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In this post I’ll talk to you guys about one of the most important aspects of audio engineering, setting up and tuning your monitors for a room.
To understand the concepts of this post you will need to understand the basics of Acoustics like Standing Waves, Nodes and Antinodes, Sound Reflection, Diffusion, and Absorption.
If you haven’t heard of these concepts before I suggest you do a quick google search, understand them and then come back to this Blog Post.

Okay, so I’m going to break this down into 5 Simple Steps:

The first step to understanding and setting up a good listening environment is to understand exactly how your speaker sounds.

Ronak Runwal Tweet
Step no. 1
Understand your Speaker
The first step to understanding and setting up a good listening environment is to understand exactly how your speaker sounds. In all when we look at the sound of a room there are two factors involved.
1. The sound of the Speakers
2. The sound of the Room
It is practically impossible to have a perfect anchor point without having a judgment of these two aspects.
What do I mean by the sound of the speakers?
Okay, I’m sure you have heard many songs on different speakers and noticed that different elements of a song are exaggerated on different speakers. This happens because of the frequency response of the speakers itself.
Some speakers might be bright, some might be dull, some might be boomier i.e have more bass, etc.
To give you some examples the Neumann KH120A are more Mid Driven Speakers and you can clearly see it in the frequency response. Whereas, the HS5’s are more exaggerated in the upper high frequencies.
You can go through the manual of your speaker and find out the frequency response to get a starting point to understand the sound of your speakers. Once you know this, you can then move on to understanding the sound of room and finding a position that compliments the speaker with the room.
Step no. 2
Understand your Room

When sound is created between any two fixed limits, like the walls of a room, it creates something called standing waves.
This is a byproduct of the physical nature of reflection of sound waves and the main factor that defines the sound of a room. These standing waves are determined by the dimensions of a room i.e the L x B x H.
In most cases with home listening environments, we won’t have the ability to change the dimensions of a room, so we will work the other way round and set the speakers for the best possible setup for that room.
Although if you have a room that’s a perfect square, chances are that turning this room into a critical listening environment will be practically impossible.
You can use a simple tool like room Mode Calculator to find the Nodes and Antinodes in your Room.

Step no. 3
Find the best placement of Speaker according to Room
Now that you know what your Room and Speakers sound like, the next step is to align the speakers in a way to get the best out of your room.
1. Start with your speakers aligned to the back wall of your room and form an equilateral triangle along the longest dimension of your room.
2. Make sure that the speakers are equally angled and the point just before where they merge will be the sweet spot.
3. Now using a signal generator listen to the low frequencies i.e 20 Hz to 200Hz and see if you get any sudden build ups or cancellations.
4. Chances are based on the Room nodes you will find some frequencies building up and cancelling in the room.
5. Repeat the same process over the Low Mid and High Frequencies.
6. Now move the speakers away from the front wall and bring them more towards the back wall.
7. You will reach a point where the response of the room will flatten the further you move away from the front wall. ( It will usually lie around 3/8 the length of the room but keep doing this exercise in small increments from the front wall, so you hear the difference in the room.

Now comes the question of pairing the speakers with your room, if you inherently have speakers that don’t generate too much low end you can use Boundary Interference i.e SBIR to bring out the lower frequencies in the room, though you should ideally do this only after treating your front wall.
If your speakers are generating a lot of high mid frequencies you need to treat the sidewalls or your first reflection points to reduce the buildup. Now the question arises of how to measure these changes in the sound of the speakers as you move them?

That’s where the next step comes into play.
Step no. 4
Using REW

REW is free software that lets you measure the frequency response of the room.
You can download it off the website at https://www.roomeqwizard.com/
You can go through a simple software guide to understand how to use this software.

Measure the response of your speakers along with these points and use the information from the graphs to find out the best point where the frequency response of the speakers and room flattens out.

