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Posts Tagged ‘keyboard tracks’

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Grammys: Studio Pros Gets a Win!

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I watch the Grammys every year. I almost feel obligated to, like I would be missing out if I didn’t check out the biggest award ceremony of my industry. Sometimes there are a lot of artists nominated that I love, and other times my tastes differ from what the general public has been listening to for the last year.

When I was a kid, I would root for my favorite artists to clean up at the Grammys and yell at the screen in disgust when someone won who I thought was undeserving. I suppose that’s about the same for everyone who watches, even people in the theater at the ceremony itself. But as the years went on, my admiration grew for anyone who was winning a Grammy. Even if I wasn’t personally a fan of their music, I respected the artist’s musical accomplishments. Maybe I started thinking that I couldn’t really criticize the winners until I won a Grammy myself!

Another thing happened as I got older, something really fun: I started to personally know people who were nominated for the awards. After years in the business and a degree from Berklee College of Music, suddenly my peers and friends were winning the most prestigious award in music. Best new artist Esperanza Spaulding went to Berklee while I was there, and a friend of mine won a Grammy for his involvement on Eminem’s album.

But the big news for me to report is that one of Studio Pros’ very own keyboardists was among the Grammy winners! He played on The Stanley Clarke Band’s self-titled album, which won best contemporary jazz album. We’re always touting our Grammy-nominated engineer, but let’s not forget that our session musicians are of Grammy-caliber performers as well, and this win proves it!

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Choosing the Right Instrumentation For Your Song

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

We love giving musicians a lot of options for their songs, but not every option can be right for every song. You should always carefully consider the instrumentation you choose. Not only will the right instruments make your track sound appropriate for its genre, they will also allow you to showcase the parts that are most important to your song. Here are a few choices you may come across when picking the right instrumentation.

Real drum track vs. programmed drums

The first decision to make is whether you would like a live drummer playing a real drum set or would rather have a programmed drum part. Usually if your song is rock, country, and certain kinds of pop, you’ll want the sound of one of our Los Angeles session drummers to give your song that full band, live sound. But if you do R&B, hip hop, electronic or top 40 pop music, you’re most likely going to want the sound of programmed drums.

Real vs. synth bass

A great bass line is a key part of a great song. That bass line can be played by a studio bassist, or we can program a synth bass line. Once again, it all depends on what vibe you’re going for with your music.

Guitars

There are many types of guitars that make all kinds of sounds: solid body guitars, hollow bodies, acoustics, electrics, etc. There are tons of different guitar sounds even out of the same guitar, too: different pickups, distortion, clean, reverbs, delays, and various effects.  Different guitar sounds fit with different styles: acoustic goes great with folk and singer/songwriter music, hollow body electric is perfect for jazz, etc.

Guitars also sound good when they’re layered, and rhythm guitar parts are often doubled in songs you hear on the radio. But don’t go overboard laying guitars; more than 3-5 and your song starts sounding muddy and undefined.

Keyboards and synths

Keyboards are similar to guitars: lots of options, but add too many and the listener won’t know what they’re supposed to be listening to. With keyboard tracks, you can have piano, organ, electric keyboards (like a Rhodes or Wurlitzer), and synth instruments (including string sections). If the rest of your song sounds very acoustic or live, you probably want to stick with one of the basics like piano or organ. If you’re producing a dance track, you’ll probably want to have a lot of cool synths and sounds that aren’t quite as “natural” as your standard keyboards.

Vocalists

Vocals are instruments, too. Even if you don’t use one of our vocalists for your lead part, they can add a new dimension to your music with harmonies or other background vocals. You’d be amazed what a few tracks of “oohs” can do for your song!

Horns

Studio Pros also offers horn sections.  Horn sections are essential for certain styles like swing and Latin music, but you might be surprised how many songs in other styles use horns, too.  A horn section can add a very unique element to your song, and they often bring the energy level up considerably when added to a recording.

