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
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.

Thanks for reading my blog. Please feel free to comment. You can also subscribe to be kept updated on new posts.

Categories
Albums Arranging Reaper Recordings

No Time To Relax (Album Notes)

No Time To Relax

Track 9 from my album Sampler. It can be found wherever digital music is available

A melancholy piece featuring pads, light drums and vocalise melody to start with. Then the track adds in some synth leads and synth bass part. The end echos the feel of the start.

The Gravity sound library is used for the bulk of the vocalise. For the drums I used Drum Lab from Native Instruments. Also used for some rhythm elements was Grid II.

The bulk of the sound in this track comes from the instruments. There is no EQ used on any of the instrument tracks. I did use the REAPER ping-pong delay and Native Instruments RC48 reverb unit with some EQ on the reverb. Only the two vocal tracks have any reverb added to it. Although I have the delay unit on a bus, I just realized nothing is being bussed there. So, just reverb is added to this track.

For mastering purposes, I did not do anything beyond a peak limiter (just to make sure nothing peaked).

To my ears at least, this piece just “worked” with the combination instruments I chose and without having to do anything besides balance levels. That’s something to think about as you compose and record music. Get it as good as you can prior to recording to audio and the mixing and mastering process will be easy.

Please, please, if you like the album or these track notes, drop a note in the comments. Even if you don’t like it, drop me a comment. Now that I think about it, I’ve not had any comments since I moved the blog here. Maybe the comments only work for me? Anyone care to test it out?

Categories
Albums Arranging Reaper Recordings

Is Something Bad Coming (album notes)

Continuing with my series of liner notes for my album Sampler, we get to track number 8. This is a darker sounding track. It consists of 6 instruments and various effects.

You can find all of my albums anywhere digital music is available.

First up is the Bass, the Padaboom patch from the Substance library by Output.

Next is the Arp Harp Loop patch from Output’s Signal Pulse library. I believe the patch may be part of an add-on library.

Next is the After Waves patch from Output’s Exhale program. The patch is probably part of an add-on library.

It looks like most of this piece uses Output’s various libraries. The next track is Tears in Rain patch from Analog strings by Output.

The next patch is a PolyBrass 2 from Kontakt’s RetroMachines Mk2. I believe this is an emulation of a Korg PolySix patch. The PolySix was the first synthesizer I ever owned.

Finally we have Battery 4 using the Sad Flamingo Kit.

For all the instruments, I only used automation on the Battery kit and that was for some volume changes.

I must have been happy with the sounds of the instruments because I used practically no effects on anything. Only the drums (Battery 4) were processed. I sent them (-13db) to a rever bus. The reverb was the Native Instruments/Softube emulation of the RC48 using a Medium Hall preset.

I sent the reverb (0db) to a Gate buss.

On the master bus I cut out frequencies below 30hz and used the Lurseen Mastering Console from IK-Multimedia. I used the Classical (More Glue) preset. If I made any changes, it would have been to the De-esser or compressor in the chain view options (icon at top). This plugin makes a huge difference in the final sound. It isn’t just louder, but better sounding.

Any questions or comments, please let me know.

Categories
Albums Arranging Reaper Recordings

Exciting times (track notes)

Continuing my liner notes for my July 2018 album “Sampler”

Track 7, Exciting Times, was my first experiment on doing something entirely from loops. Not audio loops, but MIDI loops. The entire track was produced from MIDI loops.

I use to subscribe to a magazine that included a download link or a DVD that had various samples and loops on it. My notes don’t show which issue or magazine name, but it was from a magazine. I took loops that came from what I think was a Trance selection. The majority of the magazine content was audio loops or samples, but from time to time they include midi loops.

Here are the instruments/patches I used for this track. My notes don’t show what changes I made to presets and it would take too long to figure out. Whatever they were, they were not dramatic changes.

Battery 4 (Argon Kit) with ReaEQ highpass at 40HZ and Supercharger GT compressor with a modified drum buss preset. Automation on ReaEQ highpass frequency.

