Delay vs Reverb

In this blog post i’ll be delving into something which is a good consideration when looking at mixing music both live and in a studio setting. that is the age old argument of which is better or more suited to your application, reverb or delay?

to primarily approach this argument one must first understand what each is. i will however keep the explanation brief as it is very slight the difference.

What is a delay?
A delay is simply a repeat of a signal or basically it is an echo. A delay can be one single sound or it can be many sounds depending on how the delay is set up. Some folks don’t like using the term echo in place of the term delay, but if it helps you to remember what it does then I don’t see the harm.
A delay works by you playing a signal through it and it is repeated back to you. Now how fast the signal is played back is dependent on how the delay is set.

What is a Reverb?
Reverberation or reverb for short works a little differently. In general terms reverb happens when a sound is produced in an enclosed space causing a large number of echoes to build up. The sound then slowly decays as it is absorbed by the walls as well as the air in the room. Think of being at the mouth of a large cave. If you were to yell “hello” into the cave the sound would repeat back to you and slowly die off as time progresses.

Delay and reverberation are closely related to each other because they both depend on echo to be effective, but they do differ. Let’s imagine that you are in a large room. If you were standing in the middle of that room and clapped your hands together, what would you hear? Well first you would hear the direct sound of the clap. Your ears and your brain would hear and determine that the sound is close by. Next you would hear the reflections of that sound as it reaches a wall or ceiling and then reflects back to you. This reflected sound you would hear is an echo. This echo would begin to multiply as it hits more and more surfaces within the room. These echo reflections turn into reverberation. Now with a delay you have an echo also but it is more like a repetition. The sound is repeated back to you after a predetermined amount of time.

When to use Reverb or Delay?

That is an impossible question to answer as it really depends on the material you are working with, the outcome you are looking for or the end result. But if we dive into their differences a little further it might help you decide which one you need to use on your next project.

With reverb the character of the sound is influenced by the room or maybe even more specifically the material in the room. For example a room with brick walls would sound differently than a room with wooden walls. But also keep in mind that the sound that you get out of a reverb is not only effected by the environment or the acoustics, but also the mechanical aspects of the reverb itself also plays a part. And remember how we said a reverb can contain a number of echos? Well because a reverb typically tails off we can create or fill space with them too.

A reverb is great for vocals, guitars, snare or any sound that you want to fill out. Just remember that there are no rules here. Only you and your material know the right amount of reverb, so trust your ears. Sadly in most cases beginners use too much of it. You don’t have to hear it distinctly in the mix for it to be effective in your song.

A delay is a repeated exact copy of the original signal. It has a clear and precise reproduction of the original content. Although it may change in tone it is still quite clear to hear and will sound much like the original. Setting up and use of a delay greatly depends on timing on these repeats as it relates to the original signal. So you could have these delayed signals match the tempo of the song or you can set it up to respond in milliseconds. It is totally up to you which way to go for your particular track. Delays are great for an effect or creating excitement in a track.

Delays are great on vocals and guitars, but remember there are no rules. You can use a delay on any signal that you want to.

Both reverbs and delays are also great for creating space and depth in your track. You can use them both in many different ways to help place sounds where you want them to be. By using reflections properly you can really give the appearance that any given sound is coming from where ever you want it to be coming from based on the listeners perspective.

That in short is a brief look at delay and reverb. They are not objectively better than each other however they have their appropriate uses and it is up to you as the producer or mix engineer to know which you are after.

Space and width

Today i’ll be talking about the illusion of space and width in a mix.
By splitting them into various categories that are relevant to the application of the ideas i hope it will perhaps be easier to reference later. In general though, a recording that has height and depth creates for a compelling sound. Alongside this, part of the magic of a song is pulling the listener into a different world — creating the illusion of the space only adds to that effect.

Width:
Creating width in a mix is also about contrast.
If two sounds are exactly the same and play at exactly the same time from each speaker, we perceive it as coming from a center point between the two speakers. This is often called the “ centre image.”

