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Monthly Archives: December 2016

December 30, 2016

Happy New Year With Dan Folgerberg – “Same Old Auld Lang Syne”

Happy New Year 2017This isn’t exactly a traditional New Years song, but it’s a great one. Dan Folgerberg was an exceptional artist and unfortunately passed away about 10 years ago. He did leave us with some wonderful music, and this song, “Same Old Auld Lang Syne,” is one of his best. It’s live and the playing is superb, but I have to admit that the lyrics get to me every time. You can’t say that for many songs.

Enjoy, have a great New Years eve, a peaceful and prosperous 2017, and thank you again for all your support!

How To Sound Like The Beatles Using Modern Gear

Beatles GuitarsIf you ever wanted to record some of those authentic Beatles guitar sounds but didn’t know how to go about getting them, then this is the video for you. It uses only modern gear and relies mostly on pedal combinations. Granted, the amp is a Vox AC30 and the guitars and bass are modern versions of what John, Paul and George used, but the sounds are pretty much nailed.

Here’s a list of the timings and what gear combinations are used.
0:00 – Hard Day’s Night
0:31 – Nowhere Man
0:47 – Taxman
1:00 – Paperback Writer
1:18 – Think For Yourself
1:45 – Revolution
2:05 – Happiness is a Warm Gun
2:31 – I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Equipment
Vox AC30 Amplifier: http://bit.ly/2igi9Hw
Rickenbacker 330 Electric Guitar: http://bit.ly/2hCh8tG
Rickenbacker 360-12 Electric Guitar: http://bit.ly/2ibAA3R
Epiphone Hummingbird Pro Acoustic/Electric Guitar: http://bit.ly/2hdssjq
Epiphone Casino Electric Guitar: http://bit.ly/2haJ4GV
Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass: http://bit.ly/2h2Hcg2

Pedals
MXR Studio Compressor
Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer
Dunlop Germanium Fuzz Face Mini
Sola Sound Tone Bender Mk IV Fuzz
JHS Colour Box
DLS Effects Versa Vibe
Keeley Caverns Delay-Reverb
Boss FBM-1 Fender Bassman Overdrive
TC Electronic Ditto Looper

December 28, 2016

2016 Music Tech Report Card

Music Tech Report CardTechnology moves ahead, sometimes quickly and sometimes more slowly than we would like. That said, we’re all beholden to it more than ever, and that trend shows no letting up. Because tech is such a big part of our lives, here’s a report card on some of the tech products, companies and issues from 2016.

Apple

Another year has gone by and our favorite company has again failed to deliver on a new Mac Pro. The company seems to be fixated on iPhones these days, which brings in way more revenue, but Apple’s resurgence was on the backs of the creatives, and it would be a shame if we were ultimately abandoned. That said, there’s a lot of DAWs out there still running on iMacs and older towers, so that says a lot about Apple’s product lifespan.

GRADE: D+

 

Avid

Depending upon which end of the market you’re in, Avid is either the devil or the savior. If you’re in post-production, the new hardware and Pro Tools features are just what you need. If you’re in music, you’re probably hating the yearly subscription that you have to pay just for the privilege of using your DAW. And then there’s the company, which seems to be more aware of its stockholders than customers, but at least the new hardware products are pretty slick.

GRADE: C-

 

DAWs

Digital Audio Workstations are getting more and more sophisticated, and the differences between them are beginning to blur. That said, most concentrate on music creation, and few look at postproduction, which means that Pro Tools is still king of the hill in that realm. I can’t help but feel that PT’s lead is tenuous though, and its users would jump to another DAW in a flash if and when a suitable alternative finally appears. This might have graded higher on this report card if the next great DAW was clearly on the horizon

GRADE: B

 

Plugins

The next generation of plugins are upon us, and this time a lot of the thinking is being done for us with automatic adjustments. Plugs like iZotope Neutron and Soundways Reveal and Low Leveler are a big step in the right direction when put in capable hands (and that’s the caveat).

GRADE: A

 

Microphone Modelers

Once looked upon as a marketing gimmick, mic modelers like the Slate VMS and Townsend Labs Sphere are proving that they’re a real alternative to the classic mics that most of us can’t afford. These are real tools, not toys.

GRADE: A

 

Amp Emulators

The guitar amp’s days are numbered as amplifier emulators are now so good that even seasoned pros with huge amp collections use them instead of the real thing. And with in-ear monitors so prevalent on stage, there’s no need to move air any more. A decade from now, a generation of guitar players and engineers may not like the sounds they hear coming from a real amplifier compared to a hardware or software emulator. Line 6 Matrix and BluGuitar Amp 1 may be the final pieces to this major transition.

Grade: A

 

Tablets

There was a lot of high hopes for the tablet to replace the laptop, but in most cases, it’s just not possible. The iPad especially is a great output device, but not so great for input. Microsoft’s Surface fares a little better, but the possibilities originally envisioned just haven’t materialized. That said, Avid’s Dock does a good job making it do what it does best.

