MsP Production Blog


Posts Tagged ‘bomb squad’

The Art of Comping, The Need To Upgrade My Mic, and Phase 3 is Finally Done!

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Last night, Destiny Soprano came over to re-record her part for “The Bomb Squad.”  She had previously recorded her vocals, but we both had gripes with that session. Her gripe was her performance, as she felt she could have done better. My gripe was that I felt I could’ve recorded her voice better.

My main issue with the recording was the fact that I forgot to change the preset on the Samson CCom16 Compressor from Aggressive Vocal to Smooth Vocal or just to bypass.  This caused her vocals to sound like they hit a wall, and I didn’t get the fullness of Destiny’s vocals.  That was my first conclusion, but by the end of the second session, I found out that wasn’t my only issue.

We met up this past Thursday to try to re-record.  Unfortunately, this time, Destiny had done her share of raising her voice a couple of times for various reasons throughout the day.  The result was Destiny’s throat hindering her performance.

Her part on this song (at least for the first half) was singing the first four bars of the chorus to “Alone” by Heart.  Anyone who knows this song and has tried to sing it knows that following Ann Wilson’s vocals is not an easy task.  Ann Wilson has a very strong voice with that definitive presence and the ability to reach very high notes.

Destiny’s presence in general when singing has a slight similarity in terms of strength that Ann Wilson does.  The notes on this half of the verse are relatively high, and after making quite a few attempts, we settled on a few takes, and moved on to the second half.  I wrote the second half, and it was slightly lower in range than the first half.  Problem is, however, after going at the first half really hard, she found it difficult to adjust to singing lower because she had already strained herself trying to do the first half.

To salvage the session, I ended up having to comp the vocals, using a combination of the first session and the second.

For those who don’t know what comping is, comping is taking parts of different takes of the same verse, and putting the best pieces from all the takes together in sequence so that it sounds like what would be the best possible take.

To do so, you just have to cut and paste the snips you need from the different takes together in your multi-track mixer on your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation [if you do your audio on a computer, that is considered a DAW]).  You have to listen to each take carefully, jot down which parts you consider the best, then do the actual comping.

Figure 2010-01-24/1: Comping vocals, notably track 2 and 3.

Example of comping

As you can see, what’s on track 2 and 3 are similar, except that track 2 has little snippets from different takes put together, and track 3 has a single instance recorded take.  Note also on track 2 that each snippet crossfades into adjacent snippets  slightly overlapped so that the transition between snippets are smooth.

Considering Destiny’s throat, this was the best option considering also that we were trying to meet the deadline for the 1/23 and a supplementary recording session would not be possible before deadline.  Also, because the takes from both sessions had very solid performances in various parts of different takes in different snips (the second session had 209 takes, each take having it’s solid points), it was very possible for me to find very good recordings of every phrase in different parts (it’s best to cut and paste by phrase, and not by words or syllables, because cutting in between phrases can sound choppy), and after comping, the combination would sound like a single instance solid take.

Aside from this though, there is still the issue of the recorded quality of Destiny’s vocals, as the second take also felt like some nuances of her voice were not being recorded accurately on the mic.  I concluded that it might be a good idea now to upgrade my mic to one that may be able to more accurately record Destiny’s voice and improve the recorded quality of others as well.

So right now, I’m eye-ing the Audio-Technica 2035, which is an upgrade from my Audio Technica 2020.  The Rode NT-1A is also on my short list, as well as one or two others.  I’m looking for the best mic under $200, and those two have been recommended to me.

Let the mic search commence!

Also, “Phase 3 – L.Y.R.I.C.A.L. Without Fear” was submitted today through TuneCore.  Looks like March 1, 2010 is the day we will publicly announce that it’s available on online through iTunes.  After five long years, it’s finally done! =D

And yes, there will be a Phase 4.  Tentative Title:

Phase 4 – Response.Redirect

As always, stay tuned for more!

-mnshyn

EDIT 8/23/2010: Phase 4 has a new name: SymboLYRICism.  Peep here for details.

