|Posted on June 28, 2015 at 6:10 PM|
Seven years ago, I left the beaten path of the 30-year high school band director career and took on a job as a band and strings teacher at a small performing arts program attached to a cyber charter school. My passion for music and my love of technology found a marriage at this school, and while I do miss directing a full sized concert band, I have grown and learned much as a musician and have blazed some new trails of my own in combining traditional music education practices with today's technology and social media.
In the past six years, I have also re-immersed myself in the world of contemporary a cappella singing and been part of several successful recording efforts. I have learned a lot about music production, and am now producing regular recordings from my own home. In all of that work, the one tool in my arsenal that continues to amaze me with it's ability to edit recorded sounds is Melodyne. I just finished using Melodyne to edit the stems for the clarinet quartet I recorded yesterday, and as I become more successful at getting the right sounds from a recording session, Melodyne's ability to make my proficient playing sound magnificent becomes even more impressive.
Without starting the "auto-tune vs. pitch correction" debate, I can honestly say that I do not play clarinet or sing often enough to make my accuracy and control sufficient to put out a truly flawless and beautiful recording, especially when I am playing the role of performer and recording engineer simultaneously. Melodyne enables me to create a recording that excites me. The raw stems already sound pretty good, but then as I edit each part in Melodyne, the recording starts to sound better and better.
As Connor McCloud said in the movie The Highlander, "It's a kind of magic."
To show how well Melodyne works, here is a sample track I put together that demonstrates each phase of the music production process. Beginning with the raw, unedited stems, each time you hear a bell, the track switches from the raw stems to the tracks edited with Melodyne, and then from the edited tracks to the fully mixed and mastered final cut. The demo track continues to cycle through from raw to edit to mix throughout.
You can listen to a more visual and interactive version of this track on my Soundcloud account.
Some things of note:
1. The intonation on the raw tracks is actually pretty good, but you will hear a lot of timing/sync imperfections, especially around the rubato ends of phrases. If you listen toward the end, you'll even hear a squeak that was edited out later. Also note that I recorded all four parts, including the bass clarinet part, using soprano clarinet.
2. The edited track is pitch and timing corrected, and the bass clarinet stem was lowered an octave and the formants lowered a bit to give it the darkness and range of a true bass clarinet. A very discerning ear may be able to tell the difference, but for most of us mere mortals, the finished track sounds like a bass clarinet was in front of the microphone.
3. The mixed and mastered final cut gives the edited tracks a warm and dark mixture of equalization frequencies, some reverb and delay to fill out the sound, and compression and limiting to boost the original signal and make the track playable on both speakers and headphones.
Here is the fully-produced track in its entirety:
You can also listen to this on Soundcloud.
Overall, it took me about an hour to write the arrangement based on midi versions of Elgar's work and his original score, about 90 minutes to record the stems, about 2 hours to edit the stems in Melodyne, and about 15 minutes to mix and master.
I will continue to work on these home recording projects and hope to be able to offer my services to others as they continue to refine.
This article (c) 2015 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.