Monthly Archives: May 2016
Monthly Archives: May 2016
There’s always so much going on during a tracking session (especially one with a lot of players involved) that it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed with the details and demands and overlook some of the things that can really help the session along. Here’s a Basic Tracks Checklist from my latest Music Producer’s Handbook 2nd edition book that will help things go a little smoother.
“Before the basic tracks even begin, ask yourself the following questions to make sure your players will be happy and the sounds will be great.
☐ Do the drums sound great acoustically in the room? If they don’t, change the heads, rent a new kit or hire a drum tuner.
☐ Are the drums tuned properly? Before recording begins, the drums should have new heads put on and have all buzzes and sympathetic vibrations removed.
☐ Do you have a variety of instruments available? The greater variety of instruments you have, the better the parts will fit together and the more interesting the recording will sound.
☐ Are all the instruments in tip-top condition? Is the intonation set correctly? Is the instrument clean of any buzzes, hums, and intermittents?
☐ Are all the players happy with their headphone mix? Can you give each musician his or her own mix? Is a personal headphone mixer available for each player?
☐ Does the click have the right sound? Does it cut through the mix? Is it musical enough that the drummer can play along? Is it so “musical” that the drummer can’t groove to it?
☐ Does the click groove? Does it work better as quarter notes or as eighth notes? Is there a different sound for the downbeat?
☐ Is the click bleeding into the microphones? Can the drummer use isolating headphones? Can you roll the high end off so that it doesn’t leak as much?
☐ Do you have the studio talkback mic on? Can you hear the musicians in the studio at all times between takes?
☐ Is the control room talkback mic always on? Can the musicians hear you at all times in between takes?”
There are other issues when cutting basics as well, but following this Basic Tracks Checklist will go a long way to keeping everyone happy and providing a very efficient session.
You can read more from The Music Producer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.
Berlin’s Hansa Studios has long been a refuge for music celebrities seeking to stay out of the limelight while recording. U2, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Iggy Pop and R.E.M. have all used the studio’s unique live room and location to their advantage, and it has resulted in some of their best work.
Although it doesn’t mean much now, Hansa was located a stone’s throw way from the Berlin Wall and just down the block from the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, so there was also a sense of danger with the place as well, which many rock stars relished.
Producer Tony Visconti and Eventide recently paid homage to the place with the release of the Tverb plugin, which was based upon the unique sound on Bowie’s voice and Robert Fripp’s guitar on “Heroes” that was made possible thanks to the acoustics of Hansa’s large event space.
Here’s a very cool video tour of the Hansa Studios, which will give you a new appreciation of why so many musicians wanted to work there.
OK, this is pretty wild. What if you want to add some extra ambience to your acoustic guitar, but hate the idea of plugging into an amp or adding effects pedals. If that’s the case, then the Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar might be the thing for you.
The Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar lets you add reverb and chorus to the guitar sound, but incredibly uses no external amplification or processing to do so. The way it works is that an actuator installed on the inner surface of the guitar back vibrates in response to the vibrations of the strings. The vibrations of the actuator are then conveyed some DSP, then back to the body of the guitar and to the air in and around the guitar body, generating authentic reverb and chorus sounds from inside the body.
Three knobs let you adjust the degree of effect applied and as well as the volume level at the line out jack. There’s one control for Reverb (the reverb type automatically switches from Room to Hall at the 12 o’clock position), and another for Chorus, and finally an on/off – Line Out Volume Control called a TA Switch (for TransAcoustic, I guess). Pressing the TA Switch for more than 0.3 seconds activates the TA function. When a cable is connected to the line-out jack in the strap knob, the volume can be adjusted by rotating the TA knob.
The TransAcoustic guitar is pretty new so there’s not much info available on it yet, but you can find some here on the Yamaha Europe site. There’s also no U.S. price yet, but the European one is around $1,500.
There’s been a lot of hits from the past that you continue to hear on the radio, but a perennial favorite is “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” from Blue Oyster Cult. The song comes from the band’s 1976 album Agents of Fortune album, where it hit #12 on the Billboard charts and has been around ever since. You’ve probably heard the song hundreds of times, but you’re probably not aware of some of the very interesting things that are going on inside the mix that you don’t readily hear. Pull up some headphones and take a listen to the following.
1. The clean guitar playing the lead riff, which comes in the second time through the riff (which you don’t hear here).
2. This song is famous for its cowbell (thank you Saturday Night Live), but the percussion instrument that really stands out is the guiro (as seen on right).
3. The organ shadows the vocals. Here you can hear the organ leaning to the left, and the low harmony leaning to the right.
4. There’s what sounds like a clavinet playing whole notes in the B section.
5. In the bridge you can hear the doubles of the clean arpeggiated guitar and distorted guitar riff.
6. At the end of the bridge there’s a synth that doubles the feedback guitar (which you can’t hear here).
7. On the outro there’s an new keyboard shadowing the main chord pattern.
8. If you listen to the end, you’ll hear the ending that didn’t make the final mix on the record.
All in all, a very cool version of some buried in the mix isolated backing tracks that will have you listening to the track differently the next time you hear it.