The key to achieving this is similarity. As soon as the sounds become different, or the timing becomes different, they start to spread across the stereo field.
It stands to reason that two sounds that are easily localised, however played at different times will sound very wide.
The greater the contrast between what’s happening in the left speaker versus the right speaker, the wider the image.

While this seems relatively simple, remember that in a dense mix it’s very easy to get a muddy end result; and in practice these things are often harder than first expected. Sounds can and do tend to run together with ease.
A prime example is synthesisers or guitars. In fact, any instrument is prone to this issue.

For example; If you double an instrument four times and pan two doubles to one side and two doubles to the other, the end result is often not as wide as desired, in fact you would have achieved more width with just the initial double track.

The key here is to create as much contrast as possible: use different guitars, amps, and/or mics and mic placement. Create contrasting tones. This will allow the ear to hear more separation when they’re panned apart.

Alongside this is the clever use of effects. By using stereo delays on a single track with a short delay of 25m/s on one channel and 0m/s on the other, you can achieve a lot of width easily. However, the issue with using delays and other effects “in the box” (such as doublers or reverbs), is that it can not only sound unnatural, but it can also lead to phasing issues. It’s easier to have good mic placement than to spend 3 hours tweaking reverb.

Depth.
Depth is somewhat less straight forward. There are three things to remember in terms of defining front-to-back placement.

  1. Louder sounds closer
  2. Brighter sounds closer
  3. Less reverb sounds closer

(The opposite of these things is also true if you desire to move things backwards in a mix)

Start with ensuring that things are evenly levelled. It’s so much easier to mix when you have an idea as to where something needs to live in terms of volume. Keeping in mind your front-to-back image while setting levels will help things fall into place very quickly.

In terms of tone, high frequency sounds loses their energy faster than low frequency sounds over distance. So as a general rule of thumb, you can roll off some highs to help shift things back.

That “in your ear” sound is more characterized by low-mid forwardness than by brightness. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but once you get a feel for it, finding the right tonal balance will make sense.

Then there’s the reverb. Reverb is a whole subject unto itself, but, suffice to say that generally the more reverb a sound has the further back it will fall.
Going further: the shorter the pre-delay, the farther away the element will seem. And, reverb that is higher in late reflections rather than early reflections will also be indicative of a sound that is further away.

Level, pre-delay, and early vs late reflections — these things all work in conjunction to form a realistic spatial sound.

Of course, getting natural space at the recording stage is best. If you know you want your drums to sit back a bit, place the overheads a little further from the kit. And record the room capture from further away too.

remixing and label expectations

Today i’ll be writing about something which is incredibly prevalent in my musical scene and is important to the development of artists and in a way integral to their success early on in their career. that is the art of remixing and providing work for labels. i’ll be initially looking at what makes a good remix from a stylistic and systematic perspective as well as how to translate your own sound into a marketable entity.
Thereafter i will be looking at what it takes to actually have music on a label and your responsibilities in relation to this.

remixing:
The act of remixing a track is often something that is overlooked by a lot of producers. the steps needed to craft a good remix can seem elusive and at times downright complicated. The essential parts to understand is that not every track needs a remix. some things are better left alone; in the same way a song can sound over crowded if there is too much happening within it, so too can a song not benefit from a remix. alongside this is to have a strong idea of what it is you want to achieve by taking on this project. do you want to change the “vibe” of the song? do you want to express something that you feel is in the original but not as prominent? do you want to change the genre so it fits into something you would actually listen to compared to the original? there are a lot of options.

But, we’ll start from the top.

The initial thing to establish when setting out to remix a song is; pick a song that you think would benefit from a remix. You’re more likely to follow through with a remix if you like the original idea. This is even more important if you’re making a bootleg and don’t have access to any stems; you need to pick a song that leaves room for work to be done.

(Note: this also applies when being asked to do remixes. If a label asks you to do a remix and you aren’t a fan of it, why not ask if there are other releases that need to be remixed?)

