When Opportunity Knocks…

Twelve months ago, I could not have imagined starting a blog, and if it wasn’t required for my degree, I may have never started. I have continued blogging above and beyond my academic requirements, even though there has been no necessity to do so. I enjoy it immensely. The direction I will now take this blog is to document my industry progress and business ventures undertaken.

I have wanted to keep blogging at least weekly, however, the past couple of months have been extremely busy and that I find the subject hard to not talk about. I have found that I have even “gone to ground” on social media, with all of my accounts going quiet for some time. I have some exciting news but I am constrained in what I can reveal just yet.

 

Image result for new business opportunity
This is my exit!

 

New Business Opportunity

During the second and third trimester break of my Audio Engineering degree, I was looking to invest some capital into a property. There were plenty of opportunities to do so and I inspected several houses but they all seemed to lack the ability to support a home studio with separate recording rooms. Building from scratch was the next option I explored and was disappointed with the lack of communication from builders agents and dodgy builders that I encountered. My studio is well set up where I am and to pull it down and rebuild it would be expensive and time-consuming.

I explored the option of having an active role in my investment, ensuring that the responsibility for the growth of my capital was mine. It allows more direct control over what happens to my money. This directed me towards buying an existing business that was staffed and I could manage by distance.

Searching business sales, I came upon an exciting listing by Finn Business Sales.

 

Image result for what am i doing
Well, maybe a little bit of an idea.

 

Business Noob

I rang Finn Business Sales and spoke to Andrew Morris. Andrew told me all about the ins and outs of the business and I submitted an expression of interest. The financials were good and the business is a good earner, with the ideal composition that I was seeking. The current owner lives two hours away and runs the online component, managing the business mostly from home.

Having no experience in this particular industry, but coming from a strong management background in the Army, it was only a matter of familiarising myself with my obligations fiscally and legally. I love a challenge.

I developed my business plan and got an accountant to look over the business financials to compile a two-year forecast based on historical profit/loss statements. I had my solicitor look over the contract and after a few amendments, the terms of the contract were negotiated. Shortly after getting confirmation from my accountant that the business was viable and likely to succeed, and that the seller was happy with the terms of the agreement, I signed the contract.

Starting a project of this magnitude meant that I would not be able to dedicate enough attention to studies and I deferred the third trimester to recommence the course in February.

Because I did not have the required capital to purchase the business outright, I sought out a business loan through a brokerage firm, and part vendor finance. The contract was subject to finance and after several weeks of waiting, the finance broker was unable to provide a financial institution that would provide me a business loan.

“You don’t need more money, you need a better strategy!”

With the failure of the business finance, I reassessed my situation. I rang Andrew Morris and told him that I had no finance and would require full vendor finance. After all, the seller wants to sell and I want to buy.

The new vendor finance terms have been negotiated and both the seller and I are happy with the agreement. It allows me to get into the business and get to work whilst providing assurance to the seller that his investment in me is secure.

 

Image result for shhh suit
Zip it!

 

Gagged

I have been so excited about this project and owning this business and I have been dying to announce it everywhere. Due to a clause in the contract, I am unable to tell people which business it is that I am buying. This is fair enough because the staff is unaware that it is even on the market and I would like the transition for them to be smooth. I intend on keeping them and I won’t be reinventing the business, at least not at first.

Writing my business plan and marketing strategy really engaged my mind. It harkened back to my military past and I was able to apply the tactics and strategies learned and focus them towards my business goals.

The brainstorming of ideas came quickly and easily, giving clear direction in the development of the plan. I sought out a business mentor, who also happens to be a former Army Captain and my former supervisor. My mentor and friend Damien Paterson has been a godsend, having been there done that on many ventures and is now the CEO of his own property investment company.  He is a font of good advice.

 

Image result for a team
Having a good team is important!

Poised for success

 

With the lethal combination of a good financial and legal team and excellent advice from my mentor, I have positioned myself for success. I can’t wait for the next blog I write because that is when I will finally able to reveal what the business is!

 

Recording Console Upgrade

In this post I will explain my reasons for upgrading my console and reflect on why I ended up with the one I have now and the people I met along the way.

https://tradingpost.sweetwater.com/upload/70996000947108854.jpg
Panasonic RAMSA WR-DA7 Digital Mixing Console

The original console in my studio was a 16 channel Panasonic RAMSA WR-DA7 digital console. It was connected to my PC via a M-Audio Profire 2626. This was my first console and I learned a great deal about signal flow and mixing by trial and error. The DA7 is built like a tank but the 16 channels was very limiting to my workflow. I like to pull a whole session down onto a desk, mirroring the Pro Tools session. The channel count was too small for my needs so it was time for an upgrade.

