Creating a Sound Library

In this report I will critically analyse my production of a sound library for AUD114.3 and it will evaluate the project reflectively. For the creation of my sample library, I chose to produce drum samples from eight different sources on the same drum kit.

Research and Preparation

For research, I listened to other drum sample libraries that I own from the Toontrack – Superior Line. These drum sample packs were a great way to get an idea of the types of sounds that I needed to capture. I was able to find a similar sounding samples to my drum kit within those libraries. The Pro Tools session was set up to allow for all of the required mic inputs and processing equipment was selected.

How My Design Addressed the Brief

I used the correct submission format of 44.1kHz 24Bit and presented it in a single zipped folder. I sampled percussion instruments, namely, a Pearl Export Custom drum kit and included dry and processed samples. I utilized a range of outboard gear and plugins to process samples creatively, even to the point of experimentation with sample rate on a rim shot to get an “alien” sound.

Effectiveness of Process

My process could have easily been faster if I had worked with an assistant when setting up and adjusting gain. This is something to note for future if I am required to conduct a similar activity. The actual sample processing was quite fast as I have familiarity with my equipment and plugins and was able to achieve a desirable outcome.

Recording

I was able to capture multiple tracks using several microphones simultaneously, with both dynamic and condenser microphones. Setting up was almost identical to miking up for drum tracking, the position of the room mic was only 3m away from the kit.

I captured my own playing of the instrument and recorded it using Pro Tools Control app. The only problem I encountered with this was going between the console and the kit to set the correct gain levels. This was only a minor inconvenience but it would have been a lot more efficient with an actual drummer.

Each source and mics used are as follows:

1. KICK BETA52A, BETA91A

Room – NT2A

2. SNARE Top – SM57, Shure 16L
Bottom – MD421
Room – NT2A
3. RIM Top – SM57, Shure 16L
Bottom – MD421
Room – NT2A
4. HH OPEN SM57, Shure 16L
Room – NT2A
5. HH CLOSED SM57, Shure 16L
Room – NT2A
6. TOM1 SM57
Room – NT2A
7. TOM2 SM57
Room – NT2A
8. TOM FLOOR SM57
Room – NT2A

Microphone selection was based on their suitability for each task and the sound that I was trying to capture. I had some other small diaphragm microphones but I wanted to experiment with my electret Shure Prologue 16L. It was a gift that I had in a drawer, unused for many years and this assignment provided a good opportunity to try it out.  From the start it impressed me with the sound it captured on the snare and the high hats, giving a nice crisp boost at 6k without sounding too brittle and gentle low roll off from 4k. To my ears, this mic sounds great and I am definitely adding it to my recording arsenal.

The tried and true SM57 was used on everything but the kick. I have found the 57 to be pretty foolproof and was a no-brainer to use as a dynamic mic.On the kick, I used a BETA 91A condenser and BETA 52A dynamic because they are designed to handle high SPL and are optimized for low frequency applications.

Processing

I used a range of outboard equipment and plugins to process my samples. When creating my own samples, I did reference other similar samples but largely just for inspiration. The rim shot “alien” sample was created by manipulation of the sample rate with a rendered 1/16th delay.

How Will I Improve My Practise

I should work with another person to conduct this type of activity in the future as I believe that it would make the process significantly faster. Upgrading and collecting more audio processing equipment including microphones will improve the quality of the recordings that I am able to provide. Finally, I would record the samples at a higher sample rate (96kHz) if I was going to use a similar sample library on a recording.

Summary

Creating this sample library has been a valuable learning experience. I have developed my skills in capturing and processing audio. Also, I discovered that some electret mics are quite good at recording snare drums and I experimented with sample rate to get new sounds. As time goes on, my collection of microphones and gear will improve and also the quality of recordings that I am able to provide.

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Critical Reflection of Producing the Stapylton Street EP

Introduction

This report will critically reflect on the project undertaken by Group 3.1 in partial fulfilment of Bachelor of Audio. The project was a three track EP produced at SAE recording studios for the folk-rock band Stapylton Street.

Background

The Group

The members of our project group 3.1 were allocated by Rose Parker and we were required to conduct a project pitch before commencement of the project. We had a group meeting and I created a Slack group and allocated tasks for each team member, dividing the project pitch equally. We each signed a group work contract that outlined the responsibilities of each team member for the duration of the project.

The Artist

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Stapylton Street Facebook profile image

The artist was the band Stapylton Street that I found on Facebook after running a competition for a free recording session. I rang the singer, Ged and asked him if he and his band were interested in recording a 3 track EP. They were very excited to do it so group 3.1 and myself commenced our project pitch.

