Music Instument has its own “Persona” too!

A music instrument in itself has a persona-meaning personality, as much as its player has. Well to begin with let’s look at the different materials each instrument is made up of.

We know that the hand crafted music instruments and the materials are the ones that give the richest quality of the sound. While those made of plastic will give a cheaper sound of a low music quality. The music instruments are in broader terms classified in five types : percussion, woodwind, string, brass and keyboard. Earlier there were only three classifications : the wind, the percussion and the string. Later with the advent of technology came in the keyboard(the electric).

In earlier times, primitive men made sounds with their bodies. From then on, the humans evolved to using objects like shells, stones, parts of plants to make sounds. The purpose of these, earlier was for ritual than that of entertainment. For eg: shell was used as the “shankhnaad” in the temple by the Brahmins before beginning their rituals and worship in the temple for auspiciousness. It was considered really pious. Flute then was considered to be played before the beginning of the hunt. And hence forth, the use of the sound evolved and so it’s utilities. The quality of the material used in the instrument affects it’s sound too. For eg: the sound produced by leather in the percussion will differ from a sound produced by a string used in violin or a guitar, and again the rosewood of the guitar will give a different sound than that of the spanish cedar or pumpkin of a tanpura. The metal of the metal flute will give a very different sound than that of a bamboo or a wooden flute.

The size of the instrument matters. Large instruments produce lower pitches and the smaller ones produce high pitches. Shape of an instrument affects the sound, the way it moves through in the instrument and rings out finally. So we did talk about the material , size and shape of an instrument that will affect it’s sound. But the very small and minute things, most often gone unnoticed, like the strings, the bridges, the boards, the Jivari of the tanpuras, all of these small things contribute to the persona of the instrument. For eg: the ivory bridge will sound different than that of a wooden bridge. The quality of the cotton thread used will affect the sound and put in life in to the overtone, rich buzzing character of the tanpura sound. Similarly the quality of the violin bow made from ivory and the horse hair will sound different every time it is replaced. The strings of guitars when replaced, the bridge when replaced, will give totally a different sound and change it’s character.

That said, when we talk only of the quality of material used in a musical instrument, size, shape of the instrument, how can we deny that each instrument would then have it’s own persona too. We already know how each musician is unique and how his playing style will affect the sound each instrument produces. Offcourse then the music style too. But how can we forget that one traditional 100 years old Miraj Female Tanpura is totally unique and will sound very very special and different than that of a Tanpura made of pumpkin. How can we deny that a tanpura without a Jiwari will sound different than that of one with it. It will simply put life in to the sound. How can we deny that a rose wood years old guitar, will always sound special than that of a guitar recently purchased. I am not underrating here an instrument as new and old. A new instrument may also sound really good and give out great sounds. But here i am going to jot out the importance of a personality of each music instrument. No two guitars will be same. Each has it’s own unique character.

