IndieGoGo Fundraising Campaign!

Hey  Guys!

I started a fundraising campaign through IndieGoGo. I am trying to raise $3000 for new gear so I can really get this business underway.

Here is the Youtube Video for it.

After checking that out, head on over to http://igg.me/p/211763?a=1086937 (copy and past  link into URL) and check out the page and donate if you  can. If not, spread the  word via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Thanks  and STAY AWESOME!


Awesome Updates

As you can tell, petermowen.wordpress.com is no longer the personal website for me. I have  transformed it to be the landing page of my music production company, Peter Mowen Music Production (creative, I know.) I taught myself enough of Photoshop to create that spiffy logo, banner, and business cards (yay for being productive!).

A long with this update, I have created a Facebook page for this business (https://www.facebook.com/pmmpro) as well as converted my Twitter account (https://twitter.com/PMMProduction12). I wish I could have  gotten the same ending on the  Twitter that I  have  on the  Facebook but some one was squatting on it. This means that the name is taken but the person is not actually using it. I hate it when that happens… I might change the Facebook ending to match but I will alert you guys if  this happens.

Anyway, also check out the updated info I have on this site. Most notable is the About page. It describes what I am all about (go figure). I also added a Gear List page. It has a list of all of the gear I currently have available (also a no-brainer).

On the horizon, I will be starting a web video series on music theory and how it relates to popular music (mostly rock). I not only want to offer musicians a way record, but help deepen their understanding of music, which will hopefully make them better musicians in the long run. Just giving you a heads up.

That’s all the updates for now. Stay AWESOME!

– Pete


Long Overdue Senior Project Breakdown

Here is the write-up I did for my final project. Within it is everything I did. Period.

Overall, this blog idea was a good idea; I just failed at blogging.

My senior project can be downloaded for free at heathenofthenorth.bandcamp.com.

Senior Project Documentation:

I. Approximate Total Studio Hours

Studio A – 20 Hours of drum recording

Studio B – 2 Hours of violin recording

Studio D – 10 Hours of checking mixes and mastering

Home Studio – Approximately: 80 hours song writing; 120 hours recording and editing; 70 hours mixing

Total – Approximately 302 hours

Since most of my project was done at home in my own time, I did not think to document everything. I would sit and work whenever had free time. I spent an average of about 10 hours a week. Some weeks I would less than 2 hours while others I would work 20-30 hours. It depended on my class schedule and my judo schedule.

II. Original Project Proposal

Opening Statement

For my senior project, I will write, record, and produce a full-length concept album based around the Völsunga Saga from Norse mythology. The goals of this project are to demonstrate the skills of songwriting, recording, and producing gained over the last three years of schooling. The three basic stages of this project are writing demos of the songs, recording and editing final tracks, and mixing and mastering the tracks for the finished project.

Detailed Description of Work

For the first stage of the project, I will write demos of the songs and record them in Logic to get the basics of all of the parts. The story can be broken down into eight basic parts/tracks:

1)    The Birth of Volsung

Volsung’s mother is pregnant with him for six years and decides to have him cut out of her. He is born almost fully-grown and kisses his mother’s brow before she dies.

2)    The Feast

Volsung has a feast where he invites the king called Siggeir to his court in order to marry his daughter. During the feast, a shrouded, one-eyed man sticks a sword in the tree Branstock and says that only one worthy of its power will be able to remove it. Sigmund, Volsung’s son, removes it. Siggeir offers to pay Sigmund for it but Sigmund refuses.

3)    The Wedding of Signy

Volsung debates with himself whether or not letting Signy marry Siggeir is a good idea. Ultimately decides to marry her off. Siggeir invites the Volsung clan to come to his kingdom and have a celebratory feast.

4)    The Slaying of Volsung

Upon arriving in Siggier’s kingdom, Volsung and his clan are attacked by Siggeir’s forces. Siggier slaughters everyone except Volsung’s ten sons. Siggeir takes the sword from Sigmund.

