Throughout the past three weeks of in-depth, my progress on my project has been slower than I had initially hoped. This is because I am learning how to record using a real keyboard, and I need to use my mentor’s studio to record because I don’t have a keyboard at home. That being said, I will be visiting my mentor’s studio this week to finish the project and will be posting it on my blog later this week. Although the completion of my project has slowed down, I have used my time at home to research new strategies and techniques. Right now, I am focusing on learning how to fine-tune my projects with Smart Controls.

Smart Controls edit the sound of tracks in your project. They can be used with software instruments, drummer tracks, and recorded audio. My mentor explained to me that learning how to use Smart Controls is crucial because adjusting a single screen control can change one or more aspects of the sound of a track and completely alter the feeling of a song. So far, I have learned how to use EQ or tone controls, reverb and some other controls specific to the type of track or instrument. For example, the Smart Control for synthesizers includes screen controls for choosing the waveform and adjusting the resonance and filter cutoff, while ones for string instruments include controls for changing the articulation.

How To Have A Beautiful Mind:

While working with my mentor, I tend to ask lots of questions, as I am very passionate about and interested in learning how to create music. That being said, I also have a tendency to talk a lot while learning from my mentor. De Bono says, “If you listen carefully and attentively you will get more value from listening than talking”, so throughout my last few meetings with my mentor, I have focused on asking many questions and listening attentively to the response and asking follow-up questions where necessary. Here is an example of one of the questions I asked my mentor at our last meeting:

Me: While editing my project I’ve found that my electric guitar track sounds really screechy and out of place. What technique would you typically use to fix this?

Mentor: Well, when the quality of a track or loop seems out of place in your project, one of the best ways to fix it is using the EQ control. If you want to lower the treble and boost the middle frequencies and bass in your guitar track, you can adjust them by moving the coloured circles on the EQ line.

Me: Oh okay. How will I be able to tell if I’ve edited the track correctly?

Mentor: You can click the ‘solo’ button to hear the track by itself without the rest of the music in your project to listen for a difference. Another thing you can do is click any of the dots to reset them to their original position. In my experience, I have found that editing the EQ too much can make the piece sound unnatural or imbalanced, so it’s best to only make small edits and continuously check to see how the track sounds with the rest of the music to ensure that you don’t edit it too much.

EQ is a very detailed and difficult piece of software to use. I am still figuring out how to use it correctly. As a result, it is crucial for me to ask many questions and listen attentively to my mentor’s response. Furthermore, by asking follow-up questions I can gain more in-depth knowledge about the techniques that my mentor is explaining. Through this conversation, I learned more about EQ than I had initially known to ask about, because I continued to ask questions that allowed my mentor to elaborate. Here is another example of an interaction that I had with my mentor:

Me: The three adjusters don’t all work the same way. The mid changes symmetrically, but the bass and treble controls don’t. They just taper off all the way to the left or right of the panel. Why is this happening?

Mentor: That’s because the bass and treble act more like shelving adjustments. Basically, when you move them you’re setting a cut-off point for the top or bottom frequencies and choosing the gradient of that cutoff.

Me: I’m still not quite sure I understand. How can I effectively use this to create balanced tracks?

Mentor: It’s definitely a little bit confusing at first. Let’s look at one of my old projects and see how the EQ effected the piece.

By opening myself up and telling my mentor that I didn’t understand the concept we were discussing, I was able to create an opportunity for my mentor and I to work and learn together by listening to one of her old projects. I now have a much stronger understanding of using EQ.

As mentioned earlier, I will be finishing my next project this week and it will be posted in a few days. After this project is finished, I will be learning how to incorporate vocals into GarageBand projects. I am very pleased with my progress so far and I am excited to continue learning.