Music Studies: The Basics of Analogue Recording

 If you, as a producer or artist, want to record something with several musicians at the same time, you will sooner or later have to deal with a music studio. A music studio is especially equipped to provide optimal acoustics for an audio recording. Unlike a home studio, no expense has been spared to record the sound of instruments or singers as properly and consistently as possible. 

A good recording starts at the source. 

It sounds like an open door, but the saying exists for a reason. Singers or instrumentalists need to be warmed up and relaxed in order to perform at their peak level. Instruments, from grand pianos to guitars, must be tuned. Even a drum kit has to be tuned to match the kit with the track. 

Acoustics 

Many studios have asymmetrical walls and ceilings. This is to avoid reflections and build-up of low frequencies. 90 degree angles are often filled with bass traps. The walls also often have special acoustic panels or acoustic treatment to reduce reflections and to get the purest possible sound delivery. Some larger studios have different spots in their studio for either a more lively sound with more reflections, or a dead end, where the sound will be as dry as possible for a clean recording. The placement of the instrument is important for the final sound. 

Microphone Selection and placement 

A good studio has a collection of high-end microphones that the home producer or studio will never have. Large diaphragm microphones, tube mics, ribbon mics. All microphones with their own sound and characters. It’s important to have a good idea of how the track will eventually sound. With the microphone selection you can already steer the instrument in a certain direction. 

Perhaps even more important than the microphone choice is how they are placed. It often helps to stand next to the instrument when the musician is playing on it. Where it sounds best to you, it will also be the same for a microphone. 

Do you move closer for a close mic’d sound, or do you back further away so you can better hear the studio acoustics. 

Patching and signal flow 

Larger studios generally use patch panels. Via these panels you can determine where the recorded signal goes. You can send the signal directly to the console, but you can also choose to use external preamps or outboard gear such as compressors. 

Console 

Before the sound ends up on the studio computer, it has to run through the console. The console has its own effects and control section, from preamps, to gates, compressors and EQs. With the preamp you determine how loud the signal will go into the console in. You can use high quality preamps to color the signal. You do this by turning up the gain so that the preamps will saturate the signal slightly. With the gates, compressors and EQs you can edit the sound before you record it. Often you try to keep the choices subtle, because there is no possibility of going back once recorded. 

And then 

When the track is finally recorded, the actual work on the track has yet to start. You have ensured that the source sound has been transferred to the DAW in the best possible way. It is now up to the producer or mixing engineer to turn it into a track. 

Songwriting – Arranging a pop song

 Good pop songs are easy to listen to and sometimes seem very simple, but nothing could be further from the truth. Writing a good pop song is not that easy. It really is an art to make a song sound ‘easy’. It’s the right combination of lyrics, hooks, and production. 

Text 

Needless to say, well written lyrics are needed to come up with a good pop song, everyone understands that. But how do you write it? First of all, it is important to write in a language that you feel comfortable with. Not knowing what to say is extremely annoying. For example, if you really want to write a French song, but you don’t have a good command of the language yet, you might consider writing the lyrics in your native language first. Once the basics are in place, you can try translating it back to French. 

In addition, it is not a superfluous luxury to avoid clichés. They are things that you have heard too often in songs, if you also start using them, people can quickly get tired of them. So, make sure you are original. Do you have trouble with that? Then read the tips and tricks in the article about ‘Lyrics’. 

Hooks 

Hooks are specific parts of a song that keep haunting the listener’s mind and make them not easily forget the song. Hooks can be different things, lyrical tricks, melodic delights, recognizable rhythms or innovative productions. 

A lyrical hook is sometimes called a ‘tagline’. This is a word or phrase in the chorus that often stands out. It can be repeated throughout the chorus, or just close the chorus at the end. You regularly find that ‘tagline’ as the title of the song. 

Other types of hooks include Phil Collins’ drum solo in ‘In The Air Tonight’ or the piano in Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’. Hooks don’t necessarily have to be hidden in the lyrics or vocals. 

Production and arrangement 

When writing a (pop) song you must think carefully about the structure. The most used structure is “Verse – Pre – Chorus – Verse 2 – Pre 2 – Chorus 2”, possibly followed by a bridge and a closing chorus. 

Nowadays you don’t hear many intros, and if there is one, it is very short. Experience shows that today’s consumer no longer has the patience to listen to the intro and often skips to the next song if it takes too long. So, make your point quickly. Also often said: ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’. 

GILAD ZUCKERMAN – RAPPER, SINGER, PRODUCER, ARTIST

I was 14 and sitting on Museumplein in Amsterdam, when I knew that I wanted to make music for a living. Crazy that I still remember that moment and place, but it was suddenly clear to me: this makes me happy, I’m good at it and it gets me attention from people I want to get attention from. So making music is ideal for me.

 

I went to a boarding school in Israel when I was 15 years old. I had little time for music there and I didn’t have the right equipment for it either, like instruments or a laptop. I had little inspiration and there were not many people playing an instrument over there. It became an important reason to come back to the Netherlands.

 

I prefer to work with people who are not afraid to make mistakes. I like to work in an atmosphere where ideas and making fun stimulate the process of creating. Most of the beautiful things I’ve made so far come from those moments. For me, making music with other people, sometimes feels more natural than making music alone. If I do that alone, I’m way too harsh for myself. When I work with someone else, I allow myself the space that I give the other person I work with.

 

Here at the Wisseloord Academy I pay a lot of attention to hip-hop. I also feel at home with other genres, but the phase I’m in now I discipline myself by chosing. Then you can still go in many directions with hip-hop. You can distinguish yourself in hip-hop production, tempo, rhythm, accents, subjects, instruments. I’m also starting to see more and more that you learn a trade here at Wisseloord that can take you in many directions. If you no longer write for yourself, you can start writing for others. Or you can start mixing work from others or produce it. And all that experience makes you a better musician that helps you making new steps as an artist. In fact, a lot of what I do is about personal growth.

 

There are very beautiful souls here at Wisseloord, many of whom are also excellent musicians. I do a lot by gut feeling and using my ears. And by listening carefully. I don’t have a big plan and I don’t know how long I’ll keep making music. Now I feel very happy when I make music and as far as I’m concerned I’ll keep going until it’s not fun anymore.

 

I came across the Wisseloord Academy on Instagram and then went to see it with my parents where the founder of the Academy showed us all the options to develop within the Academy. In the first year I did the Full Course. This year I’m diving into the development of my live act.

 

I’m now making a music video for my EP called ‘CUSP’ that is coming out soon. ‘CUSP’ means ‘turning point’ or ‘moment of change’. My songs on CUSP are about those moments. It’s about never being satisfied, no matter how hard I work. About accepting that things don’t go as fast or will turn out exactly the way you want them to. About being in the moment of change, in the process. And about enjoying that. That’s important to me.

ZIXTEN WEIJSTERS – PRODUCER, SONGWRITER, MUSICIAN

Two years ago I was in a period  in life where I felt like I didn’t have any direction. Things I did didn’t give me much satisfaction. I felt like I wasn’t moving forward in life, or working towards anything until I found an Ableton starter course and thought why not. Through listening and making music, a whole new world opened up to me.

 

I looked for ways to develop and I met Malik and told him: I might not have the musical skills yet, but I have a strong drive and I want to work hard for it. He appreciated that and gave me a shot. I was admitted to the Academy and did a ‘full course’ in the first year.  It was the right decision as I learned something from everyone I met at Wisseloord – musicians, technicians, people from the industry and other students. What is so special in this place is that we all have the same passion for music.

 

The start of the Academy was quite tough, because although I was very curious, I also had to learn a lot of different things. In those early days it was like school to me. After sharing my struggles with the team a few times I realized that it was only the beginning of the rest of my life and future career. Now I know for sure: I want to do this for the rest of my life.

 

I come from a musical family where my father used to play in a band and I had piano lessons as a child. In my teen years I stopped playing and I did nothing with music for quite some time. Now I’m taking some piano lessons again – among other lessons at Wisseloord – and I start to appreciate playing piano again. Those lessons taught that I have stories to tell too, that I might want to share with the world. So I’m writing them down and creating everyday more and more work that sounds like me.

 

I hope that music will take me around the world as I love to meet new people and be influenced by all kinds of styles of music. At the moment I am creating an EP with Petra, who I met at the Academy. We came up with a cool concept where she is the artist and I’m producing her.

 

I am also getting more and more interested in making film and game music. I think that the Wisseloord Academy is a great way to find out what your path is. I learned that I can go into many directions, within the music industry. And I’m getting better at it everyday. Life is moving forward again.

ARON HANNES – SINGER, MUSICIAN, SONGWRITER, PRODUCER

I’ve been making music myself for 10 years now and have released few “POP” singles that were successful. I was also part of the pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest in Iceland. My favorite genre now is leaning more towards R&B and Soul. I want to help develop those genres and learn to think like Stevie Wonder and other top musicians from those genres.

 

I was born and raised in Iceland. In our house there was always and everywhere music. My father was a drummer and my mother sings. She taught me how to sing. We listened to a lot of music at home – Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Dolly Parton, Celine Dion. We sang a lot at home too. Music in Iceland is often about nature and has beautiful melodies. I think that’s really characteristic of the music we make by essence and I’m proud of that expressive side.

