RECREATING PORTAL 2′S “WANT YOU GONE” WITH MUSIC CREATOR 6 TOUCH [PART 2: VOCAL TIPS]

Recently, Cakewalk worked with the great folks over at Valve to make our Music Creator 6 Touch software available to their community, and the onslaught of new “music creators” has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring.  To kick off our promotion, we thought it would be a fun experience to recreate Jonathan Coulton’s cult classic “Want You Gone” from Portal 2 all in Music Creator 6 Touch (MC6t) – but the kicker is that we had 24 hours to do it in order to make the deadline for launch.  In this case, not only was collaboration creatively beneficial, but it was also essential.

Getting the bed-tracks together was the first step, and you can read our previous blog here on how this all came together.  Cakewalk’s Bill Jackson and Seth Kellogg spent time programming some great drum tracks, keyboards and guitars, and then I was able to easily embellish and add to the programming with loops, sounds and mixing.  After the drums, bass, keys and guitars were in a good spot, it was time to figure out how we were going to capture the focal point of the song: THE VOCALS.

I had just finished a record with a great singer by the name of Jodi Good so she was my first logical phone call.   As timing and luck would have it, she had just finished her video shoot for her first single (Definitely Different) in NYC and she had a 2 hour window to help pitch in.  There were two hurdles: 1.) she could not make it out to my studio, and 2.) I had to get clearance for name, likeness and sound from her and her legal team for usage – not a problem ;)

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SONAR X2 makes the grade at USC Thornton School of Music

Professor Chris Sampson, founding director of the Popular Music program at the USC Thornton School of Music, recently wrote an article for the Roland Music Education blog explaining why he prefers to teach with SONAR X2.

“As a professor of songwriting, I teach in both a classroom setting and privately, and a little over a year ago, I incorporated SONAR X2 into my instruction with great results.”

This is a screenshot from an actual private lesson

Professor Sampson cites SONAR X2′s Skylight User Interface, Smart Tool, ProChannel, included virtual instruments, overall workflow, and the sound quality of SONAR’s 64-bit audio engine as powerful enhancements to his teaching process.

“With these assignments, it is very important to me that the tracks sound great and authentic to the style I’m presenting, because the students’ enthusiasm can be seriously eroded if the track does not sound good. This is where the sound quality of SONAR X2’s 64-bit audio engine really shines.”

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The professor also gave us ‘extra credit’ for our own commitment to teaching aspiring musicians.

“In addition to the educational benefits of SONAR itself, there’s an abundance of training resources available at SONAR University. The videos there make it easy to understand the concepts behind every phase of the recording process, and the various tips I’ve picked up from The Cakewalk Blog have been invaluable as well. Both are great resources for students to build their own skills independently.”

Read the full article on the Roland Music Education blog.

Or download the SONAR X2 Producer Free Trial and see why SONAR X2 is getting high marks in the classroom and the studio.

 

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Approaching the Remix With Cakewalk Synths – Norman Matthew [MURDER FM]

PUTTING MY FACE ON YOUR NAME:

Remixing is one of my favorite things to do in the studio for many reasons. For one thing the song has been written, so the pressure of writing a masterpiece is off my shoulders. I’m also able to listen to a song from beginning to end; a completed thought, if you will. I get creatively juiced immediately if I connect to it. That’s where the magical third thing kicks in – I get to put my musical stamp on another artist and pay tribute to their work by recreating their art through my eyes. It’s an opportunity to let the world crawl inside my head (scary as that may be) and hear it the way I do. (more…)

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Film Composer James Bernhard Gets it Done Right with SONAR

Film composer and longtime Cakewalk user James Bernhard is a busy man. With films to score and a new music production company to run, it’s understandable. Fortunately SONAR is with him to help get things done right, right away.

James BernhardAfter getting his start as a songwriter in Long Island, NY, he made the move to LA to write music for television & film. It was in LA where the musical partnership with four-time Grammy award winning mixing engineer Brian Vibberts and golden-eared mastering engineer Patricia Sullivan (employed by Bernie Grundman Mastering) began. From this, the new company G4H Music Productions Inc. was born.

