Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sound isolation as treatment

We have all heard about treating rooms for audio mixing. But what about treating our spaces for Isolation, or sound that leaks in from outside our rooms? Using Hyper Cardioid, dynamic mics can help reject a lot of this unwanted noise, but noise is persistent! There is only so much that off axis rejection in microphones can do.

Case in point....

 I have a room that I just adore. It is more like a music nook, but there are some issues. From time to time I have some outside noise distracting me. Since there is a window in my room, I do get some spillage. A lawnmower, perhaps a loud motorcycle, and lets not overlook the car horns from afar, all seep in and take my mind away from the task at hand. I like to record with microphones, quite a bit, and I can't have unwanted noise creeping in to my audio. Recently, I had to re-track a speaker due to a loud motorcycle "reving" up as it passed by. I missed it as we tracked, but it was obvious as we listened back to it.

Without getting into treating this space for frequency and reflections, I needed to try and remove some of the sounds from everyday life. I plan on recording my podcast in here, and this room is off of our living space too! I do not want to record only after 10 P.M. folks, I need ISOLATION first! Once I get my space a little more quiet, I will tackle treating it for mixing. So, how can we tackle the problem of sounds entering our rooms from the world at large?

Here is one simple, and elegant way to accomplish this task. I obtained some Audimute panels from an ad on Craigslist. I was really comprehensive about how good of a job it would do, but I had to do something! So, the day it went up, I knew it was the right way to go. I hung two sheets or panels up in the open doorway that leads into my space. Immediately, I noticed a very big difference! Gone were any trace of echoes. Gone was 75 percent of the common "House noises" than can enter into a microphone. I love how "dead" the room is now, and I think that the material looks great. The real test was to happen at 4 P.M., as my wife came home.

She does not have the same eye that I have. I like to see racks of mixing gear, monitors, speaker cabs, guitars and guitar amps, mic stands, and drum risers. The Audimute panels look sexy to me. My wife remained silent about the looks. So, the Audimute panels passed the first test. The next thing that my wife noticed was just how much the room had changed. Her exact words were "there is no echo in here". The Audimute panels had just passed the second test. I had turned my space into a "dead zone", and it is noticable. It is almost like your ears are popping or something like that.

The Audimute panels are made in the U.S.A. and they come with a 100 percent guarantee. They, however, will not improve the sonic frequencies in your room, but they will prevent a lot of "audio spillage" from entering your room, and more importantly, entering your microphones!

 The window in my space is still bare, and I have more material left. I will be trying to solve that issue too. I hate to block the light from entering into the space, but the window is a source of noise. That is, noise enters through that wall.

 I will keep you posted on this, and what I happen to come up with. What about you? Have any of you had to isolate a room with windows? If so, what did you do? Please, let me know, and I will pass that information on, right here on the blog!


As taken from the press release.......

StrumSchool.com, a free web-based service that uses a curriculum of instructional videos, downloadable documents and a dash of personal attention to teach aspiring musicians how to play the guitar, has announced its beta launch.

StrumSchool's service is geared towards teaching beginners basic guitar fundamentals. The site uses an easy-to-follow curriculum of instructional videos, downloadable lesson plans and personal attention from professional teachers to help its students learn how to play any genre of music.

StrumSchool was designed to teach aspiring musicians how to play the guitar at their own pace and on their schedules. Irregardless of how much previous experience its users may or may not have, StrumSchool  focuses on making the process of learning basic guitar fundamentals easy and free.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Using Expanders in audio

I was talking with a very good friend of mine, recently, about posting topics for the Home Recording Weekly blog. I expressed that I have been tossing around the idea of writing a "series of posts" covering some of the basic tools of our trade. He liked the idea, and he agreed with the idea, and then added to it by saying "Content is king". Simply put, and yet right on the mark. Content is king indeed. Not only have I decided to write this series of posts, but I have decided to start with a tool known as the expander.

Expanders..... What are they, and how do we use them in our audio? These are some great questions, and I really hadn't used one before too long ago. Recently, I was using a different "audio tool" in place of an expander, and the results were less than stellar. Since then I have fallen in love with Expanders, and need to share what I have learned.

Let me detail what it is that expanders do, and then I will tell you what I was using in its' place.

