The Use of Sound for Healing Purposes

Music/sound has always been a big part of the human experience. It has been used in a wide variety of purposes- from religion to entertainment. However, there is one more aspect that has become more prevalent in the modern times- sound healing. This article will discuss the following aspects of this field:

  • The impact of low frequency sound (including infrasound) on our bodies
  • The psychological aspect behind sound healing
  • Exotic instruments that are widely used in sound therapy and are commonly referred to as “healing instruments”

Low Frequency Sounds

One of the machines used for Vibroacoustic therapy. All parts are explained

When talking about low frequency sounds, the focus is on sounds at 250 Hz and below. Special attention should also be paid to infrasounds (1-16 Hz). A study titled “Possible Mechanisms for the Effects of Sound Vibration on Human Health” (Bartel, Mosabbir) mentions which mechanisms sound vibration impacts. These include: stimulation of endothelial cells and vibropercussion; of neurological effects including protein kinases activation, nerve stimulation (specifically vibratory analgesia) and oscillatory coherence; of musculoskeletal effects including muscle stretch reflex, bone cell progenitor fate, vibration effects on bone ossification and resorption, and anabolic effects on spine and intervertebral discs.  The conclusion points to the complexity of the field of vibrational medicine and calls for specific comparative research on type of vibration delivery, amount of body or surface being stimulated, effect of specific frequencies and intensities to specific mechanisms, and to greater interdisciplinary cooperation and focus. Based on my own anecdotal experience, I would say that all the above-mentioned mechanisms do get targeted with prolonged and regular exposure to sound vibrations. It is most effective when these sounds are used in a calming meditative atmosphere after a short warm-up meditation.

The Psychology Behind Sound Healing

Sound healing session with different instruments

In the context of psychology, it is important to mention that sound healing doesn’t only focus on hearing, but it is also a tactile and visual experience. Music is also impacted by the type and shape of space it is played in. This is why architecture is also important in the perception of sound. Sound healing has ancient roots in cultures all over the world, including Australian aboriginal tribes who used the didgeridoo as a sound healing instrument for over 40,000 years to ancient such as Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowl spiritual ceremonies. Sound meditation is a form of focused awareness type of meditation. One kind that has become more popular is called “sound baths,” which uses Tibetan singing bowls, quartz bowls, and bells to guide the listener. These practices highlight themes of how the experience of sound manifests not only through hearing but through tactile physical vibrations and frequencies. A review of 400 published scientific articles on music as medicine found strong evidence that music has mental and physical health benefits in improving mood and reducing stress. In fact, rhythm in particular (over melody) can provide physical pain relief.

Sound Healing Instruments

Singing Bowls/Crystal Bowls

Singing Bowls are made from metal and crystal ones are made from pure Quartz. Crystal bowls might be more interesting to talk about because our body has a natural affinity to quartz. On a molecular level, our cells contains silica, which balances our electromagnetic energies. Crystal acts as an oscillator, magnifying and transmitting pure tone. As the sound affects brainwave activity one can enter into an altered state of consciousness. As different parts of the brain are affected, it is probable that they release different hormones and neuro-chemicals. Both regular and singing bowls produce sustained pure vibrating tones that induce a state of trance and physical relaxation. Singing bowls began their journey in the ancient time of Buddhism. It is believed that singing bowls were an integral part of practicing Buddhism. Notwithstanding these origins, sound therapy has traveled across many religions and cultures throughout their history