Phase 3 Nearing Completion… Future Plans

Monday, January 18th, 2010

With “Bomb Squad” in its release candidate phase (I recorded my part yesterday), and “Intro III” recorded (done yesterday as well), this only leaves “My Thoughts Exactly III,” “Thank You III,” and “Outro III” left to record.  These last three would only take me an hour all together to record as none of them are songs.  After that point, the album goes directly into Tunecore and FINALLY… on its way to iTunes.. hopefully by March 1st. =]

Now comes the planning for the future.  I’m looking to promote this one more than I have promoted the past two albums, and I have a lot of confidence in this album.  I feel that there are many strong tracks that will be alluring to different audiences, and with the melding of unorthodox elements within these songs I feel that I am bringing something quite unique to the table.  Promoting will include performing in some open mics and a video.  I may do some YouTube tactics as well, but I don’t want to use the same tactics everyone else is using.

Hopefully, I can bring in some iTunes sales.  Although the numbers haven’t been anywhere near stellar, the fact that I have been regularly selling a song here and there means that there are people who are interested.  This album, I believe, has the power to bring some more people in at a much better rate.

Here are the projects that are currently in progress:

1. Project Inhalor [adm/mnshyn]
2. Wind Beneath My Wings [dstnysprn]

I will most definitely be working on a Phase 4 once Phase 3 has gone to iTunes.  What will Phase 4 be?  It will definitely build on the ideas of Phase 3, but I want to bring in some other elements as well that I have not used.  Different time signatures (5/4 and 6/8 being possibilities at the moment), different keys and chord structures (particularly more use of diminished chords and other 4 note chords aside from dominant 7th), and new sampling techniques.  I want my music to still have the feel of a hip-hop rooted foundation, so it still won’t strive too far from that.  Some people strive to get the old sound back (those still wanting that 94 boom bap), while others are trying a new sound that do not sit well with the traditional heads (snap/crunk/hyphy/signature dance).  I’m trying to forge a new direction that would seem logical and fitting to everyone yet still sound fresh and innovative.

I still would like to do an MsP compilation album to really show what we’re about.  MsP’s got such a lovely array of talent, and people need to see (or in this case hear) what we can do.

With that being said, I would like to help all the members create at least 1 or 2 songs this year at the minimum.  It would be interesting to note whether or not that goal will be achieved by December 31, 2010.

There’s also Flight, who we will finally get to see again after 3 years!  I don’t know if he will be interested in making music again, but you know I will have to ask.

MsP will have an informal meeting on February 6, 2010 over Chicken and Rice, so maybe we can trade notes there.

Interesting times!  Let’s see what this year has in store for us.

-mnshyn

Bomb Squad: Walkie Talkie voice formula, Harmony Speaks notes, and the Prologue

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

To tie in some of the plot points on Bomb Squad, Speaks recorded some dialogue with me.  It was a pretty funny experience with Boy Gnyus and us cracking jokes in the meanwhile. She’s speaking to me via walkie talkie so I had to make her voice sound like she was speaking through one.  I was able to do it by doing the following:

1. Old school radio quick filter in Audition 3.0
2. Distorted vocals
3. Stripped the lows
4. Used the walkietalkie_eot (after the message transmission) and tilt (before the message transmission) wave files from freesound.org (awesome resource for royalty-free sound effect samples for download)

Sounds pretty good, if you ask me.  One benefit of this was also to cover up some of the new speech nuances that Speaks now has because she had just gotten braces.

We still haven’t done the oohs and aahs.  I’m going to leave this up to her though if she still wants to do that since she will probably be experiencing more pain from her braces since she’s still new to the experience.  She did a good job with the dialogue, so I’m happy with that at the minimum.

Now, I will set the table for you guys so you can see what this song is about.  Peep the next post for the recording by Takewun of Gnyus Productions that will serve as a prologue to this song, “The Bomb Squad.”

-mnshyn

The range of Harmony Speaks and covering Bomb Squad’s plot holes.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Before I begin this particular post, I want to show what the usual process is for a project as it is being created.

