REVIEW: Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam (my personal experience)

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REVIEW: Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam (my personal experience)

Both during and after my one year at Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam studying the Advanced Diploma Music Production & Sound Engineering, I have been asked several times by friends and strangers alike about my experience at the course. So, I have decided to create a comprehensive overview of my experience, so that other prospective students can get to know a bit more about the course first-hand from a graduated student. CLICK TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

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Meeting Imogen Heap (again!) 8 years since our performance

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Meeting Imogen Heap (again!) 8 years since our performance

Exactly 8 years ago, I had the honour of meeting and performing with my idol, Imogen Heap. (It’s a long story, but the short version is that I had sent her a video audition to perform with her and she agreed! You can read that blog post here). Most recently, I got to meet her in person again! How crazy is that?

 
 

During the recent Amsterdam Dance Event, the DigitalOcean Amsterdam group organised a Meetup event and Imogen Heap was one of the two invited speakers! I was asked by my friend ex-digital-marketing-manager-turned-junior-developer Valerie to come! DigitalOcean is a network of software developers, so even though I didn’t really have much to contribute, I was lucky that the theme of the evening was music!

The first speaker was Piet van Dongen (from Luminis) and he showed off a very funny project The Internet of Drums, where you could program a drum beat on this webpage that would trigger a small drum machine, so the audience was busy sending musical and some non-musical beats from their phone.

After the break, Imogen Heap came to present her latest project Mycelia, and The Creative Passport. Mycelia (in my understanding haha!) comes from the problem that artists spend too much time and money submitting data to countless organisations, especially royalty collecting organisations and streaming services, which get outdated and are full of errors or even not made public, so the idea is to start an open-source database based on blockchain technology, where artists can populate their own data even down to gear used, inspiration, artwork credits, lyrics, and special thanks, and artists in the network can connect and verify each other, and these organisations then have a credible destination to source the data, which is always going to be updated and correct because there is only ever one version of it.

So if you’re a musician, and want to own your data, sign up to Mycelia (link below) and be one of the first to be part of the beta testing.

After the talk, I joined my friend and another of her colleague’s to talk to Imogen. Funny, that after 8 years, I was still as starstruck as before! Nothing much changes. My friend told her that I performed with her and she was so sweet, because then she gave me a hug even though she didn’t quite remember me. At first she said my face was familiar but couldn’t really pick from where. Then she said I performed the cello with her and she said it was on the song Aha!, but then I reminded her about performing her song Earth with her with a cello and a loop machine to a sold-out Melkweg. It was very cute, because after that when she was talking to some more people, she was promoting me and telling them the story of when we had performed together 8 years ago and I played the cello with a loop machine.

It was very cool to talk to her about her new project. I told her that I was always so impressed by her innovations and how she’s always up to something. I offered to assist or support in any way possible and then the idea of having a Creative Passport party in Europe was born and she said that after the beta is launched, she would get in contact.

So maybe we will actually meet again, and sooner than 8 years!

More Information:
DigitalOcean Amsterdam meetup - https://www.meetup.com/DigitalOceanAmsterdam/
Imogen Heap Official Website - http://www.imogenheap.com/
Mycelia Official Website - http://myceliaformusic.org/

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Graduating at Abbey Road Studios

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Graduating at Abbey Road Studios

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What an experience! Graduating at Abbey Road Studios with my fellow Abbey Road Institute classmates from all over the world: Amsterdam, Paris, London, Melbourne, Frankfurt and Berlin. The most exciting part was being on the stage to collect my Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering in Studio Two, home of The Beatles.

It felt very exclusive, with a lot of security, groups of tourists having a guided tour, no photography down the corridor where all the famous people who have recorded there are framed on the corridor walls, and strange, after so much anticipation, to be at the most famous recording studio in the world receiving my diploma.

We had a nice introduction, filled with inspiring words from the CEO of Abbey Road Institute Luca Barassi, and the heads of each school, including Amsterdam’s director Robin Reumers. Then, we got called up one by one on stage to receive our diploma, along with an engraved tuning fork (A 440Hz). After that, it was time for the networking and celebration event in Studio One where we had more speeches (to name some: Universal Music’s COO David Sharpe & MD Abbey Road Studios Isabel Garvey) and a captivating performance by Rhys Lewis.

While I was on Abbey Road, I thought I would do the touristy thing of taking a photo walking across the street like The Beatles cover. However, little did I expect that it was busy, not only from tourists, but of traffic! So many cars were passing on a Saturday morning, it was impossible to cross. So I ended up taking an alternative:

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One year has passed surprisingly fast! To think that one year ago, I could not call myself a “music producer”, and now, besides the piece of paper, I can say I am a music producer, whose last school project was to lead a recording of a rockabilly swing band with a 13-piece brass band, and my first project out of school was to be invited to compose a track for an advertisement for a panel at ADE, the biggest electronic music festival in the world. Pretty cool!

But I know it’s just the beginning. So, watch this space!