The Didgeridoo is a wooden BRASS instrument thought to have originated in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. Researchers have suggested it may be the world’s oldest musical instrument, The oldest cave painting were dated 3000 to 5000 years old. It can be over 40,000 years old. There is a little evidence of the didgeridoo being used as far south as the Alice Springs region of Australia, but traditionally never in the southern three quarters of the country. It has been suggested that the Didgeridoo was an adaptation of traded instruments from India and/or Asia, this is possibly why it was mainly used by coastal tribes of the far North of Australia.  Traditionally didgeridoos were made from eucalyptus tree trunks and limbs hollowed out, while still living, by termites, (a small insect like an ant but a relative of the cockroach) or from bamboo in the far north of Australia. Traditionally the termite hollowed Didgeridoo was cut to an average length of 130 to 160cm and cleaned out with a stick or sapling. Today didgeridoos are made from a large variety of materials such as Glass, Leather, Hemp Fibre, Ceramic, Plastic, Fibreglass, Carbon Fibre, solid timbers carved out, logs drilled out, dried/hollowed Agave cactus stems, Aluminium and other metals and just about any material which can be formed into a hollow tube! The didgeridoo was traditionally used as an accompaniment along with chants, singers with Bilma (Tapping sticks) and dancers, often in ceremonies. Today the didgeridoo is heard in almost every style of music, rock, jazz, blues, pop, hip hop, electronic, techno, funk, punk, rap etc. There are truly no limits to the use of this awesome instrument. In a few aboriginal groups in certain ceremonies men only played the didgeridoo, but in many groups, outside of ceremony, men, women and children played it. In the same way the guitar originating in Europe, is now owned, made and played by people across the world, the Australian didgeridoo is now owned, made and played by many people all around the globe.

Handpan/ Hang Drum

There are many different types of handpands, with prices ranging from a few hundred to an astounding few thousand dollars (the latter would be for the original PanArt Hang Drum). These instruments are similarly made of curved metal, like the steel drum from Jamaica. This is a relatively new instrument originating from 2001. At first, the Hang was sold by only a few select distributors around the world.  Acquiring an early version of the instrument required someone to get into contact with these distributors, and it was not uncommon for them to sell out quickly.  Years passed, and eventually PANArt only sold the Hang from their workshop.  An in-person visit to the PANArt workshop was required to retrieve the Hang, and it was invitation only. Eventually, the allure of the Hang took hold, and demand for the instrument skyrocketed.  Other steel pan builders saw this new demand and focused their efforts on creating something similar. As the term ‘Hang’ is a registered trademark of PANArt, these other companies had to come up with a universal term for this hand-played steel instrument.  There has been much debate in what term should be used, but now the most commonly used word is “handpan”, a term introduced by the company “Pantheon Steel” who makes the Halo handpan. PANArt has said, on many occasions, that the hang is not a handpan.  Their reasoning is that the hang is crafted using techniques not seen in the steelpan and handpan world.  Specifically, it has to do with the structure of the notes themselves, and how the tone fields are formed and tuned.  The Iskra sound sculpture, made by Symphonic Steel, is based upon these unique forming and tuning methods devised by PANArt.

Frame Drum/Shaman Drum

The shaman drum is another very old instrument used for ritual and healing purposes. Some of the oldest known ritual burials were of female shamans or priestesses, in areas as far apart as Germany and Israel, dated from 8,000-12,000 years ago. … Ritual drums were often painted red to depict menstrual blood, had symbols of the vulva, and rituals centered around fertility. Continuous fast drumming, using a hand held frame drum, at the rate of 180-250 bpms is traditionally the most common method of eliciting a trance state which allows the participant to experience “non-ordinary reality”. This predates every other form of religious ritual and has a common methodology across cultures and continents, based on the findings of archaeologists and anthropologists around the world. Similarities in ritual forms, ritual implements like drums and rattles, costumes of the shaman and descriptions of the non-ordinary reality during trance states are remarkably consistent in indigenous peoples from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and the Americas. Many of these traditions still survive and are currently practiced.


The most important innovations in the history of music

The history of music is the history of music-making technology – they are inevitably linked and have been since the first drummer banged a couple of rocks together back in the Stone Age. From Pythagoras’s experiments with hammers and anvils to Bartolomeo Cristofori’s pianoforte, new and innovative ideas and technologies have consistently provided musicians with inspiration.Instruments like the harpsichord and piano were high tech revelations in their day – same like the amazing hardware and software we currently use. Here is some of the technology that inevitably changed how music developed:

1. Guitar Amp

The first electric guitar amplifier was likely made by Leo Fender. His early guitar amplifiers had no controls and simply amplified the electric signal produced by early magnetic pickups. Although early prototypes exist, the first commercially produced guitar amplifier was made by Fender in 1947. Early guitar amplifiers were used primarily by pedal steel guitar players in Hawaii. The amplifier as an integral part of a guitarist specializing in playing electric guitar probably didn’t begin until the late 1940s.

