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Rosie Louise Mountjoy

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Polyphonic Me Sm2 – Evaluation

Creating a non conventional song was always the idea behind this track, we wanted it to be abstract and quite simply really spooky which I feel we managed to capture in some ways but I feel that nerves took over the final performance. The theme of this track was schizophrenia, this topic is something that is a little taboo especially when it comes to writing songs about it, so the intentions for this song was for it to never be too obvious but we wanted listeners to feel unease when watching and listening to the performance. The concept being schizophrenia grew many ideas for us as a group and from the start we all could imagine many voices with reverb and echo creating a confusing sound bubble of words.

Chloe – Vocals, Looper and Push.

Ophelia – Vocals, Piano Preset and looper.

Rosie (myself) – Vocals and Roland drum pad.

We used reverb and delay on each vocal track and used the looper to add layers for the harmonies. The piano was captured as pre set audio which we could start via the pedal as this was also on a looper. We used the Abelton Push with a sample pad sound through called ‘siren voices’ and the Roland Pad was used as a midi with a drum sound preset on Abletons sample library.

The final performance didn’t really go as well as it did during rehearsals but definitely went better than we thought considering how bad the technical rehearsal went. We had a lot of problems during the tech rehearsal due to the pedal board not working, the siren sound sample ended up mapped over each midi instrument which took a while to sort out, leaving us with little time to have a run through of the track.

Final performance:

The overall performance I felt managed to portray the confused, spooky vibe we were going for but it wasn’t the best we have performed the track. When the preset piano track was started it also started the looper vocal tracks which weren’t cleared after the practice run before the actual performance, so everything came in at once and we didn’t have the gradual build of voices; This gradual build of harmonies and voices was one of the main parts of the track so this mishap really affected the overall feel of the performance. The space bar we mapped to stop the piano track but it ended up stopping the vocal loopers as well so this meant instead of a gradual delayering to bring us to the end of the piece it all abruptly stopped, this shortened the track and created a messy ending which is really disappointing considering how well the rehearsals went. If we were to perform the song again we would definitely make sure the loopers are cleared before starting and map the piano to something other than the space bar as I think this was our main issue, this due to Ableton’s start and stop controls being preset to the space bar beforehand.

To develop this track further I think first of all more practice is definitely needed as things can always go wrong in a live situation, so being prepared for these things would help a lot. I want to experiment with the Push more as it was in a different key to the piano track so the song changed key when the piano was introduced, this at the time created a creepy, eerie sound so it did fit in with the track but, I feel it would be better if it matched keys. More time is the overall thing that was needed for this song, we were very ambitious which worked in our favour at some points but for the final performance I feel it disappointed us.

PolyPhonic Me Sm2 – Developmental performance

Task 4 – Developmental performance

Group – Ophelia Neville, Chloe Wood and Rosie Mountjoy (myself)

After creating the playlist for the last task it really spurred on ideas of what we can create using loopers and being able to layer harmonies. We were all inspired by the Alt J’esque idea and decided that we wanted to create something that wasn’t a conventional song but something that was attention grabbing and haunting like Alt J’s interludes. We came up with the idea of ‘Haunting’ we wanted to take inspiration from this word in all aspects of the piece, the instrumentation, vocals, harmonies and lyrics. Following on from this we stumbled across the idea of through having many voices with the harmonies creating confusion, this could reference schizophrenia; After researching a little into schizophrenia we found a definition that mentioned three parts that it affects, the thoughts, feelings and actions so we chose to each take one of these categories and inject that into the individual performances with in the group track.

The track we were creating was going to heavily rely on the looper as this would carry the haunting harmonies that mainly define the track, so getting used to using a looper was the main thing to focus on when we rehearsed. We also had a pre set piano loop which we recorded with a click to make sure it was in time as this was the base of the song. The Roland pad I used to create a simple beat to add some texture to the track.