Ensure that you’re marking the positions that you place the speakers in so you can revert to them at a later stage.
Step no. 5
Basic Room Treatment

Once you’ve found a good spot around the length of the room you can look at doing some basic sound treatment for your room to bring out the best possible sound out of them.
1. Start by creating Bass Traps
2. Treat the first reflection points
3. Absorb the back wall
4. Absorb and Angle the Ceiling and Side Walls
5. Create a Reflection Free Zone
I will cover the basic Room Treatment Topics in another blog post. Till then you can refer to the Amazing Eathen Wieners Articles at https://realtraps.com/articles.htm

Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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This is a common dilemma I’ve seen in students before they join the audio engineering course. If you’re in the same boat, this blog can hopefully give you some much needed perspective.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of Audio Engineering and Sound Engineering Courses push students interested in Music, towards Sound Engineering, the argument for which is that a Sound Engineering Degree will make their career opportunities legitimate.
There are two flaws with this thought process,
-Becoming a Sound Engineer does not necessarily make you a better musician.
-Sound Engineering requires a completely different set of tools and skills as opposed to becoming a Musician
These students are then often seen after the end of their course realizing that they joined the course for some very different reasons.

I’m going to describe below a few skills and traits that one should look for if they are interested in heading into this field.
These pointers are a few things that I believe every student wanting to get into this field should already have or if not, develop. I hear a lot of students saying that they are extremely passionate about Sound and Music and that they are willing to put in all the time to get to learn and develop these skills.

The way I look at these things is quite different, Passion for me is an outcome of hard work, its not the cause.
To simplify the statement, I believe that the students will become truly passionate about Audio if they put in the time to develop these skills.

Passion for me is an outcome of hard work, its not the cause.

Tweet
No. 1
Technical Details
As the name itself suggest Audio Engineering will require you to work with a lot of technical information, i.e How Microphones Work, How Analog to Digital Converters works, etc.
Having or building a keen interest in these technical subjects for Audio Engineering is a must.
If talking about a microphone, or the electronics of speakers and other audio equipment bores you then maybe you should work on developing an interest before you head into a course.
No. 2
Problem Solving
This is something that you will tackle as an Audio Engineer almost every day. This could be anything from figuring out why the signal isn’t coming into your DAW to being able to decipher if there is any problem with the electrical wiring. As an audio engineer, you will be faced with solving many of these problems and if not exciting they should at least not feel like a tremendous chore.
This is the biggest flaw I have noticed with students, also the biggest reason for students dropping out.
No. 3
Imaginative Thinking / Creative Thinking
This goes without saying that an audio engineer should be able to think outside the box from time to time. Audio Engineering is a field that requires a mix of both technical knowledge as well as creative thinking. You should be able to think creatively not just about solving problems, but also when it comes to rethinking a certain set approach.
Unlike traditional Engineering, Audio Engineer doesn’t have physical rules that bound our work and sometimes bending these rules is what leads to discovery or an approach we would never think possible.
Students who are able to think outside the box are usually the ones who end up becoming the most successful.
No. 4
Intermediate IT and Computer Skills
In the modern recording world, all recordings are done solely using Computers, and although it goes without saying that computer skillset is something that is a must for everyone to know in the 21st century I have come across quite a few students who fall very short.
You must not only know how to use a computer but also have an intermediate understanding of how Operating Systems work, how software is installed into the system. How the computer allocates RAM to certain Processes, How the computer performs basic calculations etc.
Students that are more tech-savvy with computers are naturally able to tackle a lot of software issues and usually tend to stay ahead of the curve.
No. 5
People Skills
Ah! This is the most basic yet most overlooked aspect. As an audio engineer, you will at any point in time be interacting with multiple people. Students who find it hard to interact with people or are uncomfortable in social scenarios quickly become tired and drawn out from the field.
One must learn how to make a person comfortable in their space and more often than not these “persons” will be musicians.
A withdraw student usually finds it very hard to communicate and put his point across to the client, thereby limiting their creative interaction with finally affects the work they do.
In conclusion, you should have at least 3 out of these 5 traits before you commit yourself to become an audio engineer, and if you don’t have them work on yourself on building these traits and you will build a passion towards this field that will ensure your success!
Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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In the last post about Audio Cables we covered all Analog Cables, in this post I will give you guys a look into digital Cables that are commonly used in audio engineering and their purposes.

If you’ve read through the Analog and Digital blog, by now you know what the difference between the two is, Analog signals are continuous signals that carry information like Voltage, Current etc whereas Digital Cables transmit Binary Data that our computers understand.

