sound treatment

Sound treatment is a dark art. There is a myriad of options, a full on science and lots of experts with varying degrees of opinion. So as a home recording studio owner and artist how have we navigated the audio treatment conundrum. (with difficulty but with good results!)

I have been recording music for 35+ years now. I was the 1980s teenager with an Atari 1040, Notator (remember that?!) and a Roland SH101 synth… Music, audio and music technology has been a part of my life since then. I never really took Audio Treatment seriously.. I mean just how much does the room actually affect recordings? ummm now I hear it… a lot! I mean you see these big swanky studios with all their mega treatment and just think.. I cannot afford that, I do not understand it and where on earth do I start?

So now spin forward to 2020 – Crimson is taking off.. lots of interest, radio plays and people asking for more music… what a wonderful feeling that is… however, there is always that musical doubt.. is the music good enough? is the quality good enough? can we compete at the broadcast level? Can i do that on a shoestring muso budget? (lets face it, most everyday musicians are skint!..)

Adding audio treatment to your home studio isnt as daunting as you might think, its not that expensive and even with a budget of a few hundred pounds can make significant differences to your room, recordings, mixing and mastering.

So first of all why add treatment? When you add treatment you realise why. The room resonance when essentially silenced is quite eery. The room adds an audio dynamic that perhaps you cant quite hear but yet its clearly within your recordings. We do not have the luxury of a vocal booth but I have created the best I can in the way of Mic Screen, surround and wall treatment. When Wendy steps into her ‘booth’ the sound of her voice is no longer bouncing off walls for the Mic to pick up. Now its just Wendy, her wonderful vocals and the Mic.. That has added some interesting challenges. Examples… Bird song! Now we can hear it clearly… we have 6 cats and they often pop into the studio to see whats going on.. Cats purring is clearly audible now! First world studio problems.. who knew?!

The room is a typical shape – about 10ft wide and 15ft long with a door at one end and a long window on one wall. The first thing to do is treat the ‘back wall’ where the studio monitors go. This wall was treated with Audio absorbing foam behind the monitors themselves, bass traps up in the corners of the room and our special artwork. The artwork is actually audio rockwall with a canvas outter… bit of a hybrid and works a treat. The opposing wall has now audio foam to stop reflective sound waves, and the side walls where the monitor mirror trick showed up typical reflection points has foam. The window has a pull down recess blind with black out and is surprisingly effective. We have a large thick rug on the floor.

The net effect. The room is dead. It has no echo, resonance and is quite astonishing. Walk in from the outer hallway talking and its like your voice just dies. Very odd.

However, what is awesome about all this. Quality of the recorded vocals, is now so pure that in production the vocals are no longer recorded with its own resonance. All the FX work can be done post recording and it is a game changer for us.

For mixing, the room now has that neutral feel so the Monitors (Adam A77X and Yamaha HS8s) can faithfully reproduce the music and you are not fooled by bass or odd frequencies… its just you, the music and a dead room.

This has been achieved for less than £200. So, if youve read this far.. thank you, and get on Amazon or wherever and get some foam, bass traps and some glue for the walls!

Enjoy your music and thanks for reading…

Ditto Music vs TuneCore – a review from a UK Artist

Choosing as an independent artist (hate the term unsigned!) a Distribution Agent for Music is one of the biggest ‘business’ decisions a musician faces. Lets face it, musicians are lovers, whimsical and dreamy… well, we were up until the point that online now enables a musician regardless of talent and skill the opportunity to push music to the masses.

So now the musician has to be skilled in distribution, social media, marketing, web design, art, photography oh and playing an instrument, sound engineer, mix engineer, master engineer and general dogs body!

So the decision on distribution…

Crimson has used Ditto Music (www.dittomusic.com) since 2015. Back then, I offered a charity (www.abbiesarmy.co.uk) a song called Angels & Stars. I wrote the song after reading the harrowing story of Abbie and donated the song. I needed a distie that would be easy for me to track streams, sales etc and move that money to the charity. At the time, I was making the decision in a naive way, just pleased that it was easier than I thought to get music onto platforms and donate the money to the charity.
I checked out distrokid, tunecore & ditto… Ditto was the only UK based distie and so based pretty much on that, I went for it.

The track was uploaded, artwork, set the outlets and away we went.

For 4 years, they have pretty much done exactly what was needed. Tracked the streams, sales etc.. reported on where and when things have taken place. Money was paid to the charity… Getting the money from Ditto was fairly straightforward. A rigorous method of checking who you are (fair enough) and once complete, the money is moved and thats that.

In 2019, Crimson Medici was born even though Wendy and I had been writing songs together since 2015. Crimson needed a trusted distribution that essentially ‘just worked’. This time, my decision making was much wider. I didn’t need to stick with Ditto and could go pretty much anywhere. Its at this point, you start reading online reviews! Wow.. there is much negativity about ALL of them! Distrokid this, TuneCore that, Ditto are sh&*, CD Cry Baby… I mean find reviews that arent in some way bloody horrid.. Cant get money out, made an error on my listing, wrong artist etc etc…

But then lets look at the hard facts. Approx. 40,000 songs are released on any given day on Spotify! So yes by the law of averages mistakes will occur and as musicians we have to be as careful and considered in all the Meta Data, song data and artwork to ensure we at least have done the right thing.

After reading the various reviews I realised that Ditto even though had bad reviews was no worse than any of the others and the fact I had 4 years of experience with them, had my payment system sorted and for the most part did the job I needed i stuck with them.

Since that decision, we have released 5 tracks with them without error and its been absolutely painless.
Now enter TuneCore – In April 2020, we donated a version of our song Survivor to the Helping Rhinos Charity and with that wanted to make sure that the Charity had full access to all the reporting and money. It made sense to keep that away from Ditto bearing in mind all of our other tracks.

TuneCore was the best rated at the time I did my research and their services looked clean and simple for the track to be loaded for them to distribute. The loading process was painless, the artwork was fine, WAV quality all good and outlets were typical. Their pricing is more expensive than Ditto and they wanted further money for new platforms as they come online. This is already included within Dittos price point. (We pay the £19 / year as a single artist and it works absolutely fine currently).

Ditto offers Smart links per release. This is a great dedicated little page that can be shared and points listeners to the various outlets the music sits on. This isnt included within Tunecore and so makes sharing on the platforms a much more pointed affair. You need to find the Apple link or Amazon link… Spotify URI on the Tunecore page and share that specifically. Thats a shame as Ditto is so clean and tidy.

The reporting for Ditto appears to be updated quicker than TuneCore. We released the Rhinos track in April. It is only in June I am seeing the streams on their system for Spotify. In Ditto, we see the streams almost instantly…

Where TuneCore seems to have the upperhand – Moneytising YouTube is easier in Tunecore and getting reports on it.

Both of them have limited levels of Meta data and I have a gripe with Ditto as I cannot update the writers and produced by Meta fields on Spotify.

I have had open tickets with both of them – Service wise they both replied at a reasonable speed to enquiries and resolved whatever issues without fuss.

So… for Crimson, Ditto works for us. Tunecore is ok, but with the social media such a key point of sharing out songs and the ditto speed link it does tip the scales.

Thanks for reading and good luck in your decision!