=686= Reflections: 离别的拥抱

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fJy5NGt2Owk

Above is the link to my song, 离别的拥抱. It has been quite a journey with this song.

I was contemplating whether I should write a long piece of how this song came to be on the video description, including what microphones I used, etc etc. However, I decided to refrain from doing that because it is really just the video description, wouldn’t want to bore people with what I have done.

So this song started in my bunk. I was staying in that day and I was trying to come up with something. I then came up with the chorus’ melody. I recorded myself thinking that the melody was nice. Then eventually, I totally forgot about it. I then met up with EnMing that day and I was telling him about my song writing. I think we were talking about Chinese songs and I have a mention that I have one song in Chinese. Then after that, I sent it to our group and EnMing helped me figure out the chords. I wrote the chorus that night too.

Subsequently, because I had the chords, I made up a midi guide track for the song. In my head, the song was reminiscing of the modern Xinyao songs that I listened to. Them being very acoustic driven, I asked Daniel to help me play.

The journey to record was quite long too. I remember asking Dan to stay back to help me figure out what to play. Being someone with little chord knowledge, I can only say whether I want something or not. Daniel was very accommodating and eventually we fixed up the song form. The acoustic part(actually just one bar) from chorus to instru was because of Dan as well, I like how it had that bit of youth; that little bit of something is coming. As a result of us jamming, I also wanted an e.guitar solo.

The noise you hear at the start was from the Jordan room in G1. You can probably hear the fish tank sound cause I didn’t dare to turn off the pump. Why I left the noise in was because I felt that it kinda gave my song a bit of sound design. I may or may not add in other sounds in the future. That recording was done on a Sat, with 3 SM81s in Jordan. Now thinking back, it was probably a mistake to use so many mics in a noisy room. Nevertheless, this track effectively acted as the strong base for the other musicians! So thanks Dan! 🙂

Then soon after that, I wanted to record the Eguit solo and drums. I remember having trouble with the booking of the room in church. Thank you so much Bro Ken for helping me with that! That day I took off, went to the room early to set up the drums and mic stands. I took almost 2 hours to clean, tune and set up the drumset properly. I was rather happy with the tone! It was clear and modern.

The only pity was that I only had 4 channels in my interface. So I couldn’t close mic all the drums. So I only did 2 overheads, 1 Snare and 1 kick. It was enough, but I just wished that I could get that roundness out of the toms. Thankfully, the Audix DP7 mic pack was there for me to use! It sounded great!

Jun Kang’s recording was done really quickly. He managed to get it down in one take! HAHA! I was just being picky telling him to crash certain crashes just to create the nice stereo imaging in the track. Then after that, he suggested that I just play the track as well. I did, then after I played, I just decided to combine what we both played for the track! It was great! HAHA!

Then, the Eguit was set through a DI, with one output into the amp, recorded with a SM57 and the other output direct in to my interface. The solo had several people help to do it. EnMing had some ideas which sparked Dan to come up with it. I then had some comments to simplify the solo. Then, we finally settled the solo recording. Very grateful for the equipment in church. HAHA. I used the amp there, it was not bad.

I was actually fumbling with several amp simulation ideas. My first version was rather gentle, keeping the guitar more melodic. However, the more I listened to other tracks, the more I felt that it needs to have more grit and crunch to really drive the song home. Hence, you are hearing some heavy phase distortion, which I really think that it is a gem stock plugin, it sounds fantastic.

I had a bad habit I guess, I mixed while I did not have all my tracks ready. I was missing bass, keys and I was planning to add a violin at one point. Many articles online recommend to only mix when you have everything. This was both a mistake and something that really helped with the ideas. For one, in the second chorus, you can hear a note on count 2. That was me adding midi stuff at the start to make it sound different from the first chorus. When I started mixing, those midi add-ons helped the song! I would have never had added those notes if I didn’t from the start. I was also contemplating how to make the track sound more modern. I am not one to diss band music, but I really like how modern music sound. Having electronics patch sounds and drum loops, there is a reason why music kept progressing towards that. It sounds cool, new and fresh. The rising beat to the guitar solo was actually a drum loop from logic. I edited and added a FX plugin to make it sound cool. I actually added the loop to the whole chorus, but I decided to only use it for the translation. It was because of me trying to make it sound different so early on that it had that touch.

Recording bass in EnMing house was rather easy. He had a pair of monitor speakers which I then use to monitor him. It was really simple, direct in to my interface. EnMing’s music sense was really helpful for the song. Once you added him, Gosh, the whole track immediately sounded way more professional. Bass is a fantastic instrument. I was all ready to release my music already! HAHA!

Just when I thought something can’t be better, the Keys came in. Till this point, I have been keying in the piano sounds, hence resulting in very mechanical sounding keys. I went to record Shena with no expectations whatsoever. I was very picky when it came to acoustic guitar and electric guitar because I meant for it to be the leading instrument in the first place. My idea for piano was just for accompaniment.

Don’t get me wrong, I was sure that whatever Shena played will be better than what I programmed, but man, I was utterly browned away when she added her parts. The first being the piano at the second part of the intro. I wasn’t expecting anything there but guitar, but when Shena came in with that, oh man, I just had to add it in! The paino part was just heartfelt. Then the strings added dynamics too. We also tried some other stuff, but yeah, I was happy with just piano and strings.