Expanders are a tool that we can use in out tracks to help clean up audio. Expanders can be set, much like a compressor, to "work" or "turn on" once a threshold has been crossed. Compressors do not operate until a threshold has been crossed, and once they turn on they reduce the output or reduce the signals output. However, unlike a compressor, once the desired threshold is crossed in an expander, the expander then acts more like a switch. Once the threshold is crossed, the expander "opens" and allows audio to pass through untouched.

You might be thinking about noise gates right about now, and asking yourself why I didn't use a noise gate as a comparison in this post, you know, instead of a compressor. Expanders can be thought of as a noise gate, but they do operate differently than noise gates. There are some important features that expanders have that most noise gates do not have. For example, expanders will not only allow a threshold to be set, but you can adjust the range, attack, release, and most importantly, "the hold".
Most of the noise gates that I have used in the past, are either "on or off", or "allowing audio to pass or not allowing a signal to pass". There are no settings like "the hold" feature found on an expander.

 So, what is "the hold" feature? The hold feature tells the expander how slowly, or how quickly, to toss the switch once the threshold is released, or shut off. This can act like a simple fade, so that the switching on and off does not stand out. The "hard" clicking on and off of audio can be noticed. That is the reason noise gates can often times be "heard" when used, and expanders can not be "heard" or audible. That is why I decided to use compressors as a reference, and not a noise gate.

Let me explain how I have been using an expander lately, and why a noise gate would not work in this particular case.

I have been mixing a rather popular, and new podcast. This has proven to be a blast, and I look forward to each new episode that I am handed. As usual, I had some interviews that needed to be mixed in with the podcast. The interviews are actual conversations via Skype, with each person using headsets, and recorded using Audacity. These interviews come to me on two mono tracks, with one speaker on each track. So, as one speaker stops talking, the other speaker starts talking. In between the talking there is a lot of noise, like interference and electronic jittering. I almost started to remove this noisy, dead space in between the speaking parts by simply deleting it, and then use fades to bring the speaking parts in and out. This would have taken a very long time, and been rather tedious. So, I decided to "drop" an expander on each of the two mono tracks, and see just how well I could do at removing this noise. You will need to watch the video to see how I set it up, but let me just say that it worked like a charm.

The important thing that I hope you retain, here, is that I saved myself a lot of time and frustration by using an expander. Since this mixing gig is a paying job, the less time I spend editing, the more money I make. Well, when figured out using the "paid by the hour" formula anyway. Truth be told, I make a set fee with each episode that I mix. So, in this case, time really is money. Plus, I avoided a major headache by not having to delete a ton of track, and then add fades all over the place. Yet another thing thing that I want you to remember here is that a noise gate (most likely) would not have worked as well, if at all, in this particular situation. Why not? Great question. Let me answer that one.

Without the "hold" feature found on expanders, the "switch" that allows audio to pass through would either be "on, or off". This hard switching on and off is not only audible to the listener, it can become very annoying! Most people would not want to listen to the interview, let alone the podcast, and that would be bad news for me! A noise gate has its' place in audio, and can be wonderful for a lot of things, but an expander is just way better for this particular application.

Once more, I wish to just say "Thank you for stopping by the Home Recording Weekly blog". You are the reason I blog, and You mean everything to me! Let me know about anything you might want to see here, and I will do my best to make it happen. Please just drop your email in the little box up at the top of this blog, and to the right, just so you can get Home Recording Weekly as email. This way you will never miss a post. You should find Home Recording Weekly on FaceBook, by following the link, and "Like" it. I like to know who my readers and followers, and a simple "Like" allows me to see you. I am also on Google+, and if you are too, follow the link and let me know you are out there. Thanks for all of your support, and until next post, "Have fun and be kind to one another!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Audiofile Engineering apps that I love, and use a lot!

Audiofile Engineering has some very cool apps for iOS devices. I demo'd their "Quiztones" app on Home Recording Weekly some time ago, and that was cool all by itself. They are cool because they are very simple to use, elegantly laid out, and made for capturing sound! I highly recommend that you look into purchasing these two apps. Why? Here are the two main reasons I will give you to head over and get them. One; because I use them often and have fallen in love with the ease of use when capturing sounds. Two; the easy to use editing functions found within!

First of all, there is the FiRe 2 field recorder for recording sounds into your iOS device. It is a fast way to record sound, when you want to, and where ever you are. Not only will the FiRe 2 field recorder record sounds, but it allows for some editing too! Here is some information and specs, as taken from the Audiofile Engineering website.

