The Rise of the MP3 – Internet Audio Files That Changed the Music Industry

As an avid music listener and maker, it has been interesting to look back through the history of music availability and the changing formats in which music has been presented. 

With the advent of internet and computers especially into the 1990s, it introduced an entirely new way of storing music. 

There are two different categories of music file formats: lossless and lossy. Lossless, as you may surmise, indicates a file format that retains the original quality of the music whether it came from vinyl, CD, et cetera.

This includes AIFF, made by Apple, WAV, a universal format, FLAC, ALAC and APE. Most of these are uncompressed file formats, meaning there is no loss in quality or detail from the original music. 

Lossy refers to a slightly lower quality file format that is designed to save storage space, which leaves you, the listener, with more room for more music.

However, you will notice a significant difference in sound quality. This is because lossy file formats (MP3, AAC, et cetera) are typically compressed in order to make them smaller.

What matters in these formats is bit rate. If you’ve a file with a high bi trate then you won’t notice much difference, if any, between this and lossless files. 

What is an MP3?

MP3 is one of the most – if not THE most – popular file format available. It is a form of codec (COmpressing and DECompressing data).

Sometimes when people download music they look specifically for the MP3 format because it is so ubitiquitous and therefore well known, and some of us believe it is the only file format out there. Since it’s so popular, other formats like APE or FLAC can look rather daunting or untrustworthy. 

MP3 refers to a mass-produced file format that lacks proper and due quality, but people still love it. 

Its name, MP3, is short for MPEG 1 layer 3. It is an audio-coding technology that takes the information from CDs (and others), compresses the information into tiny files suitable for Internet transferring and computer storage.

This way, the music does not take up much space, allowing the user to download or copy as many songs as they please. Mostly these came from CDs.

CDs contain digital files too, but one song can be up to 40 megabytes in size, and that is a lot of space when you take into consideration a full-length CD multiplied by your entire collection.

Think of it this way: one minute of CD quality audio sound takes up about 10 megabytes. This is for full-resolution files.

The MP3 file would take up about 3.5 megabytes instead, making the files eleven times smaller. That’s quite a significant change and you can imagine the bits of detail that may get quashed during the process, since there just isn’t room for it.

However, MP3, like other lossy formats, are built on the theory that the human ear doesn’t really pick up much information to begin with, therefore it’s not even worth coding in.

In addition to allowing for more storage on your personal computer, MP3 files, being so much smaller, can be downloaded in ten minutes instead of several hours. It is important to note that once the files are compressed, the lost data is lost forever.

The sharing of music and MP3 downloading was, in 1999, as popular as people searching for sex online. 

When was the MP3 invented? 

The MP3 was developed in the late 1980s and used in the early 1990s. It was nearly abandoned, considered a dead format by 1995. It was replaced by the AAC format in 1996, a format that could get around technical limitations imposed on the MP3.

Initially the MP3 was used for sports sites. The internet however really took off in the 1990s, with tons of websites popping up that were dedicated solely to pirated music and file sharing. Remember Napster?

The MP3 was named in popular press in 1997 and fully reborn by 1999. Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS are the companies behind it. A lot of people had computers and internet service at this time.

The MP3 subsequently appeared for those who wanted to use the Internet as a new and powerful tool to share their creative works with others. It was a fast and easy way of sharing music with people all over the world. 

Its rise in popularity

When MP3 websites were first available, it was a lot of college and university students sharing files of bootlegged albums with each other since they lacked the funds to purchase CDs.

However, these young people also had passionate interest in lesser known artists and the internet was the perfect place for them to both find and share new musicians.

The very first MP3 player was the MPman, released in 1998, and then Apple soon joined the market in 2001 with iTunes and the iPod.

This meant an entirely new relationship of music and listener. The same file could be shared by thousands of people anywhere in the world, just by the click of a button, whereas previously, a cassette, vinyl or CD physically belonged to a person, and they could only share it at home with friends or family.

This also meant that people now had access to an infinite library of music. You could download another person’s entire music collection and there was no more worrying about returning CDs or scratching someone’s vinyl.

And, because people had access to nearly anything they wanted, they could acquire much more music in a shorter amount of time.

For example, instead of buying your favourite band’s new CD once a year, you could have thousands and thousands of new songs and artists to check out, all within a matter of days.

While some artists saw the amazing potential in the MP3 and this newfound ability to share music with a global audience like never before, many feared the MP3 and foresaw problems with copyright and a loss of rights for the artists or producers.

For those artists who did see the potential with the MP3, they found they could share bits of music that didn’t make it onto the album, or tease their fans with hints of new songs.

This was a bonus not just for the artist but also the diehard fans, who would appreciate tidbits of unreleased material, as a way of accessing virtually everything their favourite artists had created rather than enjoying the final cut of an album.

Record companies, being the mega-capitalists they are, with money as their bottom line, were not so jazzed about the MP3 and would beg their artists not to share the music for free.

They preferred to instead wait until they had figured out a way to make the fans pay to hear these tidbits or unreleased songs. This would force the listener/fan to not only pay to download the song, but that the file would have a limitation of number of plays before the listener had to pay again to download another file for the same song.

Of course, the smart ones would have burned everything onto CDs before the files expired.

Everyone from ultra-popular Beastie Boys to lesser known artists saw the MP3 as a way to reach the world if they couldn’t afford a tour or didn’t have a record deal. Before the days of internet music file sharing and MP3s, how were these smaller bands to get their music heard?

They would, like record companies, release a song for free to titillate the audience and then release a full album that the audience would then purchase.

MP3s are especially favoured by smaller bands and independent artists who are looking for new and exciting ways to get their music out there in the world.

If you’ve ever recorded an album or toured as musician you will know it’s very expensive to rent studio time and to then produce music and release it.

For musicians who are not signed to record labels, it is a lot easier and more affordable to record music in home studios and upload it as MP3s, which fans or listeners would find on MP3.com, one of the first major file transfer websites.

Digital distribution allows the artist to keep a much higher percentage of the sale price, too, and allow artists greater control over distribution. The MP3 file format is truly a revolutionary tool in the music industry, allowing artists to take over from the bottom up. 

However, despite all its benefits, there have been some downsides. 

Where it is now

When MP3s first came out, back in 1999 (that’s nearly 20 years ago), things were different. There was only dial-up internet. MP3s were made for dial-up internet when everything could be shared across the globe but took a lot longer than it does today.

Some artists and record companies blame the MP3 for killing the music industry, but other musicians, like Radiohead or Amanda Palmer, for example, have taken the cue and separated from their record companies; preferring to instead release their music independently, online, and letting listeners pay whatever they want, whether it’s ten cents or twenty dollars.

Today there are many, many online file sharing websites like Spotify and Apple Music. You can buy songs on iTunes for a dollar.

It really shows how music providers and artists have changed with the times, listening to the demands of the public and offering them what they want. The quality of these files is incredibly good; you just need good speakers to play them.

Of course, there are still websites where you can download music for free, and there are still record companies and musicians releasing their work through them.

And the public are still buying them.

There’s one thing online files will never have: the physical experience of interacting with music. The booklets, the artworks, the cover themes and fonts. The CD that sits like a book on a shelf with a title on its spine that you recognize immediately and pull out.

It is that very immersive and real experience that comes with physical music that you would never experience with downloaded files, and so many of us music appreciators tend to be artistic and exploratory folk.

We say immersive because it is so rewardingly consuming to sit down with your favourite record, pull out the booklet, read the lyrics, study the artwork while the music plays: to be immersed in that full experience designed intimately from the artist to the listener. 

In conclusion, we don’t hate MP3’s.  They were invented for a reason, and in the big picture, they serve a purpose or two, so why treat them with disdain?

How to Make Vaporwave Music Videos Using Adobe Premiere Pro

Are you looking to invoke nostalgia for the pop-culture of the past? Need a music video to match your new vaporwave tune?

Maybe you just want an introduction into aesthetic design. Look no further.  Today we take you through the whole process of how you can make your own vaporwave video using Adobe Premiere Pro. Check it out!

Oh BTW, here’s what our music video will look like, more or less, once we’re done:

Explanation:

We’re going to take gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game (although feel free to apply this to your favourite Simpsons episode) and split it into its red, green, and blue channels, like so…

We will offset those colour channels and then apply a VHS-tape warping effect to make it look like you recorded the footage 30 years ago.

Step 1: Obtaining Footage

Install a Youtube video downloader add-on onto your Firefox or Chrome browser.

Then, download gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game.

Download this VHS overlay while you’re at it: 

Step 2: Splitting The Layers

  1. Import your 8-bit footage and your VHS overlay into Premiere.
  2. Drag your 8-bit footage onto your timeline.
  3. Make sure you have 4 tracks by right-clicking on the blank space above your tracks and clicking “Add Tracks…”
  4. Unlink your audio from your 8-bit footage by right-clicking on it in the timeline and selecting “Unlink”
  5. Click on your audio clip in your timeline and press delete to get rid of it.

Your timeline should look like this:

Now we’re going to do a colour glitch effect.

Explanation: Every image on your computer is made by combining red, green, and blue in various amounts. We are going to separate the red, green, and blue channels of our gameplay footage.

Hold alt and click + drag the video up onto the V2 track. When you alt+click+drag, you’re duplicating your video track. Duplicate the track once more onto V3.

Click on the effects tab. Search for “rgb”. Select “Color Balance (RGB)”. Drag “Color Balance (RGB)” onto each one of your 3 tracks.

Since you’ve dragged the effect onto your video clips, you will now have a “Color Balance (RGB)” option in your Effect Controls window (top-left window of Premiere).

Click the video on your V3 track to select it and, in your Effect Control window, click the arrow to the left of “Color Balance (RGB)” to expand its options.

You’ll see a “Red”, “Green”, and “Blue” option. The idea here is that you want V3 to be only the red channel, V2 to be only the green channel, and V1 to be only the blue channel.

That means, for V3, click the number to the right of the ‘Red’ channel, type in ‘100’, then type in ‘0’ for the ‘Green’ and ‘Blue’ channels.

Finally, set the ‘Blend Mode’ of each track to ‘Screen’.

Your video layers are now set up, just go into the “Motion” tab of your Effect Control window and offset the ‘x’ and ‘y’ of each layer until you get a separation that you’re happy with.

You can change the ‘x’ and ‘y’ easily by clicking and dragging left and right on the values in your Effect Control window.

Step 3: Adding VHS Tracking

At this point, adding the VHS tracking video should be a breeze. Drag your “VHS Bad Tracking Overlay” from your Media Browser panel onto V4 so that it’s above all your other clips.

Right click on the clip and ‘unlink’ it from its audio, then click on its audio track and press ‘delete’ on your keyboard to get rid of its audio.

Select your VHS clip on V4 and, in its Effect Control window, set its Blending Mode to ‘Screen’. Setting its blending mode to screen will get rid of the black in the video and make it look like your footage underneath is genuinely glitching on an old VHS tape.

If your VHS tracking clip is too short, you can copy and paste it within the Timeline to extend it.

But be careful: Premiere will paste into whatever track is highlighted blue, so make sure V3, V2, and V1 are deselected, then select V4.

