The Analog to Digital Conversion Process

Hello musicians and friends! My name is Cosima and this is my second assignment for Intro to Music Production online at Coursera.org.  For this assignment I’ve chosen to discuss the analog to digital conversion process.  I spent some time reading up on the process and enjoyed learning something new.  I hope my post will spark some interest in this topic for my readers.  Thanks for visiting my blog and reading my post.

Analog to digital conversion process

In my last post I indicated that the source of an audio signal in my studio generally is a voice.  The sound of that voice affects the air and creates longitudinal pressure variations that are picked up by a microphone which converts those variations into voltage variations know as  an analog signal. That’s great for live performance but if we want to send that signal into a computer’s digital audio workstation (DAW) we’ll need to convert the analog wave signal to a digital signal or data.

The only thing the computer can deal with is strings of numbers. Things represented in 1 and 0s, called binary information.  So, there’s a process to go from the continually variable sound into a stream of ones and zeros and that process is called a sampling process.  An analog signal is a wave form that is a continuous stream of data that the computer can’t recognize whereas digital data is discrete or individually separate and distinct. To convert the analog wave into digital data of ones and zeros I’ll need to use the Analog to Digital converter in an  audio interface device.

The audio interface uses a common method that converts analog to digital that involves three steps: Sampling, Quantization and Encoding.

SAMPLING

[Image: Sampling of Analog Signal]

The analog signal is sampled at an interval rate making many, many measurements per second.  Most important factor in sampling is the rate at which the analog signal is sampled.  Over 40,000 times per second to be able to accurately represent the continuously variable signals in the air as a digital representation.  And the higher the sampling rate the higher frequency that can be represented accurately in the digital domain.  And this frequency  is known as the Nyquist frequency, just half a sampling rate.  So a sampling rate of 44,100 hertz can accurately represent half of that in the digital domain, 22,050 hertz.  The human ear can hear a range of about 20,000 hertz and the CD standard sampling rate is 44,100 hertz which will accurately represent everything we hear as human beings.

QUANTIZATION

[Image: Quantization of sampled analog signal]

Sampling yields a discrete or individually separate and distinct form of continuous analog signal. Every discrete pattern shows the amplitude, the extent of a vibration or oscillation, of the analog signal at that instance. The quantization is done between the maximum amplitude value and the minimum amplitude value. Quantization is approximation of the instantaneous analog value.

ENCODING

[Image: Encoding from quantization]

In encoding, each approximated value is then converted into binary format of 1s and 0s the computer can then recognize which we now can manipulate in our DAW for the purpose of music production.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my post!  Please feel free to leave comments.  Your input is appreciated.

(sources include http://www.tutorialspoint.com and wikipedia) 

Typical Recording Signal Flow in Home Recording

Hello, my name is Cosima Ybarra and I live in Southern California.  I’ve written this post to fulfill the first assignment for the Introduction To Music Production class I’m taking online at Coursera.org.  This assignment will cover what a simple recording signal flow looks like in my “home studio” which really is a little workstation in my office at home.  My hope is that I could share this information is such a way that someone could gain a bit of understanding regarding using signal flow in a low cost but effective home recording studio.

As a voice teacher I generally record my students semester project song for their semester final.  In most cases I just run an Apogee cardioid condenser microphone into my iPad with a USB cable, use the Garageband application and then run a cable out to some commercial home theater speakers.  This simple setup works fine for my needs but it’s certainly not very professional.

Apogee microphone

Apogee microphone

iPad with Garageband

iPad with Garageband

Logitech Home Theater Speakers

Logitech Home Theater Speakers

In this assignment I hope to explain signal flow in a bit more depth.  Thanks for reading my post.  I appreciate constructive input so please share your thoughts with me… Thank you.

Introduction to Music Production – week 1

According to Wikipedia “Audio signal flow is the path an audio signal takes from source to output, including all the processing involved in generating audible sound from electronic impulses or recorded media.”

