=670= Word: Production

Recently, I produced a track. It was a song I wrote, I had quite big plans for it. I pulled in quite a few people in for the recording, even planned for the MV.

Then I asked my teacher for advice on the track. He gave me some rather good advice, then I managed to solve it and he was ok with the track. He then offered me to send him the track for him to do an alternate mix.

He received my project and was appalled at how many plugins were used. He said that I shouldn’t have edited so much and made it so perfect. He then went on to send me his mix and to be honest, I didn’t like his mix.

He did several stuff to my mix.

1. The Eguit was toned down to be made gentler.

2. A constant delay was added to the vocals.

3. My synths became the drive for the song.

4. Noise in my acoustic guitar was removed

5. Keys seem more mono

Overall, I felt that my song lost its edge. Sure it is warmer, but it lacked the excitement that I would expect from my track. The vocal delay was rather distracting for me. Synths becoming the drive was rather nice! Noise taken out was great, but seem to have a lack of character. Keys sounding more mono wasn’t that bad either. It didn’t have the kind of sound I was looking for. The bright and interesting kinda sound. It sounded a bit dated.

There is really no offence to my teacher. There are of course flaws to my mix too. Like, you can hear the tuning on the voice; it might be rather irritating. The ambience I left in, would be questioned too, cause it was rather distracting I guess. I left it in as some sort of styling.

I guess it really boils down to preference.

My teacher said that I used too many plugins on the tracks. Back in school, I would probably follow that school of thought of just do minimal stuff. However, I kinda changed my workflow and work mentality quite a bit. My point is, sure if I can get the job done with less, sure all the better. However, if I am unhappy with the sound, I don’t see why I cannot just use more plugins to arrive at where I want to. As long as I can arrive at a sound that I am happy with, why not? Why settle for a sound that is not what I want for the song just because I try to limit myself with the number of plugins?

My work flow has always been, EQ-Comp first. Then if I am unhappy with the tone, I might throw in an exciter after that to spice up the mix. For guitars I might pull in an amp simulator for more drive and grit.

A magical use for compressors I have found to be extremely helpful is side-chain! Lovely feature. Totally cleared the mix and made the mix sound a lot clearer and dynamic. Since we as musicians often listen and react to other musicians, why not do that mechanically? It does wonders to a mix. Too bad the feature of side chain is only available for compressor on logic. So I can’t do side chain on a multi-band compressor.

A work around is to duplicate the channel with he plugins. Add in a multipressor on both. Solo the lows on one and the highs on the other. Then side chain compress one. Viola, side chain on a multi band compressor.

I think mixing cannot be just a scientific thing. I often teach my students to achieve two things before artistic preference.

1. Everything can be heard

2. Everything sounds like it should

However, in a studio production situation, quite a bit changes.

Mixing in post production and not live almost always guarantees everything can be heard. However, now comes artistic preference and boy is it a handful. Now you can choose something to be heard WAY upfront or just something that is meant to be felt.

The Sounds-like-it-should rule also changes because now you will have plenty of toys to play around to shape the soundscape. I can make an Aguit sound like an Eguit if I want. I can distort a voice. I can automate delays. It is incredible how much you can do to a sound.

Having so many tools but not using it to shape sound to exactly how you like it, is like having a $4000 camera and you don’t process your shots and giving the raw files to people. It will be dull and won’t pop. Or like having this amazing set of 64 colour pencils but only using the Red Green Blue colour pencils.

Reason why? To reminisce the past when people had to settle with less; only able to have a few compressors and EQs on hand. Sure, I understand, there are some great records during those times, but do you seriously think that if they had the technology back then, that they won’t use it?

I bet you those engineers did all they could to get the best sound they could. Why settle? A good engineer needs to know what to leave in for character and what to correct for perfection.

A track needs to be almost perfect before release. The engineer needs to do his best.

I am so thankful to be in the era I am in.

Haha, I guess I am seeing mixing more and more like an art than science now.

Always growing!

-Kelvin-

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=669= Word: Kelv’s Anger Limit

<for context, I wrote this before I went for retreat, so the timeline may be a bit off>

Ok, for those that helped inspire this post, you know who you are… 😒

AHAHAHA! Ok lah, there were two incidents of which made me wonder.

First was dinner with D, basically she came late, she told me the reason why and I said it was ok. She then said that if I was angry, I should just say, because whenever I get angry I will only tell her a week later. Made me sound so paggro. Tsk tsk!

