Overlooked Production Music Categories for Composers: Australian & Digidiroo

For our next installment in examining the the most overlooked production music categories, we’re turning to world music. Specifically, Australian & Digidiroo. Royalty free music libraries around the globe tend to be lacking in the extremely useful and oft neglected compositional genre, representing a huge opportunity for composers involved in stock music production.

australian digiderooAustralian music has a long, rich, and diverse history, and spans a diverse range of tastes and cultural sounds. Heavily influenced by European colonization, Australia’s classical music and folk music mirror the styles common to Europe in their respective eras, while modern day pop and country genres are largely consistent with trends in the United States.

But most notably, and probably the most recognizable, is the use of digidiroo in aboriginal and folk music. Similar in sound generating function to the trumpet, the digideroo is a long wooden wind instrument that creates that quintessential drone pipe sound. If you’ve ever seen a film with a chase scene through the jungle, or a pan across a hot desert, you’ve likely heard the low, buzzing drone of the digigeroo.

Why is Australian music so useful in production? The characteristic digideroo sound can be used in a wide variety of film and video genres, most effectively to set foreign scenes in harsh environments. Commonly, the sounds tytpical to Australian folk genres create excitement in advertising, hinting at the new and different. The drone can be used to create tension, either in concert with other tribal percussion, symphonic strings, and brash brass stingers, or on its own as a minimalist score.

Overlooked Production Music Categories for Composers: Opera

A lot of production music composers focus their energy on creating royalty free music for just a few specific categories. Typically, composers will say, “I’m a film music composer,” and subsequently post music to the film music category. Or they might be really familiar with corporate videos, and therefore only classify their music as corporate. These categories are not only well known, but also have a lot of competition as a result. This practice leads many composers to overlook production of music for different genres, which are equally as necessary for the licensing needs of many a multimedia project.

Stumped on what style to write in? Here this series explores genres that are extremely useful for customers of royalty free music, but tend to go neglected over the course of a composer’s production schedule.

Opera
operaThis sub genre of classical music is often overlooked, usually because of its complexity, and the resources needed for production. Opera requires orchestral composition and recording, which, ironically enough, is the easy part, given the higher quality and lower cost of orchestral samples for digital workstations. The difficult part? Finding a good live singer to float over the orchestra.

Opera tracks are exceptionally useful in places you normally wouldn’t expect. Car commercials, fragrance commercials, even cleaning supply commercials. Opera tracks can add an element of sophistication, mysteriousness, even comedy, depending on how the track is used. And yet, this category is strikingly relatively empty.

If you’re a composer, you have a few strategies for approaching production. Public domain operas are an excellent choice (not to mention one of two legal approaches). Be sure the composer is long gone, and that the lyricist is, as well. Note that some more recent operas by Vivaldi are not in the public domain, not because of Vivaldi, but because the lyrics belong to the estate of the lyricist. So do your homework before selecting one to produce to make into usable royalty free music. That said, however, the scores to most operas are easily accessible, so with the right samples, and a good strategic approach, you can create realistic, and by-the-book production music opera tracks. Dig in to an old public domain opera like Mozart. Select a couple of popular or not so popular movements, and team up with a great singer.

You can also write something original — no need to write a full opera, just something that has the same sound and feel. Keep the music sounding classical to impressionist, lush and stringy. Pick a language, any language, and write some lyrics. They don’t even need to make sense, especially if your singer has some great technique and vibrato. The point is that making a statement isn’t necessary here, simply creating the sound and feel of an opera is all that a commercial production needs. Have fun, and treat it like any other production project. It’s just another song, in a slightly different style.

Using Royalty Free Sound Effects to Create High Quality Location Sound

If you’ve ever filmed a scene on a windy day or outside on a busy street, you know how valuable sound effects are for recreating or even creating ambience and the audio landscape from scratch. If you’re a seasoned sound editing pro, or a beginner looking to get in on the basics, follow these three tips to create a vibrant soundtrack for your film or video using royalty free sound effects.

royalty free sound effects1) Start with variety, avoid looping. It can be tempting to put sound effects on loop. But if you need to create a soundscape of a busy intersection with lots of cars passing by, select several different cars and different “car passing by” sound effects. Why? Think about it: when you’re on the street, does the same care pass you by 30 times in 2 minutes? No, they’re all different. So find as many different drive-by sound effects as you can, and do your best not to loop the same one over and over again. You can vary timing of entrances, stagger multiple, even mess with the eq or tone of individual effects if you only have a couple to work with. This will enhance realism, and give you the most realistic sound.

