Journey “Don’t Stop Believin'” Isolated Vocal

Journey Don't Stop Believin'“Don’t Stop Believin'” is one of those classic rock songs that keeps on going and refuses to fade away. You hear it at sporting events, on television and movies, and on the radio even after 35+ years since it was recorded. Journey had a lot of success at its peak, but this may be song that defines them in the end, so today we’re going to have a listen to the isolated lead vocal from the song.

“Don’t Stop…” is an interesting song in that the chorus only comes once in the song and it’s at the end. I can’t think of another song where that happens but it’s not a song structure that you’d teach an aspiring songwriter, and yet here it is in this huge hit. Let’s get into it.

1. Journey vocalist Steve Perry truly has one of the most incredible voices in music and it’s perfectly on display here. The song was recorded as we entered the age of perfectionism in the studio (thanks to the 24 track tape machine), but this performance is still scary good.

2. I didn’t hear one slight imperfection at 0:33 where he went slightly sharp on “…anywhere” but that’s really splitting hairs.

3. The audio quality of this video isn’t great, but you can still hear that the vocal has in a nice long delayed reverb. If you listen carefully to the decay, you can hear a midrange ring to it.

4. On the B sections you can hear a double slightly to the left and an octave below the lead slightly to the right.

5. The vocal is edited together so there’s no big gaps from the instrumental sections of the song.

March 23, 2017

Using Guitar Pedals On Your Mix

guitar pedals on mixI’m a purist when it comes to guitar pedals I must admit. Back when I was a serious player, my guitar rig devolved from one with the typical half-dozen+ pedals to none, as my sound came the “classic” way from just the guitar and amp (and sounded great, by the way). The same with the studio. I always hated using guitar pedals on a mix because of the noise and the inherent sound quality problems that occurred as a result.

Today things are different though, as pedals are now pretty quiet and the audio quality doesn’t change much thanks to the many reamp boxes on the market like Radial’s ProRMP and EXTC. This video by my buddy Dave Pensado shows some cool ways to make use of those pedals as something other than stomp boxes on stage.

4 Quick Drum Tuning Tips From The Famous “Drum Doctor”

Drum Doctor Ross GarfieldIf you’re doing a session in Los Angeles and you want your drums to instantly sound great, then your first call is to the Drum Doctors to either rent a fantastic sounding kit, or have your kit tuned. Ross Garfield is the Drum Doctor and you’ve heard his drum sounds on platinum recordings from Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Mettalica, Dwight Yokum,  Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Lenny Kravitiz, Michael Jackson and many, many more (that’s him on the left with Mick Fleetwood).

Ross was kind enough to do an interview for The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, but I’ve featured some of his tips in other books like The Drum Recording Handbook, The Touring Musician’s Handbook, and The Music Producer’s Handbook as well. Here’s a few of his quick drum tuning tips. For more info on Ross and his company, go to drumdoctors.com.

1. If the snares buzz when the toms are hit:

  • Check that the snares are straight.
  • Check to see whether the snares are flat and centered on the drum.
  • Loosen the bottom head.
  • Retune the offending toms.
  • Use an alternate snare drum.

2. If the snare has too much ring:

  • Tune the heads lower.
  • Use a heavier head, such as a coated Remo Emperor.
  • Use a full or partial muffling ring, or add some tape or Moongel.

3. If the kick drum isn’t punchy and lacks power in the context of the music:

  • Try increasing and decreasing the amount of muffling in the drum, a sandbag, or try a different blanket or pillow.
  • Change to a heavier, uncoated head, such as a clear Emperor or Powerstroke 3.
  • Change to a thinner front head or one with a larger cutout.

4. If one or more of the toms are difficult to tune or have an unwanted “growl”:

  • Check the top heads for dents and replace as necessary.
  • Check the evenness of tension all around on the top and bottom heads.
  • Tighten the bottom head.

These are just some quick tips, and you can find more extensive tuning techniques from the Drum Doctor in my Recording Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition. You can read more from that and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

March 21, 2017

Engineer Drew Drucker On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Drew DruckerIf you were going to show someone how to make it in the music business, you’d point to engineer and mixer Drew Drucker as the perfect example.

Drew graduated from recording school, then worked his way up in the business by starting as a runner and moving up the ladder thanks to hard work, paying his dues and some good timing. His client list now includes some of hip-hop and R&B’s biggest stars including Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, Travis Barker, Bruno Mars and B-Real, among many others.

We really got down in the weeds when it comes to Drew’s mixing and recording techniques in this interview, so expect a lot of details.

In the intro I’ll take a look at the surprising top selling vinyl records from 2016. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over this one. I’ll also look at a pre-session checklist that every producer and studio owner should follow to make that first session run smoothly.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

March 21, 2017

You Can Own One Of These Iconic Consoles

TG12345 MK IVIf you love old recording desks, then you have a chance to buy not one, but 2 iconic consoles that have huge pedigrees with tons of hits. The first is the EMI TG12345 MK IV from Abbey Road Studios made famous for the recording of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, and albums by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Kate Bush, The Cure, among many others.

Back in the day, all consoles at Abbey Road and other EMI-owned studios were designed and built by the EMI in-house technical staff. and this particular desk is only one of two like it ever built (the other now belonging to producer Michael Hedges). The console has 40 channels, with a compressor on each channel (which was quite innovative for its time), divided into 24 input channels and 16 monitor channels, since this is from the days of 16 track tape recording.

Many think that the solid state TG12345 MK IV was the best sounding console every built, although I know at least a couple of former Abbey Road engineers who disagree and think the tube REDD series sounded better, but that’s probably splitting hairs. Regardless, it’s still in working order and is up for auction at Bonhams. It’s expected to go for somewhere in the high 6 figures!

Sunset Sound Factory APIThe second classic desk is a very nice API 2488 from Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood which has been heavily modified and fully restored (which cost around $165k in today’s dollars). It has 36 inputs, 16 busses and 29 (!) full monitor channels, plus a Martinsound Flying Fader package.

This console was at the heart of recordings by Chili Peppers, Motorhead, Sheryl Crow, Brian Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Beck, Jimmy Cliff,  Smashing Pumpkins and many more. No mention of the price, but it’s available from Vintage King.

The best thing about these desks is that they’re available in working order and should find a nice home without being parted out. There’s less and less of a need for a big piece of iron like these iconic consoles these days, but hopefully they’ll both find nice homes.

New Music Gear Monday: Von Erickson Skull Microphone

skull microphoneSometimes style and image is a higher priority than the actual sound of a device, and if that describes your place in the music business, then you’re going to want to check out the Von Erickson Labs Skull Microphone. Von Erickson already makes jewelry based around a certain creepy zombie theme, so a microphone was an easy reach for the company that knows what its audience wants.

The Skull Microphone looks like a venerable Shure Model 55 only in the shape of a skull. While there’s no mention as to exactly which diaphragm is being used, the specs are pretty good. It has a frequency response of 60 to 17,000 Hz and a supercardioid polar pattern, which is not expected from the mic of that shape that we know and love. It’s also manufactured in the U.S., which is always good.

There’s not much more to say expect that the Skull Microphone is available in three styles – Bright Chrome, Dark Chrome and Satin Gun Metal, and sells for $375. Come on, you know you want one.

Thanks to my buddy Steve Harvey for the heads up.

Best And Worst Isolated Live Vocal Feeds Of 10 Top Artists

live vocal feedsUsually on a Friday I post an isolated track from the studio mix of a hit song. The studio is one thing, since we’re after perfection and there are many tools to help achieve that (including hard work). That said, top artists make most of their money from live performances, so maybe we should take a listen to the isolated live vocal feed from those.

Here are 10 of today’s most famous artists live on stage with just their bare naked isolated vocal track. You be the judge as to how good they are.

The performers are Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, and Mariah Carrey.

Please note: The comments on the video are not mine, but I agree with them.