So how did i come to this topic to blog about. Well to me, as a kid, i was always attached to my tanpura that we purchased for my riyaaz. It was very very special. I owned a very old 100 years old harmonium that I inherited as ancestral property of my great grandfather which was used in “Bhajans” and “Dhoons” as i belonged to a traditional Brahmin family. Since I was the one to pursue music since childhood, it was given to me when other possessions were distributed to the members. Post that i bought my own synthesiser-Yamaha PSR I425. And then joined my family Epiphone AJ100CE , acoustic guitar. I had no knowledge about guitars, but i just googled and concluded to something nice to suit me, as i wanted one for recordings. I had narrowed down my search to this epiphone that had a DI for the purpose of recording. I never needed any external equalizers or toners as i already have an eleven rack and other awesomest coolest plugins signature in my protools software that can craft the sonic textures of the recordings of guitars. So when i went to the Furtados store to buy this one, i just went through some few pieces and played them to see how they sounded. I liked this one with a big body, it gave a little deep sound and the rich tone soon clicked to my ears. It did not take much long for me to narrow down to the sound to select it. I was not a pro at it, but i chose what i liked and i really dont regret my ears for that! I found that it had a personality. It met my needs, of recording, it had a rich bass deep tone, nice projection and life was simplified for me.  The strings came with the guitars and i really did not much had to worry about it’s selection. I soon got attached to the sound as i started strumming it and in no time, i got used to its sound. I started feeling, it was very very unique. I never played much of other guitars ever. But then this was my first love and i picked it up and it became my most favourite. We did few recordings with this beautiful soul and i was really happy as i used one DI and one microphone to track it. I had a thick rich beautiful sound of it when i recorded it. The sound of it soon became a very special part of my life subconsiouly. A little while later, i handed it over to my daughter as she began learning guitars. I told her, how to tune it and handle it and we were good to go. Offcourse she was overjoyed. She strummed it and her heart enjoyed it as much as i did. She too realised it had a unique personality. A very very unique sound of it’s own. There came a time when i was told to change it’s strings. And bummer! there we were. So we picked up the little guitar darling to the Furtados store. I tried replacing the strings with the same, that the brand Epiphone guitar came with. But sigh! there was not any of the sorts available for purchase. So i googled and also took a few references from guitarist i knew and  got to know we could settle down on something and we chose D’Addario. Let me tell you, i am not much of a person with tons of knowledge about guitar instruments. But with whatever we knew and the consultant at the store guided, we settled down. I am a little too obsessed with my daw, my imac, synthesiser, guitar, microphone, headphone, all my instruments of studio and really don’t much like it when someone touches it or fiddles with it. These are my precious pearls and gems and i really maintain them and keep them with tons of care. We all know how expensive these are to own them. So i instructed the guy to change the strings very very carefully. They dont allow us to stand there in the workshop, while they do the maintenance of the instruments, however i instructed him to be really careful about the instrument. And me, my daughter and my husband stood outside waiting until he changed the strings chosen by us and brought our little darling back to us. And there when he got it back to us, I and my daughter were eager to see how it would sound. I would not have gone to change the strings, but we had to as it was a task to be carried out as a part of the guitar maintenance regime from time to time. I first took it in my hands and strummed it and i literally felt my heart torned in to pieces as i heard, the personality gone off from the guitar. The guitar lost it’s soul of the sound. The new sound hurt my heart and my ears. For a moment i could not believe what i heard. I knew the new strings were not sounding so rich and full. Not that the strings were cheap or not good, but the sound had changed. So i gave it to my daughter without much expressing myself hoping her to be happy. She strummed it and made a face to me saying: ” Mom, can’t we just get the old strings back” She continued “This is sounding horrible” I realised my daughter is a genius too, coz she has started learning to recognise and identify sounds. May be not a Phd but definitely better than a novice. On one side i was happy to see how my daughter could understand the change in sound. On the other i was a bit disappointed to see her sound go away. We both looked disheartened and we just looked at the manager who had confidently told us, that this new set of strings will sound great. We had no choice but to leave the store with the old strings wrapped up, circled and tied, handed over to us as we both mourned in silence, me and daughter looking at each other. My husband unable to understand what to say to both of us, just trying to solace us by saying : may be next time when you change strings, choose some other ones and they might sound good. It’s okay.

To mention it further, the truth was my guitar lost its soul- the personality of its sound. With those bundled strings handed back to us, all that was left to us, was this new personality of the guitar with new strings, having a new sound of its own. The old soul was gone. May it rest in peace. It took three-four days for me and daughter to be happy with the sound of the new strings. I was left with this old strings. They looked peaceful. Still so so beautiful. May be too much mush here. But yeah, that’s how i felt about it. May be i am going to free them by putting them in the free flowing river. Or just keep them in my studio table, hoping that the lost soul and the sound character will develop in to the new personality of the guitar with those of the new strings.

We all talk about musicians and their playing style. But we often do forget, that though inanimate, these beautiful music instruments are gems and so so unique and have their own individual personality. And when they live for long with the musician, they even develop a soul to them. I am sure most musicians can relate to this very well. For now i can just say and conclude that we were unhappy to see the old sound personality leave us, but i am fine with the new sound and have learnt to be happy with strumming our new stringed guitar. We lost one sound character from my bank. But we got a new sound personality and i am sure with those recordings and tweaking around here and there, i am going to smile. And That my daughter tuning it and playing it has started smiling again with this new guitar personality. We are going to miss the old sound. May you rest in peace and be peaceful wherever you are!

Pic: Old Strings Of My Epiphone AJ100CE

IMG_20190706_183107

 

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A clear perspective on few of Mixing teething problems

Hi All,

It’s been a long time since i have written a blog in a while now. I had been too preoccupied working on few of my projects and nothing in particular much inspired me. But came a time, where few thoughts popped up and inspired me to share it ahead with you all. I just hope the knowledge and the insights i have derived from my journey will definitely help you to move ahead in your music endeavor too.

So we have read a lot about this-mixing and mastering magic that brings us to wonder about what it actually is and how great mixers have achieved it. There have been blogs and videos giving free advice and knowledge and tips and tricks to get the best mix. And somewhere it is really overwhelming to read it all and comprehend it in to a nutshell. Probably the topic is really wide and a big thesis in itself.

I have been on a journey and have settled down at a place where i can talk about few things about this magic and can share the troubles i went through as a beginner.  So i am just about to share it with you all.

All of you, those who have been beginners at mixing, will end up messing with the low frequencies in track. Mixing a drum and a bass, getting them sit together in a punchy way, so that they dont fall apart at various other sound refrences would be one challenge we would face.

Most of the time, you could end up having a muddy mix, which happens as a very early common mistake.

We could end up compressing , over compressing every little sound we know and can end up clipping stem, or various stems and even the master and end up having a distorted signal neglecting it. While we know , it should not clip, we will do these silly mistakes in our early stages.

Putting too much of reverbs. Wow they sound so cool, and pulling in the best signature plugin compressor we know that gives an instant raise in the volume making it sound big and cool. Yes. we make these mistakes as a beginner and we will do it inspite of reading the “do’s and “don’ts” several times at various mixing blogs. The point is: Little will go a long way. Not every element in the mix has to be wet. Few can be kept dry.

You will make more mistakes if you are doing it all on your own. Learning this skill from an expert will reduce your pain and failures and you will reach your mix sound quicker with less problems. A knowledgeable person you trust or a mentor is always better to learn from than doing it all on your own.

You need to fail a couple of times until you get that first clean mix. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. How will you be able to learn a cycle until you don’t sit and fall a bit and learn to gain balance. It never happened the first time right? So you have to get used to a few trials until you start gaining a clean sound. A great mix is and will be a part of your evolving though. There are always milestones you achieve in a mixing process.

One of the other mistakes that’s common is mixing endless for hours. We need to learn to take breaks in between and get a fresh ear to come back to the mix to have our ears perceive the sound neutrally. Our ears will loose the objectivity after a while. for eg: What was heard as good will suddenly sound trash after six hours of mixing. Your ears will no longer be able to distinguish good sound from bad. So mix taking small breaks in between. Your state of mind and body will also affect the way you perceive sound. A composed mind will be able to have a balanced perception of the sound image as a whole. A happy filled tummy will be able to reflect well on the goal of achieving a good sound. So make sure you have this list ticked before you begin mixing.

Most of the beginners may not have good acoustic. And hence they need to learn to have the second reference or the third reference depending upon the challenges. It will take time to develop that ear to know what it sounds exactly like in a car, on various headphones, small earbuds or on a monitor.

Initially you may not know, what you want in your mix, how you want your mix like, and why you are taking decisions to do and what will you achieve by doing so. This will only develop over time. You will gain insights gradually. You will develop your own effects and method.

Most people say mixing is magic. But let me say: Mixing is a gradual process. It begins with learning the fundamental principles of sound, knowing the science of it. Why we do the way we do. What we shall achieve by doing so. And then applying it as a whole. It is about taking creative decisions at each stage to get that tall, wide and deep mixes. It’s only post learning the science of it, that the applied art aspect comes in to being, post which it turns out to be a magic.