Massive with Thelonius preset (modified). ReaComp sidechained from drum track; ReaEQ with a slight boos around 300hz and a low pass cut at 1.1K. Another ReaComp with sidechain. Supercharger GT with modified Synth Bass preset. NI VC 2A compressor, modified Electric Guitar preset. ReaDelay (modified Dehuminator slower preset). Automation on the Wavetable position and cutoff in Massive as well as the Bypass on the ReaDelay.

Reaktor Razor, Centauri preset (modified); ReaComp sidechained from Drum Buss, 0ms attack; 47ms release, 4:1 ratio, 0 to 481Hz input filter; ReaEQ highpass around 60Hz. Another ReaComp sidechained with 30-225Hz input filter. 3ms attack, 100ms release, 4.1 compression. (The two compressor settings basically end up being sidechained by only the bass drum from the drum sidechain input). Automation on two Macros in Razor. Automation on high pass filter in ReaEQ.

Absynth 5, Arcadia patch (probably modified). ReaComp sidechained similar to above examples.
ReaEQ. Automation on Pan and EQ Low pass frequency

Reaktor Monark, Sakwenzer patch (probably modified). ReaComp with sidechain from Drum track 0-745HZ input filter. 0ms attach, 100 release, 4:1 ratio. ReaEQ, low pass at 8.5Khz and high pass at 100Hz. Automation on lowpass eq filter.

Reaktor Kontour, Twin top patch (modified). ReaComp sidechained similar to above examples. ReaEQ, high pass, automated. Another ReaComp sidechained similar to above. Automation on pan.

Kontakt, string ensemble symphony series, string ensemble patch. ReaComp, sidechained similar to above. ReaEQ High pass around 60Hz, automated.

Kontakt, Rise & Hit, Heavy Fuzz patch. Automation on Volume and Rev-Heavyfuzz.

Kontakt, Exhale by Output, Backwards patch.

Four tracks were sent to a ReaDelay buss that had a 4-tap ping pong delay

Four tracks were sent to a Reverb buss with NI Passive EQ in mid/side mode. Some low mid boost in middle and some low boost on the side.

I printed all the midi to audio and produced the final mix from there.  I used an IK Multimedia Quad Compressor and Quad Image to widen out the sound a bit. I used a few sidechained compressors on some of the audio channels.

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Categories
Albums Reaper Recordings

Beginning The Adventure (Album track review)

Sampler

Beginning The Adventure

(This is the first of a series of articles about the tracks in my new album Sampler)

The album is available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon MP3

The first track is called Beginning The Adventure. As a side note, I have to say that coming up with titles for my music is probably one of the most difficult aspects of composing I have. I always start with the music first and since there are no lyrics in my music, it makes sense. The last thing I do is come up with titles. Since I needed something a bit upbeat to set the mood, this track seemed appropriate, although I did give consideration to the “trance” like track “Exciting times,” but I thought “Beginning The Adventure” was a better choice.

I probably should have included Heavyocity in the name of this song. As best as I can tell, I only used Heavyocity products on this recording.

As I do most of my recordings “in the box,” that is, in my computer the sounds come from various software sound libraries, software based instruments and in rare situations, something from a loop. Some of the sounds I used were from synthesizers or modeling software that creates the sound as you go. Some were from samples of real recordings of acoustic instruments

This piece started out as my experimenting with the Heavyocity Gravity expansion pack “Vocalise.” There are 3 tracks that utilize some of the phrase menus. They are “A Phrase MV sus” (twice) and the C minor phrase menu. As I experimented I realized it would make a good piece, even for listening (as so much music I run across these days sounds like background music to a video or game and only useful for that, not listening). I also utilized Heavyocity’s NOVO strings at the very beginning for the low filtered sound that gradually comes in and helps set the mood. I don’t keep very good notes so I don’t know which patch it is. The low bass lick that comes in just before the voices start is from Heavyocity’s Aeon Rhythmic using the Synthocity preset. Underneath the vocals is the Heavyocity Aeon Rhythmic patch Falling Filters. The rhythmic pulse throughout comes from Heavyocity’s Aeon Rhythmic