Don’t forget that you can always mix it up—there’s no rule saying rock music has to have a live bass track or that rap can’t have a real drum set. We love to hear artists experiment and push the boundaries of their style. Just remember to always pick and choose your instruments wisely…  You want to make sure your listener gets the experience that you’re hoping for.

Featured Artist: Chord Slinger N Lola

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Chord Slinger N Lola used Studio Pros as the glue that held together their long-distance musical collaboration.

When Chord Slinger N Lola instrumentalist Don Wallingford first heard Lola sing, he immediately imagined how her voice would sound over his music. “I said, ‘My God, that would be so good for my music,’” he remembers. The only problem was that they were living in two different parts of the country: Lola sang in a metal band in New York City, while Wallingford was based in Cincinnati. “I sent her an email and asked if she’d be interested in a collaboration,” he says. “My music was very different, it was more ambient stuff. But her voice just sounded like a perfect match.”

Lola is originally from Greece, but came to America to pursue a master’s degree in psychology. Some of her influences include the Cranberries, Fiona Apple, and The Gathering; Wallingford’s inspirations skew a little more toward classic rock artists such as Simon & Garfunkel and The Who, but he also loves some modern bands such as Green Day. The two of them started putting music on websites such as Thesixtyone.com where they enjoyed some success on the charts. As they moved on to bigger sites, the duo realized they might need to start getting a little more serious about their recordings.

“We were on Reverbnation about six weeks and we were number one in the region and doing pretty well globally,” Wallingford says. “We thought, you know what, we probably need to take this to a higher level.” Inspired by all the positive feedback they were getting, they decided it was time to record in an actual studio–but there was still the problem of being in remote locations. “We had another problem because I play all these different instruments on the synthesizer, but when I use drum loops it doesn’t sound the same as a real set of drums,” says Wallingford. “I’m also not the best bass player in the world. I can’t get that professional sound because bass isn’t really my thing. When one person’s doing all of the instruments, it’s impossible to get really good quality.”

As he was looking for options, Wallingford saw that Studio Pros had been selected by Sound on Sound magazine as the best online recording studio–which he realized was the exact type of service he needed. He soon became impressed with Studio Pros’ personnel. “I got to reading about how [Studio Pros] has all these Grammy award-winning people that really have their act together to play with you and make suggestions,” he says. “I talked to Lola and she said we should do it because we needed something studio-grade.”

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Featured Artist: Kevin Tye

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Kevin Tye had never made a professional product with his music.  With the help of Studio Pros, he’s now taken his passion to the next level.

Kevin Tye has quite a bit of musical experience–he played in local bands for almost a quarter century. Eventually he moved on to writing his own material, taking advantage of the fact that he could set up a home studio very easily with today’s computer recording options. These days, he writes and records songs in his spare time when he’s not a this full-time job as a teacher. “I do it as a passion,” he says. “I just like to create things.” But until recently, he had never attempted to make a fully professional recording of his music.

Tye writes in multiple styles and genres, but as of late he has been focusing his creative efforts mainly on writing country songs. He saw an ad for Studio Pros in a magazine. “I decided I would give it a try,” he remembers, “to see what one of my songs would sound like through a professional studio.”

“I was a bit unsure exactly how it was all gonna play out,” he admits. But Tye’s confidence grew with each step of the recording process with Studio Pros; it started with a song sketch and built from there, while he gave his input on each of the tracks as he heard them. He was particularly interested in hearing the musical direction his songs would take by letting Studio Pros’ session musicians make their own decisions. “I wanted to see what the choices would be for people who are doing this thing day in and day out,” he explains. Then, giving more of his own feedback as the process went on, Tye struck a balance that he felt optimized his songs. “In the end I think it was a good mix of musical choices. For example, the singer did some slightly different things in the vocal than I had done, which I ended up liking quite a bit. So it was kind of that process where I was just feeling it out at first, then giving more input at the very end stages.”

