Mixing and Mastering in Ableton Live – Decibel Festival 2014

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Just wanted to take a second to let any Seattle people know about a seminar I will be co-hosting with fellow mastering engineer and Certified Live Instructor Jake Perrine at this years Decibel Festival.  We will be talking about mixing and mastering using Ableton Live, and it will be a round table discussion featuring some of the artists from this year’s Decibel Festival line-up.  Still waiting on final confirmation from a couple of the artists, I’ll post who will be involved shortly.

Hoping to meet some of you there, please stop by and say hi before or after the seminar.  I plan on hanging out at the conference most of Thursday and Friday, so don’t be shy if you see me!  🙂

The seminar will be Friday, September 26th from 12:30-1:30 PM in the JBL Theater at the EMP Museum.   It’s FREE, so I hope to see a bunch of you there!

For more details on the Decibel Festival Conference, please visit:

http://dbfestival.com/db2014/conference

Thanks everyone!

My Top Ten iOS Apps

Since one of the more frequent questions I get asked is for iOS music app recommendations, I figured it was time to list my favorites as of Summer 2014. I’m not saying that these are the “best” iOS apps out there, just that these are the ones I find myself reach for again and again. With that, and in no particular order, here we go!

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1. Auria.

Easily my most used iOS app, Auria is not cheap for an iOS app but is an absolute steal given how powerful it is. Intuitive and fluid audio editing and mixing, the included plug-ins sound great, and there’s great export options if you want to finalize your mix on the desktop. But considering you can also use all of the Fabfilter plug-ins ported to iOS in Auria (available via IAP), you may not even want to use the desktop again. If you work mainly with audio and not MIDI, this is the iOS DAW you want.

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2. Audiobus.

I’ll admit I rarely use Audiobus these days, preferring instead to access my effects and synths in Auria via Inter-App Audio (IAA). But Audiobus was the app that made me realize the potential of iOS music making, allowing you to finally route and record your apps and effects among each other. A game-changer, everyone should own this just in case.

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3. DM1.

Probably one of my favorite drum apps currently, DM1 comes stock with some great samples of all the classic drum machines, as well as some acoustic kits and even some more unique percussion instruments. Simple to use, a fun randomize function, and great iCloud support. One of the more versatile electronic drum machines out there.

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4. Alchemy Mobile.

While it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as the desktop version, Alchemy Mobile is still one of the synths I reach for more than any other on the iPad. Great sounds, just enough tweakability to personalize the presets for your songs, and a very handy 4 track recorder. One of the best balances between power and ease of use on the iOS platform I feel. The additional preset packs aren’t cheap, but all of the ones I’ve purchased have been well worth it if you want more sounds.

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5. Figure.

My go to when I have the iPhone with me and not the iPad. I like simpler apps on the smaller screen, though Figure has a lot more power and versatility than it first appears. Lots of possibilities for tweaking the (few) included presets, and if you’re a Reason owner you can import your songs into that app on the desktop later. Great sounding, easy to use, and perfectly adapted to the touchscreen.

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6. Nave.

Waldorf’s first foray into iOS is a powerhouse, and considering it takes up almost 300+MB of your RAM on the iPad, you’re going to know it if you have a lot of apps open at once 🙂 I found the interface a little confusing at first, but once I got to grips with it I realized just how capable this synth is. If it was a little easier on the CPU and RAM this would probably be one of the only synths I need. Still, in terms of matching what’s available on the desktop, Nave is definitely one to try.

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7. Gadget.

Korg made a huge splash with this app when it was released, and for good reason! The synths sound and look amazing, the sequencer is extremely well done and easy to use for simple grooves or full songs, and there’s promised updates on the way shortly. If you only own one app on your iPad, this is the one I would recommend. Even if it only works in portrait mode, which is very annoying.

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8. iElectribe.

The Korg ER-1 was one of my first drum machines, and this app only improves on that concept. All the sound and interface of the original drum machine, with greater export and copy/paste functionality. You can even re-skin it if that’s your thing. Fun to use when you need some artificial sounding electronic drum, it’s in second place for iOS percussion right behind DM1 for me.