James was gracious enough to take time away from composing to have a conversation about his career, how he uses SONAR to score to picture and, despite pressure from colleagues, why he won’t ever switch to another DAW. (more…)

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SONAR Quick Tip: Quantize Duration (Video) by Scott R. Garrigus

Even though the Duration menu in the Quantize dialog box is limited to 1/32nd notes, you can still quantize to smaller values by inputting a number of ticks into the Duration parameter. For example, if you’re using the default 960 ticks per quarter note for the project clock value (set in Preferences), then just type (more…)

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Javier Colon, Winner of NBC The Voice Using SONAR X2 for New Record

It’s been quite a ride in the last 2 years for Javier Colon after being crowned the winner of NBC’s hit TV show The Voice.  Some highlights include releasing the record “Come Through for You” on the Universal/Republic label, gaining millions of new fans, and touring around the world sharing the stage with artists including Maroon 5, Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw to name a few.  It’s rare for an artist like Javier to experience so many facets of the music industry.  He is been signed to two major labels, put out his own successful independent music, and claimed the top spot on one of the biggest television shows of our time.  But what sets him apart from other artists (besides the obvious) in today’s never ending plethora of supposable talent?  I recently got a chance to catch up with Javier in his new SONAR X2 home studio in Connecticut and find out what he’s been up to, and where he’s going. (more…)

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Approaching Drums Left of Center with AudioSnap and Session Drummer – Norman Matthew [MURDER FM]

So Last “NorMonday” I went on a little (ok a lot) about how I approached tracking guitars, before that we tapped on my signature vocal techniques. Now it’s time to get into the foundation of it all, drums. Again, prepare yourself for some left of self-centered techniques.

THE KICK DRUM SUCKS…NO WORRIES, THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

Seems there’s an app for EVERYthing these days. In the recording world, I like to think of plugins as the “apps.” I’ve been part of approximately 16.25 trillion sessions and not a-one has gone by that I haven’t run into a horrible kick drum sound – clicks, flaps, slaps, flops or just generally sounding like a basketball being dribbled through my mic. The flip-side to these tones of course, is that Gawd-awful weak kick drum that sounds like an egg-beater hitting a pillowcase.

Well I have found a Godsend when it comes to such atrocities….SESSION DRUMMER and AUDIO SNAP!

Drum replacement happens EVERYwhere, ALL the time, so don’t let anyone fool you… the key is knowing how to keep the feel and dynamics alive. I learned a lot about drum replacement from producer Beau Hill (Ratt, Eric Clapton, Alice Cooper, etc.), who took me under his production wing and mentored me on many techniques. In music production, we all strive for the best drum sounds because after all, that is what the rest of the music sits on. Unfortunately, we can’t all afford fancy tracking rooms where the walls move to adjust to the natural reverb. So, many of us at one point or another are slaves to the machine: tracking drums in the jam room, or in mom’s garage next to the washing machine (which is constantly on for some reason). (more…)

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An Unorthodox Approach to Tracking Guitars with TH2 – Norman Matthew [MURDER FM]

REINVENTING THE STEEL

Murder FM FestRecording Guitars in this day and age can be a daunting task. With so much to choose from, the possibilities are endless, yet, with so much groundwork already being laid by artists, engineers and producers before us, what else is left to do and where can we go? Luckily, I found the answers regarding my own work. We can’t reinvent the wheel, but we can put our own rims and wheels on it and make it a banger.

Technology has made it amazing for me to create the sounds I’m looking for quickly and easily, especially with the new OVERLOUD / TH2 Producer plugin in SONAR X2 Producer. Ideas flow through me quickly and when inspiration hits, I want to commit my idea to “tape” (aka the hard drive) but not have to commit them to the tone. This is where SONAR X2 has really become one of the greatest things I’ve encountered in the studio.

CLEAN IS THE NEW “HEAVY”

TH2 is my partner in crime. I laugh at how I used to maneuver in the studio without it. The Randall modeler is just explosive as can be. How I track guitars is probably the weirdest thing you are about to hear, but as you progress in your own endeavors, I guarantee it will make a ton of sense. As I mentioned earlier, I like to lay my idea down without having to commit to the tone, so how do I go about the perils of tracking decadence without getting in the way of creativity? Simple, I track my guitar with a DRY direct signal.

