Mic Check 101 (Cubase 5)

Condenser microphones are the most common types of microphones that you'll find in most recording studios, not just home studios.
They have a superior frequency response and transient response - which is the ability to reproduce the "speed" of the source signal.
They also generally carry a louder output, but are much more sensitive to loud sounds.

Condenser microphones are generally more expensive than dynamic microphones, but many cheap condensers mics do exist.

They require the use of a power supply, generally 48 volt "phantom power", This phantom power is generally supplied by most mixing boards or external power supplies (look for a switch that says "P 48" or "48V" on the channel strip or on the back of your mixer.)

Condenser microphones are generally preferred in recording studios because of their sensitivity to loud sounds and the fact that they're quite a bit more fragile than their dynamic counterparts.
That being said, you'll find them onstage at live music shows, used for drum overheads also for use in orchestral or choral sound reinforcement.

With condenser microphones, you'll generally find two different types: small diaphragm, and large diaphragm. Large diaphragm condensor microphones are the most popular in many studios home or professional.

Dynamic Microphones

Compared to condenser microphones, dynamic microphones are much more rugged. They're also especially resistant to moisture and other forms of abuse, which makes them the perfect choice onstage.

Dynamic microphones like the Shure SM57 and Shure SM58 are legendary for not only their good sound quality, but the amount of abuse they can withstand. Any good rock club probably has at least 5 of each of these microphones in various states of aesthetic ruin; however, they still turn on and more than likely sound just as they did the day they came out of the package.

Dynamic microphones don't require their own power supply like condenser microphones. Their sound quality is generally not as accurate, however.

Most dynamic microphones have a limited frequency response, which makes them well-suited, along with their ability to withstand high sound pressure levels, for loud guitar amps, live vocals, and drums.

Great dynamic microphones include the Shure SM57 ($99), Sennheiser E602 ($99), and the Shure SM58 ($99).

Recording Vocals At Home - You'll want a large-diaphragm condenser microphone with phantom power; if not, you might want to consider a large-diaphragm dynamic microphone like the Shure SM7B ($350). If your cash stash is low like mine then you won't get any better than a Shure SM58 for the price or the overall quality.

Recording Acoustic Guitar - You'll want a good small-diaphragm condenser microphone when recording guitar. A good choice is the Oktava MC012 ($99), Marshall MXL 603S ($99),

Recording drums- When recording drums in your home studio you cant go wrong by using these top home studio mics. The first one is the Shure SM57 great mic for recording toms as well as snares.

Another quality and proven microphone for recording drums is the Heil-PR40 this mic works magic when recording a kick drum.


E.Q. Frequency Table Chart Cubase

Here's a chart that will explain some of the problem areas that you may come across when E.Q.ing tracks.

31Hz Rumble, "chest"
63 Hz Bottom
125Hz Boom, thump, ****th
250Hz Fullness or mud
500Hz Honk
1KHz Whack
2KHz Crunch
4KHz Edge
8KHz Sibilance, definition, "ouch!"
16 KHz Air

1. If it sounds muddy, try cutting at 250Hz.

2. If it sounds honky, try cutting at 500Hz.

3. Cut the frequency if you’re trying to make things mesh and
sound better.

4. Boost the frequency if you’re trying to make things sound

5. You can’t boost something that’s not there.


How To Get Your Home Studio Music onto Your Website

Many people ask me how to get their music onto their own personal music websites. Here are a few methods. There are three ways: 1. By direct html/java web programming; 2. By using an application that basically programs a music player for you; 3. By using a third party "widget."

2. Applications for Putting Music on your Website

Here is one option: http://musicplayer.sourceforge.net/ The big advantage is that it is free and lots of people use it, but it's a little tricky to setup. It plays more of a "playlist" which is cool. So it's more configurable and takes some time to setup but well worth it.

3. Third Party Widgets

There are many third party options out there for putting music on your own website. The process is simple: You sign-up and load your songs onto the third party website and then copy HTML code to paste into your own website. Here are two free options that are very easy to use: Reverb Nation http://www.reverbnation.com or Nimbit Free found here: http://www.nimbit.com/ . Nimbit has the added value of being able to sell your music through the widget as well. Instant ready made music store!


Music Copyright Myths and Royalty Free Music

Ever downloaded music from the Internet? Perhaps you wanted to use it in the classroom, or needed it for your website, or to add to a flash movie
, or maybe to jazz up a multimedia project. Whatever the end use, more and more of us are frequently turning to the Internet as our one-stop resource for digital music because we know that it is a fast and easy way to get just what we are looking for! Unfortunately, what many of us don't know is that it may not be legal to do so. Downloading music files from the Internet and using them like the music belonged to you means that not only are you infringing upon the copyright, but you are also risking being fined and even being legally prosecuted.

The law does not recognize if you are unaware of copyright laws. So, don't put yourself in an illegal situation when it is so easy and affordable to use Royalty Free Music from music production libraries. And don't base your online actions on hearsay.

This article attempts to bust some common myths that abound in the virtual world, and put you on the right side of the law.

Myth 1: It is legal to use any music for 7 seconds
Fact: No. Unlawful use of even a short excerpt from a song is enough to land you in a copyright infringement case. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise, unless he is a copyright attorney! Remember, there is nothing like free to use music - not for 30 seconds, not for 7 seconds, not even for the first eight bars! You need a license to use music without landing into trouble.

Myth 2: I bought a music CD, I can use the music on my website since I paid for it.
Fact: Wrong. You bought the CD - not the music! Buying a legitimate CD gives you the right to play the music privately. You definitely need permission from the composer of the music as well as the sound recording company to use the music on the CD as background music for your website.

Myth 3: The composer is dead, his music is no longer under copyright.
Fact: Untrue. The copyright for a music composition lasts for approximately 70 years from the death of the composer. It does not automatically expire with its creator. And even if the composer is dead since a long time - like Mozart for example - you still don't have the right to use someone's interpretation of their music without a license.

Myth 4: It's for a non-profit organization, so I can use any music I want for free.
Fact: False. Your project (website, presentation, video, anything) may be non-profit, but when it becomes available to other people, you are allowing them to hear music they didn't purchase. That is a breach of the copyright law, no matter if you are making money on the project or not.

Myth 5: I can use this music for free because I found it on the Internet.
Fact: Absolutely not. All music found on the internet is under copyright. If you reproduce, perform, or distribute musical compositions and sound recordings without the requisite licensing, you are violating copyright law.

Myth 6: I can use music because the website did not carry a copyright notice.
Fact: Beginning March 1, 1989, it is no longer mandatory to display the copyright notice to protect one's intellectual property, in this case, music.

And if you are still not convinced, consider this: Would you pick up produce from a farm and walk away without leaving money for what you took? Most certainly not! You wouldn't deprive a hard working farmer from his rightful income. Likewise, if you violate copyright law, you deprive a composer of the royalties derived from the purchase of their work. Think about it!

So what is copyright, anyway? When you own the copyright of a piece of work, it means literally that you have the "right to make copies" of that work. By extension you also have the right to license that work to others who want to use it. It is a form of intellectual property law that protects an original piece of work from being pirated and used without permission of its creator

To avoid getting on the wrong side of the law, consider purchasing a legal music license from royalty free music libraries. Whether you are looking for production music for your video or background music for a multimedia presentation, you can choose from literally thousands of royalty free soundtracks. What's more, buying royalty free music online is really easy and affordable.

Stay clear of unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted music, and keep the copyright police from knocking at your door!

About the AuthorGilles Arbour (contact me) is one of the owners of www.premiumbeat.com a leading Royalty Free Music Library.
Get a FREE music player for your website.

Cubase 5 Music Production Mixing Tips & Tricks

What makes a pro recording pro? What is the "sound" that the pros get and how can you make your recordings sound more professional?