The Project Pitch

Each member of the production team was directed to complete and submit their allocated portion of work to a google-slides presentation. The project pitch was delivered and we were given an amber light to commence the project. Once we expanded on our target demographic, our artistic merit, market competitors, project management approach and what was out of scope for the project, we were given a green light to commence.

The Production

Liaising with the band, and the other members of the production team, our production spanned 6 weeks with a 9 hour recording session each week. This was done to ensure flexibility for the band and to accommodate all members of the production team.

The production commenced by recording the guide tracks for each of the three songs to a metronome for constancy of tempo and ease of post-editing. Once the guide tracks were completed, overdubs were conducted for each of the instruments and with the vocals as the last part recorded.

The Deliverables

The deliverables to the band consisted of three interleaved stereo WAV files at 44.1k 24 Bit.

The deliverables for AUD115.3 were three Pro Tools Session folders that were file compressed, contained a reference track within the session and a interleaved stereo WAV files at 44.1k 24 Bit in the bounce folder within each session.

These deliverables were presented on the due date Friday 18 Aug 17.

Transferrable Skills – Maintain/Sustain

Time Management

Critical Reflection of Project:
Our project was far more complex and ambitious in scope than any of the other groups in AUD115 and as such demanded exceptional time management. I spoke with the other members of my group about what we should do for the project and I suggested that we conduct a 3 track EP with overdubs over a period of six weeks. They agreed and Peter jokingly nicknamed our group the HD team.

Critical Reflection of Process:
To manage this time effectively I needed to ensure that studio bookings were done well in advance to secure favorable times. I also needed to maintain a high level of communication between the band and my fellow group members to ensure their availability. To ensure that the project was moving ahead correctly, I used a calendar timeline that detailed what we needed to do with minor deadlines to achieve each task.

The band was fantastic in making sure that they were reliable and this made the process very smooth. There was only one occasion that we had to reschedule a studio booking due to illness and I was able to maintain the original timeline by securing an additional booking later in the week. If a significant disruption occurred to the project, I had a fall-back plan of using the guide tracks (and whatever additional tracks we had already recorded) as the deliverable whilst still achieving the objective of the learning outcome.

Critical Reflection of Person:
As I have a great deal of experience leading team projects in a variety of situations, so for me it was a very straight-forward process. In the future projects that I undertake as a student, I would like to see other classmates take the initiative and step up to a leadership position.

This project was complex because I wanted to put myself under pressure to see how I would perform in that environment as a Production Leader. I was able to deliver the product on time and under budget.

With all these considerations and the fact that I am a single father, I assess my time management to be very good.

Problem Solving Skills

Critical Reflection of Product:

There were a couple of problems that surfaced during the production. During our drum tracking, one of our group members displayed some unprofessional behaviour by falling asleep on the console and other disruptive activities. This occurred in front of the band and they were visibly displeased. As the project leader, I decided to talk to this member about their behaviour in private after the conclusion of the session. We continued the drum tracking and we concluded the session. I messaged the team member that fell asleep in a private message on the slack app, ensuring that my tone and brevity was professional and the team member responded with hostility. I terminated communications with them and requested a mediation session conducted with a SAE staff member present. This team member failed to attend the mediation session and continued to cause issues by messaging the other team members and defaming me. The other team members told me about this occurrence.

Another problem that occurred was the KICK IN drum mic positioning was not ideal and sounded like a basketball being bounced.

There were a few pitching issues with some of the vocal takes that only required minor modification. The melodica was extremely prominent and hard to make sit in the mix. My laptop ceased functioning and my home internet is experiencing some significant disruptions and made it impossible to submit my mix to the google drive folder required for the assessment.

Critical Reflection of Process:

To deal with the errant team member, I submitted an official complaint through the SAE complaints process and left it for the SAE staff to deal with. I used a transient shaper to get the exact kick sound that I wanted. Melodyne was able to tame some of the problem areas of some of the vocal tracks. Heavy EQing with some compression on the melodica track was enough to get it to sit in the mix. My laptop is out of action for warranty and my internet is going to be a problem until my provider repairs it so I physically went to SAE and used their computers to submit my mix.

Critical Reflection of Person:

The interpersonal conflict was something that could not have been predicted but I do believe that I handled it in a professional manner. I may have even been too cautious to actually tell that team member to get out of the studio as soon as they fell asleep, rather than waiting. It is hard to tell how that would have turned out but I think that under the circumstances, I was ensuring that I wasn’t overreacting to the situation and gave a respectful and measured response. The team member was removed from the group by SAE staff.