Now if you have heard my band MURDER FM before, you will undoubtedly be scratching your head “huh?” This method solves multiple issues for me in the studio and here’s why:

1.) I can start the creation process quickly without having to noodle around with tones. I can concentrate simply on writing as if I was sitting on the couch with my acoustic guitar just letting the song write itself, that’s the best way for me – heartfelt and innocent.

2.) With a dry signal, I have the most optimal amount of flexibility as the song begins to grow. I think a lot of artists can sometimes put the proverbial “cart before the horse” in production, by wanting their guitars to “sound like this guy or that rig” before even writing the song, but to me that’s a big mistake. You aren’t creating your own signature sound and you aren’t letting the song grow and speak for you. Instantly you have set parameters and guidelines on your creativity without even realizing it.

3.) With very heavy guitars, you tend to brick-wall your transients and this can make for massive migraines when it comes to editing. Further, if you are meticulous like me, you’re heading for disaster in the editing department. So having a clean direct signal helps me to see where the dynamics in the riffs are and to really expand on that in terms of editing to make the tightest (or loosest) composite tracks possible. Another bonus is that the plugin responds so much better to a DI signal versus a straight up – ramped up signal, and this is where the OVERLOUD / TH2 plug really make its presence known AND felt. Heavy guitars can now sound like chainsaws and clean tones can be dark, majestic and celestial.

So now that I’ve tracked my dry signal, I go to TH2 to start messing around with scratch tones. I load up the click-track and start tracking drums. Once drum tracks are down, I re-track guitars with a clearer picture of the song and what it is saying as it is “speaking to me,” then start to formulate my tones around that. Some of the HEAVIEST riffs I have ever recorded have been the least “gainy” tones believe it or not; it’s all about sitting in the right place within the song and letting the track tell the story. I then cue up a tempo with the click track and start creating. SONAR X2′s simplicity along with the Skylight User Interface have allowed me to literally start tracking on my PC in the airport, on the tour bus, backstage and in the hotel room. Low Latency = High results in my world and X2 is amazing at handling that.

SLAPPIN’ THE BASS, DROPPING THE TUNING

Since I play in “Drop B” or “Drop C” tunings with MURDER FM, clean tracks come in VERY handy again because I can actually adjust the tones to the riff and really bring out those low B and C notes. TH2 has some great benefits. The Randall modeling is second to none, the flexibility, low CPU usage, Mic positing, Amp Channels, Smart Control and SLR technology make combining tone & personal style with the greatest of ease. I also use TH2 on my bass tracks.

Another really backwards sort of thing I do is track the bass after the guitars have been laid down. Why? Well for one, drop tunings tend to lend themselves to tuning issues when you hit certain frets, so I start with the tuner, but usually tune the bass to the majority of movements in the track, or to those fickle 7th and 8th frets (since I LOVE my minor keys and flats). In a break glass scenario, I use “V-Vocal Editor” in SONAR X2 to fine tune the track! How’bout that for ground-breaking? Also, with the super-heavy-groove-oriented beats MURDER FM regurgitates, I don’t approach things in the typical rhythm section mentality. Sometimes we are precise, sometimes very loose, and I feel the bass is the glue between the two worlds when trying to create our own brand of tuned-down metallic-voodoo.

Once I’ve heard the drums, the dry guitars with the TH2 plug ins loaded up, and the bass in its place, I move to the mic’d tracks. Let’s face it; nothing beats the feeling of pushing air with a loud cabinet against your back or in your face when you hit that Drop B chord. I then tweak my tone not to “sound like this or that”, but to fill in what is missing [air and frequency-wise] in my dry / TH2 signals. Sometimes its missing feedback, fret noise or even that irritating squawk a non-gated – heavy gained guitar has, but I put in whatever I need to make the track feel loud and real. After all this, I then mix my two tones together to get that chainsaw I so desire. This same method also works for getting very angelic, celestial and glassy clean tones reminiscent of one of my favorite bands, THE CURE.