No. 1
USB Cable
This is the most common cable that one would see in a recording/production setup. These cables are used on Soundcards and for MIDI Devices like an Ableton Push, or a MIDI Keyboard. They work by transmitting digital signal generated by these devices to the computer.

There are a bunch of usb cables out there, the one that I referred to earlier is the USB 2.0 to USB 3 cable or also commonly referred to as the “Printer Cable”
No. 2
FireWire
Though the firewire system is pretty much outdated, there are still a few Interfaces and systems that rely on FW. There are two types of firewire cables namely the FW400 and FW800.
400 and 800 stands for the transfer rate of both of these cables. viz. 400Mbytes/s and 800MB/s respectively. You also get adaptors to convert an 800 pin to a 400 pin.
No. 3
Thunderbolt
The Thunderbolt system was put together by Apple and Intel in early 2011 and has gone through many iterations to the TB we know now. Thunderbolt 3 systems use a Type C cable to transmit data and they do so at a staggering transfer rate of 40G/s.

Most of the audio interfaces like the UA Apollo and Apogee use these for effective transfer of data. Using the TB connectors these interfaces are capable of transferring the converted Analog signal at a high speed without causing any buffer issues.
No. 4
TOSLINK
These are Optical fiber cables that transmit digital data using ADAT formatting. These cables are usually used to connect two interfaces to each other using the ADAT for expanding the Input and Output capability. They can transmit multiple channels of audio through a single cable, making them a great option if you’re trying to reduce the number of cables in your studio.
No. 5
Digital Coaxial or SPIDIF

Digital coaxial cables are used to send S/PDIF-formatted digital signals between devices, and use RCA connectors. One digital coaxial cable is capable of transferring two channels of uncompressed PCM audio, or compressed 5.1/7.1 surround sound; this is possible due to the fact that digital coaxial cables transmit digital signals, and not analog signals.

No. 6
MIDI Cable
MIDI cables unlike USB cables carry only MIDI information from a device and transmits this information in form of pules to an interface to convert it into information that a DAW can understand.
MIDI cables can be used to record MIDI in a DAW or also be used to send MIDI signals back into a device like a Keyboard from a DAW.
This comes in hand when you want to quantize midi information in a DAW and then record this quantized information back from the Keyboard.
No. 7
BNC Cable
A word clock cable is a coaxial cable with a BNC connector on each end; it’s used to sync the internal clocks of multiple digital devices in your studio. BNC (Bayonet Neill-Concelman) connectors are radio-frequency connectors that use a quick connect/disconnect. By turning the coupling nut a quarter turn on the male connector, it mates with the female connector and forms a secure connection.

BNC cables are also used on devices like UB MADI which transmits digital signals from the stage rack of mixers with MADi functionality and converts it into a digital signal which can be stored in the computer as digital signal.
Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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There are some microphones that you must have seen multiple times by now in different studios and you might also have seen them in action for recording different instruments/sounds. In this blog, we will discuss 6 such microphones. I will give you guys a brief introduction to these Microphones.
No. 1
AKG C414

The AKG C414 is a Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone that is used widely around all major recording or even home studios.
Having a matched pair for this microphone really helps to capture stereo sounds like a Drum Overhead or even for stereo micing a Piano.
The C414 is a very versatile microphone and has a naturally bright sound to it. It can be used in multiple scenarios from recording the acoustic guitar, to drum overheads to even a guitar cabinet. The one thing that stands common amongst all recordings done with a C414 is the natural bright texture of the microphone.
Another amazing characteristic of this microphone is its ability to record really loud sounds. You can use to record a snare even! Not a lot of condenser microphones can do this. The C414 sounds good on a lot of instruments but there are only a few sounds on which it sounds exceptional.