Once you have selected a song you then need to progress on to planning how you intend to change it. Take a good listen to the original and write down any ideas that come to mind while doing so. You might hear a new drum beat in one section, or you might think that a subtle pluck melody would work well with the vocal line in the breakdown. anything and everything is possible. it simply falls on you to arrange it how you’d like.

An important thing to note is to respect the original track and its content. Working with the material given to you instead of against it is essential. It isn’t wise to turn an original track that’s in 4/4 time signature into 3/4, and a label won’t accept your “remix” if there isn’t a trace of the original track in it.

One of the main reasons people don’t finish remixes is because they don’t get the arrangement down soon enough. Just like building a game plan, the arrangement gives you a sense of direction and allows you to step back to look at how your remix is developing as a whole.
As soon as you have ideas down, sketch out a basic arrangement. You should have it down quicker than you would normally when working on an original, because you already have a few ideas handed to you. This is crucial when doing a remix for a label as you will undoubtedly be working to a deadline.

Another thing about remixing is that a remix doesn’t have to be incredibly contrasted to the original. Sometimes you might just want to add a little extra to the original, or expand on ideas. You’ll often hear remixes where the artist has changed just the bassline and drums, but kept the overall vibe of the song.This doesn’t work for every remix, but sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed.

The final part of writing a good remix is having your own musical signature. this is something which can take years to develop. (some people use the same synth in every track, others its a specific drum sound). nevertheless, this is a great way to give the listener a sense of cohesion among all your tracks, it also helps them remember you. I’m not talking about a style as such, but rather something small and unique that doesn’t detract from the main idea or vibe of the song. this can also work in your favour when submitting a remix for say, a competition, or to a label for an Ep. Little things like this can go a long way to establishing your sound and make you stand out from the crowd.
now that i’ve explained more or less how to go about remixing. i’ll have a look at what it means to actually be signed to  label and the things required of you once this happens.

Being signed basically means you as an artist are a partner with the record label. It means you work for the label and the label works for you. It means the label owns, (in part), your music/compositions.
No contract is the same, different artists have different contracts, depending on the negotiations. As an artist on a label you merely have to keep providing profitable music and being engaged in marketing your product and the label.
Most indie or underground labels will also act in a collectivised manner to further boost their reach.

Post mortem blog?

For this final blog, I will be looking reflectively at my project work from this trimester and analysing it alongside the key KPI’s outset in the learning guide and ascertaining the strengths and shortcomings of my performance this trimester.
The KPI’s I will be looking at are; time management skills, problem solving skills, acting as a team player and finally, working well under pressure. I have largely chosen these as they in my opinion give a suitable indication of where I feel I went right and wrong during the trimester.

Performing as a team player is perhaps one of the most crucial parts of completing any project and for the most part I would say that I was successful in achieving this across the breadth of work I took part in this trimester. The project I felt I was least successful in this was the demo project. Looking back on how much I gave back to the group I certainly could have done more. Whether that was through being present at more of the recording sessions or just offering better advice to my group. I feel I let them down due to my own short comings of not communicating effectively about the things that I was doing outside of university, alongside my time management kill invariably getting in the way. Nevertheless, I did contribute to the project and helped to get the ball rolling which I think certainly helped in the initial stages.
Conversely to this “negative” performance, was my work in post-production wherein I felt I gave my absolute all bar one day where work obligations took me away from the group. I think I not only communicated well but also aimed to help everyone in my group to achieve their goals with the project. Nonetheless, I do feel I could learn to become more accomplished at this skill.

Following on from this is “working well under pressure”.
During the trimester we all felt under pressure that is for certain. However, I feel I handled it well. The looming deadline for our podcast however was certainly something that was tough for me. Working on all the other project during the trimester I did allow the podcast to be put back in my mind. But, I successfully got all of the narration down and had all my interview work finished in time for submission. Thus I believe in some respects I am competent at working under pressure however more work does need to be done in this department.