2) Pick dry sound effects over affected effects. In other words, add your own reverb (echo). No two sound effects are going to have been recorded in the same space, so to make your audience believe their ears, you’ll have to tweak the reverb a bit. In a cave? Add some echo. On a windy mountain top, go as dry as you can. In a tiled room, put just enough reverb on the effect to make it sound like the noises are bouncing off the tiles. When you do this, be sure to take note of your reverb settings, and try to get a consistent sound when you’re creating sounds in the same “room”.

3) Use your ears in real life. Go out to the ocean and listen. Really listen. What do you hear on that shoreline? Is it realistic to put a barge passing by in your soundbed in a beach scene? Not likely. Listening closely to the way rooms and locations sound in real life will help you create better, more realistic sounding atmospheres. It will also get your creative juices flowing. Can you hear construction outside an office window? How about the sound of kids playing in a park — the rub of a slide, or the thud of falling to the ground? Getting a grasp on the individual elements that make up chaos is an important step in the soundtrack creation process.

5 Ways To Record Better Sound Effects

sound effectsRecording sound effects or building a catalog of sounds to sell on some royalty free music or stock audio library sites? Follow these five tips for maximizing your library’s size and overal success. You’ll find that, with just a little careful planning and organization, you’ll be able to curate the sound library that your production business needs to succeed.

1) Make a list in advance. Just as film producers create a list of shots they need to complete a scene or a video, and optimize their lists to minimize shooting time (equipment rental is expensive, man), so should the professional sound designer. Whether your goal is to get a single animal sound, or a collection of city ambiences, know what you’re going for before you get on location. Make a list, and be specific! Do you need footsteps? Howling? Traffic? Once you’ve got your list, you can then optimize your locations — for example, you can get footsteps on a sidewalk, and at the same time get some traffic sounds if you record on a busy street. You can save time, and at the same time, get creative with your catalog. A little pre-planning can go a long way.

2) Invest in a high quality microphone and DAW. While technology is getting better and better, and cheaper quality equipment is becoming increasingly available, it’s still important for sound effects producers to invest in great gear. Do your homework, because just like quality gear is becoming cheaper, cheap gear is becoming more and more prevalent. Find microphones that have excellent reponse at all frequencies, a solid hard disk to store your takes to, and don’t skimp on your editing software. A quality digital audio editor such as ProTools or Logic can save you time and make your audio sound great.

3) Edit, Edit, Edit. Getting rid of extraneous noises is key in creating quality sound effects that are ready to use in production. No one wants footstep sounds with dogs barking in the background when they’re searching for footstep sound effects. Cut the extra sounds, and your clients will thank you for it. Reduce the ambient noise as much as you can, as this will allow your sound effects to be used in as many different projects as possible without much editing. Separating your sounds this way will also pay off big in the size of your catalog.

4) Master your recordings and create high-resolution mixes. Invest in some quality mastering plug-ins. This will make your recordings have the loudness they need, along with the equalization required to make them sound their best. But remember, don’t over-master. Chances are that whoever is purchasing your audio is likely to edit the effects to suit their specific needs. You can coun’t on them adjusting volume, changing reverb, or mixing with other sounds. The key is to give them the best base material possible. Along these lines, don’t forget to bounce to uncompressed formats like WAV or AIFF, which have far superior sound quality than a highly compressed MP3.

5) Tag and Describe your Sound Effects accurately. When you’ve completed your mixes, don’t just label your files Car 1, Car 2, Car 3. That doesn’t tell your customer anything about the sound they’re looking at, and wastes their time. If you’ve recorded a Ferrari Testarosa revving up it’s engine, label the file that way. People searching sound effects libraries have tons of material to go through, and need help finding things quickly. Similarly, you can save yourself numerous headaches when you need to dig up a file from your archives a year from now. With a little forethought and organization, you can build a better sound effects library with minimal effort.

Free Sound Effects Exchange Sites – Are They Good For The Sound Designer?

It’s not new — there are tons of free sound effects sites out there that give away sound files. The idea is simple, sound designers can upload their collections to these massive libraries, and then the masses flock to the site to download them. Perfectly legal, and perfectly free.

It seems like a win for the consumers, and the average joe looking for a quick booooiinng, but where is the sound designer in all of this? It’s quite surprising to see several big name sound designers giving away their product for free because it’s “good advertising.” Sites that database and archive sounds and allow free downloads by the masses seem to think that they are doing the world a huge favor, when in fact, they are merely hurting the artists and creative production professionals that they’re building their audio file archives upon (leaving sound effects pirates out of the mix here, no pun intended).

Sound designers invest a lot of money into buying expensive audio recording equipment. They spend years training, and more years perfecting recording and editing techniques. If a user is not willing to shell out a few cents for a sound effect, or even a couple of dollars to use royalty free sound effects in their projects, they should have to record the sounds themselves. They’ll quickly realize the hard work it takes to create a sound.

