Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Hills Are Alive

One of you asked me recently what it is that I do when I am sound "designing."  I didn't have a good quick answer at the time.  Someone else asked me what my hobbies are.  And aside from fangirling over my dog, I do a lot of random things.  Most recently, I've begun the Mt. Everest project of tracking down my family and studying our genealogy.  But, there is one thing I do doI just made you hear doodoo in your headroutinely and for hours on end.  It's called mixing.  And mixing, is really at the heart of any design.  So, here's a rundown of what it involves.

Anyone Who Has Ever Spent Five Hours Messing Around With One Curve In Photoshop To Get It Just Right Will Understand The Anal Retentive Side of Mixing.

I think that title pretty much sums up what I'm trying to get across.  Basically, if you know what you want out of an artistic project that also has an ultimate final product point to it, it sometimes takes forever to get exactly what it is you want. 

Here is a walk-through of the process I go through when editing music and sound effects:

No, I did not do a recording of Lakme's Flower Duet.

I open up a new, blank file in Garageband.  Yes, Garageband.  I get the sneaky feeling that it's embarrassing in the sound world to admit that you use Garageband.  But, screw it.  It works and it doesn't cost me $5500.00 to get all the hardware, software and computer that can handle both.  Then again, if anyone would like to donate a new MacPro, LogicPro or an Apogee One audio interface to me, well...I'm certainly not going to turn them down.

The Process.

The process is pretty straight forward.

First, you press the record button and do a "take."

Then you do another.

Then you do another.

And another.

And then you trim it.

You don't like what you trimmed or the most recent take is after all not what you wanted so you go back to the first one.

But, it still doesn't sound right.

So you re-record another.

Then you do another.

And another.

Then one more just to be sure you can't do any better.

One more.

Then you trim that one.

Then you edit the volume and panning.

Distortion?  Echo?  Reverb?  These things are all here to help you avoid hearing what you really sound like.

Then you realize that background ambience isn't lining up anymore so you should copy and paste a bit of it from the top of the track and splice it in between where there was only silence.

Then you realize you've been listening to the same song for four hours.  

The Product.

This is about when your project starts to look like this.

Still scrolling down...

There we go.

What you're seeing above is actually my most recent project.  It might not look like it, but this is a cover of Radiohead's "Creep." 

I'm actually not particularly in love with this song, nor do I think it's Radiohead's best work.  But, it's a great song to practice vocal training and harmony.

Music, Lend Me Your Great Ear 

Even after playing/singing/vocal training for the past ten years, I do not have the best ear.  I remember I used to annoy my ex-girlfriend once due to my inability to harmonize (but, ever in denial, I would try whenever a song I knew came on the radio.)  I have worked on it though, sometimes doing the same harmony to a melody of a few notes over and over to get it locked into my head, which can get a bit repetitive. 

Anyway, Creep is pretty straightforward and repetitious.  

And if there is one thing I can do without fail it is straightforward and repeititious.  

So the final product?  Here it is.  I'll let you decide what to make of it.  I've transformed this song a lot.  It's slower, it's more (if you can believe it) melodramatic and it's also got a lot more voices on it than Thom Yorke had in his mouth.

I'll upload it on Facebook as well through my music page and profile.  But for now, you have the inside scoop.

One bit of advice though, if you ever end up recording and re-cording for hours on end, I'd suggest choosing a song that doesn't repeat the words, "I'm a creep" as your surrounding neighbors will inevitably hear it and will avoid talking to you at social engagements.



Woo isn't very particular about her music tastes.  She doesn't mind classical, rock, spoken work, rap, latin american, mariachis, country, or folk.



  1. Abby LOVES that damn song. The choir version. Guh.

  2. Beryl, you are hella rad. I swear, I discover one new secret talent every time I talk to you.

  3. (creeper whisper) I wish I were special...

  4. Amy - There is a CHOIR VERSION OF CREEP? You mean I could have gone and found a group of people singing the song and used their composition and not just gone and killed my brain for hours on end?

    Cari - Cari you are hella rad. Crystal showed me your website and I was like, "Wtf? Who IS THIS GENIUS?" p.s. We're thinking of doing a flash mob. I think you should join.

    Abby - You know, I put a creepy whisper voice halfway through the second verse. It's funny in my mind you sounded just like that. Is this a good thing?