This was what we created during the first rehearsals…

During the next rehearsal we decided to add the Ableton push, this was too add more sounds and layer to the track. We also needed more lyrical content for the track so this is when we made a small spider diagram which is shown below, writing down words associated with schizophrenia. We took some of these words and repeated the same one over and over again to create this eerie sound. I chose the phrase ‘Help me’ as through the rehearsal process we decided on the idea that as I was providing the beat, this beat could mimic the heartbeat so I was the person suffering with schizophrenia and Chloe and Ophelia were the voices in my head.

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After implementing these final ideas we recorded the outcome, here it is below:

Making sure the fade outs and stopping of the loopers at the right time will be the trickiest part about our performance so this is what we need to practice the most to make sure it runs smoothly on the day.

Below is a photo of our set up – Chloe on the right in front of the mac with mic and pedal board, Ophelia in the middle with Mic, piano and pedal board, and myself on the Left with mic and Roland pad.

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We made sure we booked in early as we knew that we needed lots of practice to make sure everything is being triggered at the right time and to develop the song ideas further. Below are screenshots of email bookings, 3 made by me and then Ophelia booked two slots later on when we needed some extra practice time.

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Plug and Play Sm2 – Reflect

Set task 5 – Write a 500 word reflection on the composition and production of your track, focusing on the creative and technical aspects of your production methodology.

Throughout this whole process I felt like I never stopped learning as there were constant  questions that I had to ask; I made mistakes which led to being corrected and I researched methods. I always had an idea in my head of how I wanted my music to sound, but always thought it was too straight forward and minimal, in fact mixing just a piano and vocal track was truly gruelling, as the levels had to be perfect as theres nothing to hide behind.

Booking the amount of sessions I did gave me time to find my way around protools and also the way in which each microphone can be used, thus giving me valuable knowledge that I went on to use in my final track.

I resulted in using the following sets ups in my final recording:

Upright Piano

  • A B set up – Rode NT3

This being positioned more to the left (Players perspective) of the piano as I didn’t use the higher range so I felt that this placement was preferred.

  • X Y set up – Neumann KM 184
  • Mid Side – AKG C414 (one cardioid and the other figure of 8)

These Set ups shown in pictures here – Plug and Play Sm2; Practice in the Studio

I found during my practice sessions that these two microphone set ups gave me a realistic, natural, rounded sound, where as the Mid Side sounded to close and created to much bass which was not the sound I wanted.

For the vocals I found that the U87 captured the rawness in my voice as it carried a clean stripped back tone where as the others I tried had a more synthetic sound to them.

This stripped back authentic sound was what I was striving for when creating the track, this all being reflected through the instrumentation, structure and even then lyrics. The emotion in the song was my main focus, I wanted the listener to feel the pain and confusion in the mind of someone experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Using the object writing technique created many starting points and ideas for the lyrics, this resulted in me settling on the Sea being my object and this theme carried throughout. The sea and suicide gelled together well for obvious reasons, this allowing me to create sense filled but not to obvious lyrics. These lyrics, my own accompaniment and harmonies helped with the personal feeling of the track, creating this vulnerable, exposed sound that I was aiming for.

When it came to the mix and master I had the same intentions, I didn’t want it to take this natural, raw sound away, ‘less is more’ was the phrase I referred to. Touches of compression, a little EQ and a splash of reverb was all that the track needed; The reverb bringing the vocals to life and gave the song that overall pop.

On reflection I am very happy with how my track turned out but the whole process had opened my eyes to what is possible for future tracks. I will definitely carry on experimenting with mic set ups and possibly do something more out of my comfort zone.

Plug and Play Sm2 – ‘Drowning’ – Final master and lyrics

 

 

 

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Visual Musicianship – Music Video

For my final project I chose to create a music video with a hint of live performance, this involved a performance of my original song ‘Let Go’ with an interesting visual effect as I didn’t want to fall into just having a live lounge style video.

