Monday, April 11, 2011

Bookmarks: From Demo To Delivery

Pre production
Song dynamics. Width, depth n height
Preprocessors - frequency, dynamic n time
Prep work - composition, pre, artwork, website asap
Excerpt sets for different genres
Written plan - composition n mixing
The codes
Parametric EQ - gain, freq & Q
Shelving EQ
Master on the loudest section first
Macrodynamics - taking care of the relative dynamics of contiguous soft n loud passages


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ingredients to a music artiste success

The following points on key ingredients to an artistes success came up after discussing with a friend on difficulties that a local artiste face.

1. Accessibility to good production

2. Having a good promotional team

3. Good artiste management

4. Good distribution network

5. Proximity to fans

It's not that Singapore doesn't have all the ingredients but rather most local artistes have some of the ingredients missing. Eg. A band invests 17k on producting a cd, leaving no resources to promotion and artiste management.

Some might argue the need to base oneself in your target market to have proximity to fans but I would propose that with cheap air tickets and ability to reach out to audiences online through *casts and *streams, there's a need for a paradigm shift; we've living in a level playing field like never before where distribution has gone global and it's easier than before to go niche for the long tail.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Electric Bridal Chorus

My friends Royston and Briony asked if I could do an electric version of the Bridal Chorus like the one done by Queen for their wedding in October.

So I suggested to them that I'll do a version that was ringing in my head. Here's the end product.

Electric Bridal Chorus (Here Comes The Bride) by jasonong

I hope to do more versions of this popular wedding march song in time to come.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Guerilla Music -- songwriting

Have an original tune burning in your head? Always wanted to write your own songs? In this Guerilla Music series, we'll explore some practical ways to get that song from idea to soundbite.

Record on your phone

Have a melody ringing in your head but not around a computer? Use your phone's voice recorder to capture those lines before it fades into memory abyss. For those who dont have any composition tools can also use this method to capture raw arrangments. Eg. Sing n strum recording or simple sequencing using available iPhone apps.

Pairing up with an arranger

Although you may have gotten melodies and lyrics down it is by no means complete. Pair up with a person that you know who can help you do arrangements -- adding/editing musical parts so the songs becomes more polished and dynamically interesting.

Collaborate with a band

Instead of having to handle all musical parts yourself, why not consider collaboration with a good band? Depending on the members, having more heads can boost creativity.

Learn to use a DAW

This is my favourite but it requires prior knowledge of sequencing basics. Softwares like ProTools, Cubase, Logic have lite versions that are affordable. Some of them even comes packaged with an audiobox which is an essential hardware to record vocals and instruments into your computer. Computing power and memory capacity have come to a point where alot of things which were traditionally done on dedicated expensive hardwares can be done on softwares.

Collaborate with others online

The the web becoming more social it has never been easier to find collaborators if you're open to not having full control and full ownership. With high bandwidth becoming more ubiquitous, things that are traditionally bound to desktops are shifting to the "cloud". Dont be surprised to find garageband served up to you as a web application in the near future.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Make up of a music sale -- where the money goes to?

CD ($18.98)

Label $5.00
Distribution $1.80
Design/Manufacturing $1.00
Artist Royalty $1.50
Mechanical Royalty $0.80
Recording Costs $1.00
Marketing/Promotion $0.90
Retail Profit $3.00

Digital Download ($0.99)

Label $0.47
Distribution Affliate $0.10
Artist $0.07
Producer $0.03
Music Publisher $0.08
Service Provider $0.17
Credit Card Fees $0.05
Bandwidth Costs $0.02

Wow artist do get paid little. At least in the dying CD trade sales of a million copies would generate $1.5million for the artist. But digital download of singles would reap only $70,000, that is if one can rack up a million purchases at all!


The Big 4

That is the term for the major labels which over the last 10 years have consolidated from the Big 6.

Universal merged with Polygram to form UMVD in 1999. Sony and BMG in 2004. Here are the Big 4s are some labels under their belts.

UMVD -- Universal Music and Video Distribution

Island/Def Jam
UMG Nashville
Disney/Buena Vista

Sony BMG

J Records
Razor & Tie
RCA Label Group Nashville

WEA -- Warner Music Group

Warner Brothers
Atlantic Records
Bad Boy
V2 Records

EMD -- EMI Group

Blue Note
Capitol Nashville
Capitol Records
EMI Latin

Will be interesting to see how these guys can reinvent themselves with the changing tides of digital singles music consumption.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Maximizing Volume In A Song

Have you ever wondered why volume of music on your cds sounds roughly about the same? Certain types of songs sounds slightly louder? This is because most albums are professionally mastered to achieve maximum volume and punch for airplay. Recently I've been trying to use my Studio One to master my remix of a song written by my bandmate. Still learning but seem to have small success at it. Here are the "before and after" samples of the track.



Here's some things that I learnt.

1) Have a reference track

Take 1 or 2 songs that you like as reference materials. Watch out for tone and volume of individual instruments.

2) Pan thy instruments

Audio has got spatial components - stereo and frequency. If all instruments are centered in the stereo spectrum then everything gets muddled. Sorta like everybody queueing up in one straight line. Can't see all of 'em yeah? Spread them out over left/right space and they can all shine together.

3) Find the frequency hoggers

I'm using a multiband equalizer to analyze frequency spectrum. Instruments played at a certain octave will use certain frequency range. If there're a few instruments using the same range then you might have to sacrifice volume of some/all of them. Maybe it's better to change the octave of one instrument?

4) Use limiters to overcome clipping

If you look at the waveform of a song, they'll be spikes even after attempting to balance everything out. Good idea to use a limiter which will "push down" the spikes to unity (0 db).

5) Tone & feel of instruments gets excited with volume

Surprisingly without touching the EQ of the individual instruments, balancing the volume of individual instruments brought out the tone of those which has previously been overshadowed by a hogging instrument. Check out how the guitars and drums sound before where the bass was hogging the spectrums. Then feel the difference after the bass has been toned down and volumes leveled!

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Music Concerts - It's also the singles market except maybe Singapore

According to the Music 3.0 blog, music fans in the US are favoring music festivals over regular single act concerts. Why? Festival match the new listening habits - music fans no longer listen to an entire album, they listen to singles. Quote: "There are usually multiple stages, so if you don't like one act, go find another that suits you."

That may be the case in US and Europe but in a music deprived country like Singapore, it's not necessary true. Recent music festivals that I know of only includes WOMAD, MOSIAC, SingFest & Baybeats and I seem to recall more concerts of artistes & bands, courtesy of eventful's weekly emails. In a country where it's hard to get large scale quality concert it's no wonder we're seeing old acts flying in to cash in on fans of yesteryears - old school mega hair rock outfit Firehouse comes to mind with their scheduled concert on this 30th June.


Music Publishing - It's back to the singles market

Reading an interview except with a music publisher was enlightening.

Licensing Fees

There are 3 main types of income in the music industry - Mechanical royalties, Performance income & Synchronization licences.

Mechanical royalties are derived from direct sales of a "physical" copy of music. Eg. sheet music, vinyls, cds, mp3s.

Performance income are derived from playback the music. Eg. live renditions, radio, tv.

Synchronization licences are derived from using music commercially with moving pictures. Eg. soundtracks for movies & tv shows.

Apparently mechanical royalties have been on the dive ($13billion in 1998 vs $8billion in 2008) while synchronization licences have been on the rise. This is due to the increase in tv/cable networks over the years which results in more broadcasts and more shows produced, thus more music used.

It's Back To The Singles Market

Gone are the golden days of buying an album just to get the piece of music that you like. Even if you ignore the fact that most music can be downloaded for free via torrents, digital distribution of music as a business model isn't doing too well as each music stream/download pays too little. The opportunities in the cloud are great but also presents great challenges in monetization. It'll be interesting to see how things evolve in the months/years to come. Needs a google-adsense like tipping point.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

$money - Where art thou inspiration?

A saxophonist that I respected once said to me that "There are no new melodies under the sun, only reused ones...".

That really stuck with me till today. So when I hear an "original" piece of music in my head, it's most probably credited from some songs that I've heard somewhere before. I'm the kind who'll listen to any music that you throw at me so that could have helped amassing a catalogue of tunes & grooves in my subconscious.

50 cents change in my pocket

It was a nice Saturday afternoon when I was listening to a random playlist of music stored in my personal locker in the cloud ( The playlist went on to play 50 cent's "In Da Club" and I went "Ah ha! That's where all the armchair gangsta rap inspiration come from!". I have this folder labeled "Hip Hop" within my mp3 collections, courtesy of a nice friend and I must have went through the songs inside somewhere back in time. But I'm also pretty sure that song's one of 50 cent's more popular tunes so I might had heard it over on the radio, in a friend's car, at a home party etc.

Google makes us a genius

That's just one piece of the puzzle. What about the Jay Chou inspiration? Wouldn't need to leave that to chance because all I had to do was to type "Jay Chou rap" in google search and walah! Jay Chou's "Checkmate". Once again I must have heard this song some in the publicsphere because I don't have a habit of listening to JC's song.

So now that I've nailed down 2 pieces of music that I've subconsciously referenced with, I'm beginning to feel that the beats that I laid down were too busy when compared to these giants. Hmm... I might tone it down but I might also just leave it as it is. Let's see how I take this song further in the coming days.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

$money - The Verse

In my last post I've added bassline to the skeletal loop of this song. Here's a recap of how it sounds like.