3. The Sampler

Analogue synthesizers ruled the electronic music scene throughout the 1970s. As that decade wound to a close, musicians were looking for something new. The Fairlight CMI I was the world’s first commercially available polyphonic digital sampler. Sampling would eventually evolve into the very digital recording we take for granted today. It’s hard to imagine a world without samplers – and we wouldn’t want to. Back to the page you came from, click here for all the latest music videos.

4. Soundcard

The earliest known sound card used by computers was the Gooch Synthetic Woodwind, a music device for PLATO terminals, and is widely hailed as the precursor to sound cards and MIDI. It was invented in 1972. AdLib was one of the first manufacturers of sound cards for the IBM PC. Creative Labs also marketed a sound card at the same time called the Creative Music System. Sound Blaster cloned the AdLib and set the stage for dominating the market. The Sound Blaster line of cards ushered in a new era of multimedia computer applications that could play back CD audio, add recorded dialogue to computer games, or reproduce motion video (albeit at much lower resolutions and quality) The widespread adoption of Sound Blaster support in multimedia and entertainment titles.

4. MP3s

The first portable MP3 player was launched in 1997 by Saehan Information Systems, which sold its “MPMan F10″ player in parts of Asia in spring 1998. In mid-1998, the South Korean company licensed the players for North American distribution to Eiger Labs, which rebranded them as the EigerMan F10 and F20.

6. Electric Guitar

Stringed instruments have been with us for at least two millennia – the Harps of Ur were discovered back in 1929 in what was once ancient Mesopotamia and proved to be over 4,500 years old. The electric guitar was and is far more than a musical instrument – it’s an iconic symbol of modern (and youth) culture. Early adopters included Les Paul and T-Bone Walker, and it would come to epitomise rock ‘n’ roll, giving teenagers a voice of their own.

8. Multitrack tape recorder

The foundation was laid by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a French librarian who invented the phonautograph in the late 1850s. There existed some far-fetched possibility to use it as a telephone repeater. So, it sat inanely without any real purpose for the ensuing decade.In doing so, he created a DIY sound-on-sound recording device that could nullify the erase function of tape recorders.They assigned their entire team of seven engineers to the task.Les Paul worked with Ross Snyder from Ampex, who helped him achieve his dream of a reliable multitracking device.


MIDI- musical instrument digital interface, technology standard allows electronic musical instruments to communicate with one another and with computers. The first synthesizers using MIDI debuted in 1983. A live performer may use MIDI to simultaneously control several instruments onstage. In a recording studio a MIDI composition can be edited, resequenced, sped up, slowed down, or adjusted in numerous ways without costly and time-consuming rerecording. This versatility made MIDI composition widespread in popular music as well as in film and television scores. MIDI message sets have also been written for such wide-ranging purposes as directing stage lighting, controlling amusement park rides, and producing tones for mobile telephones.

10. The DAW

It is difficult t find accurate information, but some sources point to the company Steinberg as the father of all DAWs. Despite selling fewer than 50 copies in the beginning, the program laid the foundation for a dynasty that continues to this day. Multitrack Recorder became Pro-16, then Pro-24, Cubit and eventually Cubase. Commodore 64 development shifted to the Atari 520ST, then the Commodore Amiga, then eventually the Apple Mac and Windows PC. Until the early 90s, the software did little more than control external MIDI devices via a suitable interface.

11. The Microphone

In 1876 Emile Berliner invented what could be considered the first modern microphone while working with Thomas Edison. Berliner, a German-born American, was best known for his invention of the Gramophone and the gramophone record, patented in 1887. After seeing a Bell Company demonstration at the U.S. Centennial Exposition, Berliner was inspired to find ways to improve the newly invented telephone. Hughes’s microphone was the early prototype for the various carbon microphones still in use today.


How Music Producers Find Their “Sound”

Do you catch yourself recognising whose track/song you are listening to when you’re just shuffling randomly through Spotify, even before you look at the artist name? This is because successful music producers have a way to make sure you can instantly recognise them. This is quite beneficial, because it imprints into the listener’s mind and makes them more likely to recognise and share the artist’s future releases with their network.

So how do musicians/music producers do this? There are some key points that can easily help you understand this occurence better.

1) There’s no shortcut! 

You know the 10.000 hour rule? Or as some have put it in the musical context- 1,000 songs? There’s really no way around it! This aplies to any skill in life, not just music. However, usually the end consumer never really knows how many songs an artist actually never releases. Those are all practice songs. For every release that you see out there there might be 100s of other unreleased songs done prior to it. if the musician just keeps creating instead of getting hung up on one song, they will eventually grow into their own unique way of structuring, as well as editing songs.

