Ear Training with Nursery Rhymes

August 23rd, 2014 Jonny Kaine Posted in Musicianship | No Comments »

My new ear training series will use nursery rhymes to help get the sound of the major scale in your head in a more clear way.

The idea is that because most people know these tunes so well already it will be easier to get how the solfege substitutions are working. I also think it makes sense to use simple melodies for this kind of thing to keep your focus on the sound of the intervals rather than being distracted by funky rhythms and the like.

Additionally; I think using these nursery rhyme tunes could make this an ideal introduction of ear training to children.

I'll be updating this post with these tracks as I complete them. I'm not sure how many I'm going to do in all but I have decided to start with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (ie "Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol") ...


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Popular Four Chord Turnarounds

December 30th, 2013 Jonny Kaine Posted in Music Theory, Musicianship | No Comments »

I've started working on a series of basic drum machine + piano backing tracks (each will be about 5 minutes long) that feature the most common four chord turnarounds (four chord progressions which repeat) in pop music.

They will be in a variety of keys and tempos to spice things up a bit.

All of the these tracks are going up on my youtube channel and they will also be available to download as mp3s here.

The idea is that these tracks can help you get the sound of these popular progressions in your ear so that you recognize them when you hear them. I think this can help not only for musicianship but also for songwriting. One thing you may want to try is adding your own melodies to these tracks (like I did in this example.)

I'll be updating this post as I create additional tracks.

I - vi - IV - V
("the 50s progression")

Examples: "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King & "D'yer Maker" by Led Zeppelin.

I - ii - IV - V

Examples: "99 Red Balloons" by Nena & "Somebody" by Bryan Adams.

Read the rest of this entry »


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Drum Loop for Practicing Timing (Victor Wooten Extreme Time)

January 15th, 2013 Jonny Kaine Posted in Musicianship | No Comments »

I saw this video of Victor Wooten's extreme time exercise where you use a drum machine that cuts out:

and in response made this 100 BPM 4 bar drum loop (with progressively more and more of the beat cut out) to practice with:

If there's a good response to this I'll make more of these (different tempos and possibly other time signatures.) I practiced with it myself yesterday and it seems like really good timing practice.

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The Beatles Remastered Stereo LP Box Set

September 28th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in General | 1 Comment »

I'm a huge Beatles fan and I yes I'm one of those folks that likes to listen to vinyl LPs from time to time so I'm pretty excited that The Beatles Stereo LP Box Set is finally coming out (on November 13th.)

Not only is this awesome because it's the first time these new remasters are going to be on vinyl 16 audiophile 180 gram LPs) but it's actually the first time that most of The Beatles albums will be available to buy new on LP for a long time (only Abbey Road has been available to buy new... and it was actually the top selling vinyl LP of 2011!)

Basically this is the vinyl version of the Remastered Stereo CD Box Set that came out back on 9/9/9. (I can't believe it's been more than three years already.) It includes 16 audiophile 180 gram LPs all together.

That's 13 original Beatles albums and the Past Masters double album set of non-album tracks (for the most part that means songs on singles that were never included on their albums.) 13 + 2 = 15? Yes, you're right! But of course one of those Beatles albums was a double album (1968's The Beatles aka "The White Album") so there's the 16th LP.

If you dig The Beatles and you dig vinyl you may want to make your order quick because they say they are only making 50,000 copies of this box set worldwide. That doesn't seem like very many.

Click Here to order this Box Set on Amazon.


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Four Cool Singing Tips

September 9th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Musicianship | No Comments »

I'm a big fan of this guys youtube channel (lots of Beatles related music lessons) and his most recent video is four tips to quickly improving your singing voice which I found quite useful. Thought it was worth sharing:

1. Emphasize the vowels.
2. Chew the lyrics.
3. Slide up to high notes.
4. Notice where the singer takes a breath in the original (if you're singing a cover.)


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Using Figure-8 Mics to Record Vocals & Acoustic Guitar

August 26th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Recording | No Comments »

If you're looking to record someone singing and playing and an acoustic guitar at the same time while getting good separation between the vocal & guitar tracks and you've got a couple microphones that can be put in a figure 8 recording pattern then try this technique out:

1. Set two mics in a figure 8 recording pattern. Not all mics have this feature; my Shure KSM44 and my CAD M179 are two examples of mics that can be put in this "figure of eight" polar pattern (aka "bidirectional.")

2. Point one mic at the voice and one at the guitar (obvious enough, right?) Of course you will want to fiddle about with exactly how you position the mics. If you are recording yourself you'll probably have to do some trial & error, if you are recording someone else put your headphones on and listen (trying to hear what you hear through the headphones rather than what you hear in the space.)