No. 2
SM 58
This legendary microphone is seen everywhere, from studios to live settings to even home recordings. This Dynamic microphone has pretty much defined the sound of the recording industry. It can be used on signals from Vocals to Drums to practically any sound that doesn’t require a very high-frequency definition. These microphones apart from being just good sounding are also extremely robust. I have multiple SM57 and SM58s that have survived the whack of the drum stick.
Paired with a good microphone preamp this microphone can do wonders.
No. 3
MD421
This microphone is also another Dynamic Microphone that as a very distinct sound as opposed to other dynamic mics.
This microphone is great to record Vocals, Guitar Cabs, and even Snare. This microphone has a very characteristic high mid boost and can work great when it’s used on the right instruments
No. 4
Neumann U87
This has been the most mainstream Vocal Microphone in the world. The U87 stands for clarity and precision for voiceover and modern record making, all across the spectrum, from pop, R&B, and hip-hop, to rock, country, and alternative of all sorts, nothing quite beats the U87.
No. 5
KM184
The KM184 is a small diaphragm that is used widely in studios. This microphone is best used on Acoustic Guitars and as drum Overheads. This microphone is best used as a stereo pair and can be used for AB/XY or ORTF recordings.
We very often use these microphones in the studio to capture the room sound using AB mixing.
No. 6
B91 and E602 II
Each of these two common kick-drum mics is also a great choice as a dynamic microphone for your bass cabinets, low-tuned guitars, and any other low-end-emphasized sound that you throw at it.
Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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No. 1
Pink Floyd: The Wall
Produced by the legendary Alan Parsons, this is one of my all-time favorite albums of all time. Why: Iconic Sound Design and approach to an album style, this album will be heard for years to come. The way the songs come together sonically is so amazing to hear.
No. 2
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin
This album is a great example of amazing performances by a bunch of legendary musicians. The recording of this album took only 36 hours including mixing (This is the time engineers take to tune vocals on an album now). This album is a testament to the fact that a good sounding album is 90% just a great bunch of musicians giving a great performance. The Artists had done their pre-productions and performed the songs on tour a number of times before actually hitting the studio to record.
No. 3
Michael Jackson: Thriller
Produced by another Legend of all time Quincy Jones, this album still sounds fresh and relevant. The sound design was very futuristic for the time that this album was created and became the trendsetter for many more songs to come. They had to go through 30 songs to arrive at the 9 great songs in the album, MJ wanted every song in the album to be a killer, that’s how the name Thriller was born.
No. 4
Dire Straits: On Every Street
Take a listen to this album and guess as to when you think it was recorded. The sound of the recording sounds so modern that I often use it as a reference for recordings. This album has by far the best drum sound I’ve ever heard.
No. 5
John Mayer: Continuum
This is a no-brainer. One of the best sounding pop albums and one of the best mixes I’ve heard.
No. 6
Beatles: The Beatles
This album was recorded in the Abbey Road studios and stands for where the recording technology has come to from where it was. I would suggest you read up on how the songs for this album were recorded, no matter how old the technology was, the engineers did such an amazing job bringing the emotion of this music together in this album.
No. 7
Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly
My favorite concept album of all time. I love the production and sound design for these songs.
No. 8
Karnivool: Themata
The sonics of this album has set the standard of most modern rock albums. This album was produced by Forrester Savell and was recorded on an extremely low budget, goes to say that you don’t always need great equipment and thousands of dollars to produce an amazing sounding album.
No. 9
Nirvana: Nevermind
Best Guitar Sound, Best Drum Sound, Best Mix, Best Production.
No. 10
Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks
The minimalist approach to this album with influences drawn from various genres and styles of playing is what makes this album an absolute treat. The sound design and synth elements in the peculiar Trent Style and the way that they have been designed around acoustic elements is what makes this a must listen to any aspiring audio engineer.
No. 11
Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
Provisionally unplugged, old-worldly, and mass-produced with small-batch aesthetics as an antidote to low-flying panic attacks.
No. 12
Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 self-titled album introduced a new band with a smoother sound that would go on to take over the world. After Peter Green’s departure, the early seventies proved a lean time for the Mac. But when American songwriters and lovers Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined forces with Brits Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood – magic was in the air.
No. 13
Miles Davis: A Kind of Blue
Kind Of Blue that makes the album tick. Endless soloing had and still does afflict much of improvisational jazz – but on these sessions, Miles Davis sought out melody above virtuosity. The nine-minutes of Flamenco Sketches make it easy to hear why this is such a popular album.
No. 14
Sigur Ross: Takk
Everything about this record seemed magical – that hardback sleeve with its embossed artwork, the handwritten song titles and the wall of sweetly recorded soundscapes that sooth and lift. Much of the album include ‘Hoplandic’ lyrics – a Sigur Ros signature language, made up of nonsense and gibberish to achieve the rhythmic effect.
Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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If someone asks me THE one tip/trick that I would recommend to get better at Recording & Mixing Skills, my answer would be: “PRACTICE”. Yes, we all have heard it, but yet some of you out there find it hard to get down to actually practicing your recording and mixing skills.
Today let’s talk about some ways that we can analyze and correct our mistakes through practice and become an efficient recording and mixing engineers.