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Producing a track for ADE - Amsterdam Dance Event

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Producing a track for ADE - Amsterdam Dance Event

I was invited to compose a track for a panel discussion as part of ADE a.k.a. Amsterdam Dance Event, the biggest electronic music festival & conference in the world.

It came about a few weeks ago, when Steph Perrin - Head of Sync at Cloud 9 Music/Downtown Music Benelux (formerly Senior Music Supervisor at Felt Music) reached out to me by Facebook. We've known each other for about a year, when I came across her profile on LinkedIn and we met for coffee because I wanted to ask her some things about the music industry and getting into the world of music sync.

The panel wa: So You Think You Can Sync! and it was part of the ADE Pro / ADE Dance & Brands conferences. We were 8 producers and we were given a brief to create a soundtrack to a specific advertisement (NFL - Super Bowl XLIV Best Fans on the Planet commercial starring Reggie Bush’s famous touchdown), and a panel of 4 industry experts discussed our approach.

The event was on Friday 19th October at 16:15 - 17:30 at DeLaMar Theater (D8 Panel Room) | Marnixstraat 402, Amsterdam.

If you’re curious how my track sounded, here it is:

This is what Steph Perrin, Head of Sync (Cloud 9 Music/Downtown Benelux, NL) had to say:

“That kind of pounding beat in the beginning, I really liked it, it was very anticipative, it makes you think “God, what’s coming next?”. It built really well, the whole track did, and it had a nice ark to it which was really good. My only criticism from knowing how a client operates would be, when it comes to sound effects.. actually, I really like what you’ve done in terms of putting the crowd in and I think for the purpose of this it’s a really nice touch and you’ve thought about it and what the commercial is for but I don’t think an advertising agency might feel the same way. If they want sound effects, they tend to think about that themselves and do that separately. But as a track and as a piece, it was really nice and emotionally worked really well.”

Here’s what Connie Edwards, Music Supervisor (Major Tom, US) had to say:

“I really liked where you were coming from, when you said you wanted to incorporate the crowd. I think you probably could have done it differently, maybe stomping or clapping being used more as a texture rather than a straight sound effect. It’s a great ad to do this kind of stuff because you have got two clear halves. And what’s brilliant is each half is very very different, which makes the one one much more effective, so you’re really starting at one place and going to another which really helps with the journey rather than starting at a similar place and then ending up a little bit bigger than what you had before, so I liked that bridge”.

and Toby Williams, Music Supervisor (Leland Music, GB):

“Your instinct is great, because The Cinematic Orchestra are an act that are referenced endlessly by advertisers, so it is a great place to start, and I think your cello work obviously provides a lot; a great texture which is something tactile; you can touch it. Then, the two human elements; the heartbeat bass kick in the beginning I really liked, the crowd noise not so much, but I think as an experiment, it would be worth considering that it could be dealt with in collaboration with the agency. I can imagine it could be something that could help make it compelling, I’m not sure it’s executed quite right there. But overall good job.

Overall, I am happy with the feedback, and it was really a great experience. Hopefully this is the start of more sync work!

Producers (in order on the stage from Left to Right):
Gary Beck (GB)
DJ, Producer 

IVA (BO)
DJ, Producer

Homay Schmitz (DE) & Oliver Weder (CH)
Composers

Niklas Paschburg (DE)
Artist

The Wong Janice (NL)
Producer, Cellist

Kaiserdisco (DE)
DJ, Producer

Pershanoush (FR)
Artist

Chuckie (NL)
DJ, Producer

Panel list (from Moderator to Panelists Left to Right):
Josh Rabinowitz (Grey Worldwide, US)
SVP Director of Music

Steph Perrin (Cloud 9 Music/Downtown Benelux, NL)
Head of Sync

Connie Edwards (Major Tom, US)
Music Supervisor

Toby Williams (Leland Music, GB)
Music Supervisor

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Producing a track with Liloe Rix for Portugal. The Summer

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Producing a track with Liloe Rix for Portugal. The Summer

My friend, singer-songwriter/artist Liloe Rix found a really nice contest: to produce a cover of Portugal. The Man’s hit song Live In The Moment and the prize would be to have your track on an advertisement of Visit Portugal’s summer promotion and also to perform live at a Portuguese festival. This was the ask:

So, Liloe made a demo arrangement with her loop machine at home, and we met up to record vocals and guitar at her home studio. This was the first time I was Liloe’s Music Producer! We recorded the vocals with her RØDE microphone and Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 interface, her electric guitar, effect pedals (including Line 6 delay, Boss octaver) and Roland SPD. At my studio, I finished it off by recording a string arrangement and mixed and mastered the track. Unfortunately, we did not win the contest, but here is our final track:

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Recording Yung Nnelg for Red Bull Music uncut

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Recording Yung Nnelg for Red Bull Music uncut

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For this Red Bull Music uncut session, Dutch rapper Yung Nnelg came to perform a medley of two songs, Diamonds & Pearls / Serena with a string quintet! I was super excited because the classical strings were right up my alley, and I’ve never recorded classical stringed instruments before. The hip hop string arrangement was composed by Alexander van Popta. It was a unique collaboration! Yung Nnelg was a sweet, wide-eyed and polite guy, and his performance was clean and tight (also interesting with live auto-tune).