Problem solving skills as a KPI was something I think I did well. There were a few issues which arose with some project over the course of the term. Fore mostly was trying to capture the right sounds in the post production intensive. For this I think I helped greatly with my team in selecting things to put forwards. However, I did get too wrapped up in perfecting the sounds which was time wasting in the grand scheme of the project. Another aspect of problem solving I feel I could have worked on was for the podcast project regarding the narration. My recorded vocals sound thin due to being recorded on my phone. This was in fact a solution to a problem I had encountered earlier on. The zoom recorder I was using wasn’t giving me satisfactory results audio wise and my interface at home’s noise floor is quite loud when using a mic requiring phantom powers. So I had to use the iphone voice recorder to get the voicing done. It worked however significantly more needed to be done to the recording to get it to sound similar in quality to the other recordings we had done.
all critique aside, I think I did well in this and consider it to be my strongest quality.

Time management was the last KPI I will look at and it was in my opinion my greatest shortcoming. Trying to fully juggle work and music commitments to venues, working alongside the head of iq140 on the social media side of things and University work. I just didn’t have enough time in the day to get things done.
But, that is no excuse for tardiness which I was constantly guilty of. I certainly let down my team in the demo project by being either late or unable to how up and I think that if anything should tell me that I need to reevaluate the things I am taking on and not to be afraid to say no to opportunities no matter how tempting or “important” they could be.
Conversely however, I was able to complete my work on time (for the most part), and as such that suggests that perhaps I was being too critical of myself with regards to time management.

In conclusion, there are many things I would do differently with regards to my work from this trimester.
Fore mostly I would aim to cut down on the things I am doing outside of university so that I can devote more time to the things I am doing.
I would also perhaps actually voice my concern with my tutors. Which is something I’ve never really done up until very recently. Nevertheless, the people I was working with all put in their best effort, and all in all, it was largely a success and a strong learning experience.

(i am assuming this is what was meant for post mortem?)

Demo project update

so we’ve completed our demo project. and i believe it turned out amazing.
the drum changes and use of re amping have really brought it together.
alongside this, the use of the synths to draw it together and the reversed guitar chords were the cherry on top of an otherwise wonderful composition. ”

we couldn’t get our initial choice of singer onboard and instead had to use our classmate Rueben. however he was phenomenal in his performance and it suited the track.

i’ll post a link to the track once its uploaded.

The big 3: House, Tech House and Techno

A huge part of understanding the 3 genres i refer to as “the big 3” (house, tech-house and Techno) is understanding what makes them musically separate. its usually very minor things however coming to be able to differentiate between them can open up some avenues to find music which you otherwise perhaps wouldn’t have considered to be intriguing.

House
We’ll start with the genre which lay the ground work for the other two.
The basic signifier of house music is its drum line. a kick, a clap, a kick, a clap … The kick happens on the first and third beat, the claps and/or snares on the second and fourth, (however the kick is present during all 4 down beats).
Another important aspect of house music are its hi hats. (hi hats being one of the greatest differences between all three genres). the hi hats in House music tend to be on the 3rd beat between each kick drum with two extra hi hat notes placed between the claps.

Usually, classic House music has piano “stabs” and “divas”. The claps are more soulful and less relentless than Techno, but the claps and shakers can be harsh or have a strong presence in the mix (sonically speaking and especially if it is “jacking” House).

House music grew out of the post-disco dance club culture of the mid ’80s. The beat became more mechanical and the bass grooves became deeper, while electronic elements, Latin soul, dub, rap, and jazz were grafted over the music’s insistent, unvarying four-four beat. Frequently, the music was purely instrumental or with female diva vocalists.

The term “House music” is widely cited to have originated as a reference to a Chicago nightclub called The Warehouse which existed from 1977 to 1983. The Warehouse was patronized primarily by black and Latino men, who came to dance to music played by the club’s resident DJ Frankie Knuckles, a.k.a the “godfather of house”.

