Phonoma – Bangin Choon



A recent mix I completed for Phonoma. I worked on the mix of this track with friend and fellow engineer Oisín O’Regan.

Recorded by: Oisín O’Regan
Mixed by: Stephen Kelly & Oisín O’Regan
Produced by: Phonoma
Additional Production: Stephen Kelly


Phonoma


Vocals & Synths: Gavin O’Brien
Drums & Drum Programming: Jeff Higgins
Vocals: Rachel Clark
Guitars: Oisín O’Regan
Bass Guitar: Brendan Stanfield

Powerful New Tools For Your Music Career

When I started this website one of my main goals (besides shameless self promotion) was to provide people with valuable information on how to be successful in music production and audio engineering.

Previously, the majority of my articles and videos have been focused on the use of plugins or particular techniques to improve our mixing skills, but I want to start looking at one of the main issues overlooked by creatives in the music industry – the business side. It’s all well and good that you’re a creative genius but if you have no audience or market, there is no outlet for all the hard work and hours spent making music. I want you to start becoming more aware of some great new free tools at your disposal to help advance your music career.

Some of the tools available to you

Some of the tools available to you

With the vast amount of competition and just how easy it has now become to create and produce music in a relatively inexpensive way, it’s fundamental to find a niche and an audience to be successful in this line of business. Unlike a lot of other industries, we already have certain pre-defined niches due to the various different types of audio engineering – post-production, sound design, tracking, mixing etc. and then the multitude of genres present in music. Even though these genres are constantly evolving, changing and blending into one, the rough guidelines still exist.

Almost every successful business has a specific target audience or demographic that they would like to reach. This is the same for musicians, sound engineers and music producers. Regardless of whether you’re just doing this for fun or it’s your chosen career path, you want someone to hear your work.

We might all be creative and good at producing music, but at the same time we’re not all mass media magnates. We don’t all have great business brains and that’s OK. However, there are some very simple often overlooked steps that can easily help us to get at least 80% on the right track towards running a viable business in music.

We all have an online presence in one form or another but how do we get the audience we need? Whether it be through our Soundcloud, Twitter or Facebook pages, by word of mouth or gigging, most of us will already have some form of audience. To keep our audience interested, we need to create valuable content.

We are a society that consumes vast amounts of information on a daily basis. This information comes in all shapes and forms with music being just one medium. Your number one method of creating valuable content is going to be doing what you do best – writing and producing great music. You can then supplement that any way you like, with videos, articles, blogs etc. Precise marketing techniques and the fine details of self promotion are outside the remit of this article but a lot of information is readily available online; specifically through one great source mentioned below.

What is the goal in having a website or online presence? We want people to listen to our music, watch our videos, read our material and gain some value from it. Let’s face it, we want to gain something from it too.

The one thing that everyone with a website wants is traffic. Some even become obsessed over it.

Not this type of traffic!

Not this type of traffic!

Traffic is an incredibly important determining factor in how successful a website may become for very specific reasons. You could be getting a lot of unique daily visitors to your website, but what value are they to you if they just disappear once they hit your site and find the valuable content they’re looking for? There’s a wealth of information out there. Your website may be unique and offering something of very high value, but if you’ve no way of converting these visitors to returning visitors and perhaps potential customers, then it’s going to be a real uphill struggle for you.

Constant content creation linking back to your website should start to generate you some traffic but we don’t want your time spent on creating awesome content to be wasted. We want these people to stay and not only have a look around your website in more detail, but return again at another time. They might even be feeling generous enough to spread the word about your music, your site and share your content.

You’ve already got an audience and now it’s time for it to grow. But how?

Every time someone new visits your site and reads some of your great free content or listens to your music, you’re helping them in some way. Your goal should be to develop the reciprocal relationship and continue helping them, while they will receive access to great free content. Yet with so many competing websites and so much music to consume, you need a way to request the loyalty of your readers. You need to ask for their consent to contact them again in the future via email.

There are many sites with annoying pop-ups that essentially bully visitors into either giving their email addresses or clicking off the site completely. This should be totally avoided at all costs because the last thing you want is to piss people off.

You need to stand out from the crowd and politely ask your readers to leave their email addresses with you so that you have permission to email them again in the future when you’ve got something new to share.

appsumo

Enter AppSumo – a 100% free newsletter to help entrepreneurs kick ass.

