Tune Up: Convolution Reverb

One of the most widely used techniques when editing/processing audio is, of course, reverb. This echoing, distance effect is age old with audio engineers. Of course, if you’ve used spring reverb amps or really old mixer console reverbs, you know how unrealistic they can sound sometimes. Occasionally that’s a sound people go for. However, in this article, we’re going to share one of my favorite tricks to audio production when it comes to reverb. We’re talking about convolution reverb.

If you’re not certain what convolution is, we’ll get to that in a moment. What we want to do first is entice you with one of the amazing things that can be done using this processing technology. Among other things, you can capture the reverberating characteristics of any room, hall or space, bring that data to your DAW and superimpose it on any recorded audio you have. Thus, you’ve made it sound like a specific audio file was recorded in a completely different space.

We’ll step back for a moment and describe, briefly, what convolution is. This basically refers to taking the characteristics of one audio file and applying them to the frequencies of another. In mathematics, the computer takes discrete digital audio data (basically, sets of amplitudes and frequencies), and multiplies them with those of another audio file. Therefore, you can use convolution for a lot of things, making a lot of really interesting sounds. I’ve done everything from creating the sound of a cat meowing through a symbol to a guitar riff that is played with the attacks of a clarinet being blown. It’s really quite amazing.

But, for more practical, universal applications, you can create interesting reverb for a track using the same principles. This can be a complicated concept to explain, so we’re going to try and break it down. Convolution takes certain qualities of one audio file and superimposes them onto another audio file. So, in this case, we’re interested in the reverberating qualities of one sound being superimposed onto another (say, a vocal or a guitar track). So, what type of sound really features the echoing qualities of a space? Well, a short, loud and non-pitched sound. This is called an impulse response. All you need to do is set up a few microphones in the space you’re interested in (your local church, a huge auditorium, etc.), and clap. You can also use a snare drum or hit pieces of wood together (some articles say that the closest real-world representation of an impulse response is the shot of a starter pistol, but who owns one of those?). The goal here is to just get a very distinct recording of the space’s reverb. So, make your impulse as short as possible to capture the full reverb tail.

Now that you have the echoing sound you’d like to apply to your mix, you need the right program or plug-in. Many DAW and music software companies offer a convolution reverb system or plug-in. Please note that these can often be called Impulse Reverb processors. Cakewalk makes a great convolution reverb system called Perfect Space. It’s really quite intuitive as to making your own spaces using raw audio. While you can take your hand clap, echoing sound and put it in as a preset for your own convolution spaces, the plug-in also contains a lot of presets that utilize impulse responses recorded at many different cathedrals, auditoriums and spaces worldwide. Therefore, simply assign the plug-in to the audio track.

Like many things on the topic of music technology, this concept is easier heard than explained. Below is a twenty second acoustic guitar clip with no reverb (“dry” as engineers say):

Now here’s that same clip to which we’ve applied the reverberating qualities of a small restaurant:
That one is a little more subtle. For the final example, we applied the reverb from a large mountain cathedral. It’s much more obvious:

Basically, the real benefit to this is giving your reverb an edge that no one else has. Sure, many reverb engines can try and model large spaces using feedback, wet/dry mix and reverb length, but wouldn’t you rather have the real thing? We’ve found it particularly useful with strings/orchestral sounds. This way, you can take string samples that are dry and easily altered and apply an impulse response from, say, your college’s concert hall. The result is that those string sounds that you got from your DAW sound as if they were recorded in that same concert hall. It’s really quite amazing. So, next time you’re in a really cool space, but can’t feasibly imagine a way to get your amp/guitar in there to record, just record the impulse response on a field recorder and apply it later. You might even be like me and start your own collection of impulse recordings.

Intel And Cakewalk Present The Intel Superstars Competition!