NEW STRINGS, PUTTIN’ ON THE SQUEEZE AND NOISE GATES

I did an experiment with my dry tones and realized that brand spanking new strings responded to the TH2 plugins MUCH better than old dead strings. With the transients being tracked so bright and clean, things just sounded a lot heavier through TH2 with new strings. So do yourself the solid and before doing some serious tracking, change those strings dude. Now, we’ve got dry signals, TH2 plugins loaded, mic’d amps/cabinets committed to the track, let’s clean ‘em up. Noise Gates – NEVER leave home without them. Using my SONAR effects, I pull up a few different noise gates and adjust the threshold and ratio to my noisy mic’d amp signals. Once I’ve found the cleanest, tightest settings, I make my own user preset and apply it to my dry signal chain right behind the TH2 / OVERLOUD for consistency. The dry signals are more often than not cleaner and tighter, but JUST in case, In the world of the gnar and loving tight guitars, I make sure these are set to match one another; and it works beautifully. Add to that, the fact that I can see the CLEAN .wav and its transients, I can almost set the noise gate by simply looking at the guitar tracks without even having to listen. Didn’t I tell ya earlier, those clean tracks can save you the migraine bro!

PUTTIN ON THE SQUEEZE

As far as compression goes, ProChannel modules are amazing! However, I don’t generally use compression on guitar tracks because I really want the natural dynamic of the riffs and clean guitars to shine. It doesn’t have the same “feeling” to me if you can’t feel those peaks and valleys. If you track properly, you won’t really need to compress guitars to keep things at bay, although I’ve had to mix some projects that were sent to me tracked very poorly, and SONR X2′s CONCRETE LIMITER and ProChannel compressors really saved the day.

To add the feeling of old 2 inch tape saturation, I will run my guitar tracks through the CONSOLE EMULATION in the ProChannel Strip using the “S Type” setting. This mode emulates a clean and transparent British console that is popular among mixing engineers in rock and pop genres, and has been used on more platinum selling albums than all other consoles combined.

BEFORE YOU TURN THE SINGER UP, TURN YOUR GAIN DOWN

Now sitting in the mix, the chainsaw metal guitars I love tend to hover around the same frequencies as the vocalist (in this case myself as well ha) and cymbals. Not many people think about it, but EQ should be used for correction, not enhancement. I’ve seen too many guys go straight for the EQ before even hearing what it sounds like. Mixing guitars with vocals is like putting together a 10,000 piece puzzle; every little move, transient, frequency, pan, and volume point matters. So before you start cranking up the singer because “I can’t hear my vocals”, try turning down the gain or ready for this metal guys?… turn UP the mid-range (mind=blown) and really let each instrument reside in its own frequency range before nudging the EQ and moving the faders.

One other thing I suggest on guitars, ALWAYS double track your chorus rhythm guitars and pan each one hard left and hard right. This leaves room for more vocals, backups, and harmonies in the panoramic spectrum and also leaves room up the middle for guitar solos and all the little bells and whistles we need with guitars and percussion. Depending on the track, I like the verse guitars to run up the center, then explode with the panned hard left /hard right chorus guitars. Just because it’s heavy doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story. If you hit the wall out the gate, you have nowhere to go but down and I just can’t live with that. \m/

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Recording and Mixing Our Signature Vocal Sound in SONAR X2 – Norman Matthew [MURDER FM]

Hey world, forget your Monday-hate and dive in with me to make the first day of the week a little less sucky and a bit more murderous. Henceforth, it’s NorMonday. So if you find crawling back into the grind a bore, let’s get board–maybe a little chitty-chat about production techniques, tricks, voodoo, esoterica and sleight-of-hand. No blahs here, just blast.

MURDER FM has been blessed with some really nice response to our sound both here at home and the U.K. and the Cakewalk folks were kind enough to ask me to talk a little about the things that go into producing our sound. Hahhh! The real trick’ll be to shut me up, let’s get to it—hopefully it’s helpful.

The nuts, bolts and screams of “We The Evil.”
Coming back from our Sold Out UK Tour, I really wanted to push the envelope with MURDER FM’s new record, so when SONAR X2 arrived, I immediately went to work on using it to shape what would become MURDER FM’s heavier and darker sound.

