Music Production! In-Depth Night Presentation

Hey everyone! Hope your night is going swell so far. Linked below is my in-depth process video, my mentor’s music on Spotify, and my own final completed project. Leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback!


In-Depth Video:

Hope For The Summer:

Anja’s Music:

Blog Post #6 – The Final Frontier

Welcome to my final blog post update of this year’s in-depth project. I have to admit, time flew by way faster than I expected. I’ve learned so much these past few months, and I can’t thank Anja enough for giving me such an amazing educational and fun experience. Since my last post, we have had a couple of meetings and got a lot done. On March 21st, Anja taught me all about MIDI instruments. MIDI is basically creating sounds by using digital instruments instead of recording audio. The great thing about MIDI is that you can adjust the notes and tempo to exactly how you want it to be, even after recording it the first time. I learned all about how to use MIDI in Pro Tools First, though it would be a very similar process in any other software. Since Anja is very cool and professional, she has a bunch of very expensive MIDI instruments that sound very good quality. This is a huge advantage for me in our next meeting!

On April 11th, we finally got started on the big final project. Anja had asked me to send in an audio recording of one of my original songs so that she can guide me on how to start editing it. However, by now you can probably guess that I had a bunch of annoying issues with Pro Tools First. I tried everything, from restarting to redownloading the program, double-checking all my equipment was working, but no matter what I did the playback quality was so unbelievably quiet and scratchy, it was almost impossible to work with. However, I ended up sending in a very rough recording from Pro Tools, and I made a promise to myself that I would re-record it before the final presentation. During the meeting, Anja asked me about what I had envisioned for this project, and I told her all about the kinds of instruments and vibes I wanted to include in the song. Anja was editing my song in her own program, Logic Pro, which is much more user-friendly. Though I was not directly editing the song, we talked a lot about the process of creating the sounds that I wanted and watching her apply the skills she had taught me in previous meetings to an actual song was very educational. We also got to use some of Anja’s fancy MIDI instruments! By the end of the meeting, admittedly I was pretty emotional. We had a very rough draft of the chorus of the song, with piles of strings and ambient sounds creating a dreamy sound to my original song. Seeing my vision come to life was the most exciting part of this entire project so far, and I absolutely cannot wait to continue working on it.

We had a bit of a problem when it came to sharing the file with me, since I don’t own Logic Pro. However, I quickly found a solution by asking my grandma if I can borrow her MacBook once a week and using the 90-day free trial of Logic. That way, Anja will be able to share the project file with me and I won’t have to work in Pro Tools anymore! Epic!

To sum up the past four weeks, I started out by learning the fundamental tools to navigate and use Pro Tools first, which included a rundown of the basic functions, how to insert audio files, how to insert effects, and how to set up equipment. After that, Anja started teaching me the most important part of music editing – mixing sound. This included a lesson on EQ and a lesson on Compression. Our next lessons were more about adding effects to sound, such as reverb and delay. After that, I learned about MIDI files and how to use them. We also had a meeting just to talk about songwriting and the creative aspect of making music. Finally, our most recent meeting was used to start working on the final song project that I will present at the end of the year.

Now, let’s talk about How To Have A Beautiful Mind in chapters nine and ten. In Chapter nine, De Bono talks about concepts and practical ideas. He describes concepts as capturing “the main ‘essence’” of an idea (p. 118). Some examples of concepts that we talked about in our last mentor meeting were the concept of composing a complete song, which included everything that I had learned up to that point in one overall process. Another concept would be the concept of balancing sounds, which can give different effects depending on what you are going for. An example of this would be when Anja recommended balancing out the low and high sounds by adding some airy ambient sound effects over top of the strong bass.

In Chapter 10, De Bono talks about ‘alternatives’ and how generating alternatives can open up more opportunities and ways of doing something. There is no one way to go about something, and looking for alternatives can help to find better possible solutions. Some alternatives that my mentor and I have talked about during this project have mostly come up when faced with a problem. For example, when talking about how to proceed with my final project that is currently in a Logic Pro file, the original plan was to export all the audio files as recordings that I could insert into Pro Tools First. However, we quickly changed that plan to continue to use Logic Pro by acquiring a MacBook and using the 90-day free trial. Another alternative we decided on was while we were experimenting with different MIDI instruments in the final song. We were stuck with the decision of putting either guitar or piano in one part of the song. The alternative solution we came up with was to include both and possibly alternate between the two in different parts.

Finally, let’s talk Learning Centre. My final project will consist of three different parts. Part one will be a brief written description of my project and what it’s all about. This will be the hook for the rest of my project and will be written directly on my blog post. The second part will be a process video, including snippets of our Zoom Meeting recordings, an explanation of some of my written notes, and a full in-depth description of my process in learning music editing. The final part will be my final completed original song, which I will either upload as a video file or a simple audio file. I will aim to make my presentation fairly short and won’t be explaining every specific detail of my project for the sake of saving time. I will mainly be focusing on the process of creating the song, and the issues and solutions that we created during this project. In the end, I am hoping that the audience will be entertained by the music I produce and be inspired to create their own original material. Learning the technical and arguably less fun parts of your passion can lead you to accomplish so much more than you originally could, making the entire process totally worth it. That is the message I hope my audience will take away. I will also be responding to all comments on my blog post.

That’s all for now! Thank you for sticking with me on this journey so far, and I look forward to In-Depth night!

Reverb and Delay – Blog Post #5

Welcome to the second last blog post of this year’s in-depth project! This week, Anja taught me all about reverb and delay. Both of these are very commonly used effects that you can apply to audio tracks to make them sound a certain way. This lesson was probably my favourite so far because there is no wrong way to use these effects. You can adjust the effect to make a variety of different sounds, meaning I get to have a lot of creative liberty when applying this to my music. To start with, Anja showed me how to adjust reverb. This effect adds an echoey or cave sound to audio. You can change the settings to make it sound like you are in a big or small room, how long the echo carries on for, how long before the reverb starts, cutting high or low frequencies, among many other settings. Many people use at least a little bit of reverb on vocals to add a more ambient sound. Delay is similar but slightly different. Delay adds a repeating sound that fades out, similar to an echo in a cartoon. You can adjust the sync to the beat, the length of the echo, the rate of delay, and the frequencies of the delay. After Anja showed me how to use and adjust these effects on a single audio track, she told me about how there were two different ways I could apply these effects. The simple way would be to just put the reverb and delay directly onto the audio track, but if you increase the volume of the effect, the volume of the original track decreases. To avoid this, the slightly more complicated way of applying the effect is called parallel processing. This is where you make a separate track just for the reverb and delay, and layer it underneath your original track. By the end of this meeting, I was very satisfied with the progress we had made. However, I reminded Anja at the end of the meeting that she had promised to teach me how to export my tracks properly. Apparently, exporting music is very different from exporting movies. The process is called ‘bouncing’, and in order to bounce out all of your music, you need to highlight all of your tracks, make sure the click track is off, choose your file type, and make sure you checkmark ‘offline’ to make the process faster. This process is a lot more complicated than I expected, but pretty straightforward when it actually comes to bouncing out your track.

In future meetings, Anja will continue to teach me how to use different elements of Pro Tools First, and soon we will begin piecing together a complete song for my final presentation!

An image of the reverb plug-in in Pro Tools First

Songwriting – Blog Post #4

Anja and I met on the last day of February to have a slightly different type of in-depth meeting. Instead of learning how to use different functions of Pro Tools First, we decided to have a more laid-back discussion about songwriting and music in general. For this discussion, Anja brought up some useful pieces of advice that have helped her write music, and I asked questions that were relevant to my own writing experience. Anja asked about the process of my songwriting, what kind of music I make, and what areas I struggle with. She also allowed me to record the meeting so I could focus more on speaking with her than taking notes. At the end of the meeting, I showed Anja an original song I had recorded recently, and she gave me some feedback on it.

Throughout this discussion between me and my mentor, there was a lot of listening required on both our parts. Normally, when having a back and fourth discussion with another person, I put in the effort to understand the other speaker and gain knowledge from their own experiences and points of view. De Bono says, “If you listen carefully and attentively you will get more value from listening than from talking” (p. 67). I think this is completely true, as hearing what others have to say will expand your knowledge if you keep an open mind. Anja had a lot of wisdom to share about her own personal music writing experiences, and I was able to connect, relate, and learn from her by listening attentively.

Furthermore, many more questions are asked during discussions than during lectures. De Bono describes questions that can be sorted into two categories: “shooting questions” and “fishing questions” (p. 79). Shooting questions are questions that are very surface-level, and can only have a straightforward yes or no answer. Fishing questions are open-ended, and require the receiver to think about the questions before answering based on opinion, personal experience, or their own gained knowledge. During our discussion, I tried to ask more fishing questions. One big question that I had saved for this meeting was what to think about when trying to add more instruments or sounds to a song. I had always had trouble layering instruments onto a song or deciding what sounds to use to get the exact vibe that I’m going for. Anya didn’t have a straightforward answer to this question, as every song will use different instruments. However, she gave me a really good pointer and told me to look at the frequencies of each instrument I have and try and balance it out by adding other instruments. For example, if I have a high-frequency vocal, to balance it out with a low-frequency instrument. Overall, this meeting went really smoothly with little to no conflicts. Next week, Anja is planning to teach me about reverb in Pro Tools, which she claims is far more fun than EQ and compression.

Book reference: How To Have A Beautiful Mind by Edward de Bono

Short video: Anja answering my question


Compression! – Blog Post #3

Just this past Sunday was our third in-depth meeting and the first meeting of February. This week, Anja taught me the other half of the two very important tools in music editing, compression! Last week we talked about EQ, which is a tool used to adjust and level out the frequencies of an audio clip by moving around different bands and adjusting all these other knobs. Compression is somewhat similar and is a tool used to adjust and squish down dynamics.

The point of compression is to bring down the super-high volumes and bring out the quieter volumes in a track, so the overall volume is fairly level. There are a bunch of different knobs you can adjust in compression, including Knee, Attack, Gain, Ratio, Release, and Thresh. Anja went over the function of all these different settings and explained how to use them. She also taught me how to read the numbers on the different bars and gave me suggestions on what settings to have for different audio tracks.

During this meeting, Anja was constantly checking in to make sure I understood the concepts because compression can be pretty confusing to understand at first. Though I was a little bit unsure at first, I made sure to ask questions and try out compression on my own to get a thorough understanding of it. Anja explained the idea very clear and simple and used a lot of comparisons and even a very beautiful drawing to demonstrate compression to me. She says that EQ and Compression are like the bread and butter of music editing, and if you were to do anything with your song, EQ and Compression are a must.

Even though these concepts are very important to learn and understand, we both agreed that they are also the most boring to learn about. The process of using these tools is just a bunch of knob adjustments and fancy lingo, and it doesn’t even make a huge difference when you listen to it. However, Anja assured me that even though you can’t hear much of a difference, the point is to even out the audio tracks so that when you stack them together it blends nicely. Despite the importance of EQ and compression, Anja and I talked about the plan for our next meeting and agreed that we wanted to take a break from technical lessons and talk more about songwriting and the creative aspect of producing music. Anja said she would try and work out a structure for our next meeting, as it will be more of a discussion rather than a lecture or lesson.

A few days after our meeting, I tried to record a short snippet of a song in pro tools using the skills I have learned so far. I set up all my equipment and tried to record, but no sound was coming from my headphones. No matter what I did, adjusted, googled, or recorded, I couldn’t get any sound to play from my headset. I texted Anja about this and she replied really quickly and immediately helped me out with the situation. She ran through a bunch of possibilities that could be causing the issue, but none of them applied to me. In the end, she just told me to try restarting my computer, as Pro Tools can often be pretty glitchy. I tried this, and low and behold, it worked. I was a bit embarrassed that I bothered her with my problem when the solution was so simple, but Anja was very understanding and helpful. I was able to record my first recording in the program, used EQ and Compression to adjust it, and posted it on my Instagram story to share with others. Three meetings in and I’ve already learned so much! I can’t wait to get deeper into music production, and I’m excited for our next meeting on songwriting!

Anja’s amazing drawing

A Bump In The Road – Blog Post #2

Already time for the next blog post? Two meetings have already gone by, and a lot has happened in between. To start with, the first meeting was a huge success! Anja and I started off by talking about the general plan for the next few months, what skills I would be learning, and what I hope to accomplish by the end. I already knew Anja before she accepted the mentorship, but right away I could tell that I would have tons of fun with this project. Anja has a sweet, understanding, and patient personality, and explains information in a really clear way. After a brief introduction, we got right into the basics of music production. Anja had dropped off a bunch of equipment for me to borrow (which was really kind of her!) and showed me how to navigate it all. The equipment included a condenser microphone and mic stand, a pop filter, her old audio interface, and a bunch of chords to connect everything. After explaining the functions behind all the knobs and buttons on all the equipment, she began to share her screen and navigate the basics of Pro Tools First! Anja explained a lot of music terminology and how to apply it to the software and gave me a tour of many of the different buttons and settings to begin using the program. Throughout the entire call I made sure to take notes and ask questions when I was confused. However, there was little need to ask questions since she explained everything so well! By the end of the meeting, I was fully prepared to begin setting up my equipment with the program on my own. However, this is when things began to go downhill. Shortly after the call, I wanted to hook up the interface to Pro Tools First on my computer. However, the drop-down box where I was supposed to set up the interface wasn’t there. I did a lot of research online to try and figure out how to fix this issue, but only found over-complicated and unclear Reddit posts. I texted Anja about my situation and posted about my problem online in hopes of finding someone who could help me. A few days later, Anja sends me a message explaining that she spoke to her professor, and he said that the reason I wasn’t able to hook up the interface was that the interface was too old. Anja was very apologetic about this, but I assured her it was no big deal. The only solution would be for me to get a new interface, which I was more than happy to do. This would mean I could have my own interface to keep and use for a long time in the future. I spoke to my parents about buying an interface, spoke to Anja about which model to get, and before long I had an interface of my very own. I tried setting up my equipment again, and low and behold, at all worked perfectly! This was just in time for our second meeting, where Anja gave me an in-depth lesson on sample rate and bit-depth. I also learned about EQ, and how to use it as a tool to make audio sound nice and clear. After this meeting, I was able to practice what I had learned on my own with ease.

In terms of the lessons in the book, “How To Have a Beautiful Mind,” it was a bit difficult to apply all aspects of the written chapters in conversations with my mentor. Every two weeks when I meet with Anja over Zoom, she checks in with my progress briefly before delving right into a lecture-like lesson where she teachers me new skills and shows me how to use tools for music production. There is not much I can disagree or differ with during our meetings, since I know very little about the subject and she is an expert. Every now and then she will make sure I am understanding the content and ask if I have any questions. I will speak up if I am confused about anything, and respectfully ask for clarification, but there is nothing I could ‘disagree’ with her teachings. Conversations with my mentor and far from a debate, and more of a one-on-one lesson where I absorb a lot of information. However, I’m sure once I get more comfortable with using Pro Tools and am able to take on more creative liberty with this project, there will be more room for discussion and applying the concepts covered in the book. Anja does a really great job of keeping positive energy throughout all of our meetings so far, and we’ve been able to communicate effectively in our lessons. I can’t wait to post the next update!

An image of Anja teaching me EQ in Pro Tools.

Music Production – In-Depth Blog Post #1

Welcome to my first blog post of this year’s In-Depth project! The skill I have chosen this year is… Drumroll please! Music production!
I have been writing and composing my own original music for around 4 years now, and songwriting is one of my favourite hobbies! However, I’ve never had the technical skills to professionally record and produce music with proper equipment and programs. I’ve always tried to avoid the technical part of music editing, because digital editing is something I am not as interested in, and technology is not my strong suit. I would rather stick to the creative aspect of creating music. However, I’ve decided that for the benefit of my songs and for the sake of expanding and growing my music production knowledge, it’s time I’ve finally crossed the threshold and learned how to edit my tunes. I have very little experience right now and haven’t learned the “proper” way to record music. I am currently using a pair of apple earbuds and GarageBand to record music, which is less than ideal. Something others can do to help me along this journey would include listening to my music along the way and giving me feedback on how it sounds. Speaking to other students who have experience in music production would also be helpful.
To help me with this project, my amazing mentor Anja Frohnsdorf will be guiding me through the steps to learning music production! Anja is an incredible musician, singer, and songwriter, and has released her own EP and single. I will link her music at the end of this post. I know Anja through her performances at Coquitlam Alliance Church, as she would often lead or participate in the worship band. She is also the older sister of one of my closest middle school friends! I’ve contacted her a few times last month to sort out the general plan of this project. Once every two weeks, we will be meeting through a Zoom video call. In the first few meetings, we are planning to just talk about my goals and skills I want to learn through this project. Within the first couple of months, I hope to learn the basic tools in ProTools First, (the music editing software I will be using,) and familiarize myself with the structure of music production. By the third month I hope to be recording some of my own instruments and voice to create short musical clips, and by the final couple of months, I want to work on recording full songs with multiple track layers. This schedule is subject to change depending on what Anja thinks would work out best for me, and depending on how I organize my time as I gain more knowledge on the subject. All I need now is an audio interface (Anja is dropping off an old one of hers that I can borrow!) and I’ll be ready to get started! I’m so excited!