My initial idea was to capture ‘nature’, mainly a mixture of wide and close up shots of the wind blowing through the trees and shots of the sky as this is what ties in nicely with the subject and emotion of my song. I was going to take the shots and transition them alongside the live performance video, however when it came to editing, the colour of the back ground compared to the nature blue and green back grounds it clashed and looked horrendous jumping from those to colours to a deep red; If I was to re record this video I would definitely take into account using a neutral back ground or a white one, this would allow me to tinge the colour in editing to match the other clips.

My original song is a slow singer songwriter style so with creating a video like this there are boundaries, and restrictions to how creative you can be, this actually ended to be a problem for me as it dampened my creative ideas. I ended up experimenting with layers and focused on the performance shot. I used an adjustment layer to change the feeling of the performance shot so it wasn’t so harsh, I adjusted the colours and the warmth thus creating a smooth natural look.

I used all the natural shots as layers over the performance clip, this created a subtle but unusual effect and gave the plain performance shot some interest. I used the soft light layer as this is the one that was subtle and created a warm visual, this complimented the instrumentation and lyrics. All the ‘tree’ shots were ones I had taken myself in various outside spaces, all had a similar look but I made sure the ones I used in the final video were different shapes as it created variation in the layers, as the shapes are the most vivid. Once the editing was finished and I had watched through it I felt that it needed something as it was just tree shots, so I ended up finding a video online of flowers blooming which I proceeded to cut up and used them as layers again but this just gave the video a change from the trees. The blooming flowers were actually a juxtaposed idea as the song is about losing life whereas obviously a blooming flower is at the beginning.

If I was to shoot this video again I would:

  1. Make sure I was shot in front of a plain white/neutral coloured background as I had to change from my initial idea due to the red background that was behind me in the performance shot.
  2. Change the position in the shot of where I am sat, I would have much preferred it if I was sat more to the right of the screen as I feel it looks like I haven’t really thought about it in the used shot.
  3. Try creating a video for a more upbeat song where everything doesn’t have to be smooth, as a slow song really restricts you to slow and smooth transitions and theres not much else you can do.
  4. Never have an interesting pattern on the back wall of the shot, this created many problems as it distracts from the layer at numerous points due to it taking up the whole right hand side of the clip.
  5. Collect more footage than you need so you can experiment more.

Overall I really enjoyed creating this video and it has definitely opened my eyes to how creating music videos is something that I am capable of doing. I will most definitely be using premiere to create more videos and be sticking to the points I have mentioned above.

I hope you enjoy my video…

Plug and Play Sm2 – Mixing and Mastering

The Process of Mixing and Mastering my song was the part I was dreading but also looking forward to the most as I hadn’t mixed or mastered any thing before. The last lecture before submission we were given a crash course on how to mix and master in protools that opened my eyes to what can be done at the touch of a button; The idea of what can be done by one click was daunting but at the same time made me realise how simple it can be if I concentrate and just listen.

I went into the mixing process with and open mind but I knew exactly what I wanted my song to sound like so I kept it minimal but made sure every little change was developing the sound.

The first thing I did was sort out the harmonies; I recorded 4 harmony tracks so that I had many options to explore and this also meant I could layer voices to give the track more depth. During the whole process sticky note became my best friend…

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I listened through every harmony track and wrote down what parts I wanted to use and which sounded nice and then began chopping up each one to fit the sound I wanted.

Once the structure and each track was all sorted I could finally go onto mixing my track.

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The first thing I mixed was the vocals, I started off by EQ’ing them, I played around with the ‘Mid Frequency’ and I ended up bringing this up into the middle of the top half of the graph and directly in the middle horizontally, this is where it sounded the least distorted and spaced out and bogged down, copied this process throughout the harmonies bar the last set as they were in a higher range in my register.

I then went on to setting the Eq for the piano and followed that with compression. I didn’t have to do a lot to the piano sound really, I just played around until it sounded in the middle of the track allowing the vocals to cut through.