Second was today, during duty, I got into an argument with my buddy. He angered me because I was right, but he insisted that he was right. Then he revealed that he was just trying to trigger me; to know my trigger point.

He told me his analysis. Saying that I am VERY nice, almost too nice. Then he said, when I think I am right, I will raise my voice a bit. Then when it gets to a point when arguing makes me annoyed even more, I will talk less and have an irritated tone.

Ok lah, I wasn’t very angry. Ok just let me clarify myself ok. I am human, I will get angry and irritated. However, irritation and anger are two different things. Irritation is for trivial stuff, coming late or being overly annoying. Anger is for more substantial stuff like taking me for granted, forget a promise made to me, etc etc. There is a clear difference. I am not one to waste my energy to be angry over trivial stuff. In fact, if you are angry with me over trivial stuff, I will be angry that you are making a mountain out of a molehill.

There are also instances that I will get angry with you because of something, but as long as there is a valid reason, or some misunderstanding, I would immediately stop being angry.

If I tell you that I was angry with you, it just means that my anger has simmered and I actually treasure our friendship! If I tell you only a week later, you are welcomed! HAHA! Hey I am being nice ok? I didn’t snap at you! I don’t like to snap at people before I have all the facts.

So what would warrant me scolding you? Simple, if your actions that angers me is too much. A recent event comes to mind.

One night, after running 4km and doing some exercises, my friend called saying that him and two other friends wants to run as well. I asked where he was and he told em that he was about to buy koi for me. Thinking that they are coming back, I agreed to wait for them. So I waited for half an hour and they aren’t back yet, in my sweaty PT Kit. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, so I went to take a shower. After my shower, they still weren’t back yet. Then I checked my phone, my friend told me that they were relaxing in the office downstairs. That was the tipping point. Once he reached the bunk, I scolded him.

So yeah, apparently what annoys me the most is:

  1. Being unappreciated
  2. Being told that I was wrong, even though I am clearly right.
  3. My time being wasted

So yeah.

-Kelvin-

=668= Word: More Than Ever

Just a quick post before retreat, coming in two days.

Lord, you know my heart. I want you to draw close. Will you please get me out of this hole I dug for myself? Father, please stay with me. I know I am quite a handful; always running away from you. Will you never be sick of me? Lord, please forgive me. Help me. I need your strength more than ever.

-Amen-

=667= Word: Angry

You know, when two close friends fight, a verbal argument is, in my opinion, better than silent treatment.

While a verbal argument has a more visible result, the silent treatment have effects that is a whole lot worse.

Expressing your anger allows the other party to understand how you feel and eventually helps with building the friendship.

When a close person that is constantly annoyed with you, stops talking to you, you should be alarmed. When a person stops trying, I wonder what will happen to your friendship?

When one doesn’t even bother, can anyone blame him/her?

Oh anyway, my friend annoyed me recently.

After running 4km and static exercises, my friend called me up, saying that they wanted to run too. So I asked him where was he. He told me he was about to get the Koi that I asked him to help me purchase. Thinking that he was about to come back to camp, I said that I can run with them too.

So I waited. In my sweaty and stinky singlet. After 20 minutes if feeling uncomfortable, I rushed them. After 30 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to go shower. After my shower, they still didn’t come back. When I got back to my phone, my friend had texted me saying that they were relaxing in the office downstairs.

Once my friend got up to bunk, I snapped at him. I just felt so annoyed. They knew I was waiting but they had to waste my time. -sigh- oh well.

All they had to do was tell me that they want to walk around, or tell me that they were resting in the office, but no, don’t tell me.

Oh well, rant over.

Anyway, my friend apologised to me alr and I expressed my disappointment to him, so we are good.

May my friends please and I mean please be forward and communicate with me.

-Kelvin-

=666= Word: Worship Sound

Haha ok, kinda ironic my 666 post is on worship, but OK! God>devil! 

BK asked me a question, he said that back in the conference, he heard PBL play for worship. There was only one guitar and drums, but the sound was very big and the energy was there even though it wasn’t a fast clapping song. There was this victorious sound. He wants to know what is the secret and how to replicate it in our congregation.

If you bring anointing out of the picture, focusing solely on sound, guitar technical skills are really important. Ask a beginner guitarist to play 10 levels of dynamics and he will struggle. Ask an experienced guitarist play 100 levels of dynamics and you will find that he does it with ease. When you add that to playing the drums and singing, you get even more levels of dynamics.