Intel has partnered with Cakewalk, industry leaders of music creation and recording software, to bring artists the “Intel ‘Superstars’ Competition” hosted by OurStage. Artists entering the competition will have the opportunity to win incredible prizes including personal computers based on Intel® Coreâ„¢ Processor technology along with Cakewalk music software. At the end of the competition, one lucky Grand Prize Winner, as chosen by a panel of music industry experts in January 2011, will receive a check for $10,000! The competition will feature three genre-based channels: Latin, urban and singer-songwriter. The channels open on September 1st and close October 22nd, so make sure to enter to get your shot at the prizes! For more information and official rules head to the Intel Facebook page here.

Country IS A Little Bit Rock 'N' Roll

During Punk Rock’s first mid-’70s era there was much dismissal of Country Rock in New Wave music circles.  By 1995,  the genre of  New Country,  an infusion of mainstream Country with Rock influence, had gone so on the nerves that prejudice against its predecessor, the  psychedelic sounds of Space-Age Country, seemed to automatically lift.  It was that same year I heard Beachwood Sparks, and then, Alternative Country ‘zine No Depression made its debut indicating a resurgence of the popularity of Country.

I See Hawks In LA (L-R) Shawn Nourse, Paul Lacques, Paul Marshall, Rob Waller

Since, Country Rock has evolved to include elements of nearly every genre. Los Angeles, for example, in the new century has spawned local nature-themed bands I See Hawks In L.A. and Old Californio.  I See Hawks In L.A. features rich, deep vocals complimented by gritty but pure-in-instrumentation sound on their five CDs (Shoulda Been Gold, being their latest). Old Californio on the other hand, offers psychedelic bounce and in-the-pocket, ethereal jams such as those heard on their 2009 album Westerning Again and songs  from their forthcoming album, which they’ve recently debuted at their live shows.  The geography and environment in which we live, said Californio’s Justin Smith, is as much of an influence as the music itself, and that follows with our releases; we don’t rely on people from the outside to make this a visible thing.

Old Californio (L-R) Paul Lacques: Lap Steel, Woody Aplanalp: Guitar, Jason Chesney: Bass, Justin Smith: Drums, Rich Dembowski: Guitar & Mustache, Levi Nunez: Keys

Austin, Texas  Country artist, producer and songwriter Jesse Dayton‘s sound embodies a post-Cramps roots-country garage tone with a thankfully greasy edge. On his forthcoming album One For The Dancehalls Dayton is branching out, writing with songwriter’s like Universal’s Trent Summar, Damon Bramblett and recording a song by Nick Lowe.

Laura Cantrell

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Laura Cantrell chose New York City to cultivate her own brand of  folk rock-infused Country music  to compliment her clear, angelic voice “ best heard above sparse instrumentation.   Cantrell is currently completing her fifth album, this one to be based on the music of Kitty Wells, now 91.  Cantrell said,  It was a real thrill to think that I could pay some tribute  in a way that might bring it honor.  It also helped work through the realities of having a music career, family and interest in the history and continuity of Country music during this post-digital music environment.

By Domenic Priore

Domenic Priore is a music journalist, author and DJ based in Los Angeles. In addition to writing for some of the most recognized music rags in the world, Domenic is the author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood.

Behind the Mic: Fan Funding

Being a musician is an expensive occupation. From gas money to rental fees to gear purchases, the costs constantly seem to be racking up, and there never seems to be enough money coming in to offset the expenses.

In the past, you’d probably have to land a bunch of paying gigs (and we all know how rare those are) or sell all your merch just to pay for studio time or tour expenses. Now, you can ask your fans to help you fund your next musical endeavor.

Justin Branam's iPhone Sessions

Sites like Kickstarter.com and SellABand.com allow fans to donate money to their favorite artists and help them fund their next tour, album release or merch order. In return, the artist provides exclusive rewards, which become better as the donation amount increases. For example, a fan who donates $20 to an artist may receive an autographed copy of the finished album, but a fan who donates $1000 may get a private concert at their home.

OurStage artist Justin Branam, who was hailed as an “artist to look out for” by AOL Music, used Kickstarter to finance the making of his new album. His goal was to raise $3000, but with the help of seventy-one fans, he was able to surpass his goal by $275.

In addition to the fundraising itself,  Branam also used technology to create a unique donation incentive: an EP called iPhone Sessions. As you might have guessed, the EP was recorded entirely on Branam’s iPhone, but the album art and promo videos were created on it, as well.

One of seventeen incentives offered for donations to Justin Branam's Kickstarter project.

Branam’s campaign lasted one month and offered fans some incredible incentives, such as having their name in the new album’s liner notes, a record from Branam’s collection or a one-on-one webcam chat with him. Fans who donated money got the prize at that level and also all of the prizes for lower donation amounts (fans could earn all seventeen rewards, plus Branam’s original demo CD from when he was sixteen-years-old, for a donation of $5,000).

Fan funding is the future, and has proven to be successful for many artists like Justin Branam. Not only does it engage fans, but it is a great way to directly reward their support and generosity. Hard work on both sides will pay off,  making the relationship between fan and artist even stronger.

Check out “Dial Tone” from Justin Branam’s iPhone Sessions!

How The West Was Won

Wes Kirkpatrick

Wes Kirkpatrick may be a new transplant on the Chicago music scene, but his acoustic, earthy rock music has already taken root. The Colorado native hunkered down in Minneapolis in 2009 to start recording his first solo record, taking his time to make sure it was done right. Rusty, dusty rock lovers will like the results. Home takes off at a good driving speed, pushed along by punchy strums, claps, finger snaps and reedy harmonies. The rippling piano line on Suspicion is a triumphant little hook that’s impossible to forget, while Opportunity stacks Kirkpatrick’s vocals to create layered, emotive balladry. Our favorite is Shoot You Down, where guitars get plugged for minor key stabs and drums rollick and roll. All grit and tumbleweeds, Kirkpatrick builds the song using the wild midwest for mortar. It’s great stuff, no matter what side of the Mississippi you hang your hat on.

GuacaMusic: Cumbia

What happens when you mix a bamboo flute with percussion instruments, some drums and a touch of maracas?

That’s easy, you get some great cumbia!

Considered by many as the queen of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, cumbia is a musical style that originated in Colombia around the eighteenth century as a celebration of the union of African and indigenous people. Its name comes from the African word “cumbé” that means fun or party, two adjectives that really describe how incredibly exciting cumbia can be.

As with many other popular Latin music styles, cumbia began as folklore and evolved into a more modern type of instrumentation. Today, this type of music is a staple in many high profile clubs in Colombia, and even in the rest of Latin America and the United States.

Never heard of it?

Do not worry. Here on OurStage, we have some phenomenal cumbia artists that will make you wonder why you weren’t playing or dancing to this beat before. We are particularly fond of two awesome OurStage cumbia masters: Vilma Diaz, a talented singer from Medellí­n, Colombia, and Angel, an awesome interpreter of tropical cumbia.

At the young age of 20, Vilma Diaz was discovered by a record label company and was offered a recording contract. The quality and power of her voice pushed her to become the lead voice of La Sonora Dinamita, an internationally recognized tropical band. As part of La Sonora, Vilma recorded the song “Escandalo”, a classic tropical hit that earned her the title of “La Diva de la Cumbia”.

When you hear Vilma’s voice, you immediately understand why they call her cumbia’s diva. Thanks to her charisma and spectacular voice, she has been named honorary citizen of several cities around the globe. She has performed for relevant political figures such as the King of Spain and El Salvador’s former president Alfredo Cristiani.

La Diva is also the one who leads us to Angel, another OurStage Cumbia virtuoso. Angel began his career as a percussionist. He was soon discovered by the Artistic Director of La Sonora Dinamita, who gave him the opportunity to sing back up vocals for the Diva Vilma Diaz. Once inside La Sonora, Angel’s charm, energy and enthusiastic dancing earned him the nickname “The Caribbean Hurricane”. As Angel writes in his OurStage profile, he was always taking everyone by storm, obtaining ovations from all audiences.

If you want to see what the “Hurricane” nickname is all about, go to Angel’s OurStage profile and listen to the tropical cumbia “No Me Digas Que No“. Play this song for a minute and you’ll experience a rush of energy like no other you’ve felt before, but most importantly, you’ll realize why cumbia is such a strong symbol of cultural identity for any Colombian living abroad. Sing along, dance to it and experience why, when dancing cumbia, we are all Colombianos, and no regional, economic or social differences exist among us.

¡Viva Colombia! ¡Viva la cumbia!

Nicki Minaj: We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

It’s hard to believe the “Queen of Mixtapes” turned Queen of Features can’t perceive her own buzz. If you’re tuned in to a hip hop station, chances are good that you’ll hear Nicki Minaj on at least three songs in a row. She’s currently featured on ten songs in heavy rotation, including “My Chick Bad” with Ludacris, “Bottoms Up” with Trey Songz, and “Get It All” with Sean Garrett.

Featured on over thirty tracks this year with artists ranging from Gucci Mane to Christina Aguilera, Minaj has demonstrated remarkable versatility without ever releasing an album. Her own single, “Your Love” soared to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #7 on the Hot R&B/ Hip Hop chart after the previously discarded track was leaked in June.

Credit: Howard Huang (Courtesy of Universal Motown)

What’s the appeal? Her dynamic deliveries, quirky characters, and cartoon-like voices lend a theatrical element to her rhymes that haven’t been seen from a female emcee. She’s unapologetic about her sexuality, confident in her abilities, and unyielding in her quest for super-stardom. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s down with the reigning cool kids of hip hop, signing with Lil Wayne’s, Young Money imprint in 2009. Her verse on Young Money’s hugely successful single, “Bedrock” puts her at the center of the crew’s triumphant takeover as she held her own alongside hip hop’s current golden child, Drake. She nabbed two BET Awards this year including “Best New Artist”, and is nominated for an MTV VMA for her Hype Williams-directed video, “Massive Attack.” Still, the self-proclaimed “Barbie doll” says fans haven’t even tasted what she plans to serve up on her first, full-length album, Pink Friday, due out November 23.

According to Nicki, and her alter egos, she hasn’t even scratched the surface of her success.

-Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a music and pop culture writer.

Q&A With Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

In the true spirit of indie music, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are winning fans over one show at a time with their organic sound,  full of improvisation and unique surprises at every turn. Unlike the typical indie pop band, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ 10 official members all crowd the stage with whatever instrument, drum or object they can play or beat on. The result is music brimming with emotion, so it’s no surprise the band is staying busy on the summer festival circuit as well as earning placements in TV commercials and film trailers (such for the Ford Fiesta as well as the trailer for the movie Cyrus). Guitarist and vocalist Christian Letts got in touch with OurStage to offer his own take on the band’s many projects.

OS: So, who is Edward Sharpe?

CL: Edward Sharpe is everybody. Originally he was a character in a novel Alex was writing. In the book, he was a character that was sent from heaven to save the world, but he keeps getting distracted and falling in love with girls along the way. He doesn’t ever get around to doing it. I don’t think the novel’s even finished. It’s something that Alex has been working on for years and years.

OS: When performing Home live, there’s almost always a different monologue toward the end of the song. Do you determine these topics before you go onstage, or is it strictly improv?

CL: Definitely not. It’s not just even Home. Every song we play is different every night. We rarely play anything the same twice. It makes it really fun to play, you don’t ever really get bored of playing songs. Sometimes people ask us about that. Does it get monotonous playing the same song over and over again? It actually really doesn’t because of that. It’s really free flowing, you know? We really never know what’s going to happen in that breakdown. We just kind of follow along, and we ride it out, you know?

OS: Yeah it definitely seems like you’re all usually just going with the flow and having fun. Was there a specific time onstage that you really noticed was set apart from the rest?