Back to the vocals, I added compression as at the start of the track my main vocal line is really soft and quiet which drastically changes when it gets to the last chorus of the song. Through out mixing I found I just had to find the right compression balance between the piano and vocals as they were constantly battling each other; It wasn’t until the day before submission I was shown I could alter one specific sections volume which completely solved my problems and this changed the whole dynamic of the track.

Reverb was the last addition to my track, this being added to my all my vocals and it gave the track the boost it needed; The reverb added depth and layer to the vocals and made them stand up and be noticed more but not in a sharp punchy way which was exactly what I was going for.

Reverb set up –  Small Hall,  Dry/Wet level – 51

This particular amount of reverb gave my track texture but still kept the authenticity and the rawness of the vocals.

1st Mix – 

 

2nd Mix –

Not drastic changes made but I altered the compression on the piano and brought up the vocals as they were to faded into the track.

Master

Less is more. This is the phrase I had in my head throughout the process so this is exactly what I did when it came to mastering. I did some overall EQ, and used a pro tools in built mixer to alter levels. Everything was mixed based on hearing with one must in mind this being:

Ceiling level – 1.0, which is the legal requirement for the audio.

Polyphonic me Sm2 – Looping

Task 2 – Looping technique

For this looping task I chose to use my voice as the instrument to be looping. I mapped the trigger for the loop to the first A key on the midi and I used this to record, play and record over. I used my voice with the loop to create harmonies and percussive sounds to layer the track. This is all shown in the video below:

Plug and play Sm2 – Practice mix and master

While learning to use pro tools in the studio our lecture group for split up into four groups and we each recorded a verse and chorus of a song, this was so we could be taught how to use the studio and also we could use the audio recorded after to have a practice mix and master on which for me has benefitted hugely as I didn’t have a clue where to start.

Obviously learning how to set up and turn on everything in the studio was the start to these studio lectures, with a studio exam too follow. Below is a annotated drawing of the steps on how too turn everything on and in the order it needs to be. (Courtesy of Sarah Walker)IMG_5510

We were shown different mic set ups for each instrument we were recording, each one I documented via photos:

Drum Mic set up-

Bass mic set up-

Piano mic set up-

Guitar mic set up-

” Photo of Notes from marcus’s lectures”

After all the recording had been done and lots of notes about how to do it had been taken we had the opportunity too practice and have assistance on how too mix and master in protools which is something I had never done before let alone in pro tools. This is my first try at a master below…

Plug and Play Sm2 – Final Song – Song writing

For my final song I tried to incorporate each songwriting task and build my song from that. Object writing is something that really stood out to me as I tend to craft my songs around one idea or word and it grows from there.

My Object was the sea/water, with the underlying theme of suicide. These two subjects/themes are something I can relate to closely and evoke real emotions so this gave me the drive to become creative with the lyrics and then the emotion shows through the overall audio.

The main inspiration came from a personal experience in the family so thats why the main aim for my song is it to show the raw emotion. The emotive lyrics accompianied by piano and vocals is the way I want to capture this natural sound.

The sea wasn’t always the theme, in fact I started off with it being the woods. Following are photos of my songwriting book with how the writing process developed.

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I actually started to use this as my final song but after recording the piano in my first studio session when I listened back I completely changed my mind so thats basically how I came about writing another song.

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This was another song idea ^^^^

After that was when I decided I wanted to toy with the idea of the sea,

Sea Mind Map

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The Sea for me gives a strong feeling of vulnerability, as it would for a lot of people due to it being so huge and can be very dangerous. Being vulnerable is an impression I wanted with in my song, this crosses over the theme, lyrics and even the accompaniment.

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Final Lyrics –

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The Structure I chose was:

Verse, Verse, Pre Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre Chorus, Chorus, repeat till end.

This structure flows which imitates the waves in the theme of the song and it is one I am comfortable writing in. The dynamics also have this feeling of the ripple of waves as I have added harmonies to deepen sections of the song so it isn’t straight throughout.

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