Senior Project Journal

Week 10 Updates 9/13/12

It’s the last hoorah for Senior Project. We’re duplicating our projects in class today. For me specifically, I am ink jet printing CD art, cutting up and folding album covers, updating this here journal, and printing some documents for my portfolio book. I have literally accomplished everything I posted on my checklist posted in week 4. The finished product is a shrink wrapped CD with two stereo master tracks that I produced here at AI complete with CD jacket and CD-R graphics. I am going to spend the rest of the weekend sprucing up all my other projects and graphics to present in a binder and for this website.  As far as this class goes, everything will be packaged tonight and ready to go for next Wednesday. I have had countless obstacles and challenges throughout this project, but it has nevertheless made me much more diligent in my workflow and organizational skills. I am excited to graduate and begin my new chapter in the audio industry!

Week 9 Updates 9/6/12

It’s the last week to complete all of what I’ve started since the beginning of the quarter as well as my entire career at the Art Institute. I’m still, yes still, mixing and tuning vocals as we speak and I’ve yet to come up with an album graphic to compliment the music I’ve been working on. This sums up what isn’t done: mixing, mastering, album art, duplication in class (week 10), and putting together a binder of the entire project as a professional piece to present at the portfolio show. I’m planning on preliminary mastering tonight in class and having the tracks finished to my taste by tomorrow evening. Yes, I swear, tomorrow evening, due to the lack of time there is to take my sweet time and perfect the tracks. They sound great thanks to the facility and quality gear I used, not to mention the talent of my fellow band mates.
By this time next week, my goals are to have everything completely mastered, printed, and shined up ready to go (two stereo master tracks, 20 CDs with album artwork, an up to date journal, and a binder displaying my work throughout the past 9 weeks). My game plan is to have the tracks all auto tuned up, mixed, and mastered over the weekend. Why? Because I will be done mastering by the end of class on Monday 9/10/12 5PM. I must also create my QR code to direct smart phone users to my website and hopefully get some freelance contract jobs making music/sound design compositions.

Week 8 Updates 8/30/12

I’ve finally tracked vocals for one song on Monday during my scheduled studio session. Tonight, I’m going to track the other vocal track at Armando Cepeda’s home studio. I’ve literally held off on using any other studio besides our school to show maximum proficiency with an SSL Duality board and maintaining the session as if it were any other professional high end studio. I used a Neumann U87 and ran it through the Universal Audio 1176 compressor. We tracked almost non-stop for two and a half hours (pretty rough on one voice). We managed to get some really great takes and I am satisfied with the end results. I’m hoping for the same when I track tonight from 10:30pm-???. Pro Tools 10 is finally running without any problems. I had waited too long to activate my student version due to the eligibility verification process. Now I know to do all of that in advance.
I’m still in the process of tracking and mixing for both songs, creating album art, and mastering to send my tracks off for duplication. In the event that I cannot do this in time I will have to make the CDs myself and create unique packaging for each individual disc. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem as it would showcase my creativity methods in making CDs look presentable and professional. Trevor had told me that he has an InkJet printer for CD’s and a shrink wrap machine to seal the deal. I am planning on utilizing those tools for a run of no more than 20 CD-Rs. There is hardly any time left in the quarter and I am chipping away at everything being thrown at me. I accept all challenges and responsibility for what needs to be done by the time I graduate. I plan on using tonight’s class to create album art and learn how to master.

Week 7 Updates 8/23/12

Auxiliary tracking to sweeten up the tracks went well. It was more of a vocal session than pianos, strings, and other instruments. However, Matt threw in some harmonica through a Shure SM7B for Frank’s project (Matt’s song). I found that we did a great job setting up all the mics and getting our signal flow down. Chris gave me a great tutorial in Autotune during lab time which will be essential for any vocal studio work that I pursue. It will come in handy when I mix The Color of Glass demo project. I have set up a session to track vocals this Monday during our class time and a little bit after into my next class 8/27/12 from 2PM-8PM. I’m going to need the vocalist to do the best he can in the time that we have and really bring the track together.
To sum up what I’ve accomplished this past week is simple: diagram and input list for Auxiliary tracking listed below and tracked guitars. I hoped to achieve much more, but I couldn’t due to time constraints and having two general education classes that ate up my entire Tuesday. For this week I plan to accomplish album graphics, vocal tracking, last touch editing, final mixing, and preliminary stages of mastering. I’m ready to take on everything I need to do since time is running out and we’re cutting down to the wire. I would like to learn everything that there is to know about mastering to make the best two song demo project it could be. My main challenges lately have been getting my vocalist to finish lyrics and getting studio time.

