…with a silent “h”

Exciting Changes Ahead

May 17, 2024

I posted this to my Kharlie M page on Facebook at 2:27 pm yesterday:

The stereo in our van has a “hot spot” around 4 kHz that coincides with a peak in my vocals, causing them to sound harsh regardless of where I set the tone controls. This has led me to try some new plugins for processing my audio. I will continue to produce faithful representations of the sound as best I can, but I need to make it playable on a wider variety of equipment. In short, Series K will be a thing of the past; I’m going with Series M now. I’ll keep you posted.

As you may gather from this, I’m learning some new tricks for producing audio. Early testing shows quite an improvement from the older albums, even though I and others thought they sounded pretty good already. The main difference will be in the vocals: at times they sounded “off” to me in a way I couldn’t quite describe, and it turned out to be mostly small variations in pitch that are easily fixable with a plugin. In practice, I use it gently enough that you can’t hear that the track has been processed at all; it sounds like I sang every note on pitch (or very nearly so).

The other problem I’m facing is tone; on the van stereo, a few loud notes “ring” annoyingly in my ears due to the “hot spot” mentioned above. Just reducing that frequency doesn’t help because it makes the entire track sound dull, lacking presence. Instead, I need to apply dynamic compression at that frequency so the loudest sounds are softened while the softer sounds remain, adding to the feeling of presence. I’ve learned an easy trick for this so far, but I’m still experimenting so I can refine the process.

Every reverb plugin sounds different and has different ways of handling the sound. I’ve been using Cakewalk Reverb almost exclusively for many years because it’s easy to use, but I’ve found others that do a better job and aren’t too difficult to use. This will change the sound of everything I produce.

Another thing I want to try is something called saturation. It’s much like recording onto an analog tape, where the loudest sounds will be reproduced a tad softer than recorded because the tape has been given more signal than it can rightly handle. This results in extra harmonics being added to the sound, which can sound warm or rich to our ears, enhancing the sound. This must be done in moderation; I want to try it in mastering to bring the whole composition together nicely.

So far, I have “skeleton” backing tracks ready for every song on the album I’m working on next. Very soon, I’ll begin recording instruments (mostly ukes, but some other stuff may work in too) and vocals (including a few backups). Then, using my new tools and tricks, I hope to make fairly quick but good work of the editing, mixing, and mastering to complete the album.

Kharlie M is Still Active

March 1, 2024

Please excuse the lack of activity on this site. Winter can be difficult, and I’m still often feeling weak and tired, possibly yet from post-COVID. In addition, I’m busy with catching up on various “business” things, as I let some things go during my downtime.

That said, I’ve been working on the next album, Songs in the Key of M. There’s a nice remake of “I’m Not Stopping” that’s nearly finished, with better audio and also a drum track, which the old version didn’t have. “I’m the Umm” is getting a new chord or two and one or two extra instruments. Writing extra instrument parts and an interlude for “Coffee” is a load of fun.

In addition, I’m still playing the open mic at Mocha Moment whenever I can, which is always fun too.