guitars

Tackling Issues

As a guy who's just put a couple of steps into the proverbial ocean of what is known as producing metal music, I've realized programming drums is a real pain in the arse (and mixing as well, lest I forget) I know some people who are pretty good at getting rhythms and writing them down on a drum roll. But, I'm not one of those people. My drumming abilities have always been noobish to say the least. And that's where the setup helped. I had MIDI hooked up to the computer and fortunately, the drummer was kind enough to tap that stuff down on the keys. Things became a little easier from there onwards.

My euphoria was short-lived unfortunately, as half-way through programming drums, we realized it was taking too much time and we decided to skip to the guitars. Brutal heaviness called. And I would be an idiot to not pick up the phone-call.
Guitar tracking followed, with nothing except the click at the back.This was also around the time that I figured it was not such a great idea.
Guitarists get sloppy when they just have a click. Lesson learnt.
Lesson #2 - Two takes are never enough for a clean guitar part. Especially when they're both messed up.
Lesson #3 - Editing guitars on the go > Editing later
Layers upon layers of guitars were stacked up on top of each other. Not all as good as you might think. Recording four takes of everything always helps.
Lesson #4 - The more guitars, the greater the awesome

When you're a band coming in to record your song. How tight you play pretty much defines the producer's scale of happiness. When the guitar's tight as fuck, everything eventually follows, but it's always slippery ground, when a guitarist's having a bad time with the click. I'm pretty sure most of them are like that. Nonetheless, after some incessant chatter, chips and lunch, we got back to the beast that was recording guitars. And it was almost like nothing was on time at some places. And some places seemed to have made it to the foundation stages.  And of course, everybody loves a tight band. Like this one I just came across below. What a guitar sound. I think I'm in love. Not that it's metal but nonetheless, A defined guitar sound is always a good sound, I guess.

 
 

Coming back to point, Bass tracking followed soon. It took about an hour. Which paled in comparison to the fact that guitars probably took about 5-6 hours. Then came the part where I tracked cookie monster vocals. It was my first time not recording clean vocals, so frankly I was kind of curious how I would approach it in mixing, but things turned out pretty fine in the end, I guess. Experimented with a lot of tricks like pitch shifting and parallel processing. FUNFUNFUN. Sidenote - Need to get myself a good dynamic mic soon. Gear updates soon, who knows. Woooo.

Not surprisingly, the first thing I did once recording got finished was go and grab a plate of momos / dimsum from the street vendor outside. Ah, the taste of victory. Jubilating.

Record. Pause. Repeat.

Hello and welcome to another look at the daily life and day-to-day happenings of an aspiring sound engineer and musician. Oh, and did I say struggling? Yes, that too. It's a tough life trying to piece together a career out of music especially a place like Delhi, where competition is quite a bit.

The only time everything seems worth it is when people actually come to you to get their song/album recorded or maybe, give you some work. Srishti is a person I've known for a few years now and has always been supportive and helpful whenever I'm looking for new projects or something interesting that I feel, could challenge me as a musician or a producer.

A friend of Srishti used to play for Soul Reverb, a band I was associated with for a short time. His name was Neeraj Debakshi, and he was playing in another band that went by the name of Serenity Infused. Neeraj came in touch with me and asked me if I could record their song at my home studio. I looked at it as an opportunity and decided to agree.

Now this band wasn't the typical rock band, so I looked upon it as a challenge. They're a fusion band that combines elements of Indian classical music with progressive rock influences. They also had a tabla player, which would mean it would take much longer to record, as tabla is a unique instrument in terms of timbre, mic-positioning required and processing.

We decided to start recording in the evening at about 4 pm as I had other work to take care of, at SoundSpeaks at the time. I came back and we started with Guitars as we had finished programming drums the previous day. It took about four hours to completely sort out the guitars, which was followed by Bass and that took about an hour.

Tabla was special, and we took some time experimenting with several mic positions. Since I didn't have too many mics, just a couple of SM57's, it's not like there was too much room for experimentation either. But I think we finally settled at a certain position. One thing I realised later on though was the error I made of keeping the mics too close to the tabla player's hands. there were a lot of small intervals of time where he would unintentionally end up flicking the mic.

