It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best gear money can buy if your studio isn’t properly set up.  I can’t tell you how many home studios I’ve seen with improperly positioned monitors, uncomfortable workstations, and a poorly tuned room.  What you end up with is a sound that might be fine in your home studio but doesn’t translate at all to the outside world.  And you’re left scratching your head, wondering why you just bought the best gear you could afford but it’s not sounding right?  Well, you’ve got to set it up correctly in order to truly hear what you’re doing.  This doesn’t mean you have to build your own room from scratch, or spend a ton on acoustic material, you just need to understand basic acoustic principles and apply some common sense.

When I did consulting I used to go into home studios and help clients set up their gear for the best results.  When I saw Grammy award winning audio engineer Francis Buckley’s Studio Rescue series (sponsored by Rode Microphones) on YouTube, I said to myself, “Wow, that’s exactly what I would have recommended. I’ve got to tell my students about these YouTube videos.”  They’re really excellent.  Buckley knows what he’s talking about and offers practical advice on working with the space you have, and how to tune it using furniture placement and a few strategically placed Vicoustic foam panels.  Watch this video series if you’re not sure about how to position all the gear in your home studio.  I guarantee you’ll learn a ton.

There are twelve episodes posted so far.  Here are a few direct links:

Studio Rescue – Episode 1

http://youtu.be/02qpJt0hsL0

Studio Rescue – Episode 9

http://youtu.be/pf_7sC9wV8Q

Studio Rescue – Episode 12

http://youtu.be/K0iuj56c_eg

Headed to SXSW

Mar 06 2012

I just want to let everybody know that I’ll be in Austin for the SXSW Conference next week.  I will be presenting a workshop on producing music in Reason in the Artist Central area on Thursday, March 15th, from 4 to 5 PM.  If you’re around, definitely drop in and say “Hi!”  (Or is it “Howdy!” in Texas?)

If you would like to hear a couple of the EDM tracks I’ve been producing in Reason lately, check out my new singles,  “Energy” and “Hiccup”.  “Energy” is out now (available everywhere, including iTunes, and soon Beatport), and “Hiccup” will be released next month on my Synchronized Music label.

“Energy” on Juno Download

“Hiccup” on Soundcloud

 
Hiccup (Original Mix) by Erik Hawk Music

I recently had the opportunity to remix a previously unreleased Scatman Crother’s song, “Scoot On Over To Scat’s” (produced by Andrew Melzer in 1979).  It was a lot of fun to work on a track from such an icon of the 70s.  It was also a serious challenge because all I had to work with was an unmastered, stereo mix.  The multitrack tapes had been lost long ago.  But, as the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Or, at the very least gave me a serious work out using the Pro Tools Elastic Audio’s warp markers, and writing my own music on top of a preexisting disco groove. Whew!

Here’s a video tour of my Pro Tools session explaining how I pulled off this remixing magic.

You can hear the original “Scoot On Over To Scat’s” song here, http://youtu.be/jsXxRFxATaU.  And this is my remix. Enjoy!

Scatman’s Background

Benjamin Sherman Crothers, born May 23rd 1910 in Terre Haute, Indiana (passed away November 22nd, 1986 in Van Nuys, California), started performing in the speak-easy circuit of Chicago in the latter part of the 20s.  In 1931, he got his own radio show on WFMK Dayton, Ohio, billing himself as “Scat Man”. In 1935, he made his first appearance in a film, a short called “Symphony In Black” with Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. He would go on to act in 45 more motion pictures including “The Shining”, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Bronco Billy”, “Aristocats”, “The Shootist”, “Silver Streak”, “The Lady Sings The Blues”, “Scavenger Hunt”, “Twilight Zone: The Movie”, and “Transformers: The Movie”.

In 1943, Scatman moved to Hollywood, California and hired an agent. In 1948 he was one of the first African-Americans to land a recurring role on a network TV show, “Dixie Showboat”. Over the next three decades, Scatman appeared in hundreds of TV programs including 65 episodes of NBC’s sitcom “Chico and the Man” as Louis the garbage-man, 18 guest appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”, and “Colgate Comedy Hour”, “The Jack Benny Show”, “Nat King Cole Show”, “The Steve Allen Show”, “Casablanca”, “Hong Kong Phooey”, “Roots”, “The Super Globetrotters”, and “Sanford and Son”. Scatman Crothers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of the Egyptian Theatre.