As a beginner, you could be overwhelmed with the kind of plugins available and end up pulling them on every signal to think how glittery great your art has become. But let me say, once you have learnt utilising each to their potential, will you learn to stick to simplicity. Overusing plugins is  a very common mistake most of the beginners do. I have it all and i would love to use them all. And it will make my sound really awesome. Well no! you dont need to eq and compress and put reverbs and delays and effects everywhere. Not everything has to be processed and over processed.

Another common problem could be putting reverbs and delays and effects directly on the signal chain. Most of them do this way and end up with a muddy mix. Instead put them on the auxiliary return and mix the dry to wet signal.

We all want our sound elements thick in the mix. We could end up compressing everything we know and end up with a overcompressed yet harsh signals.

Mixing is an incremental skillset. And it will develop over time. You may not be able to distinguish different kind of mixes, reference tracks in the beginning.

Say for example: Not all genre will need punchy drums and big bass.

A hiphop track will go good with great tight punchy drums and nice bass, and wide synths and Rap vocals that will do just good with a little compression, and a little space reverb along with the adlibs that have effects. You wont need those nice big reverbs on rap vocals. Mostly rap vocals are dry. Check this link to see how i mixed this track so you would know:

Check how every sound element is heard clearly and how drums are punchy along with the bass sitting tight. And the snares and the percussive elements. This is one of my favourite mixes.

A ballad will just do good with soft drums and big vocals, on the face with lots of reverbs and emotional detailing. Check out this sound, to see what i am talking about drums in this track. A mix should be able to convey the emotions of the song. A ballad cannot be banging with big kicks and snares and bass. It is subtle.

 

So you should know how each genre sounds like. What are the kind of mixes for each genre. There is a lot of information on the internet to know how each mix sounds in each genre.

There is no right or wrong in the mix. But yes, there are basic fundamentals and principles we should know. We should know the science behind this whole Art. And then there are facts accomplished post thesis by great grammy winning mixing engineers. There can be plenty of tips and tricks available on internet. But knowing where to apply it and why to apply it, and what shall be gained by applying it is going to be the crucial part of decision making.

So here i conclude the teething problems i faced and most of the new beginners faced and could have possibly faced in their journey of mixing. I hope this blog will give you a clear perspective on those that occur in the initial stages of mixing. And that you will never learn to do it until you do it wrongly over time, until it turns out to be right. So stay confident, believe in yourself, stay focused and am sure you will get there some day! And mind you! That’s not the end of it! It’s just the beginning of one of those milestone achieved. The journey is quite long! So happy journey treading it! ” Live the Music in YOU! “- Ratna

Ratna Shah | Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly | Cover

Loved producing this cover for Lavenders Blue Dilly Dilly from the movie Cindrella. Really happy to share this!

Sung by: Noshi Shah
Produced and mixed-mastered by RatnaShah

For more information visit www.ratnashah.com
Email: info@ratnashah.com

Follow me on :
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Ratna Shah | Jodi Tor DakshuneKeu | Cover

Loved producing this cover for the very famous poem written by Rabindranath Tagore- Jodi Tor Dakshune Keu. Really happy to share this!

Produced and mixed-mastered by RatnaShah

For more information visit www.ratnashah.com
Email: info@ratnashah.com

Follow my music :
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Linkedin : www.linkedin.com/pub/ratna-sha
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RatnaShah feat RahulBallal | ChuraLiyaHaiTumne | AcousticGuitarInstrumental

Here I am really happy  today to share my rendition of the very famous Bollywood Song- ChuraLiyaHaiTumne Feat Rahul Ballal This is a very soothing, calm, happy, yet groovy and very positive acoustic guitar instrumental bringing some flavors of piano, harmonica, violin and other instruments in the rearrangement of this track. Hope you will all like it!!

Free downloads available now on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/…/churaliyahaitumne-acousticguitarin…

Jingle Written and Composed by me For Folger’s Coffee!!!

coffee

Jingle Written and Composed

by me for Folger’s Coffee!!!

