Month: April 2016

A Few Friendly Tips to Help You on Your Way

When I started out in music production, I wished that I could have someone that could answer all the questions I had and explain everything and expand my knowledge in the areas I was lacking. The problem is that the whole area of music production is huge, not to mention most people have their own unique way of doing things. I am now going to give you some pieces of advice that are important in your success and will help you to pave a path to a professional music production. Producers widely accept the following as “rules” within music production.

Do not mix for too long; let your ears rest – It is important to take breaks during mixing. For each hour you are mixing a track allow a twenty minutes break. This can be quite hard if you are doing computer music production, as the computer you will be mixing on will no doubt be in the room you spend most of your time. Now. Nobody really sticks to this break-time formula as regular clockwork but it is something to aim for and maybe let this time overlap slightly. I would say to take a break sooner if you are working on a small repetitive section of a song for a while, as your mind will just ‘let go’ and not be sharp and anything will sound amazing after a while sabotaging any plan to get a professional music production finished. This art cannot be rushed or forced.

Do not mix in a large spacious environment – Anything that alters the sound of your track that is outside of computer music production or a mixing desk is a problem. If you mix like this, you might get a professional music production out of your track but once you take it out of the room you mixed it in it will sound completely terrible as the ambiance and acoustics of that room are no longer present. You need to make your mixing room a ‘dead’ room, which means you need to dampen any sort of effects the room is creating. Natural reverb is normally the biggest problem; clapping your hands is a good way to see if there is a problem.

Do not mix a music track on the same day recording it – This is for two reasons. First reason would be because you use two different parts of your brain to do each. For one you have to really concentrate hard and the other is the opposite, you want to concentrate too but you also want forget what you are doing and sense or feel. It is hard to explain but it is universally expected you cannot do both on the same day. The second reason would be due to the possible levels your ears have been exposed to during recording, some artists/bands would not have this but they would have the first reason as a reason not to do both mixing and recording on one day. It can be hard if you are working on a computer music production but you really must learn to leave it alone and give your mind and ears a rest; do something that uses your other senses and do not sit in the same place that you will mix in when you are not mixing.

10 Art Tips and Tricks

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You don’t have to be a genius or as talented as Leonardo Da Vinci in order to make amazing works of art. If there’s one thing everyone-and I mean EVERYONE is capable of, that is; ART! Often I hear people saying “I wish I can draw” or “I wish I can paint” when in reality you can!… you’re probably just unmotivated or too lazy to learn, or perhaps you give up too easily!

Luckily for you, I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks, to equip you with your journey into becoming a better artist!

  1. Doodle as if Your Life Depends on It

Carry a sketch book with you everywhere. Make random scribbles and try to draw every day when you’re bored, listening to music or even if you’re in a long conversation on the phone. Take a pen and a small notebook along to meetings, outings or in the office.

Doodling can be regarded as your artistic side expressing itself while your mind is occupied elsewhere. The symbols or objects you create when doodling vary from person to person and interpreting them can be quite fun!

  1. Create a Stimulating Environment

Put up as many visually stimulating items as you can in your room or office for inspiration. Put up posters, your favorite painting, have tiny figurines, display an awesome wallpaper on your computer/laptop, pinboard cool postcards, photos, printouts from the web, etc.

These little things actually give out subliminal messages to your brain which stimulates your creativity and imagination. It’s fun decorating and all, but don’t over-do it or else you’ll end up cluttering your entire workplace.

  1. Allow Yourself to Warm-Up

Understand that every day, you have to restart the machinery. Even if you’re a professional, your first few doodles of the day might look like crap because your brain is still booting up! Kinda like trying to talk early in the morning, your voice sounds like a dying frog because your vocal chords are still trying to adjust.

Do some drawing exercises in a sketchpad or notebook to warm-up before continuing on your painting or art project.

  1. Don’t Limit Yourself with Tutorials

There are millions of great tutorials out there, but limiting yourself and depending on these tutorials is a big NO-NO. What if you were told to draw something specific and you can’t find any tutorial on how to draw that certain thing?? You’ll probably panic and rip all your hair off because you’ve formed a bad habit by relying too much on tutorials.

