Sound Education


Music in New Media

The link I have provided here is to an insightful essay about the state of music and music sales in the world of new media by Dave Allen:

Dear Musicians-Please be Brilliant or Get Out of the Way

Allen gives good advice when calling for musicians to push boundaries or perhaps create new systems of getting music heard and sold, but does not go into any specifics.  I like the idea of making events out of the music.  The state of music is that it serves as part of a larger system or culture.  Bands and other creative musicians have to figure out ways to sell the cultural ideas driving their music in order to make any kind of impact any more.

But this advice should not only be sought after by musicians.  Producers and even engineers should be cognizant that they are creating part of a larger whole and should understand the whole before recording and distributing any band’s material.


Filed under: Music Production, Sound Education, ,

Sound Education

My long subway commute on the MARTA train to work in the morning is spent trying not to think about anything audio related, knowing that the rest of the day will be spent being preoccupied with such things.  However, a few mornings ago, the New York Times had an op-ed that had me right back thinking about audio, and more specifically audio education. While the article did not specifically address sound education, the philosophy in the article applies to education on any level, field, or age group.  The article was an op-ed entitled Teach Your Teachers Well and cut through so much of what I saw, not only in my youth in public schools, but what I also experienced in the Post-Graduate levels working with experts in their chosen fields, namely sound disciplines.

So much attention gets paid to the cool, shiny gear that audio schools offer, and while there is no doubt that these resources can make a significant difference in an audio student’s success, the quality of the teachers often times gets overlooked.  If you go to many audio schools, they will tout first how much cool stuff they have, and next their instructor’s industry experience.  Although I think that industry experience may be important in demonstrating the realities of a student’s chosen profession, much more important is a professor’s ability to plan a curriculum, lessons, and inspire students.  “Show me a school where teachers are smart, well-educated, skilled and happy to be there, and I’ll show you a group of children who are getting a good eduction”, writes Susan Engel.  Too often in my own experience I have seen professors who are content to talk about what the industry is like rather than to inspire a true interest in the art of what we do.  “To fix our schools, we need teaching programs that are as rich in resources, interesting, high-reaching, and thoughtful as the young people we want to attract to the profession”.  Through hiring practices that focus on how well an instructor would do in a classroom mixed with teacher training, audio programs will increase in their efficiency and creativity.

Filed under: Sound Education, ,

Youtube Bandit

The idea of using sound clips from Youtube videos has come up no less than 100 times each quarter since I began teaching audio.  Although I am completely naive to the legality of this, I almost always indulge them with the one of the, I’m sure, thousands of ways there is to accomplish this.

Youtube videos are now saved as .flv (flash video) files.  In order to import these into most DAWs, you will first need to convert these .flv files into .mov files. The way I do this is using a Firefox plug-in called download helper.  You will need to download this at

You’ll see a yellow box to the left of the screen like this one below:

Picture 1

Click “Installation” inside the yellow box.

Follow the installation instructions.

Before download helper will work, you’ll need to restart Firefox.

One more plug-in you’ll need is a Quicktime plug-in known as Perian which allows you to open the .flv file you download from Youtube.  Go to this web site,, and download Perian.  A lot of my students have forgotten to follow the entire download through to its end.  Don’t forget to click “Download Perian” on this screen:

Picture 2

Restart Quicktime.

Now go to the Youtube video you want to sample.  You will now see three dots next to any video that you can download via Download helper such as below:

Picture 3

Clicking the three dots will begin an automatic download of the .flv from Youtube.

Picture 4The video will download directly to its own download helper folder:

The final step is to open the file using Quicktime.  If Perian is properly installed, the .flv should open in Quicktime with no problems.

The file will open in Quicktime.

Next, simply export the file.

Picture 5

The file will default as a .mov.  Save the file to a convenient place and import the newly formed .mov to Pro Tools or whatever DAW you’re working with.

Sample away.

Filed under: Sound Art, Sound Education, , , , ,

Creating an ADR three beep

To create a three-beep, start by creating a mono Aux track and a mono Audio track and inserting a signal generator onto the Aux track.
pic 1

Use a bus to send from the Aux track to the Audio track.

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Use the signal generator to create two 500 kHz sine tones and a 1 kHz sine tone that are each 50 to 100 milliseconds long.

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Next, use the Grid mode to place each tone one second apart (one second is arbitrary… if this rhythm is too slow, go with a faster spacing).

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Then highlight the track from three seconds all the way back to the beginning of the session and go to Edit and the Consolidate to create one long region with all three beeps.

pic 6

The consolidated region should look like this:

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This three beep region can now be placed directly before the line the actor is being cued for, so that the imaginary ‘fourth beat’ one second later is their cue and their entrance to the line.

