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By Jarrod C Berns – Freelance blog writer
Whether you are a professional hip hop beat producer or an amateur tinkering with the latest beat making software on a laptop in a bedroom or basement there is no denying the hip hop culture’s unmistakable takeover of contemporary American advertising and the mainstream media in general. Turn on any flat screen, any channel, nearly any time of day or night and some form of hip hop beats or hip hop influenced instrumentals invade the homes of millions of viewers of all ages.
Yet capturing the attention of the highly coveted but highly fickle 18-24 year old demographic is the ultimate goal of nearly every major commercial product pusher. So how do large brand conscious companies prevent these highly impressionable people from fast forwarding their DVR’s through the typically tedious cookie cutter commercials?
Foreign car maker KIA decided to dress computer generated hamsters in hoodies, chains and backwards hats, pile them up in their newest Soul crossover vehicle and cruise them through city streets while head nodding along to Black Sheep’s classic hip hop track, The Choice Is Yours. Its iconic and extremely catchy hook, “You can get with this or you can get with that” seemingly lodges itself inside the viewers head for hours on end as most memorable hip hop beats and tracks tend to do. KIA then reaps the everlasting rewards of eternal brand recognition as Black Sheep’s beat becomes indelibly linked to their Soul crossover in the impressionable minds of the intellectually captive consumers.
When flavored beverage giant The Doctor Pepper Snapple Group attempted to favorably position their number one brand in the minds of soda swigging hip hop fans, they turned to a hip hop doctor of sorts, Dr. Dre. Known to legions of followers across the globe as a legendary rapper and producer of hip hop beats and instrumentals, Dr. Dre appeared in several nationally televised Dr. Pepper commercials.
Not to be outdone by their smaller soft drink counterpart, soda giant Pepsi also jumped on the hip hop beats promotional bandwagon. Their most recent three month summer campaign included New York’s DJ Enuff and L.A.’s Eric Cubiche who served as ‘soda ambassadors,’ touting the soft drink via on-air mentions, club events, photo shoots, block parties and Pepsi-sponsored mix tapes. The use of hip hop beat based mix tapes was especially interesting given that mix tapes are crossing over from an underground marketing technique to a mainstream approach.
So what exactly does all of the mainstream media exposure mean for hip hop beat makers of all ages and skill levels? For the polished producer with a keen ear for the next In Da Club, Lean Back or Yeah!, the technical knowhow to create and record his or her audio masterpiece and the ability to make said production heard by the masses, the possibilities could be endless.
With the explosive popularity of online social network sites like Facebook and Myspace, even Owatonna Minnesota native Adam Young was able to overcome his small town roots and transform his love of music production from a part time, experimental basement hobby into a commercially successful career. After developing a viral following by uploading his Owl City tracks to Myspace, this insomnia ridden Coca Cola warehouse worker hit the big time with his 2009 smash single Fireflies. Seemingly from out of nowhere, Adam’s basement born labor of love went on to top both the United States and Canadian charts and became 2009’s most-downloaded song on iTunes in the US.
Whether or not hip hop beat production and its viral distribution continues its unstoppable assault on mainstream media remains to be seen. However, we can be relatively certain that the music world’s next Dr. Dre’s uncanny DJ skills are probably inspiring the infectious, in-unison head bobbing of an entire crowd of neighborhood block party goers. Adam Young’s successor is almost certainly toiling away on a laptop in his or her parent’s basement cooking up the beats that will one day become the next chart topping sensation.
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Create Vocal Magic: 8 Essential Steps for Recording Vocals on a Low Budget.
This blog post is intended to help all of the basement/bedroom recording artists, aka the “do‐it‐ yourselfers,” achieve top quality results without the luxury of a state of the art recording studio. Even a novice can attain outstanding results by utilizing today’s technological advances and persistent trial and error.
Okay, so you’re eager to put down your game changing vocals over that newly acquired hot track. Following these eight simple steps will no doubt allow you to produce great sounding vocals, no matter what the recording environment.
Step 1:“The Beat”
Although fairly obvious, make sure the song/beat is ready for vocal recording. Simply stated, the song/beat must first be properly mixed with all the instrumentation in its appropriate place. Make sure there is “space” in which the vocals will fit. Too often, improperly mixed music contains cluttered sounding instrumentation throughout the audio spectrum. This common mistake does not provide proper vocal space within the mix. Lastly, the highest quality file, ideally the actual producer’s tracked out files will offer the best possible track in which to record vocals over.