Deciding on a Replacement Console

There was several features that I needed in a new console. These features include: all analog, large format, minimum of 24 channels, quality preamps, mix bussing, and a quality EQ section.

There were a several options that I looked at when choosing a new console. One limiting factor was that I had a budget of 60k and this included outboard gear.

The first console I looked at was the SSL AWS 924. There are a few selling secondhand for 50k plus so that would pretty much wipe out my budget for anything else. The AWS is a fantastic console with all the features of a pure analog SSL console, it could definitely be an option for the future.

trident-banners-78-1350x495
Trident Series 78 Console

The next console I looked at was a Trident Series 78 selling for around 13k. The Trident suited my needs but they were very hard to find in Australia and I would have to order one. I tried a few sources and was informed about an alternative.

Image result for toft atb  32
Toft ATB 32 Analog Recording Console

I was told by Mixmasters about a second-hand Toft ATB 32 that was for sale within a 30 minute drive. It was the former main console of Airlock Studios, owned by Ian Haug from Powderfinger. I did some research on the Toft and found that it suited my needs exactly. I was picking up some 500 series preamps from JLM Audio and got to speaking with Joe Malone. Joe very helpful and very knowledgeable and informed me that the console was in good condition, as he had recently serviced it. He also told me that he had conducted a full opamp upgrade, doubled the bus driver opamp and upgraded the group and master sections with capacitor filters. This seemed like the right console for me so I made contact with Ian via Facebook.

Ian Haug and Airlock Studios

https://i1.wp.com/airlockstudios.com/images/thepictures2/airlock12.jpg
The Toft Console in Airlock Studios

After contacting Ian on Facebook, he called my phone and we talked about the board. I asked him what price he was looking to get and he said he hope to get as close to 10k as he could. We arranged a meeting for later that day at Airlock Studios.

Meeting Ian was great. He was welcoming and approachable (although I was very nervous being a big fan of his) and he showed me around his studio. Airlock is a well thought out and practical working recording studio in every sense. The spacious live room sounds great and I have heard some fantastic drum recordings that were tracked and mixed at Airlock.

We shifted our attention to the Toft and I told Ian that I would give him his asking price of 10k if he let me intern at Airlock. He laughed but agreed and helped me load the console into my vehicle. I look forward to working with Ian in the near future.

Installation

20170910_140614
A bit messy but it’s getting there

Because I was effectively doubling my channel count, and I intended to incorporate a patchbay within the studio signal path, I needed to get a lot more cables. During the installation, I suffered a fractured hand (not while installing) and as of writing this post, I still have 10 days left with the cast.

The hand fracture was a setback because I couldn’t finish connecting the console and patchbay. I remembered Ian suggesting that Warren Huck from Hux Electronics was a guy I should talk to if I needed any help with studio wiring. I called Warren and arranged an appointment. Warren inspected the studio and came up with a plan. He impressed me as a very professional guy with a wealth of experience and a great sense of humour. Warren will be connecting the remainder of the studio connections and optimizing the patchbay layout.

Testing the Toft

IMG_20170910_210055_881
Travis laying down some drum tracks

With Travis Coss, the Drummer from my band Pig Mouth, we conducted a drum tracking session and the console performed very well. I particularly liked the EQ section and how well it shaped the sound for the drums. Having worked on Audient, Neve and Avid S6 consoles, the Toft is an outstanding console for an outstanding price.

Conclusion

Replacing the DA7 with the Toft was a huge upgrade for my studio and I look forward to many hours of recording and mixing on it. The people I met during this activity are well established in the local audio industry and great contacts for the future, I look forward to future dealings with all of them.

 

 

 

 

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.

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

14713632_1593461477622516_6456313440932765317_n
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.

How I Use Data in Audio Engineering

Data collection is an important tool for business owners and people that want to use that data to analyse trends and develop strategies. With the data collected, decisions and improvements can be made in order to achieve desirable outcomes. The accuracy of the data collection is essential. In today’s blog, I will discuss how I use data as an Audio Engineer.

What data do I collect and how do I use it?
I use a range of data collected from various sources. The data assists me in many ways to improve my website, blogging and social media presence. The following paragraphs detail specifics of the data source and how I use that information.

seo-rankings

Keyword Checker – I use a keyword checker to see how well my website is ranking. This is particularly important when I am making adjustments to the SEO of my website to improve its visibility. A less visible page will rank lower in search engines and if your site isn’t on the first page of results, 91% of people won’t even see it. A lower SEO rank equals fewer clicks resulting in less business, therefore, less income.