 

I followed my girlfriend to the Netherlands in 2018, because I wanted to broaden my musical horizon. As far as I’m concerned, the Netherlands has turned out to be a good choice. I ended up at the Wisseloord Academy and started the full course there. At Wisseloord I learned to work on new angles for my music with the best equipment, the best people, in an inspiring environment.

 

I already have quite a network and the necessary experience, but musically I am trying to start over here. To find my own voice. Reinventing myself as an artist. For example, I try to dig deeper when I’m writing lyrics. And I think about things like artwork; which image I want to portray as an artist. I have been warmly welcomed here in the Netherlands by other musicians and I love to see how generously people at Wisseloord share their knowledge and networks. Malik knows many people all over europe and will always try to help you.

 

If you compare Iceland with the Netherlands, you will see that EDM (electronic dance music) is very predominant. Good to watch and learn from, because in Iceland that genre is not that big. I came here with some goals and I’m happy with the progress I’m making. A first result is the EP that will be released later this year. My next step is staying inspired, to experiment and expand my catalog with new songs.

Ole Pedersen – Singer, producer, musician, designer

The idea for following a full course at the Wisseloord Academy actually came from my mother. After high school I came from Bonaire to the Netherlands because my mother was ill and I decided to stay here. She wanted my education to go forward and I wasn’t really looking. She thought Wisseloord Academy was just the thing for me and she was right. For me Malik was the deciding factor. He emphasized that I should mainly be myself and not worry about anything else.

 

I decided to do the full course at the Wisseloord Academy and immediately went ‘On Campus’. I was nervous, because it was new and the first time that I went to live on my own. It has been a very educational year for me with a lot of music and new friends. I really learned a lot, for example from my new friend Joe, who is the facility manager of the studios.

 

I lived on a boat for 15 years and played a lot of music there with my brother. Our first song was about dinosaurs. It never really occurred to me then to make a living from my musical skills. So I can’t say that this was my dream. I’m not that kind of dreamer. I have learned here that creating things is a very fulfilling process and that I am really good at it. So now I want to make something beautiful every day. To be honest, I don’t like everything around the music industry – such as the business side. Maybe that is also because I’m not good at it.

 

Everything I like to do now has to do with creation. I sing, can produce well and work fast on DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), I can record samples and make beats, now learning to play many instruments like piano, drums and bass. What I wish I could do better is to finish things faster with people. For me, a big part of the energy disappears when something takes a very long time. I also really enjoy making ‘visuals’ – such as video clips or a canvas for Spotify. I used to love watching Winnie The Pooh. Image – just like music – is also a form of ‘storytelling’. For me, music is also about movement and movement can be enhanced with images.

Ralph Moerman – MUSICIAN, SINGER, PRODUCER

“Songwriting is so special to me. Start with a simple idea for a song. Then write a text and find a few chords. And it all develops into a story that people listen to. Fascinating. My dream is to ‘break through’, to be heard and to ‘score’ hits with songs that make me happy. With friends from my football club I was in a band for years that mainly played covers. The band split up recently, but I have enjoyed playing together for so many years. I’ve always known that music was something special to me and that it is something I’m passionate about.

 

A few years ago I participated in the Voice Kids and then experienced first-hand how much fun it is to be intensively involved with music. After this experience I knew for sure: I want to perform and write my own songs. I started at Wisseloord Academy with the classes ‘The Art Of Listening – songwriting and production’ and ‘DAW Production’ (Digital Audio Workstation). Now I write and sing my own songs and record my own demos. Exactly what I wanted.

 

I’ve already recorded a lot of demos but haven’t released any material yet. The latter also has to do with the fact that I can be quite a perfectionist. But I feel my songs are getting better, so the time when everyone can hear them is getting closer. I am already looking forward to the performance that me and other students from Wisseloord are preparing. Students of ‘Stage Act Development’ – a class I started taking this year – get the chance to perform in De Vorstin.

 

The Dutch pop climate is lively. I personally am very ambitious and I love to create surprising stories and special songs with the best quality possible. I think singing in a Dutch language is pretty cool, especially when Herman van Veen sings it. But I personally find it more pleasant to make and sing songs in the English language. I find songs by John Mayer, Ed Sheeran or Finneas o’Connell and Billie Eilish inspiring to listen to.

 

I accompany myself singing on piano and guitar. Just before this interview I finished the lyrics of a new song ‘Girl On The Train’. I’m happy with it and I’m going to record it this afternoon. I also just bought a new microphone, which I was also able to get with a discount thanks to Wisseloord. There is always a tipping point when making a song. Then you’ve paid so much attention to a song that you can get lost. There’s a point where you have to say I’m letting it go.

