a genius one – I would definitely be more inclined to watch a video described like that as opposed to HEY CHECK OUT MY CHANNEL IT’S SUPER AWESOME OKAY KISSES XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but that might just be me.  It also helps to combat my huge, overwhelming awkwardness.  Sitting alone at my kitchen table in the wee small hours of the morning, I find myself blushing as I wonder whether to slightly reword my pitch before realising there aren’t that many ways to say ‘watch this video she’s cool’ and going back to my original formula.  I’d say that happens about every five pages.  Hopefully I can get it down to ten this week.

This aside, the major flaw in my cunning plan is facebook redesign of musicians’ pages.  The new configuration means posts from people who aren’t the musician themselves are stuck in a box to the side.  Very clever facebook, very clever.  I see what you did there.  This means people like me, who are trying to promote something else on someone’s page get sidelined into a little box that probably, no one will ever click on.  See, there I am:

 

So hey, if you’re checking out Bonnie Tyler’s facebook page any time soon and you see one of my posts, do click on it.  It would be nice to know my blushes weren’t for nothing.

Tati’s Journey, Part 5: So, So Ronery

forever_alone_by_foreveraloneplz

This is how I feel.

And now I’m going to tell you why.

Today I tried to target vloggers again. Sometimes making connections makes me feel like I’m That Guy on the internet. The one who posts his own memes, the memes that aren’t funny, all over the place, going LOOK AT ME, NOTICE THAT I AM HERE IN YOUR INTERNET PERIPHERIES. Sometimes my heart just isn’t in it. So I tried to go for the vloggers, but I felt kind of weird about it, so I went back to the old feminist communities I know and love and emailed them instead. Like the Awesome Women Of Twitter. I feel like they’d accept me, and understand why I’m emailing them. Know that I really do think they’d like some of my songs. Particularly B.I.G. Breasts, because, aside from the odd person who doesn’t quite realise I’m kidding, and that writer from the guardian who didn’t listen to it and still got really offended, everyone likes that song. Some of the others aren’t always hits, but B.I.G. Breasts is always a crowd pleaser.

But then fear struck. What if the AWOT don’t understand why I’m contacting them? What if none of my beloved feminist bloggers who have no idea who I am even though I know all about their lives (because they blog, duh) do? I don’t know if I can handle that kind of judgement. Am I spam? I don’t want to be spam.

Ultimately, I think today’s journey (as every day is a little journey within the bigger journey) is about unconditional self acceptance, and not giving a hoot if I don’t get any replies, or nice replies, to the friendly emails I send. Well, I have got a few, but only ones that say stuff like ‘sorry, we like what you do, but you’re not relevant to what we do at all’. Whiiiiiin.

I would not last two days in the army.

Get Yourself on the Radio – Amazing Tunes

logo

So, you’re a musician with some recordings and the next step is to try and get people to listen to them. One way is the traditional way of paying Radio Pluggers to send CDs of your work round to the major radio stations and hope that it does something..But there is another way, and I announce with a sense of pride in the fact that they are based in Gateshead in the old home of Century Radio – Amazing Radio. Amazing was on DAB until quite recently, but due to contractual difficulties, they are only available on the net right now.

 

How’s it Work?

Well, you create an account online at http://www.amazingtunes.com , and you upload your music. Easy as that. All music that is uploaded is considered for Radio Play, so you’ve already done most of the work you need to do. They listen to everything at the label and decide which they want to play on air.

 

But hang on – I’ve heard that they are the bad guys because they don’t pay PPL like the other radio stations.

Commercial radio stations pay a percentage of their commercial income to the PPL. Amazing doesn’t play adverts and never has, so once it has paid its radio station licence fee, that is it. You can however make money through their online store, by selling your music through them..

 

They sell the music they play?

Yes – once you upload a song, you can choose to either offer full length streaming for free, or make the track available for purchase on http://www.amazingtunes.com

 

Ah, so they’ll keep a commission on that?

100% of the proceeds go straight to the artist/label – through a Paypal transaction. Paypal do charge their standard transaction fees, but you can reduce this by signing up for their micro-payments scheme – and Amazing detail how to do this on the site.

