Hello. I just wanted to send this note of appreciation your way. Last weekend, a song I wrote and recorded on UJAM for my daughter and her fiancé was played during their wedding ceremony. Without UJAM, this special moment, that brought tears to my daughter’s eyes, would not have been possible. In times when we are not always aware of how far-reaching and significant our creations can be, I want you to know how much the use of your technology has meant to me.- Sandra.
You’ve seen by now that this blog hosts an array of talented writers and thinkers about all things music. Gary Ewer recently gave us a fantastic introductory series on creating songs that work (Missed that column? Check it out.) Now, we’re here to share another expert’s advice: this time, from one of our very own UJAM users.
You may recognize him: Matt was a finalist in the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations contest last year, and he’s continued to make great music since. (See our first post on Matt in the ACR series here.) Without further ado, Matt’s here to share his thoughts on mixing great music in UJAM.
Producing a Great Mix in UJAM
Today we’re going to be highlighting some tips that will help you create high quality recordings and produce a great final mix. Whether you are a seasoned audio veteran or have never recorded before, these tips will help you create beautiful recordings so that your jams can shine.
Before we can learn cool post-production techniques and create tracks that excite and inspire people, we must first record something! The main key to a quality mix actually begins before you record, not after. There is saying when it comes to mixing that you must live by: “You can’t polish dirt”. Your mix will always be limited to or enhanced by the quality of your recordings.
There are three principles to a good mix before you even begin recording:
#1) Cheap is Expensive: Why You Need Good Gear
Consider this. You would never phone an airline to book a flight and say, “Give me the plane built with the cheapest parts possible, but make sure they look good.” No. You would want to get whatever works best. Your life may depend on it. So many times though, musicians seem to want the shiniest gear without considering the sound quality it produces. You must spend money on good gear. Your mix depends on it. Here are some thoughts on good gear:
Save up for what you want, not what you can currently afford. If you’re going to be a professional, you must do your work with professional tools. Would you rather dig a ditch with a shovel or a bulldozer? The shovel is cheaper and easier to lift. The bulldozer requires money and time to learn how to use it, but you better believe it does a better job!
In the same way, if you would like to capture good quality music, you must have a well-made instrument with quality audio output. It must then go over quality cables to a quality audio interface. Having trouble picking your gear? Find out what your musical influencers use and why they use that gear. They probably have a reason. Check recommendations on professional audio forums and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Lastly, yes, look at the price. It can be a good indicator of how well the gear is made.
Use good cables. Cables transmit sound through them. If you’re using the cheapest brand of cables, you are probably picking up interference and maybe even something called crosstalk, where signal from another cable crosses over to the cable your using. Good cables give you an opportunity for quality sound. Bad Cables will always equate to poor quality sound. If at any point in your signal chain you have poorly made gear, it will affect the final sound you are trying to achieve.
Purchase reliable, transparent software. Not all software is created equal. The reliability of your software is crucial to your production process. The more your software crashes, the less work you will have saved. The more work lost, the more time you will waste. This is illogical. If you want to do things well, you must purchase software that does not crash and does not slow you down once you’ve learned how to use it.
Additionally, you must purchase software that is extremely transparent in the final output of your audio. Despite the fact that you are recording digitally, not all of your output audio will sound the same. In the same way two different digital cameras affect the color tones in a picture, your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software can affect your final sound. There are many DAW programs, like Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton, and Cubase. These all have different functions and uses. It is recommended you research these in the same way as you would a physical piece of gear. Some even have free fully-functioning demo’s you can download.
A good example of a reliable, transparent piece of software is Steinberg Cubase. It performs well under a lot of pressure from your audio tracks and software plugins. It will not crash every hour like some other software. It also does not affect the tone of your recordings by muddying them up. It comes in many different versions to help you get in to using it without having to spend a thousand dollars on it. See more information on Steinberg’s website.
That’s it from Matt today. In his next post, Matt will pick up with tip #2 and tell us how we can use all that gear to create some great-sounding music. Stay tuned!
PS Be sure to check out Matt’s website. Your comments are welcome here.
This year’s “Be Our Christmas Star” Contest is now over, and we’re proud to announce the winner: Congratulations to Clint Ybanez!
You can now download the whole Christmas Album for free, featuring all Top 10 songs. (For any last-minute gift givers, this makes a great stocking stuffer.)
And now, from the Hollywood studios and Hans Zimmer: The Dark Knight Rises Chant challenge is not over yet. So for all of you who haven’t recorded your chants yet: we need more. Watch the second official trailer, and add your voice to the choir of thousands. This time, be even more aggressive, and add your own unique flare to The Dark Knight legend. Listen to the chant, and record your own.
