February 24, 2017

Edgar Winter Group “Free Ride” Isolated Guitars

Edgar Winter Free RideFor years now we’ve heard The Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“on classic radio, movies and commercials, and as with all hits, there’s a lot of subtle expertise that’s gone into the track. Let’s take a listen to the isolated guitars.

1. The opening guitar riffs, played by songwriter Dan Hartman, is one of the prettiest Strat sounds you’ll ever hear. It’s panned slightly to the left, and you can hear a nice long delayed reverb on the right.

2. The B section feels likes it’s rushing just a bit. That might be because he was following the drums (remember this was before people started to record with a click track) when tracking.

3. Rick Derringer’s lead guitar is up the middle with less reverb (Ronnie Montrose played on the album version). You can hear some of the noise that we’d normally mute today on the second time through.

4. The guitar solo is double an octave up.

5. There’s an ending that you don’t hear on the record as there’s a short jam and a full stop ending if you listen all the way through.

February 23, 2017

Losing Your Hearing? There May Be A Cure For That Soon

hearing cell hairsThe biggest thing that every musician and engineer lives in fear of is losing one’s hearing. To make matters worse, it happens naturally to all of us as we grow older, although its gradually enough that we can unconsciously compensate. That said, all it takes is a loud concert, or a sudden loud feedback, or cymbals in your ears on stage, and your ears will ring for days and some of your hearing may never return to the way it was. The good news is that there’s been a new breakthrough by research scientists at Harvard and MIT that might make permanent hearing loss a thing of the past.

We actually have two sets of auditory cells in our ears that are long and thin like hairs (see the photo on the left). Hair cells grow in bundles in the inner ear and are mostly concerned with balance. In the cochlea, the hearing organ deep in the ear canal, there are two kinds of specialized hair cells – outer hair cells that amplify pitch, and inner hair cells that convert sound into electrical signals sent to the brain. The problem is that each cochleae (one in each ear) has only about 16,000 hair cells, and once they’re damaged, they don’t regenerate – as in, gone for good!

That’s what happens with most mammals, but fish, birds, lizards and amphibians can have cochlear hair cells that die but can be regenerated in as fast as a few days. Coming back to mammals, mice and other small mammals also have these regeneration characteristics when they are newly born, and that’s where the researchers came in. The team managed to grow up to 11,500 hair cells from the stem cells of one baby mouse ear, which could bring hope to people of all ages already hard of hearing or getting that way.

These laboratory-grown hair cells aren’t perfect however, even though they appear to have many of the characteristics of actual inner and outer hair cells. They might not end up being fully functional, so the most immediate use for this new technique might be to create a large set of the cells to test drugs and to identify compounds that can heal damaged hair cells or regrow them and restore hearing.

Either way, that’s good news for just about everyone who depends on their hearing for a living. Now turn that music down!

8 Indicators That Your Mix Is Finished

8 indicators your mix is finishedOne of the hardest things for many mixers to determine is when a mix is finished. In fact, engineers new to mixing may think a mix is ready in an hour, but a pro will usually take considerably longer. How much longer? Well, some big hit maker mixers that I know may spend up to 16 hours just on a vocal!

That said, the time spent on a mix is all over the place these days, so this excerpt from the 4th edition of my Mixing Engineer’s Handbook outlines 8 indicators that will let you know when your mix is ready for the world.

“One of the tougher things to decide when you’re mixing is when the mix is finished. If you have a deadline, the decision is made for you as the clock ticks down, but if you have unlimited time or a deep-pocket budget, a mix can drag on forever.

Just when is a mix considered finished? Here are some guidelines:

1. The groove of the song is solid. The pulse of the song is strong and undeniable.

2. You can distinctly hear every mix element. Although some mix elements, such as pads, are sometimes meant to blend seamlessly into the track, most mix elements should be clearly heard.

3. Every lyric and every note of every line or solo can be heard. You don’t want a single note buried. It all has to be crystal clear. Use your automation. That’s what it was made for.

4. The mix has punch. The relationship between the bass and drums is in the right proportion and works well together to give the song a solid foundation.