The gear from source to output in my demonstration includes:

  1. A digital Reference DR-VX1 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone
  2. A standard XLR microphone cable
  3. The M-Audio DUO (2×2 audio interface) Pro USB Mic Preamp with S/PDIF
  4. A USB cable with a device end
  5. A MacBook Pro Computer
  6. A set of Bose noise canceling headphones

The source of an audio signal in my studio generally is a voice.  The sound affects the air and creates longitudinal pressure variations that are picked up by the microphone which converts those variations into voltage variations.  The dynamic cardioid mic is designed to respond to that sound and convert it at a low amplitude but I need to use the preamp to boost that up to line level once the variations move through the balanced XLR cable and into the audio interface.  Then adjust the gain, making sure the indicator light doesn’t go into the read zone.

IMG_2204

IMG_2205

Once that’s set the signal can continue to flow through the audio interface where it is converted into a digital signal.  This stream of ones and zeros is sent to my computer via a USB cable with a device end to be processed in the Digital Audio Workstation, which in my case is Garageband.  I’ve not explored the limits of Garageband but the digital audio workstation we can make adjustments to the timbre and dynamics, mix and edit.  Once that’s completed the signal almost is ready for listening either through my computer’s audio output to my headphones or I can send the signal back to my audio interface. In either case the signal is processed through a digital converter from the stream of one’s and zeros to digital, then to my out to my headphones for my enjoyment!

 

Thanks again for taking the time to read through my assignment.

Cosima

 

 

Life happens! That means Summer Specials are on!

Hey singers! Would you like to save up to $100?

Summer is in full swing at “The Voice Box Vocal Studio.”  There’s things to do, places to go and people to see and calendars and schedules are a-changin’.  Music students are taking time off and they have been canceling and rescheduling lessons all over the place!

That means my appointment book has openings, so I’ve decided it’s time you get a great deal!  I’m running a special for the remainder of the summer for 2013 prices until September 22, 2014!

Between now and September 22 you could get as many as 10 lessons for $225 ..  That’s a $100 savings!   Don’t miss the chance to take advantage of this offer.  Spaces are limited so book your lessons before Fall begins and save your spot in my appointment book for the future.

Contact me to find out more and get this deal before it’s gone.

Mention SUMMER SINGER SPECIAL at registration to receive your discount.

Special applies to new and returning students.  Certain specials may apply to currently enrolled students.

“…those that ‘can’ and those that have to work at it…”

Good Thursday Vocalists!

Have you ever thought about how people who like to sing fall into two categories,.. those who can sing and those who have to work at it?  The truth is, even those who can sing need guidance.  Singing / vocal lessons are for anyone who wants to sing well.

Even the most gifted singers take lessons. Take Michael Jackson for instance.  He worked as hard at improving and maintaing his voice as he did at making great quality productions.  He had a super talent even as a child.  If you listen to his earliest childhood recordings you can identify some great singing but also some technique that needed improving and he did just that and took his voice to the highest level he was capable of.  He improved his range to about 4 octaves and sang effortlessly from F1 to C6.

I’ve often referred to the following “rare audio. In a hotel room in ’94.”  The recording was taken during a vocal session by phone with renowned Speech Level Singing creator, Seth Riggs.  Yes, even Michael Jackson appreciated the benefits of vocal lessons.

So remember, if you want to sing as good as your favorite singer, they took lessons to get that great voice.

Vocal Tip: Blending Backup Vocals

Photo: Musicademy

Photo: Musicademy

“Coordination of the vocal cords takes a sense of awareness of how your voice works, vocal mechanics, and an ability to identify, isolate and control vocal function. Most singers have no idea what their voices are doing apart from training and would benefit from a few good lessons to help them on their way.

Blending in with other vocalists is a balance of lyric, tonal quality, timing, dynamic and sensitivity. Not only does a vocalist need to be flexible vocally but they must be flexible when it comes to following and mimicking genre and stylistics. Each group or band has their own style that is developed through the preferences and style of the leader or type of group such as a classical choir, barbershop singers or rock band as well as all that the individuals bring to the group as a whole. Learning to sing in a number of styles makes the backup vocalist a valuable part of the team. Any backup vocalist should know it’s important to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and be willing to devote themselves to always be improving their talent so they can be the best fit in any situation. Good luck, God bless and Sing On!”