That’s all for now. Here’s to the holidays – and keep making great tracks!
The Amnesty International Anthem Rejam Contest is calling everyone to contribute unique versions of the Amnesty Anthem to support international human rights and enter for a chance to win professional Avid studio equipment.
Not only is this contest in support of a great organization and a great cause — it’s also your time to shine. Be yourself, and be different from the rest of the crowd. Here are some tips from the team that will help your Rejam stand out – who knows? They may even help you make it to the top of the charts:
If you’re in a hurry to get started, take a look at the circled areas in the image of the Anthem Rejam screen above and check out these options while you’re working on your Anthem Rejam. Make your version of the Anthem now.
Tip 1: Speak another language? Use it!
This is the time to put your language skills to great use. Just because the example anthem doesn’t have vocals doesn’t mean you can’t add them yourself (remember, don’t use any copyrighted material). So whether you only remember a little bit of French from elementary education, or you’re fluent in German, or you speak English natively, using vocals will definitely stand out in this contest. If you’ve got language skills, use them! If you aren’t confident about your singing abilities, try speaking rhythmically instead, and see where it takes you. The more interesting and unique your version of the anthem, the better.
Tip 2: Do something different
Like we said before, the more variety you can add to your Anthem Rejam, the better. Have a listen to the example anthem, but don’t copy it. Whistle, hum, sing, talk, beat box, or whisper your own vocals and see what it sounds like. Don’t get too frustrated if it doesn’t sound the way you expected – sometimes that’s the best thing that can happen, because it will lead you to a truly interesting sound.
See how wacky you can make the rhythmic and melodic structure of the Anthem, as different from the example as possible. For example, try experimenting with the Tempo, Mix, and Pitch sliders (see the image above for reference). Record a track on top of the existing track to see what your own voice or instrument adds to the Anthem. And of course, check out the Vocal FX and Edit Style options to add even more spice to your track – more on these in the tips below.
Tip 3: Use styles to make your unique sound
We alluded to the Edit Style option above. This is one of the most comprehensive features in UJAM – it allows you to edit a style’s makeup and even fully customize your own style. This is a great way to make your Anthem Rejam stand out in the contest. Change the entire makeup of the track by removing the existing instruments and adding your own.
Want a romantic orchestra? Add the instruments one by one until you’re satisfied. Want a rock band? The guitars, drums, and even vocal styles are there for your selection. It’s our most extensive style catalogue yet, including great soundtrack styles from Hans Zimmer’s studio, so be sure to take advantage of all that’s waiting for you. If your Anthem Rejam has a unique and interesting style, it’s sure to stand apart from the crowd.
Tip 4: Got Vocals?
Whether you’re Mariah Carey or a shy shower-singer, try recording your voice on top of your track. It’s sure to add a distinctive sound, since everybody’s voice is different. Try singing, humming, whistling, or speaking rhythmically for dramatic effect. As we said in Tip 1, make up your own lyrics, sing in syllables without meaning, speak a foreign language, or make other sounds with those lungs and see what happens. In this contest, being different is a great asset and will definitely help your Anthem Rejam stand out from the rest.
We also mentioned above that there are Vocal FX to help you customize vocal sounds in your Anthem Rejam. Click “Change Vocal FX” to see the expansive list of options for customizing vocal sounds in your track. After you’ve already added your own vocals on top of the Anthem Rejam, you can tweak and perfect them with the Vocal FX enhancements. See what happens when you change the Vocal FX from Ballad to Bathroom or Echoes to Cell Phone. The options for variety here are nearly endless!
Tip 5: Play an Instrument
If you play an instrument, you better warm up and get ready to record. Show off your skills by recording yourself on that instrument. Just like singing and adding your own vocals, playing an instrument adds your own unique style to the Anthem Rejam contest, and it will definitely help your track stand out.
Don’t be content just adding an instrument recording over the existing track, though. Add an instrument and change the style, the tempo, and the mix. Customize your own style while you’re at it. Try a combination of the tips listed here, and think up even more of your own interesting ways to spice up your Anthem Rejam.
Participation in this international contest is really easy: All you need to do is “rejam” the Anthem – i.e. re-arrange the music using tracks readily offered, and/or re-record the melody with your favorite instrument or sing with your own lyrics – even in your native language. Get started now, or check out more tips & tricks on our blog. Learn more about Amnesty International here.
Welcome back! In this 3rd episode we’ll look at the Mondo Rock Style in UJAM.
Have a browser window open with UJAM loaded up and follow along. I suggest you load the Rejam Template “Electro 1″, but you’re welcome to use any of your own songs too, as always.
To use Electro 1, go to Create, pick “Rejam a Song Template”, and click the Rejam button for Electro 1.
