Mixing on a Desk

Well, I just finished my first mixing session on an actual mixing desk – albeit an obsolete, partially working desk that they prime all the students on before we’re let loose on the expensive ones – and albeit a small array of tiny two track assignments.

I spent over an hour just fumbling my way around the desk not knowing what the hell was going on, but after I got into the swing of things, it was quite easy – even if it took a further two hours. My compression still sucks (my ears don’t yet hear the subtleties I suppose) but my gating is fairly solid. EQ is a bit ropey due to inexperience, but I’m getting closer. The hardest thing was trying to work out what the hell I was trying to do with a sidechain input on a gate, before realising I was going about it arse backwards (what an odd turn of phrase (turnip phase?)) and then quickly moving on.

It was pretty cool working late though. I booked 8-10PM (because I don’t have anything better to do on a Friday night – sob) but thankfully the 10-12 slot wasn’t booked, so I stayed on and got all the tasks done in one sitting. The place was largely abandoned, I was the only one upstairs, apparently only night supervisor folk downstairs sitting around drinking coffee. At first I was panicking I wouldn’t figure out the desk without help, and thus wouldn’t get it all done, but with some determination and trial and error, I really learned the whole procedure for myself which was satisfying and delicious like a burger (STOP THAT!). In a similar way to General William Henry Harrison, all it took was a fort… I mean effort.

Anyway, that’s the happy-haps (ugh…) so peace out y’all, and, um, word to your fat momma.

Two Days as a MacBook User

So, I’ve got my Mac, one of the newly upgraded white models rather than the spiffy aluminium ones. Here are my observations.

  • I quite like the feel of the hardware.
  • OS X is counter-intuitive for Windows users, and not logically so, oftentimes simply for the sake of being different.
  • Pointer acceleration is mandatory for trackpad and mouse, which sucks because acceleration doesn’t go where I want and actually slows me down.
  • I still hate trackpads.
  • The screen has a poor viewing angle compared to my ASUS G1S, which is pretty great from most angles.
  • The iSight camera is surprisingly high quality.
  • The standard installation of OS X has 3GB of printer drivers to ensure the “it just works” factor. This is STUPID.

So, I guess I’ll get used to it over time, but so far, I am still very much on the fence as to whether I like it or not. As a side note, this is purely a music-only Mac, I won’t be transferring anything else like email or Photoshop or whatever else.

How to Hear Music?

I was in class earlier today, and our usually lecturer Omar had to fly off to Berlin so he handed us over to a guy named Lewis halfway through. Lewis’ style was different to Omar’s and he provided more practical examples of our learnings thus far. He also made an observation that one of the downsides of becoming an audio engineer is that it’s common for you to lose a lot of the enjoyment you used to gain from simply listening to music and begin to hear everything in more clinical analytical terms.

This thought terrified me somewhat at first, but with only a few hours of reflection since, I am beginning to come to terms with it.

Generally speaking, the majority of average music consumers listen to heavily produced music, and while it might be well performed, produced and mixed, I often find that kind of thing vacuous and dull, without life or spark. A lot of music I listen to has a very different production style that tends towards more organic sounds. A lot of it tends towards extremely electronic and artificial sounds. There is not a lot of crossover for me, although to say it was entirely absent would be a lie.

What I’m trying to get at is that a lot of modern rock and pop sounds try to sound organic, but are produced in a manner which uses all kinds of studio-trickery like Auto-tune, ADT and louder-is-better compression to pummel the music into an easily-digestible and inoffensive form. I tend away from this kind of music, partially because I find it pretty dull to begin with, but also because the sound of it is uninteresting to me, or in some cases disturbing and alienating.

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SAE: One Week In

So, I’m now officially a student at SAE Glasgow, studying Audio Engineering. We’re one week in; so far we’ve only scratched the surface of sound theory, covering waves and the human ear, but it’s all stuff I find pretty interesting.

Our first class assignment was to take a piece of music we liked the production of, and make notes on it regarding panning, double-tracking, the levels of instruments and what not. We then listened back to some of them in class. We only got about of a third of the way around, so we never got to my pick, Crippled Black Phoenix – You Take the Devil Out of Me. The night before I was stressing over whether to switch to Kayo Dot – The Awkward Wind Wheel but in the end it didn’t really matter. Oh well. Other people picked artists such as No Doubt and Jimmy Eat World, so it was quite interesting listening analytically to music I don’t like.

Anyway, as part of the course, we get a MacBook. Apparently they should arrive within the next couple weeks. The very thought of suddenly becoming a Mac user scares me. I have a long standing dislike of Apple, including their computers. I have used Macs, and this might be just a typical Windows-user attitude, but the operating system seemed illogical and confusing in terms of file structure and even basic things like having no right click (resulting in having to press a key+ the mouse click for many important Photoshop functions).

This all being said, I’m very willing to give my new MacBook a fair shot. I don’t expect to migrate fulltime to Mac, but if it turns out to be more stable for music, I could see myself keeping the PC for everyday use and using the Mac as my primary recording platform, since our Books will come with Logic. I’ve been using Reaper as my DAW on windows, and other than a few irritating problems (caused by my Toneport’s Vista ASIO driver and not Reaper), I’ve not had any real complaints regarding stability. Thankfully, Reaper is being ported to OS X (the port is currently in beta) so I might just be able to run it on both machines.

And as a little aside here, Homophonies is now finally nearing completion, probably 75% complete structurally, I’m hoping to spend some time in the SAE studios hammering it into shape on proper equipment and getting a half-way decent mix done. I’m particularly pleased with a melodic drone section from side B I call “Ghost of Ebbing Bells” which was performed on fretless guitar with an EBow. I have included a little snippet of it below (since the final version of it is over 10 minutes in length).