Something of an experiment, Chosen is my first foray into studio recording. Somewhat torpedoed by Covid-19, we had to work with demo quality only, recording at home with our equipment and then collaborating online. Using archived video footage from various creative teams in my old church Hosanna Porirua, The result was mixed for the video below.
More about the sound recording process from audio engineer Philadelphia Murefu:
Nick Holmes is an artist who is on a journey of self discovery. I loved his energy when we met and the more I got to know him, I realised he would be the perfect match for this project. He was new to the recording world, hyped up, hungry to get in, available and flexible. Honestly, he was a diamond in the rough. It is easier to work with and direct a person who accepts and understands that this is an experiment or assignment and it will have its quirks or may even be time consuming because I was a student. So I discussed the ideas with Roy and later on introduced him to Nick, and that was the begin of this incredible journey of recording the LOCOVOX EP track.
I had everything all laid out, who, how, what when we were recording, however a global pandemic (COVID 19) hit and I was back on the drawing board reorganising and adapting to the new changes.
Due to social distancing, we were unable to make contact so we had to mentor Nick on how to setup and position his microphones via zoom which was our main line of communication. We were lucky that he was had basic equipment at home to achieve the recording.
We also trained him that during his recording to monitor his interface volume and maintain singing within range to ensure the volume does not clip and also its not too low which will be inaudible.
We had no choice in the mode of mixing the EP track at home. It was challenging but we quickly adapted to new methods to enable this project become a success.
We mixed everything in the home studio. Nick would sing at home, transfer the wave files through google drives. I would download the vocals share it with Roy before transferring them into protools. Roy and I listened to some reference tracks provided by Nick and this gave us ideas on what the artists vision was.
Since this was not a live recording and he was using a basic studio microphone, we had to boost his voice using an EQ. I used the de-esser plugin to remove the “s’s” and some of the background noise which would affect our mixing. We added reverb and delay to raise the vocals to a professional level as we found it to be too dry.
During mastering we added a limited to the master fader to make the music loud and achieved the minus 14 lufs with is a requirement for platforms such as sound cloud.
I used Midi for my keyboards as it is faster in terms of mixing and editing. Quantizing midi also enabled our instruments top align with the click track.
I learnt to work remotely which had its highs and lows. The highs were that I could work at anytime taking as many breaks however the lows were COVID 19 which meant the children were going to be home 24/7. I quickly adapted to the system and found a work life balance which helped me work on the EP.
I learnt skill application-transferring the classroom to the home studio. Mixing, editing, mastering and file management were the heartbeat of the project as everything depended on it.
I have gained confidence working with a client as I have practically worked with one. I have mentored and coached the artist on various things such as microphone position and expressive singing as opposed to shouting which affect the microphone distance. I discovered some professional plugins that were not provided by protools that enhanced the artists vocals to a professional standard.
I have learnt the value of open communication between peers, lecturers and artists. This contributed to an effective workflow between us and the artists and we could also troubleshoot by asking our lecturers whenever we were stuck. It was also less intimidating once everyone knew and understood their roles and realised we were all working towards the same goals.
There are some great things I felt I did in the making of the LOCOVOX EP. The vocals provided were dry and lifeless and using the plugins and instruments, these were rejuvinated. The artist agrees with this point and was open to ideas we contributed. Distance coaching was new to me and overtime I have become very confident.
Working in collaboration with other disciplines such as the student from graphic design (Samara) who graciously designed the logo and EP cover. I was also glad that working with my colleague Roy gave SAE a professional outlook when dealing with the artist. This emphasises the point that teamwork makes the dream work.
There are always challenging times in every task. I found with the limitations set due to to the COVID 19, the process was time consuming and tedious. The artist has a day job and was only available after hours and having a family, I had to wait until after bedtime to be able to review the files.
There were times the internet was very slow and protools kept on crushing right in the middle of mixing. This was not only disheartening but having to start all over again made it even harder to reboot the morale.
Lastly it was with great difficulty trying to align the vocals and the instruments because the artist found it difficult to use a click track. With more practice he would have become more confident but I doubt he had the time. We were not able to accomplish other ideas such as shooting a professional video which would have been a great boost to this project.