Now that the V4 track is highlighted, select the VHS clip, ctrl+C, press ‘down’ on your arrow keys until your timeline marker is at the end of your VHS clip (pressing ‘up’ will send the marker back to the start of the previous clip), then press ctrl+V to paste it.

At this point, you’ll want to import any audio you want in your video and drag it onto one of your empty audio layers (A1, A2, A3, or A4).

Part 4: Export as MP4

Go to File -> Export -> Media…

Your export window will open.

Change your ‘format’ to ‘H.264’. This will compress your video and let you save as an mp4 video file.

You can leave most of these settings to default. Hit “Match Source” just to make sure.

At the bottom of this window you may notice your ‘Estimated File Size’. If your estimated file size is too large, you can go into ‘Bitrate Settings’ in your ‘Video’ tab and reduce the ‘Target Bitrate’ until your Estimated File Size is something more manageable for you.

You may want to reduce the ‘Maximum Bitrate’ along with it. Keep in mind, reducing the video bitrate also reduces the overall quality of your video.

Once you’re happy with the Estimated File Size, click Export and Premiere will start rendering your video out to a file you can upload to Youtube.

Part 5:  aesthetic Text

If you want vaporwave-style characters in your Youtube title, go to https://lingojam.com/VaporwaveTextGenerator, type in your title, and convert it to full-width characters. Then just copy + paste them into your Youtube title.

You’re all done! Hit play, sit back, and remember a time long gone.

Can You Make A Living Making Music For Audiojungle? – Diva Production Music Interview

When it comes to creating and selling royalty-free music online, I must admit that, until recently, I was only vaguely aware of the concept. 

But, as a musician and someone who is always trying to explore new potential money-making ideas, there comes a time where such ideas enter your awareness and you ponder them.  Sometimes even act on them.  

Such was the case when I came across Diva Production Music, a Youtube channel that talks in depth about this very topic of making a sustainable business out of producing sought-after royalty-free music for the corporate world. 

Back to him in a moment, as he is the subject of today’s article and interview.  First a bit of context, if I may.

So, everyone who is of working age knows something of the “corporate world”, like it or not.  As a musician, for a long time, just those two words together equated to “sellout”, and made me cringe slightly. 

Same with my friends, too – we all hated the idea of the corporate world, and wanted to avoid it at all costs.  To be honest, for me personally, that has equated to making music independently and seeing no income for my efforts for the past 20 years. 

I also taught music, because, as they say, those can’t do, teach.  A reductive definition to be sure, but somewhat true, I’ll admit.

But here we are in 2018, and, lets face it – everyone needs to make a living.  Also, the music business has changed tremendously in the past 20 years.  If you don’t know that, you must have been living under a rock.  

Then

Starting with the onset of the internet in about ’95, and then on P2P and file-sharing platforms like Napster and Limewire at the turn of the century, the control was forcibly taken away from those who run the music business, and “given back” to the people. 

File “sharing” AKA theft (Lars was right all along) was in vogue and has been ever since. 

The big music labels had to watch as everyone started simply taking everything that they had previously put a pricetag on, for free.

This of course went for movies, games, and everything else that could be turned into a file, and the entertainment industry tried their best to stop it.  And continually failed.

Now

Fast forward almost two decades.  Independent musicians are now simultaneously more empowered to enter the world of entrepreneurship on their own terms, while at the same time far less attached to the idea of becoming a famous rock star one day. 

This, I think, is not only because the “rock star” model was always somewhat of a lie, but also because there are many more options for starting actual legitimate online businesses open to individuals now that the age of the internet is beginning to mature slightly.  

This is essentially where people like Daniel Carrizalez (AKA Diva Production Music) comes in to the story.  Daniel is a musician, and has spent years honing his craft, composing songs and using all the gear he has at his disposal. 

There came a point where he had to make a choice between using his skills as a musician to earn a living online, or earning his living in some other way (ie. a “real” job in an office or factory, perhaps). 

The “rock star” notion was not something he was interested in, since it really is just a dream that comes true only once in a blue moon.  It is not a viable career choice to a man with a wife, an 8-yr old daughter and a new baby. 

So he began taking his music making abilities more “seriously”, if you will, in that he wanted to make music, but also he needed to earn a living. 

Emphasis on the word need.  Becoming aware of the new wave of internet marketing types, and jobs related to that field, Daniel began to explore his options.  

One site that stood out to him in his search for potential job opportunities was Audiojungle

Audiojungle is a sub section of the Envato Market, which is a much broader business that offers a multitude of services, one such being offering website themes and options to business owners. 

The overarching concept of Envato, to my understanding, is to be able to hook up an online business person with whatever they need to help improve their own services.  

Audiojungle, specifically, is a service that offers music to anyone who needs music for a commercial, or product of any kind, but lacks the musical element. 

On Audiojungle, the music is pre-made by professionals (such as Diva Production Music ), and sold to those who are willing to pay for the license so that they can make use of it. 

Without the license, if a person were to use this music, it would be considered stealing.  With the purchase of a license (and there are various types), the buyer can now use the music they’ve purchased to use in their own project.

After watching some of Daniel’s content, I became more and more interested in the idea of using Audiojungle to make money with my music, and so I contacted him. 

Luckily, he was willing to answer some of my burning questions on this matter.  So, here is our interview.  Enjoy!


Q: How long have you been making music?

A: I’ve been making music since I was a teenager, but composing and producing stock music only the last 4 years.

Q: What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

A: I enjoy all sorts of music, especially rock, alternative rock.

Q: What kind of music do you enjoy making?

A: I enjoying making a lot of acoustic guitar music and experiment with different elements. At the moment, I try to focus on making corporate music, the one that is required and is most popular for media projects.

Q: When did you become aware of Audiojungle?

A: In 2014, I did an extensive search on making and selling music online, and Audiojungle was one of the top marketplaces for that.

Q: Was it difficult to get started on Audiojungle?  What’s the basic process for doing that?

A: Yes, it was difficult. I had no idea what stock music was and even though I knew all about music composition and production, I’d never done commercial music before.

The basic process involves setting up and author’s account and uploading your track. The music that you are uploading should reflect your strengths and ability to create more, quickly and effortlessly.

Q: What type of music do you specialize in making for Audiojungle?

A: I specialize in inspirational and feel-good music, particularly in the genres of rock, pop, folk and/or corporate.

Q: What type of gear setup do you have to make the tracks you make?

A: I am running ProTools on a Macbook pro laptop, use different WAVES plugins for the production of the music, an Eleven Rack as an interface, a SansAmp as a base preamp and a microphone preamp to record acoustic guitars. I also have a midi keyboard and a selection of different guitars, both electric and acoustic.

Q: How big is Audiojungle, community wise?

A: The community of Audiojungle is quite big and growing very fast.

Q: Is it competitive at all?

A: Yes, it is but the key here is not to compete but to create the best product for each and every project.  I am a creator, NOT a competitor.

Q: Do you ever hear form Audiojungle for any reason or Envato for that matter?(ie. do you talk to a rep or is it hands off mostly)

A: There are no reps involved but if you need to contact support, there is a system available. But each author is on their own, and it is up to you to decide on your presentation and marketing of your music.

Q: How much of your work for Audiojungle is inspiration, how much is work work?

A: Inspiration comes after I start working on a new project. I believe that work is a good thing and inspiration comes from working on your craft. Inspiration, like motivation, will always let you down. One that creates cannot wait for inspiration to arrive; you find it only through working!

Q: What are their basic standards for whether a track is suitable for their platform?

A: Over the years, the bar has been raised higher and higher, both in composition and production. That means that the tracks uploaded and accepted back in 2010 most likely, will not be accepted now. The review process is very thorough nowadays and an author must continue to improve and polish their skills. The final result should be broadcast quality, like the music you hear on a TV commercial or YouTube ad.

Q: Who reviews the tracks submitted and how long does that process take?

A: There is a group of reviewers in Audiojungle and the review time varies depending on the number of submissions. It can be anything from 7 days to 15 days for a song to be approved and up or sale.

Q: Who uses Audiojungle from the customer side, as far as your experience tells you?

A: Costumers are video-makers, film-makers, advertising companies and of course, YouTubers!

Q: What’s the price range of songs on Audiojungle?

A: A song can be sold based on the length of the music, starting from $12-15 to $19 for a standard license. The price will directly depend on the license purchased, for example, ie. broadcast license or film license.

Q: Does anyone try to pirate Audiojungle tracks that you know of?

A: Yes. I have personally heard and informed Audiojungle on tracks being used with the watermark.

Q: What kind of musicians do you think would be good authors on Audiojungle?

A: A good author on Audiojungle is any musician with the right mindset to be at the service of others, in this case, the other media makers and content creators.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: In order to become a successful stock music composer, we must be aware of the market’s needs, without comparing ourselves to other composers.


And…that about wraps things up here today!  To learn more about Daniel and Diva Production Music, visit his Youtube channel here, and don’t forget to subscribe!

How To Pick The Best Headphones For Binaural Beats

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of listening to binaural beats for the purposes of enhanced meditation, improving creativity, focus, as well as productivity. 

Musical compositions featuring these types of healing frequencies can be extremely helpful to those who have trouble dealing with stress on a regular basis, or simply want to enhance their ability to do certain things.

Brainwave Entrainment

Brainwave entrainment is another phrase you may have heard in regards to binaural beats.

This is the method in which you can go about stimulating your brain so that it enters a specific state, using light, sound, or an electromagnetic field.

relaxation

Brainwave entrainment can be used to induce a wide range of states, including but not limited to relaxation, trance, enhanced focus, or sleep induction. 

It’s one thing to start listening to binaural beats music, it’s another thing to receive the full benefits of doing this type of meditative listening. 

What really stands in your way is the right set of headphones that are configured to suit such listening.  In other words, not just any set of headphones will do. 

That’s why, in this article, we want to talk about how to choose the perfect headphones for listening to binaural beats.

But first, we should mention that there are different types of frequency ranges that apply to binaural beats.  This is important so you know what you’re trying to stimulate and why.

Brainwave Frequency Ranges – The 5 Types

Before we get into what questions you should be asking yourself when purchasing the ideal headphones for binaural beats listening, let’s take a look at the frequency ranges of each type of brainwave, of which there are four: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. 

  • Delta: 0.1Hz to 3.9Hz
  • Theta: 4Hz to 7.9Hz
  • Alpha: 8Hz to 13.9Hz
  • Beta: 14Hz to 31.9Hz
  • Gamma: 32Hz to 100Hz


To find out more about what these waves can do to benefit you and how they might be properly stimulated, please read the following article:

How To Listen To Binaural Beats – A Quick Guide

These are the four frequency ranges that we want to be in tune with, at various times during our meditation practice, and so it is very important that the quality of the binaural tones coming in through our headphones is actually going to be able to do what is intended to do. 

That means, the headphones need to be able to convey to our brains the sounds that will put us in the state we need to be in.  Here are some questions you need to ask yourself to be able to achieve this.

Question #1 – Is the sound quality “true”?

This term might be a bit confusing to non-audiophiles. 