(reposted by Cosima on an earlier post)

Visit Musicademy for more on BGV

When Is Enough, Enough?

How do you handle interruptions like ringing cellphones or chatty people at a gig or concert? And, when is a good time to let your audience know you care about delivering the best “show” possible? How about this…?
“At a concert in Gothenburg Concert Hall October 23, 2013, Christian Zacharias stopped playing in the middle of Haydn’s Piano Concerto, interrupted by a cell phone ringing for the second time the same concert. He also shares his views on disturbed concerts.”

The whole concert will be published at http://www.gsoplay.com in November 2013.

Taking singing lessons isn’t just about recitals and karaoke….

So proud to sing along side these two beautiful voices this morning. This was their first opportunity to sing together and they did great! Their blend is a bit uncanny and I can see some good stuff happening with the three of us.

I’ve enjoyed teaching Mary (center) and Suzette (far left) and being part of their vocal journey.  It brings great pleasure to watch your students grow their gifts and use them for others.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 7.16.04 PM
There are some real opportunities to use your singing talent in more ways than recitals and karaoke!… And if you aren’t the “put on a show” type and you are part of a church perhaps singing as a worship vocalist is where your voice belongs.  The value of this kind of singing may far exceed your expectations! And, if you aren’t sure your voice is “ready” then there’s not better time than now to begin your own vocal journey.  Who knows where your talent will take you.   Sing On!

Today’s Vocal Tip!

Singing Tip

Singing Tip

Good Monday, Singers! It’s good to be back after a road trip to northern cali, a funeral and a wedding I’m ready to dig in and get some singing on with all you great singers. Here’s today’s singing tip to get things started:

 

Not only is your voice your instrument but you are a vocal athlete too. Every athlete follows a training regime to strengthen, grow and perfect their technique.  Training includes not only the muscles but the whole body and mind through exercises and other factors such as diet, hydration and rest.

It’s important to consider what goes into your body uninvited. Smoke, fumes, smog and allergens all can have an negative effect on your instrument.

Having a healthy lifestyle and using wisdom and caution regarding your environment can be helpful in the improvement and safety of your voice. It’s all a matter of being a conscious singer. Be conscious of your surroundings, your diet, sleep patterns, and other good health factors and you’ll improve your options to Sing On! for years to come.

Cosima

Today’s Vocal Tip: Every Body Can Sing!

Singing Tip

Singing Tip

Every body can sing!

Every human body has the same anatomy and we all can develop our voices to sing well. That doesn’t mean that everyone’s voice is going to be as awesome as their favorite singer, but it does mean that with proper technique everybody can produce a healthy, free, resonant sound. That means YOU!!

In singing, relaxation is key. Learn to observe and feel your body and understand its behaviors; it will always tell you what’s going on, but most of the time we don’t pay attention. People have various tensions and it takes time and patience to retrain how your body behaves – but it’s totally doable! And a relaxed voice is the foundation for good singing.

So, first things first… for the next 24 hours (any date after reading this post) see if you can practice a relaxed posture in your body and voice during singing. Set aside several 5 minute spots in your day to purposefully sing with a mindset to focus on removing tension when you sing.  Don’t allow yourself to indulge in your regular singing habits any time during the 24 hour period. Don’t worry about whether your voice sounds good just make sure you have released all tension in your jaw, tongue, throat, vocal apparatus, face, shoulders and body. Think about freeing up your voice. Your voice shouldn’t feel trapped in your throat or sound muddy. A breathy sound is ok, but it should feel free of all tension.

Repeat several times over the next 24 hours remembering to avoid any other kind of singing. Allow what you’ve learned from the experience to get you in touch with your voice.  Then come on back to this post and share your comments. Let me know how it went. Ask questions and share some feedback. Let’s get talking!!