Tutorials are definitely a good way to learn how to do things, but these should never define what you do. There is nothing more satisfying than figuring out techniques and styles on your own.

  1. What You See Isn’t Always What It Seems

When you show others a drawing that you think is the best piece you’ve ever done, chances are, those people see the flaws and errors in your drawing which you cannot see. That’s because our eyes are deceiving and our brain does this stupid thing where it tries to tell us what’s right when it’s actually wrong. What I’m trying to say is that you are being tricked by your own brain! but how?

Have you ever wondered why you don’t look like yourself in photographs? It’s because we are used to seeing ourselves in the mirror which is the FLIPPED version of our photographed selves. We look at ourselves in the mirror almost everyday and get accustomed that we have convinced ourselves that THAT is what we actually look like.

Looking at a painting or drawing in a mirror helps you see mistakes and areas that need working on.

So, if you feel like something’s not right with your drawing, turn it upside down, flip it, or better yet, hold it up in front of a mirror. You’ll notice the flaws and mistakes such as unproportional eyes, crooked nose, etc.

  1. Black and White Contrast

Before adding the finishing touches to your artwork, take a picture of it with your camera using the black and white setting, or if you are painting digitally, change it to black and white or greyscale. This way, you’ll be able to quickly judge if your shading or values are correct.

This is to prevent a dull or washed out-looking painting/artwork (unless that is what you’re trying to achieve).

  1. Simplify by Squinting

If you squint your eyes, the light and dark areas in whatever you’re painting will become more obvious. It also eliminates some of the detail, which you can probably leave out of your painting if you want. When you are starting to draw a rather complex subject, it’s very easy to get distracted by the details, which can be overwhelming.

By simply squinting your eyes as you look at the subject, you can eliminate a lot of the detail, making it much easier to see simple shapes and values.

  1. True Artists are Never Satisfied with Their Own Work

You are your own critic. Don’t be satisfied with just “alright” try to make that artwork of yours the best that you can make it. Fix things you need to fix even if it takes some time. Art isn’t meant to be rushed… unless you prefer quantity over quality.

Understand that you can NEVER make a perfect drawing (which isn’t a bad thing) but this is a reminder that there is, and will always be room for improvement whether you’re just a beginner or a professional. If you become content with your drawings, you stop seeing the flaws, and if you stop seeing the flaws, you stop improving which hinders you from becoming a better artist.

  1. Talent does not Equal Skill

Just because you’ve got some natural/inborn artistic talent, doesn’t give you a free ticket to making great art. You’ve got to use that talent to hone your skills. In other words; practice, practice, PRACTICE!

Think of it this way; A professional athlete doesn’t become a pro just by waking up one day, walking down to the field and start performing great feats of prowess. A rock-star doesn’t just wake up one day, pick up an instrument, and blow us all away. They’ve spent years turning their abilities and talent, into amazing skills.

You are the equivalent of an athlete or a rock-star in the making. You may have the talent but it’s going to take a lot of practice to achieve the skill level and recognition that you desire. The more art you do the better you’re going to get, so just draw draw and DRAW!

  1. HAVE FUN

Always remember to have fun no matter how frustrating it may seem. Being one of 7 billion human beings on Earth, it’s important to enjoy yourself. Art has no limits. If you enjoy making art even when you aren’t in the right mood, you will later be able to perform under a variety of circumstances, and become a professional.

8 Music Mixing Tips To Be An Awesome Audio Engineer!

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Today, anyone with a laptop and a few recording microphones has all the tools they need to record, produce, and mix music and create their own recording studio. The home recording studio revolution is here. But with the ever increasing (and often overwhelming) choices of EQs, compressors and load of other plugins, how do we put them together to make a great sounding mix? With increasing demands on sound quality, audio engineering is essential to get your track to stand out from the masses. Here are some tips to help you improve in your mixing process.

1) Are your ingredients fresh?

