Amateur Sound Engineer, Musician and Songwriter. Originally from Porto, Portugal and currently living in Macau, China, Nuno Moreiras in this month SoundGym Hero!
I have been living in Macau for the last 10 years since I met up with a friend here and, like most people who ended up in this city, I was supposed to stay only for a few months, but it slowly became my home. I married and became a father here. Funny enough, before I arrived I also had no idea where Macau was on a map, but for those who also haven't heard of it, Macau was a Portuguese Colony from 1557 until 1999, when Portugal transferred it back to China and so it's a very beautiful mix of West and East, in architecture, food, music and even language.
There is also a large community here, from the United States, UK, Canada, Spain, Italy, India and a bunch of other places, so it's basically a MIX (pun intended!) of cultures and everyone gets along very well.
My 'studio' is currently a (really!) small division of our apartment, where a carefully planned (yeah, right!) shelf architecture was set so that all instruments and material can fit.
The basic acoustic treatment that I have comes from the shelves (blocking those high-frequency reflections) and Sonarworks Studio calibration (for the lower frequency resonances), but, as you can see in the photos, I'm using a pair of humble Mackie CR5 speakers supported by a column of books anyway, so I usually fall back to my HD 650 Headphones with Waves NX and the Sonarworks headphone calibration for like 70% of every project.
I guess you could say my musical 'career' started when I was 18 (late, I know!). I always had a passion for music, but I never really had an instrument that I could play, until Bernardo, one of my closest friends back in Portugal, had a guitar just laying around in his room, which one day, he asked if I wanted to take home. I said 'sure' and that was the day it all began, progressing from barely being able to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to absent-mindedly shredding the 'Mixolydian-with-a-flat-6-which-works-well-with-borrowed-5-chords' at 220 bpm. Just kidding! I'm not that good at scales and definitely not that fast yet. But you know what I mean, sometimes it's good to look back on the path and reflect on how much we have improved.
So I practised on the borrowed guitar and a few months later I felt like I was gonna… - NO! that I HAD TO - keep going, so I purchased my own 100 bucks classical guitar and with two guitars, me Bernardo and Ricardo, our talented lead singer, went to set up our first band called 'Banda da Pedra' which was mainly Portuguese folk music, recorded on the street with phone microphones over the course of a couple of years while we drove around from place to place with a 6-pack of cold beers in the trunk of the car.
A few years later, I moved to Lisbon where I met an eccentric fellow called David who was the one who actually introduced me to production by installing Fruity Loops (currently revamped to FL Studio) in my computer and we kicked a few tracks in a Hip-Hop band we briefly put up together called 'Tchullos':
(this was 15 years ago, horrible visuals I know… this one goes out to David 'Massama' Dias wherever he may be, the author of the song)
After moving to Macau (10 years ago) I put together a band called Why Monkey, which dabbled mainly with Folk Rock stuff and, one good thing about the music scene in Macau is that it is so small that even with sub-par music you still get heard here and there and we even won a few awards in a couple of contests.
This is us receiving our first award ever, which was the Creative Music Video award for a World Music Day contest here in Macau.
Currently, me and my wife Dalila are working on a Reggae project called The Reggae Thieves, with contributions from other artists. Now, disclaimer: the two tracks you will find online 'Love Is Gonna Fill This Town' and 'Kiss Like Reversed Bees' were victims of an emergency migration between computers and DAWs (from Sonar to Pro Tools) due to computer we used at the moment breaking down, which meant the audio quality was severely affected (some tracks were already compressed, EQed, reverbed mid-project, in fact, the only thing I had to work with 'Love' was the final mix, where I used the magic of RX8 to do some separation between tracks), but I promise that if you chose to follow us online you will not be disappointed with the pies that are cooking in the reggae oven right now.
My present challenge is trying to find a balance between practicing enough production and becoming proficient as a musician, especially as a guitarist. I was lucky enough to find a teacher - Tomás Ramos de Deus - which is one of the best and most famous musicians in Macau which has been guiding me through the road of guitar and singing, And that brings us right about to the present day.
I'm gonna try and share a few funny stories from my musical journey, so just keep reading, but one interesting fact of being at the home studio is that my 6-year-old daughter comes in at random times and asks to do the PanGirl challenge, which is usually pretty effective at forcing me to take some time off the mix and gain some perspective.
I also probably have the messiest studio ever in Soundgym Hero history as you can see from the photos.
I've had several artists who influenced my musical journey. My first 'favourite band ever was James, which was basically the soundtrack to all of my childhood. I was once on a massive James concern in a festival called 'Sudoeste' in the South of Portugal (this back in like 2006 or something) and two friends of mine - I'm gonna call them out by their names, cause they will probably read this - Ochoa and Ze, knew how much I LOVED the band so they tagged me along, spearheading a 100 meters corridor from the place where we were, which was kinda in the middle of everything, to first-line front-of-the-stage, trailblazing through a thick wall of drunk and stubborn fans, so that I could be right in front of Tim Booth (the lead singer of James).
