Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hacked. Sorry.

More tips coming soon… please comment if you read this blog regularly, thank you!!!

RECORDING: Headphone use when tracking vocals + an important thing to read.

The other week, when I was tracking vocals for some of my new songs, I had some sort of an epiphany…. headphone placement, on my ears…. allow me to explain.

When you track vocals, you obviously are hearing the instrumental music in your headphones, and you’re more than likely hearing your live vocal mix, over top of the music… often, people prefer the instrumental music be about 15% quieter than their live vocal sound/mix.

What I’ve found, is that there are a few things that can be done, to get better takes:

1. Take one ear off. The actual sound of hearing yourself singing, without hearing it in headphones) is a beautiful thing. I find that my singing pitch is more stable than if I just had both ear cups on my head. You can see this demonstrated in my cover of Green Day’s “2000 Light Years Away”, in both the lead vocal, and the harmony vocal clips. I remember when I did this three years ago, I did only two vocal takes, live… the first, was with both ears. Didn’t work. I was off in places. Then I took the ear off, and I nailed the takes.

2. On the other hand, you can take the ear cup “half” off your ear…. which I think is a nice blend of clearly hearing the instrumental, your vocal mix, and your actual voice in the room…. which I think is helpful, too.

I do this, very slightly, in this Jon Auer (Posies) cover, from June 2014, with my piano student, Tyler Green:

3. Experiment with different placements of the cup over oneear (it doesn’t matter if it’s the right or left)…. you’ll be amazed at how well (or how badly) you can hear yourself, and the balance of the music. Don’t just assume you always have to have both ear cups on your head.

4. Leave both ears on, and have your instrumental mix at a reasonable volume…. but CRANK your vocal mix… this is also insanely effective, in maintaining good pitch (at least for me, depending on the singing style/range I’m using).

Good luck!

And hey, I would greatly appreciate if you took the time
to read this important thing, from my other blog, Underrated Music. Thanks!

RECORDING: Acoustic panel construction & benefits

These are relatively easy to make, and they WORK.

You can pick up a 6-pack of 4×2 feet, 3-inch thick Roxul (“rockwool”) from basically anywhere, online… for about $20-40 per pack, depending on where you look.

Pick up a few pieces of wood as your frame (have them cut them to size for you, at the hardware store), and pick up some corner braces as the video shows, then some cheap fabric, and go to town. It would probably take you about a day or so, to make 6-10 panels… and if you want to make them really nice like the final ones shown in the video above, you can put some nicer, patterned fabric above the main stuff.

Why should you make these?

Well, again… they work. Some people go crazy with buying that Auralex foam stuff… but it’s too expensive and doesn’t do nearly as good of a job as these do, especially when tracking vocals, or acoustic guitars. Sure, the Auralex stuff looks amazing, but it just doesn’t work as well as these do.

Some people also go nuts with those shields… that run from $100 and way above that…. that attach to mic stands. The most famous one being the original Studio Electronics Reflexion Filter ($299). I’ve owned it, and I was not impressed. I’ve also owned other cheaper ones, which worked better, but still not like these things you can make, for a few bucks.

Here’s a photo of two panels I use (out of a total of 12 I made) to track my vocals… they’re not even attached, though I could hinge them if I wanted to. They’re just leaning on each other, against a wall, sitting on a keyboard bench, with a mic stand behind the bench, to secure it in the dead center of the panels. And the mic wasn’t even attached yet… after I put this together, I just said to myself “sweet! look at this shit”, so I took a photo. Another cool thing is… without the piano bench, this “booth” could be used, sitting down, as well as standing (especially if you used a “round base” mic stand, instead of the tripod-leg variation):

That’s a great use for them, but also, you can hang them on the wall (as is their main intention and use… to absorb bouncing sound waves and reflections from your recording environment.

Do yourself a favor and build these…. you don’t have to be very handy to build these… I suck at building things, but I did ok with these. 🙂

SONGWRITING: using the least amount of bar chords (guitarists)

Everyone’s gotta learn their bar chords, without a doubt. They are essential, especially the shapes for F (which is also the shape of Bm), and B (which comes from the open A shape).

However, if you’re dead-set on not using bar chords (again, NOT recommended)…. try this…

key of C:
F is the only bar chord, but you can play it in triad form, on the top 3 treble strings (xxx211), or the top 4… xx3211)

key of G:
Bm is the only bar chord here, but you can also play it in triad form, on the top 3 treble strings (xxx432), or the top 4… xx4432)

key of C– use a capo with the “key of G shapes” (and avoiding the Bm shape entirely, thus ignoring chord iii, which isn’t always necessary in most chord progressions)

capo position: 5th
G shape– chord I (C)
Am shape– chord ii (Dm)
C shape– chord IV (F)
D shape– chord V (G)
Em shape– chord vi (Am)

key of G– use a capo with the “key of C shapes” (and avoiding the F shape entirely)

capo position: 7th
C shape– chord I (G)
Dm shape– chord ii (Am)
Em shape– chord iii (Bm)
D triad shape at the 12th fret (xxx12_13_12 — actual frets)– chord IV (C) or use F triad shape (xxx211 – frets relative to capo)
G shape– chord V (D)
Am shape– chord vi (Em)

using a capo in the key of E (without ever having to play a bar chord for the B chord, and including chord iii and chord vi, as triad forms)

capo position- 2nd
D shape– chord I (E)
Em shape– chord II (F#m)
minor triad shape (xxx222)– chord iii (G#m)
G shape– chord IV (A)
A shape– chord V (B)
minor triad shape (xxx432)– chord vi (C#m)

alternate key of E
capo- NOT USED
E shape– chord I (E)
minor triad shape (xxx222)– chord ii (F#m)
minor triad shape (xxx444)– chord iii (G#m)
A shape– chord IV (A)
major triad shape (xx444x)– chord V (B)
minor triad shape (xxx654)– chord vi (C#m)

Hope you guys and girls find this helpful…. especially for you beginners out there, eager to write songs. However, don’t neglect your bar chords! This is just a useful tool to pull out every now and then, when you’re feeling lazy or when your fingers hurt.