There are many places to play a gig, but I bet that the last place you’d ever think of was in a pool somewhere. Meet Aquasonic, the Danish band that performs exclusively underwater.
The 4 musicians and singers use custom-made underwater instruments to play completely submerged. The sounds are captured by hydrophones and then played back to the audience through a normal sound system. The musicians wear special earphones in order to listen to each other and they alternatively emerge to breathe.
Founding members Laila Skovmand and Robert Karlsson have been working for years with researchers at the University of Toronto, as well as mechanical engineers, professors of marine acoustics, scientists and experts in cymatics (the study of the effects of sound waves on the matter), and have even met with the producers of the Cirque du Soleil.
Their instruments include an electromagnetic harp, percussion instruments such as 24 Tibetan bells, a carbon fibre violin, a rhythmic instrument similar to a water wheel and a sort of organ called hydraulophone created by Steve Mann, who invented a water-based instrument to produce sound way back in 1985.
Check it out. It’s very eerie and soothing at the same time. Make sure you use headphones because there’s a lot of low frequency info. Find out more about Aquasonic and hear more examples here.
It happens to all of us. We’re trying to recording a sound source and for some reason it’s just not happening. What to do? It’s easy to just try a bunch of random things but sometimes that makes you more confused than ever. That’s when to try this following recording checklist when all else fails.
The “When all else fails” Recording Checklist comes from the 3rd edition my Recording Engineer’s Handbook, and it’s a sure way to set you on the right path the next time something just doesn’t sound right. Here we go:
☐ Change the source, if possible (the instrument you’re miking)
☐ Change the mic placement
☐ Change the placement of the instrument or vocal in the room
☐ Change the mic (don’t be afraid to try something that you think won’t work)
☐ Change the mic preamplifier (again, the most expensive isn’t always the best choice)
☐ Change the mount of compression and/or limiting (from none to a lot)
☐ Change the room (the actual room you are recording in)
☐ Change the player
☐ Come back and try it another day
The last point is really important and often overlooked. Unless you’re on a tight deadline and just have to get something recorded (in which case you won’t be picky about the sound anyway), sometimes it’s just better to pack it in and come back and try it another day. You’d be surprised how much different things can sound on fresh ears and a fresh mind.
This also applies to playing as well. Many times a player just can’t seem to get a great take with the right feel even though he’s playing the right notes. Once again, coming back the next day with a fresh mind does wonders, and often times you’ll get it in the first or second take.
You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.
Here’s a great piece of archival footage that shows the only film ever taken of the legendary Louis Armstrong in the studio. This was during the 1959 recording of the album Satchmo Plays King Oliver and it shows Armstrong and his All Stars recording the master take of “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” as well as silent footage of them listening to the playback afterwards.
Also featured in the clip are Trummy Young (trombone), Peanuts Hucko (clarinet), Billy Kyle (piano), Mort Herbert (bass) and Danny Barcelona (drums). The original album was produced for Audio Fidelity Records by Sid Frey, who commissioned the film to be made.
The 33 minute film was discovered in a storage locker in 2012 and was brought to the Armstrong House Museum with help of Frey’s daughter, Andrea Bass. It’s amazing what you can find when doing some spring cleaning sometimes!
It’s very cool to look at some the gear that’s being used here during the recording. Armstrong is playing and singing into a Neumann SM2 stereo mic (although you can be pretty sure that the recording was in mono on just a single track), while Peanuts Hucko on clarinet is playing into a 251. Too bad we can’t see what’s being used on the other instruments. It’s also pretty cool to see a pair of Altec A7 Voice of the Theater speakers in the background that were probably used for studio playback.
Louis Armstrong is generally credited for ushering in the modern jazz age, so it’s very cool to be able to see this small part of history.
Those tiny Eurorack synth modules have been growing in popularity, going from a simple 10×20 foot booth down in the no-mans-land basement at NAMM to a huge pavilion on the main floor. While everyone loves hardware, for many of us its just impractical in our musical creation so the new Softube Modular Eurorack emulation plugin addresses the issue nicely.
Softube Modular is a new cross-platform modular synthesizer plug-in that looks, works and sounds exactly like its analog Eurorack counterparts.
The company’s award-winning modeling experts have collaborated closely with both Doepfer and Intellijel to create circuit emulations of each company’s existing hardware modules, which is why Modular is about as close to the sound of the real thing as you can get.
The plugin includes six Doepfer modules and 20+ utility modules, such as sequencer, mixer, delay and more, as well as a large preset library. Additional modules from Doepfer and Intellijel will be available as add-ons, and other emulations from top hardware synthesizer brands are planned for the future.
The Softube Modular plugin should be available any time now and is priced at $99. Additional module emulations will cost between $29 and $49. All Softube plugins are available in VST, VST3, AU, AAX Native and AAX DSP formats. There’s not a lot of info available yet, but you can check out this page for a few more details.