By “true” sound quality, we mean that the sound you’re hearing is not overly manipulated by the headphones to sound any particular way other than the way that the music was intended. 

Many headphones are “optimized” for bass bumps, or to bring out certain characteristics in your music that the manufacturers think you might enjoy. 

So, a more lively sound, perhaps. 

What you want from a good pair of binaural headphones that can provide the full effect of binaural beats is very little interference between the music and your ears.  In other words, an “honest” sound. 

Since binaural beats are all about certain frequencies, if the headphones you are using attempt to mess with certain frequency ranges, then it will defeat the purpose of listening to the beats in the first place. 

The way to find these sets of headphones is to shop for higher end models. 

It doesn’t have to be the most expensive headphones on the market, but it should preferably be high enough quality that the phone manufacturers are after authentic audio quality. 

If you’re not sure, you should ask if the headphones you want have this feature, because it’s not always built-in.

Factor #2 – Are they comfy?

Because getting into the zone with binaural beats can take up 10, 20, 30 or even 60 minutes of dedicated listening in one sitting, you sure want to select a pair of headphones that feels as comfortable as possible. 

This is where the padding comes into play, and other design factors like how the headphones attach to your head. 

What do you do?  Simply try them on.  You will know when comparing several pairs of different headphones which ones are “the ones” just by putting on pair on, then trying another pair on. 

Just like shoes, clothes, or anything else that you’re going to be wearing.  The headphones you choose should be the equivalent of that pair of jeans you just LOVE wearing, as opposed to that pair that you own but you kind of don’t really like wearing. 

A great pair of headphones for the purpose of listening to binaural beats might almost feel like you’re not even wearing headphones at all (for some people), or maybe you prefer them to just feel a bit more snug on your head so that they don’t easily fall off. 

It is up to you how exactly you like your headphones to feel, but having them be comfortable for you specifically is all that matters.  Then you can really focus on the beats and get the full effect.

Question #3 – What brand is it?

So you can see by this point that you want a pair of headphones that gives you honest audio that are designed with comfort in mind.  So is it just that simple? 

Pretty much, but you should be aware of what brand it is, because certain brands are simply more well known for producing headphones that are ideal for listening to binaural beats moreso than others. 

These brands include Shure, Audio-Technica, Bose, Sony, AKG, Sennheiser, among others. 

Below you will find our article that should really point you in the right direction, as we have narrowed it down to 4 pairs of headphones which we consider to be the best all-around models to be used for listening to binaural beats. 

What Are the Benefits of Binaural Beats?

There are various reasons you might want to listen to binaural beats, and different frequency ranges are associated with unique benefits. 

For example, the theta range (3-8 Hz) has been shown to reduce anxiety. The beta range can boost your mood and reduce your feelings of depression. It can also decrease levels of tension and fatigue. 

Binaural beats can also help to improve focus and attention span. Gamma frequencies and beta frequencies have both been shown to improve sustained attention and focus. This is even the case for those with ADD or ADHD, disorders specifically surrounding the areas of mental focus. 

The theta range has also been demonstrated to improve your sleep quality, as well as your ability to reach deeper states of meditation during the meditation process. 

sleeping headphones

You can use binaural beats to improve your brain’s flexibility, a benefit to multi-tasking. Gamma frequencies show improvements in this area.

Binaural beats can even reduce your physical pain level, including pain levels of chronic pain sufferers, and has been used to relax pre-operative medical patients, as well as reduce their physical pain after operations or medical procedures. 

Our last example is the improvement of memory, both short-term and long-term, and can also improve your working memory, which is your ability to retain and recall several pieces of information at once. 

As you can see, there are many benefits to the world of binaural beats, providing you use the proper headphones, and follow directions when it comes to selecting the proper frequencies. 

You will also need to listen for the instructed period of time, uninterrupted, and may be required to listen every day for weeks or months on end. The results though may be life-changing!

We Review The Best Headphones for Binaural Beats

Here are some of the best headphones for binaural beats, according to our editors.

No, these are not the cheapest headphones on the market, but that’s to be expected when you’re doing something with this much refinement built into it.

Whether you want to listen to high quality audio files because these things matter to you, or you need a good pair of headphones for meditative purposes, this article will surely have you covered.

Sennheiser Hd 202 Ii Professional Headphones (Black)

Buy On Amazon

Bose Soundlink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones Ii Black

Buy On Amazon

Sennheiser Hd 380 Pro Headphones

Buy On Amazon

Shure Se215-K Sound Isolating Earphones With Single Dynamic Microdriver

Buy On Amazon

Audio Technica Ath-M50X Headphones + Slappa Case

Buy On Amazon

Here are even more headphones that are great for all around listening, but can also be adapted to brainwave entrainment.

Bose SoundLink Headphones

The Bose SoundLink are also wireless headphones. They will let you go from a Bluetooth device to another using ear cup button controls. These headphones have 15 hours of battery life, so they’re pretty handy when it comes to being portable and allowing you to perform brainwave entrainment on the go, or even in nature.

Pros:

  • Impact-resistant and will not break or be damaged easily or quickly
  • Streamlined Microphone Feature

Cons:

  • Keypad function diminishes as the headphones lose power

Sennheiser HD 202-II

These headphones extremely comfortable to wear, even during long listening sessions, thanks to their featherweight design. Therefore, they are the ideal partner of binaural beats lovers.

The HD 202-II is equipped with a good insulation against ambient noise. It also offers a rich and precise reproduction with a solid bass. Robust while being very light, it can be used on mobile sources and on mini-chains.

The Pros:

  • Hi-Fi stereo headphones, closed and supra aural;
  • Ideal for mobile sources and mini home stereo systems;
  • Good attenuation of ambient noise;
  • The auricles can be detached from the hoop;
  • Membranes made of lightweight material, with a “turbine” effect boss in the extreme bass;
  • High performance and powerful bass, for modern musical styles with marked rhythms;
  • Clings to the belt: A retractable device adjusts the length of the cable for mobile use;
  • Robust construction, very flexible hoop;
  • OFC copper cable, high conductivity, length 3 meters;
  • The ear cushions can be replaced.

The Cons:

  • The hoop looks fragile;
  • Both headphones are wired;
  • Heats the ears a little (however, they are still comfortable to wear)

iPod/iPhone Earbuds

You might not be sure that the earbuds can work for this purpose, but some of them can. For example, the ones used with iPods and iPhones give a great sound quality. They will work pretty well with binaural beats, especially the ones that come with the new iPhone 7 or 8.

You should keep in mind that one of the things to take into consideration when investing in a headphone or earbud is comfortability. Therefore, if you find headphones more comfortable, do not use earbuds for binaural beats music.


Shure SE-425V Earbuds

If you want to go better than standard iPhone/iPod phones but still want earbuds, treat yourself to some Shure, like the superb Sure SE-425V.  These earbuds, when compared to the last pair, are in a whole other class. 

That said, they don’t come with an Apple iPhone.  Hence the price.  Still, if you are looking at going for high caliber ear buds, these come highly recommended by us.

Pros:

  • Different sizes of earplugs, you can choose the one that fits you
  • Detachable, can be used wireless

Cons:

  • Very pricy (estimated at $269)

AKG Pro Audio K240 MK 2 Studio Headphones

If you have more money to invest in your pair of headphones but you dislike the idea of having a fully enclosed sound – maybe you have kids to watch or you use your headphones when you are walking around the city or simply do not like being completely cut off, then choose the AKG Pro Audio K240 MK 2. 

Fans of these headphones tend to think that the price is right, and also these are extremely comfortable, which makes them perfect for meditation or studying for longer periods of time.

Pros:

  • Detachable earplugs
  • Long cable (3m)
  • 15 – 25000 Hz

Cons:

  • Unnatural treble

AKG Y50

Unlike some brands that focus almost only on the design, our German friends are known for the quality of their products. It is rare not to see the logo of the AKG brand in the studio or on stage.

Although the construction may initially seem puny, they are actually quite robust. A band with discrete patterns surrounds each headset; the hinges are thin, but strong.

The Y50 has can be taken out to festivals or for travels, it is robust enough. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the paint, which will be damaged at great speed.

Therefore, to preserve its exemplary finish, think of putting it systematically back into the protective cover provided.

The Pros:

  • They are comfortable to wear;
  • The design is nice;
  • Solid headphones;
  • Impeccable finish;
  • They procure a good insulation;
  • Good stereo width and power.

The Cons:

  • Incomplete remote control;
  • The painting is fragile;
  • Unbalanced curve;
  • Lack of treble, precision and depth.

Sony Premium Noise Canceling Headphones

This awesome wireless set of headphones can let you listen to binaural beats music freely, without carrying your laptop, phone or tablet with you all the time. It is also possible to connect it to your device using the provided cable.

The 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz range means a great audio quality for all brainwave types.  Yes, these are one of the more higher priced headphones on this list, but you definitely get what you pay for with these, which is to say a superior model than most by far! 

If you want to get headphones mainly for binaural beats, then these headphones will be like a gift

Pros:

  • Touch-sensor controls will allow you to adjust your listening experience from the headphones themselves
  • Quick Attention Mode button to lower the volume temporarily
  • You can adapt the sound control and modify the noise-canceling feature according to the ambient noise levels

Cons:

  • These headphones’ price is rather high
  • The Touch keypad can be too sensitive and this will lead to accidental modifications

Beyerdynamic Amiron

Beyerdynamic Amiron Home High-End Stereo Headphone

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The integration of wireless connection to the Beyerdynamic Amiron brings many new features.

Firstly, the communication via Bluetooth 4.2 with many compatible codecs (aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, aptX, AAC and SBC), an internal conversion in 48 kHz/ 24 bits and a touch control panel present on the right headset.

Although it is wireless, the Amiron Wireless can be used wired via its connector and its 3.5 mm mini-jack cable.

The cable also has a control button and a microphone.

You can charge the headset via the USB cable C provided, and the autonomy is announced at more than 30 hours, which is rather generous.

The Pros:

  • The helmet is light enough;
  • The materials used do not provide a feeling of warmth or perspiration, even on long sessions;
  • Accuracy of highs, balancing mediums and the bass (neither too much nor too little);

The Cons:

  • The semi-rigid shell;
  • The cable jack and the headphones are in plastic;
  • Open Headset (use them in a calm environment);
  • The sound level may be too low and the bandwidth more narrow with a tablet.

PWOW Wired Earphones

In Ear Headphones, Pwow Wired Earphones Iphone

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Earbuds can also be perfect to listen to binaural beats. They are easily transportable in a handbag or in your pocket, unlike headphones. The PWOW Wired earphones are extremely comfortable to wear and give a great sound.

The Pros

  • Anti-winding line;
  • The design is great;
  • Very comfortable to wear;
  • A control button for hands-free use;
  • Buttons to switch songs and to stop and play the music.
  • Volume control buttons

The Cons

  • 3.5mm Jack Ideal for electronic devices with 3.5 mm interface, although it can work fine with some other interfaces.

Closed Vs. Open Back Headphones

Closed back headphones are the way to go for binaural listening, because their purpose is to have little to no ambient noise leaking in from the outside, while open back headphones do let in some noise. 