The last time I was around classical musicians was probably more than 10 years ago when I still played in an orchestra. How times have changed! The guys had an iPad each instead of sheet music, and two of the players had a foot switch to turn the pages.. The guy playing violin 2 had a 6 (!) string violin and the cellist had her pick-up installed inside the foot of the bridge. It was very interesting to talk to the musicians and see how it is as a string player to make a living in these times.

(A funny thing: I actually played in a music video for Kris Berry with the viola player 5 years ago, and I remembered her because of her name, Mara! How crazy is that?)

See the video below for the released uncut session!

See the gallery below of the set up of the microphones, and the list below of the mics we used:

Vocals: Sennheiser SM7B
Violin 1: Coles 4038 Ribbon Microphone
Violin 2: Coles 4038 Ribbon Microphone
Viola: AKG C451
Cello: Peluso P-12
Double Bass high: AKG C451
Double Bass low: Neumann U-87

Yung Nnelg’s crew:

Producer & String Arranger: Alexander van Popta
Violin 1: Çisem Özkurt
Violin 2: Yannick Hiwat
Viola: Mara Tieles
Cello: Susanne Rosmolen
Double Bass: Thomas Pol
Videographer: Kiet Hoang

For the full article on Red Bull Studios and photos (by Arenda de Hoop) see: https://www.redbull.com/nl-nl/music/Yung-nnelg-klassieke-remix-serena-diamonds-pearls

Recording & mix engineer: Thomas van Opstal
Assistant recording engineer: Janice Wong
Video production: Keanu Haumahu  
Studio manager: Jasper Djosa

Red Bull Studios Amsterdam
Official website: http://www.redbullstudios.com/amsterdam/studio
Address: Atlantisplein 1, 1093 NE Amsterdam

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GIG REVIEW: Tash Sultana at AFAS Live

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GIG REVIEW: Tash Sultana at AFAS Live

A friend from Melbourne told me about Tash Sultana a couple years ago, and she showed me the live bedroom recording of Jungle on YouTube. I still remember that we were paying for our brunch at a café (one of the Beany Greens) in London and I was impressed immediately!

It’s not the first time Tash has toured The Netherlands. She already toured last year at a smaller venue but I missed out. This year though, I got lucky, because my friend Liloe Rix bought me a ticket for my birthday!

Pierce Brothers were the support act. They were like the extraverted younger cousins of Xavier Rudd and John Butler with didgeridoo, stomp box, open tuning and a hint of Walk Off The Earth with the two hands/one fretboard coordination. SO much energy! And audience participation.. it’s hard to be a support act, but they definitely proved themselves a solid musical duo capable of warming up the crowd for Tash Sultana.

But we were there for Tash. A one-woman show with acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, trumpet, pan flute (which she said was the best 50 cents she had every spent in Thailand), synths, drum pads, loops, effects pedals and more equipment I wish I could get a closer glimpse of! My favourite was her octaver though, I really want to know which one she used, because it sounded so subby on her voice and guitar.

The audience was really chill. She remarked that it was great that her audience was made up of all types, not just one gender, race or age. I noticed a lot of young people. generally more girls than boys, many girl couples, and a very international crowd which was why I saw many girls who were on the shorter side. Usually at a concert full of Dutch people I’m trying to see through armpits. Tash herself has a bit of a hippy vibe, with an Indian pattern blanket covering her synths, playing barefoot, salt-rock light holders and incense that for a while was strong, until all I could smell was weed. I have no idea where that was coming from!

She set out her ‘rules’ very quickly after her opening song. They were: 1. If you’re homophobic, get the fuck out of here. 2. If you’re racist, get the fuck out of here. 3. If you’re transphobic, get the fuck out of here.

There was a lot of live looping and improvising, and a lot of smiles from her! Tash was having so much fun on stage! The crowd was incredibly quiet and respectful (at least where I was standing), which is very rare for Dutch crowds, who are usually hands full of beer, loud and aggressive. Having said that, Tash said that the Dutch audience was so ‘polite’, and she said she hadn’t had a bra thrown at her yet, or in South America there were people trying to get into her hotel room at 4am.. wtf.

She played for a total of 2 hours without much of a break. She performed tracks from her latest Flow State album, which has more synths than her previous stuff which is guitar-based.

It was easy to get in a trance while listening to the songs. At some point I got lost in which song I was listening to, and some of them blurred into one another, indeed like a flow state. When she performed Jungle, the song on YouTube that has now 21M views, I saw a lot of phones starting to record, which I hadn’t seen too many phones previously. This crowd was really chill, like I said. And at a certain point, when there was the break of the song, I looked around, and I saw a lot of people smiling, some closing their eyes, but simultaneously smiling and enjoying the same moment altogether. It was such a magical moment.