2) They use unique elements 

So many producers/musicians use samples from Splice, which leads to the listener feeling like they’ve already heard a song even if they haven’t. Songs get lost in the sea of similar musical works, but every now and then, something with a unique flavour pops up and it’s hard to forget. Musicians who make their own synth sounds, play exotic instruments or even their own dit instruments are the ones that stick around in our minds.

3) Using the same sound in multiple songs

This is the easiest and most obvious way in which musicians/producers show their own style. You might hear a similar bass, or drum pattern in mutiple songs/tracks from the same musician. In rap/hiphop, you will also hear producer tags (e.g. “Dj Khaled” being said in the beginning of each track).

4) Great Musicians/Producers don’t stick to one style/trend

Music has existed for so long and progressed so fast lately, that it is hard to stand out, especially if you stick to genres strictly. Nowadays, great musicians will come up with their own subgenres or mix in few different ones into a musical piece. You won’t ever really remember the musicians or the producers who are just following in the footsteps of the greats who have already established a certain genre. If you can’t quite put your finger on why you like someone’s music so much and why they sound “different”, they are probably experimenting with a combination of different genres.

The Loudness War

Before starting, look at the top image. These 2 sets of sound files, mastered/limited at different levels. The first one is from the 90s and the second one is what is being done post 2010. Just by looking at the graphic representations, you can tell that the first song has a lot of breathing space and room for expression, while the second one looks a bit like the life has been squeezed out of it. This is the loudness war in a nutshell- people competing to squeeze in as much volume as possible within the range that we can digitally produce.

So why is the loudness war happening? Usually, we perceive louder as better, even if a song might not be better mixed. Basically, music is getting progressively louder as time passes, thus becoming less dynamic and lively.

What are the basics of loudness? There are a few units used in measurement- LUFS (loudness units relative to scale and DBTP (decibels true peak). Our DAWs by default show a different unit- DBFS (decibels relative to full scale), which is does not show us the overall average loudness, just the momentary peaks. LUFS are actually closer to how our ear perceives loudness. It is similar to RMS (root mean square) but still closer to our own loudness perception. When mastering audio/music, it is highly recommended to get a measurement tool that includes at least these measures (but ideally give you access to more insights into your track’s dynamics, spectrum and similar):

  • Short-Term LUFS – Short-term peak at the current listening point
  • Integrated LUFS – overall loudness of the whole track
  • Dynamic Range – the difference between the quietest and the loudest part of the track
  • Momentary Max LUFS – the highest peak measured in LUFS within the audio/music that is being analysed
  • True Peak – The maximum peak level of the audio measured real-time, measured in DBTP. Different from the regular peak (which relates to individual tracks inside the mix)
  • Loudness range LUFS- measures the perceived loudness of audio material. Similarly to dynamic range, it tracks the difference in loudness between different parts of the audio

It is a big challenge to determine which loudness you should use, taking into consideration loudness perception, as well as different loudness standards presents on each streaming/music platform. Platforms apply loudness normalisation, which sets every audio file to the same integrated loudness. From my own experience, one loudness setting will never be perfect for every use case, but the most important thing is to find a compromise and choose a loudness/true peak level that sound solid on every service. Sometimes, the audio will be turned up, and sometimes turned down by certain services, depending on their own normalisation standards. Each platform will normalize the audio according to their own standards, so it is just important to make sure your source material dynamic range is good enough to not get completely squished by a music platform. The good news is that each platform recommends a dynamic range that is 9 DR or less (meaning 9 dbs difference between the loudest and quietest part).

Here are some of the standards used by the most popular platforms:

  • Spotify – -14 LUFS/ -1 DBTP (-11/-2 is also fine)
  • Deezer – -14 to -16 LUFS /-1 DBTP
  • Beatport – -6 to -9 LUFS /-1 DBTP
  • Apple Music – -16 LUFD/-1 DBTP
  • Bandcamp – No loudness normalisation, but -2DBTP is recommended for the peaks due to low playback quality they offer
  • Tidal – -14 LUFS/-1 DBTP
  • YouTube – -13 to -15 LUFS /-1 DBTP
  • SoundCloud – -8 to -13 LUFS /-1 DBTP


How to- Fundraising for Creative Projects

I am currently in the phase of looking for money for my ProWorks project and I thought it would be a great idea to share what I have learned so far in preparation of the campaign launch (which is coming in about 1-2 weeks after this post). This is no easy task- fundraising will eat away at your time due to having to promote yourself so heavily in order to attract investors. Here are the general steps that you can take, as well as tips for each of them.