Stutter Edit by BT

Jan 23 2011

The new Stutter Edit plug-in, conceived and developed over the past fifteen years by pioneering electronic music artist and composer, BT, is pretty amazing. Upon installing this plug-in on my system I feel like I’ve got BT in the studio with me helping to produce stutter edits and breaks in my song. Really, it’s like I hired him as a technical consultant just for his stutter edit production techniques. It used to take me hours, even days to cook up these sound effects, through intricate slicing and dicing of waveforms and automating stacks of effects. Now, I can simply play a key on my keyboard and get the same, if not better, results! I can’t restrain myself from exclaiming, “It’s BT in a plug-in!”

How It W-w-w-works

Here’s how it works, simply insert Stutter Edit on the audio track that you want to stutter. Then, set up a MIDI track to send MIDI note and controller data to the Stutter Edit plug-in. Now, play your song and whenever you want to hear a stutter effect press a note on your keyboard to trigger one of the preset stutter effects. It’s that simple, and the presets sound great! Plus, to add more dynamics and enhance your ability to really play the effects, Pitch Bend is assigned to the plug-in’s global, resonant filter effect, and the Mod Wheel let’s you control different real-time dimensions of a preset. For example, moving the Mod Wheel could alter the speed of a preset’s stutters. You can record your MIDI performance and automate Stutter Edit directly from the MIDI track.

Sutter Edit comes with a ton of ready-made stutter effects spread out across the entire keyboard, right when you open it, so you can get to stuttering immediately. It also includes banks of stutter effect presets from BT himself, and a other electronic music luminaries, such as Richard Devine. If you’re not into the presets, you can certainly program your own stutter effects, from a simple eighth note stutter to crazy lo-fi distortion with delays and noise sweeps. Its many controls—Quantize, Delay, Gate, Filters, Buffer Position, Bit Reduction, Pan, Lo-Fi, Stutter Matrix, and Arpeggiator—combined with its Generator noise synthesis section gives you the ability to cook up just about any cutting edge stutter effect that you can dream of. Way too much fun!

Imagine the Possibilities

Sutter Edit is incredibly useful in the studio, but what I’m equally impressed by is its live performance potential. For example, stutter effecting loops in Ableton Live, in real-time right from your MIDI keyboard. Obviously, BT is deep into such things. He didn’t just dream up this plug-in in the studio, he wanted to take his stutter effects to the stage for live performances. And, clearly, he’s done exactly this, giving Stutter Edit plenty of beta testing during his Laptop Symphony shows. So, even though this is just version 1.0, it’s reassuring to know that it’s been out on the road and thoroughly tested by a pro, in high-profile, real life gigs. We know it works for live shows, not just in how it’s designed, but that it’s reasonably stable as well. How many software companies can say this about their newest software?

I’m already seeing and hearing grumblings on discussion threads saying, “I’ll never use Stutter Edit. I take pride in programming my own stutter effects one edit at a time.” Well, fine, I’ll have an entire track of stutter effects produced in the time it took you to do just one. And, besides, given a little time and patience—I know stutter edit producers have plenty of this—you can program your own unique stutter effects in this plug-in, assign them to keys on your keyboard, and save them in your own bank of presets. You don’t have to sound like the factory presets, you can develop your own unique stutter effect sound. Then, you can perform your stutter edits live, whether in the studio or on stage. This most certainly isn’t something you can do with that one stutter edit you just spent all day programming in your DAW. OK, enough said.

In the coming years, I predict that Stutter Edit will be massively overused, not unlike the AutoTune vocal sound (you know, Cher and T-Pain). Hopefully, the effect will be used tastefully, artfully, and without going completely overboard with it. Though, admittedly, I’ve probably already failed in this department—it’s just too much fun to play with. In fact, after about six instances of Stutter Edit in my Pro Tools session I managed to crash hard, several times, eventually completely freezing my Mac. Fortunately, after a quick reboot I was back in business and everything was running smoothly again. I also had problems controlling clipping at the plug-in’s output, because some of the effects pumped out serious amplitude spikes. A soft clip limiter section in the next build of Stutter Edit would be greatly appreciated.

Stutter Edit is distributed and supported by Izotope. There’s a lot of wonderful information about Stutter Edit on their Web site,
http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/stutteredit/index.asp
But, the best way to really appreciate Stutter Edit is download the trial version and take it for a test drive yourself. Also, check out this video tour of how I used Stutter Edit in a remix of my song “Delicious People”, for which the remix stems are available on my CD, Erik Hawk & The 12-Bit Justice League.
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/erikhawk

My New CD is Out!