Tash said she would be playing at Ziggo Dome next year, which is an even bigger stadium. That’s so great for her! Just a girl, once busking on Bourke street in Melbourne, to filling up stadiums around the world.. what an inspiration.

More about Tash Sultana:

Official Website: http://www.tashsultana.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tashsultanamusic/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6zVFRTB0Y1whWyH7ZNmywf

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REVIEW: Beyerdynamic DT 770 vs. DT 990 headphones

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REVIEW: Beyerdynamic DT 770 vs. DT 990 headphones

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Are you looking for a good quality headphone for recording, mixing and mastering at a good price? Maybe you’ve heard about Beyerdynamic DT series and don’t understand the differences. So I’m going to compare the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250 Ohm (closed) and DT 990 Edition 250 Ohm (open) and tell you which one I use for which purpose.

[Before I start, I’d like to say why I am reviewing the DT 990 Edition and not the DT 990 Pro. The DT 990 Edition was released as a “home” listening headphone for high-end audio speakers, however, on their website, they say that both DT 990 headphones use exactly the same technology inside, so the only difference is aesthetically (1. the straight vs. coiled cable, 2. softer headband on Edition, and 3. colour). I preferred the straight cable so it was a no brainer.]

Now, back to the comparison of 770 and 990. First I’d like to point out the similarities:

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN DT 770 250 Ohm and DT 990 250 Ohm

  • Comfort. Both headphones are incredibly comfortable to wear over the ears. Spongy ear cups and the headband is not too tight.

  • Soundwise, both are very clear and crisp in sound. The bass is not exaggerated like in some other headphones, so for listening and mixing pleasure, it’s rather suitable for acoustic music, and not music where the bass is key e.g. electronic music/hip hop. Frequency-wise, they both sound pretty similar to me.

  • Price. For the quality of the headphones, the price is very good. Good quality headphones can go up to 1000s of Euros along with headphone amps and other high-end stuff, but these are both studio-grade headphones and the DT 770 Pro is a standard in good recording studios for tracking (we use them at Abbey Road Institute (Amsterdam) and Red Bull Studios Amsterdam).

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DT 770 250 Ohm and DT 990 250 Ohm

  • The biggest difference is that DT 990 has an open back and DT 770 has a closed back. This means that DT 990 is better for mixing and mastering, while DT 770 is better for recording. This is because the close-back of the DT 770 reduces the spill of the headphone into the microphone. The DT 990 is less tiring while using for long periods. It has an open back and you can listen for hours, for listening or for mixing and mastering. However, because the DT 990 is open, it means that you can hear external noise very easily and they can hear you. So if someone next to you is watching something on their phone on speaker, it can be very hard for both parties (but mostly more annoying for you). The DT 770 protects you more from outside noise. It is not noise-cancelling, but it does a good job.

  • If open and close back is not your concern, the most obvious difference to me in the sound is the spatial difference. The stereo image in the DT 990 is incredibly accurate from left to right, front to back, and you can really hear where each instrument or sound is placed.

  • The straight vs. curly cable. The DT 990 Edition comes with a straight cable, so it doesn’t have the weight to bounce around if you are on the move, or not sitting at a table.

(I won't go into technical specs, as you can compare on the Beyerdynamic website).

OVERALL COMMENTS (and concerns)

  • My biggest concern is that frequency-wise, it is not at all flat, but it is good to know where the peaks and troughs are so you keep it in mind while mixing. The treble boost is really noticeable and oftentimes, the bass is nowhere to be heard. To combat this issue, I can recommend a plugin called Reference 4 by Sonarworks, that gives you a more flat response and removes the unwanted colouration from headphones. You insert it as the last plugin on your DAW and choose your headphones from the list. It is not a free plugin, but it’s definitely worth it, if you are mixing with only one reference (for example, if you don’t have different pairs of headphones and speakers to compare your mixes)

  • Both headphones are 250 Ohm, which are suitable for high-end audio gear. However, I’ve had quite a lot of trouble using these headphones while on the road, connected to my phone or laptop, as I could never quite get enough volume, especially on public transport. (For on the road headphones, check out my review on Bowers & Wilkins P5)

  • You cannot remove the cable, therefore you cannot exchange the curly one with the straight one and vice versa. (That’s why I went with the Edition, as the curly cable bounces around and pulls on the headphone which I don’t like).

At Bax-shop (a Dutch retailer), the DT 770 250 Ohm are selling for €116, DT 990 Edition for €159 (and DT 990 Pro 250 Ohm €122).

If price isn’t an issue and you’re currently comparing some other brands, for open-back, I can recommend Sennheiser HD650 (open) which are €354, more than twice the price of the DT 990 Edition, and are also very honest sounding and pleasurable to work with. For me, the DT 990 had a slightly more detailed sound and better spatial accuracy, which was more important to me than the frequency spectrum. (Sonarworks has a deal for €699 where you can buy the full software for headphones and speakers + the Sennheiser HD650. They also have a student/academic/educational discount so it is worth checking out). Some people might recommend headphones by AKG, but I’ve tried headphones from AKG and I don’t like the way they feel on my head. They feel less rugged and make a lot of noise when moving around on your ears.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips, or feedback on the above!