 

It all sounds a bit suspicious…so how do Amazing make any money at all – with no advert or sales commissions?

They provide in-store music for retailers (and pay royalties for this. For this you need to have not registered with the PPL. If you are PPL registered, you are still able to upload your music to amazingtunes.com and for it to be considered for radio. If you are not PPL registered, then going down the instore route can provide much needed income.

Verdict

We’ll be uploading both Tati’s tunes and Chris’s single 18 Years to the site to see if we can get them on-air. We’ll update this blog post with details of any successes or otherwise once we have some feedback! Some bands have gone onto big things since being on Amazing – so we hope we can emulate their success.. If you have any experience with the station or the sites, then please comment below. Share the love for the community and all that. Cheers all.

 

 

 

Tati’s Journey, Part 4: Vlog Attack

On Friday I targeted my most delicious and cherished vloggers, and sent even more emails about B.I.G. Breasts. My thinking here was that if a blog mentions a song, or a website reviews it etc, it still takes a lot of effort for the average, not-bothered internet user to actually find and listen to that song. But in a vlog, the viewer is instantly visually/aurally attacked by whatever said vlogger chooses to throw at them. Sneaky, huh? So here are a few people I emailed:

Righteous Sexy Blonde Face Jenna Marbles

Scottish Guy With Buoyant Hair Looks Like David Tennant

Daily Grace, Probably Drunk

Honey Badger Don’t Give A Whit

 

Then I got sick and have spent the past two days on the sofa feeling wimpy. On the plus side, I finally finished Cranford. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, meanwhile, is getting really bleak. Lamezzzzz

Tati’s Journey, Part 3: The Grumpus Descends

grumpy

Today is an off day (I know, if a Thursday is an off day it’s really cliche now). I usually love Thursdays because they’re almost Friday, but you still have time to get your stuff done before the weekend. Thursday is one of the days of the week to which I have assigned a key; Bb major, because it’s chill, but kind of edgy as well. So today I thought it was Wednesday and I got all confused when I realised it wasn’t, and I had a really long nap over my lunch break because I totally went into hibernation mode, and my hair (which is getting stupidly long now because I want to grow it enough to cut it into a bob) resembles a tousled helmet and I smell really musty even though I showered this morning. And I swear I’ve been having Yakult every day this week but I only just had the third in the pack, and I’m pretty sure I had one this morning already anyway. Weird.

I was kind of pants on the connecting-with-people-and-telling-them-how-great-I-am front today. I found a few people and emailed them, and then startled myself when I realised how completely random they are and got all flustered and wound up and I ended up spinning around in the Internet wondering which door to go through. The Internet is so big. I encountered this kind of problem when I started cataloguing tribes for the Singing Wells music map, but the Internet is even bigger than Africa. I don’t know if I’m supposed to capitalise ‘Internet’ or not. That is so typical of today.

So after my morning connection-based panic, I decided to dedicate the day to doing other useful things, and coming up with a sensible plan of who I should start targeting. I’ve just remembered something my old chemistry teacher used to say; he’d go ‘fail to prepare? PREPARE TO FAIL’, and then he’d do a few James Bond gestures with his hands. He also used to go ‘two H two Oh, the chemistry owl’, and there was a joke about copper nitrate and policemen on the late shift.

I posted a very smug ‘need a job?’ status on Facebook, after which a few proactive types got in touch to help research for the music map, which is brilliant. Good timing, as well, since the catalogue is almost in shape to be passed on. Trying to make a definitive list of (almost) all the tribes in east Africa is tricky for two main reasons:

1) a lot of tribes move around, making it hard to get reliable information on who they are and where they generally live

2) a lot of tribes have about three different name variants. And variants can be things like ‘Tuken/Tugen’, or they can be things like ‘Sakalava/Vezo’. They’re not always obvious, and it’s hard to match up the names. There are also totally unrelated tribes with similar names who live near each other, like the Nsenga and the Senga. Or the Tigre and Tigray people.

I also spent two hours almost finishing the catalogue. I’m going to try and get that totally done tonight. A reminder; Africa is HUGE.

