On this page, music producer, sound engineer and musician Marcel Engelbertink, discusses subjects based on his experiences and makes statements that you as a musician or band can benefit from.
Music Producer | Sound Engineer | Musician | Master in Business Administration
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What do you pay attention to when recording vocals?
“What counts most when recording vocals is ‘eloquence’. Do I believe you, do you touch my soul?”
If you listen to a certain song, it may touch you in the depths of your soul. But what exactly? The guitar solo, the brass arrangement or the piano part? Or is it ‘the voice’ of the singer or singer? And if so, why is that so?
For me as a music producer, the vocals in a piece of music are essential. Recording the vocals is the final piece of the recordings and I always take a relatively long time for it. It is important that the singer feels at ease and that the atmosphere and ambiance in the recording room are optimal for him or her. Of course it is also important that you choose the right microphone for the song and voice of the singer. The choice of the microphone often determines the end result.
When recording vocals I pay attention to:
- Tone color / sound
- Eloquence / expressiveness
- Text experience
Expressiveness is definitely #1 for me because I think this is especially what can touch your soul. Then timing follows. You can handle purity with a program like Auto-Tune or Melodyne.
It is often thought that singers can sing their part as often as they want. Singing is physically demanding and for that reason alone you cannot record a singing part endlessly. I usually limit it to 5 times, mostly depending on the energy and experience of the singer.
For me, ‘eloquence’ is the essence of music. The singer conveys a message with lyrics and melody, supported and enhanced by an arrangement of other instruments.
I also like to listen to ‘great’ music, as I call it. By that I mean musicians who are virtuoso on their instrument, can play anything on it and play the most difficult figures. I think that is extraordinary and I have a lot of respect for those people, also because they sacrificed a lot to be able to do this. At the same time it often sounds ‘cold’ and does not affect me at all. Too many adlibs make me nauseous. Regarding to singers, examples are: Pentatonics, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and OG3NE.
If you would like to know about this subject and / or would you like to develop further, please feel free to contact me without obligation on: +31 6 20 71 72 82. I would be happy to help you if you are open to it.
What are you good at? What is your unique selling point? And that of your band?
“It is pointless to be on the ‘wrong’ stage, it frustrates both yourself and the audience and it doesn’t get you any further.”
If you want to be a successful musician or band, it is important that you know what you are good at and what the ‘unique selling point’ is of you and your band.
I often think differently about the unique qualities of musicians and / or band than the people involved themselves. For example, I know a country pop band, consisting of a few young singer-songwriters, who can sing rather well together. In my opinion, their unique quality is their 3-part vocals and sweet songs. It looks neat and sweet on stage and so are their songs. There’s nothing wrong with sweet as long as you realize it’s your selling point. If that what you hear matches with what you see, then you are doing something right. However… they have chosen to ‘think big’ and only want to perform on large stages and festivals. Of course everyone wants that, I understand that. But in my opinion, especially in the phase they are in now, they fit much better on other, smaller stages. They were often asked for weddings and parties, and they systematically say “no” to that. I understand that “weddings and parties” doesn’t sound particularly sexy to young people, but apparently they are good at that and the audience will see them there. Otherwise they won’t be asked for that, right? So that’s their market …
The attraction of the “commercial” circuit is that you can perform a lot, become good live musicians, earn enough money to live on and, last but not least, you are the right band at the right party. And that also gives satisfaction. You want to be positively appreciated, but on a different stage than that of your dreams, that’s always much better than not being on any stage …
My experience and conclusion is that if you have to put in a lot of effort to be on a certain stage, as an individual musician or as a band, you should seriously ask yourself whether you belong there. Apparently others think that you are not (yet) suitable or ready for that. Don’t torment yourself and do what you are good at, that will give you the most pleasure in the end!
If you do not know what your unique quality is, if you would like to know this and develop further, please feel free to contact me via: +31 6 20 71 72 82. I would be happy to help you if you are open to it.
What is the difference between a sound engineer and a mixing engineer?
“A music technician mixes with his eyes and a sound/mixing engineer with his ears”
This article is of particular interest to musicians, bands, singer / songwriters who think that whoever makes everything technically work on stage should also do “the sound” of their music. So the one who does the mixing during the gig. This blog will help you out of that dream.
My definition of “music technician” is someone who essentially understands and is interested in the technique of sound. This person brings the sound system to the right location, provides the power supply, connects cables and equipment and ensures that everything works – from a technical point of view -. An important job, without question, because a lot of things can go wrong! You recognize the music technician by the almost inexhaustible ready knowledge of sound technology. He/she often knows exactly what is for sale and knows the latest technical gadgets. And in general they love lights.
The music technician has a different role and background than the sound/mixing engineer. The sound/mixing engineer is particularly interested in the “sound”. When mixing, you use another part of your brain, the part where your creativity is expressed. Mixing is a creative process. The sound/mixing engineer is concerned with the processing of sound, and simply ensures that instruments sound as they should, have the right volume and come from the right speaker. The sound/mixing engineer makes use of compressors, equalizers, effects (reverb/delay) and panning (left/right).
In the somewhat larger recording studio, the music technician is mainly involved in the technical preparation of the recording. And this mainly concerns connecting, installing and / or setting up the recording system, the cabling, the routing and the microphones. Often the music producer gives direction to this, the music technician ensures that everything is properly connected and works properly. An important task that should not be underestimated. Today’s technical possibilities are becoming increasingly advanced and therefore more complex. Nowadays, in smaller studios you often see that all work is done by the same person, so preparing, recording, producing and mixing. If you’re lucky, this person is more of a music producer than a sound engineer. This “all-in-one” principle mainly has to do with the small wallet of the musician or organizer of a music event.
With live music, for example in cafes. pubs and at festivals, it is still often the same person who builds up the sound set, connects and is the one behind the mixing console to – if all goes well – make a nice mix. What I often see, or rather “hear”, is that this person is more of a music technician than a sound/mixing engineer. Music technician know well how to connect the cables of the speakers, microphones, DI’s, monitors and mixer. That is a real and challenging job at larger stages or bands with a lot of instruments and equipment. Everyone is happy when everything works and sound comes from all speakers.
What is important to you as a musician is the sound that suits your music and how you want your music to come out of the speakers. Online (media) or offline (live). If you are lucky, everything works well during a live gig and you have a decent sound on stage. Usually you have no idea how it comes out of the speakers and what your fans and listeners are getting. Unfortunately, I notice time and again that the sound is “very poor”. In bands with a rhythm section, the kick drum and bass guitar are often too loud in the mix or get in each other’s way, causing the rest of the instruments to “disappear”. Vocals can also sound hideous if they don’t have the right ‘processing’. For example, if too much, too little or the wrong effect is used. And you don’t want that.
But how do you find out that the right person is behind the controls for you? This is a difficult question to answer. I personally think it is normal that all equipment is properly connected, works well and that the sound of your music is the most important thing. That’s what you do it all for. A good man or woman behind the knobs knows your music, knows how it should sound and continuously turns the knobs to give every song an optimal sound. He / she watches, listens and adjusts every second of your song if necessary. So that is an important signal.
For some tips I would like to have a look and listen to one of your gigs without any obligation. You can call me on: +31 6 20 71 72 82.