5)    The Death of the Brothers

Siggier’s mother transforms into a wolf every night and devours one of the brother’s alive. When she tries to eat Sigmund, he bites her tongue off and she dies. Sigmund escapes into the wild.

6)    Training of Sons

Signy sends her sons one at a time to train with Sigmund so that they may kill Siggeir. Sigmund finds them weak and kills them. After this happens with two sons, Signy changes form with a witch. She then tricks her brother into sleeping with her. She gets pregnant and eventually sends this son, Sigfjolti, to train with Sigmund. Sigmund proclaims this son is strong enough to defeat Siggier and avenge the Volsung Clan.

7)    Slaying of Siggeir

Sigmund and Sigfjolti storm Siggier’s keep, killing pretty much everybody. Sigmund cannot bring himself to kill Signy’s other sons by Siggier but Sigfjolti kills them. They make their way to Siggeir, and kill him. Signy tells Sigmund that Sigfjolti is his son and walks into the pyre with Siggeir.

8)    The Broken Sword

Years later, in a battle between Sigmund and King Lyngi, Odin comes down and breaks the Volsung Sword and slays Sigmund because it is his time to die. The pieces of the sword are saved to be re-forged one day.

I will also add short narrations between tracks to fill in gaps in the story. My goal will be to write one demo a week in fall term. Also during fall term, I will need to find an artist to do the album artwork.

After writing and recording demos in Logic, I will record basic tracks in winter term. I will find/hire a drummer to play the drum parts. I will play the bass and guitar parts. I will do all of the vocal parts as well or have someone come in and do them. My goal is to have all of the drum parts recorded by week four or five, record all of the bass and guitar parts by week seven or eight, and have all of the vocal parts down by week ten. I will edit them as I go. I think I can manage editing two songs a week as different parts are added. The last thing I need to do winter term is start coming up with a distribution plan for this album; I will start brainstorming this around week five.

In spring term, I will mix and master all of the songs. My goal will be to mix two songs a week. I want to have them all mixed by week five or six. I will need to have my distribution plan finished around week five or six as well. That will give me two to three weeks to get everything mastered as well as write and practice my presentation.

Timeline

Fall Term

–       Week 5 – have four song demos written

–       Week 10 – have all song demos written (now projected to be done by beginning of winter term); find artist to do album art work

Winter Term

–       Week 4 or 5 – have all drum parts recorded/edited

–       Week 7 or 8 – have all bass and guitar parts recorded/edited

–       Week 10 – have all vocal parts recorded/edited

Spring Term

–       Week 5 or 6 – have all songs mixed; have distribution plan set up

–       Week 7 – master album

–       Week 8 – have presentation prepared and well rehearsed

Grading Rubric

–       Audio Quality – 30%

–       Delivery of Media – 10%

–       Recording Project Documentation – 40%

–       Presentation – 20%

III. Recording Documentation

Drums were recorded in Studio A on the drum kit there. Drums were played by Zach Beaver. The input sheet can be found below.

Drum Input Sheet
Channel Drum Microphone Pre-Amp Dynamic EQ
1 Kick In Beta 52 SSL SSL SSL
2 Kick Out Sub Kick SSL SSL
3 Snare Top SM 57 AP1 3124 Distressor SSL
4 Snare Bottom SM 57 AP1 3124 TD 2
5 Tom 1 SM 57 Focusrite TD 3 SSL
6 Tom 2 SM 57 Focusrite TD 4 SSL
7 OH Ride KSM 44 Focusrite DBX 160 SSL
8 OH Hat KSM 44 Focusrite DBX 160 SSL
9 Room Ride AT 4051 SSL
10 Room Hat AT 4051 SSL
11 Hat R 92 SSL

Bass was recorded DI through my Phonic Helix MK II at my apartment. My bass is a Fender Squire P-Bass. At first I considered re-amping this signal but liked the way it sounded DI.

Guitars were recorded DI through my Phonic Helix MK II at my apartment. My guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Custom with an EMG-81 in the bridge pick-up. After editing the guitars, I re-amped them through my Marshall Mode Four Half Stack. Channel Settings and pictures below. I mic’ed the top right speaker with an SM 57, running through the pre-amp on my Phonic Helix MK II.