I’m not big on using hundreds or even dozens of tracks to make a piece of music. The Heavyocity material frequently has 3 channels of sounds in one preset and offers a wide choice of effects all within the software avoiding the need to do a great deal of processing in my DAW. So, I only ended up with 7 tracks. I use “Reaper” as my DAW of choice. All of the original 7 tracks were MIDI tracks. I “freezed” the tracks once I had the sound I wanted. “Freezed” (or should it be “froze”?) is the term Reaper uses, in this case, to turn a MIDI track into an audio track. It renders the midi instrument into an audio file. It’s like in the old days of recording, committing to tape the take you best liked of live performers. The nice things is that in Reaper it is very easy to “un-freeze” (no they don’t call it “thaw”) the track if you don’t like it. (You do loose the edits you’ve made to the audio file, if any, but that’s kinda the point in “un-freezing” it).

Since there were so many processing and sound sculpting options in the software instruments – and I did process the default patches – I did very little processing in Reaper. In fact I only used two effects prior to the stereo bus. One was the Native Instrument/Soft Tube emulation of the Lexicon RC48 reverb. I modified the Grainy Echoes preset using a Random Hall and setting it on effect rather than reverb. Since this was on its own bus it was 100% wet. I used the send amounts to balance how much reverb each of the 7 tracks got. You may hear other reverb sounds but those come from the individual instruments themselves. I then routed the reverb to both the stereo bus (0 db) and to a delay bus (at -23db). I used the built-in ReaDelay that comes with reaper. I modified the basic ‘5-tap ping pong’ delay. Each tap was 1/4 of an eighth note after the other, panning left/right and getting softer. That went straight to the stereo bus.

In Reaper there is always a “master mix” channel. (See photo above). Other than a hard limiter (to prevent accidental or hidden clipping) I don’t put anything on it. Instead I setup a folder, the parent folder being the final stereo mix. The 7 music channels and 2 effect bus channels feed into it. Since I was having to master my own material, I put an EQ on this channel with a high-pass filter removing unneeded low end. I then added the IK-Multimedia mastering plugin “Lurssen Mastering Console.” I started with the EDM preset and modified to get the sound I was after. For this album I opted to mix everything using the TR5 Metering plugin from IK Multimedia for an average mix of -16 LUFS (which is the level at which many online streaming services prefer tracks to be and is a broadcast industry standard).

And that’s the details on that piece.

Categories
Albums Arranging General Organ Music Piano Lessons Reaper Recordings Sibelius Website News YouTube Videos

May 2018 update

Current news

I’m always looking for subjects to write about here or tutorial to do on YouTube. Please use the comments section to give me some ideas.

I’ve not shown a map of where people are buying and performing my sheet music for some time, so here’s the latest (as of Mar 31, 2018)

I’m making some changes to the music catalog. Rather than offer individual keyboard arrangements, I’m only selling collections. I have 8 piano solo collections available. As time permits I will remove organ solos from the catalog and only offer collections. It is easier to manage collections.

I have no plans for anything on YouTube at the present time. This is for two reasons: 1) Nobody who watches my videos on YouTube has bothered to let me know what they want to see and 2) YouTube no longer allows me to monetize my channel and nobody who watches my videos has donated anything to keep it going.

As always, check the sheet music catalog for new titles. At least once a month, sometimes more often there are new titles.

After 15 custom arrangements for a single client I must be doing something right. If you have a beginner/intermediate instrumental group or a church orchestra in need of arrangements, let me know so I can write it for you.

I’m always “playing around” with my various sound libraries and live instruments in my home studio. Look for at least one new album out this summer, if not two.

I continue to teach piano lessons locally and over the internet. So, no matter where you are in the world I can teach you. I can also tutor on composing, arranging, music theory and more. Drop me a note if you are interested.

Categories
Albums Arranging General Other Reaper Recordings Sibelius Website News

Variegated Plate

Wonder what this might be?

Coming soon...
Coming soon…

var·i·e·gat·ed
ˈver(ē)əˌɡādəd/
adjective
1) exhibiting different colors, especially as irregular patches or streaks.
Botany: (of a plant or foliage) having or consisting of leaves that are edged or patterned in a second color, especially white as well as green.
2) marked by variety.

Think definition number 2. Coming soon…….

Categories
Arranging General Other Reaper

Cubase DAW evaluation

It is always good advice not to switch to a different DAW if you are comfortable and familiar with another one. And, if you aren’t getting the sound you want from the DAW, spend the time learning that DAW before considering switching. Even so, sometimes it’s worth looking at other DAWs if they have a ‘really want’ feature that yours doesn’t or to get ideas of other ways to do things in your current daw.

So I got a copy of Cubase 6 LE as a ‘freebie’ with another product I bought. I know it’s not the latest version of the software nor is it as feature rich as the ‘pro’ version but the midi score editing capability was enough to get me to try it. I also wanted to see the workflow and if the visual is any better than what I’m using. I even watched some tutorial videos so I wouldn’t be completely lost.

I’m not out to start a ‘my DAW is better than yours’ war’. If you like what you use, keep using it. Unless you’re just starting out, you have too much invested to change now.

In my opinion, the workflow of Cubase is more difficult than my current daw. There were a few midi features that were better but not enough reason to switch. The midi music notation editing feature that I most wanted to see was not good. I’ll take PG Music’s Band in a Box (or RealTracks) notation editor over this any day. (For the record, I use Sibelius 7 to create scores then export to midi or play the midi into my daw).

Not that I was seriously considering changing but I will definitely be sticking to my current DAW along with Komplete Ultimate. The DAW I use is the $60 full-featured DAW that even pro-tools professionals have switched to. That is Reaper.

So, Cubase users, any reason I should go back and take another look at it? What is it that made you decide on it rather than something else? Does the latest version have a better interface and workflow than 6?

Categories
Albums Arranging Other Piano Lessons Reaper YouTube Videos

Summertime (2014)

Summertime

It’s always slow in the music world in the summer, at least for me. Everyone’s out and about and the last thing they want to do is buy sheet music. I guess most people don’t buy CD’s to begin with, but even digital music (MP3) slows down in the summer. Even my piano students like to take off and disappear for a few weeks or even months. So, I’ve not had much to talk about in the blog.

The music workshop I talked about (see earlier post) came and went. I couldn’t get very many people to attend. Apparently, after the fact, everyone who should have told me, now decides to tell me that “oh, you need to start publicity & sign up way back in April.” Thanks for the help then. Not knowing any better, I started publicity in late May. Even with so much advance time, almost 2 months, I still couldn’t get the teens to come. As to the course, everything went quite well. It being a computer music workshop, the potential for technical issues was great. We had none. There were some issues with one person not having installed one of the software titles I required, but the next day they had done so.

Latest activity since May:

All 9 of my CD albums are now available in physical format in addition to mp3 or FLACC format.

If you don’t follow me on my SoundCloud page, please do. I’ve posted quite a few short pieces in a variety of styles. And go back and listen to previous tracks.

In addition to selling sheet music on my website, I’ve also partnered with Sheet Music Plus digital to sell selected titles on their digital download site. They are my go-to site if I need printed sheet music.

My YouTube channel has a few new tutorial videos about Battery 4 & Reaper as well as an introductory look at the new SampleTank 3.

Of course, Spotify, which has an absolutely free version and lets you choose what you want to listen to (unlike Pandora, right?), all of my albums are there. I hope to have a new album or two out later this year.

If you are at all interested in piano lessons from me over the internet, please get in touch via the website, JamesGilbertMusic.com. (I also teach composition, arranging, music software tutoring, etc. on any schedule or frequency you like).  Of course, I also continue to teach lessons locally (near Gainesville & Ocala, Florida).

Any suggestions for content here or on YouTube or SoundCloud or what type of music to put on my next album(s), drop me a note.

Thanks to those that subscribe and to all that read.