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9. Traktor DJ.

There’s quite a few DJ apps out there on the iOS platform these days, but Traktor is the one I use more than any other. Decent effects and layout, ongoing support and updates from NI, and support of all the new NI DJ Hardware as well. Unless you’re dead set on trying to mimic operating a real turntable on your iPad/iPhone, Traktor should be the first DJ app you try.

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10. Sunrizer.

One of the first iOS synths I ever bought, it’s still one of my favorites. I love the way it looks on the iPad, and the sound quality and features still rival newer competitor synth apps today. Based loosely on the Roland JP series of synths, but it’s capable of much more than you’d expect. Fun randomizer, a comprehensive arp/sequencer, and well thought MIDI functionality make this a no-brainer for me to recommend.

Well, that’s the short and quick version, though as always I’m happy to answer any questions people might have about any of these. And of course, I’d love to hear what else other people are using too. Feel free to drop any questions or comments in the comments, thanks!

The Anniversary Wrap Up

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Well, I thought it might be a crazy idea I’d come to regret, but my decision to offer 24 hours of free mastering as part of my Studio’s 5 year anniversary ended up being a real success.  I was able to meet a lot of new producers, and quite a few former clients I hadn’t heard from in a couple years came out of the woodwork too.  Not to mention the fact that it ended up being a lot of fun getting to work on so much new music, and across so many different styles too!

Quite a few of the producers I worked with were happy to let me use their tracks to update the before and after section of my website too, so I’ll have some mastering examples everyone can check out in a couple weeks.  Gotta find time to update the website first  🙂

One of the comments I got from multiple people was that they were very impressed with the results given my minimal gear collection these days.  It made me realize that perhaps that’s in fact why I like mastering so much, by it’s definition it’s almost minimalist processing of audio.  Do only as much as is needed to improve the mix, and leave everything else untouched to let the producers’ intention and styles come through still.

It’s no wonder I like this job so much, being a confirmed minimalist myself these days!  Though I have to say that new Fabfilter Pro-Q update is looking very sweet, so I might be adding to my EQ collection shortly!  Check it out:

http://youtu.be/GYTCQeggyzo

More than anything though, this recent anniversary made me realize how lucky I am to have the job I do.  And that I need to redouble my efforts to reach even more producers who might need mastering.  I want to make the world sound better one song at a time!

With that, time to get back to work.  Until next time!

Peace and beats,
Erik M.

 

 

5 Years & Free Mastering

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It’s truly hard for me to believe, but today marks the 5 year anniversary since I started running Inner Portal Studio full-time.  It’s been quite a journey so far, and I couldn’t have done it without all the support and trust of the hundreds of musicians I’ve worked with in that time.  As a way of saying thanks and giving something back, for the next 24 hours I will be offering….

… free mastering.

Yep, you read that right.  From now until 10:00 AM PST, August 19th I will master ONE of your tracks for free.  I expect to receive a LOT of tracks during this offer, so I’m requiring the following from people submitting songs to make sure this goes as smoothly as possible:

1. Please read and follow my usual guidelines on how to prepare your tracks for mastering: http://innerportalstudio.com/mastering/.

2. I am only accepting tracks sent to me via my Uploader: http://innerportalstudio.com/upload/.

3. All file names MUST include your name and the song name, i.e. “Artist Name – Song Name.wav”.

4. On the Upload form you will see the field “Type Your Message”.  You MUST include your real name, your artist name, the song name, and anything else I should know about your track and what you’re looking for in the mastering.

5. Please send me an email at Erik@InnerPortalStudio.com letting me know you submitted a track, and send it from the same email address that you put on the Upload form.  PLEASE include your Artist name and the Song name in the subject line as well.

6. When the offer is over, it’s over, so please don’t ask if you can submit late or if I can refund a previous mastering job.

Let me know if you have any questions, otherwise I look forward to working on your tracks!  Thanks everyone for an incredible 5 years so far, here’s to 5 more!

Erik
InnerPortalStudio.com

Welcome To The New Blog!

Woo hoo, welcome to the new blog location.  Sorry if you got multiple notifications for this blog post the last day or so, still working out a couple last minute bugs with notifications.  Ummm, that’s all I have, but more soon!

(Strymon Timeline review…..)

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The Recharge

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Well, I’m finally back from a nice long vacation to Luxembourg, Paris, and London, and it was something I needed more than I realized.  Though in a way vacation is a bit misleading, as one of the main reasons Hallie and I went was to see if Luxembourg was someplace we would want to move to.  Yes, Hallie has been offered the chance to transfer to a new position in Luxembourg and it’s something we are seriously considering.  Still a lot to weigh before we decide though.

It did give me the first chance in a long while to just get away from the studio for a couple weeks, something I haven’t done since…. well probably 7-8 years.  I have to admit it was pretty nice not really thinking about music making for so long, especially as now that I’m back I find myself recharged and more excited than ever to get back to mastering.

I guess we all need a break now and then, even when you’re lucky enough to love what you do for a living!

The first thing I wanted to do was update all of my audio production guides, and host them on my Inner Portal website, as they just feel more appropriate being housed there.  So, some minor updates to all the guides, which you can now find here:

http://innerportalstudio.com/guides

I also have to admit I made a bit of a mistake recently, concerning my recent abandoning of Facebook.  It didn’t take long for a lot of people to reach out and tell me they really missed getting blog updates and reading other interesting articles I’d find via Facebook.  So, after thinking about it quite a bit, I decided that I’ll rejoin the madness and still use that as an outlet for people to get notifications related to the music stuff i find and post.  So, if you’re not sick of the flip-flopping, feel free to friend me if you want:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006775729027

Sorry for the hassle, sometimes it’s a struggle to manage my time versus providing useful options for people.  I’m learning, what can I say  🙂

Stay tuned for more to come shortly!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Promoting Yourself

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Recently I had a friend send me an email to ask me how I went about attracting clients, as he was trying to get work doing audio engineering and was struggling a bit. It’s one of the many variations on a question I get asked all the time, how do I get work in the audio field? While this guide in general tends to stick with answering that question in terms of audio engineering, I think a lot of the things I recommend can apply in other fields too.

Someone told me when I was starting up my business that it’s 90% getting the work, and 10% actually doing the work.  It took awhile for that to really sink in, but over the last 5 years that I’ve been a full-time mastering engineer it’s really hit home how much time you need to spend to attract new people to work with. These days there’s just so many more “audio engineers” online promoting their businesses, so I’d say it’s probably more like 95% – 5% actually.  Not trying to be discouraging, there’s just a lot of people out there wanting to be audio engineers, mastering engineers, mix engineers, etc. It’s almost as crowded and competetitive a field as being a musician these days!

My start was slow, but I also didn’t really plan on doing this full-time initially. I was just having fun and making some extra money at the time, and I think that’s the best way to start. You don’t need to graduate college or some audio engineering school (ahem) and instantly be a booked-solid engineer. It’d be nice, sure, but that’s a rock star pipe dream. Happens to a few, but it’s definitely the exception and not the rule, so at least have a realistic plan in place for the long haul.

I did mastering on the side along with a normal day job for 10 years before I felt I had enough clients to go full-time, and even then it can still be pretty close some months.  I’ve tried all forms of advertising, web banners, forum signatures, Facebook, print ads, Google ads, you name.  The ONLY thing that has ever worked in my case was word of mouth from happy clients.  Everything else was just a huge waste of money.You need to make people see what you do as valuable, and they need to trust that you know what you’re doing with some many other people they could choose instead.

My blog and my production guides are a huge asset for me in this area, because a lot of people know me for those initially, and then find out I do mastering (usually).  By then I’ve already established some minimal trust, and hopefully shown I know what I’m talking about.  It makes people more comfortable in taking that initial chance on handing over their money.  I’m not saying you should do the same, just that you have to leverage everything you do to help nudge people towards working with you. And to not over do it at the same time, something that’s more of a struggle than most people realize.  Nobody pays attention to someone constantly pushing something at them 🙂

Oh, and always act like a professional online, people can google anything you ever wrote at any time these days, and trust me they do when researching you.  Avoid the flame wars, be nice to people (even trolls), and generally be as easy to get along with as you can.

I guess the core of what I’m trying to say is, you need to put your efforts into making people want to work with YOU. Having the right tools, experience, all that of that is certainly important, but those things should be a given if you’re serious about what you do. And the competition will have those things in place too, so it’s not really a selling point. It’s like trying to talk someone into buying a car by saying it comes with 4 wheels. 🙂

Stay positive, and Most of all, don’t give up!

A New Start

Well, those of you who followed me on Facebook know that I’m no longer on Facebook any more. 🙂

I’ve been debating it for some time, as I slowly realized in order to get the most out of Facebook you need to check it pretty often. And really, it wasn’t bringing me any new business or gigs, so I decided getting my time back was more important right now. I’ll miss a few things about it, but it certainly feels good not having that “must check Facebook” thought every hour!

I’ll still be posting updates on Twitter, and I plan on putting out more blog posts now too.  With all the gear changes I’ve been doing lately, I’ve just been busy learning new tools and trying to sell the old ones to focus on the blog as much as I would like.  Hopefully that’s all settled down though, as I’m really enjoying the new Strymon Timeline and OP-1 I recently got.  Both are way more fun than I expected, so stay tuned for some reviews!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

 

What’s In A Name?

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Ah, the joys of trying to find a new artist or DJ name! For many people this is actually a very hard task, as it’s the first time they’ve had to put an identity to their music. Especially when it’s something that might be with you for a very long time if your music is successful. I thought I’d give a few tips on choosing a new artist name, based on some of the things I’ve seen work well over the years (as well some things that didn’t work).

A good artist name can be many things for different people; a globally established brand for their music or DJing, a funny play on words to attract attention, or perhaps it’s just a front they can use to retain some sense of personal privacy. Whatever your reasons for wanting to use a name other than your own (which is certainly a viable option too!), here’s a few key points to keep in mind when coming up with yours.

Originality counts. There’s nothing worse than having an artist name that is the same or similar to other artists already out there. When I first started making music, I used to go by the artist name “rEalm”. It was fitting for the music I made, it was something that spoke to me and seemed just right. Unfortunately, there were so many other people out there using the same or similar name, that it was impossible for me to stand out using it. A quick google search of it would turn up hundreds of results that had nothing to do with me, even with the goofy capital “E” in there.

There’s also a practical side here, in that I found it near impossible to register an easy to remember domain name for my website, not to mention email addresses. I ended up just creating a completely new name from scratch as a result, something that I knew only I would be using. This has made my life so much easier, since I could use a nice and simple website like tarekith.com, or Tarekith at gmail for people to reach me. Anyone searching my name will always get pointed right to my site, useful for promotion.

You don’t have to make up your own name, but it certainly is the best way to make sure no one else is using it!

Keep it simple. A really long name, or something that’s difficult to pronounce or spell correctly, at best just makes it harder for your fans to connect with you. At worst, they’ll end up shortening or abbreviating it for you which sort of ruins the point. Keep it fairly short, ideally 3 syllables or less if you can, and make it easy to pronounce and spell.

Funky spellings and weird abbreviation might seem like it’s helping you stand out, but you run the risk of it looking dated later on (I.E. replacing C’s with K’s, etc). It’s worth pausing and considering if this is something you can live with for 20-30 years possibly before you go this route.

One name or many? There’s two different views on the subject of should you use one name for all your releases, or use different artist names for releases in various genres. Some people like to target different audiences depending on the music they are writing, so using various names helps them focus the release to specific audience.

On the other hand, using the same name for everything means you’re possibly attracting a much bigger following to ALL of the music you’re creating instead of just some of it. Though that might put some people off if they only like a certain style you write now and then. Personally I like being known as an artist who releases music in a wide-range of genres, but that’s a call you’re going to have make on your own.

Who else likes it? Consider how your name looks not only to your fans, but also your peers. Calling yourself DJ Dickfuck might be a good chuckle now, but will other artists want to work with you if you call yourself that? Will you have issues being put on flyers for gigs if you use an offensive name?

Some people just don’t care about this stuff and will use whatever they think is funny. But considering how competitive the music scene is, it seems odd to me to stack the cards against yourself with something a simple as your artist name. Horses for courses I guess!

Finally, don’t stress too much about. The best names usually come in moments of inspiration, just like the music we write. If something comes out of the blue, but it feels right, by all means go with it. You can always change it later too, there’s no rule that the name you pick now you HAVE to use forever either.

Which is good, because at the moment I myself have been giving a lot of thought to possibly changing my artist name. Initially I wanted an artist name to sort of define myself outside of the name my parents gave me, and to give me some layer of anonymity online. It worked great at first, but as I’ve grown my mastering business more and more, my real name (Erik Magrini) is out there more and more.

So for a few months now I’ve been considering just switching and using my real name from now on, and perhaps letting the Tarekith moniker rest for awhile. It’s a tough call though, because after so many years of building up that name as my “brand” if you will, I worry that many people won’t follow the change. Or that ultimately, changing my name again is just going to a waste of time and everyone will still call be Tarekith anyway. 🙂

Lots for me to think about, but hopefully some of my ideas have helped you out in the meantime!

The Desk Job

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Every once in awhile I get an idea in my head that I later come to regret, even if just a little bit.  Last year I bought a really nice desk for the studio, one that had the ability to be used sitting or standing as I wanted.  At the time, I was a little concerned that it might be a bit too big, but since it was by far the sturdiest height-adjustable table I could find, I wanted to at least try it.

For the most part it was a great purchase, helped my back, worked as advertised, and I liked the way it looked.  There was just one problem, it WAS too big, and I knew it was impacting what I was hearing to some extent. It also had a wrap around front edge made that playing the guitar in front of the laptop or iPad difficult at best.  I didn’t know I was going to get so into the guitar again when I bought the desk, these things happen I guess 🙂

Anyway, it took me awhile to get the time and motivation to tackle a project as complex as cutting down my main studio desk, but I finally had the time this past week.  The original plan was just to cut down the top that came with it to the right size, since it appeared to be solid oak.  A quick email to the store I bought it from confirmed it was solid and not a veneer, easy enough.

I also needed to shorten a bunch  of the metal supports that attach the top, since I wanted to bring the legs closer together as well.   Going into the project it was the metal cutting that worried me the most, though luckily that actually went easier than I was expecting.  A bit scary considering how much I paid for the desk (Hallie thinks I’m nuts), but not too hard once I got into it.

IMG_1169(My temporary desk while working on the new one)

The real fun came when it was time to cut down the table top, and I discovered that it was just an oak veneer after all and not solid oak.  Fuck.  The veneer started to peel almost instantly when I cut it, which meant I had just ruined the top and needed to come up with an alternate plan.

After a couple days trying various woodworking shops and re-use building materials stores with no luck, I finally caved and bought a solid wood desk top from Ikea that I could cut down.  I won’t go into the fiasco the trip to Ikea was (aren’t they always), but at least I had what I needed and was back on track.

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With the new top cut down to the right size, the last step was to build another rack and shelf to mount underneath it for my external HD’s and the power supplies for all my gear.  I had done this with the desk just after I got it, so I mainly just redid what I had created then.  Worked great, looked fine, no need to alter the plan.  🙂

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Paint, clear-coat, a bunch of screws and power tools, and before you know it everything was back together in the studio.  Finally, the temp desk I was using was just not the same!

It ended up being more work than I was planning on thanks to the top being laminate, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out.  Makes the studio feel a bit more open and brighter with the new light wood top.  Sounds better in here too, without all those unneeded reflective surfaces getting in the way.  I guess my only regret is not doing this right when I bought the desk!

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Next step, wood floors!  Sigh, it never ends….

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Coming soon on the blog, I’ll review the new Maschine Studio I just got.  Stay tuned!