Making a fresh dish is impossible without fresh ingredients. Likewise, in audio engineering, if you start out with badly recorded tracks containing hiss, phasing problems, room reflections, you are going to have a harder time trying to make anything sound good. So rule of thumb, rather than pulling your hair out when it’s too late, record your audio well. Use a good recording microphone. Record in a soundproof room and do the relevant acoustic treatment if you can. Otherwise, record somewhere else if you need to. Turn off that noisy air-con. DO NOT fix things in the mix.

2) Use your ears, not your eyes

You are an audio engineer right? So stop using your eyes! Use your ears. Humans suffer from placebo effect from time to time. That is, our brains can make us think something sounds good just because we are getting cool visual feedback. Next time, try using that EQ plugin without the curve and listen. Very carefully. What REALLY needs to be boosted or cut? Did adding that compressor improve anything? Let our ears make the final call, not the user interface. The best mix engineers in the world rely mainly on a set of objective ears.

3) Do not be a sonic narcissist

Narcissus fell in love with his own image after staring at it for too long. Likewise, a mix engineer can fall in love with his own work and fail to realize serious mistakes after listening to it too much. Audio engineering is an art – art requires a clear mind to make critical aesthetic judgments. So take a break from time to time, and always keep a fresh ear when mixing. Successful audio engineering requires constant improvement.

4) Prioritize the elements

Some things are more important than others in a mix. For example, that shaker might sound really interesting, but are we mixing a shaker solo piece? If not, give priority to the most important elements. In most pop music, make sure that the kick drum, bass, snare and vocal are sitting well, muting all other elements. If you can get all of them to sound good together, you have basically mixed half the song. Bring in the other elements after that. If there are no drums, the vocals can afford to fill out more frequency space and sound bigger. Above all, the primary goal of an audio engineer is BALANCE.

5) It is not how expensive your tools are, it’s how you use it

We can have the most expensive plugin at our disposal, but it is how we use it that matters. We are doing audio engineering here, not running a music store. Stop acquiring gear or plugins while not having the time to learn what we already have. Focus on practicing a few effective tools well at any one time. Great mixes have been made with the simplest of gear. Study and use the plugins that come with your sequencer of choice, abuse them if you have to. Once you grow out of them, you will know their limitations and understand the reasons why you are buying that new EQ plugin or Tape Saturator. Also, as mentioned earlier, using a good recording microphone in an ideal environment at the tracking stage is always better than trying to fix it with plugins. In audio engineering, the best audio usually requires minimal treatment.

6) Listen to other people’s work

It is all too easy to get self-absorbed and start justifying our own work. Audio engineering depends heavily on context. We need to stop for a moment and listen to the big guys on the block. What makes their mix sonically effective, for that specific genre? Why did this mix engineer compress his snare in this manner? Form your own opinions and tastes, collect high quality records of great mix engineers and constantly compare your own work to theirs when mixing. Spend time getting your kick drum to sound in the same ballpark as theirs, your vocals sounding as full if not better. Ask yourself why if you fail, and learn ways to achieve similar or superior results. Use those tricks and turn them into your own. It’s a long road ahead, and there is no end to learning.

7) Learn how to bring things down

It’s all too easy to demand more, more and more, and boost anything and everything. Before you know it, every track is clipping and we have a fuzzed out mess. Instead of only boosting overall levels and EQ, try bringing everything to a lower volume, and be selective about boosting frequencies. Cut out the low end at 20 Hz or even 60 Hz for tracks that are not the kick drum or bass. Scoop out frequencies in the piano track to make space for the snare. Don’t forget to do everything in moderation. Balance is all about compromise. If every element takes up an ideal sonic space, it is easier for the whole track to be louder and have more impact, since there is less competition in the same frequency space. Play your mix at a lower volume as well. You may be surprised at what elements stick out too much. Precision is key to effective audio engineering, so keep training your ears.

8) Listen with different speakers

The mix might be rocking in your headphones, but putting it on laptop speakers could reveal a whole different truth. Likewise mixing with only reference monitors can smear out certain details that might show up when listening to headphones. Therefore, check your mixes on different speakers – on the stereo, portable Bluetooth speakers. Anything really. A huge part of audio engineering is really tweaking that piece of music to sound good anywhere. Pop in that CD the next time your buddy gives you a lift in his car.

