Home Recording Studio

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Until the year 2012 I was a 100% analog musician. I had used Finale since 2001, but that was the extent of my relationship with music technology. I was so obsessed with musical “purism” that I foolishly decided as a young person that I wouldn’t so much as write music with percussion in it. Well, times have changed.

In 2012 I began a Master’s degree (2012-2014) in music composition at the University of Utah. During my first semester, I was introduced to Logic Pro which I had to buy and use to create “electro-acoustic” music for a course.

Logic Pro is the professional version of Garage Band. It is an Apple-owned software used to create, record, mix, master, and produce music. These are called DAWs or Digital-Audio Workstations.There are many types of software like Logic: Pro-Tools (industry standard), Steinberg Cubase, Presonus Studio One, Reaper, Audacity, and Reason. Here’s a picture of my Mac running Logic Pro 9.

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Look at them, shop around. I prefer Logic Pro because that’s what I was introduced to. It’s expensive because it can only run on Apple Computers, which are expensive. I know producers who use Cubase, Presonus, and Pro-Tools. I’d recommend something that can run on either Windows or Mac.

Another consideration to make about computers, is that you want at least 16 GB of RAM and a high end processing speed (I use a 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7 processor) in order to run everything smoothly. Make sure the hard drive is solid state as well.

Getting good speed and RAM is cheaper when you buy a PC – it is quite expensive on an Apple computer.

I’ll get into DAWs in another post where I can go into more detail about how effective they are and what you can create with them.

My Epiphany

So I used Logic to record random projects, experiment, and have a good time. In 2014, I bought a midi keyboard to help me make projects go faster in Finale.88 key.jpgIn 2015 I took some extra music lessons from a film composer and I learned from him about virtual instrument libraries. I had known about Garritan Personal Orchestra and others, but I never actually knew how to use them or what their true value was.

I learned from this composer that I should experiment with Eastwest Sound Libraries. My epiphany was that if I could record and produce music in my own house, then I should do it! If God blessed me with the ears and fingers to write music, then why shouldn’t I be sharing that with the world?

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Now these sound libraries produce excellent sounding instruments. I control the instruments from my midi keyboard (which produce thrillingly authentic sounds) and then my DAW, Logic Pro, keeps track of what I input into the program. So after laying down multiple instrument tracks, I can have my computer playing symphonic music back to me that sounds true to life. This is not like finale’s playback button that can make pretty sounds – this can make your heart throb.

So I bought a $650.00 package that came with all the instruments of the Symphonic Orchestra. Those instruments sit on an external hard drive and are at my beck and call. When I need them, they play for me.symphonic orchestra.png

In addition to that, I pay a $29.99 per month subscription to 9,000 other virtual instruments, many of which I use in my studio every day.

I spent the months of October experimenting with these sounds. I made several short demos to show off how great this instruments sound. One day I spend eight hours making this 8 second clip of the Star Wars Main Theme:

I also made some original demos using these virtual instruments:

So once I got familiar with these virtual instruments, I knew that I needed to be able to record as well.

So I took several online courses at Udemy.com one of which was “How To Record Voice Like a Pro.” I waited until these $200 courses were on sale for $15 each. I took online courses in mixing, editing, recording, etc. This was a turning point in my life.

I knew that to start recording I needed:

  1. A Microphone
  2. An Audio Interface
  3. A room that was acoustically treated well enough in which to record audio

Luckily for you and me, there is an awesome package sold by Presonus that contains everything you need to start with.

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This package comes with a DAW by Presonus, a large diaphragm condenser microphone (cardioid pattern), mixing headphones, audio interface, boom stand, and cables.

Everything you need to start recording is in this package. This is one here is only $219.00.

I bought this package and have subsequently purchased another microphone which I LOVE!

 

When we purchased the equipment, we hung hung blankets and mattress pad foam on the walls. The basic idea is that we want to reduce the reflection of sound waves in the room so that reverberation does not come back into the microphone and detract from the clarity of the signal.

We also purchased this reflection filter that seeks to dissipate the singer’s sound waves immediately after being picked up by the microphone.SE reflection filter.jpg

We’ve recorded speech for theatre auditions, pop songs, opera arias, instrumentalists, and more. We create our own minus tracks with my virtual instrument library and we produce our own music from the comfort and convenience of our own home.