CL: There are moments all the time that feel different, and like we’re growing as a band. We’re getting better and better at playing with each other. It’s always been really good, and it’s cool that it keeps going. We’re always pushing each other to become a better unit. It’s not even really pushing. It just naturally happens with us. Even at acoustic radio shows we do, it’s really cool to see an acoustic version of things grow. It’s really beautiful. I’ll be like Holy shit man, this is great tonight, and I thought it was great before. It happens a lot, but it’s hard to pinpoint one time though because there’s been a bunch of them.

OS: So, it’s tough to pick out just one because you guys just keep getting better and better?

CL: Definitely, it’s great man. It just keeps growing. Sometimes there are these happy accidents that happen, where the whole band will cut out. Well, there was one point I remember in Williamsburg. On one song, the band dropped out and it was just us singing one part. It was so hypnotic even when I was singing, I just really felt like I was meditating. We all talk about how special that felt. We’ve added that to how we play the song, and it’s even changed more since then. So that’s one moment I really remember.

OS: You released some vinyl’s surrounding Up From Below last year, which had limited pressings. What was the purpose of these releases?

CL: People like collecting vinyl. We’ve actually had to keep ordering more. I really like listening to the album on vinyl, because there’s something really special about the way it sounds. Also, we recorded the takes in analog and everything. It’s just a different experience than on the CD.

OS: Last year you released a couple of music videos from a 12-part musical, right?

CL: Yeah, we’re trying to eventually finish a video, or short film basically, for each song on the album, and they’ll all go together and make sense in the end. Another one should be coming up pretty soon, but I don’t really know how long it’s going to take. But, eventually it will all be done.

OS: Was there any sort of inspiration for the plot or the visuals in these short films?

CL: Alex had this idea, and we’re all just like Wow, that’s fucking great. We were all at his friend’s house and just started brainstorming and kicking around things. We’re really fortunate to have a bunch of very talented friends around us that are great at whatever it is they do. It all kind of stayed within the family of  buddies getting together and shooting stuff. You don’t know how everything is going to be when it’s done. You’re there when it’s being shot, but when it was finished, we all got together and watched the first video. We were like Holy shit, this looks so good!

OS: You guys are a big festival band during the summers, but there’s a big difference between club and festival dates. So, how does the connection with the crowd differ between these?

CL: Well, it changes from festival to festival too. It’s not something you force. However the experience is, you just sort of let it happen. Whenever you try to force anything, it doesn’t feel very natural. We’ve had festivals where I’ve been like God, this whole crowd, I feel like we’re all in this one unit right now.  I remember early on, when I was in other bands, we’d try to force a connection. For this one, it’s not something I ever feel like I’m trying to force. It feels like I’m in the ocean rolling with it. Sometimes there’re really calm shows, even at venues. At clubs there will be mellow shows. There are other ones where it’s just so hyped, and the sweatiest shit and walls are dripping with water because everyone is sweating. I really like the sweaty nights man, they’re a lot of fun. Nothing is really predetermined before going onstage, other than to just have fun. One thing we agree on is to just enjoy ourselves.

OS: So, do you find yourselves anywhere in particular after shows when you’re just kind of hanging out?

CL: We’ll go out to a bar afterward and have a couple drinks maybe. Sometimes, we’ll just go back to the bus and chill and jam. There are so many people. It’s funny. We’ll all wander off in different directions and somehow usually end up at the same place. Everybody just sort of trickles in. It’s really interesting actually. How did they know we were here? With 10 people, if you want to do something, sometimes you can’t wait for everyone to rally. Otherwise you’re going to miss out.

End your summer with a Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros as they close of their festival circuit/ fall tour!

9/1- Wow Hall, Eugene, OR

9/2- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR

9/3- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR

9/4- Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle, WA

9/25- Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Columbia, MD

10/7- Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ

10/9- Warehouse Live, Houston, TX

10/10- Austin City Limites Festival, Austin, TX

10/11- The Collective, Shreveport, LA

10/12- The Lyric Oxford, Oxford, MS

Rock 'n' Roll Call: inPassing

Any unsigned band would be proud to sell 13,000 records on their own. Orlando pop-rockers inPassing are especially proud, though, because they sold all of them by chatting up potential fans on the streets, in shopping malls, outside clubs and at festivals.

