Why not LANDR?

You’ll probably expect a big and loud “NOOO” from me. I have to disappoint you. LANDR is good.

BOOM, there I dropped it: it’s good.

You get reasonable results for an unbeatable price. Fast, easy, very affordable. There are few good reasons not to use LANDR. But decisive, for example: it’s only good, not more, just good.

There is no human experienced audio engineer who brings his many years of experience and his sense of music and musicality into play. Nobody tells you if and how you can improve your mix, so that eventually the master gets better. Special requests are not considered by LANDR, corrections — of any kind — do not exist. You can not talk to anyone about the process and that’s why you do not learn anything, there is no feedback or commentary.

I claim that a master of LANDR will never sound as good as any of mine or my colleagues in the same category of our business. But…

If you do not have high standards but just want a “good” sounding song then LANDR is for you. You only pay a fraction and get decent results that you do not have to be ashamed of.

I say all of this with a healthy dose of self-confidence because I know I’m better. But I do not need to bash services like LANDR either because I can acknowledge that they do a good job for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Also, I’m not religious about anything but always open for new technology and new ways of doing things.

It all depends on you and your needs. There are just things you cannot replace with an algorithm. I’m very much into all things A.I. and automation, but I also think I know where its limitations are.

Update on the album production

The album

I’ve done around 30 different mixes, tried like 10 different guitars, mixing the drum kit and making it sounding right has taken an incredible amount of time, I’ve tweaked the tiniest bits of sound to total exhaustion.

Should the grand piano have more mechanical noises… should the timpani have slightly more reverb… should the guitar have a delay or not, should I add the cello on top of the full orchestra, or an oboe? Should I widen the acoustic guitar or leave it as is? Is this chord harmonic enough for the one before? Is the Oberheim too loud? Should I use the Gibson EB0 or the Les Paul bass, finger or pick? Stratocaster or Telecaster? This or that cabinet, or none at all, what amp? Distortion or slight fuzz, tremolo?

The pains of creating an album…

Questions like that are bothering me all the time. And the production is so huge that my DAW crashes at least 3 times a day. Plus, anxiety, doubts… because “is it all worth it? Will they understand it?”. Sleepless nights. Then again: “fuck yeah!”. It all sounds absolutely heavenly, I get goosebumps all the time. And nothing is even mastered at all.

I have half of the album sounding as perfect as it gets, with the needed amount of imperfection to become perfect. I open parts of it again, again and again… stuff that I did a year ago that doesn’t sound right today, and may sound not right next week. You get the idea. 😉

No worries, it’s all good. It’s finished very soon. Once it’s done I have nothing to do with it anymore. Then it’s a product with a life of its own, and I will watch it learning to walk.

I will reply to all of your questions in a video that I’ll upload to Facebook and YouTube, very soon.

NAVIGATOR (6 Hour DJ Mix)

Listen and download here for free!

Dear friends,

this is something I wanted to do for a looong time, digging up rare, eclectic and often unnoticed gems of Electronica, Slow Rave and Deep House, some with soulful ethnic vibes, and create a DJ mix of it. It’s been a long process to collect and select, so there’s really a lot of work in this.

This is a completely free and uncommercial work for you to enjoy, but I want to ask you to support the artists involved, so please, check the tracklist and buy one or the other track (if you find it!). This is extremely well produced music of the highest quality and the people behind deserve more than just attention or listening to it. Go follow them on social media, Spotify, Soundcloud and whatnot, and again: please, buy some their stuff if you like it.

This is a 6 hour journey which I recommend to approach very open-minded and with attention. As mentioned, this is fantastic music. I call this “Navigator” because the purpose of it is to navigate you through an entire universe of vibes and sounds by artists from very different places. I think, despite the differences, it’s a very homogenic piece that can be considered as one.

The duration of it could navigate you through:

  • a full working day
  • a car, train, bus ride, flight or boat trip
  • a full night of love
  • a hike through breathtaking landscapes
  • a climb up a beautiful and challenging mountain
  • another kind of “trip” (be careful with drugs!)
  • a visit at your mother in law
  • an evening with friends by a cracking bonfire
  • a day on the beach
  • an afternoon in a cabin in the woods (minus the horror part)
  • lying in bed, planning how to save the world, while you watch rain drops hitting your windows

Whatever. You’ll know how to enjoy it. I hope you’re able to feel as good as I do when listening to it.