It was basically hell on earth, with processing the tabla. Even with the editing. There were huge errors in come places. If the whole song took 10 units of effort, I would probably say the tabla took about 4. It was that hard. But in the end, somehow managed to make it sound crisp and a little snappy.

The vocals gave me a pretty hard time too. But that's pretty much how your life is supposed to be when you're producing a song. It takes a lot of hardwork to make one sound good. I remember spending entire nights going through tons of forums and googling stuff, not because it was work. But because I found it so interesting.

Time just flies when you're doing things you love.

Looking to The Skies

Ever since the dawn of mankind, man has been looking up to the skies for everything ranging from inspiration and direction to meditation and as part and parcel of a sense of curiosity. I tend to think it is ingrained somewhere deep in the very fabric of us all. To look at something deeper and much more larger than us and feel content with the mysteries of the universe.

It's with a similar feeling I started working on another track with friend and collaborator Aishwarya. It started once again, the usual way. I played a piano rhythm track on top of an electronic beat and sent it to him. What he created on top of that was pretty huge. He sent me back about 40 stems if I remember correctly, and it was absolutely mental going through all of them.

What I love about collaborating with other musicians is the fact that sometimes you create something that you feels vibrates from the essence of your being, and they will take it and make it their own instead. It's exchange of ideas that goes way beyond all the artificial ties and friendships we all have. It's something so untainted, so true. The fact that it exists is what makes you want to go on making music. It's the feeling you live for, as a musician.

As days and weeks passed by, I slowly ploughed through each one of them, EQ'ing, mixing and compressing them, shaping and moulding what the building blocks of the track were. Lots of times, some things wouldn't fit the way he arranged it so I would flip it around, add a couple of effects and try something new. It's always good to progress and evolve. That's what music is for me, a whirlwind of constant change.

Ultimately after about a couple of months, and some added feedback by Uniyal, I put this track up on Soundcloud. And I realised there was something very spacey and other-worldly about this track. That feeling of being a kid and having an entire universe in front of you to explore and discover, that's the feeling I wanted to convey.

One doesn't have to always get old. You just have to stay true to your heart.

Time to watch a movie. About aliens.

 
 

Influences : The Good and The Ugly

I have realised there have been quite a few influences that have shaped and changed how I approach making music for a film. Yesterday night while I was going through the usual sources to get my hands on new music, I came across a playlist on a website 8tracks. It had this playlist with really old creepy folk songs. 

There was this one song that stood out from that playlist, in particular that used a lot of harpsichord and there was this drone in the background whose pitch kept bending up and down. I never quite managed to find that song, but I thought it really did a good job of creating an eerie ambience.

Below: A similar mix to the one I heard on 8tracks to give me inspiration. It has a doomy folk feeling to it.

 

I set out to make something similar as a skeleton for a dreamy sequence about a bathroom in the movie I was working on. An important aspect when you're working on music for a film is the fact that it's not just about music or ambience, it's the sound as well. For example, I made it a point to incorporate the sound of tap water or maybe just water pouring down on a floor, so that the person listening/watching the film can actually relate it to. Sometimes it's all about the realism.

The track ended up sounding quite creepy and dissonant as well. I took some white noise, processed it and EQ'd it a bit and used it as a snare, It was quite an interesting thing to do, because it interacted so well with the rest of the track, I decided to keep it. I also decided to deliberately incorporate some vinyl crackles just to add a little dirt. Dirty is good, sometimes.

 
 

 

'Don't Be Afraid of The Dark', a horror movie released back in 1973 served as one of the inspirations for the movie score I was working on.

Another cool thing that I tried doing was I really turned down the kick a few notches, so there were times when all you could hear was the snare which created interesting audio illusions that there was a kick when actually there wouldn't be one at places.

I've also been using a lot of Reason to create soundscapes and ambient layers for this score in particular, and I think it sort of, shows that all those sounds were quite experimental, when you listen to them.

And I'm off to a break now.