3. The key to this technique (that allows you to get nice separation between the tracks) is to turn the mics sideways (rather than up and down) so that each mic is picking up as little as possible of the other source. Why does this work? It's hard to explain without drawing a picture and drawing isn't my strong suit. But if you think about how a figure-8 pattern works a bit I think it becomes clear.

If you experiment by trying it first with the mics standing up straight and then try it the way that I'm suggesting (with the mics sideways) I think you will notice quite a difference.

Mics that can Record in Figure-8

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Native Instruments Battery 3 Drum Machine

May 15th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Plugins, Virtual Instruments | 1 Comment »

What I really like about my NI Battery 3 drum machine plugin is the huge variety of sounds that I can quickly call up with it. On the other hand, I don't think it's the best when it comes to realistic acoustic drum sounds (if that's what you are looking for then you'll have more luck with something like Superior Drummer 2.)

I usually use Battery 3 when I'm looking for drum sounds that sound sampled (rather than trying to emulate live drums.) For many genres of music this often fits much better than an acoustic drum emulation.

For example if you're trying to create an Aphex Twin inspired track you'll probably get a lot more use out of something like the "Glitch Kit" in Battery 3 than the realistic acoustic drum emulations you can get with Superior Drummer 2 or Addictive Drums. (Although a good argument can be made that it would be more creative to try to glitch up your own drum tracks rather than use the "Glitch Kit" samples.)

There's also a lot of cool percussion and world music type "kits" in Battery 3 which sometimes come in handy. To my ears these usually sound pretty "sampled" too (rather than realistically emulating real percussion) but I still think they can be quite useful. It really just depends on what you are looking for.

When it comes to this sort of thing a minute of sound is worth a thousand words so here's something I just put together to give you a small taste of what Battery 3 can do (just 8 of the over 100 kits included) --->

Battery 3 is included in the Native Instruments Komplete 8 pack along with a ton of other stuff.


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Cut It Out: Muting & EQ

May 15th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Mixing | No Comments »

There are four bits of advice that I think have most improved the quality of my mixes, I'll quickly go over the first three and then focus on the fourth which is the topic of this post.

(#1) Use the best monitors you can afford (if you are going to splurge on any music gear, it should be your monitors.) The importance of a good set of monitors is difficult to overstate.

If you can't accurately hear how what you're doing is effecting the sound of your mix then it's very unlikely you're going to be able to create a decent mix that translates to various playback systems.

Don't use headphones to mix. Yes, many people listen back to music on headphones now but what I've found is that if you can make your mix sound good on monitors than it's going to sound good on headphones too but the reverse is definitely not the case.

(#2) Check your mixes in mono too. Even if you don't think your music will ever be played back in mono (and you may be surprised at the scenarios where it may be) I still think it's a good idea to check your mixes in mono.

Using one Avantone Mixcube as my mono playback system (and clicking on the mono playback button on Reaper) has been an ear opening experience. What I tend to do is get my mix sounding pretty good on my stereo monitors and then I switch to mono playback and I usually notice some issues that are not as obvious in stereo.

I think of it as a "microscope" for my mixes. It allows me to hear all of the problems much easier which is awesome because it also lets me fix them much easier! After I get my mix sounding good in mono on this "crappy" speaker it then usually sounds really good when I switch it back to my stereo monitors.

(#3) Acoustic Design. Those of us with home studios usually have less than ideal spaces to mix in but there are some things we can do to improve that space for mixing (and recording.) This is too big of a subject to get into in detail here but I would recommend buying this book and learning a bit about it. It's important.

One easy thing you can do to lessen the impact of a subpar listening environment is to monitor at lower levels (this is also good to decrease the effect of ear fatigue.)

(#4) Cut it out. This brings me to my main topic for this post; the importance of muting unneeded tracks and what may seem like drastic use of EQ cuts to those who haven't thought of using EQ in this way before.

(a) Just because it was recorded doesn't mean it needs to be in the final mix. I almost always find at least one part that can be cut out entirely. If the part isn't essential to the song; cut it out. Hit the mute button. Often times just muting one part makes all of the other parts sound better.

This goes back a bit to my point about mono playback. When you playback in mono it's much more difficult to get everything to sit together. I do a lot of my muting & EQ cuts when I'm playing back in mono. Then when I go back to stereo I'm always amazed how much more clear and "professional" my mix sounds with the mutes & EQ cuts I've done in mono.

This brings me to another point which could really have its own header because of how important it is: Really listen closely to recordings that you love (or the songs you are trying to emulate) and notice how much (or how little) is actually going on. In most cases there's less going on at one time then you probably thought there was.

(b) Massive EQ cuts to the lows & the highs. I put a cut on the bass on almost every track (even tracks that don't sound like they have any bass often do have some rumble that's sneaking into your mix and muddying it up.)

The easy way to do this is to cut the EQ up to the point where you can hear the effect and then lay back off it a bit until you can't hear it anymore. I do this on both the highs and the lows. Generally I hear the cuts on the highs more quickly than I do on the lows.