AppSumo promotes the greatest tools and knowledge to help people supercharge their business. If you haven’t already signed up, I would highly recommend doing that now. Through being a member of this free newsletter, I discovered SumoMe.

sumome-site-logo

SumoMe.com is AppSumo’s flagship product that helps websites grow their traffic for free. These tools include List Builder, Heat Maps, Share and many more. The tools created by SumoMe are very creative and my favourite by far is List Builder. It is the tool I was really looking for and it will help you build an email list in a non-pushy efficient way. List Builder allows my visitors to provide me with their email information to help me stay connected and in communication with them.

There are many misconceptions about marketing and how it could be sleazy, cheap or disreputable. To me, this couldn’t be any further from the truth as long as you present yourself in the right way. If you don’t use all the tools at your disposal to sell yourself and your ideas, you’re fighting a losing battle against the incredibly high level of competition and vast levels of music and information out there. These methods are used by a lot of successful companies and entrepreneurs across many different fields, so why shouldn’t it be applicable to our industry and careers?

Before List Builder, I only included a small opt-in email box on my home page or at the end of my articles. I was missing a lot of opportunities to engage with people but I didn’t want to install a tool that would harass my readers with annoying popups that acted in an unintelligent way.

Since installing List Builder, the sign-ups to my mailing list have increased substantially. Previously, I would have had to create new content hoping that people would see my sign-up boxes on the left of my home page or at the bottom of my articles. Now if someone clicks on my site and likes what they see, they can easily opt in to receive updates and free mixing tutorials in the future. This in turn increases the reach of my tutorials and provides information for those interested in developing their skills as a music producer or sound engineer.

An example of the List Builder lightbox as featured on my site.

An example of the List Builder lightbox as featured on my site.


List Builder’s clever lightbox popover can be customized to automatically popup after a certain amount of time, or you can use the smart mode (my preferred method) to ask your visitors to subscribe when you think they’re getting ready to leave your website. Now people will find your blog, read your article, learn something new and subscribe via email to your newsletter. Everyone wins!

The respectful collection of email addresses also needs to be approached efficiently. This simple tool easily ingrates with mail list clients like Mailchimp/Aweber and is a seamless addition to any WordPress theme (like mine).

List Builder Services

SumoMe is not just for WordPress. You can add it to any website by including a simple line of code in the head of your HTML.

HTML or WordPress

There are also many more tools from SumoMe that operate in a similarly efficient unique way.

SumoMe Tools

Another great recent development from being part of the AppSumo mailing list has been access to Email1K – a step by step approach to increasing your mailing list subscribers from AppSumo’s founder Noah Kagan that further demonstrates the effectiveness and value of the free marketing tools from SumoMe.com.

So what are the main benefits of SumoMe’s tools?

  • They’re simple, smart and efficient.
  • Over 25,000 people are using these tools every day.
  • If you don’t have the tools installed, you’re competing against those that do.
  • It’s free, so what have you got to lose?

If you’re exceptionally lazy and don’t often take action when you know you should, then you’ll be glad to hear that List Builder, Smart Bar, Contact Form and all the other SumoMe tools are easy to install, even if you’re one of the laziest people in the world.

If you still feel like you should do it but won’t get around to it today because looking at cat memes is more important, you can even email install@sumome.com and they’ll do it for you free of charge.

Install SumoMe now for the good of your website. These tools will help both the efficiency of your business and the reach of your music. Start with List Builder and watch your email list grow!

Angela Makepeace – ‘GP Cars’ Animation

I’ve just finished an explainer video for Angela Makepeace. I composed the music specifically for the video along with being responsible for the sound design and final mix.

For anyone interested in prestige cars, don’t forget to click through to the GP Cars website!

Side-chain Compression Using Waves RCompressor

In this tutorial I have taken the concepts discussed by Ilpo Kärkkäinen in his ‘Bassline Mojo’ article and expanded on the theory discussed to help create further balance between the kick and bass in the low end. I would highly recommend reading Ilpo’s excellent article first and listening to the audio examples provided to help better understand the theory discussed here. The DAW I’m using to demonstrate is Pro Tools, but the application of this theory and the use of Waves Renaissance Compressor in this fashion can be used in any other DAW such as Logic or Ableton Live.