In 2008, the band released Breathing in the Ash, a five-song EP produced by James Paul Wisner (Dashboard Confessional, Paramore). Ash, which features singles “Say to Me” and “Back Down,” is upbeat, catchy and radio-ready. Boasting anthemic choruses filled with tasteful harmonies and no-frills guitar work, the EP recalls the familiar sounds of Mayday Parade, The Academy Is… and Jimmy Eat World. inPassing’s music is simply no-gimmicks, polished pop rock, and is sure to please fans of all ages.

Though their name may suggest otherwise, inPassing are not about to fade away. They have been performers on the Vans Warped Tour and AbsolutePunk.net marked them as a success story from “The Absolute 100,” their list of favorite lesser known bands. inPassing also received song placement in The Real World: Cancun in the summer of 2009 and appeared in a television commercial on the CW.

Thanks to fan funding on Kickstarter, the band  raised over $10,000 to record their follow up to Ash, titled Then, Now, Always, which will be released later this year. Check out an OurStage-exclusive song from the new album, “Lost Your Faith” in the player below, along with two tracks from Breathing in the Ash!

Hip Hop Habit: Psalm One

Chicago and rap music have gotten along pretty well over the past decade. Common, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco have all done their part to bring eclectic sounds and fill hip hop’s glaring midwestern void. But one element is still missing, the female voice. That job is Psalm One‘s for the undertaking. Representing the Windy City’s fabled south side, you might expect her to have followed the same musical path the rest of the area’s escapees did. You would be wrong, because true to her words, Psalm is but a very different sister. For starters, she has no interest rapping in the name of furthering female emcees. She doesn’t want to be your favorite female rapper”she just wants to be your favorite. Period. Even more surprisingly, Psalm has a degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois. I’ll give you five bucks if you can name me another chemist-by-day/rapper-by-night artist. And no, Cut Chemist does not count.

Let Me Hear opens with a familiar riff, Psalm’s pillow-like tone finding middle ground between the warbled snaking bass and churning ethereal feedback.  Simply put, the jam is flat out sex music. Arousing lines from the repetitious opening If the rhythm feels good to you baby let me hear you say uh¦uh to I’m positioned to please/ so let me put your little disposition at ease have the emcee and her listeners hot and bothered before the halfway point. True to genre form, the rhythm and beat remain constantly slow and sultry throughout.

Chicago Based Rapper Psalm OneWhen our heroine steps out of the bedroom in Woman at Work, the vixen image gives way to that of a burgeoning artist busy moving on up. Stressed from the start, a sonic exhale comes in the form of an overcast beat built on shuffle percussion and accented with a timidly wandering lead guitar. Psalm chronicles herself on top and breaks down the song writing process in the form of an extended cooking metaphor, from doing the dishes and pre prep to feelin’ it and peelin’ it. And, she’s more than happy to let you know she has yet to reach the top of her game”we cookin’ up a work of success/ put your fork down honey/ the meat ain’t done yet. While the food rhymes are fun, the song’s most nourishing line ironically is completely devoid of tasty connotations; Instructions for upward mobility like Dreamin’ is a block/ but doin’ is a city/ gettin’ is a county/ and rulin’ is a universe never sounded this simple before, and prove that Psalm possesses the essential understanding that there’s more to success than desire. The kick start comes as Psalm undresses her core message in the end, imploring open ears to understand that making it takes all you’ve got and then some: You gotta put your foot in it/ your queens, pawns and your rooks in it.

Being compared to Lauryn Hill is no small feat. Neither is signing to Rhymesayers. Through this mutually beneficial acquisition she’s had the opportunity to share the stage with Atmosphere, Del The Funky Homosapien, Camp Lo, Heiroglyphics and many more leaders in the innovative rap vein. With mentors like that, up is really the only way she can go. Player and comments below, you know what to do next!