Trackers! What are they?

Tracker is the generic term for a class of software music sequencers which, in their purest form, allow the user to arrange sound samples on a timeline across several mono channels. The interface is mainly numeric, notes are entered with a computer keyboard; with the parameters (effects, etc) being entered hexidecimally (numerically). A full song consists of several multi-channel patterns held together via a master list.  There are several elements common to any tracker program: samples, notes, effects, tracks (or channels), patterns, and orders.                               

Samples –  A sample is a digital sound file of an instrument, voice, or other sound.

Note –  A note designates what frequency a sample is played back at.

Effect –  An effect is a special function applied to a note. Common effects include vibrato, arpeggio, and portamento.

Track –  A track is a space where a sample is played back. Modern tracker software offers a virtually unlimited amount of tracks to use.

Pattern –  A pattern is a grouping of simultaneously played tracks that represent a full section of the song.

Order –  An order is a part of a sequence of patterns which defines the layout of a song. The History of Tracker Software

The term “Tracker” comes from a piece of software called “Ultimate Soundtracker”, the first tracker software. It was released in 1987 by Electronic Arts for the Commodore Amiga. The general concept of how the program works; by step-sequencing samples numerically, can be found in sampling work stations as far back as the late 1970’s. Most early tracker musicians were from the United Kingdom and
Scandinavia. This may be attributable to the close relationship of the tracker to the demo scene, which grew rapidly in Scandinavian countries. It grew very popular with home audio recording fans, as it did not require the expensive wavetable sound cards to function. During the 1990’s, after the invention of the Sound Blaster line of sound cards for the PC, tracker music gravitated over from the Amiga. The Gravis Ultrasound, which continued the hardware mixing tradition, with 32 internal channels and onboard memory for sample storage offered unparalleled sound quality and became the choice of discerning tracker musicians. Modern software and hardware has grown to the point of making tracker software obsolete, but it still lives on. It is used primarily in modern video games as well as a number of indie games. The tracker’s stigma of being complicated and difficult to learn is being discarded as the new tracker programs are becoming more and more user friendly. Tracking has recently enjoyed a mild resurgence as people begin to appreciate the importance of laying down music as quickly as possible. Some modern musicians that use trackers as part of their audio production process include, Brothomstates, Bogdan Raczynski, and Venetian Snares.
  Jason Cole and DiskFaktory Mastering offer great professional mastering services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering in California. Get the professional cd mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm

Audio effects! Is there anything they can’t do? We’re continuing on with this series, this article being part 4 in the series. I was thinking about the best way to abstractly describe the function and importance of audio effects and knowing your effects well. This is what I came up with. Your studio is basically your tool box, with all your effects and gear being tools in your tool box. Most people know their tools pretty well, but most are not masters. To hammer a nail, ideally you’d want to use a hammer. It would be the most efficient and easy way to do it. You could use a screwdriver or even a wrench to do the same job, but it may take more time and your end result might not be up to your standards. So, basically I’m trying to say, you need to master all of your tools before you can produce and edit music correctly. Well, that was a long winded explanation for a simple idea. Moving on. 

Today we’re going to be discussing phase shifting and chorus effects. Phase shifting is kind of cool, and I’m really excited to delve into how it works. Chorus is a basic effect, and may not elicit excitement in most of you. But like any effect, it’s one of those that is used all over the place so often that you probably can’t tell when it’s used. Anyways, let’s discuss how these effects work and why they work the way they do.  

Phase ShiftingThe first phase shifting effect units were pretty simple. Phasing was originally produced by copying the sound onto two analogue tape decks and mixing them together. One deck was run slightly faster than the other and the phasing effect was created by the rising and falling “wave interference” of the two signals. The term phasing more specifically refers to a swept comb-filtering effect where there is no linear harmonic relationship between the teeth of the comb. A flanger is a sub-type of phaser, with its effect usually being more precise, produced by the harmonic relationship of the comb filter being linear. Phasing effects in modern music are typically used in conjunction with electric guitar, and it is also used to “sweeten” the sound of electric keyboards. Also, a fun fact is that a phaser was used to create C-3PO’s voice in the movie Star Wars because the phaser sound lends a synthetically generated feel to the human voice. 