The simple answer is - there's no simple answer. But with careful listening and a little experience you can create excellent results with modest equipment.

Good mixing starts ear

The first and most important item of equipment is - who knows? Anyone? It's your ears! Sorry to tell you this, but listening to ten hours of Rave at 110dB will do nothing for them and you might as well give your mix to a turtle as try to mix with misused ears.

Listen to commercial recordings of mixes you like, analyse them, listen for the effects and get to know what constitutes the sort of sound you're after.

Mixing secrets

There's no hidden secret to getting a good sound, but if we had to sum up the secret of mixing in two words it would be this - EQ and compression. Okay that’s three words.

These are probably the two most important tools used by professional producers. However, like any tools, if you don't know how to use them you'll be carving Habitat tables instead of Chippendale chairs.

That's where your ears and experience come in. Here we have assembled some production ideas, suggestions, tips and tricks but they can only be guidelines and need to be adapted to suit your material. There are no presets you can switch in to make a bad recording sound good. And if your original material has been poorly recorded not even Abbey Road could salvage your mix. But follow these suggestions and see how much your mixes improve.

Get the level right

You can't push the levels when recording digitally as you can when recording to tape but you still want to get as much signal into the system as possible. This means watching the levels very carefully for clipping, and recording at an even and constant level.

Some recording software lets you monitor and set the input level from within. Some expect you to use the soundcard’s mixer while others have no facility for internally adjusting the input level and expect you to set this at source.


Your ears are only as good as the monitors they listen to. DO NOT expect to produce a good, pro mix on tiny computer speakers. It may sound fine on a computer system, but try it on a hi fi, in a disco and through a car stereo.

Oddly enough, you don't necessarily need the most expensive Mic. Many top artists use what some might call "average" Mics because they work well and get the job done. You can spend a wad on a large diaphragm capacitor Mic (yes, they're good for vocals) if you have the lolly but check out dynamic Mics which are much more affordable and can be turned to several tasks.

Mixing MIDI and audio

One of the great things about computer-based recording is that the parts can so easily be changed, edited and processed. It's also so easy to combine MIDI and audio tracks and many musicians use a combination of sample loops, MIDI parts and audio recording.

Audio recordings are generally guitar and acoustic instruments such as the sax and vocals. Incidentally, the best way to record guitars is by sticking a Mic in front of its speakers. You can DI them and process them later and this may be cleaner but for a natural guitar sound a Miced amp is hard to beat.

It's not necessary to record drums live and, in fact, it's difficult to do and retain a modern sound. You can buy off-the-shelf MIDI drum riffs and audio drum loops, or program your own. The quality of the gear which makes drum noises these days is such that anyone with a good riff can sound like a pro.

Mixing MIDI

As MIDI and audio parts appear on the same screen in modern sequencers, it's very easy to arrange them into a song. However, when you come to mix everything down there's another consideration. If you are recording to DAT you can simply route the audio and MIDI outputs through a mixer and into the DAT machine.

However, if you want to create a CD you must first convert the MIDI parts to audio data. The entire song can then be mixed to hard disk and burned to CD. Converting MIDI to audio can have another benefit and that's the ability to process the MIDI tracks using digital effects.


There are three positions for effects known as Master, Send and Insert. Use the Master for effects you want to apply to the entire mix. These will often be EQ, compression and reverb.

Although giving each channel its own Insert effects is kinda neat, each one uses a corresponding amount of CPU power. So if your computer is struggling and if you're using the same effect on more than one channel, make the effect a Send effect and route those channels to it.

Many pieces of software let you apply an effect Pre or Post fader. With Post fader, the amount of sound sent to the effect is controlled by the fader. With Pre fader, the total volume level of the signal is sent. Post fader is the usual default and the one you'll use the most.


EQ is the most popular and the most over-used effect. Yes, it can be used to try to "fix a mix" but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear as me Gran used to say and what she didn't know about mixing could be written in the margin of the book of honest politicians.