Aug 09 2010

I’m very excited to announce that my new CD is out, Erik Hawk & The 12-Bit Justice League. If you like electronic dance music fused with orchestral elements, I think you’ll enjoy this CD. Plus, the physical CD contains remix stems (WAV, REX, and MIDI files) for your remixing and DJ-ing pleasure. The physical CD can be purchased through CD Baby, and digital only downloads are widely available, from iTunes to Amazon.

Here’s the official press blurb:

The new album by Erik Hawk, Erik Hawk & The 12-Bit Justice League, plays like the soundtrack to an action movie. Every song could underscore a scene, from the opening action of “Introductions”, to the heroics of “On a Mission”, and the closing images of “Into the Sunset”. So, it comes as no surprise to learn that Hawk’s alter ego is composer/producer/remixer, Erik Hawkins. His music has been featured in countless film and television shows (from The Informers, to Ugly Betty, and CSI:Miami).

Joining Hawk on his musical adventures are several critically acclaimed musicians, including Gilli Moon (vocals), Christine Wu (violin), Lygeia Ferra (vocals), Craig Seganti (trumpet), and the album was mastered by pioneering hip-hop producer/engineer Michael Denten. Hawk wrote/co-wrote, arranged, and produced all of the tracks. He plays guitar, keyboards, and sings throughout the album.

To keep up with announcements, shows, placements, and contests, join me on Facebook.

And, here’s my official YouTube announcement:

Peter Gabriel Remix

Jul 02 2010

Please vote for my remix at indabamusic by clicking on the widget below, and ask all of your friends to vote for me too. Voting goes until July 15, 2010. And, if you send me to London I promise to bug Gabriel for all of his best production tricks so that I can bring them back here and share them with all of you.

As a rule, I don’t generally have time to enter the many amazing remix contests offered on indbamusic.com. But, this time, I couldn’t pass up a chance to remix a classic Peter Gabriel song, “Games Without Frontiers”. And, more importantly, a chance to have Gabriel listen to my work and maybe even meet him in London! That’s just to cool of an opportunity to pass up. With everything that Gabriel has done in his life, both musically and as a philanthropist, he’s definitely a hero of mine. So, I went for it.

Remixing is a form of music production. Just like producing a song for an artist, the object shouldn’t be about imposing your musical ideas on another musician’s composition and performance. Instead, it’s about helping the artist and their material to be the best that they can be. To this end, I think it’s important to respect the songwriter’s original message and the vocalist’s performance when remixing, especially when the vocalist is the songwriter. Ideally, the recognizable elements of the song, such as vocal phrases and guitar lines, should be audible in your remix. With this in mind, I felt “Games Without Frontiers” could benefit from a more guitar-driven, pop rock arrangement, with a full kit played over an updated Roland CR-78 drum loop, and a touch of orchestral elements for added texture and movement.

In these videos, I take you on a mini tour of my “Games Without Frontiers” remix session using Pro Tools and Reason. There’s a lot to explain in this session, so I broke the tour into two videos. The first focuses on drums and rhythm section instruments (bass, guitars, piano, etc.). And, the second focuses on orchestral elements, voice parts (lead and backing vocals), and mastering. I’m also attaching the Pro tools session file, without its audio files, to this blog so that you can look through the session and see how it’s all set up.

Peter Gabriel Remix Session Video Tour (Part 1)

Peter Gabriel Remix Session Video Tour (Part 2)

*Remember, you can double click on these videos and watch them directly on YouTube to see them in HD.</em

The session file as a Zip.
PG REMIX VIDEO TOUR
Download directions:
Right-click PC and from the pop-up menu choose, “Save Link as…”
Control-click Mac and from the pop-up menu choose, “Save Link as…”

A common question I hear from students is, “Do I need to hire a mastering engineer?” The answer is, it really depends, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re just making some homemade CDs to pass out to friends or sell at your gig, you don’t need to spend the money on a mastering engineer. If you’re submitting your songs to a music library, your songs need to be mastered, but you might be able to do this yourself using some of the awesome mastering software programs available. I’m certainly no mastering engineer but I’ve mastered a lot of my own songs that have gone on to be featured in T.V. shows and movies. However, if you’re planning on pressing up 1,000 or more mass produced CDs for worldwide distribution, and the album is important to you, spending the cash to hire a great mastering engineer is essential.

After writing, producing, and mixing the fourteen songs on my upcoming album I had seriously had it with listening to my own tracks over, and over, and over again. So, when I finally made the decision to spend a couple thousand to hire an experienced mastering engineer, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Even though it would be a significant dent in my pocketbook I knew the right mastering engineer would be worth the price.

My choice of a mastering engineer was Michael Denten at Infinite Studios (and, on Myspace). Uploading my project to him was an exciting moment because I knew he would listen to my project with fresh ears, in a completely different studio, and give me some honest feedback on my mixes. Having worked with Denten for a few years in the 90s, I knew how he liked his mixes, phat and present. I knew that with his extensive experience working with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, from Digital Underground to E-40, that he would naturally bring this big, round, bass heavy sound to my project. And, I was confident that my project would benefit from this sound. It’s critical to choose the right mastering engineer for a project, because as much as the right mastering engineer can blow up your sound, the wrong mastering engineer can totally screw up your sound.

Denten was busy so it took him awhile to get to my project, but when he did take his first listen he opened up my eyes and ears to some mistakes that I had made in my mixes. I figured he would have some suggestions, and I figured there was no way I was going to nail all my mixes right out of the gate, so I was able to listen to his feedback with an open mind. You’ve got to remove your ego from the equation in order to hear blunt feedback on your own material, especially material you’d been working on for months and months. You’ve got to remember that this is about what’s good for the song, not what’s good for your ego. Denten didn’t disappoint, he took me to school and made suggestions that where spot on and really helped me to improve my mixes. Let me paraphrase some of his suggestions so you understand what I’m talking about.

“This song is muddy in the 500 Hz range, you need to clean this up.”

“What happened to the kick drum here, it’s leaning to one side.”

“The lead vocals are way to dry on this song, they’re not sitting in the mix right.”

“The drum loop in this song isn’t punching through the mix enough, you need to split it out to different tracks so that you can treat the high, mid, and low frequencies separately.”

“You need to add some sub bass here for more bottom end. You should use the Waves MaxxBass plug-in.”

“Your mixes aren’t very wide. Don’t be so conservative on your panning, spread things out.”

Some pretty blunt criticisms, and those were just the main ones. There were many other smaller, equally helpful suggestions that he made throughout the process.

After receiving his initial feedback I went back to my studio and made the changes. My mixes sounded so much better, and, as a result, my masters sounded a whole lot better, and my entire album sounded better. Thank you Mr. Denten! This is what a great mastering engineer can do for your mixes before they’ve even touched them, they can be a second set of ears and give you crucial feedback to help you improve your sound. Then, when they actually do their job and master your music, your songs are going to sound a whole better than if you had skipped this step and gone straight to mastering all of the tracks on your own. So, if you’re serious about releasing an album worldwide, and you plan to spend the money on physical CDs, don’t skip this step, hire an experienced mastering engineer to take your project to the next level.

Some of the control room monitors at Infinite Studios.

Winter NAMM 2010

Jan 22 2010

Here’s just a quick report on this past weekend’s NAMM show in Anaheim, California. Watch this, it’s the next best thing to going to the show. Well, actually, probably better than going to the show because you don’t have to deal with the crowds. Hopefully, you’ll find this video both informative and entertaining. Some of the highlights include the Korg Kaossilator, Akai MPC20, Max for Live, and Teenage Engineering’s OP-1.

Also, here’s a more extensive look at what I think is one of the coolest new products, the Ableton and Serato Bridge. The ability to mix your Live multitrack sessions straight into your Scratch DJ set is impressive. The ability to save your DJ set as an Abelton Live multitrack session is downright amazing! I’ve been dreaming of a product like this for years, ever since trying to multitrack DJ sets in order to tweak and overdub new parts after the fact. This really takes DJ “mix tape” productions to a whole other level. I can literally see a cottage industry of entrepreneurial music producers offering DJ “mix tape” production as part of their services. And, I’m pretty sure it could be a very lucrative side business.

Wondering how much compression you should use in the mix? Maybe you’re skeptical that compression really makes a difference? It’s a difficult effect to get a handle on and to really use effectively. It starts by being able to hear the difference between a mix that has compression and one that does not. To this end, I’ve cooked up a phat drum beat and given it a mix with lots of compression. In this video, I switch all of the compressors on and off while the beat is playing, so you can seriously hear the difference. And, at the same time I flip through the compressors on each channel so you can peep my settings. Enjoy!

PS — This video can be seen in full screen HD if you go to YouTube. Double click on the video above to jump directly to the full screen version.

Recent Interview

Nov 06 2009

Gerritt Tisdale of The Producer’s Alliance recently interviewed me. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about my background, I think it’s an interesting read. There’s also a little breaking news in the interview about my upcoming book and album. And, of course, a few tasty production tips too. Of course, I can’t do an interview without throwing some music production speak into the mix too! Check it out.

Here’s the link: http://www.theproducersalliance.org/producer-interview-erik-hawkins/

DJ Remix Cartoon