The vocal signal chain was MXL 990 through my Phonic Helix MK II at my apartment.

Violins were recorded both in Studio B and at my apartment. The violins for ‘Wedding of Signy” were played by Victoria Baccini. She had an acoustic/electric violin so I mic’ed the violin with a Nady CM-88 through my Phonic Helix MK II. I did not take pictures at this session. The violins for “Signy’s Betrayal” were played by Alberta Douglas. She had an acoustic violin. I used an AKG C214 through the Toft preamp with no other processing.

IV. Project Journal

For recording drums, I close mic’ed as much as I could. I placed the mic’s between 1-3 inches away from the heads. I moved them around to find spots I thought would sound the best. The only drum sound that I sample replaced was the kick drum. The original sound I recorded did not have enough attack. I sampled a single kick drum hit from Children of Bodom’s “Bodom Beach Terror” and used it in every song except “The Wedding of Signy.” As far as editing goes, I used both Elastic Audio and Beat Detective on the drum tracks, depending on what worked and sounded the best. When the drums were lined up with themselves but not the grid, I used Beat Detective. When the drums were lined up with neither themselves nor the grid, I used Elastic Audio to fix them. It took between one and three hours to edit drum tracks plus another 30 minutes to an hour to sample replace the kick drum per song.

Bass and guitar were probably the easiest for me to record. Like stated earlier, I took a DI signal, edited it to fit the drums better, then re-amped it. For bass, I could record a track in about an hour. It would then take me about another hour to edit it to the grid. Guitars took longer. For most songs, I recorded a left and right rhythm guitar and various lead parts, depending on the song. It would take me between two and four hours to record all of the various guitar parts because I had to relearn many of them. It would then take me another hour or two to edit all of the guitars to the grid. After editing the guitar parts, I would re-amp them through my Marshall Mode Four Half Stack. This would usually take about thirty minutes to an hour per song.

Vocals were difficult for me to record. I recorded all of them in my apartment. Though I am in on vocal scholarship, my voice is not exactly made for metal. I found it difficult to sing with guitars compared to piano or a cappella. Also, I did not rehearse these songs often. My vocal performances were initially so-so. Also, I attempted “growling” for some of the songs since that is a big part of metal. Originally, I was going to have all of the words growled but since I could not find someone who was good at this, I wrote vocal melodies where I could. I ended up downloading Melodyne and using that to help with vocal tuning. It would take about an hour or so a song to record all of the vocal parts plus another hour or two to edit each vocal part. For the growls, I added a little bit of distortion to the voice to give it a little more grit.

Recording violins was interesting. My first violin player was Victoria, a freshman Bio major who I met in chorus. She played violin on “Wedding of Signy.” It was her first time recording so she was very nervous. She brought her electric/acoustic violin to my apartment and we recorded in my room. The sound of the violin was a little thin for what I was looking for. To try and give it a little more body, I had her play in a corner of my room and placed the mic about 3 feet above the bridge of her violin. I also took a direct line from her violin. Because she was nervous, her playing suffered some. I had to heavily tune all of the violin parts because she was consistently flat. We spent about two hours recording one song. It took me about four hours to tune all of her violin parts. Initially, I tried just using Auto-Tune. Unfortunately, my demo period ran up before I could finish. I ended up using Melodyne to redo everything. Trying to set up another recording time with her was a crazy. She got really sick around the time we were supposed to record and I heard little from her for about three weeks. She ended up finding me a replacement violin player, Alberta, a senior from Victoria’s old high school. Alberta played violin for “Signy’s Betrayal.” We recorded this in Studio B. This session went really smoothly. Alberta was a fantastic player. She knocked out all four violin parts in one take a piece. I had her improvise at the end of the song as well. She had never really tried improvising before. I gave her a rough idea of what I was looking for and we got six takes of solos. I took my favorite parts from all of these takes and grafted them together into the completed solo. As far as tuning goes, Alberta was pretty much spot on and I did not have to use Melodyne.