"FiRe2 will again revolutionize what you expect from a portable recording application. FiRe was the first iPhone recorder to display an accurate audio waveform in real time, the first to support markers, Broadcast WAVE metadata, and the instant downloading of files in multiple file formats. FiRe was the first application on any platform to offer native SoundCloud integration. Now FiRe 2 incorporates into its original elegant design a stunning list of powerful
new features including":

- Advanced editing suite with SmartEdits, Bezier fades, change gain, normalize, looping playback, regions and more

- Improved Transport screen with faster and smoother drawing and larger waveform view

- EQ and Dynamics effects by Audiofile Engineering

- iTunes File Sharing

- Enhanced input processing powered by iZotope™

- Record in background
Dropbox integration
- Regions
FiRe Studio is the second app that I wish to tell you about. This is like FiRe 2, but with 8 tracks to record onto, and a robust multi-track mixer! Here is some information taken from the Audiofile Engineering website.
"FiRe Studio was created for audio professionals by audio professionals. It's powerful enough for the most experienced musicians and recording engineers, and its efficient workflow and intuitive interface makes it a breeze for business and casual use.

FiRe Studio is built exclusively for iPhone and iPod touch and is brought to you by the minds at Audiofile Engineering. Combining powerful, elegant and uncluttered audio utilities with unparalleled technical support, Audiofile Engineering is one of the most innovative and experienced audio software developers for OS X and the iOS. "

- Editable Markers and Regions

- Detailed Mixer (rotate to landscape view in a mix)

- Click track

- Unlimited number of mixes

- Configurable track colors

- File export via iTunes File Sharing & FTP

- SoundCloud

- Dropbox integration

These are two great apps, and I love them both. But how do I use the FiRe2 and the FiRe Studio? Well, this is just an example, but true none the less. I sing my five month old son to sleep most nights. This is fun for me, but I had an idea. What if I could sing to him, with a backing, multiple track? So, I opened up FiRe Studio and laid down six tracks of the "sleepy time song". Now, oftentimes, I will pull out my IPhone, open

FiRe Studio
, find the "Sleepy time song", and press play. I don't do this all the time, but it is something that makes my life a little more high tech-like! Thanks to Audiofile Engineering for making such cool apps for the recording nuts in us all!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Figure by Propellerhead

Let me tell you right now that Figure is not Reason or Record. So, what is Figure? The most fun you will have for a buck!

Since downloading Figure I have been pasted to my IPhone. My neck is getting sore from bobbing my head to the beats that I have been creating.

Figure looks like no other app out there. The colors are rather pastel, and the interface is simple. It just looks like the folks over at Propellerheads have used their design muscle once more. You have seen what is possible, with the Balance unit, why did we think that Figure would be any different?

Figure acts like no other app out there. The speed and simplicity is king. With just one finger you can get some rather dope beats, bass, and leads going, and then save them for later.

is not a DAW, nor a workstation, but simply a music making app meant to help us all pass some time, and look and act very good along the way.

Here is a snippet from the Propellerheads website ......

"When we set out to create Figure we knew an amazing sound was crucial to its function and simple enjoyment. Fortunately, we didn’t have to look far to find amazing sounds. Powered by Reason, our flagship desktop music production software, Figure puts our advanced Thor Polysonic Synthesizer and Kong Drum Designer in your pocket.

Playing bass, drums, and lead melodies on Figure all happens through the performance pads. These have been designed for touch control from the beginning. You can tap them like traditional keyboards or pad controllers or you can simply hold your finger down and let the rhythm wheels provide a pattern for you. You can easily tap into the sound-sculpting power of Thor’s filters, envelopes, and effects by adjusting each preset’s “Tweaks”.

Don’t know what a filter or envelope is? No problem! Just move your finger along the same performance pad and listen to the changes in sound."

Figure consists of many different drum kits, bass samples, and lead samples to write with. You choose the BPM, the instruments, and the key of your song too, and then get to playing! With one finger you can tweak all sorts of parameters, with options such as envolopes and delays.

There are diferent "screens" to play with, with titles like "Pattern, Tweaks, Song, Mix, and System". While on the "Pattern" screen, you can choose the samples, the tempo, the range of notes to be plyed, and the number of steps within the selected scale. Here is the breakdown of each "page", and what you can select on each of the pages......

