Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Hologram Of Sound Within Our Universe

How can vibrations, disturbances I the air create something so humanly subjective called music? Since all matter is made of atoms and those atoms vibrate can we call the universe an orchestra?

Sound is just information. Sound travels from source to your ear, eardrum, synapse and becomes an intangible thought. Sound waves do not carry the emotions we feel from different chords, they are created within. Even when def modern musicians can still play and feel music suggesting that music has a deep cognitive mechanism. 

Sound is an intangible substance, you can't hold it in your hands. It only manifests itself when there is an observer. It can hit you like a bag of concrete or bring you to your knees.

I have a theory that the people who enjoy dance music do so be because it contains early fetal memories of our mothers heartbeat. Blues follows the rhythm of the heart as well. Puppies sleep and don't cry as much if near a ticking clock.

Early tribal drumming thousands of years ago share similarities to raves. It was a great honor to play the drums to the tribe during ceremonies, the drum becoming you as you dance and trip balls on peyote, mushrooms or ibogaine. Chemicals and music have always gone well together.

Nothing has reflected the evolution, development and advancement of a society than the music of that area. From Bach to the newest Brittany Spears song comparing large orchestral sections playing music in unison to computerized impossible voice stutters, autotune and digital drums. Music and technology are relative and always have been.

Was music played around the time the wheel was invented? Wee animal skins stretched over hollow logs and drummed when creating fire was mastered?

Music can be broken down mathematically in turn making it more in common with algebra than anything.  Like the universe music is a fractal or hologram. There is a a wide belief that a lot of composers have used the Fibonacci sequence in their compositions, if memory serves correctly BT produced a track using the golden ratio, a ratio found all over nature.

Music and sound in general is the most important manifestation within our universe. Apart from smell is the strongest sense tied to memory and more of our brains are dedicated are processing sound than vision. Music is a portrait painted within.

"all nature consists of harmony arising out of number"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mastering - A Love Story

Mastering music is by far the most complex and misunderstood aspect in music production. I lot will struggle and it takes a lifetime to learn. Don't get frustrated mastering a track, you aren't meant to.

Mastering was a big deal back in the day because tracks needed to fit and sound nice on acetate/vinyl. It also needed to be as loud as other tracks and there was to be as little stereo phasing as it could make the needle jump.

In recent years, with the advent of CDs and digital djing strict preparation of tracks for vinyl was a bit relaxed. Most tracks these days get a compressor thrown on the master bus and it's off to beatport.

Now keep in mind this is all my opinion and it may be warped to some people. A few engineers my facepalm and think I'm an idiot. It's all the same.

Mastering is no longer important.

Now hold on, don't stop reading. Mastering to me is making sure the track is not clipping, is as "loud" as other tracks, has a small bit of reverb and stereo separation on the higher frequencies and making all the sound kinda "mold" and "squish" together.

Mastering is can not be a magic wand. A PSP Vintage Warmer preset will not make a poor sounding track into an ACDC record.

The key to good tracks is the mixdown, making sure everything sits well together at a lower volume making sure to not clip then compressing/maximizing the master bus. Processing the sounds with eq, compression, limiting and sidechaining. You should never try to boost the bass on the master bus as it will effect the kick giving you mud most of the time, boosting the bass should be done on the individual bass channel unless you know what you are doing.

Plug ins are stupid, don't assume they know what you want to do, some are dynamic but hey don't have ears sitting next to you, give smart plug ins another 10 years. I used to stare at meters and analyzers all the time till I failed to see what hey were telling me, use your ears!

Also the samples the majority use are pre-processed. The Vengeance guys have there kicks and other sounds made to the same standard, volume and processing. Producing with these samples is adjusting volume, eqing and adding effects basically, you make all your sounds based off the other sounds to make everything in harmony, compressing the leads, pads and basses.

I don't buy into the whole "loudness war" hype, songs are louder that what they were 30 years ago and this war applies to commercial music, don't listen to all that noise people say. Dance music is supposed to be loud, compression can be used to extremes and sound good (listen to and Justice track). If it sounds good use it, as long as it doesn't clip and make ears bleed. You can still have dynamics and shake a club.

Best mastering plugins are as follows:

The waves L1, L2 and L3 maximizers are a bit of an industry standard. People love the L2 and hate the L3 and others dig L1 only. It's funny reading arguments about them, I think a blind listening test is In order comparing them.

PSP vintage warmer is a favorite of mine, it adds some analog fuzz and it just sounds unique. It has a nice limiter as well. I use it on all my tracks now. The great thing about it is it can add extreme drive if you wanted. An amazing algorithm under the hood I would imagine.

Izotope Ozone may be called ToysRUs by some but its a mastering suite that all who are new to mastering should use. It had a nice EQ and limiter/maximizer. The limiter is a simple slider that you can easily adjust make your tracks LOUD. I use it from time to time still,  I now have the computer power to run it's EQ on individual channels, the EQ has analog and digital modes with extreme cut. Izotope released a stand alone EQ but it lacks what this has.

Long story short it's - make a great mixdown then master to make it sound a whole lot better. Don't try to polish poo.

Think of it like making a sculpture with a chisel then buffing it to make it shine, as a posed to using a buffer alone to make the sphinx.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mac vs. PC for Audio Production

This is a touchy subject for most. A lot of the production community is torn between using a Mac vs using a PC. Mention that either is the way to go on a forum and expect a flame war that will last for weeks.

Here is the truth; they are fundamentally the same. Macs and PCs have been the same for around a decade since Mac went intel for their machines. They are both based off the same kernel also, they share the same deep roots and all established developers of software support both.

The advantage of having a Mac is being able to use the proprietary software that it offers such as logic pro and final cut. Both are arguably the "standard" in professional fields. If you are into emulating trance guys and want to use logic pro go at it but the same producers will tell you it's bugged and crashes a lot when simply recording midi notes. (note that Avid is still used by most studios as aposed to final cut)

Using a Mac for editing film professionally was extremely frustrating personally, spinny wheel and unresponsiveness while scrubbing and encoding kinda turned me off for the most part. Using Vegas pro even on an older toshiba produced video that was comparable and did so in half the time (was still HD video in mov with h264)

I still have problems with my custom PC, I have to reformat every year to keep things running smoothly. Using ableton live 99% of the time makes it so I dont need a Mac. Also using high quality components and windows 7 makes it so it never hangs or freezes and since release of windows 7 it has never crashed(especially surprising due to my experiences with XP on the same hardware setup)

Logic on a Mac and ableton on a PC both run plug ins the same way, they both share the same 30 year old midi standard and they are both supported by hardware manufactures. Can someone listen to a track and tell it was mixed in logic or FL studio or ableton? What about ableton on a Mac? What about a Mac running bootcamp? Should we even go as far as to say that spreadsheets should only be edited on a Mac?

It comes down to price, components and software. With windows bases PCs obviously in the lead for price when you compare a Mac pro to something you can build youself. Components? Well the use the same components such and intel CPUs, Texas instruments chipsets and SATA drives. Software has already been mentioned as it does the same thing on both platforms if you exclude the proprietary software apple owns.

The final round; if you want a rock solid laptop go for the MacBooks. If you don't want logic and dig ableton build a PC yourself. There's no right or wrong choice here. The biggest misconception is that using logic will make your tracks sound better, they will sound the same but that rainbow circle will show up more.