However, I think it goes beyond that. I think there is the issue of song choice too. If you want a victorious sound, choose songs that declares victory! Shout unto God is a great example. I think that there is a right place for everything, there are days where worship will be the congregation repenting, there are days where the worship focuses on wonder and there are days when we declare God’s glory. It cannot be that we sing of victory every week ah. We express different things on different days.

There is also the factor of the congregation. I think many people don’t realise that what we do in the worship team is largely affected by the congregation’s response. We as worship leaders, set the direction ask the people to follow, but if they don’t, are we the ones in the wrong? Of course not!

It is like Moses leading people into the promised land and the people refused to, was Moses in the wrong? Of course not.

Like a leader trying to get the group to walk a trail, we move the most when the congregation follows.

Not many people understand it isn’t that we don’t want to go high all the time, but sometimes if the congregation doesn’t follow, it would be rather hard to go high. What I mean by this can be understood with an analogy. Imagine five people doing a project together, you are the leader, you guys are tasked to do project A, however, your team mates keep getting distracted by project B. Even though you are the leader, can you do everything? Even if you keep moving forward, you will have to stop to bring your team mates back on track.

How can we engage with a congregation that is shutting off?

It makes me think of the time, this Indonesian band came to Singapore, they did this stop start and let the audience sing. This band was really quite good, but the audience being a typical conservative singaporean, just didn’t sing along at all. Asking them to sing along was like plucking teeth.

HOWEVER, you think about 五月天’s concert in Singapore. HA! You can hear the audience screaming their lungs out along with Ashin. They can do any kind of stop start and the audience will sing it.

So what is the difference? There is a sense of familiarity with the songs, there is this engagement because they enjoy the songs written, people actually learned the song beforehand voluntarily.

Until the congregation voluntarily put time out to know God, they will never be engaged during worship.

An anthem is something to be declared. To have a victorious tone, we need to declare the truths about God with conviction. You can clearly tell the difference when someone with passion speaks vs someone that is just here because he have to be. Think national anthem in primary/secondary school, who sings it loud at all? Now think NDP or even NDP rehearsal, you will be so proud when you are there, you sing the national anthem loud and clear. Everyone declaring that they are proud to be a singaporean.

Just look back to this moment in the SEA games national anthem!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8HQHtpjhqOQ

Hear the sound, no instrument, no backing track, just every singaporean proud of our achievement! Heartwarming isn’t it?

No matter how hard we try to replicate it, the sound of an anthem can only be captured when everyone wants to sing.

We as the worship team may try to point the direction, but the atmosphere is still set in place by the congregation.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we as the worship band do nothing. We as the worship band, need to pray! We need to use our crafts creatively, do our very best to engage people. We pray and pray and pray and wait for the moment God bring in the harvest!

-Kelvin-

=665= Rant: Certain Issues

There have been several issues happening around me recently.

First of all, there seems to be a clash in personalities/work ethics/opinions etc etc in every organisation I am in. Be it in NS, work or church.

Now that I look back, I wonder if the leaders that came before me quite partly because of such politics.

Several events have made me rather angry with the leadership of my platoon, specifically my own section commander.

I personally think that I am rather hardworking. No matter what you let me do, I will do it to the best of my capabilities and I will do things that other won’t. Not because I am trying to show off that I am better, it is just that if I don’t do it, it is unlikely that someone else would do it. If it is within my capabilities, why not?

I am also someone that likes to analyse things. From complicated systems to how someone does something, I have always found myself being able to analyse and eventually understand the system and its limitations. I tend to be quite a scientist when it comes to such stuff. I would often like to experiment with stuff, trying new things out. When I see something wrong or something that can be improved, I will take note and think of ways to solve it. Then like an engineer would, I would offer the solution.

I hate it whenever my suggestions doesn’t go through or that my suggestions gets ignored. My own section commander has a bad habit of explaining things to people before clarifying himself. Often taking his own assumptions and standard to the front.

Of course there are rules and we should totally follow them, but what am I supposed to follow when the rules aren’t clear? I am supposed to do duties properly, what is the standard? What posture is the ideal? What posture is acceptable?

When there are by left rules, who would enforce these rules? And by whose standard? 

Vague instructions but high expectations is an extremely toxic duo.

Those in power should never joke about power. Why? The fact is, if you actually want it to happen, you can make it happen. Joking about such stuff is not funny at all and you will offend everyone.

Just imagine one day, your boss jokes, “Aiyo, you do so well, now I cannot fire you Liao!”