To begin with, it would be a good idea to discuss what exactly side-chain compression is and how the RCompressor works.



What is Side-chain Compression?
Side-chain compression occurs when an input signal from another source has been selected as a trigger or key input for the compressor. This key input is the determining factor in how much gain reduction takes place on the output signal. There are many applications for this type of compression, such as overall volume ducking, EQ control (like a de-esser), side-chaining kick drum and bass guitar/bass synth etc. In this particular last example, its purpose is to aid in low end balance, along with emphasizing/preserving kick transients and headroom.

What does the Renaissance Compressor Do?
The following information is taken from the Waves Renaissance Compressor Manual and has been adapted slightly to explain its usefulness and industry standard effectiveness as a side-chain compressor.

Renaissance Compressor is a classic warm compressor and expander, with a simple, optimized interface. The Waves ARC (Auto Release Control) algorithm is capable of delivering significantly greater RMS levels (lower peak/RMS ratio) for heavier compression levels. This is particularly useful in the case of side-chain compression, because sometimes, such as in the dance world, you will want to hear pumping compression throughout the track. Classic 5- control setup is at the core of the interface, supplemented by a Release Mode button (ARC/Manual), plus the gentle Character control (Warm/Smooth), and the Behavior control (Opto/Electro).


The settings I've used in the example audio

The settings I’ve used in the example audio



Release Mode
This button selects between Auto Release (ARC) and Manual.

ARC mode uses the Waves auto-release technology. You set the release time as an overall scaling factor and ARC varies it from there depending on the input signal. In this case, our input key signal is coming from the kick drum, so the fact that the overall character of the RCompressor is similar to very responsive vintage program compressors works extremely well for this application.

Manual mode is fully manual, with no ARC (Auto Release Control). In my example, I’ve used ARC but in other situations, I will use the fully manual mode.

Compression Behavior
Electro (the original mode of the v1.0 software) has a release time behavior that is increasingly faster as the gain reduction approached zero, but only when gain reduction (GR) is less than 3dB. When GR is above 3dB, the release time becomes slower, behaving more like a leveler in high gain reduction situations. Therefore, when used with moderate compression, the Electro mode produces a great increase in RMS (average level), and is ideal for “loud” applications.

Opto is actually the inverse of Electro. Opto-coupled behavior always “put on the brakes” as the gain reduction approaced 0dB, i.e., the release time gets slower as the “needle comes back to zero”. As in Electro, this is true only when the GR is less than 3dB; when greater than 3dB, the release time is faster.

With the RCompressor’s two types of compression behavior explained, you can set it to either Electro or Opto depending upon how you would like the trigger (kick drum) to affect the music. I’ve used the Electro setting in this example as the gain reduction is between 6-12dB. That means that the release time of the RCompressor will be slower and will help to control the level of the bass a little more.

Character
This button chooses between Smooth and Warm low frequency characteristics, which certainly can also affect wideband character, depending on the source material.

Warm adds low frequency harmonics as deeper compression is applied (greater gain reduction). Smooth avoids adding such harmonics, keeping the sound as close as possible to the original.

In using the RCompressor as a side-chain tool for low end, it makes sense to use the Smooth setting as you generally will not want to add extra low frequency harmonics to a situation that requires low end management already. However, there may be times that the use of the Warm setting is more appropriate as not many mixing “rules” can be completely set in stone.

Threshold
Threshold is the input level above which the soft knee compression or expansion starts acting to a significant degree. The threshold slider is beside the Input Meters for easy adjustment.

For side-chain compression, it helps to drop the threshold slider down quite low to create the effect and almost exaggerate it, then adjust higher or lower to suit the material.

Note: the Renaissance Compressor uses a soft knee, so compression and expansion start with signals that are 3 dB lower than threshold.

Ratio
Adjusts the compression or expansion ratio for signal above Threshold. The Renaissance Compressor ratio covers a wide range of compression ratios (1.01:1 to 50.0:1), as well as expansion ratios (0.99:1 to 0.50:1). The Ratio fader is beside the Gain meter.

In this track, I’ve used a 4:1 ratio.

Attack
The value is in milliseconds, from 0.5 to 5000 (5 seconds). It controls the response time of the onset of compression or expansion.