GAPExoL
WordPress statistics of my blog

WordPress Stats – With this data, I am able to view a range of user statistics including, how many views, how many unique visitors, the country of origin, the page referrer, and the popularity of each blog post. I used this information when selecting appropriate keywords for posts to appeal to my target audience.

Soundcloud data – Likes, follows, plays and comments are all forms of data that can be used to see the popularity of particular songs.

 

facebook-insights-people-tab.png
An example of Facebook’s analytics displaying demographic information

 

Facebook Analytics – Facebook shows very detailed graphs showing various data about the page including view, likes, reach, engagements, video views and page followers. Further tables include specific information about the 5 most recent posts showing the levels of reach and engagement. From this data, I am able to see which posts were the most successful and use this information to tailor future posts.

In this blog, I have discussed the various sources of data that I use and how I use it to my benefit. The insight that I gain from this data is a valuable tool that will aid in the success of my website and social media accounts.

I endeavour to continue using this data to continually improve user engagement on social media. This will result in a more engaging user experience for my target audience and will in more clients for my studio, aiding to the success of my business enterprise.

Personal Experiences With Copyright

Creating something is a rewarding and sometimes challenging process. From my own experience, the music I create comes from very deep within me. I draw upon my past experiences, musical influences and combine that to tell story or evoke an emotion. For someone to use something that I uniquely created in a way that copies or plagiarizes my work (without permission) it would really piss me off. Since commencing my audio degree, I have gained a deeper appreciation for copyright laws and how they protect intellectual property and creators.

apra_amcos_logo_H_0516.f902e4e5ffcffb0dfac14894b2536e4b.jpg
APRA logo

The IRSC

I recently attended an information session about copyright that was presented by APRA AMCOS. The session was very informative and if I am to be an audio engineer and studio owner/manager, then I needed to apply for an International Standard Recording Code (IRSC). The processes were simple, just send an email to the Australian Recording Industry Association and they sent back information on how to apply for the IRSC as a third party. I followed the next step and now Hired Gun Recording Studio is able to allocate IRSC for rights holders. This code identifies songs to APRA AMCOS so that they are able to collect royalties for the rights holders on their behalf.

15259399_1235268359881383_5009664723419095157_o.jpg

hgrs.com.au trademarked logo

Copyright

My logo was created by Freesoul Design Studio, a graphic designer that I have worked with numerous times before. He delivered my logo designs and I sought to have them trademarked to prevent anyone else stealing the logo. Trademarking was done by registering it through the Australian Government IP site using the online application. Shortly after applying for my trademark, I received notification that my application was registered. Within a week, received two letters from two separate companies claiming to be part of a World Trademark organization and they said that they would register my trademark internationally for a large sum of money. I was so very obviously a scam and I just ignored the letters. It makes you wonder how many people simply pay it without even checking.

 

The Begining of a Musical Adventure

Throughout my son Felix’s life, he has been surrounded by music.  Even as a baby only a few months old, his enjoyment of music was evident when I thought he was sleeping in my arms. I quietly turned off the music and he began to cry, so I turned it back on and he stopped! As a toddler, he preferred noisy and musical toys and his favorite was a bright yellow and offensive sounding plastic guitar. From two years old, he used to hang around the control room of my old studio, watching my band rehearse. I asked him what instrument he would like to play and he said drums, so for his third Birthday, I gave him a junior size drum kit purchased from Arties Music in Aspley.

18768346_10212831437649623_5032751619366835988_o
Felix Watson – 3rd Birthday present

His First Drum Kit
For the first few months, he would give that little kit an absolute flogging, with me trying to play the guitar to accompany his erratic blast beats. It was endearing to watch and I never pushed him, only ever gentle encouragement and heaped on the praise when he did play. These sessions never had any structure, I just let him do what he wanted hitting the drums. I did this because I wanted him to enjoy music the same way I do, something that should be fun and a positive experience. His interest in the small drumkit waned in favor of the Pearl Export 6 piece kit. He couldn’t even reach the kick pedal from the drum stool but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. He would patiently wait in the studio for the opportunity to jump onto the Pearl kit when my band was on a rehearsal break.

Hiatus
I had to move out of the house after leaving the Army at the end of 2016, and the studio was out of action for a couple of months. Over this period, Felix seemed to have lost some interest in drumming but not his interest in listening to music.