With closed back headphones, the exterior noise is blocked out, including certain frequency ranges that will interfere with your listening experience with the binaural beats. 

Many audio professionals such as studio producers or DJs use this type of headphones, as they give a much better concentration and block the intrusion of ambient noise distractions.

This isn’t to say that open back headphones are never the way to go, but, in general, we believe they are not the way to go for these purposes. 

We want the frequencies to come out of the headphones and be delivered to your brain fully so that you can receive the maximum benefit of the binaural beats, so it’s only logical that we go with closed back headphones.

Open Back Option 1 (Circumaural) Vs. Open Back Option 2 (Supra-aural)

What’s the difference between these two sub-types of headphones? 

Circumaural (over ear) headphones are large round headphones that fit comfortably around your ears, while supra-aural (on ear) headphones are usually smaller, less comfortable to wear, and do not seal in the sound, allowing for more external noise. 

As such, you can imagine which ones we’re going to recommend here, right? 

Yes, the circumaural type of open back headphone is the desired choice, because a) it’s more comfortable and b) it blocks out more external noise. 

When it comes to binaural beats and concentration, they are really the only way to go.

Minimal Enhancement

There are some good headphones out there which tend to modify or improve the sound of what your listening to, based on research which has been done in relation to what your average listener wants to hear.

That is great when it comes to normal music. However, for binaural beats, the least they are interfered with, the better. That is why you should pick a headphone with minimal enhancement.

In Ear Binaural Headphones

When we talk about in-ear binaural headphones, we are simply referring to earbuds, or headphones that go inside of the ear instead of around the entire ear.

Much like any other style of headphone, not all in-ear headphones are binaural – but some are! A few examples of the best earbuds to be used for binaural beats include the Roland CS-10EM, the MM-BSM-8, or the MS-TFB-2. 

Certain earbuds will do the job just fine, but you need to be wary, as they are less desirable overall for this purpose we are discussing than the open back headphone options we have been discussing. 

The reason being, your average earbuds tend to be cheaper on the whole, and simply not up to the task of conveying the audio needed to get into the meditative state.  Other earbuds don’t stay in your ear properly, and so that’s not good either. 

binaural earbuds

That said, not all ear buds are created equal.  If you are willing to spend a little more, you can get yourself a great pair of earbuds that will do the trick when it comes to binaural beats, such as a model we really like by Shure, the SE-425V. 

One advantage of earbuds is that they’re much better for if you are on the move, and say you want to jog to the park and do your meditation under a tree.  Then earbuds like these might be your preferred model of headphones to purchase.

Is it Safe to Listen to Binaural Beats?

Having said all of this, we must address safety.  Once in a while, we’ve heard the question, “Is it safe to listen to binaural beats?”

The answer is usually yes, however some people may fall into higher risk categories, where there could be certain dangers they should be aware of when considering brain entrainment through binaural beats. 

A seizure is an example of brain entrainment with obviously a negative and undesired effect on the body.

People with epilepsy are at higher risk of seizures and should be cautious when considering binaural beats, which may be therapeutic or beneficial to most, but not to everyone or all of the time.  

relaxing music

Other people who are at higher risk of sustaining negative results would be pregnant women, as certain frequencies could induce early labour; children, whose brains are not yet fully developed and who are at higher risk of seizure from certain brain entrainments; those with heart conditions and pacemakers, as binaural beats can affect your heart beat; people with schizophrenia or certain psychological disorders. 

Even if binaural beats do not pose a threat to you personally, it is inadvisable to operate a vehicle or machinery while listening. 

These are important precautions surrounding the use of binaural beats, however for most people the effects are entirely positive and not dangerous. 

Conclusion

Wrapping up, if you are willing to spend say around $50 for a pair of headphones, this is the price range that you will probably want to be spending to get something of quality that should suit the purpose.  Of course, that is probably the bare minimum as these types of headphones can be audiophile-level and mega expensive.

At the same time, make sure to consider what we’ve mentioned above when it comes to getting the right headphones.  Are they comfortable for you?  Is the sound honest? 

Do the headphones transmit the correct frequencies in order that we can hear the right frequencies? 

When in doubt, ask questions, and be sure to get exactly what you want so that you can enjoy the most benefits from listening to binaural beats. 

What Is Infrasound? – A Quick Guide with George Fotopolous

what is infrasound

First, what is infrasound to your understanding?

This comes especially handy in the case of church organs, because the really deep frequencies cause a feeling of awe and spookiness, which is really useful when you have to convince everyone that god himself is present in the room.

How does infrasound factor into your music production work?

First of all, let me tell you beforehand that we’ll use the term in a very loose way, including not only the frequencies from 0 to 20hZ (the actual definition of infrasound) but also the ones from 20 to 40hZ, since they are at the limits of the audible range and many people cannot hear them. Given this fact, it is normal that most producers would leave these frequencies outside their toolbox and not use them at all. Unless you are into techno or you work with binaural beats.

The problematic part of these frequencies is that since most sound systems are unable to reproduce them – and most people are unable to hear them- they pass unnoticed when they are there. Which can cause some serious issues, especially when mixing for vinyl. First, they risk creating a feedback loop: The record player will vibrate due to them, the needle will pick up the vibrations, the amp will amplify them and play them back, and the result will be an annoying rumble which will ruin the sound quality. Then, we also have to consider the way that a vinyl record is cut: The lower a frequency, the wider the groove has to be. So, if a track contains infrasound or near-infrasound, the grooves will have to be wider than average, forcing them to be cut further apart from each other. And the density of the grooves is proportional to the possible duration of the music that a record can contain: Denser grooves means more grooves into the same space and the opposite. So, including infrasound will make the record duration decrease.

For these reasons, the industry standard calls for a high pass filter. Most producers will set it at 40hZ. If you don’t do it, the technicians at the record plant will do it anyway. The limit is at 24hZ, but the current technology allows for sounds as low as 10hZ to be printed on a vinyl record.

At a point, I would be interested into experimenting with binaural beats, though. Maybe I will discover the Brown Note, who knows…

Have you heard about these infrasound festivals that are out there? What’s up with that?

This sounds like a bad pun, but, no, I haven’t heard about them. Let me google about it a bit. OK, done. I see that Goldie played there this year. By the way, I’ve seen him play live in Milan in 2002 – it was quite a strange evening, because before Goldie, I was at another venue, attending a Tom Jones gig. Actually, my sister forced me to go with her, since I was a bit negative, to say the least: It was the Sex Bomb Tour, and I believed it would be pure cringe. Nope. I had never been so wrong in my life: Tiger Tom is no conman: He had a full band with him: Tele, Jazz bass, Ludwig drums, 4 horns, 3 backing singers, and, to my surprise (people avoid it cause it weighs a ton) a Hammond B3 along with a huge Leslie rotary speaker. Which brings us back to almost-infrasound territory: Have you ever heard the bass notes of a Hammond’s pedal? They are really deep – the lowest C is 32hZ. many people are not able to hear it, but only feel it.

Unlike the B3, some cheaper models will produce ghost notes instead, meaning, they don’t produce the fundamental note, but only the higher harmonics of it. Which is a very interesting phenomenon: The brain perceives the higher harmonics, and presumes that the fundamental is there, too, so it “hears” it as well. Hence “ghost” note.

This trick hails back from the church organ days: In the 15th and 16th centuries, where it was really difficult and expensive to produce the very long metal pipes needed for the bass notes of a church organ, it was a bragging point for a city to have an organ in their cathedral that could play really, really bass-y note. It simply meant they had the skills AND money to do it. Up until someone realized that the brain will perceive the lowest note anyway, so instead of paying big money to make a 64-feet long pipe for the lowest notes, they simply used the smaller pipes in combination and saved money, time, and face.

Let’s return to the Infrasound Fest, though: I saw that it is being held in an awesome campsite in Wisconsin. Really beautiful nature. BUT, they don’t accept dogs. Sorry folks: If Zazie cannot enter, I won’t go, either. Not for me. I’ll stick with Tom Jones and his Hammond B3.

What is infrasound used for, generally?

It is mainly used for communicating. That is, if you are a whale an elephant or a rhino. Infrasound permits them to communicate over large distances, because the lower a frequency is, the farther it can travel: High frequencies will get blocked from physical obstacles, while bass sound will not. That why when that annoying neighbour plays his lousy music at max volume, you cannot hear the high-pitched sounds as cymbals, for example, but you listen clearly the booming bass sounds: They travel through walls and through any obstacle. This permits elephants to be hears over miles. Whales have an even larger advantage, since water is an excellent sound-propagating medium, permitting them to heard up to 100 miles away.

Then, humans use them in science: Detecting earthquakes, detonations etc.

Given the fact mentioned above, that infrasound cause a feeling of awe and spookiness, I am fairly sure they are also used in movie theaters and in haunted house scam schemes as well. They should come handy in creating odd sensations to people. As said, the near-infrasound bass is used in churches to create the feeling of awe, so I guess it would be of use in a horror movie soundtrack. Movie theaters have really good subwoofers, so they would theoretically be able to go that deep and turn a boring The Exorcist ripoff into a really good supernatural thriller.

Infrasound vs ultrasound.. do you know the difference, or care about said difference?

Your ears cannot tell the difference, since both are outside it’s capabilities. The fundamental difference though is that infrasound is below our hearing range, while ultrasound is above this range (+20.000hZ).

As record producer, I care: Ultrasound present in my recording, will do no harm. Actually, due to some really complex physics, it can improve my sound. While infrasound risks turning the vinyl record where I put all this hard work into a frisbee.

Lastly, ultrasound is used in sonic weapon applications, so, yes, I guess I care. It can do some serious damage, even if we cannot hear it. The recent series of incidents in the Havana USA embassy are supposed to be caused from ultrasound weaponry. Nobody knows for sure of course, but it is a very interesting case, pointing to some very worrying uses of ultrasound. At the end, both of them can be used for nefarious purposes: Infrasound can make you “hear” god, ultrasound can damage your brain. We can say that both can fry you.

Can infrasound hurt / kill a person? This goes outside of music I guess, but think about it, could you die if someone fired a beam of pure infrasound at your face?

This can happen with ultrasound, actually. While infrasound could potentially make you puke or shit yourself. That’s why I said that I would like to experiment with it hoping to discover the brown note. For science, for the lulz, and for posterity.

I’ve heard infrasound has something to do with explaining ghosts.. is this a thing?

Yes. it is a very good theory. Remember that feeling of awe and spookiness that really, really bass notes can cause? By using them in a church, you can make people feel that god is present. Set and setting matters very much: The same application in a spooky old house could lead someone to believe that something supernatural is going on, and given that god doesn’t hang out in spooky old houses, but ghosts theoretically do, the expected reaction, instead of awe, would be one of terror. Of course, I don’t think it would work by itself. But, combined with rumours, susceptibility and visual cues (darkness, ;long shadows etc) it could be really helpful.

There is one famous case where a ghost hunter discovered that a 16hZ rumble caused by a faulty fan would cause people to perceive a presence in the room. When the fan was turned off, the ghost disappeared.

Maybe the explanation comes from evolution: We have evolved to perceive infrasound sensations as something dangerous that causes awe: earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis all produce infrasound. Hence, when our body detects infrasound, it perceives it as danger.

What about infrasound and animals? Can I track a big ol’ elephant with that infrashit?

Whales are said to use infrasound not only for communication, but also for echolocation. So, animals already do this. In theory, an elephant and a whale could be laughing at you in infrasound and you wouldn’t know a thing.

Yep. That’s the point of it all: You cannot hear it, but you can feel it: Unless you are one of the lucky ones with a hearing range that goes really low (some people can hear 10hZ sounds), you will only be able to sense the vibrations. This is the basis of all supernatural and religious applications of it. You don’t hear a thing, but you feel it, it makes your innards vibrate, your stomach turn and your liver to bump up and down. If you’ve ever been in a techno party and stood really close to a subwoofer, you know what I mean. It is rather unpleasant – expect if you are an 18 year old kid who is high as kite. In that case, it will probably cause you to tune with the vibrations of the universe, producing so much cringe in the way, that will make you feel shame well into your thirties. I know, I’ve been there, the universe talked to me. I still cringe.

Thanks, you as well.

How To Make A Backing Track At Home From Scratch

Hey this is Young Coconut, and today I am going to discuss how to make a full musical backing track at home from scratch. 

As a reference, I will be referring to a remake I recently did of a song by 70’s punk legends The Soft Boys called “I Wanna Destroy You”. 

Actually, my friend Rob Jones of liquidmuse.co.uk did most of the song, including drums, bass, guitar, and production (the essential backing track), and I just came along and sang it.

By the end of this article, you should know exactly how this was done.

Table of Contents

Let’s get into this!


Here is the final version of the song that Rob exported, and we’ll kind of work backwards from there.  

This was made in a home studio, and was done for relatively little money (not thousands of dollars), so it’s something that can be done and not eat up your whole month’s rent. 

That is, assuming you have the basic equipment to do this, which, to be honest – getting everything you need to do this will cost a month’s rent for sure. That said, once you have all the right stuff, you’re good to go.  

What stuff is that?  More on that in a bit, but basically, it’s a DAW, and some instruments, mics, and an interface of some kind to route any real instruments through. Usual recording gear type stuff, which we’ll get more into…


Why Make Your Own Backing Tracks?

fleetwood_mystf

So, what made us create this track in this way, as in sit down and record a whole bunch of tracks ourselves?

Well, first off, Rob is a music producer by trade, and he specializes in creating these types of fully realized instrumental backing tracks.  So there’s that.  He’s good at it, and he can do it if he feels like it.

Generally speaking, backing tracks have a multitude of purposes, and come in varying degrees of quality, depending on what they’re used for. 

So, before we talk about how it’s done, let’s talk about why you might want to do this.  One thing’s for sure, it’s going to open up a lot of options for you if you can do this.


Reason #1 – Create Karaoke Backing Tracks That Are Actually Decent

One of the uses for backing tracks where the vocal is absent is to use them for karaoke purposes. 

In other words, if you have a popular song without vocals, it can easily be used for karaoke or to sing along with.  Right?  Of course!

we review the best home karaoke systems 2017

The thing is, when you hear a karaoke backing track, quite often the creator of that track did not record everything themselves to achieve the best quality possible, and this is why a lot of karaoke tracks don’t sound very good.  Indeed, some really suck.

By comparison, if our song were to be used as a karaoke track you’d find on Youtube, it would be quality version, because Rob took the time to make it that way. 

Now, we’re not going to get into how karaoke tracks are made (one way is to do it the way we did this track – build it yourself), but if you’re looking to simply remove vocals from a pre-existing song, then you might want to read our article about that very topic.

Again, this is not what we did.  We did not take the original track and simply filter out the vocals. 

Read our article, We Review The Best Home Karaoke Systems

With our Soft Boys track, above, we actually (or Rob, rather) built the track from the ground up until it was a full instrumental of the song which he made according to his ear and how he interpreted the track, while still following the blueprint of the original to come up with what essentially is his “cover” of “I Wanna Destroy You”.


Reason #2 – Create Bespoke Music For People

Before we get into how we went about it, and how you can do it too, let’s talk about a few more reasons why you might want to do this. For instance, have you heard of bespoke songs or bespoke music? 

These are songs which are custom written for a specific purpose, by request, and often compensated for. 

Bespoke songs require someone who has all of the musical skills and resources at their disposal in order to produce a song that is exactly what someone else is after. 

Whether it’s for a loved one, or for a band, or whoever wants it, bespoke songs require someone to custom make it.  Kind of like a contractor, but for songs.  


Reason #3 – Make a Unique and Impressive Artist Promo Package

Another cool thing about making your own backing track is that they can be used in a musician’s press kit (your own, or for a musician you know), in order to stand out and be original.

For instance, if you are a musical artist, or know one who needs some promo, and who would sound great singing a particular song, but that song isn’t available to sing where the song is of a certain quality (this goes back to the karaoke problem of inferior backing tracks), that’s when a high quality backing track for a song comes in handy for that artist.


Reason #4 – Customize Any Song Any Number of Ways

To go with my last point of creating some kind of artist promo for you or someone else who needs one, having the ability to customize your track because you made it and you have the power to edit that song however you like can be a great advantage.

For instance, you can alter the key of the song if you have it all programmed in MIDI, so that the singer can sing better to the track.

You can also change some of the instrumentation to make it a little different, which will help the song stand out.  Want to change the type of bass used?  Just try a different bass plugin.

Or pick up a different bass and play it differently live.  You can also even add different parts to a song that weren’t there in the original version of the track.

Say you remake a popular song, but you never liked the guitar solo.  You have the option to play something different for that solo, if you want.


Reason # 5 – Sell Your Services Because You Can

Another big reason to be able to make your own backing track is because people need them, and will buy them.  So, if you know how to make them, you can sell them and make a business out of it, like Rob has.

We won’t get into things like licensing of tracks, or how to sell tracks, or marketing types of things in this article, but this is an obvious option if you are able to create your own tracks, and remake tracks that there is a demand for.

Nothing wrong with making the moolah, especially if you’re talented and can do a great job for someone!


Reason #6 – Create Obscure Tracks No One Else Has Done And Be Way Cooler Than Everyone

If you’re like me and you go looking for karaoke songs to sing that haven’t been made yet, then why not just…do it yourself!

There are, if you look online, lots of different instrumental versions of thousands and thousands of songs that you can get a hold of if you know where to look.  Want to sing My Heart Will Go On in a hurry?  Not hard to find, I assure you.

However, there are way, way more songs that do not exist in any kind of instrumental form.  I know because I’ve looked.  In fact, I could never do karaoke to most of the songs I like because they haven’t been made yet.

Will someone make them?  I don’t know.  Will I make them?  I don’t know.  Maybe YOU will be the one to do the best version of Raw Power by Iggy and The Stooges that has ever been heard.

Again, this isn’t just for karaoke.  There are lots of obscure songs that could use a remake for a variety of purposes, as mentioned.  And, if you know how it’s done, you can be the one to do it.

But seriously, what am I supposed do when I want to sing karaoke to Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart by Stone Temple Pilots?  Nothing!  Honestly, I usually just cry and go to bed.

Ok, now that I’ve talked about all of the reasons WHY you might want to make your own instrumental backing track, and the options that’ll give you, I finally am going to talk about HOW you do it.

Actually, no, Rob will show you that in the video down at the bottom of this post, but I’m going to explain what you’ll need before you can actually do what we did.


STEP 1 – Open Up The DAW of Your Choice

First off, you need to know how to operate a DAW, or digital audio workstation.  Not only do you need to know how to operate one – you need to actually have one! 

Popular examples of these include: Presonus One, Reason, Cubase, Garageband, Protools, Ableton, Cakewalk, Logic, and of course many others.

For our track, we used Cubase, which is a very popular DAW.  Some are mega expensive, if you didn’t know.  Some are free.  Well, Garageband is “free” if you buy an expensive Macbook.

Audacity is free.. like actually free, so check that out if you have nothing else.  There are probably other free ones, hmm.. what are they?  You tell me!

So, if you don’t have one of these DAWs, you need to get one before you try doing this yourself.


STEP 2 – Assess What VSTI’s You Have

Next, see what VSTI’s you have as part of your DAW.  Or start downloading the ones you might want.  VSTI stands for Virtual Studio Technology Instrument.

You’ve probably heard of them referred to as VST instruments, or VST plugins, but let’s just call them VSTI’s.  VSTI’s have come a long way over the past 20 years, and now, when you purchase almost any DAW, it comes with VSTI’s for you to play around with.

Some VSTI’s sound like real instruments to the point where you might not know the difference.  For instance, we used “fake” instruments for bass and drums on our version of “I Wanna Destroy You”, but the guitar was real.

Now, it’s worth noting that when I say fake these samples that get used in a lot of the higher end VSTI’s are going to be crystal clear, and you’ll have to pay for that crystal clarity as well.

I was particularly impressed by the drum sound that Rob got on the song.  By “fake sounds”, I am generally referring to MIDI, because when notes are virtual as MIDI notes are, they can be changed easily and swapped right out, depending on the VSTI you’re routing to the track.

Change the VSTI, the track will sound totally different.  That’s part of the fun!


STEP 3 – Grab Your Keyboard Controller

So, in order to use these VSTI’s, a good quality controller or keyboard (or keyboard controller) is usually necessary so that you can play the notes on the keyboard, and it translates into whatever VSTI’s you have handy.

You can, of course, usually access a virtual keyboard on your laptop somewhere, if you’re desperate, but I’d say get a controller.  They’re not too pricy.

midi keyboard

Just to be clear, you’re not getting a controller to play keyboards necessarily.  Through this controller, you play notes that hooks up to your computer somehow (through USB or an interface) and they turn into whatever instrument you tell them to.

I remember thinking at some point in the past, that these keyboards were just normal “keyboards”, and I was going to have to become the next Rick Wakeman. Luckily, don’t have to, so take off that golden robe right now.


STEP 4 – Gather your Real Instruments (Bass, Guitar, Drums, etc)

You might want to use a combination of real instruments and fake AKA MIDI instruments to put your track together, and so if you have any instruments that you want to use, get them ready.

So, if you have a really nice bass guitar sitting nearby that you’d want to use, grab that and your amp and warm them up for the track.  What instruments are real and which ones are not is entirely up to you.

You could use all real drums, and keep the bass and guitars fake.  Up to you.  What if there are wind instruments?  Glockenspiel?  What about strings?  What about an entire orchestra pit just for you??

If you’re doing this track at home like Rob and I did, I might assume you want to use a VST for your orchestra sounds, but who am I to say?

Maybe you’ve got friends that play classical instruments and they’ll be dropping by to lay down their tracks.  Maybe the pit is coming to you.  What about your sax guy or gal?  Don’t forget them!  Let them wail…or just replace them with a VST.


STEP #5 – Other Gear You’ll Need

This list of every single last thing you could use can go on forever potentially, but, if I may, I’d say you’ll most likely need a pre-amp of some kind so you can plug microphones in (oh yeah, you’ll need those too), as well as various cables.

This is starting to sound like a step by step tutorial on how to record anything, not just a backing track.  Well, that’s right, you can record anything, and that’s the point!

Flexibility and options are what we’re after here when it comes to recording.   Just make sure you have all the right gear that you need.  It will probably include most of what I’ve mentioned, plus some various wires to plug it all in.

So, now that you know WHY you might want to create a backing track from scratch, and you also know WHAT you need to make the track, it’s time to make the actual track.  Whew!  About time…

This is where Rob Jones is going to guide you in the video below which will bring us full circle back to the beginning when I first showed you our cover of “I Wanna Destroy You”.

Remember, he does this for a living, so he has all the needed stuff, but hopefully you can follow along and start living the DIY dream along with him, creating amazing tracks that will blow people away because they’re so awesome.

Take it away, Mr. Jones…

Rob Jones rig rundown and favs

For your information, this is some of the stuff Rob uses when making tracks and also getting through life!

DAW: Cubase 9 Pro, running in Windows 10

VST list: Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Trilion, RMX. Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate 11. Toontrack EZdrummer, Addictive Keys, and loads of smaller ones.

Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Allen and Heath analogue desk – Z14fx (this gives me that lovely warmth I feel is missing in todays digital only world of recording. But it also gives me the ability to record so many inputs manually)

Guitars: Paul Read Smith (PRS) Custom 24, Kramer American, Yamaha Acoustic, Fender Acoustic.

Guitar effects: Boss GT-8 multi fx

Mics: Sure SM58/57 and Rode NT1 Condenser

Favourite film(s) would be the Alien saga
Favourite food: Spicy curries oh yes!
Favourite colour: sunset
Favourite chair would be a comfy one

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Should I Make An Album or EP? The Pros and Cons of Each

When it comes to releasing music, musicians (especially new ones) occasionally face the difficult choice of whether to put out an EP or a full length album.

In case you’re not familiar with these terms, an EP (Extended Play album) is usually a compilation of around 4 to 6 songs released mostly for promotional purposes, especially in the case of a new artist.  An example of an EP would be Come On Pilgrim by the Pixies.

come on pilgrim ep pixies

In contrast, an LP (Long Player) or full length album normally constitutes 10 plus songs.  I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of them.  Walk into a music store and most stuff on the rack is an LP.  Here’s a famous LP – Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

should i make an ep or lp?

LP vs EP

Most bands and musicians tend to release LP’s, to satisfy the demand of music-hungry fans or to show people they are capable of being a true artist.  Or, they produce singles, which feature one song (A-Side) and maybe a B-Side.  Or – they do an EP, which you can think of as a mini album.

The digital age has changed the game quite a bit, as some people have said the LP is dead, and with it all manufactured physical media, such as vinyl, and EPs.  However, vinyl is making a comeback, and the compact disc is not dead yet, as in LPs and EPs.

pavement watery domestic

So this begs the question for recording artists – why make an EP or album in the first place? Let’s look at the pros of both.

The EP (Extended Play) – Pros and Cons

  • Can be the perfect solution for an artist who wants to release more than just one single but is not in a position to create a full album (budget friendly).
  • Is a great way to release songs that were created but did not fit the theme or style of an album.
  • Is a great tool for a new artist to gain recognition and build a fan base.

Here’s an EP you may or may not know, called the Tigerbomb EP by the band Guided By Voices.

Art Vs. Commerce

Now the thing about this EP is that it plays like a mini album, and even the lead off song, “My Valuable Hunting Knife”, isn’t even the same version you find on the LP it’s pulled from, that being Alien Lanes.  From there, you get another song, Game of Pricks, which isn’t the same as the album version either, followed by four more songs that aren’t on the album.

So, what we have here is a work of art that stands on it’s own.  For fans of the band, this has the effect of making the album richer, because it’s like taking a detour from the album they already know to explore some different avenues (or lanes, as it were).  You might say it’s for hardcore fans only, but it has another purpose, which is to offer more content to anyone who might take an interest in the band.

record-vinyl-microgrooves01-1500-8b2e708f451a13551c070c62005a3b65LP’s 

So what are the reasons for making an LP, which, I must say again, is the standard out there, vs. an EP, which has the benefit of being cost effective and doesn’t require as much of a listener’s attention.

  • The revenue could be huge if the album sales take off – LP’s are priced higher than EP’s.
  • An artist is perceived as “established” if they have an album in their portfolio.
  • An LP allows musicians to fully explore a sound or concept, and this is why LP’s sometimes end up being “concept albums”.

Let’s take a look at an LP called Inspiration Information by a musician named Shuggie Otis, and maybe you can see why he needed to record this many songs and present them in this way, rather than truncate the listening experience.

Now let’s look at each option in detail.

The LP or Full Length Long Playing Record – Pros and Cons

The full length long player record is the sought-after prize amongst new artists because, well, who doesn’t love albums?  Most music fans are of the “give me more” variety, when it comes to their favourite artists, although some industry folks have been saying the album is “dead”, as I said.  

Part of the reason for this, but not the entire reason, is that an album is expensive to buy for a fan. It costs more than a single or EP on iTunes, but you can easily argue that this is for good reason, as it offers much more than one song, or even a handful of tunes.  It offers an entire listening experience.  

Still, LP’s are costly to make for the artist, and costly to buy for the fan.

the stuff that dreams are made of

Hypothetical #1 – You Have Your Own Studio

If you’re a producer, the cost of making an album will be significantly reduced as you already have a studio.  Even if you’re a musician who’s acting like a producer, you’re significantly reducing costs.  With a home studio, the only money you’ll spend will be in hiring a mixing/mastering engineer and that’s only if you’re not good enough to carry out these tasks yourself.  

home recording studio

Many amateur recording artists take it upon themselves to tackle mixing and mastering anyway. My overall point is, the main cost of an album is studio time, and if you have everything you need at your fingertips, then maybe an LP isn’t too wild of a proposition.  An EP would be even easier, if you are all set to record.  

The Time Factor and ROI

Obviously, money isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to making an album. Time is another important resource exploited when crafting your LP. Most albums take, on average, a year to create.

It would be such a waste if you spent the better part of a year recording your album only for it to flop in the end.  Whether it flops or not is a whole other conversation, and I hate to bring up the possibility that it might.  But say you make an album over the course of a year, have your album manufactured, and then…silence.  The customers are not lining up to buy your $20 album that you’ve priced as such to make some of your money back.  Reality slaps you in the face ,and you will have wasted a lot of time and money, and you’ll have a bunch of cds or vinyl sitting there that will take you a while to sell to people.

cds printed and manufactured

Ok, You’re A Big Deal…Now What?

If, on the other hand, your album is successful, you will earn a lot of cash and score hundreds of new fans – but that comes at a price. The general public doesn’t really understand the amount of time, money and preparation that goes into an LP. And people forget easily. One month your album is the sh**, and the next they move on to something fresh. When the dust finally settles, your newly found fans will be pressuring you for new material and when you don’t provide it soon, you will slowly fade away.  So you have to keep on top of things.

But this rule only applies to new musicians. For instance, Calvin Harris just recently released a new album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, and even though fans have already heard it and moved on to other things, they know that they can expect good stuff from Mr. Harris and won’t forget about him so quickly.

EPs – Pros and Cons

At the moment EPs are once again gaining in popularity for various reasons. For new musicians, this is due, in part, to financial reasons. No one is going to listen to, let alone buy, 12 songs from an artist they know nothing about.  3-4 tracks would be enough to let the listener decide whether they are digging your vibe.

EDM producers prefer EPs mostly because it takes less time to create and this allows them to release new music more frequently. An EP is also a great way for an artist to experiment with a new style. They can create an EP that revolves around that style without getting a lot of blowback from the fans.

dyro artist

I remember Dyro once saying that he’d like to experiment more but the fans were not very welcoming to this and so he saw the EP as the perfect solution. He could create the music he wanted and then throw one track in there that fits the style the fans are used to. True to his word, his Set Me Free EP featured a variety of styles.

My Opinion

An EP it is!

Yup! I bet you thought I’d give you some “on the fence” advice and tell you to follow your heart, right? Nope! I am, in clear terms, telling you that if you’re an EDM artist and you wanna do more than just a single, an EP is the best option. Even if you’re not an EDM person, an EP is still I think the best way to go. An album will drain you (and your resources) completely if you’re not careful.

However, if you’re an established musician and you really feel like a full length album is your cup of tea, then go for it. Just plan, plan and plan! Is it worth it? Are you going to recoup the money you spend creating it? If the answer to these questions is no, then you need to reconsider. An Extended Play Album may just be what you need. 🙂

How to Record an Acoustic Guitar with a Dynamic Microphone

recording an acoustic guitar with a dynamic microphone

Today I’m going to discuss recording your acoustic guitar with a dynamic microphone. There’s a lot of things to consider, so let’s jump right in!

What is a Dynamic Microphone?

Good question to kick things off here.  Dynamic microphones are durable, all purpose mics that require no power source to operate. Most working musicians have at least one or two of them lying around any given studio, or jam hall.

roger daltrey sm58

While typical dynamics mic don’t capture the range of frequencies and sonic nuances of a high quality condenser mic they can be great for a performance that has a lot of energy where you don’t want to hold back.  This is why dynamic mics appeal to certain types of artists – especially rockers.  They are simply designed to take more abuse, in general, than condenser mics.

Difference between Dynamic and Condenser Mics

Recording engineers will sometimes opt for using both a condenser mic and a dynamic mic at the same time for recording an instrument, since both mics have different properties and capture sound differently.  It’s worth knowing these differences, before you go out and buy any mics for the express purpose of recording.

Here’s a graphic that shows some of the essential differences between dynamic mics and condenser mics, in case you’re wondering.

difference between dynamic and condenser microphones

Here is a video demonstrating the difference in sound between recording an acoustic guitar using three methods – condenser mic, dynamic mic, and direct in.  You can be the judge of what sounds best to you.

Don’t Record With A Damaged or Out of Tune Guitar

Before we get back to the actual miking situation, we must add quickly that you need to make sure your acoustic guitar is in good condition and properly tuned before you attempt to mic it for recording.

That guitar you found in your basement with the slightly warped neck and strings that are like 1 inch off of the fretboard?  Don’t use that!  That guitar your friend smashed over your head at that party last week?  Don’t use that one either!

broken acoustic guitar

The guitar you plan to use probably won’t be as banged up as the one pictured above, but even if it is only slightly damaged, it could affect the sound of the recording in a big way.

My suggestion is, before you record, take the time to really assess the quality of your guitar. If you don’t like the sound when you play it normally, don’t expect to like the sound of that same guitar once it has been recorded!

Omnidirectional or Cardioid Microphone?

Like many of the choices you’ll make with your dynamic microphone such as placement and amount of mics, you’ll need to decide whether you want a single pick up pattern or multiple.

With a single pattern, you’re getting sound directly into one side of the mic. It’s usually the one facing the guitar. This can be good for close mics that are retrieving sound from the guitar’s sound hole.

mic-diaphragm

The omnidirectional microphone pattern will pick up the room’s reverb and ambience when recording. You should use this when the microphone is at a slight distance, and you want to include the reverb of a room.

omnidirectional dynamic mic

There is a misconception that dynamic mics are all unidirectional in nature.  The thing is, they’re not.  Well, not necessarily.  Many dynamic mics happen to be unidirectional, yes, while some are omni-directional.  When purchasing a dynamic mic, look at the packaging and it will tell you if it is or is not.

omnidirectional dynamic microphone

That said, in my experience, I haven’t found too many dynamic mics that let you toggle between uni or omni directional settings. With condenser mics, they often have a switch and it even has it pictured on the mic itself, like the picture of the Rode NT2A below.

rode nt2a close up

With dynamic mics, because they’re usually a bit cheaper, you don’t get any extra switches. It usually either is omnidirectional, or it isn’t (meaning it’s unidirectional).  So, if you want an omnidirectional dynamic microphone to use to record your guitar, be sure that’s what you’re buying.

Mic Position and Placement

Ok, time to get down to business.  You’ve got your guitar, and you’ve got your dynamic mic and you’re ready to do some recording.

Scenario #1 – Single Mic, Omnidirectional:

To start off, I’m going to assume you have only one mic do record with.  As I just mentioned, if your mic is omnidirectional, this will make a difference in sound from a unidirectional dynamic mic.

If your dynamic mic is omnidirectional, you would do well to place your mic about 1 foot from your acoustic guitar’s sound hole, and slightly towards the fretboard, like this…

Single_Dynamic_Smaller

From this point, it’s just a matter of tweaking your input levels on your pre-amp, and checking to hear how things sound.

Because the mic is omni, it will pick up not just the guitar sound, but the room sound as well.  Because you are back about a foot, you won’t get a super close mic’d sound, and there will be more air present in the recording than if you put the mic really close to the place you are strumming.

Hopefully, in this scenario, you get the best of both worlds, with some natural room ambience and some immediacy from the strings and the strumming.

Scenario #2 – Single Mic, Unidirectional

If your dynamic mic only captures one particular direction, then you’ll find this is a bit of a different situation from the last one.  Because you’re only getting sound from one side of the mic (the front), you’ll want to mic the guitar closer, at about 6 inches, and make sure you aim it precisely at the spot between where the sound hole meets the fretboard.

This can be called “close miking”, because you’re starting to get in pretty close with the origin point of the sound, which can lead to unwanted feedback and distortion in your recording if you’re not careful.

close miking acoustic guitar

My recommendation would be to turn up your input (gain) to start on your pre-amp, and hear what kind of sound you’re getting.  Be prepared to turn your input back down if it’s sounding too intense. Look at your sound waves.  If they look too big, and sound distorted on playback, turn things down.

Pointing the mic where I just said is your best bet, because this is where you’re strumming, and also where the sound is projected from the guitar.

Because this is the main source of the sound the guitar is making, and your mic only captures basically one sound, this is the angle you want to aim the mic.  You can point the mic slightly up at this point, or slightly down, so long as it is aimed at this particular place. You want the sound to go straight into the mic, not pass by it.

Because I don’t know what kind of guitar you have, or how hard you play, or whether your pick is thick or thin, the sound is going to vary, but this is a good place to start!

Scenario #3 – Two Mics, Unidirectional

Hey, now we’re talking!  The previous scenario was a bit tougher, because you only had one mic that picks up sound only one way to work with.  In this scenario, you have the benefit of two mics, but both of them are still unidirectional, so you need to be strategic as to where you aim them.

The thing is, there are literally dozens of options as to where you can point these two mics. I can’t list them all, as there are just too many to choose from.  So, what I can do is tell you what I do when I have to unidirectional dynamic mics for recording acoustic guitar.

I would, first, back the mics up about 6-8 inches from the guitar.  Then I could aim one at the sound hole where I was aiming before, to get the majority of the frequencies coming out of the hole. Then I’d point one mic at the strings a little higher up the neck, where you’ll get a more ambient sound.  Here’s a picture of what I mean.

two dynamic mics recording acoustic guitar

Basically, with unidirectional mics, you are sonically gathering information that you will piece together to make a complete picture of the same sound that an omnidirectional microphone can do all at once.

It might seem like an omnidirectional mic would be better, but, think of it this way – with unidirectional mics, you get to be more creative, and even more “mysterious” as you capture sounds from different and interesting angles.

Remember, dynamic mics are usually a bit less sensitive than condensers, so you can move them in a bit closer and not have to worry about them feeding back or causing distortion unless the gain on your input is up too high.

Guitar + Vocals?

If your plan is to record yourself singing and playing the guitar at once, this will require a unique miking situation.

If we assume both mics are unidirectional, we can take a cue from our 3rd scenario from above and start by miking our guitar about 6-8 inches away, pointing at that spot between the sound hole and the fretboard.

For your vocals, you’ll want to set up the stand so the dynamic mic is right up in your face, so you can practically taste it.  Take a look at the picture below for a moment.

recording acoustic guitar with 2 mics

You see, this guy is using condenser mics to record himself, so it’s not quite the same as using dynamic mics, but his mic positioning is similar, so I’m showing you this picture.

The main difference here is that you don’t need a spit guard to cover your mic, because, if you’re using a dynamic mic, they are generally designed with that durable mesh, which is why you can yell into them in the first place.  So, no need for that.  Aside from that detail, keep the configuration about the same, but just move in closer to the mic.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this will get you asking the right questions as you shop for your microphone to make your recordings come alive. If you have questions or want to share your recording, leave a comment. It’s always great to connect with other musicians and hear how you’re contributing your own style to the music scene.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with these four basic questions that you might want to consider before you get to recording, if you haven’t run off to record already!  

  • How loud will the guitar be and will there be loud singing on the recording?
  • What kind of room will the playing and recording take place?
  • Will you be using a pick or strumming with your fingers?
  • What kind of wood, soundboard, and bridge will be used for this guitar?

Music Sequencers Vs. Trackers – What’s The Difference?

schism tracker

Digital Audio Workstations; when it comes to them, music producers are spoilt for choice. Hang on; what’s a Digital Audio Workstation? If you’re not new to this, you already know the answer so move on to the next paragraph. But if you’re a new or an aspiring music producer, a DAW is simply computer program used for editing, recording and producing music.  (see screenshot below)

reaper screenshot

If you’ve come across or heard of Ableton Live, Reaper, FL Studio, Cubase, Reason, Cakewalk Sonar, ProTools et cetera, then you’ve already interacted with these guys.

Sequencers Vs. Trackers – What’s The Difference?

Now, all DAWs achieve the same goal: making good music (They’re at least meant to). But every workman has their preferred tools of work and music production software is no different. You can classify these programs in whatever categories, but today, I’m gonna focus on sequencers versus trackers.

The simplest explanation is that trackers involve a top down approach while sequencers take in a horizontal approach. Feeling lost? Stay with me. Let’s briefly look at the differences.

How A Music Tracker Works Vs. A Sequencer

First, we have the appearance. Trackers generally look like spreadsheets with cells whereas a sequencer’s interface looks like a bunch of channels with a bar behind it, representing a score of music.

schism tracker

Secondly, the mode of entering the notes is different too. With a tracker, the notes are written down (e.g. A, G, B). Sequencers are different. They take on a graphical form, with the optional feature of having the actual note script or using the piano roll.

Finally, with a tracker (as is with a spreadsheet), you can view the content of all channels in your project all at once. Of course if your channels exceed a certain number, you’d have to scroll but generally everything can be viewed together.  Here’s a little video example of a tracker in action, complete with composition for your education / enjoyment!

Sequencers, on the other hand, only display one channel at a time, allowing you to make an edit on only one sound at a time. Here are some examples of sequencers: FL Studio, Ableton, Reason and Cubase. Commonly used trackers include Renoise, FastTracker,and OpenMPT.

Here’s a song someone made with Ableton, a sequencer.

You must be thinking, which is better then? Perhaps my personal account of the experience with both kinds will give you some more insight. The pros are probably already happily married to their DAWs with children but if you’re a newbie, hopefully I’ll pique your interest and you’ll be able to make a better decision, knowing all the options available to you.

Ableton Live

After being inspired by some very good progressive house music, I wanted to know how the EDM producers made these tunes. My research led me to Ableton’s website where I downloaded Ableton Live (I don’t remember what version). I then played around with the software, layering a few percussions with very basic melodies before deciding that this was too complex.

Watch this full tutorial of Ableton Live 9 and this should give you a full dose of what you’re in for with this music sequencer.

Check out the latest version of Ableton Live on Amazon now

FL Studio

My next stop was on Image-Line’s website where I downloaded a demo of FL Studio 9 (there are newer versions, I think they’re up to 12 now). In comparison to Ableton, the interface was different but I still couldn’t understand a lot of the stuff. I tried watching tutorials on YouTube but I still wasn’t satisfied. It was still painful and I’m not one of the most patient people. Recipe for disaster, right? But I wasn’t done. I kept looking.

BTW, here’s a video tutorial of FL9 just so you can see how it operates.

Check out the latest version of FL Studio on Amazon now

Cubase

My next action was to ‘borrow’ an illegal version of Cubase from a torrent-sharing website. Any difference? Nope. I was done within a week. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that these programs sucked or had any kind of flaws. Hell no! In fact this was purely me and my impatience and dreams of being an overnight superstar, playing back to back (no pun intended) shows in Vegas.

Watch this tutorial of Cubase to learn the ropes of this software.

Check out the latest version of Cubase on Amazon now

Renoise

So the story goes on. Being an Electronic Music fan, I happened to be browsing through an EDM forum one afternoon and someone commented that they had just downloaded a DAW that approached music production differently. The notes were entered in a coding sort of way. A few screenshots attached to the post piqued my curiosity and in the next few minutes I had Renoise version 2.8.0 installed on my old PC.  Renoise looks a little something like this…

A lot of things were different but of course it was still Greek to me. I watched the first ten tutorials and got to know my way around a few things. What appealed to me most about the vertical approach was how it allowed me to see everything together. The kicks, snares, claps and everything else appeared on the same screen and there were no floating plug-ins that annoyed me in my previous encounters with music production software.

My Personal Choice of DAW – Renoise!

Upon doing more research, I found out that this was in fact nothing new. Trackers have been around for so long. I never made a point to check out any other DAWs but fast forward to today, I’m still using Renoise. For those wondering, I’m still nowhere near Las Vegas (even physically) but I’ve improved my production skills a lot and occasionally make theme music for video producers.

Like I said, I am not in any way endorsing trackers or even Renoise itself but I feel this is what works for me. In between, I tried going back to the previous DAWs I had used but I’m still in love with the tracker concept that I simply couldn’t. I tried to get my producer friends to try Renoise and they all quit it within no time saying it wasn’t for them. One friend pointed out that most trackers are mostly meant to be used with samples rather than plug-ins and this is true. This goes to show you that we are all very different. What works for me isn’t necessarily what will work for you. Despite the title, you should view this post as a comparison rather than a ‘versus’ approach. I simply meant to open you up to all the options out there. Which is better? None! The better one is whatever works for you.