5. The mix has a focal point. What’s the most important element of the song? Make sure it’s obvious to the listener.

6. The mix has contrast. If you have too much of the same effect on everything, the mix can sound washed out. Likewise, if your mix has the same intensity throughout, it can be boring to the listener. You need to have contrast between different elements, from dry to wet, from intense to less intense, to give the mix depth.

7. All noises and glitches are eliminated. This includes any count-offs, singer’s breaths that seem out of place or predominant because of vocal compression, amp noise on guitar tracks before and after the guitar is playing, bad-sounding edits, and anything else that might take the listener’s attention away from the track.

8. You can play your mix against songs that you love, and it holds up. This is perhaps the ultimate test. If you can get your mix in the same ballpark as many of your favorites (either things you’ve mixed or mixes from other artists) after you’ve passed the previous seven items, then you’re probably home free.

How much time should all this take? In the end, most mixing pros figure at least a full day per song regardless of whether you’re mixing in the box or mixing on an analog console, although it’s still best to figure a day and a half per mix if you’re mixing in a studio with an analog-style console and traditional hardware outboard gear. Of course, if you’re mixing every session in your DAW as you go along during recording, then you might be finished before you know it, since all you may have to do is just tweak your mix a little to call it complete.”

You can read more from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

February 21, 2017

Composer Michael Carey On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Composer Michael CareyMichael Carey started his career as a guitar player, but soon found his way into writing music for commercials. His credits there include Toyota, Ford, Sonic, Coke, Papa Johns, NASCAR, Exxon, and Outback Steakhouse among others, as well as on-air promo packages for CBS, NBC and TBS.

Michael missed album work though, as has since made his way back into songwriting, production and session work, and he’ll tell you about that journey in the interview of my latest podcast.

On the intro I’ll take a look at the biggest selling albums of all time in the US (Michael Jackson’s Thriller just went 33x platinum), and take an in-depth look at my 10 favorite compressors and why they made the list.

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

February 21, 2017

Goodbye Clyde Stubblefield

Clyde StubblefieldSo much of today’s music was influenced one way or another by Funk music of the 60s and 70s. Of course, James Brown could be credited as the inventor of Funk, but the man behind the feel was drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who passed away last week at age 73. He was the backbeat behind such Brown hits as “Cold Sweat,” “I got The Feelin’, “Mother Popcorn,” “Sex Machine,” and many more.

Stubblefield laid down one of the most sampled beats in hip-hop ever on the Brown’s extended jam “Funky Drummer.” The beat can be found on tracks from the likes of Run DMC, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, L.L. Cool J and others. The snare pop is instantly recognizable in songs such as “Run’s House,” “Fight The Power,” “Shadrach,” “F*** Tha Police,” “Freedom! ’90,” “Mama Said Knock You Out” and hundreds more.

Here it is below, but you have to go to 5:22 to hear the drum break. Below that is a Stubblefield solo from the Boston Garden concert from the 70s.

One thing’s for sure, we’ve lost another funk master.

[Photo: MTPhrames]

New Music Gear Monday: Two Notes Torpedo Live Digital Amplifier Load Box

two notes torpedo liveA guitar amp load box lowers the volume to, or even eliminates, the speaker cabinet so you can crank up your favorite amp without tearing the walls down with SPL. I go way back when it comes to guitar amp load boxes, even building my own before there was one on the market. I then purchased an Altair (which I still have) and a Scholz, and every other one that came on the market there for a while. They did the job, but there was always something missing from the sound. That was then and now is now, as the latest load boxes are a whole different animal, which brings us to the Two Notes Torpedo Live digital load box, the next generation of the device.

Actually I’m a bit late coming to the party on this one, as the Torpedo Live has been available for a few years. That said, it’s put back what was missing from the old boxes and then some, thanks to digital processing.

I was speaking to an old friend who works at a rather famous company that specializes in amplifier simulators, and he told me the formula for a good sounding amp model. “It’s all in the cabinet simulation,” he stated, and that’s exactly what the Torpedo Live gives you – not only models of 8 of the most widely used speaker cabinets, but 8 on the most used guitar amp mics in multiple positions and distances on the cab. Add in 8 different types of amp simulators and some EQ and you have an amplifier load box like no other.