My attack time of 15.8ms is a relatively “medium” attack time. The attack time will depend on the song but I preferred this type of attack to control the level of the bass in this instance.

Release
The value is in milliseconds and controls the release characteristic (linear when ARC is off). When ARC mode is engaged, the Release controls acts as an overall scaling factor around which the ARC technology works.

My release time is 33.4ms and is quite fast. I will often use a fast release time when I’m using a high amount of gain reduction (in this case 6-12dB) in a side-chain application, to create a slight pumping effect.


Gain
The value is in 0.1dB steps. Adjusts the output gain of the compressor, from +30.0 to -30.0 dB.

I’ve added 1.7dB of makeup gain to match the level of the bass when the RCompressor is bypassed.


How do I do it?
So with what the RCompressor does explained, how do I actually employ the technique?

As I am expanding on the theory involved in the ‘Bassline Mojo’ article, I have three separate bass tracks in my session. They all contain the same audio material but two tracks are duplicates of the original. These three tracks have been sent to a Stereo Aux called ‘All Bass’.

All Bass Aux

This auxiliary track can control the panning, automation and overall levels of the combined bass tracks, along with the ability to add further inserts that affect all three tracks if necessary.

On this auxiliary track, I have instantiated an RCompressor as an insert.

All Bass RCompressor

I have also selected ‘SIDECHAIN’ as the key input. I simply selected an available bus and renamed it ‘SIDECHAIN’.

I then duplicate my kick drum and do not monitor it. I remove the monitor output in Pro Tools and create a send from this track, sending the signal to ‘SIDECHAIN’ at 0.0 on the fader. I also put it in PFL so that it is always sending, even if the duplicated kick drum track has been muted.

Kick Send Duplicate

So, from my original explanation of side chain compression, the input signal is coming from the duplicated kick drum and has been selected as a trigger or key input for the RCompressor. This key input is the determining factor in how much gain reduction takes place on the output signal of the ‘ALL BASS’ track, thereby controlling the bass. If you wanted to just control the level of the low end of the bass, you could place the RCompressor insert only on the low bass track and there would be no gain reduction on the ‘Mid’ or ‘High’ bass tracks. For this track, I wanted the compression to affect all three tracks.

The kick and bass together without any side-chain compression would sound like this:



With side chain compression added, this is how they sound together:


With side-chain compression added, the kick is much more pronounced and rounder. Even though there has been no direct volume adjustment on the kick track itself, the level of the kick seems much louder. Rather than the bass and kick fighting each other for space, the kick is pronounced and the bass is supporting with effect.

This is the effect the side-chain has on the bass in solo:



Finally, here is the effect played within the track and all instruments playing:



If we took off the side-chain, the track would sound like this:



Notice that we lose quite a lot of the “Four on the floor” feel, the low end becomes a little boomy/unbalanced and we lose some of the clarity of the high-end/mid-range instruments.

There are many other applications for using the Waves Renaissance Compressor in a similar fashion, as earlier discussed. For example, you could use it to duck guitar parts when a vocal part needs to be the prominent element in a mix.

You could also side-chain some of the lead instruments or pads along with the bass, so that the kick cuts through all instrumental elements to create a “pumping” style or effect. Examples of tracks using similar techniques are in the chorus of ‘She Wolf’ by David Guetta and the intro to ‘Crew Love’ by Drake.

The more “standard” use of side chain compression to control the low end, as discussed in this article, can be heard in a multitude of tracks. Check out the chorus of ‘Part of Me’ by Katy Perry; for how it’s used to help create a big pop sound, ‘Awake’ by Tycho; in a more relaxed style on a bass guitar, and ‘Massage Situation’ by Flying Lotus; for a glitch hop application of a side-chain.

If you would like me to post a video on how I personally use the RCompressor to achieve this effect, then drop a comment below and I’ll get one up based on demand!

Brain Freeze for CBBC (2014)

Brain Freeze hits CBBC!

Brand new 13 part comedy science series airing on CBBC from Wednesday Jan 22nd at 17:55.

I’m delighted to have recorded all the voices and provided all the sound design and mixing work as one of my final projects at Gorilla Post Production.

Made in Dublin by Kite Entertainment, Brain Freeze uses a unique blend of puppets and animation to create a world where science facts meet big laughs. Each episode sees our heroes, Dr. Sorcha Knowles and Prof. Mike McCork, answer the days BIG QUESTION and explain the science behind their BIG ANSWER. It¹s all done under the ever-stressed and panic-stricken eye of Colin, the show’s guinea pig floor manager.

Brain Freeze is produced for Kite Entertainment by Colm Tobin who also wrote the series with Aidan O’ Donovan. The director is Ian Benjamin Kenny with Paul Madden taking care of pipeline and compositing. The cast consists of Maura Foley, Aidan O’ Donovan and John Colleary. Steve Lynch of Stellarsound composed all the music for the series.

The full 13 episodes will run every Wednesday and Thursday at 17:55 from Jan 22nd on CBBC. Brain Freeze is distributed internationally by Aardman Rights who have already sold it successfully to Discovery Asia and broadcasters in Norway and Israel.

Hell’s Kitchen to Hollywood

John Kelly presents Hell’s Kitchen to Hollywood, the story of the men and women who changed how the Irish were portrayed in cinema forever more. From New York to Boston to the canyons of Monument Valley, the presenter explores how such cinematic legends as James Cagney, John Ford, Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby helped bring a number of Irish characters, such as policemen, strong Irish women, chancers and priests, to the big screen.

It follows the Irish story in America during the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, a time when many Irish immigrants rose from the slums of New York City to the bright lights of Hollywood.

Here they produced some of the most iconic film producers and actors in cinema history.

‘Hell’s Kitchen to Hollywoo’ was produced by Gerald Heffernan and directed by Gerry Hoban. It airs tonight, April 4th 2013 @ 10.15pm on RTÉ One

The Gambler

‘The Gambler’ is a fly-on-the-wall documentary following professional gambler John O’Shea over six of the most important months in his gambling life, from the Irish Poker Open through to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and a lot of madness in between.

John O'Shea - 'The Gambler'

Directed by Ross Whitaker and produced by Jamie D’alton of Motive Television, ‘The Gambler’ will be aired on Setanta Sports on Friday, April 5 at 10pm.

Wildernuts

Stephen has recently started recording voices for ‘Wildernuts’, a 26 part animation series which will air on RTÉJr this summer.

‘Wildernuts’, written and directed by Andrew Kavanagh of Kavaleer Productions is a quest-themed show that aims to introduce young children to the wonders of their natural habitat. It follows five heroes as they explore a colourful island world on their flying ship, The Cloud Hopper.

Mix My Track – The Winners! – Part 1

In December, I offered 3 of my mailing list readers the chance to have a track mixed by me for free as a thank you for subscribing and reading in 2012.

I ended up picking 4 tracks, but out of the 4 picked, only 2 artists got the necessary materials to me within the time frame I set out. As well as offering the mixes as a form of thanks, I wanted to share the music of my readers to the rest of the list and offer a good chance for artists to promote themselves. I find it strange that people don’t act more definitely on these opportunities, but that’s a topic for another day! I’m really happy with the mixes I did receive and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the music.

The first track mixed as part of the promotion is ‘San Francisco’ by Selfish Lovers, a UK-based band with a pure pop sound and a wide variety of influences. On first listening to the song, I planned to emphasize the clarity of the vocals/harmonies, the driving power of the rhythm section, wide layered guitars and bright synth sounds. I had a lot of fun with this track and I’m delighted with how it turned out. Here’s what the band had to say about the track themselves:

“The main thing that we agree on about your mix is that it brings real clarity and separation to the instruments, allowing there to be space for them to stand out individually, whilst helping them to gel collectively. You’ve made judicious use of EQs, much more than on the original, which contributes to the finished sound being crystal clear. We’ve played it on numerous systems, lo and hi-fi, and there’s a consistency that is one of the most difficult things to achieve.

Overall, 10/10!”

Have a listen to the rough mix and my finished mix (unmastered) yourselves and let me know what you think in the comments below.


Finally, here’s the mastered version:

The next track to be featured as part of the promotion is ‘Circle’ by Thomas Orsi!

Strictly Am Dram

Strictly Am-Dram follows a diverse number of amateur drama groups from different parts of Ireland in the build up to their annual event, the All-Ireland Finals, held in Athlone in May each year.

The 6 episode series was produced and directed by David Power of Power Pictures, narrated by Carrie Crowley and will air on RTÉ this spring.