Project Phase 1 – (yyyy.mm.dd-beat_name):
A beat has been made, and there are no concepts or anything yet; just a beat loop or an instrumental.

Project Phase 2 – (alpha):
The beat has been chosen for a possible song, with preliminary ideas for a concept, instrumental structured according to those ideas

Project Phase 3 – (beta):
Vocals have been recorded

Project Phase 4 – (release candidate):
All the vocals have been recorded; final mixing and mastering begins

Project Phase 5 – Final Release

Just to show you where we’re at, Bomb Squad is on Beta 14, which means that since the first vocals have been dropped, the song has gone through 13 subsequent mixes, including each mix where an added vocalist was recorded.  At this point, only two have not recorded anything yet (Harmony Speaks and I) and one (Destiny Soprano) needs to re-record.

I made a few miscalculations and the lyrics I wrote down for Speaks’s part (now looking in retrospect) were definitely subpar.  We ran through it yesterday, and we came down to the conclusion that what was originally planned wasn’t going to work.

The song is in Eb minor, and on the first bar (an Eb minor chord), the melody leads off with a Bb5.  Speaks finds that hitting a B5 is pushing, so even a half step lower would sound slightly strained.  The first half of the verse stays within a few notes below it, which is at the very higher end of Speaks’s range.

For those who are lost, the note C4 would be middle C.  If you look at a piano, the C that’s in the direct middle of the piano is Middle C, or C4.  From there, you would count up through the notes.  C4, C#4, D4, D#4, etc. until you hit C5, then continue the trend upward.  Going down would be the opposite.  C4, B3, Bb3, A3, etc.

Speaks’s range, I guess, would be classified as a mezzosoprano, which would be from A3 to A5.  That’s about right, since A5 would be a full step below the note that I guess would be the mezzo-soprano singer’s equivalent of what people call a “max” in lifting.

This was the first issue with the draft we tried yesterday.  The second were the lyrics and rhythm; neither of which were to par.  Since her part is pretty much expository, some of the words needed for it sound really unnatural for a singer.  The flow also wasn’t natural and it was choppy because of the words needed.  Substituting different words took away from the exposition.  The exposition is needed because it would cover a plot hole.

Basically, regrouping was necessary.

My thought now is that Speaks’s part can’t be a singing part, since specific things about the situation need to be said.  Since I’ve concluded that using some of those words needed sound very unnatural (or like some Broadway Action Musical of some sort, for example, “defuse the bomb”), she’ll need to speak what needs to said.

Since ADM and I are speaking in two different parts of the song, it would help if there was a break in the action for further exposition at a midway point between the introduction when we first bust in the door, and the other part recorded where we discuss defusing the bomb.  It would be expo-verse-verse-expo-verse-verse-expo.

I have no problem with her speaking the part, but I do want Speaks to sing in some way.

I’m starting to think: what if she naturally did choir oohs or ahhs, in three part harmony in the back during the exposition?  We strip the original instrumentation from those 8 bars, and she can do the backing in three part vocal harmony.

Right now this seems like a good idea.  I’ll post results later on.

-mnshyn

Project Inhaler (name pro tempore), Wind Beneath My Wings, and.. you guessed it.. Bomb Squad!

Monday, January 11th, 2010

To start off, I wanted to say that this past week was very productive in getting this Bomb Squad project finished with Cocoa, DiMpLeZ and ADM all supplying their much needed vocals.  This means that only Harmony Speaks, Destiny Soprano (re-recording) and I are the last ones left.  Hopefully, this week will be just as productive.

Some interesting tidbits about the ADM recording; ADM voice-acts pretty well, and I’m guessing this has to do with some of the work he has done on radio and his video/movie classes.   As he put it:

“This sounds like an episode of 24.” – ADM

That should give you some insight on the song. =]

On to Project Inhaler.  Project Inhaler is the project that ADM and I will be working on.  It is geared to be a Prodigy style song, so pretty close to Drum-N-Bass.  We originally thought it would be classified as Jungle until we re-evaluated the speed of the beats and realized that it was WAY too slow to be jungle.  We were able to clock “Breathe” (The Prodigy song) in at about 127bpm, whereas Jungle is typically in the upper 100’s, upwards of 150bpm, I believe, if not faster.

