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Friday, 9 January 2015

The end of FORTUNA Quest

Well, I won't say I didn't see this coming. 2014 has been a horrible year for FORTUNA Quest. I had many internal conflicts (nothing bad, don't worry), and circumstances that made me disabled to do it well. I'd say to myself sometime before that if I didn't end a year with all done I just would stop doing it. So I did. After 381 recordings I terminate this. 

It was a very big project in which I embarked. It gave me so many happy moments in my life, some hard and few awful ones. Literally I didn't know any of the production world, how to record, how to experiment with composition, different instruments, etc. I just had ideas time to time but I forced myself to have them everyday. I see back in the past and I'm amazed of how much I have learned in this two years. 281 is a big number, some recordings were used professionally, others would be just fun for me, others just silly experiments that no one would consider as songs, but all of them are my little babies. I'm a bit sad of not having done better hence now I have to close it but I was a novice, and I didn't know how my brain would act under some scenarios, or if they would exist, and how I could solve the infinite things that happened, it's been a real super school for me and I'm very proud of having taken part of it, it doesn't only taught me so so much about music but life and myself too. 

This is not a bad thing though, I've thought a lot in the last year, my brain has actually changed and I have in mind so many things that I can actually do with all the wisdom I got from this quest that wouldn't have been possible if I wasn't do this and I'm so happy for that. I became an independent artist with my own philosophy and a bunch of tools that I know how to use now that will boost my career, or at least my artistic appetite which is a big part of my soul, I feel it like that. The future looks so good. I'll take the closure of this project as a step up in my life. Now I can just take all the time in the world to work on my songs, that's something priceless that I'm gonna embrace from now. 

I want to thank all the people that took part in this project, friends all of them. Friends that helped me to end songs, people that gave me ideas to make things better, friends with songs that let me help them to record them and participate, friends that shared my songs, friends that commented what they thought helping me to have a better map of what I was doing and making me find myself so many times, friends that shared time with me and my problems, friends that inspired me and friends that didn't complain of me being so tiring making songs all day and talking about it, the friend that donate money to the project and I feel like I disappointed him, I'll just pay him back :) Thanx to everyone that got aware of FORTUNA Quest, I just hope you enjoyed it as far as it existed. Best wishes. I'll have a better life from this point so don't be sad. I love you guys!

FORTUNA Quest 2013-2014

16th Week - Pastor Verdadero (381st Song)

I got asked to make a song for a commercial. It looks like they are happy with my work lately and I'm thinking I really I could make a living from this. The song should be similar to that that I made for a Premier Poker commercial. So I knew exactly how to do it. Easy peasy. I just struggled last time with the mixing, hopefully this time after some time practicing I can do it better. I'm playing guitar  better too. I had an instant idea, and recorded a demo to send to my 'bosses' (it's a friend's production company), they gave me the green light and started to record it. I was very careful that everything was very neat and the recording was as pro as possible. I found a sweet spot for my acoustic guitar, I used the best,  newest and shortest cable I have to record guitar, I got a good gain input and made some layers just in case, and trying different things. And spend the rest of the time (a lot) mixing. I did a lot of extra time on compressors, I find them very interesting and mysterious yet, I experimented a lot. 

Finally they accepted it and I'll get paid soon. Mission accomplished. 

Enjoy it!

15th Week - O Amor Quando Se Revela (380th Song)

I was asked to make a song for a documentary again. It's about myths on Spanish and Portuguese culture, and they requested me to make a Portuguese fado to accompany with the images of Portugal that they are gonna show up and it would have to be done in 3 days. I said 'yes' instantly but, do I know how to do this? I did a research of fados and I found that they use to be very simple: just one Spanish guitar, one Portuguese guitar and a sad girl's voice. I could find someone to record the voice and I'd try the Spanish and Portuguese guitars, although I had no idea where to get one. So I started being sure that the singer I was thinking of to sing it was available to do it. She accepted: Wicked!

Now I got into a loop of hard work and stress to find a Portuguese guitar. I had 3 days to find it, record the song with it (however that instrument is played) and it's Friday. I'd deal with a bunch of closed companies. I called several instruments renting companies and they didn't have any Portuguese guitar at all. I did all the networking I could and didn't get any response: I had to find a substitute instrument, maybe a lute, maybe a mandolin, a bandurria. I don't know, whatever!

I started again my quest of the seek of that instrument that I'd need. I found a lute somewhere and I was up to close the deal and rent it but I just found a Portuguese guitar teacher in Madrid on a teaching website. I got a new plan! or 2! Either I rent the guitar from him or I could have a lesson from him and then record it at his home. He told me he wouldn't rent his guitar so I had to go there, learn about the instrument and how to play it and, this was great, he offered himself to play it, he just would charge me his teaching rate per hours. 

In the meanwhile I recorded the guitar (I spent so many hours, doing it until it sounded ok cause I'm a shitty guitarist) and Cris recorded the voice, she did really cool, we struggled with the accent but they told us that the accent wouldn't be very important cause the music in the documentary would be very quite. And went to teacher's home to end the song. He taught me about the guitar, it's a blending of traditional and futuristic instrument full of metallic pegs and double strings, very impressive. They play with plastic fake nails and the afination is B, A, E, B, A, D. As I didn't know this I recorded my song in Eb randomly chosen, so the performing would be a bit awkward. He was a shy guy and struggled to explain me about the guitar and as i had to make my own nails and glue them to my fingers in order to play it well, after 10 minutes of chatting, we decided to go straight to record. He did many takes, it was very awkward the tone for him and I could see it, but he played so well, and he's good post editing, so we end up with a good take that would work for sure. He even did the final mix, he know's the music better than me so he'd do much better than me. 

I got impressed after get the final product how pro-active I become and how I could make a song so different of what I'm used to do and make it sound good enough to make it pass for a Portuguese song. Hi five to me!

Enjoy it!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

14th Week - Circo del Sol (379th Song)

I got news of the Cirque du Soleil doing auditions in Madrid. I run to their page and read the requirements:

-Full CV saying everything about you and your skills and writing down the kit that you own.
-2 pics of yourself where you are totally visible (face and body)
-1 minute video introducing yourself and telling why do you want to join Cirque du Soleil
-5 videos of yourself playing the songs of a list (all of them)

So here I am, recording one of those songs. I spent the week learning them and recorded it. The songs were so amazing all of them, I really love the Cirque du Soleil style. Very ethnic and magical. I struggled a bit with a couple of them which I repeated dozens of times. My favorite one was this one called Celebration from the show Kà, which I saw after recording this, as well all the other shows, and it was the cooler too. It was more special and distinctive, and very focus on martial arts.

The first thing that I noticed when I went to record it was that I really need more equipment to record drums. I have only 2 mic stands and one of them has the shock mount totally broken. I had to use several rubber bands to make the mic not to move at all. I only have 2 cables (after the recording I found another one which makes 3) so I only had 2 mics to record even when I have many more. I remember watching a video of where the talked about 2 techniques to record drumkits with only two mics. One of them was the technique used to record John Bonham's drumkit on Led Zeppelin's albums called The Glyn John's Method . And the other was the Recorder Man technique which takes good sound from the kit but not much from the room, thanks god, because I hate the sound of my room. I used this last one, of course. It consists in placing a mic just above the snare drum pointing to the center of it with one condenser mic and the other would be pointing to the center of the kick drum to capture better its sound and should be at the same distance from the center of the snare drum to avoid phase issues. I did this spending more than hour because I broke a piece of the not broken mic stand, and also because of the height of the position of the mic and its weight the stand was leaning forward and falling, so I had to put a lot of weight on the base.

Once I start to record it I just did few attempts, first 4 were were because I didn't remember how the song was and forgot some parts, but once I got it I just did 2 or 3 takes. Ironically, at the beginning, I thought it would be the most difficult song for me. I didn't mix it or anything, I had enough just recording all the songs for so many hours (2 days).

After recording everything I was ready to send everything, so I visited their page and... Surprise! They had cancelled the audition. I think they still accept videos on the main page (Canadian?), so I'll try it and let's cross fingers.

Enjoy it!

13th Week - June Hymn (378th Song)

In this week I've been recording my brother. He told me to record him singing a song of The Decemberists called 'June Hymn'. I took the chance to become his producer.

The first thing to bear in mind was that he wanted to try to sing it very low. He is not very sure of his normal voice and was quite sure than doing it lower it would sound better, more intimate, more whispering, more soft. If we were it to be so intimate I would like to get all the low end in his voice so I recommended him to get close to the mic so we got some proximity effect (when you get very close to cardioid pattern mics, which mine is, they capture more low frequencies, it's a classic technique that film teaser broadcasters use to get very deep and present voice). But first my brother had to record the guitar. We used my main acoustic guitar, it's a hard guitar to play and sounds a little tense but still we can get good sounds from it which it's been very handly in my recordings. He wanted frets to sound as he moved along to them. So I placed one main mic (Rode NT1) in a spot that I thought it was cool behind the hollow of the guitar and another one (Shure SM57) directly to the frets. After recording it I wasn't able to hear his fingers sliding over the strings but it's because he barely move hands, everything's played in the same spot, close to the nut. I got a very warm sound from the first one and a nice brighter sound from the other one.

We recorded his voice. Lately I like to record with the mic as far from the interface as possible and with the back of the mic pointing to it. The back part of a cardioid-pattern mic is the place where the sound gets worst to it, so pointing to the source of louder noise in the room, which is the interface, I avoid it to be recorded, not sure if totally but it's totally hidden by the voice, even more when he's singing from so close and the gain of the input signal is so low. So he did his performance. As my role of producer I had to tell him some tricks to get better his voice. Unfortunately the lowest notes were very difficult to him and they are not very accurate, but the rest is fine. He needed some takes as his voice was shaking in the first ones. But after 4 takes and few overdubs we did it. We decided that he should do his own backing vocals as he knew the song very well, I might have messed it up. As we recorded them I noticed that they were in tone but sonically main voice and backing vocals were clashing, but I thought a little bit of EQ would be fine. Later I'd discover that it wasn't that easy. After all this I just made a viola section with a virtual instrument to give it more expression and some fun to the song. As I suck playing keyboards my viola notes had to be fixed manually: some pitches, some lengths and positions and lots of velocities.

My approach to the mixing was to make it sound like Leonard Cohen or so, where the voice is very characteristic and the rest of the instruments just are in the background. Lonely man telling with sorrow his story. The first thing I worked on was in the voice and tried to give it personality. I got rid of some of the ugly frequencies that the proximity effect brought to the recording which were way too much. I tried to remove some unwanted frequencies first rather than boosting some others, although at the end I added gain slightly on 1k and 5k. I used the default Logic's EQ and compressor. I'm trying to use just one so I master it before I just jump from one to another as I'm used to. And I got a solid and neat voice. I also sent a delay to the voice because I wanted the voice sounding really in the front and reverb use to mess with that, so delay should be the answer. I used a spreader for guitar, so I could put it in the middle without bothering the way of the voice, and EQ (with lots of high end) and a bit compression (I liked the sound of the guitar the dynamics were a little bit too wide which I fixed). Then the backing vocals... This was by far the most difficult part of the production. No matter the volume they always covered the lead vocal. I experimented with many EQs to fix that and was so difficult, I was being too gentle. I started to tweak the knobs more radically and things started to work, the voices didn't sound very well but they fit in the mix if I did the right adjustments. Still don't know if that's what a professional would have done but it worked for me, maybe not the best sound but I could hear the words and I wasn't interfering with the other instruments. Last part of the mixing was automating the volume of the voice as some parts were dug into the track, mainly the low pitched notes and few others, but this part was easy to do.

Masterwise I just used L2 and tried if it would sound better or not. I think it will, now sounded less natural but instruments coexisting better. Finally I showed to my mom and the first thing that she said was: It reminds me Leonard Cohen. Such a compliment.

Enjoy it!

Monday, 28 July 2014

12th Week - Your Sexy Provocation (377th Song)

After swallowing the EDx course called Vocal Recording Technology I felt like I could rule the world. This guy called Prince Charles Alexander, who must be a good vocal producer, explained a lot of tricks, mic techniques, mixing facts, etc in a very easy to understand way. On the last week he used a soul song to show how to put into practice all the concepts taught before. So my mood was very 'soul-ish', and I wanted to create a sexy song, with a lot of emotions, a guy suffering cause this girl is too sexy and drives him crazy. 


The song was made practically ITB (In The Box, concept that I'm using a lot lately), just voices and guitars were recorded. I called my friend Pipe to let me record voices in his house as he has a very dry recording room and a cool neumann mic 800 euros worth, I had to try that! It was a difficult one, I thought I would be able to sing it very quick but the lyrics were too difficult to me as I never practiced it before, plus there's a ad lib part that was very very difficult to improvise while reading a lot of words. Finally I did quite good, I ended just before my voice started to sound rough and damaged. I just regret of my pronunciation mistakes and a high pitch note at the end that I got too close to the mic and sounds awful. Also small pitch mistakes (at the beginning there's a big one). The guitars though were recorded directly through my interface. Drums were logic ones, bass Scarbee (again),


I used orchestral virtual instruments such as castanets, chimes, triangle, strings section, even a clarinet. Also a shaker, a pad synth, two lead synths, a rhodes, bass, two guitars, drums, lead vocals, and 6 tracks of background vocals for the chorus; quite a lot of tracks that I had to work with. Were difficult to handle. My screen looked a bit messy, I think it's time to create a color code to assign to my tracks so I can move back and forth better in my mixes. Again I investigated a lot of compressing, it's quite addictive. So many possibilities. They are tiny tiny tweaks that change tiny tiny characteristics of the track that I'm compressing, I can feel that I'm behind of something great, but still using my intuition and learning a bit about it.  For mixers compressing is a massive thing and I can feel for the way they talk about it is really important and rewarding when you master it. Other thing that I really payed attention was EQ, I remember myself totally focus trying different equalizers, using all the filters, messing around with bandwidths, frequencies, gain, etc... during all night until the sunset. I'm quite proud of the results with voice. I don't know if they were my skill or the quality of mic or something but sounds very good, and I did a mix around that voice that works. My singing is a bit better too. Ah, I didn't mention, I used for the first time the waves Voice plugin for a massive pitchless note at the beginning, it's a bit made up now but u can feel a weird vibrato on it. That's a cool plugin, seems very similar to melodyne, but I couldn't get melodyne and I prefer this one rather than autotune. I also used this technique from the vocal production course consisting in panning 6 voices singing the same line the 3 to the left and 3 to the right. They are not very accurate in pitch and rhythm so they don't sound as cool as I wanted, Pipe did 2 of them. This guy in the course used this plugin called Revoice which is so great, it can transform a voice track to be more similar in pitch and rhythm that another one. I would love to get that one. I tried to download a free demo but unfortunately I need to download the iLok key which costs money so, at the end, not free at all.


It seems like I learned a lot from the EDx course, I hear how I did a big step and now my voices sound cooler. Let's see if it's matter of wisdom or that the Neumann mic was much better than me. Anyway, I was more committed and focus on the mix than ever before and I think I did a great job with the overall mix, and I think my mix supports the song better than the most of the times I mix. I'm very happy now, and I have to say that this song was made in honor of my girlfriend, so she can be proud of me now. Otherwise... nah, she'll be proud.

Enjoy it!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

11th Week - Roger (376th Song)

I got a new opportunity making music for a commercial campaign by the online poker site Premier Poker. It's not the first time that I get this kind of job from Willy, you may remember my adventures with him, the creation of Anachronic, Viaje al Pasado and the attempted song The Burning of the Colossus. I'm still making orchestral ones for that documentary that required all this songs. Most of them were denied but this time was easy and I will get my song sounding on the TV soon! Does that mean loads of money? I wish, certainly I would love it.

I received a message of Willy asking me to check my email. I did and I found this email from his partner very confusing about a song similar to one that he sent to me. It was a fragment of an 'A Perfect Circle's' song. I called them and they told me to try to make a song that sounded similar to it: same instruments, same sound, different chords or a difference from the original, ... There's was a guitar sound that they didn't recognized firstly as guitar (that almost sound like a synth, very distorted) that I had to emulate. And I, also, had to change slightly the structure.

I started to work as soon as I could and thought it was a good idea to make a rough recording of what I was gonna do. So firstly the acoustic guitar, placing the mic wherever, then I recorded drums (always the easiest part) , distorted guitar (that I'd process to get that weird sound) and bass. That was all. I send it to them and they made me change things, over and over til I got a final structure done after 5 attempts.  It was a fairly quick process beforehand I worked on the final version. They liked it now so I could re-record everything with a better sound.


I took my acoustic guitar again, to restart the process, and recorded this line, I tried some mic placements til I found one that I liked like 12" far away from the guitar aiming to the bridge. Next step was the drums, nothing very relevant about this, easy recording, just spent some time looking for the kit, among my libraries, that sounded more similar: piece of cake. Then electric guitar. I tried to figure out how to get that sound, from my experience it's easier to get a weird sound from plugging the guitar directly to my interface and use plugins to make that clean signal sound as I want, but the problem is that I can get very cool sounds but the quality of the signal is not very nice, distortions use to be messy, and now I'm recording to get the most pro sound that I can, so I had to discard that option. Otherwise I plugged the guitar into my Line 6 amp. The distortions are very crispy, and certainly not very similar to what I was asked to do, but I had the hope of being able to make it sound more close to the original sound. The sound captured through the mic is much better quality-wise. Now is the turn of the bass, I used Scarbee MM-Bass Amped as virtual instrument (my basses' sounds when I recorded them with a real bass are always so crap that the best option for me, by now, is to get this virtual instruments). Very easy line, I recorded it in some minutes. I had everything recorded so it was time to mix.


Here's where I spend the most of the time. I played a lot with many compressors on every instrument, different equalizers, I was able to display all the tracks from the drum kit in EZdrummer to separated tracks, for first time, so I could work individually on them.  I tried many many different things, I even made a mix that they didn't like and started a new mix from zero again. I realized about the big compression sounding, in the original song, of the drumkit, that's something that amazed me because i'm starting to get my ear finer in compression which I found always very difficult. I got aware of how different some compressors sound. Doing the same, the sound changes from one to another very much. In this case I tried the 3 CLA's compressors of Waves, being the CLA-3A the hardest and the 2A more beautiful to my ears, maybe because reminded me to 80's music. At the end the sound of guitar sounded too fuzzy and not very cool for the mix. My 'bosses' didn't like it too. As you know I'm not a great mixer, but getting there. They asked to a better mixer friend to end the work and he did a good job.


A new world of opportunities is opening in front of me. I think it's very plausible to me to make some money, even a living, from making songs for companies. I just feel to rookie on mixing, but I'm getting very obsessive about it as I did when I was learning drums in my best learning ages. So I'm pretty sure that I'm gonna be decent on this and one day I would be able to make mixes good enough to be heard on TV commercials, karaokes, documentaries or videogames. I'll show you the final product when they show it on TV. 

Enjoy it!