If you are close, perhaps this statement could be taken as a joke. However, you must understand that, the underlying message is, “I want to fire you.” Even if I feel good that I “changed your mind” but I will still be afraid that I will lose my job. Such jokes may not directly be a abuse of power, but it is showing people that you can abuse power if you want.

The other variable in the equation is, “IF YOU ARE CLOSE.” Such jokes can only work if you are close and the other party knows for a fact that it is a joke. If you are not, please refrain.

In every job, there is a job scope. Everyone of different appointments have different things to do. Just because someone of a higher appointment have lesser things to do than you of lower appointment, doesn’t justify one getting angry with the person. If anything, one should be angry with the person that managed and planned the job scope. One can complain that the people of higher rank does lesser than the lower rank, but one can not claim hat they do nothing.

However, everything is out of the window IF the job scope isn’t done properly.

If the people of higher rank don’t complete the things in their job scope properly, people of lower rank have every right to be angry, for is it fair for people to not do their job properly and still get pod more?

It will anger the lower ranked even more if you give them stuff to do that is above their job scope. How would one feel if the higher ups do less than them, gives them more work, but at the end of the day, earns more?

In church, in the worship ministry, we musicians always meet with several problems too.

There is always this problem of being focused too much on technicalities that we cannot worship. If you cannot worship, how can we lead others into worship?

So would the solution be to abandon all technicalities? You know, take the problem out of the picture and you won’t face anymore problems right?

Sadly, our problem is not that simple.

Our role as a worship band, is to create a platform for peopleto express their worship to God. If you can’t sing, don’t think that you can’t worship God! We can sing together, when we sing together, we can worship God together. That is the kind of thing that we are doing. You cannot express? I can! Let’s express it together!

That is it, the issue of “I can express!” Technicalities is our expression.

If we abandon all our technicalities, it will be, “You cannot express? I cannot too! Let us do it together and hope we can somehow do it!”

Can you imagine worship with guitars out of tune, singers off key, drums play 6/8 while keys plays 4/4? Better yet, instead of harmonising, the backup vocalists sings one semi tone apart, perhaps by the time it hits the third, then it will sound good. The best part will be that no one realises that they are wrong.

Our role as a musician is to be good at our craft so that we can use our craft to worship God and then help others worship God. Without our craft, we are better off worshipping God with something else.

Don’t get me wrong now, surely God looks at the heart, God will appreciate one singing songs to him, even if it is out of tune!

Our job is not to discriminate people who cannot sing, our job is to encourage people to even if they cannot. Singing along can only happen if the person has something to follow. If you don’t, how does one sing a song they don’t know? We hold a responsibility to play well so that people can follow.

However, we run into another problem. What if the song is too technical that I am unable to worship God when I play it? Will it come to a place where you are not worshiping, but the congregation is? Actually, yes, it happens. It has many contributing factors you see. We musicians are people too. We too have down times with God. The songs could be challenging too. Should we play even though we are not worshipping?

I hesitate to answer this, because I am a bit uncertain. For me, I would still play because beyond my own personal worship, I have responsibility to the congregation too. It is a role that God has placed me in. Just because I am not worshipping doesn’t mean that God can’t use me. Besides, the rest of the band will also be worshipping ah! HAHA!

If it is about the difficulty of the song, it is very seldom that all 4 songs will be difficult. It might be too simplistic to think this way, but hey, I worship for 3 songs, the last song, I focus on the technicality of it.

Of course, it is still no excuse for not preparing the song, the more you hone your craft, the easier it will be for you to play music and there will be lesser of such situations.

A worship leader need to be sensitive to the atmosphere. If the whole band is distracted because it is a hard song. I think that scolding the band for being too focused on the technicalities doesn’t really help. (In fact, it might even encourage sloppy playing) I think a way to help is to tell the band to simplify the parts. That is a way to maintain standard in the parts being played while helping the band to worship God themselves.

Though I would agree that they should discipline if the band didn’t prepare for the set, but that is for another time altogether.

Ok, I went off topic way too much! Back to the topic of friction in organisations. As a result of such conflicts, many people are discouraged from doing some stuff some are even thinking of quitting the organisation because they cannot stand these people.

I think in such times, one should look back to why they decided to serve in the first place? Was it to play music? Or was it to serve God?

Depending on what was your motivation, you will either find strength or find it not worth it.

May our service and good deeds be driven by God and not something else.

Ok, recording gonna start soon, excited! HAHA!

-Kelvin-

Just a man struggling to live a God led life in a God strayed world