6 Tips to Boost Your Creative Flow

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When surfing the net for tips on writing, I came across many articles and sites giving valid and useful tips on how to write a story that will sell – to editors, to agents, and so forth. However, for me as a creative and a highly sensitive person, much of the advice went against the grain.

For instance, the very first article I read explained how to write a proposal and approach literary agents without ever having done any writing whatsoever. Only when a buying party was attracted, the book would be written, almost as an afterthought. Now you may call me naive, but to me as a creative person this seems like the world turned upside down.

Yes, as a writer I want to be read, so of course I want to sell my books. But they have to be my words, my stories, not the stories I think agents and sales managers are going to like because they think they can sell them.

When you are writing to sell, you should probably skip this article. When you are like me and are writing from the heart, writing because you have stories to tell, you may find some of my tips useful.

And by the way: I actually believe that in the end, writing from the heart will yield a better harvest than writing for a buck – if not in a monetary sense, than at least in satisfaction, joy, and recognition from like-minded souls.

Writing tips for the high-sensitive writer

I hardly ever suffer from the dreaded writer’s block, and after finishing my first 444 page novel in one year, I began to wonder why that was. I have decided it is because I am writing from the inside out. I’m not writing from the head – I’m writing from the heart. I let the stories tell themselves.

When writing from the heart, writer’s block becomes a thing of the past – an obstacle that only surfaces when you start writing because you have to, not because you want to. But even when you write because you love it, you may encounter blockages and obstacles on the way.

So, here are some writing tips for writing from the heart and overcoming those obstacles.

  • Write the story you want to read Choose a setting you would like to walk around in – however gruesome or dangerous it might get sometimes. Choose a storyline you can get excited about, create conflicts for your characters you can identify with. Write characters you love – or love to hate.
  • Turn off the chatterThe endless chatter of the mind can be a great distraction to creative flow. If, like me you have no patience for meditation, there other ways to silence the mind and gain inspiration at the same time. Music, art, movies that inspire you, physical activity like dance, sports, yoga, etc. can all serve to still internal chatter and get you into ‘writing mode’.
  • Stuck in a rut? Take a walk Sometimes, sitting behind the computer, wondering where the story wants to go, you may get stuck in your head and the story no longer flows. When writing from the ‘rut’, you may find your dialogue getting stiff, your characters behaving out of character. Stop and take a walk! Get your body moving. Go do some grocery shopping. Many of my best story ideas came when cycling, or doing the dishes.
  • Let’s have some music A great way to get back into the flow, and experience your story from the heart, is choosing some music that fits the atmosphere, the feel of your story or scene. Use an MP3-player, choose the appropriate music and lay down on the couch. Relax. Now, if your story were a movie, this would be the score to your movie. See what images pop up when you listen – don’t try and force it, just let them flow naturally from the music and the mood. For instance, when writing medieval battle scenes, I like to listen to Hans Zimmer’s ‘Gladiator’.
  • Let the story tell itself – go to the moviesTo take it one step further, while listening to your score, you can step into the movie. You might, for instance choose a moment in the story where there is conflict, where things are moving, or about to get exciting. Step in and take a look around. It’s like stepping into a time machine that can transport you to any moment in time. What is it like to be there? How does it feel? How is the overall mood? You may (and probably will) note things you had not noticed before, when you were sitting at your desk: the atmosphere, the weather and how it effects the mood, little background details that can give your story more ‘backbone’, etc.
  • Let your characters speak for themselvesWhen you step into the story, you may choose one character, step into that person in your imagination and experience the scene from his/her point of view. Identify with them. What do they feel? What do they think? How do they experience their conflict? This will help you get to know your characters intimately and will truly put flesh on their bones, so to speak. It will help you write them as three – (and sometimes more) dimensional characters that live and breathe, and most importantly, feel. Alternately, you could choose a general point of view, the storytellers’ perspective.