I recorded the Vocals for “We The Evil” using a Cakewalk UA-101 as my interface into X2. Using a Nady condenser mic, I always track as direct and flat as possible, including no preamps for multiple reasons, 1.) I have the cleanest signal for optimal mix options and preamps will color the signal nicely, which leads to reason number 2.) Cleaner signals force me to have to be a better singer and really develop my character versus letting the effects and preamps shape my tone. It’s a bit more work in the end, but much better for what I am trying to do with my own signature production techniques.

Oh yeah, screamage. There’s a lot of textures in the vocals on “We The Evil”. You don’t “hear” some, but you “feel” them and that’s what I’m going for. It’s a lot more orchestral in the arrangement than one might think when it comes to creating “big dark vocals” that feel huge, but are still intimate. There are some lower octave vocal accents in the verses and lots of doubles and harmonies in the chorus to create that arena sing along vibe. To really make the screams punch, I cranked the SOFTUBE “saturation knob” about 40% of the way to get my point across!

Mic, pre and chain (or not).
Here is where I would sing the praises of the Nady SCM-1000 Wired Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone. For it’s price, this thing is a beast and has yet to let me down. It captures my voice perfectly and really accentuates things without me having to going into a preamp. On “We The Evil” I used and abused X2′s ProChannel feature for everything I needed vocal wise. It’s such an amazing and powerful tool from the PC2A and Console Emulator Channel/Bus to the Compressor and Saturation Knob, it really gave me everything I needed for the vocal track and is perfect for drums and my master bus.

Getting my grit on: Not a perfect science.
For FX, I used VX-64 Vocal Strip. The doubler really helps the chorus vocals pop out, especially in the gang vocal sections and the Compander in the vocal strip really brings out the “throaty” tone in verse vocals, so much so, when mixing I cranked the tracked and could literally feel the grit in my throat in my stomach, it’s really a powerful tool. TheDeesser in the strip helps to clean up the throaty “s and p” mishaps. The “tube equalizer” allows me to bring out that mid range punch. I used the Delay within the VX-64 on my main chorus vocal help to create the hugeness of the chorus vocal by putting it just a tad out of time with the backup vocals and harmonies. That way, everything isn’t hitting directly at you–but more at slight little milliseconds off of one another, much like the natural movement of a choir…Too perfect is tooo bland in my opinion.

Scene of the rhyme.
All of the new MURDER FM record was tracked at my studio, THE SOUND FOUNDATION in Dallas. I’ve got multiple amp setups, drum isolation booth, a collection of different mics and all the latest Cakewalk plug-ins. One of my new faves for guitar tones is OVERLOUD. I track a mic’d amp tone and a clean DI signal for both post production and editing purposes. Heavier sounds such as MURDER FM’s tend to brickwall with distorted tones. Having a clean signal helps to view the transients gives me the flexibility to plug in anything missing in the mic’d amp tone to obtain the fullest guitar tone I possibly clean and avoid that “thin” one dimensional tone.

I told you—get me going and I don’t stop. But hey—God is in the details and I don’t wanna make him mad, so I spend a lotta time there. Besides, who wants to think about how far it is to the weekend when you could be thinking interfaces and plug-ins. ‘Tis the diff between a mere Monday and a NorMonday.

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Murder FM Finds Their Way to Revolver Magazine with SONAR X2; New Single “We the Evil” Finding International Success

The interesting and never-boring Texas-native front man of MURDER FM, Norman Matthew, will be guest appearing on the Cakewalk blog every other Monday (NorMondays) delivering music production tips, tricks and conditional evilness.  As a seasoned producer/songwriter/instrumentalist, he will be delving into his bag of production wickedness to shed some interesting light on how he approached sounds, songs and life in general;)

MURDER FM’s dark, edgy, and sleek style has been creating a buzz in the music industry domestically, and is quickly becoming a huge hit internationally.  Norman Matthew and the band have established a cult-like following, propelling two of the bands’ videos “As Beautiful as You Are” and “Machine Gun Kisses “to the Top-Ten list on (more…)

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