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Featured Artist: Jeff Heiniger

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Jeff Heiniger knew the importance of a professional production–so he turned to Studio Pros when he didn’t want to settle for anything less.

Jeff Heiniger has known what goes into a professional production for a long time. In 1987, he won a national songwriting competition in the UK that was put together by Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. The prize: a chance to record in the Stones’ state-of-the-art mobile recording studio with top producers Mick McKenna and Terry Taylor. “It was brilliant to work with actual professionals,” Heiniger remembers. “They turned our demo into something that was fantastic.”

Heiniger first started taking music lessons after getting a piano when he was 13.  He also started listening to all sorts of pop music, from Electric Light Orchestra to Depeche Mode, ABBA to The Beatles. Since winning the competition he has put together a Pro Tools-equipped home studio, but soon realized that without a professional producer behind the board he wasn’t going to achieve the same sort of radio-ready product he got with is winning song. “The problem is that I’m not an engineer, so I didn’t have anybody to record my stuff,” he explains. “What I found was really good about Studio Pros was that the production was sort of taken out of my hands in a way.”

When he found the Studio Pros website, Heiniger was actually looking for session vocalists on the web. “I couldn’t find anyone locally who was any good,” he says. “It’s quite laborious, taking your music to a recording studio and finding an engineer who will record a session singer who you may not like. It seemed quite a lengthy process, and one that may not yield results at the end of the day.” He found himself intrigued by the Studio Pros website. “The site itself looked very professional. Professionalism and price were important.”

With Studio Pros, Heiniger was able to focus on writing a song on piano, then letting our team of world-class studio musicians build the rest from the ground up. Along the way, he would provide input and feedback to make sure everything came together how he wanted it. In order to make it easier, Heiniger would provide reference tracks with other music that matched the vibe he was going for with each song.

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Featured Artist: Rich Marcello

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

A seasoned songwriter and poet, Rich Marcello teamed up with Studio Pros to give his productions the professional edge he needed, and keeps on coming back for more.

Boston based songwriter Rich Marcello is no novice when it comes to getting out the ink and jotting it down.  With over 30 songs professionally produced with Studio Pros, he’s gotten the continual experience of producing his tracks online, and is regularly bringing Studio Pros more material to produce.  “I’ve been writing for around 20 years,” says Marcello.  “At first I did a lot of the production myself but several years ago I decided to get them professionally produced, which was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Marcello came across Studio Pros (which was at the time DrumsForYou.com) through an online search and decided to give it a try.  Starting with just a drum track, he heard the quality of Studio Pros’ production team and decided to try it out for a full production.  “By letting other really talented musicians work on my material it really took my work to a much better place. I knew I found a great partner in music and I’ve felt that on every song Studio Pros has done for me.  I think Studio Pros is the best in the business–I won’t ever use anyone else,” Marcello stated.

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Pre-production: the core of a professional production

Monday, June 21st, 2010
Most of Studio Pros’ full music production projects start with the rhythm section tracks–first the drums, then the bass immediately after. Later on, we continue to the guitars, keyboards and any other instruments. The vocals are usually last to be recorded, right before the mixing and mastering stages.
In order to get the best results from the rhythm section, we create a guitar or a keyboard “sketch” for the song before bringing the session players into the studio.

What is a song “sketch?”

The sketch is a simple guide made by one of Studio Pros’ arrangers  played on guitar and/or keyboards. It includes a chord progression and a melody line that mimics the vocal. It’s extremly important that the sketch is 100% synced to a click track, as the drums and the bass will be recorded to it.  In most cases, the sketch tracks won’t be used in the final mix. It will probably sound way too simple and sometimes even awkward. This is because the melody lines need to be straightened out and quantized, and the chord progression should be as simple as possible so it won’t distract the session players.
Remember: the only purpose of the sketch is to serve as a guide for the rhythm section, and its tracks won’t be used in your song. (more…)

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