You should copy this region and place it in front of all the ADR cues in the session.  That way the session will run much more smoothly.

pic 9

For overlapping beep regions, you will want to select the region and press Apple (Command), M in order to mute the overlapping beats.

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These guidlelines will save you a lot of time and anxiety in your ADR sessions.

Filed under: Film Sound Design, Sound Education, , , , ,

Codec Studies web site

My graduate thesis is focusing on codecs and their impact on audio.  I have set up a companion web site to go along with the paper part of the thesis here.

Filed under: Sound Education, Web Design and Web Sound, , , ,

The Wiitles Max/MSP Vocal Effects Processor

In one of my bands, The Wiitles, we use Max/MSP as a vocal effects processor.  The Nintendo Wii-mote acts as a controller for the effects such as delay, pitch shift, amplitude modulation, and a vocoder.

This video also has significance for me since it brought me to buy a little program called ScreenFlow which is pretty much amazing.  ScreenFlow is the program that allowed me to capture the real time actions of my computer on video.  Very cool.  I have yet to scratch the surface on this bad boy, but, especially once I start teaching sound classes, this promises to be a revelation.

Filed under: Sound Art, Sound Education, The Wiitles, , , , ,

Will Oldham on Movie Music


I love this friggin’ guy…. and wholeheartedly agree with these views on movie music:

“AVC: You mentioned talking to Richard Linklater and Caveh Zahedi about your ideas on movie music. Can you summarize those ideas?

WO: Well, for a while, it seemed like you were always seeing movies where all the music was determined by the music supervisors and their special relationships with certain record labels. And I just felt like, “Wow, I’ll bet they spent months or years writing this screenplay, and I’ll bet they spent months shooting this, and I’ll bet they spent months editing this, and now they’re spending no time at all picking these completely inappropriate songs with lyrics to put under a scene that has dialogue.” How does that even work? How can you have a song with someone singing lyrics under spoken dialogue and consider that mood-music, or supportive of the storyline? As somebody who likes music, when that happens, I tend to listen to the lyrics, which have nothing to do with the movie. And then I’m lost in the storyline. Not only is that a crime, but it’s a crime not to give people who are good at making music for movies the work. It’s like saying, “We don’t need you, even though you’re so much better at it than I am as a music supervisor.” Like the cancer that is that Darjeeling guy… what’s his name?

AVC: Wes Anderson?

WO: Yeah. His completely cancerous approach to using music is basically, “Here’s my iPod on shuffle, and here’s my movie.” The two are just thrown together. People are constantly contacting me saying, “I’ve been editing my movie, and I’ve been using your song in the editing process. What would it take to license the song?” And for me it’s like, “Regardless of what you’ve been doing, my song doesn’t belong in your movie.” That’s where the conversation should end. Music should be made for movies, you know?

AVC: So there aren’t many contexts in which you can imagine licensing one of your songs to a movie?

WO: No. I mean, I could see—

AVC: Over the closing credits, maybe?

WO: Right, the closing credits. But again, someone wrote me recently and said, “We wanna use your songs in our movie, and we’ve already got this artist, this artist, this artist, this artist.” And I was thinking, “Well that makes for like, no integrity to your movie. All these different voices combined with the actors’, writer’s, director’s and DP’s voices. That sounds like the worst place to be. That sounds like a music festival.” [Laughs.] I liked it when those crazy, dirty, Rhode Island brothers made movies like There’s Something About Mary.

AVC: The Farrellys?

WO: The Farrelly brothers. Was it Something About Mary that had nothing but Jonathan Richman songs in it? I like Jonathan Richman a lot, and while those weren’t my favorite Jonathan Richman songs, I liked that whole idea of lacing one voice throughout the whole movie and having it be a conscious decision made somewhere during the writing and pre-production, and not during post-production. “This is the voice that we wanna have, and these are how we want songs to work with this movie.” That’s all I ask for, that a little bit of time and respect is given to the musical part of filmmaking.

AVC: So do you think of your songs as inviolable? If you want to understand what the song is about, then you have to consult the song?

WO: Yes, essentially. Like sometimes we’ve made film clips or video clips to go with the song, but honestly, the only reason to do that is to get the music to other places where people could hear it. And I’ve never done a video where I feel like the images have anything to do with the song, except in the most vague way possible, because I feel like the song is its own complete thing. People who put songs in movies like to think of a song as a sphere that you can cut a huge chunk out of. “Well the movie’s gonna take up most of that sphere, or half of that sphere, or a fraction of that sphere.” When you’re writing a song for a movie, you only have to fill in a part of the sphere, knowing that it’s gonna go with the other content that’s already there. But ideally, a song is a complete sphere like the Earth, where if you were an alien with a huge, huge finger, you could stick your finger into the middle of the ocean and make an impression on it. It’s not an impregnable sphere, but it is a sphere.”

Read whole interview at The Onion AV club:,26498/

Filed under: Film Sound Design, Music Production, , , ,

The Wiitles at GDX

The Wiitles performed at the GDX (Game Developers Conference) in Savannah Georgia last Thursday (4-16-09).  We were extraordinarily received by some very cool folks who make game sound their careers such as George Sanger, Jason Arnone, Michael Sweet, and Chris Rickwood.  Below is one song from the performance:

A bit of trivia:  That’s my son Sebastian in the background, who joined us on stage for a bit.

Filed under: Sound Art, The Wiitles, , ,

Pro Tools Post Production Operator Certifiable


It’s official.  I am now Pro Tools Post Production Operator Certified (7.3), or certifiable as my bank account tells me.  Pro Tools class was a lot of money for the piece of paper and T-shirt I got in exchange.  I guess that one could argue that it’s the knowledge that I paid for.  So I’m going to comtemplate that here for myself and for anyone else thinking of taking the Pro Tools certification course.

I should begin by saying that, out of all the Pro Tools courses, 210 was by far the most useful and most meaty.  From chasing tape to editing ADR, 210 gave workflow suggestions and tips that I had not previously thought of.  I have already seen some improvement in my post-production gigs.  Additionally, 210 had sections at the end of each chapter called Practical Application Scenarios.  These little tid bits were quite useful and something that I felt was missing from the first three quarters of the overall four-part course.  software knowledge is all well and good, but learning about the ins and outs of any software, especially one as powerful and in depth as Pro Tools can be painfully boring.  So it’s nice to see how and where this kind of knowledge can be useful, for both boredom cures and for long-term retention.

But the real question is whether or not the thousands of dollars you pay for the Pro Tools courses is worth the amount of knowledge you gain.  This is the question for any audio program, of course.  Especially since the long standing common knowledge is that any kind of certificate or degree won’t help you in the world of audio… it’s just purely good sounds (probably more important, however, are good connections).  So then the question becomes, “Is taking this Pro Tools certification course going to give me better sounds?”  The answer is maybe, maybe not.  There are some cool tips and tools drawn out for the student in all of the Pro Tools certification classes.  Many of them go beyond just teaching software and give some theory and some practice tips.  But someone who has been working in the field for several years may find these little knowledge nuggets somewhat elementary.  If the question is something more like, “Will the Pro Tools certification course make me faster and more efficient?”.  The answer to that one is probably, in the case of the experienced veteran, and definitely with the novice Pro Tools user.

However, interested students still need to be advised to do a cost benefit analyses of the course.  It is not cheap.  If you’re the kind of audio professional who is already fast in their workflow, then I’m not sure about investing this money.  However, if you’re like me, and still trying to figure out ways to maximize workflow and please his clients, then it may be worth it.  For me, it was totally worth it… but unfortunately now comes the little task of paying it all back.

Filed under: Film Sound Design, Sound Education, , ,

Appetite for Self-Destruction

Appetite for Self-DestructionThe book, Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash Of The Record Industry In The Digital Age, is one that people will be talking about a lot in the coming months. In it, author Steve Knopper lays out his theory of what happened to the music industry to make it fall from such great heights to such great lows.  It would be hard to argue with the basic premise that underlies Self-Destruction.  Many people already feel that the recording industry proved itself incompetent and behind the times (and maybe somewhat manic) in their response to the Internet and most pointedly, peer-to-peer services.  But Appetite still reeks of a book idea that someone was a little too eager to put out into the world, be it Knopper or his publishers.  The industry has been changing so quickly that Appetite was in danger of sounding dated before it came out, and self-consciously repeats phrases like “at the time of this writing…”.

Appetite certainly does a good job painting portraits of the colorful characters who have ‘guided’ the music industry over the last several decades, portraits that prove to be one of Appetite‘s biggest charms and its biggest let downs.  Knopper seems to rely a little too much on his unusual access to these record industry big-wigs, and, while interesting, often times seems more than a healthy dose of filler.

All in all, I think that Appetite for Self-Destruction is an important book.  It attacks the record industry while also maintaining an objective gaze on what brought it to its current state.  Music fans the world over are wondering why in hell the major labels are putting out such terrible drivel on a regular basis, and what happened to make all of it happen.  Appetite gives these music lovers a good starting place in trying to put the pieces together.

Filed under: Sound Education, Sound Literature, ,