So then go forth and make good music! Remember, it’s not about what software you use but the quality of music you create. Is going either the tracker way or the sequencer way a step in the wrong direction quality-wise? Hell no!

Unlocking 80’s Music Production Secrets – Def Leppard’s Pyromania

def-leppard-bw-pic-1983

One thing that Mike Shipley learned during his early days working on records in the 70’s was achieving something people who worked in recording studios at the time called the “English sound”. 

Mike Shipley

What this meant, according to Shipley, was to be as un-pure as possible when trying to create a record’s sound. 

If you were a recording purist, as people seemed to be in places like LA during the 1970’s, this meant doing things by the books, to achieve something natural and pure and authentic. 

Meanwhile, in England, at the same exact period in time, music producers were aiming to be as impure as they possibly could be.  The point, it seemed, was to do whatever you could in order to achieve the result you wanted.  This was a new style of recording, and it broke all the rules. 

To be blunt, purists hated it, while others who were willing to experiment gravitated towards this new recording style.

def-leppard-bw-pic-1983
Def Leppard ’83

Def Leppard – The Pyromania Sessions

By the time Mike Shipley (sound engineer) teamed up with Mutt Lange (album producer) to work on the Def Leppard Pyromania album, you might be surprised to learn that Star Wars was a major influence on the recording process of that album. 

By Star Wars, we mean – yes, the movie Star Wars – as in big, bombastic, 3-D, over the top, fantastic, and awe-inspiring. 

This was the feeling in the popular culture by the time Pyromania was being recorded in the early 80’s, and, you’ve got to admit, it shows in the final product. 

This record is a monster in terms of sheer sound, and goes far beyond what you think a normal band might be able to achieve in the studio if they just ran through a song live off the floor without any studio wizardry.

With that in mind, let’s take a listen to Def Leppard’s Photograph, from – of course – Pyromania.

This idea of achieving that early 80’s no-holds-barred / go-big-or-go-home sound definitely required a shift in mindset for an aspiring producer just getting into the record biz. 

Instead of trying to capture the actual sound of a band playing a song live off the floor and make it sound totally natural and believable, the goal was to take a song, and make the energy of the recording somehow match the spirit of that song – at all costs. 

def-leppard-live-la-forum-1983

If the song sounded like it was meant to be played in an arena, then somehow these producers – with Pyromania being a prime example of this – were intent on making the song sound absolutely colossal.  

At the same time, records like Pyromania were definitely a bid to make anthemic rock part of the mainstream again, as 80’s bands that were popular at the time were veering towards “New Wave”, which meant more synths, keys, robotic vocal stylings, and decidedly less guitars and pulse pounding heavy rock.  Unacceptable!


80’s Music Production – A Time To Experiment

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In terms of record producers being either purist or non-purist, it was obvious by the early 80’s that, for some hit-makers, all bets were off.  They weren’t hung up on traditional methods, and they were looking for a new sound.

Producers like Mutt Lange were into experimenting with a lot of recording techniques, and he was looked to as a bit of a maverick, having already cranked out one hit after another. 

One major thing Mutt liked to screw around with at the time of recording Pyromania was drum sounds, making them even bigger and beefier than on Back In Black from a few years prior.

When it came to drum sounds on Pyromania, Mutt and Mike Shipley were not afraid to stack one recorded sound on top of another to get the feeling they wanted. 

Using a cheap 8-bit Fairlight sampler, fans are often surprised to learn that these rather cheesy samples were carefully integrated into the sound of the drums on Pyromania, in order to get that radically huge drum sound. 

This involved slowing down the tape, and fusing together actual takes with pre-recorded samples of kick drum and snare drum sounds.


This Might Take A While

You may have heard that back in 60’s and 70’s recording studios, there were times where hours if not days if not MONTHS were spent by sound engineers spicing tape together, just hoping that the masters weren’t going to wear down and disintegrate in their hands. 

Some tapes were abused so much, its a miracle that some of these classic albums were ever finished. 

This applies to Pyromania just as much as an album like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors that came half a decade earlier, and it was a test of a sound engineer’s patience when recording an album like this.

Meanwhile, the band had to spend their time twiddling their thumbs while the production was going on, occasionally being called in to do something. 

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Shipley has mentioned that one thing that he personally needed in order to see Pyromania through was something that not everyone has, and that’s a lot of good old fashioned patience. 

One reason patience was necessary, especially in this case, is because not only were there many, many overdubs to do, but Mutt would often decide that an integral part of a song would need to be completely scrapped and re-worked, meaning that there was a lot of hard work that simply went down the drain and there was nothing anyone could do or say.

As a sound engineer in this situation, there are two ways you can react.  You can quit, or you can simply continue working and never complain. 

Mike Shipley had learned that in order to make it in this business, he would need to persevere any and all trials that confronted him along the way. 

If that meant spending weeks working on a part for a song, only to hear from Mutt that that part was no longer going to be used, that was just the way it was. 

He had to roll with the punches right through to the end, and he did, but it wasn’t always easy.  After all, these were 18-hour days we’re talking about, 7 days a week.

At the same time, if Mutt heard something in his head, it was up to Mike to say “Ok, I’ll figure it out”, even if whatever that thing was seemed impossible to achieve at first. 

This was another big way in which an attitude adjustment was needed by anyone who was working on Pyromania. 

Besides the band themselves, Mutt was the driving creative force behind the record and he was a taskmaster.


SSL Mixing Console

A major contributing factor to any recording is going to be the mixing console, and for Pyromania, that console was SSL (Solid State Logic). 

At the time when the sessions were getting underway, Mike Shipley gunned hard for SSL to be the console of choice, while other members of the team were trying for something more cost effective. 

In the end, it was SSL that was used, and this console is worked its magic on the production of Pyromania, coming in handy particularly for the many vocal parts that needed to be balanced just so. 

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Not only did the SSL provide superior performance in a multitude of ways, but one major benefit was the fact that Mike was able to manually EQ almost every syllable to provide maximum effect, a technique which is more commonly used with today’s software but at the time would have seemed like borderline insanity to sit there and perform. 

However, as many have said about Mutt Lange, the man loves to dig into the nitty gritty, and this is why he has no qualms about analyzing every beat, every breath, every note – everything.

Band members sometimes had nervous breakdowns in the studio, trying to please Mutt.  But Mutt wasn’t without his own sense of humor – he did like to joke around sometimes, throwing out the famous line of complete nonsense “Gunter, glieben, glauchen, globen” which kicks off Rock Of Ages just to lighten the mood.

Err…anyway, the SSL console used on Pyromania allowed Mutt to produce the living shit out of that album, and, although it nearly drove the band off the deep end, the results speak for themselves. 

Gruelling studio hours aside, Shipley has stated that his favorite was always the 9000 series.


Marshall Amps

Mike Shipley has mentioned over on GearSlutz that every Marshall known to man was used to get the famous Pyromania guitar sound that many sound engineers these days are still trying to sort out. 

Shipley said that 100 or more amps were tried, but the eventual “winner” was a custom 100 watt head with an old cabinet. 

Knowing what has been said about Mutt’s rigorous work ethic, he probably did what he likes to do, which is stockpile takes, and use a bit of everything to get his signature blend in the end.


Vocal Layering

Mutt Lange is famous for producing hit albums, and one feature of many of these albums is vocal layering.  While many would consider the amount of vocal overdubs he needed to be too many, Mutt loved to get dozens of takes and layer them at will. 

To Mutt, a take of a vocal seems more like a single brushstroke on a painting.  He’s most likely going to blend them together to achieve the masterpiece he wants. 

With Def Leppard, and specifically Joe Elliott, he treated the man like a tube of paint, just squeezing more and more out of him and laying the vocals on really thick. 

When one color ran out, Mutt would turn to – that’s right, Joe again! – and do the same thing. 

This is a technique Mutt is famous for, and if you are the singer on a Mutt Lange record, whether you are Joe Elliott, Brian Johnson, or Shania Twain, you’d better be ready to sing, sing, sing until you can’t sing no more!


Teletronix LA-2

With vocals on Pyromania being such a huge focus, the right type of vocal compression was required, and, for Mike Shipley, this meant the LA-2. 

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It is with this classic unit that Mutt used to produce Joe’s many vocal layers, and find the spectacular balance that Pyromania exhibits. 

Shipley has said that it is this unit that allowed them to blend the vocals together, bringing out a certain breathy quality that brought Joe’s vocals, both leads and back-ups, to achieve the soaring qualities that they had. 

Those vocal tracks still manage to impress new fans every single day, and old fans keep going back for more.

When it comes to the exact method Mutt used on Pyromania to get the vocal effects he did, information is notoriously scarce.  Clearly, he’s got some smooth moves when it comes to how where to “place” the vocals and what effects should be applied and when. 

In Rock Of Ages, for instance, the main vocal isn’t heavily affected, but the backups are clearly multi-layered.  Once the back-ups are introduced into the song, the song suddenly gets bigger.

And then, when the chorus hits, the lead vocal blends in with the back-ups to create an epic vocal presence that has been rarely, if ever, done the exact same way. 


Reverb And Reverse Delay

In other instances, Mutt employs the elusive reverse-delay on the drums and vocals that introduce Photograph, and, by now, you’re so used to it you don’t even think about it.  But, when you do think about it, you realize that it is as far from “natural” as can be. 

In music forums across the internet, musicians still debate what exactly is in Mutt’s secret sauce when it comes to making things sound “huge”, and it still remains a mystery! 

In one forum post, Shipley did state the what would seem fairly obvious, and that is that “We had tons of delays and flangers etc for the mix”.


Depth Of Field

Along with all of the layering, and radical mixing that went on with Pyromania, Mutt’s real specialty was creating a wide depth of field. 

This meant, basically, creating space so that all of those layers could co-exist in perfect harmony.  This concept is something that all audiophiles are aware of to some extent, but one which Mutt Lange is certainly a master of. 

The opening track, Rock Rock Till You Drop, sets the stage for the sonic world you are about to enter.


Conclusion

With Pyromania, although it was reportedly torture to painstakingly record in the fashion that Mutt liked, it was Mutt that always kept his eye on the prize, knowing what he wanted and sculpting the sound bit by bit. 

By the time a track on Pyromania was finished, it lived in its own little world of sound, and created a unique mood that engaged the listener and caused them to listen, if subconsciously, to the orchestra of parts he had pieced together. 

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Even the band themselves were not so intrigued with this idea of laying things down brick by brick, wanting only to play their respective musical parts and play to the standard that Mutt himself demanded, which was no easy task and made for volatile times during those sessions.

It’s only natural that a band like Def Leppard would want to rock out full tilt back in ’83 because, hey, they were in the prime of their lives then.  But no dice!  They were at Mutt’s mercy, even if it almost drove them to tears.  

Of course, who do you think was the producer on Hysteria?  Results like these speak for themselves…


More Stuff You Might Be Interested In

More about Mike Shipley via Def Leppard UK

Hear Robert John Mutt Lange on Spotify

Read our article, Mixing For Loudness

Read our article, How To Make A Backing Track At Home From Scratch