The "Tweaks" page, allows for tweaking with effects like filters and delays and the like. You choose the instrument to alter, and then get that finger ready!

The "Song" page is where you select a musical key, and the tempo that you wish to work in.

The "Mix" page is just as you might think, a three channel mixer. You will also find a dial or slider marked "pump", and that is customizable too.

Lastly, the "System" page is where you can clear your new creation and find the online manual if needed.

is simple, elegant, and well designed. It is fun to play with, and the sounds are wonderful.

is powerful, and addictive too. With a price of only one dollar, what are you waiting for? Go and get this cool new app!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mobile Keys 49 from Line6

Line6 has been in the music product business for some time now, and has been making some big noise the entire time. With amp and effect modeling devices like the Pod series being their bread and butter, it is nice to see new products coming forth. Products like the new Stage Scape M20d, and their amp line have been very successful, and well received.

The Mobile Keys 25 and the Mobile Keys 49 are the newest offering from the very innovative Line6. Why do we need a mobile keyboard at all? Well, here is just one reason....

There have been many a night where I hurry to get home. I was trying to avoid loosing the song hook that I was playing over and over in my head. After one last stoplight, I sigh, as I know that it has been too long, as that idea is just about gone forever. If only I had a way of recording that hook right there, on the side of the road, on the bus, or where ever you find yourself.....

The Mobile Keys 25, and 49, were made for just one reason, and one reason only.

Mobile devices! The Mobile Keys 25 and Mobile Keys 49 work awesome with your IPad, IPod touch, and the IPhone! Your IOS device of choice actually powers the unit once you plug in the Mobile Keys, and then you are ready to start rocking! This is "plug and play" at its' simplest form! Included in the Mobile Keys package is a cable for plugging in your device to your IOS device, a "midi shortcut" sticker, and a manual. The sticker is more a keyboard shortcut type, and is to be applied to the Mobile Keys for making midi changes.

The Mobile Keys 49 is the unit that I am reviewing today.

First, let me start with the Mobile Keys 49 controller itself. This unit feels nice in my hands. There are two rubber coated "velocity wheels" to the far left of the unit, with one for altering pitch on the fly, and one for grooving out with modulation effects. There are only two knobs for us to twist, both coated with a nice "gripping" rubber. One of these two knobs is for volume level, and the other one is for left/right panning. There are three rubber coated buttons/pads on the unit too. The first one is labeled "shift", and this is for editing the midi commands. The other two buttons/pads are for changing the octaves up or down. I wont get into the midi editing features here, just know that you can change things like send and receive channels and other global data. Every button works well, and feels very nice in my fingers. A simple and elegant design. Well done Line6!

The touch sensitivity of the Mobile Keys 49 is very good. The 49 keys are full size, ahh um well, as far as this guitar player can tell anyway. When compared to my full size midi keyboard (which is for the home and not mobile at all), the key sizes look like a perfect match. However, only one will ever be able to leave the home!

The Mobile Keys 49!The Mobile Keys 49 units are perfect for writing while on the daily commute to and from work, perhaps while lounging on a couch, or while messing around with in bed. Where ever you might find yourself capturing ideas is where the Mobile Keys comes in handy! Writing hooks is what we all do. Getting them down when and where they happen is the name of the game for the Mobile Keys 49.

It is true that the Mobile Keys 25 unit is far more mobile than the Mobile Keys 49, but I am a "two hander" type of player by nature. I dislike writing and playing with one hand, and choosing octaves with the other. That very reason is why I like the larger of the two units. Although, you will need to select octaves, with either of the mobile keys devices, but the Mobile Keys 49 is "almost" twice as big. You probably knew that, so please ignore my poor attempt at humor.

Both the Mobile Keys 25 and the Mobile Keys 49 perform perfectly well, feel great, and "reek of portability". I decided to use the Mobile Keys 49 with the free "50in1 Piano app", and it was complete and total "plug and play". A perfect match. I was making music, sweet portable music, in seconds flat. This made me warm inside, as I knew that I might never forget another hook for as long as I may live.

Thanks for visiting the Home Recording Weekly blog, and please do yourself the favor and subscribe right now. This way these demos show up right in your email! Feel free to drop me any questions, comments, or concerns, via email or here on the blog. Remember to like me on FaceBook for a refreshing wave of cool news and the like. I am also on Google+, and I hope to see you there as well. Rock on, and get portable with Mobile Keys.