Photo by Andrew Draper: unsplash.com/photos/BZlOYIVh8Ss

Pink Floyd – The Endless River | A (not too long) Review

coverA review about a Pink Floyd record should be biased, in my case. I’m a huge fan since for ever, and bands like Pink Floyd are the major part of my musical imprints, this (Progressive Rock) is the music I grew up with. But I guess this review isn’t as biased as one would expect, for a simple reason: I’m not a boy anymore, but a professional musician myself, and here’s some anticipation: the record is no masterpiece at all. We’re talking about this product  (Deluxe CD\ Blu-ray Casebook Edition), to be precise.

So, I’ve listened to all material twice, in 24bit / 96khz audio quality, on my dry and natural sounding YAMAHA NS-G 30 speakers. If something sounds good on those, they sound fabulous on every system.

Let’s start there, at the mix and mastering of the album. To make it short: it’s crap, if you ask me. You don’t need 24bit / 96khz at all when you have a mix and mastering that is as bad as this. I really have no idea how a band with this history and financial background can deliver a bad sounding album like this.

The mix is muddy, intransparent, lacks a real stereo imaging and filling of the panorama (some things sound totally mono to me), especially the guitars and pianos are too loud and sharp, the drums go under and totally lack presence.

The mastering lacks everything from punch to richness and brilliance … this record just has zero BOOM and WOW, something that was always present on other Pink Floyd records. All of this isn’t given, “Louder Than Words” sounds like a bad rip off a crappy radio station.

Nick Mason has never been an exceptional drummer, but on this record most of the drum parts sound like he’s a total beginner. Bad timing (not even audio-quantized in post production), and same goes for some parts of Richard Wright. I mean, when the band brags about more than 2 years of work on an album, I expect things to be on point, at least.

Of course, David Gilmour IS an exceptional player, and his guitar play is actually the only thrilling element on the whole album. There are some really good moments, but all of this isn’t enough to touch or move me emotionally. The album sounds unprofessional, unfinished and uninspired.

The artwork is ‘nice’ at best, but nothing like the Storm Thorgerson artworks of the past. Okay, the guy is dead (so is Richard Wright), but I think the band could’ve come up with something more original.

One more thing on mix and mastering … please, take the time to listen to those 2 pieces and compare the qualities:

This one is recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by myself (you might wanna skip to 6:35 for the fabulous Gilmour-esque guitar):

This the “Making Of …” video, showing the recording, narrated in German by guest guitarist Alex Schweigert:

Make up your own mind. My rating for “The Endless River”:

icon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-staricon-23-star

4/10 for David Gilmour’s guitar play and the bands legacy.

The Ultimate Harmonic Mixing & Composing Chart

THE SITUATION

As both a DJ and composer, the Circle of Fifth or the Camelot Key Wheel system — amongst others — have always been handy tools for me to write and mix music harmonically. There are just too many options in chord progressions than I could ever have in my memory (maybe you can, but I don’t). Plus, I personally use 3 different DJ applications and 3 different DAWs for music production alone, for different purposes.

So yeah, I could always have a look at above mentioned helpers to orientate myself through the notes and chords jungle, in case needed, which is not always the case. I have the most common chords in my head. Just not always.

As a composer I’m fine with the musical key/chord system, i.e. “A minor“, but as a DJ it isn’t very likely (for me, again) to remember all the musical chords to know what to mix into what. So, smart people came up with different systems like the Camelot Keys (Mixed in Key, which I prefer, because of its accuracy) or the Open Keys (Traktor). Which is basically a range of 12 keys for each gender, major and minor chords. “A minor” is 8A (Camelot Key) or 1m (Open Key). In a nutshell: if you mix 1A into 2A (and so forth, up until 12A and then into 1A again) you’re generally fine. Your mixing transitions will always be harmonic, no key clashes. This example is the very basic part of harmonic mixing or composing. And also a bit boring if you do that all the time. It becomes really good and interesting when you use all the options within the world of chord progressions.

What I was missing in all those years of composing and DJing was ONE chart (to rule them all) that shows me ALL key/chord systems and their equivalents, their piano keys (very useful for composing) and their harmonic keys/chords. I searched the net in order to find out if someone did this, but no one did. At least I couldn’t find it.