Identify what's wrong, Fix it, Repeat.

-Ronak Runwal Tweet
Tip no. 1
Record an Instrument on a pre-recorded session:
Try and get your hands on a few Multi-Track sessions, you can find some of the sessions recorded here at Gray Spark Audio that you can use as a starting point.
Now, isolate one instrument from this recording and re-record it.
This could be an acoustic guitar on the track or bass or any other instrument you might have access to. Try to understand the thought process of the recording engineer that went into designing that specific sound. Does it make sense to have a Low Boomy bass guitar sound as opposed to a brighter / twangier sound?
Would it be better if the sound were designed some other way?
Then try visualizing different sounds for these instruments and record them, this will not only help you with getting faster at recording but will also help you become faster and better at visualizing and creating very specific sounds. This tip will help you build your skill recording and visualizing a relevant sound for a song.
Tip no. 2
Emulate or Reverse Engineer Sounds or Recordings you like
This is one thing that I find myself doing very often if there is a sound from an album or a song that catches my ear I spend some time inside the studio trying to figure out how it was designed and recorded.
Let me give you an example of the drum sound on “Boom Like That” a song by Mark Knopfler on the Album “Shangri-La”.
This is one of my all-time favorite drum sounds, a very dry but attack-y Drum Sound. So I tried different micing techniques, different drum Tunings, different preamps and microphone combinations and different room positions until I reached a point where the drum sound was comparable to the one from the song.
In this process, I learned a few more ways that I could use studio equipment to get closer to different sounds if I ever needed to get them.
Reverse engineering is easy, analyze and break down the sound into simple forms, define every element of the sound. Kick Drum has more sub 80 Hz information as opposed to attack, Snare has a build up at around 200Hz, so on and so forth. And once you break them down into specific details, you can use, tuning, micing, placement, preamps and other tools to achieve this sound.
Tip no. 3
Analyze Mix Sessions from your Engineers
Try to get your hands on some of the sessions that have been mixed and try to put yourself in the mix engineer’s chair.
Take apart the mix and listen to all the elements without the processing on it, listen to it with the plug-ins bypassed and then effects and processing dialed it.
What does the EQ do to the sound?
What does the Compression do to the sound?
Why did the engineer choose to compress this way?
Repeat this same process for other elements in the song.
Bonus Tip
Practice Multi-Track Mixing
Download a Multi-Track session from the link given here and jump right in. Start by getting the balance in place and repeat it until you reach a point that you’re happy with. Once you arrive at a good balance, try to shape the tone and dynamics of the instruments and get them in line with what your vision for the song.
The only way to get better at mixing is by learning from your mistakes and working towards improving on them. Your first few mixes will be BAD, and it okay. Nobody’s judging your mixes and neither should you.

Identify what’s wrong, Fix it, Repeat.
Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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In this blog, let’s breakdown the most important and most overlooked piece of gear in a recording studio: Cables.

Broadly speaking Cables are divided into two forms
1. Analog

2. Digital

Analog Cables are cables that carry an analog signal, i.e voltage whereas digital signals work by transmitting a series of information in 1s and 0s i.e. binary code (On or Off)

You can go through the Analog Vs Digital Blog post to understand what the difference and meaning between the two are.

Lets first breakdown Analog Audio Cables into two broad types:
1. Balanced
2.Unbalanced

Balanced Signals are signals that are less prone to noise and these are cables that have three connections that are
+ Positive
– Negative
= Ground

The way that balanced cables works is pretty ingenious.
To understand this we would need to understand the concept of phase and polarity.
Let’s dive in,
Imagine two sound waves starting at the same time when these two sound waves meet each other the crest of one wave and the crest of the other wave will coincide. Hence these waves will cause constructive interference i.e the energy of that wave will increase.