  1. To get investments, you need to have an established platform

Here is the biggest reason why so many campaigns fail- the authors did not have a platform large enough to attract sufficient investments. Now, I’m not saying the only way is to be an influential figure online- you can play it smart. If you have no following of your own, why not borrow someone else’s? Here in thinking of platforms that promote campaigns, as well as people that you might possibly have in your professional/friend network. Do you know anyone who has a big platform? Or who knows other big online personalities? It’s very important to think about these things years ahead- you need to have already formed friendships with “important” people in order to have the necessary support- and not have to pay for promotion. Other than that- I would definitely mix in a little bit of a paid promotion type of deal. Find Instagram pages that have a large following and a lot of engagement from followers. Make sure they are relevant to your project. There are probably a lot of accounts dedicated only to promotion of fundraising campaigns, and I’m sure some of them also have a specific niche they want to stay within.

2. Choose the right platform for you

There are many platforms out there, but I would suggest sticking to those that are the most popular, as they will have the biggest number of visitors, thus increasing your chances of being seen. I would say in most cases it’s enough to be on just one platform. The most popular ones are KickStarter, IndieGoGo and GoFundMe. Now, you might have to compromise and pick a platform based on which countries they support. Unfortunately, most of the platforms don’t support my country of origin (Bosnia), but luckily my project partner is Austrian, so we decided to open a KickStarter Campaign through her. Pick a platform based on the type of project you are fundraising for. Kickstarter is best overall, for almost any type of campaign, which IndieGoGo is best for independent project and GoFundMe is for personal fundraising (e.g. emergency surgeries, college fund, etc).

3. Most importantly- make sure your project is interesting/good enough to warrant investments

The hard truth is that you can have all of the above, but if your idea is bad, nothing will help! So be honest with yourself and try to gauge how useful/creative/interesting the project is. Ask everyone you know to give you honest opinions and conduct anonymous questionnaires online to get aa better idea how much success the project could potentially result in.

4. Bonus tip- create a Ko-Fi account

This is not necessarily tied to fundraising for a specific project, but rather just a platform where people can either donate to you one time or subscribe. Ko-Fi is always good to have, in order to collect some small amount of funds over time and being able to use then as extra investment money for one of your future projects.

How Everyone is Capable of Making Synaesthetic Correlations

Synaesthesia has already been thoroughly described in my previous articles pertaining to my ProWorks Research. But today I want to present something fun and engaging in hopes that I will provoke you to explore your mind more.

Believe it or not, even people who have no synaesthetic tendencies often still subconsciously make multi-sensory correlations. Plainly put, perhaps we can say synesthesia has a big spectrum of intensity, and a lot of it is learned and acquired throughout our lives, through conditioning and cultural norms.

After going through this article, even if you feel like you still don’t relate to the examples shown, it is important to note that synaesthesia can be to some extent induced by meditation, practising and training oneself. Before reviewing the examples listed below, you should perform the synaesthesia test on the following link. Even though this type of test is a scientific method, the website discourages its users from self-diagnosing. This is because even if you test well or not, this test does not cover all types of synaesthesia. You might have some other form that is not being tested by this quiz.

If you performed the test, you should have your suggested result and now you can proceed to check these examples. There is something called the Kiki-Bouba effect, which describes a form of ideasthesia- where we assign names and miraculously even personality traits to shapes. Below are 2 different shapes- if you assign them the correct one, you successfully relate to ideasthesia. So, which one is Kiki and which one is Bouba:

The correct answer is Bouba and Kiki respectively. Here is another one, just to drive the point home. Which one is Takete and which is Maluma:

Correct: Takete and Malouma respectively. What if I told you that 80% of people can correctly assign all these shapes a personality trait as well? The word Kiki is usually associated with the following words: happy, clever, small, tall, thin, young, unpleasant, nervous and upper class. This test also demonstrates the fat-thin effect (with most people stating Kiki is thin). This might be coming from a slew of popular Characters, like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Asterix and Obelix, etc. 