 

I think Wisseloord Academy is a great place with great teachers. I have learned a lot and have also met quite a few people. You feel that Malik the CEO of the studio and his team – know the music industry inside and out. Working together with other students is also instructive. You always learn from it, no matter if there is a click with the people with who you work on certain projects or not.

 

Lena Marguerite – SINGER, SONGWRITER, PRODUCER

“When I was 13 years old, I started playing ukulele and when I turned 14 I also picked up acoustic and electric guitar. Right now, I’m trying to learn how to play the piano and bass. Since I was little, I have been busy with music in all kinds of ways. I sang and danced a lot as a kid and I also played the violin for a while. For 7 years I took musical lessons, for which I also performed in big venues a lot.

 

I love to make songs with interesting melodies and ‘storytelling’ lyrics. My lyrics are all pretty heavy and really personal. It helps me putting problems in a different perspective. My music isn’t very optimistic but I hope it is something other people can relate to. That they feel understood and less alone in their own situation. You could say I make alternative pop music in which you can hear elements of musical coming back. I have also made a rock song. Genre doesn’t matter if it works for the story.

 

Right now, I’m trying to find ways where music can support my voice. I always write in English for myself but in Wisseloord – where some assignments need to be written in Dutch – I discovered that Dutch lyrics can also be beautiful. I’ve started listening to Froukje, S10 and Meau, and it surprised me how much I like it. I am inspired by Alice Phoebe Lou, Gracie Abrams, and Isaac Gracie. Especially Isaac Gracie has a really special voice with which he adds something unique to his music.

 

1 ½ years ago, I came into contact with Malik through a music competition, for which I sent in an original song on my ukulele. I decided to use a ‘gap year’ to take a full course (with a ‘live development’ module instead of ‘analogue recording’) at Wisseloord Academy. My favourite lessons are at ‘live development’, because it is a small group with more individual focus. A big element is performing, but we also had a class on breathwork for example.

 

I have not gained a lot of close connections with other people through collaborations yet, but I really do enjoy working together with different people. I really want to pursue music as my job. I’ve been producing my own demos in Logic since I was 15 years old. Now I’m searching for a producer who can help me taking my demos to the next level, so I can start to release them.

 

To end the live development module, we get to organize a show at a podium in Hilversum called ‘De Vorstin’. The students of this module have to organise a big part of the event. Malik will invite people from the music business. It’s really exciting. I want to release my first EP at the end of this autumn. It will consist of an intro and 5 songs, of which the first 3 songs form a kind of group. My songs often end quite bombastic, and I love to perform them intensely. It feels really nice when a song breaks open at the end.”

Sander Visser : Musician, Artist, Songwriter, Producer

For me, music is communication. A language like no other language that can express emotions, images and other intangible things.” (…) “My parents both raised me with their own culture. Beatles and Pink Floyd from my dad, from my mother jazz, theatre and volunteer work. In high school I always wore headphones. Music transported me into an alternate universe.”

“I bought a drumkit when I was 14. Soon after, I bought a guitar so I wouldn’t keep the neighbours awake every night. Around that time I also started playing in a band. A bit later I discovered that a stage is a place where you can be the most outspoken version of yourself.’

‘Although I have always been involved with music, I was too afraid to chase further music education. I thought that getting a degree in Economics would leave all my options open. A rational choice. It wasn’t until I started working in finance and experienced burnout that I knew I was walking a safe road with a dead end. Now that I have more life experience, I understand that there is no ‘Plan B’ for me and that I can only follow 1 path: the path of music.’

‘Following a course at the Wisseloord Academy seemed like a good place to meet more driven people. I already was self-educating theory and technique, and I learned producing. The Wisseloord Academy attracted me because the program is at the heart of the music industry. The courses are very personal and because you collaborate with a variety of people you’re building a diverse network at the same time.”

“This year, I have learned a lot about myself as an artist and as a creative person. By collaborating with other students and conversations with teachers, I am discovering where to find my own ‘voice’. Next to that, I learned that I tend to get fixated on end results, but that I don’t allow myself a proper process. This blocks my entire creative process.’

“Some days, nothing comes up, while the next day I suddenly have a banger on my hands. When I look back on last period, I have produced more than I have ever done before. I am finally creating a path for myself as an artist.” (…) “In fact, Wisseloord has made me discover who I am and how I can return to this person. That might sound vague, but to me this is a very clear.’

‘Currently, I am working on an indie pop concept: ‘People Call Me Jasper’. The idea came from a business class here, and I decided to take this idea and run with it. The concept is about focussing more on the lighter things in life.’

For more information about Sander Visser: https://www.instagram.com/itssandervisser

 

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