Now imagine two waves that meet at a point where the crest of one wave coincides with the trough of the other, in this case, the wave will lose its energy and thereby cause destructive interference.
When the crest of one wave merges exactly with the trough of the other, the interference is called complete phase cancellation and there no resultant energy.

Balanced signal works exactly on this Phenomenon, in this the two wire both carry the same signal but the polarity of one is exactly inverted to that of the positive wire. Now when the wires carry the signal, they both taken on the noise as it travels along, although when merging together the polarity of the signal is flipped back again to align with the signal and what we get a signal with the noise canceled out as the crest of one noise wave aligned with the trough of the other.
Unbalanced Cables are ones that have only two connectors i.e Tip or Sleeve, which is why they are also denoted as TS cables.
In the TS Connector the connections are:

Tip: + Positive Sleeve: =Ground

Now you must have noticed that every cable has two types of connectors.

These are called XLR Connectors
These are called 1/4 Inch or TS Connectors
These are called TRS Connectors
Every connector has a male and a female version.

Usually, all you mixers outputs or any instrument outputs will be female connectors. This is what Female Connectors look like.
This is what a Male connector looks like.
Now that you’ve understood how signal passes through a cable, let’s discuss the difference between a TS and a TRS cable.

A TS cable has only two connections/wire and can carry an unbalanced signal A TRS cable, on the other hand, has three connectors and carry a balanced signal.
T = +Positive
Ring = -Negative
Sleeve = Ground
If you’ve noticed a Headphone Jack, you will see that it has three connectors. Tip, Ring, and Sleeve. Does that mean that a Headphone is a Balanced Signal?
No, the headphone carries two channels of data and the headphone connectors are wired as below:

T = Left Channel
R = Right Channel
S = Ground

Using these connectors we can send three types of signals in Audio.

Line Level: These are signals that are standardized outputs from all pro audio equipment. A line level signal is usually what goes to a speaker or to a headphone preamp etc.

Mic Level: This is the level of signal coming from a Microphone, these signals usually are low and need to be amplified using a preamp to bring it to line level. Imagine you connect an SM58, the output from the microphone is too low to be directly connected to a speaker. Instead, we use a preamp and then send an increased signal, that then becomes a line level signal to the speaker.

Instrument Level: These are signals coming out of instruments like Bass, Guitar, Keyboards are all Instrument Level Signals. These need to be amplified to a line level before going to a speaker.

Next up are RCA Cables, You’d find these cables on DJ Mixers or Casset Machine or CD Machines. These are two unbalanced outputs that look like this:
They have two connectors, both having a Tip and a Sleeve.
The Red cable is Right whereas the White is the left.

Now the Question remains when you should use a line level signal and when you should use a Mic level signal. The signal coming from a guitar is a line level signal and devices like Guitar Amps and Pedals are meant to work with line level signals, hence you can directly connect them to these amps or pedals. Whereas devices like a mixer are expecting a Mic Level signal, hence the unbalanced signal needs to be converted into a Balanced signal using a DI Box.

These DI boxes have multiple functionalities but they essentially take a signal from a 1/4 Cable or a TS cable and convert it into a Mic Level signal i.e a Balanced Signal which can then be connected to the Microphone Pre or Mixer Input.
These DI Boxes also have a Thru functionality that helps split the signal into two, one that..
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This blog is going to be a bit different, today I I will address the question “How do we build a successful career in sound?” Being around students and interacting with aspiring engineers from various academic institutions, I’ve realized that students struggle to find work in the Indian Media Market. In this blog I will write down my experiences about how one can start taking steps to building a sustainable career in the music industry as an engineer.
But before we go there, let’s understand that people often get confused about the idea of working with music as having a career in music. When I say a career, I mean having a successful set of clientele that comes to you for repeat business and having set a certain standard of quality and assurance with your work. It may also be for an institution where you are salaried or working as a freelancer.
The path to becoming a successful Freelance Sound Engineer is not a simple one. In my 10 yrs or so being in this field I have faced innumerable challenges and hurdles, but in the end it was all worth it. This requires a dedication and single-mindedness more than your average job.