Why are some songs easier to sing than others?

One of my vocal students tweeted the following complaint in regards to singing, to which a short conversation got me involved on facebook. Check out the conversation and add your comments or questions. Let’s see if anyone else out there has similar singing challenges!

Cherry:
uggghhh…why must Hillsong songs be so vocally challenging for me…well except for Mighty To Save. but I will press on #challengeaccepted

Mary:
Why is “mighty to save” not challenging to sing?? I would always choose that song before my vocal lessons because it didn’t seem hard… Maybe Cosima can tell us why?

Cosima ~From TheVoiceBox:
Ahhh that’s easy! First off, Mighty To Save only has one octave in it. That’s a very small range so if you sing it in a key you are comfortable in there’s no challenge at all. You could, in fact, sing the whole song in your chest voice thereby avoiding singing into your head voice.
Essentially, that’s like using only the speaking range of your voice and I don’t know anyone who has trouble speaking unless they have an impairment.

Secondly, the melody is highly repetitive and is uncomplicated melodically as well as lyrically making it a no brainer. So… you can sing the whole song in your speaking range, and you don’t have to concentrate too hard.

Finally, the song starts at the low end of the scale and slowly makes it’s way up to the octave during the bridge, giving your voice time to set up for the “high” note. What could be easier?

BTW, this would make a nice lesson in good songwriting for worship.

(My response assumes that Cherry had transposed the song into a key she was comfortable in.)

What a voice lesson looks like!

Ever wonder what your voice lesson might be like? Here’s a sample of my lesson notes from a 60 min free mini-lesson given this week. Have you set yours up yet?

NAME: xxxxxx
3/13 Vocal Evaluation & mini-lesson:
Vocal Evaluation determined beginning range to be: Undetermined at this time.
Possible Choral Alto/Choral Mezzo Soprano
Range at first lesson : C3 – G5

Lesson Goals:

  • Intro to vocal mechanics 
  • The vocal registers and range
  • Chest voice, head voice, whistle voice, falsetto, vocal fry
  • Breathing for singing
  • Recognizing and dealing with tension

Foundational exercises 

  1. Isolating outer muscles of the larynx to gain control and free the vocal cords 
    1. Bubble exercise – placing finders on cheeks where teeth join to produce a loose lip pucker. Sing through the low end of your range to the high end with minimal effort without tripping over the ‘breaks’ in your range. Remember to control breath support. Avoid letting all the air escape all at once.
    2. This foundational exercise should become a daily routine. The action of the lips frees up the vocal cords by releasing unwanted outer larynx muscles and setting the larynx up for correct speech-level position. Paying close attention to all the sensations in the vocal apparatus will help you isolate the healthy vocal function needed for beautiful, free singing.
    3. What to remember – learn to recognize vocal cord adjustments by how they feel. 
  2. Working towards Pure Tone
    1. Vocal fry – vocal cord vibration with no tone.
    2. Positions the vocal cords for optimum connection thereby producing a pure clear tone with minimal effort. Also foundational. While most exercises such as the Bubble, are only part of a vocal workout or warm up routine the vocal fry will remain part of how you sing.
    3. What to remember – expect progress over time with good practice habits.
  3. Good breathing for singing
    1. Diaphragmatic breathing – using the diaphragm to draw air into the lungs rather than ‘filling up the lungs’ from the top down.
    2. Making this part of a daily practice routine will build the support you need to move you toward controlled phrasing and support steady well placed tone while maintaining pitch control.
    3. What to Remember – Breathing for singing is different than breathing for speech. 
  4. Tension busters
    1. Relaxing in the jaw and mouth. (see blog for exercises to release jaw and tongue tension)
    2. Open relaxed jaw and mouth for better volume/diction

Having trouble blending vocals? Here’s a reblog from 2008.. Sing On!

The Voice Box

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I’ve always been attracted to musicians who could really sing together, blending their voices until you couldn’t distinguish between them as they sang as one before the Lord. Musicians like Shane and Shane for instance.