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Oh, and once the school year ends we’ll be un-employed besides teaching music lessons so come on over if you want to record, have flute, clarinet, sax, voice, piano, theory or another kind of music lesson. We currently teach voice, piano, flute, and music theory lessons. 🙂

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Amazing Grace | New Music Video

Here is our new music video of “Amazing Grace.” In our last post we discussed how we had originally arranged it for orchestra, reduced it into 7 clarinet parts, and made a recording of it.

Now we’re going to discuss the process of making a music video.

After we were finished recording the music track (click here to read about how we did that) we called up Dane Christensen, our awesome videographer, to schedule a filming appointment. He ended up not being able to make any appointments work as he now lives in California. So we called up Tanner Nielson, Dane’s buddy, and made an appointment with him. He is awesome as well!

Family Picture!

Family Picture!

FILMING

We decided to head up to a mountain trail in Layton, Utah – a location that Tanner suggested – and we brought:

  • Bb Clarinet (my new professional model – yayyy!)
  • Bass Clarinet (cheap model which I bought new in January of 2014 – it cost me $1,700, and while it’s not the ideal instrument, it was cheaper than these amazing Buffet models.)
  • Baby in carseat/blankets/diaper bag
  • iphones and/or portable bluetooth speakers

It’s important to have the speakers. Even if you can perform your music perfectly in the filming setting (say you have a piano and all the instruments you need) you’re not going to film the actual music. If you did, you would not get the best studio recording sound that you would want in your music video. You should first make the music just how you want it in the recording studio and then mime/play along with it in the filming. In the end, the audio from the filming will be deleted and replaced with the audio from your studio recording.

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We went out to a trail and I turned on the track to play along with. (Play along with the exact same track you’ll be using in the final audio/video mix – if you don’t, then your words and notes won’t line up properly.)

We filmed me on my little clarinet in one location. I played along with the track (which was playing from my iPhone in my back pocket). I then did the same thing with my bass clarinet and we repeated the process in a few other locations on the mountain trail.

While I played the clarinet, Kacee was feeding our baby girl. After twenty or so minutes, I took the baby and burped her while Tanner filmed Kacee singing. We then got some shots done together while the baby lay in her carseat as close to us as possible and as far away from the spiders and dirt as possible.

Burping the Baby

Burping the Baby

In the end we got some drone shots and Tanner almost crashed his drone into the trees. Pretty funny story when told by someone other than myself. Ha… 🙂 No really, still pretty awesome and funny. 🙂

So then in the end Tanner took all the footage back to his house and then lined up the best footage with the awesome master track which we had prerecorded. This is facilitated by the fact that we were playing/singing along with that track.

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And that’s how we got this beautiful video! Thanks Tanner and Clive!!!!

Here’s a demo of the orchestral version:

The process of arranging and recording “Amazing Grace”

Hello awesome people!

Today we want to tell you a little bit about our process in writing, recording, and  filming music. We have a brand-new audio track that we’ll be filming in the coming weeks. Click here to read about the filming of this music video.

Me and My

Me and My “Little Clarinet”

WRITING THE ARRANGEMENT

Last year (2014) I had the opportunity to conduct the Oquirrh Mountain Symphony (now Utah Philharmonic Orchestra) in a September 11 Memorial Concert. I composed two pieces for this concert including this arrangement of Amazing Grace. I used Finale 2014 to notate my orchestral scores.

Orchestral Score

Orchestral Score

This image shows a draft of that score.

Kacee and I wanted to make a recording of this music but we cannot afford to hire an orchestra to record it for us.