Chorus drumloop (with meaner bass) by jasonong

Now usually I'll envision the chorus of a song first. It's usually the high point of the song so naturally when I'm jotting down memorable melodies of a song it's gonna be the chorus. So let's set the bars above as the chorus.

The Loop

Now it's time to extend the track beyond just a loop into a verse. Using the beats created in the chorus, I've managed to tone it down to a similar but simpler version that seems to complement with a "Jay Chou-ish" (JC) rap that I'm hearing in my head.

The Bassline

Using the "rap" as a focal point, I was also able to write down a simple 4 bar melody for the bassline. This bassline is very much more melodic than the chorus. Reason being I wanted a a-tonal "gangsta" rap in the chorus juxtaposed with a melodic rap in the verse where the latter was made famous by JC in chinese music (I THINK, SO DON'T QUOTE ME).

Here's an unpolished product of 8 bars verse + 8 bars chorus and a little DJ scratch in between. Good enough for real looping ;)

Money - Verse + Chorus (1st draft) by jasonong

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Monday, June 14, 2010

$money - Big Bottoms

Bass is the unsung hero of any song. It's there, you feel it but it doesn't sticks out trying to grab your attention. When was the last time you hum out the bass line of a song?

Putting the bass line for my skeletal loop was easy. Most of the notes should coincide with accents in the song to help give some punch. The rest are just fill ins to help drive the rhythm along.

Here's the drum track with a simple bass line using a bass sample that I thought sounded mean.

Chorus drumloop (with bass) by jasonong

But it's a bit too vanilla so I'll just throw in some EQ and compression to boost the lows and give it more punch. I'm not the best person to speak on the audio manipulation techniques because my strength's are in music arrangement, not audio production.

Chorus drumloop (with meaner bass) by jasonong

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

$money - The Stabs

In my previous post I was laying down the skeleton of a "gangsta" wannabe loop ringing in my head. But it's just a vanilla loop at this point. Let's make it more "gangsta" sounding with some stabs (pun intended).

Browsing through the midi keyboard sounds on my Studio One's Presence plugin, I found an orchestral keyboard that would sound rad as stabs. Here's my initial draft.

Chorus drumloop (with stabs) by jasonong

It was fine till I started nitpicking at the sustained stab section which although sounded nice with this vanilla loop, didn't quite go well with the rap syncopation that I've been hearing in my head. Thus I decided to tweak it to have more hits.

Chorus drumloop (with stabs) 2 by jasonong

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

$money - The Skeleton

And so begins my journey with $money.

When the inspiration first hit me, I was hearing blurry rap in my head - syncopated garbled lyrics with a clear sense of rhythm. The drums were the most distinct so it became the skeleton to work my ideas on.

So I started with basic snare + kick on my PreSonus Studio One. Since I had a gangsta rap in mind. I chose the "Hip Hop" drumkit on a Presence track (midi).

The track below shows the syncopation that was ringing in my head. Notice the slight tinge of hi-hat sound in that sampled kick offered by the kit. Love it.

Money - chorus drumloop (snare + kick) by jasonong

So based on this snare + kick combo, I've decided to lay regular 4/4 hi-hats with a section that actually syncs with the kick. Thought this helps to add color to that rhythmic section.

Money - chorus drumloop (snare + kick + hi-hat) by jasonong

And then I proceeded to add a tamborine just to push the 4/4 beat along and make the loop sound fuller.

chorus drumloop (snare + kick + hi-hat + tamborine) by jasonong

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Naked Music Production - $money

Inspired by my friends doing a startup and journaling their experiences weekly at their blog.

So here's a new series that I'm devoting to this blog - Naked Music Production. The first installment will be on a chinese "gangsta" rap that I'm currently working on. The title as of now is "$money".  I'll be documenting how the song evolves as I work on it.

The inspiration hit me when there's a recently online controversy regarding how churches spend their devotees donation. Wanted to write something contemporary to reflect the philosophy and motivation behind these donations as well as the church expenditures.

I choose to go with gangsta rap partly due to the ill connotation associated with the genre. Actually I think it'll probably end up more like a Jay Chou-ish rap since I'm hearing chinese lyrics in my head. Thought it would be interesting to see how "gangsta" sounding it can be on a chinese rap.

It's also interesting that I saw a program on Nat Geo on this Shaolin monk (Shi Yan Ming) who defected from China to America on the inaugural Chinese Shaolin Monk tour in the US. He's manage to blend in with commoners, celebrities and hoodlum rappers all at once by accepting their cultures by having a non judgemental attitiude and a quest to spread Buddhist philosophies in the west. Kinda like East meets West.

Hopefully all these gives a feel of what I'm trying to achieve with the song. Okay think that's enough of a introduction. Time to work on my first post - $money's skeleton.

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