You have to be careful here not to overdo it to the point where you make the parts sound overly manicured although you should also keep in mind that it doesn't really matter what an instrument sounds like when it's played back solo, it only matters how it sounds in the context of the song with everything playing back.

This is a very common mistake! People will spend hours getting all of their tracks to sound perfect when played back on their own but then they are dismayed when they play them all back at once and it sounds terrible. Think about what the word "mix" means and it becomes obvious why this is the wrong way to go about it. To repeat: It doesn't matter what a track sounds like on its own.

The hardest part of this for me is finding a space for your bass and your kick drum. I don't think there's an easy to share formula for this, you just have to try to give each one its own space (and you have to decide which one of them is going to be the lowest part of the song, because they can't both be at the same time.)

The end result of all of this cutting of lows & highs is not a song without any low end or high end but a song with much more clear and powerful low end and high end.

It may seem like having all kinds of stuff going on in the low end at the same time would be the way to have a really strong bass sound, but it's actually the opposite. If you have a strong bass sound you want that sound to have that area to itself rather than letting it get muddied up by all the other crap in your mix.

EQ Cut with Fabfilter Pro Q

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Bass Grooves (Book on Learning to Play Bass Guitar)

March 11th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Musicianship | 1 Comment »

I have quite a few bass tutorial books and Bass Grooves by Ed Friedland is by far my favorite. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is who wants to learn how to play bass guitar.

What I like most about it is that it focuses on the importance of timing and how to play different types of rhythms. This focus (and the helpful information on how to count different types of rhythms) has not only helped my bass guitar playing but it's really helped my musicianship in general.

The importance of timing cannot be overstated when it comes to musicianship especially because so many people overlook it. There's a tendency to think it's all about the chords and/or notes but really if you're not playing with a good feel (or "groove") it's going to sound like crap no matter what chords or notes you're playing.

I find that too many music tutorial books (and I have a ton) sort of skip out when it comes to timing. Even the books I have on drumming don't spend enough time on timing and how to count different types of rhythms.

For example; I have a drum book that mentions the common count for straight 16th notes (1-e-and-ah...) but which then introduces triplets with no mention on how to count them. This is an absurd oversight.

But Bass Grooves goes into every different type of rhythm that you are likely to play (including 16th note triplets) and teaches you how to feel the groove internally so that you can play in time.

Of course there's more to the book then just the timing instruction, there's also some great examples of many different styles of bass guitar playing (with tabs, a CD to listen to, and thorough instruction.) It doesn't really go in-depth into any one particular style, but it introduces a lot of them.

If you're looking into learning to play bass then I think it would be wise to start with this book and once you've really mastered it then look for a book on whatever kind of style you are most interested in.

I really like the stuff on timing so much that I almost want to recommend this book to anyone who feels they have any kind of issues with rhythm even if they don't want to learn to play bass.

And that leads me to one last thing; Rhythm is a skill like any other. You can significantly improve your sense of rhythm with practice. I did a post on "becoming a drum machine" last year that goes into some details on some practices you can get started with now (this is good practice regardless of what instrument or style of music you play.)

Another good basic rhythm practice is "making the metronome disappear."

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Mixing with an Avantone Mixcube is Like Using a Microscope

March 6th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Mixing | No Comments »

I bought an Avantone Mixcube to use for mono mixing last month and I used it to mix a song for the first time over the weekend.

I had the song mixed to the point where I thought it sounded pretty good on my KRK5s when I decided to flip to mono playback on the Mixcube.

Right off I noticed all kinds of things that I hadn't noticed when mixing in stereo on the KRK5s. It was like putting my mix under a microscope. At first I was a bit deflated by how terrible my mix sounded in mono on the Mixcube but then I realized this is a good thing, it's giving me a chance to hear what's wrong so I can fix it.

There were timing issues between two guitar parts that weren't really obvious when they were spread left & right but when they were laid on top of each other it was a bit of a mess. I didn't have time to re-record for this particular project so I used Melodyne's quantization to tighten up the timing until it sounded good (but I didn't push the quantization so far that it sounds robotic.)

I also used EQ more aggressively because I was trying to get the different parts to sit comfortably on top of each other in mono (which is of course much more difficult than when you have the advantage of stereo.)

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I muted a couple of tracks that I realized weren't adding enough interest to make up for the mess they were adding to the mix.

Once I had it sounding how I wanted on the Mixcube I switched back over the KRK5s and I was instantly blown away by how great my mix sounded. It was a clear improvement over where it was at before. All the parts were clear and it really packed a punch as well.

At this point I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be doing a lot of my mixing in mono. It really does feel like using a microscope to me, it just seems to make it so easy to see (hear) where the problems are and if you know where the problems are, you can correct them.

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