ChorusWhen chorus is used, individual sounds with roughly the same timbre and nearly the same pitch converge and are perceived as one. When it is successful, all the sounds hold the same tune and it sounds as if they all came from the same source. The chorus effect is enhanced when the sounds originate from different moments in time and from different physical locations. To produce this effect artificially, a computer processor takes an audio signal and mixes it with one or more delayed, pitch-shifted copies of itself. This results in the production of a single sound that simulates the sound of several instruments or sounds. 

Alright, this wraps up the 4th installment in my audio effects article series. I never knew how the chorus effect worked, and now that we discussed it, it seems like the name of the effect is exactly what it does. And phase shifting was sort of a carry-over from the article discussing flange. But since flange is basically a type of phase shifter, I think that it was very important that we discussed it in this article. Anyways, hope you all learned something in this article. Please stay tuned for my next installment in this continuing series.  

Jason Cole and DiskFaktory Mastering offer great professional mastering services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering in California. Get the professional cd mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm

Moving on down the line, today we continue our series on audio effects and editing tools. In the past few articles we’ve such effects as reverb, flange, delay, and noise gate. If you enjoy dabbling in audio production, you’re going to enjoy today’s article. We’ll be discussing compression, which is instrumental in the audio production arena. And also we will also be discussing ring modulation, which is a bit more fun and flexible audio effect. So, in today’s article get ready to learn about both, compression, and ring modulation. Let’s discuss how these effects work and why they work the way they do.  

CompressionCompressors reduce the dynamic range of an audio signal, if its amplitude exceeds a set threshold. The amount of range reduction is determined by a set ratio. If the ratio was set to 6:1, the dB would need to be increased by 6 to increase the output signal by 1 dB over the threshold. The way that a compressor reduces dynamic range is by using a variable-gain amplifier, which reduces the gain of an audio signal. Analog compressors typically carry this out by using a voltage controlled amplifier, which reduces the gain as the input signal’s power increases. Digitally, compression is carried out via DSP (digital signal processing), and this is the most modern version of the effect. The main use of compression is to make music sound louder without increasing its peak amplitude. Compressing the peak, (loudest signal), allows you to increase the overall gain without exceeding the dynamic limits of your reproduction device. Compression is widely used in TV and radio, allowing maximum perceived volume, without going over the strict limits imposed by most broadcasting companies. 

Ring ModulationRing modulation is achieved by multiplying two audio signals, with one signal being a simple waveform such as a sine wave. They combine the two signals, outputting the sum and difference of said signals. Ring modulation is related to amplitude modulation and frequency mixing, and it produces a signal rich in overtones. It is well suited to produce metallic and bell-type sounds. Modern ring modulators, like modern compressors, use digital signal processing to produce the effect. Using DSP to do this produces a mathematically perfect signal output, which some musicians do not like. You can come up with some interesting harmonics using a ring modulator by changing the frequency of the two input waveforms.  

This is the third installment in my continuing series on audio effects and engineering tools. We discussed compressors and ring modulators today, a couple of very interesting and deep effects. I learned a lot myself, so I hope that you did as well. We will be continuing this series indefinitely, until we run out of effects! I hope that this has shed a little light on these two amazing pieces of equipment, ultimately making your next music project a bit more interesting and productive.  

Jason Cole and DiskFaktory Mastering offer great professional mastering services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering in California. Get the professional mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm

Continuing the audio effects series, again, we all know of audio effects and what they generally are supposed to do. They are used to manipulate audio in ways that are not available with traditional playing and recording techniques. If you’re like me, and enjoy dabbling in audio production, you’re probably familiar with all the basic effects and maybe some other types. Noise gate will be one of the topics of discussion today. Noise gate, what the heck is that? If that was your first reaction, you’re not alone. Please don’t worry; we will be demystifying this subject later on in the article. We will also be discussing flange, which is a more standard and widely used audio effect. So, in today’s article we will be discussing both noise gate and flange effects, how they work and why they work the way they do.  

Noise GateBasically, noise gate is a device or software logic that is used to manage the volume of an audio signal, in recording studios and in sound reinforcement. They are also used by musicians, in a portable form, to control amplification noise. At its most simple form it controls noise by only allowing sound to pass through it at a certain set threshold. Think of it as a literal gate; when the gate is open sound can pass, when the gate is closed no signal is allowed through. More robust noise gate units have extra controls, I.E. attack, sustain, decay, release. This is so that you can further control the gating of your audio. Say you’d like to have the gate applied in a hard fashion, you would set a short attack and a short release, so on and so forth. Noise gates are often used to isolate background noise from live recordings in order to eliminate them from the final copy. 