Step 2: “The Space”
When recording vocals it’s essential to properly prepare the enclosed space around the actual microphone. Ideally a small room works best as a “vocal booth.” However, provided the space’s acoustics are properly prepared, any size room will suffice. Adding a sound muffling treatment to hard surfaced walls will help prevent undesirable microphone reverberation. Professional acoustic treatment does not have to cost a fortune. Creatively utilizing soft household items like blankets or pillows can achieve the desired effect.
Step 3: “The Microphone”
It’s safe to say the microphone is the most important piece of the vocal recording puzzle. Don’t be discouraged by the sticker shock when shopping for a vocal microphone. While great sound can still be attained with a middle of the road microphone it’s important not to buy too low in this department. Bottom of the barrel “basement mic’s” typically do not respond well. Industry standard microphones like the Shure SM-57 retail for as low as $100. Although there is a wide spectrum of specifics when it comes to selecting the appropriate recording microphone, there is no substitute for proper consumer research and due diligence before actually making the purchase.
Step 4: “Pop Filter”
Adding a pop filter to the recording set‐up will dramatically decrease sibilance. Sibilance is the occurrence of “popping” sounds usually caused by “p’s” and “b’s”along with the hissing sound of the letter “s.” Using a pop filter as opposed to a foam microphone cover will also help dramatically reduce “clipping.” Step seven will further elaborate upon “clipping.”
Step 5: “Microphone Placement”
Once the area is set up with the microphone correctly installed it’s time for some microphone placement experimentation. Try arranging the microphone at several different angles within the booth and ultimately allow trial and error to determine its best possible placement. Although proximity to the microphone varies depending on the vocalist’s style and range it’s crucial to encapsulate all sides of his or her voice while avoiding capturing background noise. Adding a properly adjusted noise gate will help eliminate subtle, undesirable noises that fall below the determined threshold. Additionally, as mentioned in step two, including some type of acoustic treatment will help capture the correct sound.
Step 6: “Recording”
With steps one through five fulfilled, it’s time to actually record the vocals. Although there are varying schools of thought in this area, vocals sound best when recorded as “dry” as possible. Recording dry simply means doing so without including effects. Because additional effects can always be added later they are unnecessary at this stage. Permanently embedded within the vocal if included during the initial recording phase the effects could ultimately prove detrimental to the finished track. Additionally it’s important to capture the best possible sound during the actual vocal recording. While this sounds glaringly obvious, many producers make the mistake of attempting to correct unpolished vocals later in the mix down.
Step 7: “No Clipping”
Clipping, also known as “peaking” occurs when the vocal signal reaches the highest maximum volume allowed and hits the “red zone.” Unmistakably heard as major distortion within the recorded vocal, clipping will also show up as a red mark on the software’s meter, provided a digital system like a computer is utilized. Adjusting the gain throughout the chain of equipment will lower the signal within acceptable parameters. Leaving approximately -3db worth of space before the signal reaches the red zone, also known as “headroom,” is also recommended. Ensuring enough headroom allows additional signal room when adding processing effects. While definitely adding more juice to the signal, specific effects like compression require additional space to avoid clipping.
Step 8: “The Mix Down” Last but certainly not least: the mix down. In this final phase the producer is free to have fun experimenting with processing effects like reverb, flanges and delays. Intended to manipulate and enhance the dry vocal recording these desirable effects, when appropriately utilized, can potentially differentiate an imaginative up and comer from a lethargic Auto-tune dependant. Again, experimentation combined with trial and error will ultimately determine which effects sound best within the track. Since the vocals were recorded dry, the original version will forever maintain its initial integrity if future editing or manipulation is required. Additionally many of today’s effects plug-ins come complete with control pre-sets that allow the user to quickly flip through various “pre-set” parameters. Don’t be afraid to sound different. See what works and what does not.
While seemingly intimidating, recording vocals doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply following these small steps throughout the recording process will assuredly help obtain optimal sound quality. Mixing imaginative experimentation with these tips and tricks means true vocal magic might be just a key stroke away.
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Attention! Aspiring Hip Hop Artists & Future Rap Stars!
THIS BLOGS FOR YOU!
What’s up fellow music lover?! JP Mason here… Producer and founder of BreakthroughBeats.com. I’m very happy to announce the official launch of the BreakthroughBeats.com blizog and I thank you so much for being a part of it! On behalf of myself and the crew at BreakthroughBeats.com we look forward to networking with you and making great music together! Let’s get it!!
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