A good example of a famous House song would be:

whilst not one of the first house tracks, it is a quintessential house song, and embodies most of the elements of the genre.

Techno

The initial blueprint for techno was developed during the mid-1980s in Detroit, Michigan, by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May (the so-called Belleville Three). The music’s producers, especially May and Saunderson, admit to having been fascinated by the Chicago club scene and influenced by house in particular. Atkins also believes that the first acid house producers, seeking to distance house music from disco, emulated the techno sound. Derrick May famously described the sound of techno as something that is “…like Detroit…a complete mistake. It’s like George Clinton and Kraftwerk are stuck in an elevator with only a sequencer to keep them company.

The success of house and acid house paved the way for wider acceptance of the Detroit sound, and vice-versa: techno was initially supported by a handful of house music clubs in Chicago, New York, and Northern England, with Detroit clubs catching up later; but in 1987, it was “Strings of Life” which eased London club-goers into acceptance of house and techno. Although the compilation “The mid-1988 UK release of Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit” put techno into the lexicon of music journalism, the music was, for a time, sometimes characterized as Detroit’s high-tech interpretation of Chicago house rather than a relatively pure genre unto itself. Later, with its second wave of techno artists from Detroit and the Rave scene in the Uk and Europe, there developed a wider array of Techno with clearly developed but often very different sounds and styles.

So again started at same time period of Chicago House 86-87. In fact the people in Detroit and Chicago knew each other and shared some ideas back and forth.

Sonically, Techno is characterised by having a darker sound to house. with an emphasis on huge kick drums and a “larger” more experimental sound. The hi hats in techno are more straight forward with ride cymbals used indicate an increase in intensity.

A good example of techno would be this track by Boryana.

 

Tech-House

Tech-House mixes elements of minimal techno and soulful deep house. The genre came to prominence in the mid 90s in the UK through a variety of clubs and parties as more of a mixing style rather than a production style later in the decade and in many other European countries. It is often defined differently by different people as it is a hybrid of existing genres and often used as a marketing phrase or as a catch-all to music that does not fit into Techno (it has funkier, house elements), Progressive House (it does not “progress” along as it has an even groove present and avoids the trancey trappings), and Deep House (it has more techno instrumentation).

It’s a UK/European thing, it has connections to Deep House, and it sounds VERY modern and sleek. Often mostly instrumental. But it’s a very minor genre in comparison with the previous two and wasn’t really a big deal overall initially. It’s barely documented overall in how it formed but it had a fair amount of compilations that showed off its similarities in sound.

In recent times tech house has grown massively in popularity. it is also derided by many members of the techno community for being “going nowhere” music. (which is understandable with some of the more basic tracks from the genre.

nevertheless, here’s a classic Tech-House track:

Demo project

We’ve been assigned a demo project at uni. for the project we have to transform a demo we’ve been given into a new track all together but maintain the same lyrics and key.
for our demo we decided to go with a style closely resembling Röyksopp and Chet Faker.

We wanted to as a group go for a new wave digital sound. so synth arpeggios and a solid drumming track. we’ve elected to use one of our group mates roland electronic drum kit as it provides a richness of sound thats authentic to our vision. further more we’ll be using some dave smith instruments synths which i am incredibly excited to hear as i’ve only heard great things about them.

we’ll see who the project goes. we have a lot of ideas so learning the Neve console and then applying them will be intriguing.

Re-amping

Today in the studio we were introduced to an amazing technique. Re-amping.
a brief description of Re-amping is thus;
“Re-amping is a two stage process whereby you first record a dry or clean track and then re-record the track afterwards by sending the clean tract back through your amps and effects.”

The benefits with Re-amping are tremendous: From the musician’s perspective, the best performance is usually captured when the artist is fresh. With Re-amping, you record the track and worry about the sound later. In other words, capture the performance when the musician is at his or her best. You can then take your time to move the microphones around the room, change amps or add effects as needed.