Film Sound Design – Seeing Through Sound

Sound is an integral part of movies. What’s interesting is that our vision and hearing kind of blend into one when it comes to film sounds. If the sound design is good enough, we can almost “see” through sound, because the auditory cues give us an idea of what might be hapening in the visual department.

Sound design components include sound effects or SFX sound design, mixing, Foley sound design, dialogue, and music. Sound design is the final and most important element needed to create an immersive experience for the audience.

Examples of Sound Design:

  • Lightsaber: combination of a film projector’s motor hum, TV interference, and waving a mic in front of the speaker to create “swooshing” sabers
  • Velociraptor: mixing a dolpin’s shriek with a walrus’ roar to create the raptor’s screech
  • Saving Private Ryan — recording period artillery to maximize the authenticity of battle scenes

Oftentimes, Sound Design is a bit overlooked within the film production timeline. Most people who are not in the sound industry would say that visuals are the main part of the movie, but the thing with sound design is that when it’s really good, it’s unnoticeable. But imagine watching a movie with no sound design? It would be quite weird. Only by removing sound completely can we see how much of an important role sound plays in movies.

Sound design can be used in guiding us to focus on the most relevant elements within a movie scene. For example, a movie can be done from a 1st or 3rd person perspective when it comes to sound design. Also tension doesn’t have to be built by growing crescendos- in fact, in “Munich”, Spielberg starts removing sound elements from a scene when building tension, making us focus only on the mail element in the scene, as well as a dynamic range difference once a particular scene reaches a climax. Here is a video explainig Spielberg’s practice in detail, as well as comparing the original sound design with a remake done by this channel:


Getting Creative – Music on a Low Budget

As the music industry is getting more and more saturated, artists are trying to outperform each other in sound quality. It’s become more often to invest in a lot of advanced equipment, and many artists (mostly bigger) are splurging on mixing and mastering engineers with expensive studio set-ups. But this shouldn’t discourage everyone else! At the core of everything, music is about creativity, expression and unique sounds. As bigger artists are focusing on sound quality, smaller artist can still find their way by putting out something that doesn’t have an immaculate mix, as long as they have a signature sound and can take us on for a ride. The biggest example of this is TikTok. I have noticed that a lot of the artists getting famous on the app are bedroom producers with noticeably imperfect mixes. But they obviously have something that is appealing enough for a larger audience to give them a platform.

How to record from home? Instead of trying to perfectly isolate your space and spend your hard-earned money on specialised microphones, try using your phone! Phones released in the last few years have good audio quality, they can record WAV and some better phones can even do stereo (mine is stereo and goes up to 24bit 48kHz). Recording with a phone leaves more room for spontaneity, because you can just press record while something cool randomly starts happening. For example, 2 of my friends were playing guitar in the lobby and I just quietly put my phone down on the table between them, with each microphone pointing at 1 of them. I then signalled them that I am recording and that they shouldn’t stop playing. The wooden walls/floor actually gave it a very nice slap-back/ short reverb effect, which fit perfectly into the recording. I then used this recording to create a lo-fi track. Every microphone has its own specific coloration and EQing- so do phones. You can use this in your advantage to give your track unique colouring, instead of using the same industry-standard microphones/plug-in that give you a sound similar to 80% of other music in your genre. Lo-fi effects are actually a great way to go when recording on phone microphones. They will mask the quality imperfection and at the same time give a cool flavour to your tracks.

Also remember- you can use just one sound to create literally anything you want, thanks to all the different effects and sampler we have available nowadays- a lot of them for free! I have done this “challenge” multiple times in order to force myself to get creative and make a whole track using just one sound as the basis.

Here is a video from a Sound Designer using objects he has around the house on order to create a cool beat:

Sound Designer Makes a track using random sounds around the house


Leadership Lessons from Musicians

Nowadays, some of the world’s biggest ‘influencers” are musicians. But how exactly did that happen? It does have something to do with the quality and mainstream appeal of the music, but there is a lot that happens behind the scene in order for a musician to become successful and influential. Believe it or not, many of the principles in the music industry are actually very useful common business and leadership practices. In this article, I go over some of the most impactful leadership lessons (in my own opinion) from musicians.