Later, Tim eventually noticed how much I sounded like a madman shouting the lyrics for every song, word by word that we ended up singing the chorus for 'Sometimes' together while he looked down at me, eye to eye the whole time, with that kind of appreciative smile that artists have for fans. I know this story bores everyone to death every time I tell it, but imagine one day being put in front of one of your most influential artists and sharing a chorus. That's deep stuff, man!
Then during my late teens - early twenties, I listened to Bob Marley all the time. Also Gentleman, Matisyahu, Eek-A-Mouse, Toots and the Maytals, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, Alborosie, so it was a huge Reggae phase for me which lasted until today. It was a time of great * ahem * inspiration - late nights, sunrises and wide oceans.
One day I was travelling Laos (year was 2011) and was staying at Spicy Lao hostel in Luang Prabang (beds for $1 and all the free snake whisky you can drink) where I came upon this fellow called Jesse, or rather, he came upon me. I was playing guitar outside of the hostel and he sat beside me and asked if he could play. So he played a song by Bright Eyes called 'Bowl of Oranges'. Little did he know that he had just started one of the greatest musical addictions of my life. During the last 10 years I listened to Bright Eyes pretty much ALL. THE. TIME. I just love it and I think everyone should listen to 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning' album because it's just brilliant work, oozing emotion.
Lately, I have been listening to a lot of Reggae, since this is the style we are working on: Fortunate Youth, Rebelution, Freddy Locks and definitely a lot of Natiruts.
By the way, for those who don't know there is a Reggae space at Soundgym set up by our good friend Dread Man B!
I mean the audio production games are great and the daily workout is a great way to push us to really develop our ears and improve the technique, but I'd have to say my favourite SoundGym feature is the community. In few corners of the internet have I seen such a wonderful mix of lads and gals so helpful and really just in this for the love of music.
No competition, no hate, just people helping each other out and making each other better. I really haven't done the Mixdown Training Room every week, because honestly I don't have the time, but I kinda keep up with it and that's a great example of the soul of this community.
Everyone mostly posts unfinished mixes for comments, but where do we go if we want to listen to the great masterpieces of Soundgym? Spotify Playlist Space, that's right!
Uh, that's a hard one… Well, totally out of the band's present style, but if I had to choose one album where I go like 'man, I really like music that would probably be Kings of Leon 'Only By Night'
Other options would be Placebo 'Once Again with Feeling', James 'Live in Manchester and Smashing Pumpkins 'Rotten Apples'.
Keep a positive outlook on life. Listen to music, read, expose yourself to nature. I once heard one piece of advice from a music teacher that I'll never forget, he said 'I listen to one style of music I don't like at least once every week.' And that's the thing, push yourself farther, brave the unknown. Death is staying still.
It wasn't always like this, but lately I usually first put the chorus together and go from there. So sometimes I'm driving or reading or going about my life and this epiphany just hits me. Like a sentence just materializes in my brain, and if I can still remember it I write it down as soon as possible.
So I now have a document will all kinds of fragmented ideas and some of that I go like 'Oh that would fit nicely as a chorus', so for example one of the latest 'epiphanies' was for a reggae music and the chorus goes like 'No one listens to the dreams of the trees' and I have now put it in a I- V - ii - IV progression for the chorus and a I - V - IV - V progression for the verse and once I finish writing the lyrics for the chorus, I'll start with the arrangement and see where we go from there.
It's very important to write down these things that pop into your head suddenly, because that's really the Universe sending you a message.
On an average day, I usually only have time for production in the evening, so my usual habit before starting a session is kissing my daughter goodnight before heading to the studio. Then I sit, take a deep breath, put on the headphones and pray that my ears aren't fooling me after a whole day.
My workflow when starting a session is usually: organizing the mix, usually putting bass and drum tracks on top, because I'll most likely start working with the dynamics between those two bad boys after the initial gain staging, especially the spaces in the lower frequency ranges > gain staging > probably putting up a few SSL consoles in the important tracks and tuning the EQ and Compression from the console > adding a compressor here and there to fine tune the character of the sound > a few Pro-Q3 here and there for more surgical EQ stuff and separation > if everything is working good and I'm happy with the separation, I'll start with the panning > at this point, if I haven't rested, my ears will be tired and something is not gonna sound OK or exciting enough so I'm either gonna start considering pulling some SoundToys stuff to mess something up and bring back the fun or I'll have a rest > work the reverbs > probably bring some auxiliary inputs to do a few interesting stuff here and there > automate the fun stuff > MASTER.
If I had to choose one that would be my Tailor 714-CEN Classical Guitar, it sounds great, warm, balanced and it costs the same as two months rent.
It's also great to invite people in the studio and sit them in front of the Roland TDK-15 Drums with headphones. That face of 'WOW!' when people listen to the realism of virtual drums with headphones is great.
A couple of Grammys, no doubt. A million-dollar studio, perfectly treated acoustically. The most talented artists of the decade coming in and out as well as a good deal of other interesting characters.
If that fails, then hopefully a lot of fun.
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