Backyard Bacon Rain Ambience

I’ve always tried to keep my ears open as wide as possible and to record something at the drop of a hat when I witness a spectacular sound or just have a melody trying to pry it’s way out of my head. Sometimes these ideas come at the darnedest times. Making a BLT Sandwich is usually a pretty greasy situation. Last month I was frying up some bacon for the family in hopes of making the ultimate BLT when I was suddenly hearing a rainy day. I had a notion that if I recorded the sound of my sweet bacon sizzling and slowed or pitched it down that it would sound just like rain. I had to do it. My first recording was made with an AKG c4000b. I used a lesser quality mic, a Shure BG 1.1, for the second. I assure you that both mics got as close to the action as possible without becoming caked with grease. The outcome was not as my ears were hearing it. I dropped each wav file into Ableton Live and panned them about 33L and 33R. I added just a touch of reverb to blend the two. Sounded like rain to me! To top it off I made a field recording in my backyard that included mostly birds chirping and added it to the mix. This made it a bit more convincing.

So, the BLT’s were the bomb and the recording turned out to be worthy of using. By the way, I only use Berkshire Bacon!

Bacon Rain

Video Game Music Remixes

One of the projects that I assign in my audio production class is an exercise on how to import MIDI files into Reason and assign specific instruments to each track. I usually demonstrate this with a random classical MIDI file from classicalarchives.com and end up with a Tomita-esque rendition of Mussorgsky.

The Lost WoodsHowever, I do not limit the assignment to classical works. Sometimes, students make clever remixes of popular music, and frequently they choose music from classic video games like this remix of the Lost Woods theme from the Legend of Zelda – The Ocarina of Time by Brandon Sullivan. Brandon creatively chose some unique patches for this piece and then added a drum-n-bass beat to the end of the sequence that elevates the energy and takes the Lost Woods on a wayward yet intriguing new path.

Later I’ll add some more examples to this post. Also, if you have any interesting examples of video game music remixes and would like to share, please post a link in a comment below.

Lost Woods

From Your Kitchen to ABC

I have to admit it, I like comfort. I’ve always loved working on a track while sipping some good Port, enjoying all the nuances of a perpetual loop. Unfortunately, this is not a luxury that a composer/producer can always enjoy. This one time I was desperately trying to deliver a track on time for a submission, yet-another ‘maybe it will go through’ situation. I had to catch a flight to LA a few hours later and was really looking forward to this trip, since I had never been to California! I really almost refused to work on this submission this time, I still had to pack and get ready for some gigs I had there with Kirsten Price. But it happens often: you get the call, they need a track, but NOW! You end up working impossible hours to make the deadline and…’Sorry, they loved it but it didn’t make the cut’.

I really had no time to run back to the studio to work on this track, so sitting in my girlfriend’s kitchen, I decided to give it a shot using all I had there: MacBook, MOTU Ultralite audio interface, Korg K USB controller and a pair of cheap ear-buds. Talk about basic! For the sounds, I used a couple of Virtual Instruments: Spectrasonics Trilogy, Stylus RMX and the Korg synth bundle that came with the K controller. In the end the track was done, mixed and uploaded via FTP to the production company within an hour total, all the time I had. I made it to the airport in time.

One whole year later, to our surprise, this one made the movie, that turned out to be ‘A Raisin In The Sun‘, a pretty major TV event that aired on ABC. The lesson I’ve learned: never get too comfortable, always be ready to deliver in a professional manner -even when working from your kitchen- and your music will take care of the rest.

Kick Drum Hacking

Kick DrumOf course, in the ideal world, we get to spend a lot of time when mic-ing up the drums and try various tunings, microphones, rooms and signal chain so that the kick drum goes to “tape” with as little processing as possible and sounds great.

Then there is the real world. In the real world, the tuning of the drum is so-so, you have one or maybe two mics to choose from, time is running out and it’s time to hit the record button. So you’ll “fix it in the mix”.

In general, the kick drums needs a shit ton of lower mids pulled out — I usually center around 400Hz and I pull out as little as 5db or as much as 20db or even more! Then you need to put some low end back in, generally around 150Hz. But that pulls the sub-lows up too much so you have to roll off stuff below 50 Hz or so. Then, to add a little click and a little air, you want to jack up 2kHz and perhaps boost up a shelf at like 5kHz and above to bring in a little air.

You also have to make sure you’re not getting a lot of that 400Hz coming through the other mics. It tends to make the kick sound boxy. I usually attenuate 400Hz on the toms and the snare, too, for that reason.

I personally like to put the kick “above” the bass. So the kick will take the frequency space at 150Hz or so and the bass will center more down by 100Hz or so. Letting the kick take over the very low lows can be great for dance stuff. But, in general, the kick should hit you in the chest and the bass should rattle your ass.

One Day to Save All Life

Keston and Westdal’s third album titled One Day to Save All Life (ODTSAL) is currently available for pre-ordering through Unearthed Music. The CD package will be printed on 100% recycled paper and the CD tray is made from 100% post consumer waste. All pre-orders will be shipped on, or up to two weeks before the scheduled release date of March 25, 2008.

A CD release party is schedule on March 29, 2008 at the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA.org). Other artists include Kyle Herskovitz, Cepia (Ghostly International) and Primadonahue. An industry listening party is TBA.

Recent Response to ODTSAL:
A full review of the album has been posted on Properly Chilled, one of the top sites for downtempo reviews, artists interviews, and podcasts.

“This work is quite different than previous and is applauded on every level. [They] have certainly defined a sound that resonates through on this unique work. Westdal’s bass is beautifully morphed and Keston’s keys and digi work have stepped over the horizon with a definable expertise. I think I have listened to it three times already. Bravo!” – Chris Lindsey, Slackline Radio

Use this link to pre-order ODTSAL:
http://unearthedmusic.com/?source=view_release.php?rid=3

Other links:
http://www.kestwest.com
http://www.unearthedmusic.com
http://www.myspace.com/kestwest
http://www.myspace.com/unearthedmusic

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