Leadership begins with a vision/dream

Many big pop stars describe how at the beginning of their career, they would dream or visualise themselves playing in huge venues. In 2010, Lady Gaga tweeted a photo of herself standing in front of the marquee at Madison Square Garden. Later that night, she explained how she would dream that one day her name would be in lights at the venue. She used this to form her vision of the future and share it with her team so that they would always push her to reach that goal. In order to be a good leader, one must have a clear vision of what they want to be or to achieve in the future.

You Need Support

Obviously, musicians can’t have a successful career without the support of numerous fans. musician Amanda Palmer challenged others into shifting the paradigm on how we ask for support: “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?’”

Amanda talking about her crowdfunding campaign, asking fans for help and success.

Just as musicians are building a support network, so should anyone who wants to be a leader. Find your support network, offer them great value for their support and really show that you care about them. Recognise that big dreams require big teams.

Leaders should learn “informed improvisation.”

Everyone just assumes that improvisation in music performances is purely unprepared material without the foresight of how the performance would go. That is not completely true. In order for a musician to be successful at improvisation and dazzle the crowd, one must have a lot of knowledge on the given subject, in order to be able to recognise and foresee possible musical resolutions of the progressions played during an improvisation. When a musician is capable of anticipating notes/sounds, they can take informed risks during improvisation.

There is a lot of talk about leaders needing to take risks and big steps. While that is certainly true, leaders also need to be prepared to make their own “giant steps.” Leaders should study market conditions and forecasting to make better informed decisions.

Leaders make others look good

A lot of big musicians help out new, young talent to swim out to the top, either by mentoring, coaching, or collaborations. True musical leaders help others become better at what they do. That also pertains to on-stage support for artists- Michael Jackson used to oversee and help his crew make the best performance possible.

Leaders should be adept at providing support to make others on their team shine. They listen to their team, take feedback and use that to make the team better.

Leaders understand self-discipline

Stereotypically, most people believe that touring musicians live a very “off the rails” life, party all the time and drink/do drugs. However, when one is touring for weeks, or even months, discipline is absolutely necessary in order to finish the tour and not fall ill during or even die. Simon Tam explains that he and his band have a signed internal agreement about staying sober during performances, as well as keeping up with practicing, equipment maintenance and a schedule that leaves enough room for sleep/recovery. Why is this is necessary? Their usual tours require 4-6 hours of driving every day, 1-2 hour of media/press and then performing until 2 a.m. every night. If they had partied and disregarded their schedule, they simply wouldn’t be able to finish the tour.

A leader should have high expectations for their team and themselves. Just like musicians, they should maintain their skills, develop time for rest, and make decisions for a sustainable career. 

Last year, a study confirmed that trees never stop growing. Year after year, they continue to add new rings. In fact, older trees keep growing at a faster rate. The day that a tree stops growing is the day that it dies. 

For those of us in the music industry, there are always opportunities to learn, collaborate, and grow. Leaders have similar opportunities for development. Leaders are learners. But whether a tree, a musician, or a leader, there’s one universal axiom: never stop growing.


Tips for a Good Ambisonic Mix

As technology moves more toward immersive experiences, such as VR and AR, as well as more realistic in-game experiences on other platforms, there is an increasing need for surround sound mixing. It has already been part of the cinema experience for quite a while, but now the boundaries have to be pushed to create something even more modern, thus requiring even more complex production/mixing techniques. This article gives creative tips and lists mostly open-source surround mixing software, as well as some paid options. There are not so many surround plugins available on the market, and most of them come at a pretty hefty price. It is not uncommon to see surround plug-in suites selling even for 1-2 thousand dollars. With a little bit of creativity, more layering, some coding knowledge and resourcefulness, it is possible to make high-quality surround mixes without breaking the bank.