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Recording Full Crate for Red Bull Music uncut

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Recording Full Crate for Red Bull Music uncut

Life is full of such weird coincidences! For my latest recording session at Red Bull Studios, we recorded producer/DJ Full Crate, who coincidentally I had been in contact with in 2011 to collaborate, but eventually never met up. 7 years later, (a social media marketing career behind me and on my way to becoming a music producer) I was to be the assistant recording engineer at his session! 

He brought his band, with whom he performed for the first time live with, and two soloists Gaidaa on latest single 'A Storm On A Summers Day' and Luke Burr from the UK on currently unreleased track 'A Fool Getting Older'. Such a vibe, and the video shows it. Everything was done to perfection, from getting the piano tuned during rehearsal, to the smoke machine, to recording as many (one-take) takes until everyone was satisfied! And the result is amazing. Crate cited Disclosure as inspiration for his live set and the addition of the live instruments and sample pads were definitely a key to the epic performance. 

See the photo gallery below for a close up of the beautiful microphones I set up ;-) Here's a quick rundown of which ones we used:

Lead vocal: Peluso P-12 tube
Full Crate vocal: Shure SM58
Backing vocals: Shure SM7B
Room choir: AKG 414 Gold
Piano back: Neumann U-87 (not shown in the photos)
Piano stereo pair: Coles 4028 ribbon
Overhead L: AKG 414
Overhead R: AKG 414
Kick in: Shure Beta 52
Kick out: AGK 414
Snare top: AKG C 451 B
Snare bottom: Sennheiser 421
High-hat: AKG C 451 B
Tom: Sennheiser 421
Floor tom: Electro-Voice RE-20
Drum room: Neumann TLM 103

Luke was filming some footage for his fans and I found myself in his YouTube video checking the headphones before the recording session! Watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQEgSSTVEkw

Full Crate's band:
Full Crate: vocals, electric bass, SPD sample pad
Piano & synths (Juno 60 & Prophet) - Alexander Klement
Drums - BangBang Sharona
Backing vocals: Aïcha Gill, Kaydee, Saïda en Ella Alexander

For the full article on Red Bull Studios and photos (by Arenda de Hoop) see: https://www.redbull.com/nl-nl/full-crate-live-sessie-red-bull-music

Recording & mix engineer: Thomas van Opstal
Assistant recording engineer: Janice Wong
Video production: Keanu Haumahu  
Studio manager: Jasper Djosa

Red Bull Studios Amsterdam
Official website: http://www.redbullstudios.com/amsterdam/studio
Address: Atlantisplein 1, 1093 NE Amsterdam

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Working at Red Bull Studios Amsterdam as Assistant Audio Engineer

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Working at Red Bull Studios Amsterdam as Assistant Audio Engineer

Proud to announce that I am now interning as Assistant Audio Engineer at Red Bull Studios in Amsterdam! (Although in this photo pretending to be the Head Engineer... oh how I wish I could brag that it was me who patched that spaghetti mess of patch cables on the SSL analog console in the background of the photo!). 

So far I have worked on an audio recording for Paa Kofi, livestream for Arp Frique, and "uncut" videos for Full Crate and Yung Nnelg. Stay tuned for my blog posts of each session, where I will give insights to which microphones we used and microphone recording techniques. 

And as a side story, how cool is this: after I posted about my internship on Instagram, @the_wimn (The Women's International Music Network) Instagram account reposted my picture on their Instagram story to congratulate me! I thought that was pretty encouraging. They are a network who promote females in the music industry because women are a minority in the business. I would be happy to inspire more younger girls to follow a career in music!

 

 

 

More about Red Bull Studios Amsterdam:
Website: http://www.redbullstudios.com/amsterdam/studio
Address: Q-Factory Atlantisplein 1, 1093 NE Amsterdam

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REVIEW: ADAM Audio T7V vs. AX7 studio monitors

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REVIEW: ADAM Audio T7V vs. AX7 studio monitors

[update: one of my readers pointed out that it is actually A7X not AX7! So I’ve updated the body text but not the headline, so not to disrupt the Google indexing :-P]

I had been eyeing ADAM Audio speakers for a while now, but still holding off until I got more impressions from others, knowledge about the competition and generally waiting until I saved up enough money! Let's face it, ADAM speakers are not the cheapest out there. I had been considering the AX range, which are considered crossover of high end home studio recordings and pro audio. But to pay €1098 for a pair of A7X, €778 for a pair of the 5-inch A5X or a whopping €518 for a pair of the smallest of the range, A3X was enough to make (an aspiring music producer in the making like) me feel sick! 

The first time I went to Bax Shop in Amsterdam to check studio monitors, there was a DJ who gave me a tip to buy the ADAM Audio speakers. I don't know who he was, but I definitely kept it in mind. I listened to all speakers and the AX range were definitely the ones that stood out to me in terms of amount and smoothness of the detail, however there was something really off-putting about the bass of the A5X. It was boomy and I predicted that I would fatigue after some time of listening. 

So I left it and a couple months later I returned to Bax to listen again with a fresh ear and new impressions. Since the last time, I had spoken to several other musicians and producers and more often than not, ADAM speakers had a good reputation. This time they had the new T series on showcase, which is the entry-level affordable consumer speaker to compete with the likes of Yamaha HS series, JBL LSR305, KRK RP series to name a few. 

Anyway, with my heart set on one of the ADAM AX series, I decided anyway to do a blind test and listen to all the speakers in the room and rank them. To my surprise, I actually discarded the A5X! WHAT! Incredible. So when the shop assistant came by, I asked him to check the boost settings on the back because I remembered from last time that I felt something was off with the bass. He checked the right monitor and indeed, it was boosted in the bass, and in the treble! WOW, I was so proud of my own ears and glad that I could now make a more honest comparison. 

In the end, it all came down to the ADAM AX and T. They both had such an honest and detailed sound, rich and never harsh. Some of the competitors were harsh in the treble (Yamaha HS), or overall muffled (KRK), or just not as exciting (Focal Alpha, HEDD). 

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN T7V and A7X

  • The most obvious being the sound quality.. of course AX being cleaner, and more detailed in every way (stereo image and frequency response) than the T.

  • AX has stereo link.

  • AX has the bass port at the front (not back like on the T), along with the volume control.

  • AX has High/Low Shelf options (boost and attenuate) and T has High/Low Pass Filter, so no boost.

  • Price. A pair of 2 x T7Vs is already 150 Euros cheaper than 1 x A7X. No more needs to be said.

Besides that (and I won't go into technical specs, as you can compare on the ADAM Audio website), there are few differences. I think for the price/quality is absolutely unbeatable, and for that reason alone, I went for the T7V. 

After taking them home, I listened to some CDs and the sound was brilliant! The bass was really rich and I was glad to finally have some nice woofers in the house, rather than bass-less desktop computer speakers! (TIP: listen to CDs or vinyls when possible! Even Premium Spotify streaming will not give you the listening pleasure in good speakers)

I only have 3 concerns about the T7V and they are as follows:

1. On the back there is a dB level control but there is no groove on the pot at 0 dB so you don't know can't know if you're exactly on 0 and no stereo link so you can't be sure if both speakers are the same level. 

2. I heard some popping sounds from the speakers, which decreased when I bought new RCA cables, but I have a feeling it is the dirty electricity in my apartment. I need to verify it another time using new XLR cables and in another place! [update: the popping noise stopped when using a good audio interface and XLR cables in another location. HOWEVER, now with a good studio set up, I noticed some white noise from the speakers. So the speakers are not completely quiet! It is not noticeable when listening to audio, but if you’re sitting in silence with the monitors on, you can hear it. To try to reduce it, I set the gain on the back of the speakers to North-West (or at 10 O’clock) which is below 0dB and use the gain on my audio interface, which doesn’t increase the noise at all even on the highest setting.]

3. The woofer cone is not made with very very much attention as you can see the sloppy glueing. Not a deal breaker, I'm just being picky. (see photos below)

In summary, go for the A7X if you have the money! If money is no issue, T7V is absolutely the best entry-level near-field studio monitors on the market. 

[As a side note, for a higher price bracket, the Focal Alpha 65 and HEDD Type 05 came a close second and third in the blind test after the A7X, for their detailed and flat frequency response, but I felt that compared to the ADAM speakers they were slightly 'dull'. Not a bad thing, but I think I would like to be inspired when making music and if I don't feel warm listening to even my favourite songs, then something is wrong.]

I paid €395 for a pair of T7Vs at Bax Shop: https://www.bax-shop.nl/studio-monitors/adam-t7v-actieve-studiomonitor-set-van-twee

Official ADAM Audio website: https://www.adam-audio.com/en/

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VIDEO: Paul Freeman - Closer Still (live in Sint Nicolaaskapel)

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VIDEO: Paul Freeman - Closer Still (live in Sint Nicolaaskapel)

It was my first time meeting Welsh singer Paul Freeman, and from the first greeting he was so lovely! I also met Marlous (Revanche Records) and Paul's manager Tommy (Merrill Artists Group) and they were just as lovely! It's so lovely to work with people so lovely! 

Our goal today was to film two songs, Closer Still and Heroes in the beautiful Sint Nicolaaskapel in Nijmegen (also known as Valkhofkapel). It was so much fun! The film crew even used a drone to capture the footage and that was so cool. 

Thanks a lot to Jordy and Marjolein from We Blend It for the amazing footage and the recording engineer whose name has unfortunately escaped me (but it was a woman and I was proud!). 