I wrote a long blog on something that will turn up on the blog page in a few days. That took a long time. And now I’m here, feeling like a grumpus because I’ve been feeling really good for a couple of days and now I’m nauseous again and I still don’t have a cat. That’s not really work-related though. I’m going to finish this catalogue, if only for the sheer rush of joy when I realise that Africa and its bigness cannot best me.

 

Tati’s Journey, part 1: Ladymusic and a Brief

Peaches and barbies DJing

So begins Tati’s Journey. For the uninitiated, uninvolved or previously uninvited, this is my journey to make a hit out of B.I.G. Breasts, and find a few other Tatis out there who might benefit from getting involved in the Abubilla community.

So how do I aim to do these things? If I have learnt anything from my love life, it’s that persistence is key. No one gets anywhere without a good deal of harassment. So I’m applying that mentality here. Dynamo team Rosie&Tati will be emailing the world, standing on street corners with free swag, lurking around open mic nights, asking other budding singer/songwriters personal questions and telling you all about our adventures right here. Really, this should be called ‘Tati & Rosie’s Journey’, since (as we told Jimmy yesterday) she has been trying to make me popular since we were about twelve, so this is essentially pretty familiar turf for her.

Inconvenient things: I have three weeks of family holiday to fit in between now and September. I’m also moving back to the West Country sometime in September, although the distance between here and there is not insurmountable. I had a dream about my currently unpopulated flat there last night; it was in the middle of a wasteland and the ceiling leaked. Hopefully it won’t have deteriorated too much by the time I move in. Although I did get a call from a flatmate saying there’s black mould in the windows. Oh dear.

 

So today I emailed a bunch of independent music reviewers, and I came across a website called The Grapevine. It’s pretty cool, it’s sort of like a little version of what we want to do with voices; they’re a small community of writers passionate about music, and they write reviews of funky stuff they come across (some may say my use of ‘funky’ is inappropriate. I say, I’m setting trends). So I emailed them about all the cool stuff we do here, and also about the cool stuff I do, because I like to talk about myself (as we can see).

 

I also came across, in my internet travels, a lady called ‘Peaches’. I kept reading bits of review about her, so before I saw a video or heard anything, I knew that she’s a Canadian electro-pop musician and she’s pretty provocative. And not in the sexy Tulisa way – in the sexual issues way of Lady Gaga. I thought, you go girlfriend. Wear your outfit made of loads of differently sized breasts with Barbie heads stabled to the nipples. Although I did twinge at the Barbie abuse, being a pro-B girl at heart.

 

(I just googled ‘pro-B’ to check it didn’t mean anything lewd and darling google showed me vaginal yeast/bacteria balancing capsules)

 

So I looked Peaches up on youtube because I was starting to feel like – hey, this girl is probably really important for me to know about – and I just wasn’t into it at all. Sure, she’s being big and bad and out there. She’s clearly not too worried about what ‘people’ think, which is great! But I just don’t like the sound. Sorry, 30 year old male commenter who listens to anything and says Peaches changed his musical spectrum. She doesn’t do it for me. I’d rather have Gaga anyway, even with the awful focus on artistic statements at the moment. At least I enjoy her outfits.

I DID like this Dusty Springfield song I hadn’t heard until a few days ago though. Rosie didn’t realise what it was about. This one’s for you, lady face.

Radar Music Videos

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So, we’re in the planning stages for a new single release from Tati Kalveks. It will be a track from the album Graceless, albeit a remix. We are looking for a quirky animation to accompany the single – a video release for YouTube and our site.

So, we turned to Radar Music Videos and registered a brief with them.

 

Who Are Radar?

Radar bills itself as ’21st Century Music video Commissioning’. The premiss is this: there are lots of musicians out there who want to have videos to accompany their recordings. There are also lots of video graphers and film makers out there who want to make videos for musicians.Where a lot of musicians spend their time either in dark gig environments, windowless recording studios and traveling between the two – film makers have the same problem with edit room and shoots.

Radar gives the two the chance to meet, but how does it work?

Well, as a label, or artist, you can sign up with Radar for free (basic membership). You then post a brief to the site, and invite ‘treatments’ from the community of film makers on the site. Part of this brief includes information on the song, the budget (more about this below) and the deadlines for both treatments and the finished video. You also upload an mp3 of the song to give the potential collaborators the chance to listen to the song as they prepare their treatments.