Week 6 Updates 8/16/12

Monday’s vocal session went incredibly smooth for my colleagues. We set up a ton of mics and everyone chose what sounded best for their individual projects. I will be recording guitars and vocals tomorrow 8/17/12 from 1PM-5PM. I’m planning on using some of the same mics we used for both sessions. I will also have someone getting good video footage of the session since I haven’t gotten much since the drum session. I haven’t exactly accomplished a whole lot this week minus making the diagrams and buying Pro Tools 10. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of “stuff” I need to take care of in the next couple of weeks. I am confident that I will finish strong and make an exceptional presentable project for both my band and Senior Project Package.
We also had a class discussion of touring with a performing band/group. There a lot of contacts that need to made from the get go including tour managers, stage managers, FOH engineers, owners, etc. As tour manager of my own band I would be responsible for calling the venues up and sending them information ahead of time for both my band and whoever else is on tour. It’s my responsibility to make everyone’s life easier in terms of getting them what they need when they need it whether it be a drink or an input list and stage plot. It’s important to look for the most popular band in another town that draws a crowd to better the chances of making new fans/contacts for later tour dates. There is a lot involved in touring and presents many issues if something goes wrong (which is a 50/50 chance).
Once I track tomorrow, I will have a fluid mix of every element ready to master by this time next week. When my songs are mixed, they will then be mastered and ready for the preliminary duplication. I plan on utilizing CD Baby to press my small run of 20 CDs and Bandcamp to distribute the songs digitally. I also want to set up an amazon account once I have a UPC code on the CD covers. They will be shrink wrapped as a final touch to hand out to future employers at the portfolio show. I’m still in need of completing graphics for the album art. I’m going for a simple and effective minimalist approach for artwork. It’s crunch time and I’ll be doing everything I can in a day’s work step by step to meet all my deadlines. Here is the documentation for our vocal session at school:

Actual vocal session consisted of a Neumann U87 with a pop filter and ran it through the UA 1176 compressor. The second vocal was tracked at Armando’s home studio in Carlsbad with a Mojave tube condenser mic.

Week 5 Updates 8/9/12

As a class we have reached the midpoint of the quarter. I created two diagrams and an updated input list for Monday’s guitar tracking session. Unfortunately I ran into another studio schedule dilemma since my guitarist needed to be at work. I am still in the midst of editing and mixing my drum/bass sessions together for a solid foundation in order to make the guitar and vocal tracking tighter and easier for us to follow. However, I did sit in and play guitar for Jose’s cover of “Superstar” by The Carpenters. I made significant progress with keeping updated in terms of diagramming and input listing. I have yet to update my Pro Tools 8 LE rig to the student version of Pro Tools 10.
My goals for next week are to track both guitars and vocals on 8/17/12 in the studio from 1PM-5PM. If I do not track both there I will recover the missed studio time at a friend’s home studio in Carlsbad. I want to have a nice mix of all the tracked elements before class 8/20/12 when we track anything else I might want to add. I’d like to get photo and video footage of both sessions to make presentable for the portfolio show. I am upgrading to Pro Tools 10 this weekend to accomplish all my editing and mixing and to gather information about legal issues and the business portion of distribution. I also plan to have concept album art in an Adobe Illustrator document. I plan to accomplish everything within due time.

Actual recording consisted of the Hot Rod Deville close mic’ed up with a Sennheiser 421 and Royer 121. Guitars were tracked separately and not together as originally planned.

Week 4 Updates 8/2/12

Checklist
For this week, I have put together an input list for bass, two diagrams displaying layout and signal flow, a mock up budget of the project, and a checklist of important activities to complete my final product. I came across the challenge of not having my bass player come in for Monday’s session because of work and time constraints. I have some studio time from 12PM-3PM on Sunday to track bass. I tracked bass for three fellow colleagues who are also creating senior projects. However, I did learn beat detective much better than what I had known about it before thanks to Chris Hobson in a lab. I’ve also made significant progress in keeping up with tracking, diagrams, and other documentation. Illustrator has become an important tool for my diagrams and signal flow sheets. Excel and Google docs are perfect for my budget and input lists.
My goals for next week’s session is to track guitars. However, the trend seems to be that I track later in the week rather than the designated Monday from 1-5PM, which clashes a lot with my band’s working schedule. Nevertheless I plan to put at least 2-3 microphones per amp in combination with the outboard compressors complete with diagrams and input lists for Monday 8/6/12. I have yet to edit/mix drums and bass due to a busy schedule in and out of school. This is my goal to accomplish by Sunday. I also want to gather some documentation of the session I had for the drum session from Enrique Rodriguez (videographer).