What’s more, the Torpedo Live can also be further controlled by a very nice software interface via USB, and switched via MIDI. It has both balanced analog and digital outputs (with sample rates up to 96kHz) to connect directly to your DAW.

The Two Notes Torpedo Live goes for $995, and there’s a newer Torpedo Studio that adds more cabinets and effects for $1850.

If you’re a guitar player who loves his amp but needs the output level controlled, or wants to use a cranked amp in a home studio,this is for you. Check out the video below for more info or go to the website page.

February 17, 2017

Journey “Any Way You Want It” Isolated Organ

Journey isolated organUsually less is more, and that’s what you’ll find in today’s isolated track. Greg Rollie is a great Hammond player and his performance on Journey’s big hit “Any Way You Want It” shows why. There’s feel, tone and dynamics – all the things that lifts the level a performance. Here’s what to listen for.

1. The organ is recorded in mono and it has a boatload of delayed reverb on it that’s very apparent right in the beginning of the song.

2. Greg is playing with two hands (for the most part) – one on each keyboard. You can really hear the difference in the few times that his left hand drops out.

3. The part calls for the organ to shadow the guitar until the end of the verse, then a big swell into the upper keyboard on the chorus.

4. There’s a lot of disciple in this part. It doesn’t vary much in any section, and considering that its so sparse and Rollie has some chops, it’s pretty cool that he puts that aside for the betterment of the song.

5. The chorale setting of the Leslie is used throughout. I’m surprised that he didn’t use the fast rotor setting somewhere in one of the choruses.

The last couple of minutes are same so there’s really nothing new to hear beyond about 1:30.

My Latest Top 10 Compressors

Top 10 compressorsAbout 3 years ago I posted about my top 10 compressors, but things have changed a lot since then, so I thought it was time to post an updated list. Many of the entries haven’t changed, but a few have (especially on the software side).

This list is a combination of hardware and software, since most of us live in a DAW world these days. Also, the ranking is somewhat arbitrary based on my personal usage. Okay, here we go.

1. Universal Audio 1176: I don’t care which version you use, the 1176 is about as close to a desert island compressor as you’ll get due to its versatility. I like to use it on kick, snare, guitars, bass, vocals – just about anything. It can be aggressive or smooth sounding, but nothing pulls an instrument out of a mix in the same way.

2. Teletronix/Universal Audio LA-2A: Once again, I don’t care which version of the hardware or software you use, the LA-2A has a sound and feel all its own. It can work pretty well on most instruments, but it stands out on vocals, and is dead easy to use. I rarely use a lot, as I like the sound of 2 to 3 dB of gain reduction in most situations.

3. Universal Audio LA-3: Perhaps the ultimate electric guitar compressor, I’ve used it successfully on piano and keyboards as well. Nothing works quite the same with electric guitars in a mix.

4. UAD Precision Limiter: This is a plug that I use on every mix. It doesn’t really try to emulate anything else and it doesn’t have to. It can sit there and be very transparent while putting an absolute ceiling on the peaks of a mix (the way I like to use it), or you can set it to be really aggressive and squeeze every last drop of dynamics from the mix, if that’s what you’re looking for.

5. PSP Vintage Warmer:  I don’t know what it is but the Vintage Warmer makes a mix sound better just by being in the signal path. I hardly ever adjust it much, but it always seems to pull the mix together. I like to use it as the first thing on my stereo buss and feed it into an SSL buss compressor, then the Precision Limiter.

6. SSL Buss Compressor: This is the sound that made so many pop and rock records in the 80s and 90s, and it still works great in those genres. I once worked in a studio that had the buss compressor on their 9k labeled as “The Good Button.” Why? Because no matter how your mix sounded, once the SSL buss compressor was engaged, it sounded better.

7. JST Finality: Joey Sturgis is a clever guy and his Finality is a great example of a new take on a classic design (the 1176). The Finality sounds great on drums and bass, doesn’t cost much and doesn’t take up too many system resources. Very cool.