IEM Plug-In Suite

The first and obvious choice that we were already shown in our classes is the IEM Plug-In suite. It can work with up to 7th order Ambisonics and provides the perfect base for a good surround mix. It contains the following plug-ins: AllRADecoder, BinauralDecoder, CoordinateConverter, DirectionalCompressor, DirectivityShaper, DistanceCompensator, DualDelay, EnergyVisualizer, FdnReverb, MatrixMultiplier, MultiBandCompressor, MultiEncoder, MultiEQ, OmniCompressor, ProbeDecoder, RoomEncoder, SceneRotator, SimpleDecoder, StereoEncoder and ToolBox. Each of the plug-ins have a lot of options, just be careful with CPU usage- the reverb for example can be quite intense, so you might want to choose an FDN size of 32 instead of 64 if you are having issues. If this suite doesn’t contain enough plug-in types to unleash your creativity, the rest of article lists other great options that could be combined well with the IEM Suite.

VISR Production Suite

The VISR Production suite is special because it is the first open-source suite for producing and reproducing object-based audio. Object-based differs from channel-based mixing in the way that it is scalable, future-proof, and adaptable for any type of user system, which provides a new level of interaction and personalisation. Right now the suite is compatible with Reaper, but it will soon be available for use with Ableton and Logic as well, which is very exciting news, being an avid Ableton user myself! The suite is available to download in the VST3 format. Just make sure to have the appropriate version of Python installed- it is required for the Binaural Renderer plug-in.

MCFX v0.5.11 – Multichannel Audio Plug-in Suite

The mcfx plug-in collection has tons of different plug-ins, including the convolver, which is very useful and necessary for creating convincing spaces and atmospheres. This is yet another free resource that we discussed in class. Note the most of the open-source variants will be a bit glitchy, and unfortunately due to that, I was not able to install this suite. So, if it works on your machine, it’s definitely worth it.

Envelop 4 Live

Envelop 4 Live is a collection of Max devices that can be used in Ableton to create spatial audio. Normally, the Ableton mixer is only able to do stereo mixes, but there is a binaural mixer in the plug-in suite which enables working with binaural audio in up to 3rd order ambisonics. This is not as much as the aforementioned plug-ins, but it still gives you cool capabilities and can be used for interactive VR sound creation.

Waves 360 °  Ambisonics

The Waves ambisonics suite is a paid one, but I included it because Waves plug-ins are so popular and they often have discounts. The current price is 399 USD. Some of the features of this bundle:

B360 Ambisonics Encoder, Nx Virtual Mix Room, and Nx Head Tracker. Mix stereo and mono elements into Ambisonics B-format. Convert surround mixes into 1st-order Ambisonics B-format. Precise positioning and easy placement of elements in a 360° mix. Intuitive user interface for a familiar-feeling workflow. Adjustable Width, Rotation, and elevation. Compatible with AmbiX. Includes AmbiX-FuMa and FuMa-AmbiX converter. Virtual acoustically optimised mix room for use in recording or mixing with headphones. Enables surround mixes via headphones. Individually coordinated parameters can be saved. 360° Head-tracking with selectable sources. Adjustable room dimensions and speaker positions.

This suite really has some amazing tools, which is not surprising. Waves has always had some awesome industry-standard plug-ins. The price is definitely worth it for anyone who can afford to splurge, especially when there is a discount.

Using Stereo Plug-Ins

Believe it or not, if if feels like the surround plug-ins currently available are not enough, or if you want the specific sound of a certain reverb (for example) modelled from special analogue gear, then you will have to creatively use stereo plug-ins inside a surround mix. This will enable you to obtain that unique colouring you love so much about certain plug-ins. I sure have my own staple plug-ins that I couldn’t imagine producing without. And with some effort, I don’t have to give them up when doing an ambisonic mix! You might want to do 2-3 layers of the same reverb at different pre-delay or reflection times and surround panning in order to simulate a realistic space using stereo plug-ins. This requires some technical knowledge if you want to achieve realism. If you are only looking to create a “cool-sounding” effect, “eyeballing it” will be enough. For the more precise way of working, you will have to make calculations based on desired room size, material and similar. The calculations will not be super-precise, as the coefficients of absorption you can find online are only the average, and not accurate for the same material across different brands. Room reflections can be calculated more accurately though. It will require knowledge of how fast sound takes to reach a wall and then back to our ear, as well as how big the delay between our left and right ear is (in order to model realistic positions of objects). You will also have to take into consideration how many reflections will there be in the room you imagined.

Lastly, here is a video from Waves describing how stereo and surround plugi-ns can be used creatively together. This specific video showcases 5.1 surround mixing, but the same trick (with even higher fidelity) can be applied to any higher order ambisonics mix too: