Studio Tour – 2020

Studio Tour – 2020

I like to keep a tidy studio space, it helps with the creativity by providing an inviting area to work. By the end of 2019, the back of my studio desk looked akin to the spaghetti junction. I was also getting a slight hum on the speakers whenever the fluorescent light was switched on in the living room or the kitchen. It was time to re-plan the wiring, fix the hum, take the opportunity to move a few racks and reintroduce some of my old gear.

Hmmm Hum

The problem I wanted to solve first was the very faint background hum that I could hear from time to time on my Neumann monitors. It was not there all the time, just when a fluorescent light was switched on or the blender in the kitchen. After much research I settled on a Furmann M-10x E power conditioner. This comes in a 19-inch rack and has 10 outlets, which are conveniently at the rear of the unit. This allows for some very tidy wiring options, especially if the desk you are putting it in has a cable tidy shelf.

The Furmann includes a circuit breaker and over-voltage protection. The reset button for the circuit breaker is on the rear, so it is a bit of a pita if you ever need to reset it. Thankfully I can access the rear panel easily due to the design of the desk that I am using.

Zaoring to Success

This brings us nicely to the main piece of my studio the Zaor Mira 88 desk. This arrives on your doorstep in a big crate in a flat pack. Let me tell you, it is one heavy item to put together and although you can do the main build on your own, you will need a second pair of hands for the very last part.

The desk has a nice retractable shelf, which is big enough for most 88 note keyboards. There is also space to fit up to two 4u high racks into the desk, which can either be just one rack or several as you will see later in this tour. There is also a handy central drawer for storing USB pens, cables etc. This helps keep the tidy feeling of the workspace.

I also purchased some Zaor Aperta stands that were made in collaboration with isoAcoustics. These decouple your speakers from the desk and minimise any vibrations that may occur through the desk and colour your monitoring environment.

Rack ’em up

We now come to the rack space in the desk and what I filled them with. On the right-hand side I inserted the Mannikin Schrittmacher Sequencer with a 1u blanking plate above it to hide the wiring. I will probably fill this at some point with another rack from my small collection further down the line.

On the right, from top to bottom, we have a Korg TR-Rack followed by a Roland M-VS1 and finally an RME Audio Fireface UFX II. The Korg TR-Rack provides some traditional sounds along with some truly inspirational synthesizer patches. The M-VS1 is a trip down Roland memory lane and is the hardware version of the SR-JV80-04 Vintage Synth expansion board. The Fireface UFX II speaks for itself and is the beating heart of the audio side in the studio.

We then move on to the rack structure that I keep to the side of my main desk. Working from the bottom up we have the ART Pro Audio P48 patch bay. It may be helpful if I explain that the 8 outputs on the rear of the Fireface are connected directly to the patch bay by way of an audio loom to keep the wiring tidy. I then use short audio leads to patch the audio outputs from the hardware synths/racks into the inputs of the Fireface.

Up from the patch bay, we have one of my favourite pieces of kit, the Korg Radias. This is a very versatile digital synth and uses the same technology found in the Korg Oasys flagship synthesizer. I won’t go into a full description of this synth, but if you want to find out more head on over to http://www.vintagesynth.com/korg/radias.php.

Korg-Radias
Dave Smith Prophet 12, Korg Radias & ART Pro Audio P48

On top of the angled rack unit, I have put a 6u rack space and attached a cable cradle to the bottom. This allows me to keep all the wiring off the floor for these rack units and tame those Gremlins that seem to come out at night to tangle up your wiring. Inside the 6u rack, we have a Dave Smith Prophet 12 module.

I have to confess, although my newest member in the studio I have not really explored the Prophet 12 and still in search of a good librarian utility that I can use to control it without using the front panel. If anyone has come across such a utility I would be grateful if you could leave a link in the comments below.

Finally, we come to the top of the rack where you will find an Access Virus TI Snow next to a Waldorf Blofeld. I think the Virus needs no introduction as it has appeared on countless electronic music tracks. The Waldorf Blofeld is a beautiful wavetable synthesizer that is capable of some very atmospheric sounds. It also provides some nice analogue modelling and analogue emulation.

The little black box tucked at the back is a UAD-2 Satellite USB, which as the name suggests, hosts my UAD plugins. It does get temperamental sometimes by dropping its connection now and again. All I need to do is switch it off for a few seconds and back on, it then maintains the connection for the rest of the session.

That’s the little tour of the studio almost over and we have two items left to mention. The first is my weighted keyboard, a Studiologic SL88 Grand. This has a very tactile feel and is the closest controller I have found to a piano keyboard. Well, it’s similar enough to feel like my acoustic upright that I have in the front room.