Photos above by Marjolein van Veldhuizen.

Check out more about Paul Freeman:
Official website: http://thepaulfreeman.com/

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Performing at King's Night Festival 2018 at HOMOMONUMENT

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Performing at King's Night Festival 2018 at HOMOMONUMENT

I was honoured to be invited to perform electric cello at the King's Night Festival 2018 at the iconic HOMOMONUMENT in Amsterdam!

Check out the short movie I made below:

Songs: Testify - Hifi Sean feat. Crystal Waters (Rhythm Masters Vocal Mix), Bromance - Avicii (Greco NYC Tribute Mix)

What an amazing crowd and energy on stage with:

★ THE YARRR DJS ★ Aka. DJ T + Nata Babaju + Goldie Chatsworth

And Additional Featured Artists:

★ JOSHUA SERRAO ★ (Sax man Live Jam Session) ★ ANNIKA ★ (MC Special Guest) ★ MR ROSE ★ (Stage Dancer) ★ AL ' THIRSTY ' STRACHAN ★ (Stage Dancer) ★ FOEF ★ (Stage Dancers) 

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Recording Arp Frique for Red Bull Music Live Stream

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Recording Arp Frique for Red Bull Music Live Stream

For my very first session at Red Bull Studios as Assistant Recording Engineer, I had to set up the microphones for Arp Frique, a band that had soooo many members and I was lucky that I had Rinus, another engineer there to guide me :-) So many cables, so many different kinds of mic stands and microphones.. my head was definitely getting overloaded!

Photo above: the sound check, the day before the live stream.

Photo below: the mess in the live room!

The next evening, I couldn’t be there at the live stream itself, but managed to watch it live from Facebook, which got 100k views!

Re-live the session and watch below:

Or if you prefer to give YouTubea few more views, click here.

Here's the list of mics and pre-amps we used:
Room L: Coles 4038 Ribbon Microphone
Room R: Coles 4038 Ribbon Microphone
Flute: Zender | Blue
Voc 1 M: Sennheiser SM58 | 1073LB
Voc 2 AB: Sennheiser SM7B | GR-1
Voc 3 Niels: Sennheiser SM7B | GR-2
SH2000: J48 | D4
Perc OH L: AKG C414 | 710-1
Perc OH R: AKG 414 | 710-2
Conga L: Sennheiser MD421
Conga R: Sennheiser MD421
Timb L: Sennheiser MD421 Bottom
Timb R: Sennheiser MD421 Bottom
GTR: Sennheiser MD421U | API-2
Bass DI: Avalon (4) | LA610 |
OH: Neumann U67 | Neve-1
Kick: Sennheiser Beta 52 | API-1
Snare top: AKG C414 | Neve-2
Snare bot: Sennheiser SM57
HH: AKG 451
Tom 1: Sennheiser e904
Tom 2: Sennheiser e904
Floor: Sennheiser MD421
Voc 4 Bass: Sennheiser SM7B | GR-3
Voc 5 Ld Vox: Sennheiser SM7B
Voc Jasper: Sennheiser SM58
ARP: JDI | 710-3
Solina: JDI | 710-4
Sampler: L JDI
Sampler: R JDI

Recording & mix engineer: Thomas van Opstal
Assistant recording engineers: Rinus van Diemen, Janice Wong
Studio manager: Jasper Djosa

Red Bull Studios Amsterdam
Official website: http://www.redbullstudios.com/amsterdam/studio
Address: Atlantisplein 1, 1093 NE Amsterdam

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GIG REVIEW: Pete Philly at Ekko, Utrecht

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GIG REVIEW: Pete Philly at Ekko, Utrecht

The first (and last) time I saw Pete Philly perform was 8 (!) years ago! After that, he stopped his collaboration with Perquisite and kind of disappeared. I spotted him recently on the Red Bull Music Netherlands Instagram channel where he announced new material and his comeback tour.. woah! I was really curious what he was up to and how his sound had evolved! He was playing quite small venues and they sold out really quickly, but since I follow him on Instagram, I saw that he was promoting a secret 'trial' gig at Ekko in Utrecht on his Instagram stories. The ticket was something like 8 euros so it was a no brainer! I bought tickets straight away. 

Something that had evolved about Pete Philly was his overall swag. His clothes and moves were full of cool and charisma. He had his producer set up on a laptop behind and his 4 b(l)ack up singers, 2 girls and 2 guys who each had their own dance style which was funny to see. 

He sang his latest singles Favorite Song and Come Together and for a small venue, really got the crowd going! Everyone was really dancing along. It was really great to see such a great reaction to an artist who needs to present himself again after so long.  

Check out more about Pete Philly:

Official website: https://www.petephilly.com/ and below his Red Bull Music Live Session. 

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Performing with Paul Freeman on NPO Radio 2's Roodshow

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Performing with Paul Freeman on NPO Radio 2's Roodshow

I had the privilege of performing with Welshman Paul Freeman on national Dutch radio! It was the NPO Radio 2's late night Roodshow with Jan-Willem Roodbeen where we performed in the iconic living room of the studio in front of the brown leather couch with pillows with "meatloaf" and "keane" written on them. 