What you wanted to know about Mondo Rock
Mondo Rock is a heavy, uptempo, modern hard rock style with gritty guitars and pounding drums. It was produced by Rick Di Fonzo in a real studio using real guitars and other instruments – just in case you wondered why it sounds real.
Tip: This style requires a powerful voice or instrument to carry as a melody. Don’t even try humming or using the humble nylon guitar, it’ll be buried under a wall of sound.
Let’s dive in:
With “Electro 1″ open, load “Mondo Rock” from the Rock genre and mute the melody instrument by setting the Mix slider at the bottom right to -5.
Now play your song from beginning to end and try to imagine how many players are involved.
Now hit “Edit Style” – surprisingly, there’s only 4 tracks: Drums, Bass, 2 guitars. Let’s look at them one after another.
Mute all tracks except drums, by clicking the little speaker icons at the bottom left of each instrument symbol. (Tip: That’s one of many ways to customize styles, by the way.)
The drums are typical heavy drums. Very punchy – they have to be, as they have to cut through dominant rock guitars. Play the song and notice how the drums vary between verses and chorusses.
Now add the bass by unmuting it. You’ll notice it sounds pretty metallic and powerful, a typical rock bass sound.
Next, unmute the “Gritty Guitar”. You’ll notice it doesn’t play in all song sections, and it plays different stuff in say Chorus 1 and Chorus 2. It’s a low, “chugging” rhythmic guitar.
Last but not least, unmute “Rock Guitar” – that’s a high, cutting-through power chord guitar, complementing the Gritty Guitar for edge.
Ok, let’s add some orchestra. In UJAM, you can easily add tracks from other styles to the preset styles. Tip: this is a very powerful tool for making songs sound original based on your own ideas (in other words, making them sound like you).
Since the rhythmic foundation of the style is already there, we’ll just add strings and some timpani.
In the track browser atop the instrument icons, select “Strings” from the first column, then “Soundtrack” from the second column. There you have four sections of strings.
Simply click the names of the instruments in the right column to add them. Adding all four can be a bit much. I suggest you leave it at the Cellos and Violas, but entirely up to you. It will sound pretty orchestral already, but let’s add one extra accent:
Select Drum, Soundtrack, and pick Timpani. (Trick: this gives the track instant “Gladiator” feel.)
That’s it for today’s tips & tricks session – now you’ve got a symphonic rock style from editing the Mondo rock style in UJAM. In the next column, we’ll build a style from scratch. Stay tuned and keep jamming!
There have been countless articles, from online journals and magazines – one notably in Wired UK earlier this year – discussing how different the music industry is these days.How much easier, and harder, it is for bands to make it, as we are all navigating the still somehow “new” space of the internet. Bands try to balance physical tours and face-to-face presence with online presence and marketing to their fans. And there’s the question of downloading music legally and illegally across the world and how artists get recognition for their work anymore.
How is it that in a world where we are already taking for granted the ubiquity of the internet, we haven’t yet managed to figure out how to rocket an artist to fame using the internet? Have we missed a beat, in musical and social terms, by not capitalizing yet on the possibilities that the internet offers? Or is it simply a matter of time before someone does hit it big with a presence that is based solely on their engagement over the waves of the internet?
I’m optimistic, and I think it’s the latter. I think the pieces of the puzzle are being put together, by innovative artists out there, by people who support the movement to democratize music, by supporting the outlet that creative people need to get their voices heard. Of course, that’s in large part because I feel like I’m in the middle of the movement. I’m watching people like Madeline Bell get discovered where before her talent was little known, and listening to great tracks every day that are shared with people all over the world.
And yes, there are other examples of stars who made their start – most notably with videos on YouTube – and have achieved fame, or notoriety, from it. But there hasn’t yet been a wave of stardom to slap us in the face like many expected years ago as the internet took shape as a major force in all of our lives.
But I want to see it go even farther. A big part of me knows we’re still just at the beginning. And I know I’m not the only one.
Experts have noted the demise of the CD sector of the industry, the vacuum that social media creates in a huge percentage of the population’s time online, our interest levels peaked with the sights of each new site on the web.
It’s time for us, the creative crowd, the artists, the writers, the studio musicians, the instrument players, the band leaders, to get a bit more clever in our use of the internet. It’s a tool, like any other technology out there, to be used for something. What is that something? Well, there are infinite answers to that question. And that’s the point: we should be seeing infinite creativity from the stars of tomorrow, building their way on the invisible yet tangible steps of the internet stage that allow us every democratizing force we need to start a movement.
So get your guitar picks out, or put your studio headphones on, warm up your voice, and press record. It’s time to be heard.
Tell us your thoughts, in words or in a song, and leave your comments here.