But before you start messing with EQ - or any other effect for that matter - make sure you have a decent set of speakers. Have we said that already? Oh, must be important, then.

There are plug-in effects such as MaxxBass which can psychoacoustically enhance the bass frequencies to make it sound better on smaller speakers. However, this is by no means the same as getting a good bass sound in the first place by observing good recording principles.

EQ can enhance a mix to add gloss, fairy dust, shimmer, sheen, a sweetener or whatever you want to call it to the final production. It can be done with enhancers and spectralisers, too, although these tend to mess with the harmonics which some producers don't like. However, don't dismiss them out of hand.

General EQ lore says that you should cut rather than boost. If a sound is top-heavy, the temptation is to boost the mid and bass ranges. But then what usually happens is you start boosting the upper range to compensate and you simply end up boosting everything and you're back where you started - only louder!

The reason why cutting is preferred is that boosting also boosts the noise in the signal which is not what you want. Try it. Boost every frequency and listen to the result. If you think it sounds okay, fine. What do we know?

But when you're fiddling, do keep an eye on the output meter. Boosting EQ inevitably means increasing the gain and it's so-o-o-o easy to clip the output causing distortion which does not sound good.

Finally, check EQ changes to single tracks while playing back the entire piece. In other words, listen to the tracks in context with all the other tracks. It may sound fine in isolation but some frequencies may overlap onto other tracks making the piece frequency rich in some places and frequency poor in others.


Reverb creates space. It gives the impression that a sound was recorded in a hall or canyon instead of the broom cupboard. Recording lore suggests that you record everything dry, with no reverb, so you can experiment with a choice later on. You can't un-reverb a track once it's been recorded.

The more reverb you apply, the further away sound will seem. To make a vocal up-front, use only enough reverb to take away the dryness. Vocals don't want to be mushy (lyrics can be mushy) so use a bright reverb.

A common novice error is to swamp everything with different types of reverb. Don't - it sounds horrible!

Mixing down

You've done all the recordings, done the edits, applied the effects and now it's time to mix everything into a Big Number One Hit! Before you do, go home and have a good night's sleep. Have two. In fact, sleep for a week.

Yes, we know you're hot and raring to go but your ears are tired. They're falling asleep. Listen carefully and you might hear then snore!

There is a phenomenon known as ear fatigue and consistent exposure to sound, especially the same frequencies, makes our ears less responsive to them. Goes back to the bit about spending your life in a Rave club - you'll never be a master producer. If you try to mix after spending a day arranging, your ears will not be as responsive, so do them and your mix a favour by waiting at least a day.




1. SOURCE: Vocal
2. ATTACK: Fast
3. RELEASE: 0.5s/Auto
4. RATIO: 2:1 - 8:1
5. HARD/Soft: SOFT
6. GAIN RED: 3 - 8dB

1. SOURCE: Rock vocal
2. ATTACK: Fast
3.RELEASE: 0.3s
4.RATIO: 4:1 - 10:1
6.GAIN: 5 - 15dB

Acc guitar
5 - 10ms
5 - 10:1
5 - 12dB

Elec guitar
2 - 5ms
5 - 15dB

Kick and snare
1 - 5ms
5 - 10:1
5 - 15 dB

2 - 10ms
4 - 12:1
5 - 15dB

1 - 5ms
6 - 15:1
8 - 15dB

2 - 6:1
2 - 10dB (Stereo Link On)


Compression Settings for Home Studio Vocal Recording

For compressing before the A/D conversion, use just a touch of compression.
1.5:1 or 2:1 ratio, fast attack (about 5ms) and medium or automatic release.
Usually, 3 to 6 db's of gain reduction with these settings you won't make the vocals seem so squashed down.

You could also turn on the limiter to catch those sudden peaks that occur during the music recording process. Remember that theres no automatic compression setting so sometimes tweaking through trial and error may work best in order to get the type of musical sound that you are looking for.