Cut off view of Orchestra Score

Cut off view of Orchestra Score

So I transcribed the piece for 5 Clarinets and 2 Bass Clarinets with the idea that I would record each line individually and then put them all together in the end. There were only a few issues with transcription:

  1. I cannot play the Clarinet as high as a professional violinist can play (at least not well). This means that I needed to make some octave adjustments which leave the clarinet version less expansive than the orchestral version.
  2. The Clarinet has a smooth attack. The sound on the clarinet begins with moving air. This is very different from the piano or drums which both use percussive strikes to elicit sound. Think of it like a coloring book. The Clarinet gives you color between the lines, while the piano and drums provide the dark outlines with their percussive attack (the piano then provides notes and color after providing the dark lined attack). This means that a clarinet-only piece will lack certain feelings of definitiveness. It will be airy and uncertain – kind of like really watered-down/flat soda.
  3. Along with the last issue, there is the lack of DIVERSITY in the tone color if you only use one kind of instrument. I think of clarinets as blue and purple, flutes as silvery pixie dust, Trumpets as vibrant yellow etc. In a clarinet-only ensemble you may have dynamic and harmonic contrast, but you will struggle to find contrast in TONE COLOR.

So these are the problems which presented themselves. How did we fix those problems? Well, read on! We basically solved these issues with a single solution.

We added piano to about 75% of the piece. By adding the piano we gave those darker/definitive lines to shape the color. By adding the piano to the clarinet lines we created a composite color (basically create a new instrument sound). The doubling of Clarinet and Piano is a satisfying blend. This only occurs when they play in exact unison – octaves don’t really count.

We gave it contrast by leaving some sections as clarinet-only, and we gave life to the high violin lines by leaving them for the piano instead of the clarinet.

Here’s what that 7-clarinet reduction looks like:

Clarinet Version

Clarinet Version

Now you need to know that I do not claim to be a clarinetist – I just really like that instrument, and I happen to own four of them.

Three Clarinets, one Bass Clarinet, two flutes

Three Clarinets, one Bass Clarinet, two flutes

So yes, there are many clarinetists who could have done a much better job than I did… but hey, I own the instruments, I might as well put them to good use!

RECORDING THE TRACKS

We went to our friend Clive Romney’s house to record the tracks. I brought him a copy of score (and dedicated it to him). Bringing a score makes the process a lot easier; it saves you time and money.

I sat down at the piano and recorded a “practice track.” We would then have that track as a reference point in recording the other tracks. This track would not be present in the final product. This track needed to represent the exact timing of the final product as we would use it to match the other tracks. I would also add pulsating 8th notes to act as a make-shift metronome.

I got out my clarinet and put on the headphones and sat in front of the microphone. The practice track came on through the headphones and I recorded the first clarinet track in time with the practice track.

Practicing the Bass Clarinet for the Recording

Practicing the Bass Clarinet for the Recording

Sometimes I wouldn’t play exactly in time with it, and I needed to go back and re-do it. We repeated the process until all five clarinet tracks were completed, and two more bass clarinet tracks were complete.

Once the clarinet tracks were done, we put Kacee in there where she sang like an angel. When she finished, I added the “real piano track,” to give added clarity where it was needed.

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Today between general conference sessions, I went back to Clive’s to add my input in the mixing process. With about ten different tracks happening simultaneously, we needed to boost some sections, and make others less-prominent.

CONCLUSION

So that’s how we got this track. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s a really fun thing to do! Click here to read our post about filming this music video!

I Believe – New recording of a song I wrote while on my mission

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Credo – I Believe <——— Click here to hear the song

Most people who know us know that Kacee and I met in 2008 at Utah State University studying vocal performance. Maybe fewer people know that we dated in 2009 and I, Shane, left to serve an LDS mission from 2010 – 2012. We corresponded while I was gone and we decided to get married in March of 2013.

While I was on my mission, Kacee sent me these words in a letter. I had never heard the music that accompanied the text, so I decided that I would write some music of my own to this text. I had very limited access to a piano so I actually wrote it without one. When I had composed the piece I sent it back to Kacee, and I also had the opportunity to perform it a couple of times on my mission – once with Sister Ryan. In this recording linked to this blogpost, I am playing the piano and my wife, Kacee, is singing:

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows,
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Someone will come to show the way.
I believe, I believe,
I believe.
I believe above the storm
The smallest prayer, will still be heard.
I believe that someone in that great somewhere
Hears every word
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf
Or see the sky,
Then I know why I believe.

Lyrics by: Al Stillman, Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Shirl Jimmy

Credo – I Believe <——— Click here to hear the song