In this post, we’ll give you some helpful hints to make sure your melody is recognized and recorded at its best quality in UJAM – without having to buy any expensive external gear to make it happen. First hint: it’s not all about which microphone you have.
Of course, if you are interested in finding great gear – like a great mic for a great price – you can read some tips from pro singer Alison Lewis in our earlier post, “Which microphone is best?”.
It doesn’t matter if your microphone setup is built-in, external, fancy, or plain – these are some tips that apply to everyone, and will help you achieve a better overall quality of melody recording and recognition in UJAM:
- Make sure you’re in a quiet environment – nothing but your singing should be recorded.
- Check your microphone level: Sing loudly and set the level so the meter is in the middle of its right (or upper) half.
- Wear headphones when you sing along with click or playback – otherwise the click and playback noises will end up in your recording. This doesn’t sound good. Plus, it distracts the algorithm that is working to recognize your rhythms and notes properly.
- Try to sing exact, steady notes. Heavy vibrato, for example, throws off the recognition of notes and may not come through clearly in the recording. Controlled singing with steady pitches works best in this stage.
- If your singing is hopeless, don’t worry. Try humming or whistling – sometimes it’s easier to hit the right notes that way. Or, play an instrument instead. In fact, a musical instrument is much easier to analyze than the human voice. But remember: only play one note at a time. Chords won’t be recognized in the initial recording phase of UJAM – you’ll add and edit those later.
The much-anticipated release of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is upon us. Have a look at the first 10 minutes of game play here (and have a listen, too):
Recognize that lovely voice in the background about 3 minutes in? That’s Madeline Bell, winner of the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations contest hosted by UJAM in September.
We’ve got to boast our praises again for Madeline, whose beautiful voice graces listeners and players of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Watch the “Making Of” video again to see Madeline’s contribution to the acclaimed Assassin’s Creed legacy. It’s great to see Madeline’s talent recognized, while also supporting the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations release. Thanks and congratulations again to everyone who contributed their renditions of the theme song in the contest, and we hope you enjoy Assassin’s Creed: Revelations!
See our earlier post on Madeline’s Assassin’s Creed adventure. Visit Ubisoft’s site to learn more about Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations release. Share your thoughts with us about Assassin’s Creed: Revelations in the comments field here. You can watch the German version of the first 10 minutes of game play here.
What are some common features of the tunes we like the most? Well, for one, they probably have catchy melodies, and especially catchy choruses – sometimes so catchy we can’t get them out of our heads. And that’s one of the recipes for success in a great song.
Song Form in UJAM makes it possible to make meaningful songs with distinct sections – i.e. intros, verses, choruses, and endings. As we all know, this makes a world of difference in producing great music.
But how does Song Form work? What makes up each part within Song Form, and how do you make the most of it? We’ll break it down for you here so you can put Song Form to its best use in your next track.
For each style, there are five different song parts: Verse 1, Verse 2, Variation 1, Variation 2, Chorus 1, Chorus 2. From left to right, these parts have increasing intensity, from light (Verse 1) to full (Chorus 2). “Variation 1″ is usually a breakdown, “Variation 2″ is usually a bridge or solo part. In addition, there is a short and long intro as well as a short and long ending.
Don’t worry – you need not know the musical theory behind these sections to get the most out of using Song Form.
By default, a basic song structure is automatically added to any new recording after choosing a style. For short recordings, “Chorus 1″ will be selected, as well as a short intro and ending. For long recordings, UJAM tries to pick and add a matching selection of song parts, as well as short intro and ending.
It doesn’t stop here. At any time, you can edit the song form to your taste by adding or removing song parts. You get to choose whether you want a short or long intro and ending – or no intro and ending at all. You can change your mind and try out different ones by clicking and dragging them while you’re in the UJAM Studio.
Tip: Listen to some of your favorite songs and take note of what song parts they use – how long is the intro, and what’s the chorus like? It may be simpler than you think to pick out the parts of a song that make it distinct, and you can apply the same ideas to your own track.
Trick: It’s always a good idea to experiment with different song parts to see what works best for your track. You may think a short ending is perfect, but end up finding that a long ending makes the song that much sweeter. Give it a try, and share your tracks with us!
We’ll have more on Song Form, editing, and all sorts of musical tips & tricks in future posts. Tell us what you want to learn more about and we’ll create a post on it. Have fun with your next session!
Here’s a snapshot of The Dark Knight’s Facebook page – a great way to get excited about the upcoming premiere, see how many people are talking about it around the world, and add your voice to thousands of others. Remember, besides the really cool musical opportunity, this chant gives you a chance to be included in The Dark Knight Rises.
Add your voice and join the conversation.
Have a great weekend everybody!