Wakey Wakey!
no drakey no drakey!
As I hit the floor,
i see that open door!
Aroma fills in,
So refreshing,
It’s heart warming,
this Sun light galore!!

pa para ….
These chirpy wings,
gliding high!
These golden hues..
soooo wanna(want to) paint the sky…
These bright flowers(buds)
uncurling by..
Sipping coffeee,
so perfect for this jive

The best part of waking up
is Folgers in your cup!

(Copyrights reserved)

www.ratnashah.com
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ratna-shah/35/2a1/3b2
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soundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/ratnashah
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How Do You Compose?

How Do You Compose?

It’s like asking a poet, “How do you write a poetry?” or asking a painter, “How do you paint?”, or asking a sculptor, “How do you sculpt?”

Like we all know, everybody has a vocabulary, words available with them, but not everyone can write a poetry! Same way, you might give colours to someone, but not everyone can paint! With a heap of mud and clay, not everyone will be able to make a master piece of art work outta it!

Being able to compose at a very young age, i have come across this question , end number of times by even very learned people who have been pursuing music professionally and successfully but have not been able to compose though. Finally at the last instant , when again i was asked the same question, It just inspired me to write about it.

Creativity is usually inspired or driven by emotions. When we talk of the “How” of music or compositions, I can easily categorize them in to two. The third one, am going to tell you later!

First One, where a composition is born merely coz its driven by money, that we call commercial work. Money is the drive. Where one is paid to compose, with a preset theme, mood, situation and sometimes even lyrics. Here a composer’s emotions are not kept in to account, but a composer has a limited freedom to go and express his creativity. A composer might be going through happiness, but is asked to write a sad melodramatic piece of music. So there is no correlation between his emotions and the work he is asked to produce. Mostly all commercial work happen this way. There is a scheduled time frame too, where in he has to complete his work and produce. There is no vacation, once work is taken it has to be completed no matter what. This kind of composing can be frustrating at times for true composers. There is not much of satisfaction derived from such work, neither enough of creative freedom given. This kind of work is actually “work” created to sell and make money, keeping in mind the audience’s likes and their choices. Replicas of work are made to earn more, once the formula works.

Which is why in India, shows like Mtv Unplugged have become a favorite platform for accomplished music composers and directors. These people have expressed their views, on how it has become so vital for them to have a creative freedom and the satisfaction they gain out of it, which they don’t derive usually by doing commercial work.

The second situation, where a composition is born out of emotions. Like i said earlier, it is usually a manifestation of some emotional turmoils, sometimes an expression of pent up emotions, sometimes an inspiration from a story, an episode or an experience, or sometimes inspired by nature.

And now the third one, which i find really amusing to write, where composing is done by the “so-called” inspiration. Where a tune or a piece of music is being picked up from someone else’s creation and is used in to clubbing other loops and samples to create a self proclaimed composition. I won’t like to mention names, but these kind of people are in the industry who merrily pick up tunes from famous, or old international hit music records, sometimes folk tunes, sometimes even local and regional ones and fuse those scores in to their own remakes, putting up hits, and then making headlines on the front page, when being discovered of their so-called sin. Finally fighting over copyright issues and then paying dues to the original composer settling down by stuffing money to them or by finally rewarding the name to the original composer.

So, by now am sure, it is clear to all, when it comes to “How do you compose?”

All true writers, poets, painters, art creators, can relate to what i said. There is no such one line  answer to it, though i tried simplifying it. Coz, composing is a quality. Creating is a quality. Apart from learning the fundamentals and the science of music, composing is more about art and creativity. A very good composer needs both, the knowledge and the applied art aspect of the fundamentals learnt. Only those who possess a trait of a creative person, can go and create something. I can just say, usually these people are imaginative, dreamers, thinkers, sensitive, emotional, human, simplistic, minimalist and are touched deeply by very small things in life. Just the fact that core is the same in all, but what medium they pick up to express, makes them one!-  Scores or notes for a Composer , Words for a Writer or a Poet and Colors for a Painter and so on.

But then “How do you Compose? ” 🙂 Ha Ha!

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