FlangeFlange is related to the phasing effect produced by a, well, phaser effects unit. It is produced when two identical signals are mixed together, with one of the signals time-delayed by a small and gradually changing amount. The amount is usually equal to or less than 20 milliseconds. Peaks and notches are produced in the combined frequency spectrum, related in a linear harmonic series. Part of the output signal is fed back in and resonates, intensifying the peaks and notches. This effect was originally generated with 3 three headed tape machines. Two of the tape machines would play the signal, obviously somewhat out of sync, and the third tape machine would record the output. The modern version of the effect is created using DSP (digital signal processing) technology. 

This is the second part in my continuing series on audio effects. Today we discussed noise gate and flange, we’ll be moving on some more advanced effects later on. I hope that this helped you all understand the basic functionality of these two effects, ultimately making your next foray into audio editing a bit less intimidating.  

Jason Cole and DiskFaktory Mastering offer great professional mastering services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering in California. Get the professional mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm

Audio effects, we all know what they are, sort of. They are used to manipulate audio in ways that are not available with traditional playing and recording techniques. If you’re like me, and enjoy dabbling in audio production, you’re probably familiar with all the basic effects. Reverb is one of them, and probably the most easy to explain; it adds space to your audio. Delay on the other hand, is a little bit more difficult to explain. Again, if you’re like me, you want to fully understand how these effects work, so that when you go to use them you know them inside and out. Today’s article we will be discussing reverb and delay, how they work and why they work the way they do.

  

Reverb

Sound produced in an enclosed space, reflects off of surfaces and blends together, creating reverberation (reverb for short). So, basically, reverb is the reflection of sound waves from a solid surface to our ears. It is most easily identified when the sounds stops, but you continue to hear the reflections as they decrease in amplitude. Large rooms or chambers are some of the best producers of natural reverb. There are a few different types of electronic reverberation mechanisms that produce reverb artificially. There types are:

  

1.        Plate reverberators – This type of reverb uses large metal plates suspended by strings, which are in turn inside of damped cases to manufacture the effect. Transducers are used to apply a signal to the plates, and electronic pickups are then used to convert the plate’s vibrations to an electric signal.

2.        Spring reverberators – These reverberators are similar to plate reverberators, except instead of using plates, springs are used instead. Spring reverberators are often integrated in instrument amplifiers, and are considered to be the most artificial sounding reverb types.

3.        DSP reverberators – DSP reverb units use signal processing algorithms to create the reverb effect, using long delays, envelope shaping, and other processes. This type of reverb is the most widely used and the most flexible form of reverb.

4.        Chamber reverberators – This is the most “natural” form of reverb, but can also be made artificially. Chamber reverb is basically a room with solid walls, a loudspeaker at one end, and microphones at one end. The audio is played through the loudspeaker, bounced off of the walls, and then recorded by the microphones.

  

Delay

The basic delay effect records an input signal, and then plays it back after a set period of time. The first wave of delay used reel-to-reel magnetic recording systems and tape loops to produce the effect.

  

5.        Analog Delay – This was the first type of delay employed in the audio engineering field. One type of analog delay unit used magnetic tape as the recording and playback medium. Motors would guide the tape through the device, with different mechanisms modifying the effect’s parameters. The tape used in this type of delay would break down after a while, so the tape would have to be replaced from time to time to maintain fidelity of the audio. Other types of analog delay used magnetic drums, or spinning magnetic discs instead of tape as a storage medium for the audio information. The main advantage to these types was the increased durability of the storage medium.

  

6.        Digital Delay – This type of delay unit became popular in the late 1970’s. But, at the time, were only available in the form of an expensive rack mounted unit. The BOSS DD-2 changed that in 1984, as it was now available in the form of an affordable foot pedal. Digital delay works by sampling the piece of audio being processed, recording the bit to a storage buffer, and then playing back the bit of audio based on the parameters set by the person using the unit. There are many different types of digital delay units that offer different digital signal processing options, so I can’t really expound on anything in that area. But in my opinion, digital delay effects units seem to be the most powerful and flexible of the two types. Many guitar players use this effect, although some people believe that digital delay sounds a bit artificial compared to its analog counterpart.

