It’s been a while coming but I am almost ready to hit the green button. After several set backs including an unwanted visitor in my studio, equipment failure and generally just getting my music to an acceptable production level, I am now happy that I am almost ready to press the GO button. So now it’s time to let the world know about what I am about to do.
I completed 10 songs some months ago and was really pleased with what I had achieved. All was sounding great in my little studio, so I burned the songs onto CD and took them to the great unknown (my living room/car) to see how they sounded on different systems. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. In the studio, all sounded polished and great to listen to. But in a different environment, the general sound was dull and lack-lustre. I could not understand how in one room the songs can sound great but in a different environment it just didn’t work. I needed to find out why there was such a difference. The songs were great, but I was not happy with the overall production. This was not something I was comfortable selling, and besides that, I knew I could do better.
Time for a re-think
My first recording “studio” was in my kitchen at a previous house, and for me that sounded all right. Maybe I was lucky. But I may also have been ignorant. I have not furnished my studio with the most expensive of equipment, but I felt that what I have is more than adequate to get a professional sounding production. After several re-mixing exercises, I still struggled to get the result I wanted. So it was back to the drawing board for me.
I embarked on a fact finding mission and in the end, the answer was obvious. Well, it’s obvious now that I know… it’s the room. This was not the answer I wanted. I had spent a lot of time and a not too insignificant amount of cash setting the studio the way I wanted it to be. Unfortunately, I spent far too much time on aesthetics, and not on functionality. So, how to get this fixed?
In short, I entered the realms of acoustic engineering, somewhere I never thought I would go. The amount of information I found online was bewildering at first, and it was difficult to know where to start. I found it both fascinating and irritating. I was fascinated by the fact that there are calculations regarding room dimensions, length of sound wave, problem frequencies, speaker placement, reflection points, bass bins, room treatment, psychoacoustics, loudness perception and the list goes on. The reason for the irritation was because I should have known about this before I started. After a week or so of fact finding, I eventually formulated a plan.
If I did that then you would be here for a month reading this post and I don’t think you want to do that. But I will give an overview of what I did. And please remember that I do not pretend to be an expert on this subject. In fact far from it. The experts have studied long and hard to gain the knowledge they have, and I doff my cap to them. As the old saying goes, I am “jack of all trades and master of none”. I find out what I want to know, I put the solution in place and then I move on.
As I have said, I eventually ascertained that the inconsistency with my sound was down to the room I was recording in, and how I was listening to it. When I bought my speakers many years ago, I knew that I needed speakers with the flattest response possible within a very limited budget. However, during my more recent delve into acoustic engineering, I found that speaker placement and proximity to walls affected how they perform. The logical next step was to measure how the room sounded.
So how did you do it pray tell?
I bought a condenser sound measuring microphone and a speaker measuring program. The object of the exercise was to get as flat a response from my speakers within the room as I could. Once the measurements were complete, the program would generate an EQ frequency that would compensate for the room and help to get that flat response. According to the articles I was reading, this would help to generate a mix that would be more consistent on other music systems. I could not work out why this was, but I was going to have a go at it. After a couple of false starts, more YouTube how to videos and a bit of hair tearing, I eventually got up and running. I cannot tell you how many times I measured the room, moved my speakers, changed things around and started again. But in the end it has worked out.
And in the end?
I feel that the sound I am now hearing is better and more consistent when taken out of the studio. Can it be better? I am sure it could. And I will be working on getting it even better for the future. There is always room for improvement. I am also listening and working in a different way. Along with several other new recording, mixing and mastering techniques, I am also referencing my music to other productions. But there is so much to this subject. So many small changes making a very big difference in the end. However, the exercise was worth the aggravation and I am now happier with the way all is sounding. It will take time but I will continue my quest to be the best I can.
I am still not an expert, but I do know a bit more than I did a few months ago. I could not have gained the knowledge I now have without the help of some experts I discovered online. And I think it would be downright rude not to thank them for their help. In no particular order they are:
John Oszajca at Music Marketing Manifesto for the training, the website, the guidance, the how to and the why not…
Ian Shepherd Mastering Engineer for acoustics and mastering advice
Warren Huart Produce Like a Pro for mixing, mastering, interviews and just generally good all round advice
Jesco from Acoustics Insider for room acoustic tips
Joe Gilder for some great tips on using plug-ins, effects and generally how to improve your productions
A huge thank you to all of you. Your teachings are invaluable.
If you are interested in discovering some of my new music, Reflections is a 3 track acoustic album available to buy and download from my store to get a flavour of what will be coming out.
And still no sign of my long tailed friend. Do I miss him? No. Do I want him back? No. Release day is getting close. If Mr. Rat had not visited, that day may have been sooner. The tidying up is almost done. The remixing has been remixed and the day is almost here. I will be making an announcement very soon…
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