If someone isn’t asking you to do the impossible then you’re not going to break new ground. If someone doesn’t hate a choice you’ve made then you’re not taking enough chances.

-Ronak Runwal Tweet
Step no. 1
Develop your Skill set:
This goes without saying that this is the most important point that you must bear in mind. I know you’ve heard it a hundred times before, and yes you are as good as your competition, but is that enough? Today, I see multiple up and coming sound engineers work on various mix projects and when I look through their work the one thing I notice in most mixes is the lack of attention to detail. Everyone is aiming to provide a service which is as good as their competition. But trust me, this won’t get you far.
No matter how much you’re getting paid for your first project, you goal should be to deliver a quality of work that is attest 5x of what your competition delivers. When you’re client hears the mix they should be left with a feeling of complete satisfaction. Are you dedicated to put it this amount of work on every project? No matter how small or large? No matter how finicky and intrusive the client can get? Also, this doesn’t mean that you don’t take on projects till your mix sounds as good as ‘Manny Marroquin’. Just make sure that you deliver good quality on your project.
Step no. 2
Look for Clients

Considering that you’re going to be new audio engineers just passing out of an Institute, it’s good to start with small clients. These maybe Youtube Artists, people from your local music community, Church Choir etc.
Sit down, compile a list of Musicians and people you know and get in touch with them. Do your research about the clients you are contacting and how you can come onboard and help them become better at what they are currently doing.
Below are some of the ideas that I used to get clients when starting out.

  • Scouting for Artists at Shows
  • Giving a free Demo
  • Cold Calling
  • Getting your contacts to refer you to their circle (Setting up basic referrals)
Step no. 3
Level up your Clientele
As you start working with new clients, at some point, you might feel that given your skillset you can upgrade to a better level of clientele. This step means that you would like to work with bigger artists and bigger projects (which will naturally also pay better.) In my opinion, the one thing that has always worked for me is making it a point that every client that leaves the studio becomes an evangelist of my services, I would do anything possible to ensure that they get everything that they want from the service. When your clientele becomes your evangelist they market your services FOR you. Eventually through their social circles, the quality of your clients also improve. Out of the 10 Average projects you do 1 Project will stand out and you can leverage this to get better clients.
Step no. 4
Focus on Inbound Business
Once you feel like you’ve reached a certain quality of work that you’re proud of, start putting this work out as aggressively as possible. Put together a good website, get on Social Media, get yourself some visiting cards printed.

There are two things that you require to be a successful Mix engineer

  1. Be good at your job
  2. Be noticed.

If people don’t know the kind of work you do, then you’re going to really struggle to find clients and improve and upgrade your clientele.

Step no. 5
Be Humble!
Nobody likes to work with an over confident producer or a mix engineer. The saying, ‘the client is always right’ couldn’t be truer in this scenario. This doesn’t mean that you do exactly what the client says, of course you have to take chances and have a creative discussion with your client, but don’t go in assuming that you know best. You might have been right in a scenario before, where the client was wrong, but if you start working with the mindset that the client doesn’t understand the technicalities of the job then you’re wrong. If someone isn’t asking you to do the impossible then you’re not going to break new ground. If someone doesn’t hate a choice you’ve made then you’re not taking enough chances.
Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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Before musicians come in to record at the studio, we often sit down for an initial meeting to discuss the conceptual idea that they have in mind. When it comes to music, more often than not, it is hard for a musician to verbally express sonic concepts. What we do at this stage is ask for demos that they might have of their songs. In my previous blogs, I have underscored the importance of having demos of your songs ready before hitting the studio, and in this blog we help you understand why.

In my previous blogs, I have underscored the importance of having demos of your songs ready before hitting the studio, and in this blog we help you understand why.

Ronak Runwal Tweet
Contrary to popular opinion, You don’t really need an elaborate setup to record good demos. All you need is: 1) A microphone 2) Sound Card 3) A PC/Mac Later in the blog, we will address some basic steps that will help you record effective demos. But first, let’s understand why recording demos is important before recording at a studio:
Importance of Recording Demos:
1
Clearing Ambiguity
Working with music can be an extremely subjective thing, what may appeal to you may not appeal to me, and when it comes to finding the right people to work with and put ideas across the best way to do it is through demos.
2
Conceptual Clarity
Music sounds very different played live as opposed to an actual recording, by creating demos you get a clearer perspective on the song and the arrangement and the right way to proceed with it.
3
Improving Performance
A recording gives you a clear snapshot of your performance, by analyzing a demo tape a musician can get ideas on how to better the performance in terms of dynamics and pitching and tweak them before they go into the studio.