During car rides, he would demand, “Put some music on Daddy”, showing a preference for Hard Rock. His favorite song is my band’s Simple Child – Pig Mouth, written by Sam Menzies. Almost every time I play music in the car, he requests that song. It isn’t exactly family-friendly due to the strong language in the lyrics but he absolutely loves it, reciting the lyrics in front of my bemused bandmates, swear words and all. He is highly intelligent and knows that swearing is only appropriate when singing at home (never at school), and will correct me every time I curse by saying, “Don’t use those bad words, Daddy!”

Development 
Over the past year, he is drawn to the studio when I am editing or tracking songs, doing nothing more than simply playing quietly with his toys on the control room floor. Almost two weeks ago he celebrated his 5th Birthday. The day after his party, I was driving him to school with some heavy metal playing and he said to me, “Daddy I want to play guitar.” If he is showing a desire to play the guitar, then he is old enough to start learning.

Replay_Guitar-3_5c585ae0-0463-4ace-91b4-d0f623c39c20_1280x1280
Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JSX1

Choosing A Guitar
That evening, we searched for a small scale guitar with a fast neck that would be easy to learn on and fun to play. I am an avid Ibanez fan, having many high-end electric Ibanez guitars, so I tried to find a local Ibanez dealer that sold the GRG Mikro. Arties Music is my nearest authorized Ibanez retailer, so I contacted them. They told me that they couldn’t get it but they might have another option. That other option was the Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JSX1. On paper. it seemed to be a fair substitute. Rosewood fingerboard, satin-finish neck, nice and playable. So I paid for it and waited for them to get one in for me.

Picking It Up
Felix was excited to be going to a music shop and didn’t know why we were there, but as you will see in the video, he worked it out pretty quickly. He loved it from the outset and he even picked out a guitar strap with a flame on it, a rock star in the making! I had a quick look in the shop and the build quality looked good. Solid scarf joint neck and good sustain. The strings were very thin gauge and a bit old so I swapped them out for 10-52 Elixirs when I got home. After restringing it and giving it a tune, I plugged it into my Kemper to see what the guitar sounded like. The neck pickup sounded good but the bridge pickup sounded very dull. If he keeps playing, I’ll put a set of Bareknuckle humbuckers in there!

20170618_173002
Felix with his first guitar

First Play 
He seemed much more engaged with the guitar than just treating it like a toy. He even seemed to relish in the fact that he now had his own guitar. After I put the new strings on and gave it a quick setup, I plugged it into my Kemper and handed it over to him for his first shred. It was just noisy strumming but he loved it. I then let him loose on the Mesa Dual Rectifier. He played non-stop for about 20 minutes then went back out to his other toys. Even 5 minutes is an eternity to the attention span of a 5-year-old!

yousician-1
Yousician Interface

Yousician and His First Guitar Lesson
I waited until the next day before I would give him his structured first lesson. There is an app called Yousician that I have used with other young guitar students to great effect. The software has an image of a fretboard, similar to how tablature is laid out. The notes are indicated by a bouncing ball that lands on a number that corresponds to which fret you need to play. The interface is extremely user-friendly and Felix tore through the first 3 lessons and still wanted more.

I was super impressed with his attentiveness and his emerging technique, absolutely stunning for a first timer. So that he didn’t tire of playing prematurely, I ended the lesson after 30 minutes even though he was eager to continue.

Future Rock Star
He is excited by playing the guitar and I really enjoy making him happy. I will never push him to play the guitar, it will remain a fun activity and a fantastic way for us to bond over music.

Maybe years from now, he will be fondly looking back over this post as a successful musician. Who knows where his musical adventure will take him. Maybe a Jackson endorsement? As long as the journey is fun, that is all that matters.

 

My Job Interview Experience and What I Learned From Terrible Bosses

The Interview
In October 1997, I was sitting across from a Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) that was conducting my entry interview to join the Australian Army. I was 20 years old at the time. I remember feeling excited but confident during the interview and the WO2 gave no indication of his impression of me during the interview. I was one of about 50 applicants being interviewed that day and saw a variety of dress from jeans and t-shirts to poorly fitting suits with ugly ties (I wore slacks and a collared shirt). I remember how nervous everyone was and how that bolstered my own confidence.

After the initial interview, an Officer came into the waiting area and called out about half the names and instructed those called to come with him into another area. At this point, I wondered if I was wrong about how successful my interview was. Around fifteen minutes later, the Officer came back into the waiting room and told us that our interviews were successful and we would undergo further psychological and aptitude testing. This meant the others that were lead out were told, “Thanks for coming.”

