This week I am developing a new project that includes vocal recordings. I have created the track that will accompany the vocals, and I am organizing to record the vocals this week in my mentor’s studio. Sarah F. has agreed to sing for this project, so I will be recording her vocals and then editing them and adding them to my project. I have attached a link to the background track that I created this week.
I was quite disappointed with my last project; it didn’t come together quite how I wanted it to. That being said, I am extremely proud of this new project so far because I feel as though I have implemented more of my skills to create a more complicated and accurate sounding cover of ‘Something Just Like This’ by the Chainsmokers and Coldplay. I wanted to try using GarageBand in a slightly different format, so I created this project on my iPhone. I found this much easier than using my laptop. It’s much easier to make simple adjustments, and the instruments and loops are much easier to find. I focused especially on finetuning each recording to sound as close to the original recording of the song as possible.
This week I have also been researching how to implement vocals into GarageBand projects in preparation for my recording session with Sarah. I’ve learned about some of the most effective ways to create a portable system that helps isolate your voice from the reflections bouncing off the walls. I also learned a lot about gain staging. Gain is the ratio of the output of your recorded voice, to the input of your recorded voice. There’s a minimum and maximum range of gain before the quality of your recording becomes extremely poor. This range exists at every stage of recording. It’s important to stay within the proper range at every stage to maintain a professional quality recording.
I will be posting the final version of this project later this week, but here is the finalized copy of the backtrack:‘Something Just Like This’ Backtrack
How to Have a Beautiful Mind:
During my last meeting with my mentor, I was careful in trying to pay attention to the different hats that my mentor was using so that I could try and use the same hat. I found that this parallel thinking helped me understand the way my mentor was thinking about a situation and allowed me to get more out of our discussions. This is the conversation that I recorded with my mentor. She was teaching me about what gain staging is and how to use is effectively. Within the transcript I have made notes about which hats are being used and why:
Me: While I was researching different techniques for recording vocal tracks for GarageBand I found some articles about gains staging. I was wondering if you could show me how to use gain staging effectively?
Adrienne: Sure. Let’s go over the basic ways to use gain staging and then I’ll show you some examples from some of my old projects.
During this part of the conversation, my mentor and I both used the blue hat. I defined the focus of the conversation by asking about gain staging, and my mentor set up a sequence of hats by explaining how she was going to teach me about it.
Adrienne: So, gain staging is basically the process of managing and adjusting the volume of any track in your project, but we’re going to be practicing gain staging vocal recordings.
Me: Ok. When I’m adjusting the volume of my instrumental tracks, I can just adjust the volume lever left or right to make it louder or softer. How is adjusting the volume of vocals different?
During this part of the conversation, I realized that my mentor was ‘wearing’ a white hat. When she explained what gain staging is, she was telling me a hard fact. She also explained how I’m going to get the information I need when she said that we were going to practice gain staging on vocal recordings. When I realized what hat she was using, I decided to add to the conversation by stating what I know, which is how to adjust the volume of regular instrumental tracks. I then asked a question related to the information that I need to know, which is how gain staging works in vocal recordings specifically.
Adrienne: It’s different because there are more variable that need to be adjusted. This is where a lot of people mess up when making GarageBand projects. It’s easy to just start twisting random knobs until you think the vocals sound right. This usually screws up your gain staging and will lead to your project sounding less clean or professional.
Me: Yeah, when I was just starting to learn how to adjust the resonance and echo or the treble and bass of the tracks in my projects I did that as well. In my opinion that strategy doesn’t work very well at all.
I think that this part of our conversation used both red and black hats. My mentor was using a black hat to point out potential problems for using gain staging. Additionally, we were both using our red hats because the information we were sharing was based on intuition. Adrienne believed that many people are tempted to change the volume settings ‘randomly’ until they find something that sounds right. She used her intuition and emotion to say that this wouldn’t be the most effective strategy. Additionally, I used my emotions and past experience to agree with her statement.
Adrienne: The idea of gain staging can seem really complicated to beginners, but it’s actually quite simple if you compare it to pixels on your TV or phone screen. When you record quietly, you will have to turn up the volume later on in your project. This is just like saving a really tiny image and then stretching it out onto your TV screen.
Me: It’s going to be blurry and out of focus.
Adrienne: Right. So how would you fix this problem?
Me: I’d save the image at the right size initially so that I don’t have to stretch it later.
Adrienne: Exactly. This is why it’s important to record your vocal tracks at the right volume first so that you don’t need to make any major adjustments later.
I believe that this conversation was using the green hat. The green hat helps with creativity, and my mentor’s use of this interesting analogy allowed me to see gain staging from a different perspective. I also think that this conversation used the yellow hat, because Adrienne’s TV metaphor showed me the value of recording with proper audio. Furthermore, it explained why recording with the right volume is so important for gain staging.
From this conversation I learned that there are so many different ‘hats’ that are used in one conversation. I also learned that multiple hats can be worn at once and may be more effective when they are worn together. I believe that recognizing that hats that other people are wearing during your conversations with them is very enlightening and allows for you to adapt your own style of communication to compliment theirs.