Cubase 5 How To Record Vocals in A Bedroom

The number one factor in vocal recording is the room. You might’ve thought it was the mic you’re using or the pre-amp you’re running it through, but the truth is if you’ve got a U87 and an Avalon but the room you’re recording in is crap, you won’t be much farther ahead than a guy using a Behringer mic through an Mbox.

You could buy one of those (often rather expensive) reflection shields that attach to the stand and sit behind the microphone, and this will do you some good, particularly if your mic is omnidirectional. However, most common vocal microphones for both home and studio users are cardioid, so the shield will still help to an extent but the majority of problem reflections will come from the front — that is, the surfaces behind the vocalist’s head.

This article isn’t about treating your room, which is a great idea if you own your home and you can learn more about doing so on a budget here. We’re talking about cheap, fast and temporary solutions for the moment. The best thing you can do in this case is to grab a blanket and tape it to a wall or hang it over a reasonably tall and wide bookshelf with some books pinning it down on top.

You want to get as much of the surface on the wall behind the singer covered as you can. Don’t neglect the area behind and above the head in particular — if your singer is taller than your bookshelf (or even around the same height), forget about hanging the blanket and tape it to the wall. The thickest blanket you can find is best.

Here’s an example that compares a bedroom recording without a blanket, and then with a blanket — I’ve used a clap, the industry standard reflection measurement technology:

As you can hear, the first sound has a very metallic reflection to it, which isn't particularly pleasant. The second clap shows that you can't eliminate reflections in a bedroom this way, but you can control them and give yourself some room to apply a nicer reverb later.

You’ll have the best luck in a carpeted room. If you’ve got floorboards or tiles, get a rug that covers as much of the floor as possible. You should also ensure your curtains or blinds are drawn as window glass is incredibly reflective. Slat blinds are not particularly good at blocking the reflections because of the gap between each strip, so try to hang a curtain even if only for the duration of your recording session. Again, the thicker the better. In some recording rooms a bit of liveliness isn’t a bad thing when the reflective surfaces have been purpose-designed, but in a bedroom you’re best of deadening as much as you can and adding reverb during the mixing phase of your project.

Dampening the vicinity behind the singer’s head can be enough to reduce reflections to decent level for home demo recording, but if you’re full of energy and have more blankets than you know what to do with, put one on every wall and maybe even lay one over your desk surface. The last suggestion involves a lot of work — you need to move your gear, put the blanket down, put the gear back, and then repeat the process when you’re done, but a reflective desk can cause a lot of problems.

Positioning the microphone can be tricky in a home studio situation. You don’t want to be too close to walls or other reflective surfaces such as desks (especially desks, as frequencies, in particular bass, will build up underneath the desktop). On the other hand, you don’t want to be in the middle of the room — the frequencies that build up due to non-purpose specific room design are most prominent here, and are known as standing waves.

In a small room, as most home recording environments are, it’s tough to get away from walls and from the center of the room. My recommendation is that you put yourself closer to a wall that is dampened with a blanket and face the other side of the room. Get a few feet away from the wall if you can do so without putting the microphone in the middle of the room, and make sure the wall you’ve chosen is furthest away from your desk or windows. You may want to rearrange the room so your desk is at the window! It might increase the reflectivity of that area of the room, but if you can get far enough away from it, this is better than having nowhere to go because your desk is at one end and the window’s at the other.

If you can get a few feet in front of the wall you’ve chosen to dampen, make sure you can dampen as much of that wall as possible. Using a few blankets is a bit of a pain, but worth it in the end.

Your singer should stand about a foot away from the microphone as a general guide. Softer singers might be better off standing at half that distance, while a loud metal screamer might need as much as two feet of distance. Good microphone technique plays a part in the process, which unfortunately requires the singer has some experience with studio recording. Someone who has sung live for years but has never entered a studio is not going to be much better than a total neophyte, particularly if you’re using condensers, as the correct technique differs in both situations. They may have a bit of an advantage if you’re recording with dynamics (and I’ve only ever seen a dynamic mic used for studio vocals a couple of times, and one of those times was because the singer was too loud for a condenser even with a -20dB pad on and low gain!).