This also enables you to go back and change the sound of the track to fit the mix as the production advances. For instance you may find that a rhythm guitar track is too fat and taking up too much space in the bass region. Once you start Re-amping, there is no going back.

The cool thing about Re-amping is that once you have the track, you can hit play for hours as you move the mics around and change the amps until you get exactly what you are looking for.

In our usage of it we Re-amped our toms to give them a gritty sound. and it was phenomenal! i can’t recommend this technique any more highly. i’ve actually used it in my latest work outside of uni.

20 minute live mix

I had to do a 20 minute like mix for my live sound class.
honestly i think it went really well. I happened to be going last which allowed me some time to observe where the others in my group went right and wrong during their mixes so that i could avoid some things.

my methodology for doing it was relatively simple. i approached it similar to my approach to mixing tunes when djing. I set my levels and gains first so they were all level to begin with. (any volume changes later could be done via the faders).
thereafter i put low pass filters on everything that needed it. and eq’d anything that needed it. this was relatively simple.

Next i levelled everything via the faders to get things sitting right in the mix. the compression and sjidechaining. once that was completed i moved onto effects or the vocals. from memory i added delay and reverb.

i finished with about 4 minutes to spare which to me says a job well done. 20 minutes is in actual fact a very short window when working with audio. one thing that helped me was to loop a single segment of the song we were mixing which had every element present in it.

it was pretty darn fun to do the mix.

Live Sound

For this blog post i’ll be discussing the live sound intensive i did alongside my group and what goes into making a live performance from the audio engineer side.

Fore-mostly one of the things to consider when discussing live sound is; what are you trying to achieve? For us it was a simple two act show with a dj for warm up and a band to follow. however, your requirements may be entirely different.
Nevertheless, many different things need to be considered such as size of the venue, corrective eq, PA’s available to you, and result.

The first thing in that list, [size of the venue], is incredibly important and can influence every other part of the gig/show/night, what have you.
Consider this example which i personally believe to be one of the greatest live audio engineering feats to date; Bassnectar’s 360 degree new years eve party. one of the technical rider requests was to have the volume inside the dj booth at the centre of the ring of speakers to be 0db. they achieved this within a stadium setting. for more reading about the show check out this website. http://www.meyersound.com/news/2014/bassnectar_nye/
thinking hard about how to set up in a space will mean you’re better equipped when moving onto the next area i’ve mentioned…

Corrective EQ.
This part of live sound is less about creatively making things sound good for performance. initially it is about removing any unwanted resonances or frequencies from the space you’ve selected. thereafter its mostly about making sure all the instruments sit in the mix during the sound check.
Alongside this is the corrective element of the side fills so that the audible sound on stage is fine for any performers and also takes into account any required changes due to the room.
for some good tips check out this website; http://blog.sonicbids.com/the-ultimate-eq-cheat-sheet-for-every-common-instrument
moving on from this we get to a very important part of any live element.

PA’s. 
There are honestly so many different brands of pa speaker out there that there is no such thing as the perfect speaker. (however many people are of the opinion that Funktion One are the very best at this point in time). nevertheless for any live show you need to match an appropriate amount of sound with your intended amount of people. so regardless of brand, you should be focused on achieving maximum volume relative to audience size.
For our gig we used 2 sets of dual 18″ sub boxes on each side of the stage followed by a 15″ pair of top boxes on each side for the audience, followed by another set of 15″ speakers on the sides for side fill. then we had two pairs of 15″ holdbacks for our band which worked well.
For a good guide on more of theses things have a look at this website regarding purchasing speakers. i think it’s possibly the closest to unbiased out there.
http://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/live-sound-buying-guides/how-to-choose-the-right-pa-system

With all these things considered the only thing left is Result.
what is your intended result and do you think it’s achievable? dreaming big but starting small is one of the best ways to achieve a good live gig. also being realistic. theres no sense booking a warehouse for a party if you only have 2 PA speakers, you’ll never fill the space. think hard about your intended result and consult the others in your team and you’ll succeed.