5 Cool Music Production Apps for iPhone

As phones and mobile devices get smaller and smarter all at once, the nature of electronic music production and audio production is changing dramatically. Even more groundbreaking is Apple’s iPhone. As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the iPhone (I don’t leave home without mine). And now I’m an even bigger fan, as more and more apps are being developed for the iPhone that are geared towards music production, writing, and recording. Here are 5 seemingly random super-cool apps to get your iPhone rocking.

1) Studio Devil – The makers of the Virtual Guitar Amp tube modeling plug-ins have teamed up with Quixonic to create an authentic tube amp modeling app for the iPhone. (coming soon)

2) Quixpin DJ – Yeah, so Quixonic makes a few — this one’s a true DJ app that allows you to mix and beatmatch music without all the heavy equipment, and then output a stereo mix to use at parties, or even cue and beat match songs while another is playing. ($1.99)

3) Noise.io Pro Synth – by Amidio, has a deep learning curve, but gives you countless waveforms and processing tools to create your own sounds. Custom sequencer and effects processor make this one an awesome mobile instrument and production tool. ($14.99)

4) VoiceBand – so this isn’t really a pro app, but it is pretty cool stuff. Using your voice, this app plays a real sampled instrument that files what you sing. Control 10 virtual instruments at once using only your voice. ($2.99)

5) Xewton Music Studio – this is a complete music production studio in the palm of your hand. Full 128-track sequencer, 21 pro-quality sampled instruments, realtime effects, sustain, reverb, eq and more. Track settings include tempo and time signature, measure level copy/paste, delete, repeat, transpose, MIDI import and export…. This one is pretty wicked. ($14.99)

NAMM 2010: New Field Sound Recorders Perfect for Sound Effects Production

The 2010 NAMM Show featured a slew of brand new products designed to make production easier and more mobile. Among them included several portable sound recorders that are perfect for those of you who produce sound effects and foley work.

Sanyo introduced the “world’s slimmest and lightest” Xacti sound recorder (their ICR series), measuring a mere 9.4mm thick and weighing in at only 46 grams. That’s right, grams. It’s somewhere between the size of an iPod and an iPod nano, but it does a whole lot more. It’s built in stereo mics (of which there are three sets) record sound in CD quality Linear PCM (that would be 16-bit, 44.1k), as well as several MP3 formats as well, up to 320 kbps. It comes equipped with a 4 GB microSD card, and you can get several cards for infinite hours of sound recording. It is a handy, true-to-life tool that can become a true asset in the field, and it’s optional speaker system is pretty sleek. Goes on sale beginning at the end of January, and no price has been announced yet.

http://sanyo.com

Tascam’s new product line includes the DR-08 and DR-2d handheld portable digital recorders, which are a step up from the Sanyos. Both record up to 24-bit, 96kHz resolution, for seriously high-quality audio, in both Linear PCM and MP3 formats. The DR-08 is about half the size of the 2d, featuring and adjustable, built in stereo mic pair that can be spread and rotated to get the perfect sound. With USB capablities, the 08 is perfect for transferring recordings for editing or sharing on the web (or selling on Productiontrax). Runs on AAA batteries.

The 2d is the big brother, and has a really cool new feature: it records a simultaneous second take at a lower level so that if your main recording spikes or clips, you have a backup ready to go. The larger size (about the size of an iPod) affords the 2d a larger widescreen interface, a scrubbing wheel, and SD card slot (comes with 2GB). Another handy feature is the wireless remote control, which lets you get your sounds recorded from across the room (like when you don’t want to be right next to the lion when it roars…).

http://www.tascam.com

Also releasing new portable digital recorders was Sony, who introduced the PCM-M10 Linear PCM Recorder. Similar to the Tascam models, this guy records up to 24-bit, 96kHz, and is ideal for live music, nature, and field recording. Has built in memory of 4GB, expandable with the trusty micro M2 sticks OR microSD cards. It features a 5-second pre-record buffer, WAV and MP3 formats, digital pitch control, and is bundled with a copy of Sound Forge LE for desktop editing. Featuring both a built in mic and speaker, as well as a line in AND mic in, this little machine is extremely versatile. Also available in your choice of red or black, if you really are that vain, and there is a line of add-on products designed to accompany the recorder including a wind screen, tripod, carrying case speaker set, and the supplied remote control (although the remote is NOT wireless like the Tascam model). Weighs 6oz, and runs on AA batteries.

http://www.sony.com

NAMM 2010: New Sounds and Software for your Studio

MOTU Updates Performer, Plugs

MOTU showed off their new plugins on a new version of Digital Performer (that thing is still around???) — some high quality stuff. Directly competing with Apple’s built-in plugins for Logic Pro, MOTU’s line of plugins features the following:

Electric Keys, a low latency 40GB keyboard sound library of electric pianos, organs, clavs, tape samplers, string machines and more classic and vintage instruments. Nearly all are sampled at 24 bit, and the plugin is 256-note polyphonic, and is complete with an effects rack and amp simulator.

BPM, which looks remarkably similar to Apple’s drum sequencer, gives you the ultimate rhythm programming experience. Includes plug-and-play support for hands-on pad controllers like the Akai MPD32, which is good news for many sample pad enthusiasts, but now with unlimited sample layers per pad (or as much as your computer can handle). Awesome tool for electronic music performance and beat sequencing.

Ethno2 delivers stunning ethnic and exotic instrument sounds from Africa, Asia, Australia, India, South America, and more. I may have to buy this just for the penny whistle and Celtic instruments, and the Flamenco Percussion and guitars.

I didn’t get to hear the Symphonic instrument, and I have a hunch that it may fall a little short compared to other libraries (ie Vienna and EastWest). If you’ve heard it, let me know what you think.

http://www.motu.com

BigFishAudio and Vir2 Instruments Ready to Release Electri6ity

Electrici6ity is the most epic electric guitar virtual instrument to hit the market (ok it’s not out yet, but get ready). This awesome instrument contains some of the most advanced, detailed, and versatile collection of guitars ever. The plugin features the Strat, Tele, Les Paul, P90, Rickenbacker, Danelectro, ES335, and L4 and uses 24-bit samples from each, with three pick up options for each. Every, and I mean every fret of every string was sampled for this library. Downstrokes, upstrokes, ghosting, mutes, hammer-ons, slides, pulloffs, and more are included for every guitar. Articulation and Velocity morphing adds depth and seamless transitioning between effects, while the advanced AI adapts to your playing, allowing for fluid lines, 2000 different chords and positions, and more. If you sequence guitars, this one is a must have.

http://www.bigfishaudio.com
http://vir2.com

Piano Sounds from Synthogy

If you’re looking for some fresh Piano samples that hit the spot with realism and features, you have to check out Synthogy’s new Ivory II virtual instrument. Featuring tons of pianos and synths from uprights to grands to synth combos, this piano instrument has half-pedaling, pedal noise, lid position effects, tuning tables, and even sympathetic String Resonance. Check it out at Ilio.

http://ilio.com
http://synthogy.com

NAMM 2010: Take Your Music With You

Cookie Monster is here today, but many big names in the music industry are missing this year from NAMM, (like Apple, and our friends at East West, and I can’t find Protools anywhere!) while many others have really scaled back (TC Helicon rocks a tiny booth, Korg shifts it’s attention to Marshall). With the struggles of 2009 fresh on everyones minds, the focus for new hardware has been turned to small things, and products aimed at the travelling musician.

Roland put on display its line of battery powered electronic instruments and speaker systems with performances by the Battery Band, who rocked guitars, vdrums, axes, and vocal effects all on a couple packs of energizer AAs. Roland also released their new Mobile Studio Canvas to control Cakewalk via USB, complete with a built-in sample set, wheel scrub and transport controls, and built-in effects processing (and it also runs on batteries, USB power, or AC adapter). The Mobile Studio Canvas is the perfect complement to a mobile studio.

New field recorders (perfect for you sound effects producers) lined the shelves at Korg, Tascam, and Sanyo. Take your pick, now is a great time to buy and start expanding your personal live sound libraries. Check out a more comprehensive post tomorrow about these field recorders.

Play and Sing Along

There were several new products released that continued the sing-along/play-along rush geared towards educators and students. Roland/Boss presented its new eBand, a full featured guitar amp and effects simulator with onboard vocal effects. Just plug your guitar in, and a full band plays along with you at any tempo or key — great for learning licks and songs, or performing live. The same company rolled out a vocal effects processor similar to the TC Helicon models that have rolled out over the past few years (yes, TC Helicon has also upgraded their Harmony-G by adding an XT Line of vocal processors), with pedal controls, and real-time harmony, and programmable banks to accommodate full sets.

Fun With Drums

Korg, who normally displays new keyboards and synths, showed off a different side of their product line this year, with tons of new guitars, amps, and drums — notably the wavedrum, which acts as a melodic instrument, with different pitches and sounds triggered by playing a single drum head.

Guitars, Guitars, Guitars

No NAMM show is complete without a dizzying array of new and exotic guitars, and cool guitar toys. That’s where TC Electronic hits the mark this year, releasing the worlds first Poly-chromatic tuner. In English: this guitar tuner can tune your guitar from a STRUM. Simply strum your strings, and the PolyTune shows you on one screen which strings are sharp or flat.

Oh, and Moog launched their new Moog Guitar — kinda cool.