  

This is the first part in my continuing series on audio effects. I’ll be covering some of the more standard effects first, like today’s subjects, and then move on to the more advanced effects later on. I hope that this shed some light on the subject, making your next foray into audio recording or editing a little easier and more fun.

  Jason Cole and DiskFaktory Mastering offer great professional mastering services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering in California. Get the professional mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm

If you have read my last article, “What does an audio engineer do when mastering music?”, you already know what is involved in the professional mastering process. To re-cap what that article said to all who haven’t read it, the mastering process adds polish to your songs and makes them sonically cohesive. A lot of albums are recorded and then thrown on a disc, sans mastering. While this works fine, by no means do I recommend it. There are a few reasons why I wouldn’t recommend doing this.

1. Mastering adds a professional, commercial sound to your songs or album.

All of your favorite albums and bands you hear on the radio have had their audio mastered by a professional mastering engineer before it was sent to CD manufacturing facility. This makes sure that you hear all the CD recordings low-end bass, mid-range, and highs crisply.

2. Audio mastering allows another set of ears to evaluate your audio.

Having another skilled audio technician listen to you recording is always a plus. They can bring a fresh perspective and ideas to your album production. Your recording and mixing engineers spent hours and hours listening to your music, someone who was not present and has a skilled ear can point out and help better the quality of your finished project.

Audio mastering is a vital step in the recording and CD manufacturing process. This article should help you understand why professional mastering is a step you should not leave out of your next recording project. All commercially released audio CDs utilize the CD mastering process, and you should do the same.

Jason Cole and http://www.DiskFaktory-Mastering.com offer great services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering. Get the professional mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm

Hello all. Here’s a little introduction to who we are:

DiskFaktory Mastering is a professional mastering studio that provides affordable quality audio mastering, plus many other audio related services. For more info, please visit http://www.diskfaktory-mastering.com

We set-up this blog for our mastering engineers to be able to share a little bit of their knowledge. Over the next few weeks we will be posting informative articles concerning different aspects of the mastering process. This first week we will be discussing what is involved in the mastering process. Thanks for stopping by!

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What does an audio engineer do when mastering music?

So you’re a musician that just recorded your first album. You probably went into a recording studio and played all of your parts a couple of times, with the audio engineer handling all of the technical stuff. As far as you know, they should be able to take all the parts they recorded, burn it to a disc, and then it should be ready to press. While this isn’t completely wrong, most professional musicians take their mixed down recording and pass it off to someone else for mastering.

What is mastering?
Mastering is the final step in the production of an album where they add the final “polish” to the recording. This is done by technically enhancing the clarity of the mixes. This makes the compilation of songs sound more coherent, more “together”. This also ensures that the mixes sound well on all listening devices.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but does a professional mastering technician do when mastering a recording?

Volume Level Maximization
This is to make sure that all audio is at maximum volume, so that all songs are at the same volume level. Ever watch late night TV, where the volume of the commercials are a couple notches higher than the show you were watching? If a professional mastering engineer was involved, they would raise the volume of TV show to match the volume of the commercials.

Ensuring a Consistent Balance of Frequencies
This ensures that all frequencies are accounted for in the recording; bass, mids, and treble, so that there are no areas where there is no bass/mids/treble.

Noise Reduction
This is the process of removing noise from an audio signal. When using analog technology, sound recordings exhibit a type of noise known as tape hiss. This is related to the particle size and texture used in the magnetic emulsion that is sprayed on the recording media, and also to the relative tape velocity across the tape heads.

Encoding
A professional mastering lab may also take your recording and encode the UPC (Universal Product Code), ISRC (International Standard Recording Code), CD Text (additional information about the CD, e.g. album name, song name, and artist name) or other PQ information.

Error Checking
This ensures the integrity of the data stream during CD duplication / replication at any CD manufacturing plant.

Still confused about what a professional mastering engineer does to your CD audio recording when you hand it off to them? Don’t worry, audio mastering is a very complicated process. I just hope that you better understand why professional mastering is an integral part of the whole audio production process. It can make a world of difference!

Jason Cole and http://www.DiskFaktory-Mastering.com offer great services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering. Get the professional mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm