• wiggly-slider_05

  • wiggly-slider_03

Matt Dusk would like a cool song – and here it is!

OK, so I spent three and a half weeks trying to write a song for Matt Dusk. Matt is a fantastic singer, and loves the same music that I do – the classics of Sinatra and Dino and Tony Bennett and Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald.  As a singer myself, I sing the classic songs […]

Continue Reading
MH-at-Care-gig_fix

SAC Week 6

Here’s my blog for Week 6! It was down to the wire, moments to go, and here it is! A Christmas song written AND recorded in the last three hours! As of 6pm tonight, I was unable to think of a song idea I liked, but I wanted to post something, dammit!  Three hours later, something […]

Continue Reading
strummic

SAC Challenge Week 5 – in which I murder a ballad!

  Here’s the link to my new song written for this week called “Broken”. I wrote it and played all the instruments and sang it, and recorded it all in less than one day. www.soundcloud.com/michael-holland-11/broken OK, so I confessed last week that I was too snuggly and friendly to be of much use at writing […]

Continue Reading
Fog obscures details of Vancouver's downtown

Loving penguins and Pooh Bear makes EDGY difficult

SAC Challenge Week 4 – well, it was time to be EDGY and I failed miserably because I’m just too snuggly and friendly. Oh well!  Why change a good thing?  After being on the receiving end of some pretty intense corporate litigation for way too many years, I was eventually free of that constant irritant, and I […]

Continue Reading
flowers in spring

SAC Challenge Week 3

Well, it’s week 3 and we had to do an advertising pitch – a 60second commercial that could be cut down to 15s and 30s without losing the vibe!

Continue Reading
WAVES Element Virtual Instrumentl, an excellent synthesizer plug-in.  This shows the ISAO TOMATO patch, a reference to Isao Tomita, the Japanese synth pioneer who covered Gustav Holst's The Planets Suite using only synthesizers to create the orchestra.

SAC Challenge Week 2

Well, it’s been a long weekend.  I co-wrote a pop song with Lucy LeBlanc and Dave Stanley Daoust on Friday night, and then recorded it until Monday night, and here it is!  It’s called Unstoppable.  It’s aimed at Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, and it was very enjoyable to work on with Lucy and Dave. This […]

Continue Reading
1974 Yamaha Baby Grand Piano (thanks for the inspiration, Elton).

SAC Challenge 2015 Week 1

It’s February again, and that means it’s time for the Songwriter’s Association of Canada Challenge 2015. This year, the SAC Challenge is all about giving writers a chance to feel some of the pressure and time demands of the real world of professional songwriting and includes an opportunity to pitch songs to an established Canadian […]

Continue Reading
close-up of part of the front panel of a Neve 1073 DPD dual channel preamp

RECORDING BACKGROUND VOCALS

    Human voices are extremely nuanced and our ears are highly attuned to listening to them…  yes, I can hear my wife calling to me about the dirty dishes I left in the sink! The most efficient part of the human hearing spectrum is around 1kHz to 3kHz, where much of the clarity in […]

Continue Reading
DSCF3698

TRACKING MANDOLINS, FIDDLES, CELTIC OR BLUEGRASS

There are two types of music I will discuss somewhat briefly in this post, and they are bluegrass music and Celtic music. Bluegrass is truly an American music, developed naturally in the heartland of the USA during the early 20th Century. There is a lot of religious content in the bluegrass style, typically featuring a […]

Continue Reading
Heavenly choirs sing to the Pacific Ocean high above Vancouver's Burrard Inlet

TRACKING A SMALL CHOIR

    A small choir is the largest group of voices singing simultaneously that you are likely to encounter at home, and the odds are good that you will actually end up arranging to work with them outside the home, perhaps on location at a church hall or gym or yoga studio or some similarly […]

Continue Reading
Viola and Violin side by side

TRACKING STRINGS

  So, feel like trying your hand at recording real strings?  Maybe you have a song that would be great with a traditional string quartet accompaniment such as Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”, or a country tune that needs some fine fiddle-playing added to the mix.  Perhaps you want a viola solo or some celli accompaniment in […]

Continue Reading
A trumpet has its day in the sun

TRACKING BRASS PLAYERS

  Recording brass instruments is perhaps the hardest of all the recording tasks you might undertake at home. Due to the physical nature of the instrument, and sometimes the foibles of human players, you may need to drop in and out of record many times during a session to get the results you are after. […]

Continue Reading
Hofner violin 'Beatle' bass

TRACKING BASS INSTRUMENTS

  Tracking bass instruments ranks among the hardest tasks to get right in a home setting for several reasons.  None the less, it’s perfectly possible to get great results. TRUSTING WHAT YOU HEAR Before talking about the sound you are recording, it’s really important to be able to hear the bass recording accurately on playback […]

Continue Reading
SM57 set to record a lefty Gretsch DuoJet played through a custom VOX AC30

TRACKING ELECTRIC GUITARS

    The variety of sounds you can get from an electric guitar is effectively infinite, and no one way can be claimed as The Way to record them. There are countless ways to implement guitar parts on a song.  Everything under the Sun is fair game, it seems, and that’s before we even consider […]

Continue Reading
Takamine acoustic guitar

TRACKING ACOUSTIC GUITARS

    If you take a close listen to the sound of acoustic guitars on a lot of recordings, they sound pretty average in a lot of cases. This is largely when they are functioning as a rhythm instrument, strumming either alone or doubled, or even tripled or quadrupled.  It can also happen whenever there […]

Continue Reading
1974 Yamaha Baby Grand Piano (thanks for the inspiration, Elton).

TRACKING ACOUSTIC PIANOS

  IS IT IN TUNE? This is the first thing to worry about!  Is it in tune enough for you to work with it? Assuming you are a recording songwriter capturing their own performance, you may be able to get away with tuning the piano as little as once a year, although ideally more regularly […]

Continue Reading
Zildjian Sound Labs prototype ride cymbal

TRACKING DRUMS AND PERCUSSION

  Tracking drums and percussion is a huge topic. You could fill a very big book on either of these topics, and many have, and still have left plenty unsaid.  I didn’t have time today to go on about specific microphones or positioning too  much, other than in general terms, but all kinds of information […]

Continue Reading
WAVES Element Virtual Instrumentl, an excellent synthesizer plug-in.  This shows the ISAO TOMATO patch, a reference to Isao Tomita, the Japanese synth pioneer who covered Gustav Holst's The Planets Suite using only synthesizers to create the orchestra.

TRACKING AUDIO IN GENERAL

    When you are recording audio, there are two things you are mainly concerned with.   Performing well, and capturing audio well. In certain situations – for example, when you are recording the audio output from a virtual instrument leaving a MIDI or Instrument type of track (in your DAW) – there will be […]

Continue Reading
Large micstand with lockable castors on a sturdy wheelbase, with boom arm only partly extended.  Counterwieght and additional mini-boom arm at opposite ends of the boom.  Many possible adjustments can be made.

MICROPHONE STANDS, TUNERS AND ACCESSORIES

    MICROPHONE STANDS, TUNERS AND ACCESSORIES It’s very important to avoid cheap microphone stands.  These will cause more problems than they solve and may hurt you or your equipment and instruments. The fittings and all means of adjustment should be solid and reliable, so that the stand lasts for years, and so that any […]

Continue Reading
close-up of part of the front panel of a Neve 1073 DPD dual channel preamp

LINE CONDITIONERS, PREAMPS AND D.I. BOXES

    Today I’ll look at the preamp, the line conditioner and the D.I. box, all useful tools in a home studio.  A line conditioner is less common in home situations but is still very handy. You will certainly use DI boxes and preamps, whether standalone units or built into a mixer or console or […]

Continue Reading
Neumann KM184 matched pair of small-diaphragm condensers

MICROPHONE TYPES AND A CLASSIC LIVE BED TRACKS MIC PLAN

    Microphones are awesome.  I love them!  There are quite a few microphone types to get familiar with if you want to know all the options out there.  A quick history tour and a few fun facts, and then I’ll give you relatively cheap options in a cheat-sheet format for miking most of the […]

Continue Reading
UAD-2 Ocean Way Studios plug-in, which models the rooms at the world-famous Ocean Way Studios, and allows you to add their room ambience, and reposition virtual microphones within the virtual studio rooms  The first of it's kind.

PROCESSING – OTHER FUN STUFF

    Well, we’ve covered a huge amount of processing devices and techniques in the last week.  There’s still a huge amount to go, which is totally awesome! I’ve posted over 25,000 words this week alone, all discussing just three very broad categories of effects, namely delay, reverb and modulation effects. In today’s blogpost I’ll […]

Continue Reading
The WAVES Manny Marroquin Reverb plug-in, with modulation and distortion parameters.

PROCESSING – REVERB Part 2

    REVERB CONTROLS There are a huge number of variations in the controls on a reverb.  It’s a bewildering array of controls, in fact, with few reverbs sharing the same exact set of parameters. This is, for the most part, due to the differences between the various methods of creating reverb. Modern reverbs, in […]

Continue Reading
The ubiquitous Lexicon 224XL reverb, modeled here in software for the UAD-2 platform.

PROCESSING – REVERB Part 1

    Reverberation is a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens all around us, all the time.  It’s the pattern of reflections that builds up in a space when direct sound waves bounce off obstacles and reflect back in different directions in different length paths of travel.Over time, this web becomes pretty complex, although it also […]

Continue Reading
Waves Kramer Tape Delay

PROCESSING – TIME-BASED EFFECTS Part 2

    MODULATION EFFECTS The image above looks totally awesome, and it’s a picture of a tape delay plug-in, which is a time domain effect, as are modulation effects.  However, tape delay is not a modulation effect since there is no modulation occurring.  Unless you have more than one tape machine… OK, so wow and […]

Continue Reading
After all the gigs and recording sessions I've been part of, it's hard to look at the UAD plug-in model of the Roland RE-201 Space Echo, the hardware unit I wish I'd never sold.  On the other hand, where the hell would I get 1/4" tape?  This is a lost love of mine, right down to the black cover peeling off the unit after so much loving tenderness and so many unfortunate incidents.

PROCESSING – TIME-BASED EFFECTS Part 1

    DELAYS There are various types of time-based effects, also known as time domain effects. The simplest types are called delay effects. You may come across mono delays, stereo delays, tape delays, outboard delays, numerous flavours of plug-in delays, duplicated tracks offset in time, cross delays, multitap delays, ping-pong delays, and others in your travels. There […]

Continue Reading
UAD Precision Multiband, a fantastic multiband processing tool.  Here you can see the Hip-Hop Hype preset in action.

PROCESSING – MULTIBAND DYNAMICS

    WHAT ARE MULTIBAND DYNAMICS? This category of processing is dangerous to your audio when misused.  It is a very, very powerful type of processing. You can target just the frequency areas you want by using this tool, and it has all kinds of uses in recording projects. It’s fairly new to the scene, […]

Continue Reading
Sonalksis SV-719 Expander/Gate/Ducker

PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 4

    EXPANSION The inverse of compression is expansion. Compression is used a great deal more often than expansion, but the expansion technique is very helpful in certain situations.  I mentioned this in yesterday’s blogpost briefly, but here’s the full deal on how expansion works. Picture yourself in a room. The ceiling represents the very […]

Continue Reading
Abbey Road EMI TG12413 Limiter plug-in

PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 3

    A QUICK RECAP ON WHY WE USE COMPRESSION OK, so you record some vocals on your new song.  Naturally, it has it’s louder moments and it’s quieter moments. You haven’t compressed it yet.  Maybe you have, but you’ve simply evened it out a touch while recording was taking place, using a compressor with […]

Continue Reading
UAD-2 Fairchild compressor plug-in

PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 2

  COMPRESSION The most common dynamics processors are compressors. You choose settings appropriate to the incoming signal you want to compress, and then it will behave according to those parameters while you focus on other issues in your mix. You can use compression as a spare hand to control the fader levels that won’t work […]

Continue Reading
Two modern hardware classic compressors. This is the UA 1176 LN above the UA  Teletronix LA-2A

PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 1

  Two modern hardware classic compressors. This is the UA 1176 LN above the UA Teletronix LA-2A   WHAT exactly are DYNAMICS anyway? Dynamics processing deals with adjusting the dynamic range of a piece of audio.   That means deciding how loud or soft it will be, moment to moment. For our purposes, this is […]

Continue Reading
Manley Massive Passive stereo tube EQ above a Drawmer 1961 stereo tube EQ

PROCESSING – EQUALIZATION (EQ)

    People often over-use EQ at home, going through their tracks and making each individual track sound as good as they can. It’s a common mistake, but it’s easy to avoid. The quick version is… Use EQ sparingly and only when you think you really need to.  Never make EQ decisions when the solo […]

Continue Reading
Avid's Structure running Fosterizm, a cool classic ballad patch with LFO 1 adjustable parameters showing

SAMPLING – AN OVERVIEW

  IN THE BEGINNING At the end of the 1970’s, a surprising number of people were experimenting with tape loops and editing, inspired by stuff like German art school music and the more avant garde works of the Beatles a decade or so earlier.  They were in bedrooms around the world with little Revox stereo […]

Continue Reading
UAD-2 MOOG FILTER PLUG-IN

SYNTHESIZERS – FUN TO BE HAD WITH SYNTHS

  Here are a few really cool things you can do with synths to spice up your songs.   I’m including plug-in virtual instruments and sample-playback-based instruments in this description. Remember that there’s no magic formula to making music.  With synths, there are gazillions of quadrillions of things you can do with them.  Do your […]

Continue Reading
Rezo Velo Fuzz preset, an awesome bass sound in Digidesign's VACUUM instrument

SYNTHESIZERS – COMMUNICATING IDEAS WITH OTHER MUSICIANS

  There are huge advantages to knowing synthesis techniques when it’s time to describe to a musician the ideas you have for sounds. This is due to the language of synthesis covering the topic of describing sounds in detail so efficiently. To make this clearer, we’d better take a tour around the various “parts” of […]

Continue Reading
Roland JP-8080 overhead view of front panel

SYNTHESIZERS – A LANGUAGE FOR SOUND DESIGN

      The layout of controls on the front of a classic synth interface like this one, above, shows much of what can be done in synthesis.  It’s great fun to interact with the controls in real-time and see what things do.  The interactions between controls can make it hard to see what they […]

Continue Reading
synth module by Roland, the JP-8080

MIDI PROGRAMMING – SYNTHS AND SOUND DESIGN

  First, a note to the daily followers of this blog – thanks for following this blog and my apologies to you for my late posting – I had a big bout of dental surgery yesterday.  I’m sore but glad it’s over, and I’m catching up on the blogging now, so do stick around. A […]

Continue Reading
BOOM Plug-in Window

MIDI PROGRAMMING – DRUM MAPS, SAMPLES AND SLICES

    One of the most common uses of MIDI is to implement a rhythm track.  Drum sounds are ideal for MIDI triggering, and drum parts are programmed in using various methods. The screenshot above shows the BOOM plug-in running in a ProTools HD DAW environment.  This design uses many of the classic features of […]

Continue Reading
The incredible Little Richard at my keyboard :-)

MIDI PROGRAMMING – WHEN TO USE MIDI

  Bless my soul! MIDI is extremely helpful in songwriting workflows.  You don’t have to be recording yet to make good use of it.  In pre-production, MIDI is a godsend for many of us. Using MIDI, you can generate sounds all the way up to entire backing tracks to sing over while writing a lyric […]

Continue Reading
MIDI keyboard

MIDI PROGRAMMING – MIDI = Musical Instrument Digital Interface

  It is relatively unusual to find a hit record from the last 30 years or so that did not require MIDI at some point in the recording process. The usual way to introduce MIDI is to say it’s a communication protocol to pass musical information (notes, instructions, etc) to be transmitted between instruments or […]

Continue Reading
Resolume Arena 4  running on a MacBook Pro atop a piano by a metronome

CLICKS AND VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTS

  Today I’m writing about clicks and virtual instruments. A click is a steady beat pulse played by any short percussive and hopefully musical sound, at a fixed tempo chosen by the user. A click instrument is a virtual instrument specifically designed to provide a click.  It offers a small selection of sounds suitable for […]

Continue Reading
Ultrasone S-Logic headphones

HEADPHONE MONITORING

    Headphones are essential tools in a studio, but you can’t rely on them for everything.  They are valuable in both tracking and mixing. In the olden days of yore, the headphones found in recording studios were known colloquially as “cans”, due to their poor sound quality.  Times have changed, and inexpensive headphones are […]

Continue Reading
Fog obscures details of Vancouver's downtown

YOUR MONITORING ENVIRONMENT

  Your monitoring is meant to be accurate, not flattering.  It should clear away the fog to reveal what you have recorded in all it’s glory – or awfulness.  Make sure you have the best performing monitors you can afford, and put them in a space where they perform well themselves. Monitor is a term […]

Continue Reading
CM Labs CM64 programmable recallable analog patchbays

SIGNAL FLOWS, ROUTING AND PATCHBAYS

This post sounds pretty tedious!   Signal flows, routing and patchbays, indeed. Well, it’s pretty useful stuff, but you don’t need a patchbay in most home studios these days, since most traditional outboard boxes (meaning effects units, compressors, EQs, etc) now come in the form of a plug-in inside your DAW, so you probably don’t […]

Continue Reading
Sony DMX R-100 digital audio console (partial view)

PRE-PRODUCTION: A PRE-PRODUCTION CHECKLIST

Production is a journey of many steps.  Take them one at a time if it gets overwhelming! Producing yourself at home for your own songs is a tough challenge and an incredible joy every time you get it right.  Taking a song from the writing process to a deliberately produced recording requires a lot to […]

Continue Reading
Cone flowers

PRE-PRODUCTION: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

  Just like a beautiful flower, strive for a place in the sun for your music. That will mean taking care of a number of details ahead of recording.  That’s the essence of pre-production.  Plan and be prepared to record. You’ll want to decide how fast a song should be, and what key suits the […]

Continue Reading
RickPix_ 266

TOOLS OF THE TRADE – SOME COOL STUFF TO CONSIDER ADDING

  There is absolutely no chance you’ll run out of cool stuff to consider adding, so you might as well get used to it! They call it GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome.  I have terrible GAS. I’ll just make a few suggestions, in the interests of our mutual sanity. A MONITOR CONTROLLER AND A POWERED […]

Continue Reading
Yamaha FG-420L acoustic guitar

TOOLS OF THE TRADE YOU REALLY DO NEED

There are very few things you need to make a decent recording of a song at home.  Here they are. A COMPUTER… OR A TABLET DEVICE Of course, a computer is the heart of the modern set-up.  It’s so powerful. Obviously, a computer is the most important thing to get, because it will run your […]

Continue Reading
MH Profile Pic Possible

SONGWRITER HOME RECORDING WORKFLOWS

SONGWRITER HOME RECORDING WORKFLOWS Between May 1 and June 30 2013, I ‘m adding a lot of informational content to this, my recording blog at www.wigglytoesmusic.com There are short blogs and long blogs in this series of blogs on home recording for songwriters. This is probably the longest one  Maybe save the link for later […]