Based on the research ADM had done, he found that a handful of producers suggested using breakbeat templates on the FPC in FL Studio to create the breakbeat needed for this type of project.  Some suggested layering the breakbeats as well.

We were lazy though, so after going through the kicks and changing each sample to a more suitable kick drum from stock, we nixed that process and decided to make our own breakbeat using regular sequencing methods.

A welcome addition here is the use of the Glitch plugin.  Boy Gnyus and Brian Bullion both suggested Glitch (or something similar) to me as it was the same plugin that Timbaland used in his songs to do his mid-bar reverse effects (Listen to ending of Jay-Z – Dirt Off Your Shoulder, and The Game – Put You In The Game for reference).  ADM suggested we try it after he had downloaded it a few days prior, and so we downloaded it and put it into use.  We haven’t gotten the total benefit of using it yet, though we used the Gater and Crusher in different parts of the break as well as the rhythm synth we used and the results were very gritty and we’re definitely looking to extend the use of the plugin.  For you producers out there, you can find Glitch here.

For anyone who is familiar with the song “Breathe” or other songs from Prodigy (more notably, the Fat of the Land album), then you know vocals are involved.  We are looking to have K-Maculate drop some vocals on this one, and I will try to as well.  I felt the British accents of both the people in “Breathe” helped that track, so I don’t know if our voices will make the cut.  We always make do with what we have though, and I’m sure we can figure something out to make it nice and greezy.

We employed Sylenth (or was it Vanguard?  I’ll have to re-open the project) as the ryhthm synth; using a distorted guitar type of synth preset.  Coupled with Glitch, it came out pretty juicy.  We don’t plan for this song to be too melodic as we want it to have that really aggressive feel.  The song does have a nice sounding base (foundation or low octave?  see what I did there? lol) in B minor, and we won’t be using too many notes to keep the aggressive tone.

With that foundation, we finished this phase of work on the project with some next steps being outlined:

– Map out the song arrangement, and what to break each section with
– Gather ideas for lead synths or instruments.  “Breathe” used a non-descript plucking of something as well as some guitar usage; both clean and distorted
– Come up with an actual name for the song
– Bring K in for some vocal input

I’m actually starting to wonder now what Harmony Speaks would sound like on something like this.  Maybe for a 1 or 2 bar break?  It would serve as part of the separation of sequences in the song.  I’ll run that through with ADM and see what he says.

I’ve also re-commenced work on Destiny Soprano’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” cover.  I’ve gone through two different iterations of it and through both I haven’t been comfortable.  I do feel however with the addition of the acoustic drumset in the studio, it may open some things up.  I’m thinking of now giving it a more rock feel in the recording (low to almost dry reverb with more guitars compared to the rich reverb-filled original with synths/keyboarding), and maybe some R&B elements in the arrangement.

Exciting time in the MsP world.  Keep checking in for more updates!

-mnshyn

Bomb Squad… again. lol Robotic voice formula

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I went over to Proteus Studio to record DiMpLeZ part in Bomb Squad.  She plays the part of the bomb in this whole thing.  Aside from a verse she had to record as the bomb, she also had to recite times.  For example, “T-Minus 3 minutes 38 seconds.”

I couldn’t just use her actual voice because her voice is pretty soft.  So after some experimenting, I developed a decent technique to give her voice a mechanical/robotic touch.

Take the vocal recording, duplicate it twice (not necessarily recorded again twice, but you can if you want) so you have three different samples.  Give the first sample an old school radio type filter.  Run the second sample through a pitch shift transposed by -12.  Run the third sample though a pitch shift transposed by +1.  Note that when you pitch shift, do not shift the tempo so that all three will be played simultaneously.  Play them together and you will get a nice robot type sound.  Very sci-fi, I think.

Two more vocalists, and one re-recording, and this thing is OFFICIALLY DONE!  I cannot wait!

-mnshyn

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