Senior Project Timeline

Actual bass setup consisted of the Sterling Music Man, the Avalon U5 DI, and the UA 1176 compressor.

Week 3 Updates 7/26/12

I have created an input list for drums, a drum diagram layout, and rented out the necessary microphones to record the two foundation tracks. I have also acquired assistance from my colleague Jeff Meredith. The reason for this is because I faced the challenge of having to book drums 5 days after the initial recording date Monday, July 23rd. The class had too many people doing things differently (setup, lack of documentation) and some parts of the session were a little rocky giving each student who wanted to track less time and/or no results. I have gained significant progress in organizing and managing my project through spreadsheets, timelines, and setting goals each week to chip away at what needs to be accomplished.
Last week I was project manager and was responsible for creating a quick way to rub out timelines and briefly explained what a Gantt chart is/how it functions. This week I am documentation manager, which entails taking photos and video of the drum session. However, I administered time allocations for everyone to take pictures to even out the workload. It was a very successful session for the class.
My goals for this week are to track drums tomorrow 7/27/12 at 5PM-7PM and have them edited by Sunday 7/29/12 in order to track bass properly Monday 7/30/12 1PM-5PM. I also need to make the diagram layout and signal flow sheets for the bass session. I would ideally like to get video documentation of both drum and bass sessions from Ricky Rodriguez or Jose Gomez, depending on availability. My goals to accomplish during Week 4 (8/2/2012) are to have a living budget/invoice started, updated timeline/journal, and have bass mixed with drums. I must also put together a documentation plan and the diagrams for the class guitar session on the following Monday (8/6/2012).

Week 2 Project Proposal 7/19/12

My senior project is going to be producing a 2-song demo for my band The Color of Glass  from scratch track recordings all the way to finished polished tracks pressed in CD format and ready for digital distribution on bandcamp.com. I chose to produce The Color of Glass to showcase my ability to record, edit, mix, master, and create tracks that will be memorable and sound unique. I will use the AI studio at school to record the raw tracks: drums, bass, guitars, vocals, and auxiliary instruments. For the mixing and mastering portion I will be in and out of the AI studio and working most on my home setup (Laptop with Pro Tools and M-Audio Bx8a studio monitors). I’ve been allocated 160 hours to complete the project and will divide up the time into five main sections: 20 hours of recording, 40 hours for pre and post production, 32 hrs for a documentation video, 32 hrs for duplication and distribution, and 26 hrs for miscellaneous loose ends (album art, track coloring, etc.).
The first stages of production will be the first four weeks recording scratch tracks to get a feel of what the project is going to be and how I will address the creative process of recording the instruments week by week. For each week I will be producing diagrams and setup sheets as well as documenting important aspects of the sessions.  By the 5th and 6th weeks I will be mixing the components together and adding any other additional tracks/software instruments to the songs. The 7th and 8th weeks will consist of mastering, finding the best place to press CDs, and sorting out legal issues before distribution. My team will consist of a second producer/engineer Andre Elias when I am tracking guitar,  graphic artist/web designer Carley Miller, videographer Enrique Rodriguez, AutoTune guru Chris Hobson, and external sources (CD duplication people). My equipment list will vary week to week, but will be the microphones I can rent out from school, a h4n field recorder, my band’s instruments and amps, and a digital camera  for self-documentation.
I’m not expecting to spend a ton of money on this project, as I am currently still in school paying for tuition. Realistically I will dish out about $300 to cover costs of duplication and any other miscellaneous costs for contingency. If there was no limit to how much money, time, or where the facilities were I’d still use the school’s studio to showcase my skills with the SSL board, Pro Tools, and managing a band to create a strong demo. However, I’d spend more time tracking if I could considering it costs a ton to do it outside of the studio. Other students will be tracking the same instruments the same days, which makes time the biggest challenge of this project. I also expect to face monetary challenges even though the band will be paying for some portion of it. I really hope we don’t have to share our profits if we make any with AI due to licensing. I am going to have to sort out the legal issues of distribution before I release the CD and digital copy on the internet.

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