March 16, 2017

Google’s AI Music Experiment

Google's AI music experimentMany musicians feel threatened by the artificial intelligence programs that are now trying to create songs based on the music that they’ve learned. Yes, it’s scary when the robots take over, but perhaps we’re looking at it all wrong, as illustrated with this Google AI music experiment.

A.I. Duet, as shown in the video below, is actually part of Google’s Magenta project, which was created to see if machine learning could actually create some compelling music. Yotam Mann coded A.I. Duet and made it open source so anyone can use it to program their own neural net.

While the music that Duet comes up with isn’t that great (at least in this video), one of the things that I find interesting is the possibility of actually playing along with an ever-changing computer musician who’s also listening to you. Not only does that sound like a potentially great learning experience, but should be fun too.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of AI music after all.

You can access the code a g.co/aiexperiments.

2 Schools Of Thought On Guitar Pedal Order For Better Sound

effects order 1I was asked by a guitar player recently why his tone wasn’t what he wanted, and the first thing that got my attention was the maze of stomp boxes he was using. Although that wasn’t the only problem with his rig, it was a good place to start, since everything was connected more or less haphazardly. Here’s some info on guitar pedal order taken from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook (written with the great player/composer/writer Rich Tozzoli), that can help you get a handle on your processors.

“There are two things that will directly affect how your effects interface with your amp; the pedal order and gain staging. Effects order means the order that each pedal appears in the the signal chain between the guitar and amplifier. There are several schools of thought on effects order, and they each have a different result.

School Of Thought #1

This effects chain is the order generally recommended by most of the pedal gurus. There are several rules that make up this order:

  • Any distortion pedal must come first right after the guitar. The exception is if you’re using a compressor pedal, which will be first in the chain. Do not put a volume pedal first, as this can alter the way a compressor or distortion pedal sounds.
  • Any modulation or tone devices like wahs should come next. This enables you to keep the sustain coming from your distortion or overdrive devices and alter an already harmonically rich signal.
  • Delays come almost last in the chain, since you want to be delaying your already effected signal.
  • A volume pedal comes either last in the chain, or directly in front of any delay.
  • In situations where a pedal is providing a lot of clean gain, that will come last in the chain so as not to overload any of the other pedals.

So a typical pedal order might go something like:

compressor distortion → wah → chorus → delay → volume pedal (see the graphic on the left)

While this might not be the quietest order, it does sound really good because any distortion, overdrive, or sustain is being affected by the effects that come behind it.

School Of Thought #2

If we’re talking about recording, we may want the least amount of noise going into the amp. With that in mind, there are two rules in this scenario:

  • The noisiest pedal goes last in the chain before the amp.
  • The one with the most gain goes last before the amp.

The reason for both of the above points is simple; if the noisiest pedal is first in the chain, that noise will be affected and amplified further by every other pedal in the chain that you switch on. Same with the pedal with the most gain; if it’s at the beginning of the chain, it could possibly overload any other effect that comes after it, since most pedals only want to see a typical guitar signal and nothing greater (see Figure 4). Also, any noise caused by increasing the gain on a pedal will be amplified downstream by any other pedal switched on.

Generally, you’ll try to keep the basic order as in School of Thought #1 in order to be sure that any distortion or sustain is affected by the effects placed later in the chain. That being said, this order won’t sound the same as Order #2, especially if a distortion pedal is placed last in the chain (which isn’t recommended) because of its gain, so it might not be for everyone.

If you follow the above suggestions, you’ll find that your signal chain should clean up quite a bit and your recordings should benefit greatly as a result.”

You can read more from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

March 14, 2017

OWC’s Larry O’Connor On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Larry O'Connor OWCIf you’re a Mac computer owner then there’s a good chance that you’ve purchased hard drives, memory or accessories from Other World Computing or OWC (I know I have – a lot).

OWC founder and CEO Larry O’Connor joins me for a conversation about new and old Macs, upgrades, and performance enhancements on this week’s podcast. He’ll also tell us some surprising facts about hard drives that every computer owner (and that includes PC people) should know.

In the intro I’ll take a look how the fate of both Pandora and SoundCloud are now hanging in the balance, and at the increasing incidence of hearing loss in adults.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

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