8. dbx 160: I just love the 160s; any of them. For a punchy drum sound, you can’t beat the hardware 160X’s (or even the A model). In software, the UAD 160 sounds great. My favorite for aggressive kick and snare, but it will pull a piano or acoustic guitar up front as well.

9. Fairchild 660/670: When it comes to buss compression, the Fairchild 670 stands is king of the hill for many kinds of music (especially retro or acoustic). It just adds a glue and warmth that you have trouble getting any other way. Just a little bit (a couple of dB) seems to work a lot better than a whole lot. The 660 is the mono version of the more widely known 670, and was the sound you heard on many of The Beatle records (Ringo’s drums, for instance).

10. Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor: Few modern compressors have caught on so widely as the Distressor, and that’s because there are few that are as versatile. I like to track with it on vocals to keep the peaks under control, but there are few compressors that are as effective on room mics, especially when it’s set to “Nuke.” I’m so happy that there’s now a plugin version as well.

Honorable Mention. Pro Tools Native Digirack Compressor/Limiter: I personally think this is one of the most versatile compressors that you can find. It can sound transparent and it can sound aggressive, and since it doesn’t take up much in the way of systems resources, you can use a lot of them in a big mix. Don’t overlook it.

Once again, my top 10 compressors are what I always use, so this is a clearly personal opinion. There’s lots of great compressor out there (especially in software), but I’ve come to rely on these units because I know what they’ll do in most situations.

What are your favorites?

February 15, 2017

The Magic Frequencies For EQing Mix Elements

Magic FrequenciesWhen it comes to EQing, there are certain frequencies that seem predominant for every instrument. Many call them the magic frequencies, because they do tend to work most of the time. Here’s a chart of those frequencies from the latest edition of my Mixing Engineer’s Handbook.

Remember that using the magic frequencies might make an instrument or voice sound dynamite on its own when soloed, but then it might not fit in the mix properly. That’s why it’s best to listen against other instruments when adding or subtracting EQ. Also remember than every song is different because the players, arrangement, recording environment, players and feel is different, which will greatly influence your EQ decisions.

Instrument Magic Frequencies
Bass guitar Bottom at 50 to 80Hz, attack at 700Hz, snap at 2.5kHz
Kick drum Bottom at 80 to 100Hz, hollowness at 400Hz, point at 3k to 5kHz
Snare Fatness at 120 to 240Hz, point at 900Hz, crispness at  5kHz, snap at 10kHz
Rack Toms Fullness at 240 to 500Hz, attack at 5 to 7kHz
Floor Toms Fullness at 80Hz, attack at 5kHz
Hi-hat and cymbals Clang at 200Hz, sparkle at 8k to 10kHz
Electric guitar Fullness at 240 to 500Hz, presence at 1.5 to 2.5kHz, attenuate at 1kHz for 4 × 12 cabinet sound
Acoustic guitar Fullness at 80Hz, body at 240Hz, presence at 2k to 5kHz
Organ Fullness at 80Hz, body at 240Hz, presence at 2 to 5kHz
Piano Fullness at 80Hz, presence at 3k to 5kHz, honky tonk at 2.5kHz
Horns Fullness at 120Hz, piercing at 5kHz
Voice Fullness at 120Hz, boomy at 240Hz, presence at 5kHz, sibilance at 4k to 7kHz, air at 10k to 15kHz
Strings Fullness at 240Hz, scratchy at 7k to 10kHz
Conga Ring at 200Hz, slap at 5kHz
February 14, 2017

Microphone Man David Bock On Episode #148 Of My Inner Circle Podcast

David BockDavid Bock is the founder of Soundelux Microphones and Bock Audio and there are few people as obsessed or knowledgeable about microphones as he is.

His mics exude quality, not only in the way they sound but in the build quality. Put one up against a cheap Chinese clone and it becomes obvious very quickly.

Every time I speak with him I learn something new, and you will too, as we get into a deep discussion about new versus NOS tubes, the peak years of microphone design, and how Neumann’s flat in 1960 is different from the flat frequency response of today.

In the intro I’ll look at why many artists are complaining about the Grammy’s not caring enough about a young audience, and the 50th anniversary of both SIR and Clair Brothers.

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

1 2 3 28