Sunday, 16 October 2011

Lay it down

Well new decisions: a few of them in fact.

  1. The album will not make the release date of 11.11.11. I could have made it but there are two really good reasons to delay. The first is that I can only make that date now by pushing hard, it might be rushed. The second is that I have always intended to run a "viral marketing game" for the launch - well I seem to have managed to get this turned into a student final year project (well I am a lecturer...) which means an ideal time for this from the student's perspective is to run the game during February. Therefore the release date is now moved to 1.2.12
  2. I have finished phase 2, I don't thing there are any more musical changes to make to the album, what is left is "mastering" - getting all the levels, processing etc. to sound right. There are bits that I know are balanced wrong.
  3. Because I can now with the changed release date, I am "laying it down" - in other words leaving it alone, no messing, and significantly no listening, for about 6 weeks. I will start the mastering process on 1st December. This is actually really good practice, it allows me to come back to it with fresh ears in a few weeks, and it helps me separate myself from the emotional attachments I have to it. I can almost tell myself that somebody else recorded it - in fact it was past me.
  4. What to do in the meantime? relax a bit, and work on the artwork.
  5. Speaking of artwork, there are three "e-books" I'm going to make to accompany the album, an art book, an explanation book and a "making of" book. These will be PDFs and initially may only be available to participants in the viral marketing game. The "making of" book will be based on this blog. The explanation book will have less in it and will explain the philosophy and ideas behind the music, and the art book will have a picture for each of the 27 sections of music.

Gotta go.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

wrestling with a sampler

Huzzah! pass three is finished. There were not that many changes to be made in pass three, but my frustration with crashes reached all new heights.

It's the sampler: Kontakt, an otherwise beautiful piece of software from Native Instruments. My version is a few years old, and something in the combination of Kontakt, Cubase, Windows 7 and this computer is not happy. It mostly crashes when I try to mix down a section. So I have to kill the program process, reload the file, remove Kontakt, save, close Cubase, reload the file, restart Kontakt and re-put in all the settings I might have had, cross my fingers and hoe that this time it worked. Sometimes doing a "save as" and restarting with the saved as file helps. Sometimes doing a file copy of the project file helps.

And in this pass, for one particular section, I have spent several hours doing this in different combinations over and over hoping to get a usable result. I have done, finally, and after much struggle I have come to the finish of the third pass. This might be the last pass of tweaking before mastering commences. I will have to do a lot of listening before I can convince myself that it's fine.

What have I done in this pass?

  • The rain at the beginning has had some flowing water sound added and altered a little to make it all work better. Right at the end of teh first track I use the beginning backwards, but the sound effects sounded weird, so while the music is backwards, the sound effects are forwards.
  • One line of flute has been changed in 1.1.2 so make it less strident
  • 1.2.1 has had the pitch bend restored on the recorder line - it had been lost in one of my getting rid of the crashes processes
  • 2.1.3 has had some small volume tweaks
  • 2.2.3 has had the most radical change - I have removed the bass drum beat entirely from the spacey section - I had tried loads of things to make it work and eventually had gone with the maxim "if in doubt take it out". It is of course different, but I think I'm already liking it.
  • in 2.3.2 there are some guitar chords which are meant to be distorted and in the background. I have changed the sound processing on the guitar twice already, and now I think the sound is right, it just needed to be quieter.
  • in 3.1.1 the strings I had introduced in pass one which were too quiet were now too loud, so I have made some changes, also added to the string only section so it has more melodic bits and is a bit less like the soundtrack for a Peter Greenaway film.
  • I have added more notes at the end of the 3.1.1 section, and removed the discordant note. Basically there was a gap I wasn't happy about and I have been attempting to cover it. I played with lots of possible sound effects, but nothing seemed to work either musically or conceptually, so instead I did something different - extended the tune of the line by adding 2 notes, and now the gap has been shortened or removed or improved - I hope.
  • in 3.2.2 there was an intake of breath through my nose while playing the classical guitar that was irritating me increasingly. 3.2.2 and 3.2.1 were all one project, and after I had managed to remove the noise with some clever editing, I then couldn't get a mixdown. This was over a week ago, and today I got a mixdown finally, possibly helped by finally deciding to separate the two sections into different projects.
  • 3.2.3 cleaned up the fast classical guitar, and rationalised the processing - hopefully it is less hissy now.
  • 3.3.3 brought down the volume of the flatlining beep. It was reasonable on the headphones, but there's something about the sound system in teh car that seems to push that particular frequency until it was deafening!

So, on from here - lots of listening and then mastering, which is the process of going through with a fine tooth comb and checking volume, tone equalization, stereo placement and subtle processing, so that it all sounds good, and clean, and as close to perfect as possible. To be honest, though I am going to keep a copy of how it all is now, because to some extent I have been mastering as I go along, tweaking and twiddling until it sounds, in my opinion, pretty good.

I listened to most of the previous two albums yesterday. It was interesting listening while I'm in critical mode, looking for mistakes and things that could be better - let's just say I think my standards have got even higher for this album - which I wanted to be the case.