 

Budget

So, Radar value the cost of making a music video and therefore there is a minimum budget for the briefs you can post on the site. This is £500. I emailed Radar to ask if there would be any reduction in the minimum brief budget in the future, and they are looking into this, for maybe lyric based videos or basic visual packages in the future. They are proud of the fact that they are a professional service and as such, won’t post briefs without a budget of £500 or more. Any briefs with budgets of £2000 or more are regarded as ‘Premium budgets’ and are featured on the site and promoted by Radar.

Who is using it?

The Holloways and Alt-J are just two of the bands who have used Radar Music Videos so far for their videos.

 

What does it cost for the service?

To post a brief as a band or label, is free. So where do they make their money – surely it must cost somewhere along the line? Well, there is a subscription fee for Music Directors to sign up to the site to enable them to send their treatments and to receive briefs. There are further details of this on their site.

So, what are you waiting for?

There is no obligation to actually use any of the directors who sent treatments for your projects, so if you have a budget of £500, Radar is the perfect place to pitch your briefs!

How are we getting on?

Well, we have had 2 treatments through so far.. We’ll let you know if we chose one of them and which one we go for!

 

Managing your social media from one place

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Of all of the buzz words of our time, ‘social media’ is one of those oft used phrases, that can cover a wealth of sins. From what I have read, companies are now employing social managers to look after their Facebook pages and their Twitter feeds, and if they spot un-happy customers to resolve issues immediately. Lets just say I’m pleased I’m not the social manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland this week…

It is all still a very new thing in the grand scheme of things – nobody knows how long Facebook is going to last, but at the minute, it is doing very well in taking a lot of the attention of its users – and as a result, we are trying to use it to our advantage – as are so many others in the world..

 

What’s the problem?

So, through Abubilla, we have 2 Twitter accounts, and 2 Facebook pages – one of each, for both Abubilla Music, and Singing Wells. Each has a different audience, of which we are trying to build upon, and tell the people about our content and projects (and hopefully get retweets and likes etc – a subject for another day/post).

 

So, a while back, I looked into different ways of posting to all of your social media outlets at once. There are a number of ways to do this, and I even signed up to one or two of them (you can find out which ones people are using by seeing what it says under their statuses on Facebook  – sent via ping.fm for example)

 

Ping.fm

So ping.fm was one that I tried for a while. Free service, and it works quite well, but didn’t give me the full experience of seeing my full Twitter account in its true glory (ie different panels for  connections and mentions), but it did give me the chance to update Facebook and Twitter at once, so success on that front.

 

Twitteriffic

I downloaded and began to use Twitteriffic, but this seems to be limited to Twitter and only one account at a time (although I didn’t delve deeply into it…). Also I found that, as with many programs and such, I stopped using it after a few days – ie it wasn’t enough to keep me interested, which is a shame, as I paid for it….

 

Tweetdeck

Next was Tweetdeck which has both a downloadable application, and as I have just found out – an online service. You can view all of your Twitter accounts in one place, and update them all at once. Again – did the trick for a while – and the software was, I believe a free download from the Apple App Store. So, again – successful for a while, but again I stopped using it after a while.

 

Hootsuite

Now I’m onto Hootsuite, which is another service that allows you to add your different social media accounts  – Twitter and Facebook, and others that I haven’t delved into yet (Foursquare, LinkedIn, Mixi (??) and even the mighty WordPress!). the online window is very clean and clear and your accounts are arranged into tabs along the top window of your browser – much as the tabs of your browser are arranged under the address bar etc.

So far, so good. I’m going to experiment with scheduled tweets – maybe for a ‘Song of the Day’ on the Abubilla Music Twitter feed and a ‘performance of the day’ on the Singing Wells site – showcasing the best of our material so far.

 

These may not be the only Social media tools for this out there on the web – please let us know via the comments, if you know of any more, or can recommend anything else for us to try!

 

 

By the way, those account addresses in full for you to be able to check them out:

 

http://www.twitter.com/singingwells

http://www.facebook.com/singingwells

http://www.twitter.com/abubillamusic

http://www.facebook.com/abubillamusic