Reflecting back on the significance of that interview, it was the start of a career in the Australian Army spanning 19 years.

22821_10206369015613111_2064360759038857218_n
Me in Iraq in 2006

I realise that interview techniques and processes will have changed since then and individual experiences will vary, but the core of job interviews will be largely the same. An employer requires someone to do a job and it is very important to screen them to assess their suitability for the position.

 

Important Life Lessons
One lesson that my military career taught me is that working for a tyrant or an incompetent boss is very stressful. It doesn’t matter how hard you work for these character types because your hard work will never be appreciated, or worse still, they will take the credit for it. It is for this very reason that I have decided that I prefer to work in a freelance capacity or to work in an equal partnership of any venture that I undertake in the future.

1936118_186404412624_6400960_n
The 17’s – I’m in front, second from left.

Secondly, I learned that I work very well with others in large or small teams or even by myself, to achieve complex tasks under extreme pressure. I know this is true because I have been truly pushed to my very limits, as most war veterans can attest.

Another lesson that I learned from that interview is that your presentation and self-confidence are as important as the qualifications that you hold. A prospective employer needs assurance that you are the one above all others that they need for the job, and it is up to you to convince them. It seems like common sense but there are a lot of people that just don’t get it.

Everyone I have met in the audio engineering field has a shared passion for what we do. It makes everyone very happy, myself included, to be doing what we love and it’s a completely different environment to the military. So much more fulfilling.

What the Future Holds
I anticipate that a job interview scenario in my immediate future will be when I apply for an intern position for a recording studio, possibly via Skype. There plenty of audio engineers that I admire and most of them are in the USA, so it is likely that I will have to live there for the duration of the internship (or longer). The prospect is extremely exciting and the learning experience to be gained from it is extremely valuable.

 

Sphere-Studios-Los-Angeles-Studio-A-Neve-8078.jpg
Studio A – Sphere Studios – Neve 8048 Console

 

For now, I will limit myself to contacting Sphere Studios LA and Fensesco Camelli. I admire his work on a variety of projects, and Sphere Studios is one of the most respected recording studios in the world. It would be a dream come true that Francesco Camelli and Sphere Studios LA are willing to give me the opportunity to work for them as an intern. I think that the most likely way to get a response will be to contact the studio manager, Megan Milius. I posted a message on Sphere’s Facebook wall, now hopefully if I make enough noise, I will get noticed.

 

The Significance of Social Media in Audio Engineering

As a creative professional, having an active and engaging social media presence is extremely important. It is an outward facing image of you and your brand and is an avenue for fans or future clients to engage with the content you create. If someone wants to find out about a person, they usually turn to google and social media, so having a solid social media game can give you the edge. Luckily, as an audio engineer it matters less with how I look but more important with how I sound and the audio products I create.

 

a.png
Social Media Strategy

 

Social Media Strategy

Generally, I don’t really have a social media strategy. The way I use it is more as a public journal and sharing things that are relevant to my industry. For instance, I recently started recording with my friends Stayplton Street again, so I posted about it. It is a way of engaging with them and getting their band name out there as mutual promotion that costs me only a few minutes to post. With my posts, I try to just be myself. It feels more natural to post like that and people can relate more to the content I create. When I am looking at other professional’s social media, it is nicer to read when it comes from the heart.

 

a.png
Instagram vs Snapchat

 

Don’t Waste Time

If I find that I spend any longer on social media than 30 minutes a day, I stay off for a bit. It really is subjective but I find that my posts aren’t bombarding people and the quality of interaction with my audience increases. Quality > Quantity. Not all social media platforms are created equal and trying to manage my time effectively reduces the amount of accounts that I use. I limit myself to facebook, soundcloud, instagram, linkedin and twitter and I don’t use twitter that much because it is a shitty platform. It is confusing for new users and it really doesn’t have that much long term appeal IMO.

a.png
The Governator approves of this post

 

What I Like About Social Media

Soundcloud is fantastic for sharing my portfolio of audio that I have worked on and it is easy to embed on my website. Facebook has a great way of telling a story and incorporating a range of different media assets. Lastly, Instagram is a quick way to tell a story with pictures, very simply and efficiently.

I anticipate that social media will be a part of my life for a long time to come and an important aspect of any creative professional’s online image.

facebook.com/hiredgunstudio

instagram.com/hiredgunstudio

twitter.com/hiredgunstudio

https://soundcloud.com/hired-gun-studio