Anja’s amazing music:

Developing the Leaders Around You

Chapter One:

In Chapter One, Maxwell talks about the “Law of Magnetism,” which means “Who you are is who you attract.” This means that it takes a strong leader to attract other leaders and help them grow to their full potential. It takes a strong leader to set an example, earn the trust of potential leaders, and properly reproduce leaders. This principle stood out to me because it focuses on a very simple and almost obvious rule, but I think it can easily be overlooked. You cannot lead and attract other leaders without being capable of leading yourself. A few years ago I was doing a group math project for school, and I tried to find the person in our group who would be most willing to do the hardest tasks. I wanted to suggest that they take on that task, which seems like taking initiative by delegating the work when in reality I am challenging others to do something I cannot do myself. Finding and growing other leaders can only be done if you are a leader in the first place. Only then can you lead by example, experiences, and valuable, accurate knowledge. Going forward, I always make sure I am confident in my leadership skills before attempting to seek out other possible leaders.

Chapter Two:

Different leaders have different thinking styles. Chapter Two touches on the many different mindsets leaders can have. For example, strategic thinkers are strong problem-solvers, and un-selfish thinkers are good communicators and compassionate listeners. This principle is interesting to me because thinking about the different styles of thinking and recognizing them inside myself and the leaders around me have really opened my eyes to what each person brings to the group. I think I am a strong creative, shared, and big picture thinker. If I were to work with someone who is a focused, realistic, and bottom-line thinker, we would each have special skills to contribute, and have a well-rounded dynamic. Recognizing this can lead me to form stronger groups, delegate tasks better suited to each person, and understand the mindset of others. In our future trip planning meetings, I think it might be a good idea to start by recognizing what each of our strengths are, and how they should be put to good use. Additionally, if I am able to identify any of these thinking styles in the Grade 9s, it could help me understand and further develop them as leaders by emphasizing their strengths. A good example of this would be if a Grade 9 is a strong shared thinker, I might suggest that they try leading small meetings, sharing information with the rest of the class, or leading events.

Chapter Three:

Modelling is one of the 5 steps to turning producers into reproducers. Similar to my chosen point in Chapter One, modelling is a way of teaching by leading examples, experiences, and being confident in the knowledge I have gained. This is more effective than simply telling others what to do, because (as it says in the booklet,) we remember 10% of what we hear, 50% of what we see, 70% of what we say, and 90% of what we hear, see, say, and do. Actually, being able to do what you teach is a lot more difficult and requires more effort but is far more valuable. This concept stood out to me because I’ve recently realized that the reason, I don’t always remember the information I’ve just written down or studied on paper is because the ultimate way of absorbing knowledge is by actively going out and getting experiences. Now, I try to make all of my learning experiences as active as possible. Trying new things and failing is all part of the process, and I will ultimately benefit in the end. When mentoring the Grade 9s, I will make sure to give them advice and lead them only from the information I have gained from my own experiences and mistakes. For example, last year when we were at Hick’s Lake, my food group ended up running out of chicken to make our dinner with thanks to a mix-up of information. We ended up using bread instead, and it was fairly effective. Because of this experience, I’ve learned the consequences of poor communication, and the creativity and teamwork required in problem-solving. This is knowledge I could pass onto potential leaders.

Chapter Four:

Motivating others is step 4 out of the 5 step process of turning producers into reproducers. Being able to empower learning leaders is a crucial part of boosting their growth and connecting with your team. Your motives must be truly wanting to help others and help them towards success. It is important to evaluate yourself as an empowering leader to see what areas you need to work on to help motivate your group. This principle is important to me because I strongly believe that positive reassurance and small celebrations are necessary for personal growth. It all starts with me, and what I really want for my fellow leaders. After taking the evaluation I now know that I need to work on investing time in developing other leaders and give my influence to others more publicly. Once I am clear in what my goals are for my potential leaders, I need to be able to make connections with my teammates, focus on their individual strengths and weaknesses, and build trust so they are able to recognize certain qualities in themselves. Being able to have my teammates believe in me as well as themselves is a strong step towards growing together. For future trip-planning meetings, I want to be able to connect with my group by communicating effectively, celebrating small victories, and collaborating ideas. Though I doubt that the TALONS community will have trouble becoming a close family in no time.