 

THE SOLUTION

So, I did it myself. 8 hours work and I had what I was looking for. And since I guess this could be useful for every musician/DJ, I want to share it here with you. This is how it looks like (click to open the full resolution file):

The Ultimate Harmonic Mixing & Composing Chart

You can download the high-res JPG above, print it out and use it for yourself, if you like. Here’s a PDF and the original EXCEL version of it, in case you want to edit/modify something for your needs (let me know when you find mistakes or when you improved it!):

 

WHAT DOES IT DO, HOW DO I USE THIS?

Let’s take an example for a composing or mixing situation:

The chord we’re working with at the moment is A minor (or 8A, or 1m). What shall be next? Everything in the table below — around the 8A — is possible, it will be harmonic. The closer to the 8A it is the more harmonic it’ll be.

Composing Keys

DJ Keys

Harmonic Keys

Western Music Scale
Piano Chord Keys
Camelot Key
Open Key
Scale Degree
DJ Keys up/down
D minor D | F | A 7A 12m Fourth (Sub-Dominant) -1
C major C | E | G 8B 1d Relative major

A minor

A | C | E

8A

1m

Same key (tonic)

E minor E | G | B 9A 2m Fifth (Dominant) 1
B-flat/♭ minor A# | C# | F 3A 8m Low energy boost 7
B minor B | D | F# 10A 3m High energy boost (supertonic) 2
A-flat/♭ minor G | B | D# 1A 6m Low energy drain -7
G minor G | A# | D 6A 11m High energy drain (leading tone) -2

But your decision what to do next is depending on the purpose. What kind of “feel” do you want to give your mix or composition?

 

EXAMPLES

Here are some possible chord progression scenarios, working with the Camelot Keys (which I prefer, at least for DJing), starting with 8A:

The “River”

That’s how I call it, it’s kind of a “secure standard”, nothing special, it’s just flowing along:

8A > 9A > 10A … 12A > 1A > 2A and so forth, until you’re at 7A and back into 8A again

Audio sample:

Music used: Ingo Vogelmann “Albert” (8A) > Tripswitch “Proximity Effect” (9A) > Mike Griego “What Lies Beyond” (10A) 

You can’t go wrong with this one, you just rock “around the clock”. Depending on the energy level of actual music/sequence used, transitions changes can be very energetic, though.

The “Little Ocean Wave”

The energy of this chord progression has the shape of an ocean wave or a sawtooth:

8A > 9A > 11A (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 12A > 1a and so forth

Audio sample:

Music used: Ingo Vogelmann “Albert” (8A) > Tripswitch “Proximity Effect” (9A) > Bobby Deep “Egopunk” (11A) 

You can do this once in a while to give your mix a little energy boost, which makes it more interesting than the “River”.

The “Big Ocean Wave”

8A > 9A > 4A (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 6A (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 7a and so forth

Audio sample:

Music used: Ingo Vogelmann “Albert” (8A) > Tripswitch “Proximity Effect” (9A) > Michael A “Storm” (4A) > Robert Babicz “Kinect” (6A) 

Here you have a longer and progressive wave of energy rising, until it falls back to normal at 7A again, just like an ocean wave crashing and the next one building up again.

The “Wild Ocean”

It’s a bit stormy, and the waters stirred up, but everything is still harmonic and in place. This is the most “interesting” way of mixing, things shouldn’t become boring:

8A > 8B (relative major) > 9A > 4A (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 4B (relative major) > 6B (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 7B > 2B (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 4B (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 5B and so forth

Audio sample:

Music used: Third Son & Wally Lopez “Geometry” (8A) > Ingo Vogelmann “Empire On Fire” (8B) > Antrim “The Mystic Lovers” (9A) > Michael A “Storm” (4A) > Raw District Feat. Jinadu “Taking You Down” (Habischman Remix) (4B)

 

I could make up a hell of a lot more examples now (with even sillier names), but you most probably already get the idea. The options are really endless, and you’ll always be composing or DJing harmonic. The above scenarios are just examples. Find out what works for yourself, I’m sure you’ll have fun experimenting with chord progressions, using this nifty chart. Oh, and don’t mind the silly names … it’s just about giving things a name. 😉

 

It’s free! Download, share, modify, re-publish and generally do with it whatever you want. But please, don’t pretend you did this. Credit would be nice (and fair), but is no condition.

 

Now, if you’d head over to bandcamp and buy my music, that’ll be rather nice:

 

Update, January 2017

This is how it looks like when someone make a huge print of it, for the studio.