As far as mixing goes, I always started with the drums. I balanced out the kick sample with the rest of the kit. On some tracks, I tried using an Expander/Gate on the kick and snare tracks to clean things up. Overall, it did not make a much of a difference because I found most of the sound I was getting that I liked was coming from my overhead and room mic’s. I sub grouped the drums and on some tracks used parallel compression on them. I sent the regular sub to reverb.

Next, I would add in bass.  On most songs, I added distortion to the bass guitar to make it a little dirtier so it would blend better with my distorted guitars. I tried to EQ the bass in such a way to bring out the attack while still supporting the low end of the mix. I added a little compression to control the attack and decay so everything was a little more even.

Guitars usually came next. I sub grouped the rhythm guitar tracks and panned them hard left and hard right. If I had more than one lead guitar track, I would sub group them as well panning them slightly off center. On most songs, I had to take out some high end from both the rhythm and lead guitars. I did not use a lot of compression on my guitars. I would send the sub groups to the reverb.

I almost always added vocal in last. This was because I was usually still in the process of tuning them. I took out some low end from my voice and usually compressed it around 3 dB. I sub grouped by clean and growl. I sent the sub groups to the reverb.

Only two songs had violin on them, “Wedding of Signy” and “Signy’s Betrayal.” For “Wedding of Signy,” I rolled off a few dB of high end to darken the sound. Since I took both a DI and a recorded signal for this track, I would alternate panning them to mid left and mid right. I sent all of  the violin tracks to one sub group. I compressed them between 3 and 6 dB to even out dynamics. I bounced them down to one stereo track because all of the Melodyne plug-ins kept overloading my CPU. The violins on “Signy’s Betrayal” were easier to deal with. I really only sub grouped them and sent the sub group to the reverb.

As far as mastering, I did not do too much. I tried to get all of the levels to be about the same and applied a little EQ to each to try and make sure they all sounded about the same.

The last thing I took care of was album artwork. Originally, a friend of mine in the graphic design program was supposed to take care of it for me. He had to back out because of work on his senior project. I had my roommate, Matt Catron, take photos of a sword I had. He then manipulated the color in Photoshop to make the rust on it look like blood. I then took this picture over to another graphic design friend of mine, Carlin “George” Rieger, and together we fashioned a cover, track list, and liner notes. We found a Viking Font online and used that.

IV. Marketing and Distribution Plan

The marketing and distribution plan for this album is simple: I will put it on BandCamp and The Pirate Bay for free download or “pay what you want.” For me, the whole purpose of this project was to demonstrate the skills I learned over the last four years at Drexel. I made this album as something to add to my portfolio. I believe recorded music is a part of culture. Culture is something to be shared, not sold. Therefore, if someone wants my music, they can have it and enjoy it for free. If they like it enough to pay me for it, that is awesome. If not, that is awesome too; at least they listened to it.

V. Final Summary

Overall, I am pleased with my final outcome.  I feel like I got the best results I could, using the equipment I did. I tried to do as much of this project in my apartment with as much of my own gear as possible because I want to start a small recording business using the gear that I have. This was a field test for their sound. I feel like my vocal performance could have been more edgy at times; my voice is more suited for choral singing than metal. When recording vocals, I was self-conscious because my roommates were in the house. I did not want to be too loud and disturb them. I would have gone to the studio to do vocals, but that would have meant finding someone else to run Pro Tools while I sang/growled and it was difficult to find someone whose schedule matched mine. Also, I liked the leisure of being able to record when and how I wanted without a time limit. As for mixing, I feel like I got the best I could out of my monitors. I would sit and listen to songs by Amon Amarth, Tyr, and Eluveitie and try and match their sounds. I feel like it worked well. My rhythm guitars could probably stand to be a little less muddy but I think they work well. Also, there is more bass than one typically finds on a metal album. I went through three rounds of mixing. By the time I check my mixes in D, there was not much I wanted to change about them.