Have you ever listened to a worship team and wondered who the lead vocalist was because they were all “leading” and all the singers stood out in the crowd? How about this, have you heard a team and couldn’t figure out which one was singing which part because they all sang “together” so well? Which would you rather listen to? Which one do you think represents worshippers who worship as one voice? (II Chronicles 5)

When we sing lead we use all our expression or all our tone to express the song in a way that others will “feel” the song. For back-up vocalist it’s a different story. If we are all trying…

View original post 104 more words

This week in The Studio

Tip of the Week

Tip of the Week

Jaw and tongue tension can wreak havoc on a vocalist’s endurance during a performance not to mention, make singing difficult and exhausting while limiting one’s full vocal potential. But if you can’t identify and isolate the offending muscles then you won’t gain control. No control – no vocal freedom.

Try these exercises to get started identifying and isolating tension in your jaw and tongue in order to get in the best position during singing.

  • Gently drop your jaw down and back while opening your mouth as if to say, “ahhh.”

tongue tension

  • Then move your tongue out of your mouth and drape it over your lower lip while keeping it flat and very relaxed.  Hold it there for several seconds while singing a comfortable scale with the “ahhh” sound. Be sure to keep it resting very still but not tight.  The tongue should feel relaxed from tip to root except for the least amount of effort it takes to keep it extended and over the lower lip.

tongue tension 2

  • Last, retract your relaxed tongue and place it flat, just touching behind the lower front teeth.  Repeat the “ahhh” sound on a comfortable scale.  Again, the tongue is kept relaxed and still with no tension.

Do this exercise through a series of scales from chest voice to head voice noting whenever there is tension until you can sing through your range with no tension.

For jaw tension try this ..
Jaw tension

  • Find the joints located just in front of your ears, place your fingertips just by and in front of your ears on both sides of your face and open your mouth. The space that opens up as your jawbone moves is your temporal mandibular joint. Massage these joints using your fingertips or the palms of your hands. Release your jaw further and massage deeper as you exhale.

Do these exercises a few minutes at the beginning of your daily vocal exercise routine and watch that tension begin to melt away.

Tips for Better Barre Chords

One way to get those chord progressions to sound fabulous is by making sure you are optimizing your hand position. Here’s a video that teaches you some quick tips for making barre chords ring true.

Elmore Music has some great videos that can get you playing in no time. Check out their 6 Free Beginning Lessons and have a look around their site for more great guitar playing instruction.

So if a guitar player starts to play one of these hit songs, what enables other people to figure out which song it is before the singing starts?

Strumming!

A song like Sweet Home Alabama for instance, is just plain old D, C and G chords…

But it is the WAY those chords are played that makes that iconic song instantly recognizable by anyone in the room.

Strumming makes a HUGE difference.  Check out this video for more instruction on strumming.

Overcoming hurdles through training.

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One of my vocal students has come to a hurdle in her vocal journey. Mary tells me she’s lost strength in her chestvoice after working on having free vocal production in her headvoice with light connection.

This hurdle is so common amongst vocalists. One day they have great success through their range and the next day they have difficulty repeating it. It can be a frustrating process but it doesn’t have to be.

So, how do singers get past vocal hurdles like Mary’s? Conditioning! We’ve got to strengthen and coordinate the vocal folds and the muscles and bring balance between air flow, vocal folds and muscles. We achieve this only through the training process. It doesn’t happen over night any more than training for a marathon does. This is why vocalists need to train through their whole range, over their breaks, from low chestvoice to high headvoice and back, without any noticeable fluctuations in tone production, breath control or dynamic volume.

Vocal training produces confidence, because vocal training develops consistency in the voice. There’s nothing more thrilling for a singer than to have the confidence their voice will perform to their expectations every time in every situation because they have consistency in their voice! Having a daily vocal exercise routine is the singers most effective tool in their pursuit of consistency and PURE VOCAL FREEDOM!