Now that we have understood why recording demos is such an important prerequisite, lets move on to the steps that will help you record better demos:

Recording Good Demos:
Step 1
Digital Audio Workstations
The first thing you would need to is to get familiarized with the software on which you will record these demos. If you’re using a PC you can get a version of “Reaper” which is a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) with which you can record, edit and playback your recordings. On a Mac, you can just get a copy of GarageBand from the App Store.
Step 2
Tempo and Key
Find your Tempo and Key. Play around with the metronome to find the right tempo that grooves with your song. Do the same with the key till you find the right Key that works for your voice.
Step 3
Arrangement / Structure

Record your backing instrument, this can be your guitar or piano or any other harmonic instrument that can be a backing for the melody. Record through the song and decide the structure that you want to keep.
For example:
Your song structure can be Intro:Verse:PreChorus:Chorus:Interlude:Verse2:Chorus: Outro
or Intro:Verse:Prechorus:Chorus:Bridge:Chorus

Step 4
Ideate

Record and program in all the ideas and sounds that you can think of, or ideas that will work for the song. These can be multiple layers of Guitars, including getting the right tones or Vocal Harmonies. Just go along with it and add as many ideas that you can hear on the track. Play it back, listen to it and keep filling it in.

Step 5
Balance
Once you have a layout with all the elements of the song in place, play around with the volumes and balance the tracks so that they fit with each other. Once you have a few demos that you’re happy with, the next step is to find a producer who understands your music and shares a creative vision with your music. Then you’re good to hit the studio and bring your record to life
Get in touch!
If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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At Gray Spark Audio Academy, we have always underscored the value of hands on training. As a part of their academic year, students get to assist on multiple projects. This really helps the students because they can apply what they’ve learnt on actual projects. As a part of this new blog series, we have documented the different projects that were completed in the recent past. We believe this series will serve multiple . First, to help prospective students understand what it’s really like to work inside a recording studio. Second, to help budding sound engineers gain some insight into the ground level effort that is put in to make projects successful. 

I think people's mindset about Indie music is yet to be established. Specially Hindi/Urdu indie is directly compared or associated with Bollywood which has its own pros and cons

Piyush Bhisekar Tweet
About Piyush & Hai Bharosa
For Part I of this series, we talk to Piyush Bhisekar, an independent musician who’s lyricism amalgamates elements of both, Hindi and Urdu songwriter. He recorded his debut EP “Hai Bharosa” at the studio. All of us had a lot of fun working on this project.
Q 1
Your debut EP, "Hai Bharosa" will be out this month. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
‘Hai Bharosa’ is a collection of 6 songs. I started writing this album in 2016. This EP is all about having trust in what you love as the tittle says. I think now a days the term ‘love’ is quite exaggerated and we all fail to acknowledge the small things which really matter. Also, I really hope that after listening to this EP the listeners find a way to reconnect or connect to all such small things in their life in their own ways.
Q 2
You've racked up quite a fan base on Youtube. What tips would you give to upcoming musicians who want to use Youtube as a platform to promote their work?
I think quality content and consistency is the key. Additionally, it should be something people can relate to and find particularly on your channel.
Piyush Bhisekar - Hai Bharosa EP | Releasing December '18 - YouTube
Q 3
As an independent singer/song writer, what's one change you'd like to see in the Indian music scene?
I think people’s mindset about Indie music is yet to be established. Specially Hindi/Urdu indie is directly compared or associated with Bollywood which has its own pros and cons. But it’s changing and because of easy internet accessibility people are more on social media and YouTube which has produced lot of opportunities for the independent artists not just musicians, to spread and showcase their art to the world and an audience which doesn’t know that something like independent music exists, which is very exciting.
Q 4
Three emotions that you want your listeners to experience through your music?
I can’t really reduce it to three but most importantly, Honesty and the feeling of being loved no matter what.
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