Monitoring the Output

The final items are my actual monitoring equipment. First up are the Neumann Kh 120A monitors, which have a beautiful neutral sound. Coupled with Sonarworks Reference 4 they make up for the limited acoustic treatment that I can put up in the work area I have. For checking the mix on headphones I use both open-backed and closed backed. I will explain the difference between these two varieties in a future blog post. All I will say for now is the open-backed are AKG 712-pro and the closed backed are Neumann.

Studio Tour - 2020 1
AKG 712-pro

Conclusion

That’s a brief tour of my studio and the equipment that I use to create my sonic landscapes. If you have any questions about my setup or would like to know more about the equipment I use, leave a comment below.

5 Ways to Layer your Synth Patches for a Bigger Sound

5 Ways to Layer your Synth Patches for a Bigger Sound

There will be times when you have finished writing your latest masterpiece but the overall sound feels one dimensional. In this blog post, I will briefly share with you 5 tips on how to add a little spice to your sounds to make your track sound more rounded by layering. Although I use Steinberg Cubase these tips require no specific DAW or synthesizer. So without further ado, tip 1 is on its way below.

1. Similar Sounding Synthesizer Patches

Okay, this one may sound very obvious, but it is surprising to forget this in the heat of composition. Layering two similar-sounding patches together can help thicken up the sound, however, caution is required.

If the patches sound too similar a buildup of frequencies will occur thus making the whole synth line sound perceptually louder. Naturally, this may lead to problems when it comes to balancing the mix. 

When choosing your complementary sound you may want to go for something similar but with slightly different characteristics. You can then EQ out the unwanted frequencies.

As an example, if the sound has a nice high-end sheen that you like, you may want to EQ out the bass end below between 40hz – 80hz. This would give your other sound room to breathe without sounding muddy.

“If the patches sound too similar a buildup of frequencies will occur thus making the whole synth line sound perceptually louder.”

2. Opposite Sounding Synth Patches

Just as we use similar-sounding synth patches, how about using ones that do not share sound qualities in common. What do I mean by this?

As an example, you have a nice blade runner synth type lead but it just lacks bite at the beginning, the attack stage of the sound. You could shorten the attack but this may destroy the vibe you are after on that patch. Why not find a more percussive sound and layer it?

You will then get the percussive attack from one sound leading into the slow release of the main synth patch. This little trick can work in reverse as well. You may have a nice percussive sound but want a longer release stage with a tonal difference. Design or locate a single patch that fits those characteristics and layer the two sounds together.

In the mixing stage, you can then easily EQ out the irrelevant frequencies so that the two patches are not competing for the same sound stage.

3. Layering Ambient Sounds

Yep, good old nature can provide some interesting twists to spice up your sounds. You may want some gentle running water or background city murmurings on your recording. Layer these up with your synth patch to provide a whole new soundscape. 

The time-honoured classic is that of vinyl static, the sound of an old record being played. This type of backing can give your track an old-style recording feel but don’t overdo it as it can get annoying if kept running for the whole 3 minutes 30 seconds of your track.

To add a different take to your ambient sound you could mangle it by using a resonator plugin or something like Soundtoys Crystallizer plugin.

4. Avoid Repetition

As the saying goes ‘You can have too much of a good thing’. Using one type of sound throughout the whole track can get boring very quickly, no matter how unique it sounds. Try to mix things up and have a palette of sound for the track and bring them in out. 

It is, however, a good idea to keep at least one of the synth sounds common throughout the track. This helps make the track not sound too disjointed and provides a connection through the whole piece. It also provides the listener with a continuous reference point to return to.

What I mean by this is if you have a percussive sound layered with your main synth lead, when you reach the chorus or move to another section change one of them. To make all the previous tips add width to your track we move to the final tip.

5. Pan, Pan and Pan Some More

Now we have layered our synth patches to make something new, it is easy to add width and dimension by panning the sounds. How, you do this depends on the number of synth sounds you have layered.

One word of warning though, do not layer too many sounds together. I would suggest no more than two or three different synth patches. Done right you won’t have too many competing frequencies. All this will help you avoid muddying the sound stage.

If you have similar-sounding patches layered you may consider panning them 30% left and the other 30% right. Where you have layered three sounds together you can get a nice soundscape by panning two sounds opposite each other but keeping the stronger sound out of the three in the centre.

Conclusion

I hope this little insight into how I go about creating layered sounds for my tracks is useful. If you have any questions or ideas of your own please feel free to leave them in the comments below. You can always drop me a message using the form on the contact page. 

You never know it could inspire another article in which you will have a personal mention. I will also use the post to promote your music.

Latest YouTube Videos

Latest YouTube Videos

Over the last few months, I have been releasing a number of music videos on YouTube including short tutorial lessons. First up we have a track from my latest album Organics Vol.1. This is the fourth track on the album, which starts off with a calm pizzicato style synth pattern. It then launches into a more upbeat tune with a catchy melody line. You can purchase the full album over in the shop, where you can listen to short snippets of the album.  

Kontakt – Batch Resave

I have seen a number of posts on Facebook and general music forums about how slow Kontakt can be to load sample libraries. One way of speeding loading times up is to batch resave each individual library. It’s not a good idea to perform this task in bulk as Kontakt can get easily confused when batch resaving. So if you have a fair number of libraries like me, this task can take some time.

I put a little video together showing how to batch resave within Kontakt.

Competition Entry

When I compose music I normally start with the, well, music first. Bit of doh! moment but humour me a while. Just to try a different creative process I put together a timelapse video from several snippets and made it a random length. The challenge was then to write a piece for the actual video. This way I was confined to create and develop my idea within the constraints of the video length.

This method helped me write a nice ambient/electronic mellow piece of music. It also ended up being my entry for a competition.

Coming Up

This is a small selection of what has been happening over on my YouTube channel, which would not exist if I did not have your support. I would like to thank you all individually for your comments and words of encouragement, it truly means a lot.

There is more exciting news to come as I have just finished a collaboration with Benedict Roff-March. This started off as a single track collaboration but quickly turned into a full album of ambient music. I would like to thank Benedict for reaching out to me and suggesting this project, so go please and check out his website https://benedictroffmarsh.com/.

I will be posting more information about the as yet untitled album and an upcoming post with links of where you can listen to it.

The Problems of a Rebrand and the Strategies I Used

The Problems of a Rebrand and the Strategies I used

Those that have been following my journey over the last couple of years have to come to know me as Biodiode. I rarely posted photographs of myself and, until recently, never appeared in my YouTube tutorial videos. Rebranding has, therefore, been a long thought out process and as I am passionate about teaching music, I have started to offer lessons over Skype. More of that later.

Why Rebrand?

I like composing music, a lot, and also enjoy working with media companies. The name Biodiode, however, started to become a little bit of an issue. For starters, clients did not know quite who they were dealing with, was it an individual or a company. There were also issues with spelling. I had friends and colleagues calling me biodude (you know who you are), bidide e.t.c. 

Other problems included giving people my e-mail address. Not over privacy concerns, but the fact people had difficulty in spelling [email protected] At first, I thought nothing of it, but the more this went on, the more I thought there was a problem.

“For a start, clients did not know quite who they were dealing with, was it an individual or a company. There were also issues with spelling. I had friends and colleagues calling me biodude (you know who you are), bidide e.t.c. “

Issues of Rebranding?

There have been some issues with rebranding. The first was to ensure my actual given birth name had not been used. This was fairly easy to do using a website called namechk.com. This is a really useful website. Just insert your new name and it will search all social media accounts and domain names to see if it is available.

I was very lucky and fortunate to find that my given birth name was available for the vast majority of platforms. The important part of getting hold of a .com domain name.

Naturally, the vast majority of social media platforms had already been taken, but I was not too interested in being called Adrian Earnshaw. This is because it didn’t say what I actually did. Therefore, for social media, I use the name of Adrian Earnshaw Music or Earnshaw Music if the number of characters are restricted.

The obstacle I need to get over now is Facebook. That has been a right royal pain, considering Instagram was a breeze – go figure. The problem with Facebook is when you change your name wholesale from Biodiode – Electronic Music to Adrian Earnshaw Music, they see this as deception and block the name change. I have sent in an appeal but I am not holding my breath on that one.

music-Adrian-Earnshaw

Has it been worth it?

This is too early to tell just yet. However, let me answer the question with another question. Would you take music lessons from someone using a name that sounds alien (Biodiode) or from someone who uses their given birth name. I know what I would choose given the option.

It has only been a couple of days since the whole rebrand started. However, the number of followers on my social media channels has increased. Normally, I get say 5 – 10 additional followers on Twitter daily. After one day I can double that number and I have not done anything different in my approach to social media.

You see the whole thing is about relating to an individual. If you don’t know what they look like or have never seen behind the scenes, there is little trust in the brand. After all, this is human nature.

I am considering whether to design a new logo or let my face be the identity for this new brand. What do you think? leave a comment below as to your thoughts.

I will be doing a follow up article in the next few weeks to let you all know how it has gone and whether I won my appeal with Facebook.

Oh yes, I mentioned earlier about music lessons. If you would like to start learning music theory or even play the piano/keyboard, I provide one to one lessons over Skype.

All you need to do is go into the shop area of this website, book the time and date convenient for you and checkout.

I look forward to working and teaching with your and until next time happy music making.

Follow up

I will be doing a follow up article in the next few weeks to let you all know how it has gone and whether I won my appeal with Facebook.

Oh yes, I mentioned earlier about music lessons. If you would like to start learning music theory, I provide one to one lessons over Skype.

All you need to do is go into the shop area of this website, book the time and date convenient for you and checkout.

I look forward to working and teaching with you and until next time happy music making.