 

 


Winter Week 9 – Holy Crap it’s Week 9

Ok. So I know I said in my last post that a new post would be coming soon. Obviously it didn’t. So in the last 7 weeks I have done a lot of work but also have wasted a lot of time. For the next 74 days (days til the week of my presentation) I am going to try and and do one post a week.

So here’s what’s been up for the last 7 weeks. I have recorded 6 tracks of drums, 6 tracks of bass, 6 tracks of guitar, and 1 and a half tracks of  vocals.

I started tracking drums about a month and a half ago. I tracked drums in Studio A at Drexel University. Zach Beaver, drummer from Finidy Club, has graciously been my session drummer. I must say, he has been excellent to work with. Here are some pictures from our first session from January 20th.

 

I will post later today/this week about bass and guitar recordings.


Winter – Week 2 – Major Update

I realized I’ve been really bad about keeping this blog updated. I finished two more songs since the last post. Here they are:


Sealed in Blood – This is the seventh song on the album. Basically, Sigmund and his son storm Siggier’s castle and kill him.


Fate Binds Us All – This is the eighth and final track for my senior project. Many years have passed since avenging the Volsung clan. Sigmund is in the twilight years of his life. Sinfjiolti has died and so has Sigmund’s first wife. Sigmund is taking another wife but her other suitor challenges him for her hand. During the battle, Odin descends and shatters the sword he gave Sigmund and slays him.

I still have to write one more song. It will be the sixth song on the album. Right now, I’m still in the writing process. I’ve hit another writers block.

Also, I’ve started recording final tracks for these songs. Last Friday, January 20th, I recorded drum tracks for Born in Blood and The Sword. The illustrious Zach Beaver  pounded out these songs flawlessly in only a couple takes. He’s the man. More to come about that a little later.


Week 9 – Truth, Courage, Honor

So this song just kind of flew out of me this week. This is the fastest I’ve ever actually written a song. I think part of it is the fact that I am under a lot of pressure to get this done. I do my best work under pressure. It forces me to actually make creative decisions about the music and lyrics. So here’s the back story of this song:

Sigmund and his brothers have been captured by the deceptive King Siggier who binds them and starves them. Signy, their sister and Siggier’s wife, brings them food to keep them alive. Wishing for them to die more quickly, Siggier has his mother, who is a witch, transform into a wolf each night and eat one of the captives. This happens every night until only Sigmund is left. In a last ditch effort to save her twin brother, Signy smears honey on his face. When the wolf comes to eat him, she gets distracted by the honey and starts licking Sigmund’s face. Sigmund takes this opportunity to bite her tongue and break his bonds. They then fight. Sigmund slays the wolf and escapes into the woods.


Week 8 – Finally, another post

So, this whole song writing thing is really difficult. I had a writers block there for a good 3 weeks and it has taken a lot to get back on track. Here are the next three songs on my album. The first one is the one I’ve been struggling with for the last 7 weeks and the other 2 I wrote 3 years ago for an English assignment in English 103. Those 2 are what gave me the idea to actually write this concept album.

King Siggier comes and asks King Volsung for his daughter’s, Signy’s, hand in marriage. During the celebration feast, Odin comes in and sticks a sword in the tree Brandstock, in the middle of the feast hall and then leaves. Every man present tries to remove it, including King Siggier and King Volsung. Volsung’s youngest son, Signy’s twin, Sigmund, pulls the sword from the tree. King Siggier offers to buy the sword from Sigmund. Siggier is not happy.

Part of the guitar melody fromt his song is from Edward Greig’s Anitra’s Dance. It helped capture the festive atmosphere of the song.

King Volsung is struggling with whether or not to marry his daughter off to King Siggier. Signy had a vision that horrible things would happen if he made her do it. Ultimately, Volsung forces her to marry him. Once in Signy is in Gotland, King Siggier invites the Volsung Clan for a visit.

King Siggier betrays the Volsung Clan and ambushes them when they arrive in Gotland. He hungers for the sword Sigmund pulled from the Brandstock. He massacres almost everyone. Signy convinces him to spare Volsung’s 10 sons.

Enjoy!