Check out our live performance of Closer Still above. 

The song Closer Still he wrote for Netflix series Marvel's Jessica Jones. He is featured performing this song on Season 2 Episode 5 (see screenshot below). 

Check out more about Paul Freeman:
http://thepaulfreeman.com/

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Performing with Paul Freeman at Countdown Cafe

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Performing with Paul Freeman at Countdown Cafe

It was full evening of radio appearances with Welshman Paul Freeman! First we performed Closer Still, Loneliness and Heroes at NH Radio's Countdown Café and then we rushed off to NPO Radio 2's Late Night Roodshow. I loved performing at Countdown Café because I had my Abbey Road family there supporting me (thanks guys!)! The Countdown Café is recorded in the Q factory where I study. I worked a couple times as a mixing engineer for the radio broadcast for Kees Baars. 

Even though it was the first time performing with Paul with an audience, it went really smoothly and it was so much fun! Thank you Paul for taking me on! 

See us performing Closer Still below. Closer still is a song written by Paul and is featured in Marvel's Jessica Jones season 2 episode 5. 

See us performing Heroes below:

Photos by Jasper Derksen 

Check out Paul Freeman's official website: http://thepaulfreeman.com/

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Performing at Yarrr's Girl Drop at Cut Throat

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Performing at Yarrr's Girl Drop at Cut Throat

A couple months ago I got in contact with a couple electric violinists based in Amsterdam who inspired me to try playing electric cello with a DJ.. so after buying some effects pedals (Micro POG & Big Sky) I got my first gig, playing at the alternative Girl Drop bar hangout at Cut Throat organised by the lovely ladies at Yarrr. Although it was not my first time playing with DJ Nata Babaju. I'd jammed years ago with her back then when they had live jam nights at The House of Rising. It took me a few years to get back on track, but this time I was introduced as electric cellist The Wong Janice and played for a very attentive audience for a good part of an hour! It was so much fun!

Big love and ups to Willa, Nata and Tessa for this opportunity! 

P.S. Here I am playing my 5-string electric cello by NS Design, the CR5P from CR Series

I played to a set of Tribal House with artists like Be Svendsen, Dole & Kom, Mollono.Bass, Oceanvs Orientalis and others.. Listen below or click here to follow the playlist

I just had to laugh at someone who commented on the Facebook photo album after the photos were uploaded. 

More about the amazing venue Cut Throat Barber Brunch & Bar (really, you have to check this place out): 
Address: Beursplein 5, 1012 JW Amsterdam
Website: http://www.cutthroatbarber.nl/

I am performing on the NS Design CR5 5 string electric cello by Ned Steinberger

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GIG REVIEW: Camille at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels

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GIG REVIEW: Camille at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels

I first saw Camille in 2009 in Melbourne when she toured with the album Music Hole, and without exaggeration it was one of the top 2 concerts I have ever seen in my life. Knowing this, and also listening to the latest album OUI, I was a bit skeptical that seeing her ever again would be ever as great as the first time (in my experience this is the case and now I don't tend to re-see artists). But I decided to hunt down a show anyway and see for myself. She was not touring anywhere in The Netherlands so I started looking at shows in France and Belgium. Finally I decided on a long weekend away with Bianca to Brussels including a concert to see Camille! 

Firstly, the venue, Ancienne Belgique was really clean and caters for everyone. There were around 20 rows of theatre seats at the back (mostly filled with people with white hair!), then 2 or 3 balcony levels which were for the smaller members of the audience (like us and children!) and also place for disabled. I was actually very surprised to see how age-diverse the crowd was. Although if you asked me, I couldn't pin-point what kind of crowd Camille appeals to. 

What I really liked about the concert was that it was a full show, with details on the lights, colours, clothes, and performance of all singers and musicians, not just the musicality. And this was really impressive. The percussionist had a drum with a light shining on it which looked like the moon. The percussionist had a whole kit with electronic drums with different samples. At one point, the whole band turned into a marching band and walked through the whole crowd. Then Camille asked the audience to come up and sing with her. Everything about the whole show was engaging and Camille herself was so crazy, but perfectly controlled. She is really a genius and true performer. 

What added even more to the buzz was that the crowd was so amazing. They were respectful (not talking like the Dutch) and cheered SO loudly that the reverberation of the hall echoed everywhere and gave so much energy to the band and Camille herself. 

I have to say, although I already kind of had an expectation about the concert, I was definitely NOT disappointed. In fact, very happily surprised, and next time I know not to ever ever doubt Camille..

With a strike of luck, I even picked up the set list :-)

More about Camille:

Official website: http://www.camilleofficiel.fr/

If you are on a phone, watch the below (the song is called Je ne mâche pas) with headphones. It's shot so you can see 360 degrees and it is absolutely brilliant.

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