Continue Reading
Michael Holland of Wiggly Toes Music Productions

RECORDING AT HOME – Introduction & TOC

  You love songs.  You write songs.  You want to present your songs in the best possible light with a top-notch recording, but you want to do it at home. Look no further.  This blog series is for you! I offer a special welcome to my fellow members of the Songwriters Association of Canada.  Together, […]

Continue Reading
MH Profile Pic Possible

Week 6 Six Feet Under and Gone 2nd DEMO

  Well it’s here… the end of the coursera.org course on Songwriting.  It was an excellent experience.  I ran out of time,  naturally, so I didn’t quite nail it, but it was close… I posted the song with two minutes to spare. This week we had to decide how to weight our vocal lines – […]

Continue Reading
Dylan-fan

SAC Blogging Challenge 2013 End of Week 5: A protest song for 2013

It’s blogging time again!   I’ve been hard at work on the assignment for Week 5 of the ongoing songwriting course from coursera this week. Both the thesaurus and the rhyming dictionary got a serious workout this week, as required for the assignment.  I decided to protest this week!  Time for a week off from songs about […]

Continue Reading
Michael Holland of Wiggly Toes Music Productions

SAC Blogging Challenge 2013 Week 4 – “I’M 2 USED 2 THIS”

I hope you all enjoy my song “I’m 2 Used 2 This”. It’s on Soundcloud at  http://snd.sc/YNQBvs Four weeks into the coursera.org online songwriting course and we’ve covered an amazing amount of ground in a short space of time.   This week’s lessons focused on the stressing of syllables in rhythmic patterns that would preserve the […]

Continue Reading
flowers in spring

SAC Blogging Challenge 2013: End of Week 3

  Spring is here at last…  Well, we used the rhyming dictionary and the thesaurus a fair bit this week. I wanted another way to say “luminous”.  For such a task, a thesaurus is very handy. OK, it doesn’t always help.  If I called a lady luminous, she might well be flattered, but I’m concerned […]

Continue Reading
DSC00141

End of Week 2 SAC Blogging Challenge: Stability & Instability

There are buildings that stand and buildings that have crumbled in the Roman Forum, pictured above. Stability and Instability. Yes, it does sound like an episode of the English TV comedy Blackadder, or perhaps an undiscovered Jane Austen romance, but, in fact, stability and instability is serious business for a songwriter. This is not just […]

Continue Reading

SAC Blogging Challenge – End of WEEK 1

They packed so much good stuff into the first week, I can’t wait to absorb every last morsel of wisdom that lies ahead. These are the professional’s tools we have been given by Pat Pattison and Berklee and Coursera, and it’s a truly wonderful thing to get this quality instruction for nothing but our time. […]

Continue Reading
CM Labs CM64 programmable recallable analog patchbays

Recording song ideas quickly

La la la la… that’s it! My sure-fire global viral hit. I can’t let this idea slip away through my fingers! What really counts at these moments is the preservation of the inspiration, not the quality of the recording. We’re not all recording engineers. When inspiration strikes and you want to capture that idea, time […]

Continue Reading
DSC03006

The Fantastic Voyage of Writing Songs – the SAC Challenge 2013

Welcome. If you’re reading this, then probably you love to write songs as much as I do, and so, dear reader, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship! I am taking part in the Songwriters’ Association of Canada 2013 Blogging Challenge. I will be blogging each week as I proceed through a Songwriting […]

Continue Reading
DSC03111

SAC Blogging Challenge 2013

Pat Pattison’s 6-week free online Songwriting course on coursera.com begins March 1 The course is about to start and I am thrilled! I will spend six weeks learning from the man himself! Most songwriters have discovered Pat Pattison and Berklee before too long. I’m a proud member of the Songwriters’ Association of Canada. Many other […]

Continue Reading

dream beautiful music tonight