The KICK IN mic was really bothering me. I considered turning the kick impulse from that track into a MIDI trigger for drum replacement. Before being that drastic, I tried to salvage the actual recording and was able to get a satisfactory result out of a transient shaper. This was really valuable to me because it forced me to look at getting the best result out of what I had. I learned about drum replacement and I learned how to use a transient shaper.

The bass player can hit some nice falsetto notes with his voice but is quite pitchy and I used melodyne just to tighten up his vocal track so that it didn’t detract from the rest of the mix. More hands on with fixing vocals is always valuable.

The melodica sounded like the instrument from hell. It was extremely dynamic and piercingly shrill when playing single notes. Some brutally applied EQ and compression tamed this demon instrument. The challenge I faced trying to get this to feel as a natural part of the song was quite significant. It is more of a toy than a musical instrument but It think I was able to blend it nicely, making it not too prominent but to sit in the mix well. I learned a lot from this instrument.

My laptop had a meltdown and made things significantly harder. There is nothing that can be done about equipment failure other than having a backup plan and my backup plan was to come on to SAE campus and upload it using the computers there. I ended up having to do just that.

I assess that my skill in this area is good with some valuable lessons learned and new skills gained.

Transferrable Skills –
Room for Improvement

Positive Attitude

Critical Reflection of Product:

I experienced an interpersonal conflict within the group during the tracking of the drums. Although on the exterior I was calm and professional, I experienced significant stress and anxiety and required the assistance of a medical professional. I am a war veteran that suffers from PTSD.

The project continued and I maintained adherence to the planned timeline.

Critical Reflection of Process:

It was important to stick to the plan in order to achieve the deadlines. I attended every session to ensure the project continued as planned and that we were getting the most out of each session. There were quite a few times during tracking that various members of the band were struggling with getting a take done.

Critical Reflection of Person:

Despite having a significant setback with my recovery, outwardly I was positive and encouraging. Other than some unavoidable absences due to work commitments, my team was very supportive and fantastic to work with and they had very positive attitudes.

I assess that my inclusive style of leadership is well suited to this type of activity as I am able to draw from the strengths of my team and ensure the vision of the project is realised. There were times that I should have made a more concerted effort to maintain a positive attitude rather than maintaining the appearance of one. This is one area where I feel that I require improvement.

Acting as a Team Player

Critical Reflection of Product

The production team kind of allowed me carte blanche reign to lead the project as I saw fit. This was in large part due to the inexperience of the rest of the team in relation to running projects and my willingness to step up. The project would have benefitted from more inclusion of the rest of the team’s ideas in how to perform some sessions. Most sessions were conducted with only myself one other group member present and I believe that this negatively impacted the product. For instance, during the bass tracking phase, there was limited time and only two of us present we had to set up and get to tracking very quickly.

We ended up with too much compression on the bass track “Not Without You” and the recording ended up being poor. Similarly, during the drum tracking, we did not have enough time to ensure the KICK IN mic sounded good before committing it to disk.

Critical Reflection of Process

The team members were unable to attend a lot of the sessions and I fully believe that is because of their commitments off campus and the sheer scope of the project. The project was very time intensive and could have been simplified in order to accommodate the rest of the team.

Critical Reflection of Person

I am driven to succeed in this industry. This is why, when given the leadership position, I saw and seized the opportunity to develop my portfolio. I see now that this is selfish and the other team members would have benefitted by being more involved in the entire process rather than sporadically as their work commitments permitted.

I assess that I have room for improvement in acting as a team player rather than a soldier with a “FOLLOW ME MEN!” attitude. I learned from this activity that future group projects at SAE I am involved in, I will take a more passive and supporting role.

Summary

During this project, I encountered many unexpected problems and had to adapt quickly. The activity reinforced the importance of having a robust plan and timeline to ensure the success of the project. I learned many valuable skills such as transient shaping, taming unruly instruments, and simply working with what I have. I was able to rely on my team to conduct their allocated tasks to a high standard. I was also made acutely aware that not everyone is as motivated towards project success in a training establishment. As a mature student, I was able to draw on the many tools that I have learned throughout my life and employ them in this project as well as learning some valuable new skills along the way. I chose to critically analyse three transferable skills from both

Conclusion

Group 3.1 had a shaky start with one individual, however, the professionalism of the rest of the production team allowed the project to continue unhindered. There were many lessons gained from this activity that will be built upon for future endeavours. I believe the project was a resounding success, with deadlines met and well under budget. My military background has well prepared me for leading projects and adapting and resolving complex problems, however, I believe that it would be more beneficial for other students to lead future projects.