It’s also advisable to put the singer a couple of degrees off the center of the microphone, where it’s less sensitive. Singers like to move their heads, and a centimeter can make too much of a difference at dead-center. Which leads me to…

The Proximity Effect
Almost all dynamic microphones and the vast majority of condensers used in a home studio have a proximity effect, which is to say that the closer the sound source is to the microphone, the more the bass frequencies will be exaggerated. 90% of the time, this is undesirable in vocal recordings.

There are a few ways to combat this — your best bet is to use a singer with good microphone technique and awareness of the various problems that can crop up when they move their little heads too close. When you’re dealing with a less experienced singer I’ve found an effective quick fix is to move the pop filter a few inches away from the mic so they physically cannot get too close to the microphone (you are using a pop filter, right? If not, get one right away!). Be careful, as this may limit their ability to compensate for a sudden drop in volume by moving in a bit closer.

Most people have a tendency to record vocals too loud, which causes clipping and definitely cannot be fixed in the mix. Unfortunately, if you’ve got a home studio with typical home studio gear, you don’t have the luxury of recording too soft, either. With a studio quality set-up, you can record quietly without danger (usually) of running into noise floor problems. At home, the equipment and cables are almost always too noisy and you need to record with enough volume to escape that ugly sound.

Every time you set up a vocal recording session, you’re going to need to spend time getting the levels right so that the quietest point in the song can be heard loudly enough without introducing clipping when the singer gets a bit more passionate in the chorus. To make matters worse, you need to remember that a singer — be it yourself or someone you’re recording — will get louder as they get further into the session and begin to overcome nerves, particularly those singers who are not experienced in the recording studio. So even if you spend twenty minutes getting your levels right at first, there’s a good chance you’ll need to compensate for it by the time you’re doing the real-deal tracking.

Make the Singer Sound Great
At least, to them! Almost all singers are suddenly and magically able to sing better if they hear their voice after is has been processed a bit. Different singers have different needs, but a bit of compression and reverb on the monitoring bus are usually the way to go. If your compression and reverb units are hardware units, make sure you can route your headphone bus through them so the hard effects aren’t recorded for good, unless you know what you’re doing and don’t intend to change it later on.

For those of you with a more basic setup, such as an Mbox, headphone mixes aren’t an option. You’ll need to satisfy yourself with slapping a plug-in or two on the vocal track and using software monitoring, or going without if the latency is too high for that.

Singers — and have no illusions, every singer from yourself to Rob Halford — will try to overcompensate for the flaws they hear in their voice if confronted with the raw sound from the microphone. Some are better at focusing on the performance and doing less compensating than others, but they all do it. Put some artificial control in place with the compressor and a more natural sounding room with a bit of nice reverb.

Ever seen someone who has never worked in a studio enter a treated dead room or anechoic chamber before? I was surprised to find that many people find it disconcerting. A disconcerted singer is not a very good one, so liven up the deadened sound and you’ll notice an immediate improvement.

As it happens, they say this is why people sing in the shower more than any other location!

How To Overcome The Lyric Writing Hurdles That Are Keeping You Behind

The lyric writing side of songwriting is known to create an enormous number of problems for some folks. No matter how hard they try, they are unable to write a single line that they can be pleased with.

In many cases these very same people make phenomenal advancements in writing music and melodies. However they just can't seem to figure out how to come up with suitable lyrics to match them.

If you are facing such a situation, there's probably no need to worry. By taking certain appropriate steps you should be able to overcome lyric writing hurdles and write songs that deliver.

(1) Here are some essential ideas for overcoming these hurdles.

1. Collaboration

If you're very good at writing melodies but can't seem to write a single line, one solution might be collaboration. Instead of beating your head against the wall for ideas, find someone who is very good at writing lyrics and work together. You may be surprised at the wonders that can emanate from a combination of his excellence at writing lyrics and your brilliance at writing melodies.

2. Lyric writing tools

Perhaps you may be hoping for some other solution. While you don't mind the idea of collaboration, you want to allow yourself to get better at writing lyrics, instead of leaving it to someone else.

As far as I'm concerned, the importance of laying hold on good songwriting "tools" should never be underestimated. Educate yourself as much as you can. Make use of songwriting books, programs, courses, software, articles or whatever valuable resources that you have at your disposal.

3. Motivation

You've probably heard it said a thousand times ... Without motivation, you won't go very far. This also applies to your lyric writing. While the songwriting "tools" outlined above can help you improve, without adequate motivation failure is inevitable.

(2) Here are a few tips to help you generate lyric writing ideas.

1. Use different lyrics to bring the same message across.

Choose a theme which is known to have made a few hits. What message does this theme bring across? Write different lyrics that bring the same message across. A typical example of this is John Denver's "I'm Leaving on a Jetplane" and Wyclef Jean's "Gone till November". These songs made hits in different eras. Their basic message was similar ... Baby, you don't need to cry because I'll return.

2. Add a unique twist to a cliche.

Turn on your radio and you will hear cliches being repeated over and over. Using these very same cliches is simply a futile exercise. My suggestion is to add a unique twist to these cliches. This is something I am focusing on more and more.

A typical example of adding a unique twist to a cliche is found in Dianne Warren's "Unbreak my Heart" made popular by Toni Braxton. The ever popular cliche, "break my heart", was twisted.

(3) Here are three lyric writing suggestions.

1. Write a song about a particular incident. Your song should tell a story.

2. Write lyrics that have absolutely nothing to do with anything you've actually experienced.

3. Get lyric writing ideas from newspapers, magazines, movies, TV and so on.

Overcoming lyric writing hurdles involves a lot of determination, hard work and perseverance on your part. Implement the suggestions presented above and move one step closer to lyric writing success.

About The Author

Mantius Cazaubon offers lots of valuable songwriting tips, techniques, suggestions and advice on his site http://www.ultimatesongwriting.com. Visit http://www.ultimatesongwriting.com for the ultimate truth about lyric writing and songwriting.


Cubase 5 Vocal Recording Tips

Vocals are often the most evocative element of a song, but for a producer the vocal track is also the most problematic. Although professional vocal performances may be tracked through a signal chain featuring equipment worth millions, it’s quite possible to produce a decent vocal track without spending anything at all.

Vocal Processing Tips
With a vocal track its important to get the best possible performance, using the best possible microphone and preamp. This is a whole other topic, so for now I’ll just assume we already have a recorded vocal take to work with, flaws and all.

The first stage in processing is to remove any unwanted noise/frequencies. This can be done with a noise gate, de-esser, filtering and/or EQ.

Vocal Tip 1 – Filter/EQ
Generally speaking, a vocal will have little or no information below 100 Hz (see this frequency chart for details), so a high-pass filter to cut out this range is probably a good idea. You can even raise the threshold further if you’re dealing with a female vocalist. Most DAWs have their own native EQs and filters, but you can also use Nyquist to roll off unwanted freqencies.

Vocal Tip 2 – Noise Gate
A noise gate cuts out the spaces where the vocalist isn’t singing, and acts in a similar fashion to a compressor (although in the opposite direction). You’ll need to set up the attack and release times so that the effect works well with the timing of the singer. The Floorfish plugin will do the trick here.

Vocal Tip 3 – De-Esser
A de-esser is usually required to take out those intrusive plosives and ‘ess’ sounds, although you might get by without one if the singer is really good (don’t forget to use a pop shield). The Spitfish plugin deals with the ones that got away.

Vocal Tip 4 – Compressor
Now that most of the bad stuff has been cleaned up, it’s time to look at controlling the dynamics of the recording. As usual, compressors are the order of the day – sticking with the excellent Digital Fish Phones freebies, we can use Blockfish to even out the levels in the performance, creating a smooth vocal that doesn’t feature any unpleasant dips or spikes in volume.

Vocal Tip 5 – Reverb
At this stage, we can consider applying some reverb. Tread with caution here, as it’s easy to overdo – reverb should be barely audible, just enough to blend and pad the vocal slightly. Ambience or DX Reverb Lite can be called into action on this.

Vocal Tip 6 – Adding Depth
If you need some extra processing beyond the basics outlined above, then you might want to consider Voxengo Tube Amp (Windows Only) for some tape saturation, Kjaerhus Classic Chorus (Windows Only) for a bit of chorus fattening, or the W1 Limiter for bringing up the levels a bit further.


Composing Your Own Music Using 8 Bar Phrases

How to Compose Your Own Music Using 8-bar Phrases (cubase 5)

Some people think composing is this miraculous thing that only genius's do. What a myth! It's a skill that can be learned. What can't be learned is the intuition that guides the creative force. What can be learned is the technique. And the most important part of composing technique has to do with THINKING IN PHRASES.

A musical phrase can be 2-bars long. It can be from 4 to 8-bars long as well. It is a unit of music that composers use, along with repetition and contrast to create ENTIRE SECTIONS OF MUSIC. There is no secret here people. It's like building up a structure. That's why music is often referred to as frozen architecture. It is built up. The building up creates FORM. A structure such as ABA form can be composed of the A section (8-measures) B section (4 or more measures) then back to the A section.

Now you may be thinking, it looks logical but how does it transfer into actual music? Ah, this is where you get your feet wet and actually try composing a piece. We start from simple means and learn the principles of repetition and contrast first. We start with an 8-bar phrase for the A section.

Now a problem arises. How do I fill up this section? You can either start with the melody or with the chords. If you've had a chance to look at my free lesson, you'll see that by improvising, MATERIAL IS INSTANTLY CREATED! This solves your problem doesn't it? Now, you may be thinking, how do I get this material into the 8-bar framework you've been talking about? First, you need to be able to count in 3/4 or 4/4 time. Not very difficult but if you can't do this now, there are many sites on the web that can teach you this.

Now it's just a matter of transferring this raw improvisational material into the 8-bars. Most likely, you will be jotting down your chord changes. I explain this in a lot more detail in my online class. It's a quick sketch method. You have the raw uncensored germ coming from your improvisations - you then write down what chords you are playing and perhaps the first 2-bars of melody so you remember what the initial impulse was.

The reason I use the 8-bar phrase is that it is a nice unit of time to work with. I don't try and reinvent the wheel here. It's been used for centuries and can be used in New Age music as well. Once you have this 8-bar phrase you can repeat it and add in another section (B) to add contrast.

This may be hard to understand by just reading about it. You have to do it in order to really understand.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at http://www.quiescencemusic.com/piano_lessons.html for a FREE piano lesson!

Help Finding Musical Ideals

The Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky once said: " A good composer does not imitate; he steals."

I think what he meant by this is that it's OK to use a technique developed by another and make it your own. To imitate is to steal a technique or style and, somehow, not incorporate your own voice and energy into it.

We all get our ideas from somewhere, whether by accidentally listening to a piece of music and subconsciously storing it away, or by a conscious act where we say to ourselves: "This sounds great and I want to use it in my own music."

Some people have the idea that everything created must be original and by that they mean that there must be no outside influences - but this is unrealistic. Haydn taught Beethoven. Italian composers influenced Bach and so on. All past and present composers on this planet have their influences whether they admit them or not.

When I sit down to play, I inevitably gravitate towards one style or the other. I'm fine with that. It doesn't mean that I'm unoriginal. It just means that I acknowledge reality and don't try to come up with "something original." What sounds new is 99.9 times out of 100, a modification of what came before.

The whole point I'm trying to make is this: Don't try to be original. Instead, focus on what you like and love and your own voice will come through in the end. The music may be modified to an extreme (innovation) or just a little (homage). Just don't imitate.