Oh and let us talk about lyrics. HAHA. It was a funny thing. After I recorded EnMing, I was already very proud of the song. I showed it to Tat Wai. I told him that the lyrics are not settled yet. He then went all out and gave me lyrics that he wrote himself. I was really thankful. Gosh, certain lines won’t even be there if it were not for him. However, the funny thing was that I actually still used some of my own lyrics. Reason being, I felt that I had to. The more I changed the lines, the more I felt that this song isn’t mine. There is a story to this song, there are meanings that only I would know. Changing my words would change the story and this song will not be mine anymore. So yeah, it isn’t that Tat Wai’s lyrics aren’t good, it is just not my story to tell.

Vocals was recorded on a SE Electronics 2200 II C. Previously recorded on an Audix I5. Goodness, the tone of the mics were so different. Once I changed to the SE, man, my voice just sounded more natural and crisp. I always had trouble retaining some of the high end when I mix. Hence I often add in the exciter plugins on my tracks to give the high end a boost without saturating the tone like EQ does.

There was a man that helped me out massively and to be frank my mix would not be as good if not for him. He is my teacher Mr Steven. Even after graduation, Mr Steven has been patiently helping me and teaching me. Often giving me tips and correcting me on how I should do things. There was this time when I was mixing this song when he just reminded me of something I learned. That this song is more suitable for a top down approach. There was this epiphany, to how I have been mixing wrong.

I never really understood why there was a need to do that. Why is there a need to have such a thing like bottom up or top down approach? I for one love having crazy nice bass. If I am the one mixing, why would I need to care about where to start? When he said that, I finally understood why. The reason why there is such approaches is because there is a need to put something as a priority.

If it was a rock song, the priority goes to the shredding guitars. If it was a nice slow ballad, the priority belongs to the piano perhaps. When you start with something else, the priority isn’t given to that important instrument and the feel of the song is gone. Imagine a ballad and the loudest instrument is the bass. Imagine a rock song and the loudest is the bells. The feel of the song would need certain things to come out. It is like lead and accompaniment. People will first notice the lead then they will hear the accompaniment. Just because you like the accompaniment more, doesn’t mean that the accompaniment should be louder. Every instrument should sit where it should be. When you give something priority, you give it volume, the rest of the instruments will accompany it and the mix will be balanced from the first pass.

However, I also had some perspective after several times Mr Steven had helped me. Me Steven was shocked to see that I have done so much editing. He told me that you should not do that, that it wasn’t the right way to do stuff. He then tried mixing himself and his version had less plugins and it was great too. However, it was not what I wanted; I actually preferred my own mix. It got me thinking, when is it artistic preference and when is it wrong? I actually asked the Produce Like a Pro channel this question and Warren Huart’s answer was, “does it sound good? If the wrong gives you the feeling of danger and youth and that is what you want, then it is good!”

That is the thing, I wanted my track to sound the way it did, that was why I kinda loaded my tracks with quite a few plugins to make it sound the way it did. I eventually landed on a simple rule on how to do things. Basically do whatever it takes to get that sound. It doesn’t matter if I have to use 2 or 10 plugins to get my desired sound, as long as the result is what I want, it is fine to do crazy stuff. It is only wrong when I am trying to do one thing but I am using 3 plugins to achieve that. For example, if you are curing the low end, you don’t need to use 3 EQs to do so. In some cases you just need one. However, if 1 plugin is curing the Low end, another is boosting the highs and another is for making it consistent, using 3 plugins is not wrong!

Nevertheless, Mr Steven has helped me a ton on this project! There is still so much to learn from him. Now let me move on the video!

From the start of this project, I was picturing a MV. Kinda feel like I was back in school rushing to get a MV up together with our group mates. Man, it was crazy back then. We could be juggling between 4-5 projects and we still delivered a MV all within a month. Gosh, how did we ever survive?

So I actually thought about the concept and I asked quite a few people to help me out. Some agreed, but some didn’t. I just did not manage to find a couple that was willing to help me act. So for quite a while I was rather bummed. I wanted to produce a high quality MV, but I don’t even have the basic cast. Hence, I was procrastinating a bit. At that point I had a girl that could act, but I had no guy, so I was thinking of how I could rewrite the script. Then I just gave up and settled on a simple lyric video instead.

My reasoning was that I rather produce something higher quality by less stuff than to produce something lower quality. So my lyric video concept was very simple. It is basically 五月天’s 后来的我们. Black and white pictures with words.

So it was very simple. Just go around with a tripod, shoot the video of something still with something moving in the background. Shoot at 50fps, so that it is possible to slow the video down smoothly.

I then had some ideas for a single cover. Though they were mostly crap.

Then something went wrong, my adobe cloud license expired… 😫

I was stuck. I couldn’t edit anything. I had no lightroom, no photoshop or premiere. I think for a good 1-2 months, I was stuck until I found a way to get my hands on the license.

During that time I was using alternatives like IMovie. Gosh, even for a basic movie editing software, it just cannot compare. I was considering buying final cut, but, I read functions of it and I was surprised that some people actually swear by Premiere.

So when I finally got the license, I got back on it again. It was tiring and I learned that the Chinese fonts on my computer was rather limited. The ones I liked just did not look good together. So I cross referenced the Mayday video again. Then I realised that they made the font smaller and have the tracking set quite large. Then TADA. I managed to have it up. It was rather tedious though, to put up subtitles one by one, perhaps I need to learn how to do it in a more efficient way.

The single over was finally settled upon after many hours of working on it. I took two hours in camp, just working on it. Then eventually, the next day I change it altogether. Got quite satisfied with it. Then added the noise cause Soaps told me the picture is not melding together. Then added some texture because I found that the white borders made it look weird in ITunes.

So yeah, this was my very long journey with this song. It has been a really fun time learning so much!

To the next!

-Kelvin-

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