Categories
General Reaper Recordings

Mixing in Mono – my recent experiences

Update: Be very careful where you put your metering plugins when mixing. It turns out I had Insight one step before the final mix. As a result, my mono mixes are now about -2 to -2.5db softer than the stereo sounds, not the same as the article below says. This is acceptable, though not ideal. The sections about compression and maximizing are still good things to do in your tracks, particularly if, as in my case, the instruments are overall not loud but do have extremely high peaks from time to time. Any advice on how to get mono and stereo mixes to exactly the same level would be appreciated. Above all, this post is to emphasize the need to make sure your mono mix sounds as good as your stereo mix, even if it isn’t always as loud.

Whether you are new to audio mixing or a veteran you’ve hopefully heard people say that you should always check your mix in mono. How come we need to do this? I discovered that a Zoom meeting I was providing music for was only setup for mono audio and even if the meeting is in stereo, all recordings of Zoom meetings are in mono. There are also many venues that only play music in mono including restaurants and clubs. Expect also that some of your listeners will be hearing their music on phones or tablets that only have one speaker or poor at best stereo playback.

Listening to your mix in mono can also point out weaknesses in your overall mix. In some cases a mono mix will result in instruments getting lost or buried in the mix, sometimes due to phase cancellation. Variations in phase, like when you take two sine waves and shift one 180 degrees so you don’t hear anything, as you go from 0 to 180 you will still hear a tone, but it will get softer and softer. Examination of your master track with various metering plugins (there are many free ones) can show if you are suffering from phase cancellation. Some areas to look for are phase variances between snare mixes above and below the snare; overdubbing of the same part with different settings or effects; stereo wideners and synthesizer type instruments that have a lot of processing applied.

My problem was that the mono version (as I found out from the recording) was 3db to 4db softer than the stereo version and softer than voices on the recording. As some people will point out, it is not unusual at all for the mono to be a bit softer than the stereo, but 3db is noticeable and more importantly the mono mix wasn’t as good as the stereo. The recording I was working on was a one instrument stereo track, a virtual software instrument piano, with various processing on it in the instrument software.

The solution I came up with was to get rid of any processing I didn’t really need in the instrument (like a stereo widener), put a compressor (Native Instrument’s LA-2A emulation) on the track aiming for about 4db in reduction, then a maximizer (I used Ozone 9) to aim for -15LUFS which seems to work best for me in Zoom. Each recording, whether with one instrument or many, will require adjustment to the compressor and maximizer settings as no one setting works for all situations. Right away this made a positive difference.

I frequently “freeze” my midi based tracks to audio so I can work only in audio and also so I’m not tempted to spend forever tweaking the midi parts. Next I found that cutting off some of the really low frequencies (below 60Hz) with a gradual (around 12 db/octave) slope as the first thing in the audio processing helps. Exact frequencies for the HPF and the “Q” will depend on the instrument. Excluding these lower frequencies helps the compressor to focus on musical elements rather than low frequency rumble. Don’t use a HPF at 60HZ on an organ, kick or electric bass, instead aim for below 40 or 50Hz, if at all. As to the compressor I used for one of my recordings, since the NI LA-2A emulation has no attack/release or ratio settings and its own HPF, I used the Peak Reduction to set the compression and didn’t use an EQ HPF prior to the compressor. While I like the LA-2A emulation, I also used the built-in ReaComp compressor in Reaper (my DAW of choice) with a 4:1 ratio and 300ms release with everything else being pretty close to the default. I found that it worked pretty good too, but I do have to say the LA-2A emulation requires less thinking and tweaking.

(See opening paragraph for corrections to this paragraph). For the final check before rendering to the stereo file that will be used for the Zoom meeting I listened to everything in mono and stereo along with an LUFS metering plugin (I think the free Insight plugin from iZotope). Exact LUFS levels happened between stereo and mono in some recordings and those mono mixes that didn’t were only about 0.2db softer than the stereo. I hope this helps or is at least interesting. I would double check everything I said before taking it as gospel. If you have any corrections, suggestions or other methods for making sure mixes are good in both mono and stereo, please comment below.

Categories
Albums Arranging Website YouTube Videos

Videos and links

Since January of 2020 I’ve posted quite a few videos on YouTube. These videos are demos of various sheet music titles I have available. They are full length recordings along with the sheet music. You can see them all at my YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/jamesgilbertmusic

I also released a new album earlier this year called Hymns – Plugged In. See the article in this blog for details or visit my music catalog for links to the titles.

In addition to the numerous videos I have added a little more than 20 new sheet music titles to the catalog. Click on the link at the top of this page to see all of my sheet music titles. A tip for searching my catalog: Enter New Title in the search box and the newest titles will show up. (I usually consider a title to be new if it has been released in the last six months).

Long before the pandemic I was teaching piano lessons over the internet. If you are looking for a piano teacher or perhaps you are interested in learning music theory, composing or arranging, drop me a note using the contact page and we’ll get started. Over the years most of my students have opted for using FaceTime but I can also use Skype.

For those of you new to my website, I made major changes to it in the first half of this year. Some of the links in old blog articles that directed you to specific pages on this site will probably not work. However, the content is still here. Select the most likely page from those listed in the menus above and you should have no problem finding it. Any articles that reference my Twitter, YouTube, Linked In or other social media pages, be aware that the only social network accounts I have are with YouTube and SoundCloud. I find Facebook to be more or less useless for any serious business efforts. (Anyone who doesn’t have a Facebook account will have trouble using it). I find Twitter to be relatively useless in promoting my music and far too much of the content is unverified or contains comments that no sane person should be forced to have to read.

Categories
General Other Website News

Musicians and the Pandemic

Musicians Need Help too

Our hearts go out to anyone suffering from the current virus worldwide. Virus or not, there are always people worse off than any group of people we might mention. Right now musicians are already suffering.

You can help out by listening to their music via streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music (iTunes), and Amazon Music. Big name groups probably don’t need help. Instead, try to listen to people who you have not heard before. The artists make money for every song played. Also consider purchasing a track or album. If an artist has a donate button on their website, consider making a donation. Links to get you started are listed below.

If the pandemic continues very long, the economic impact to everyone could be severe. Musicians, at least the lesser known musicians, the truly independent musicians, whether teachers, church musicians, local performers or composers/arrangers are already suffering.

As a church musician, I no longer have a congregation to play for. (We do not have the financial resources or equipment to try and do live services over the internet). It is still up in the air whether I will continue to be paid. If not, nearly 50% of my annual income is gone.

Few musicians perform entirely by themselves. Even a concert pianist has support personnel. Currently there are practically no music performances for live audiences and only the big name performers, who probably don’t need any help can manage concerts via the internet. Most performing and teaching musicians will be unable to effectively do things over the internet.

Teachers can’t teach as effectively via the internet as in live settings. Recording studios, even home studios are no longer operating. And there are many more things negatively impacting musicians.

In my situation I always have taught piano lessons via Facetime or Skype, but thanks to a terrible ISP (AT&T) I have a very, very slow DSL internet connection (never more than 3Mbps!) so what I hear and see is never ideal quality. So, while the idea of doing things over the internet is a great ideal, the infrastructure, at least in rural America simply does not exist.

Here are some links to get you started:
Spotify (Listen for free)

Apple Music (iTunes)

Amazon Music

Google Music

And of course we can be helped with every piece of sheet music you buy or by taking music lessons over Skype or Facetime.

Everyone stay safe. Wash your hands often, avoid crowds, don’t go anywhere unless you have to. If you are sick, think you are sick or someone in your household is the same, stay home.

Categories
Arranging YouTube Videos

A Little Praise

A Little Praise

Any Size Orchestra series play through

Visit https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20389663 to see more and visit https://jamesgilbertmusic.com for more music

Categories
Albums Church Music Recordings Website News YouTube Videos

New Album Released

Hymns – Plugged In

I’ve been at it again. A new album is now available. It is title Hymns – Plugged In.

A collection of traditional hymns set in contemporary styles using all electronic instruments.

Available at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083TPXRBP as well as on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and all digital music sources.

Here is a demo of the whole album:

Categories
Arranging Church Music Other Website News

New Free Music available

Free Music

If you didn’t know it, my website has quite a few complete pieces available for download for free. There are also some free titles that would be of use to teachers or students, particularly as related to music theory. Unlike many free products out there, you don’t have to register, you don’t have to give me your email address. Just download what you want.  You’re welcome to click on the donate button found on several of my pages if you’d like to help me stay out of debt.

Click on this link https://jamesgilbertmusic.com/index.php/music-catalog/#free

The original descriptions from when they were sold:

Volume one: AMSTERDAM (Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above) – BLESSED NAME (Blessed Be The Name) – CONVERSE (What A Friend We Have In Jesus) – GALILEE (Jesus Calls Us) – MESSAGE (We’ve A Story To Tell To The Nations) – NEAR THE CROSS – SALVATION – ST THOMAS (I Love Thy Kingdom)- SURRENDER (I surrender all)- WEDLOCK (God Is My Strong Salvation) -Parts are included for treble clef C Bb Eb and F instruments.

Volume 2: AR HYD Y NOS- BRADBURY (Savior Like A Shepherd) – CRIMOND (The Lord’s My Shepherd) – ST DENIO (Immortal Invisible) – WEB (Stand Up For Jesus) – CRUSADER’S HYMN (ST ELIZABETH) (Fairest Lord Jesus; Beautiful Savior) – I AM THINE – MY SAVIOR’S LOVE (I Stand Amazed) – O HOW I LOVE JESUS – PROMISES (Standing on) – RESIGNATION (My Shepherd Will Supply). Parts are provided for treble clef C Bb Eb and F instruments.

Volume 3: AZMON (O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing); CWM RHONDDA (God Of Grace And God Of Glory); TOPLADY (Rock of Ages); JOYFUL SONG (Praise Him Praise Him); GORDON (My Jesus I Love Thee); HENDON (Take My Life And Let It Be); BUNESSAN (Morning Has Broken); LYONS (O Worship The King); PICARDY (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence); In The Garden; Love Lifted Me. Parts are provided for treble clef C Bb Eb and F instruments.

Enjoy.

Categories
General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Slurs, ties and phrases

Let’s talk about slurs, phrases and ties. As a long time piano teacher, I find many students, even advanced players get confused.

Slurs – curved line over/under two or more *different* notes.
Tie – curved line connecting the *same* note(s) immediately next to one another.
Phrase – a musical idea, often indicated with a slur line over/under many notes or more often, many measures.

Slurs mean to play the notes legato, or to put it into English – play the notes smoothly, connected or without any silence between the notes. How this is done depends on your instrument. On piano, do not lift the finger of the first note until you go to play the 2nd note. In bowed strings, like violin, it typically means to keep the bow going in the same direction. Wind/brass instruments it often means that you don’t tongue between notes. Check with your teacher on the best way to do a slur. You do have a teacher, right? Please tell me you aren’t trying to do this without anyone checking your work to see if it is correct – just because it sounds fine to you doesn’t mean it’s correct.

Example of slurs
An example of slurs

In the entire example above, all the curved lines over/above the notes are slurs, *except* for the D notes in the right hand and the E notes in the left hand in measures 7-8 & 15-16 (3rd beat tied to 1st beat). Those are ties. In all other cases, even measure 5 going into measure 6, the curve line is over/under at least 2 different notes. That’s all there is to slurs. Note that in this piano music example, there are some passages with both stem up and stem down notes at the same time. We call the different directions “voices.” In those cases, the position of the slur makes a difference. For example, the slur in measures 7 & 8 over the high (stems up) voices in the right hand part are under the influence of the slur, but not the low voices.

At the end of a slur it is common to “take a breath” before going to the next note. At measure 22 below in the right hand, a pianist might shorten the length of the  off-beat 8th notes (& of 1, & of 2, etc) ever so slightly. A violinist would change bow directions resulting in a break in the sound. How much breath one takes, if any, is subjective.

Phrase example
An example of phrases

In the above example starting at measure 26, the curved line over the right hand part is more properly called a phrase. A phrase being a musical idea implies that all the notes in the phrase are all part of one musical idea. Whether to play all the notes legato (smooth) as a slur would indicate is more of a performance choice than a requirement. In fact, in this example it is impossible to play the entire phrase connected. Can you spot why not? In measure 27 there are two repeated “G”‘s in the right hand. By definition, repeated notes cannot be played smoothly connected. One has to lift their fingers (or change bow direction, etc.) in order to play a repeated note. That causes a silence between the notes and thus they are no longer connected or smooth.

Ties. In measures 40 to 41 and 41 to 42 are examples of ties. The top note, B on the 3rd beat is tied into the 1st beat. That means play the note on beat 3 and hold the note down until the end of the tied note, in this case the end of beat 1. The F in measure 41, beat one is tied to beat 2. The C on beat 2 is tied into beat 3 *and* into the dotted half note on beat one of measure 42. All the while, there is a phrase/slur line over measures 39 to 42. Both notes in the left hand of measure 41, beat 2 tie into the next measure. In the case of the ties, all the curved lines connect the *same* note(s) to the same note with no other notes between them. Don’t be confused by the slur in measure 34 and 35. The first and last notes are both G in the right hand. Are the two G’s tied? Of course not. Because there are several notes between them it can only mean the curved line is a slur.

I hope this helps. Please comment below.

Categories
General YouTube Videos

Kontakt Player Intro

Kontakt Player
Kontakt Player

In my latest YouTube video I am taking a quick look at Native Instrument’s Kontakt Player. This is a free product that comes with a respectable amount of instruments. It is ideal for anyone getting started with sampling or interested in getting into music technology. I made the video for some of my piano students who have expressed an interest.

The video does show the full version of Kontakt, but the player version is essentially the same. The only major difference is you can’t created your own instruments from samples or edit the existing instruments and a few other restrictions.

Please leave comments here and let me know what future tutorial videos you’d like to see.

Categories
Arranging Church Music Sibelius

New Sheet Music

New Music

Available now at my website and SheetMusicPlus, are the following titles. For a list of all titles I have available, visit https://jamesgilbertmusic.com/catalog.php

Ancient Quandary — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964252

Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964255

David’s Lamentation — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964256

Heaven Above — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964259

I Remember You, My Lord — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964261

Open My Eyes – Organ — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964263

Is there a specific hymn tune you’d like to see arranged, and for what instrumentation? Let me know.

Categories
Arranging Reaper Recordings YouTube Videos

Choir Labs contest

Choir labs contest

From time to time I enter various arranging or mixing contests. Recently Spitfire Audio – a British company that makes very good sound libraries – sponsored a contest. They make available various free libraries, one of which is based on the Eric Whitacre choir. The contest was to compose and record music to fit one of 5 NASA provided videos. They ranged in length from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Here is my effort.

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