GRADE: C

 

Smart Phones

While a good portion of the world relies on their smart phone for much more than communication, it still remains a flawed device. It’s a lot slower than a laptop (drives me crazy), and like the tablet, it’s a much better output device than input. While there are a few pro applications where it shines (tuner, bpm calculations, remote control of cue mix), it still hasn’t lived up to its potential in the professional realm.

GRADE: B

 

Virtual Reality

Everyone thought that this would be the year, and especially the Holiday, where VR took off. Too bad that’s not been the case. VR has a lot of potential, and from an audio standpoint, there are a lot of great tools being developed, so there’s hope. My feeling is that Augmented Reality (AR) will end up being the killer app though. The good news is that there should be a lot more interesting work for audio professionals based around this technology.

GRADE: B

Undoubtedly there are some things I missed in this year’s report card, and remember that the grades are strictly how I see it, but I come away generally optimistic on the direction that music tech is going. I’d say the future is bright indeed for tech in 2017.

Any additions?

December 27, 2016

Year End Review And 2017 Predictions On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

2017 PredictionsEpisode 141 of my Inner Circle Podcast features my annual year end review as well as a look ahead to what might happen in the music business in 2017.

So much went down last year that was eventful, and some of it was completely under the radar, so you’ll want to listen to this episode for sure. The deals and acquisitions, what happened in social media, Record Store Day, new vinyl technology, the beginning of the end of big companies, technologies, and some gear favorites that you won’t believe – it’s all there.

Plus, we have an interesting year ahead of us in 2017, and I’ll give you a peak into some of the things we know will happen, and some predictions as well.

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

December 27, 2016

Is It Bach Or A Computer?

Bach or computerJohann Sebastian Bach is generally considered to be one of the great classical composers, with compositions that exhibit a technical mastery of harmony and counterpoint. One of the things he excelled at was writing short polyphonic hymns known as chorale cantatas (he wrote over 300), which are short 4 voice pieces rich in harmony. As it turns out, computer scientists find these pieces very attractive because of their algorithmic-like structure. The problem is that even though you can teach a computer to compose using a similar algorithm, it’s never been particularly convincing. Until now.

Thanks to the work of Gaetan Hadjeres and Francois Pachet at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories in Paris using the artificial intelligence of a machine they call DeepBach, they’re able to produce very convincing choral cantatas that even some pros think were composed by Bach himself.

Essentially, they trained DeepBach’s neural network by teaching it all 352 of Bach’s cantatas, then transposing them to other keys for a data set of over 2,500 chorales. The machines then does its thing and before you know it, it’s composed a cantata that’s contains so much of the Bach style that even many trained listeners believe it came from the great composer himself.

How much so? A study was launched with 1,600 people (400 were professional musicians or music students) who were asked to compare two different harmonies of the same melody, then determine which of the two harmonies sounded more like Bach. When given the music from DeepBach, about half thought it was the real thing. Keep in mind that when given an authentic Bach piece to listen to, only 75% thought it came from Bach.

This is actually a very interesting step forward not so much from a composition standpoint, but more about music analysis. Bach cantatas follow a very precise structure that most other music doesn’t adhere to, but as a producer, I look forward to the day when I can get a readout as to the inner workings of a hit so I can learn from it. Hopefully DeepBach is a step towards that.

Listen to what DeepBach came up with.

New Music Gear Monday: Softube Acoustic Feedback Plugin

Softube Acoustic FeedbackAmplifier modeling has reached new heights of realism, and it’s to the point where even die-hard purists with big amp collections now show up to a session or a gig with just a modeling pedal. That said, one of the big problems with amp emulators has always been how difficult it is to get acoustic feedback. Let’s face it, you have to move some air first to get that sound that we all love so much. Until now, that is. Softube’s Acoustic Feedback plugin now allows you to get as much or as little real sounding acoustic feedback while staying exclusively in-the-box.

Acoustic Feedback has actually been around for while but I’m only getting hip to it now (thanks, Oz Amaro!). The plug is an offshoot of the White Marshall amp simulation from Softube’s Vintage Amp Room, although the one supplied is a stripped down version (that’s all you really need for feedback). It’s very cool in that it’s fully responsive to vibratos, bends, slides, and tremolos so it tracks your playing well. The user interface is simple: there’s a Mix control, a Feedback amount control that goes from subtle to natural to wild, and a Tolerance control that tracks your playing.

Best of all, you can assign a MIDI foot controller to the Feedback control to manually adjust the amount so it responds just like you were in front of a cranked Marshall!

Acoustic Feedback is available for VST, VST3, Audio Units, AAX Native and AAX DSP formats, and is just $49 with a 20 day trial period. You can find out more info here.

For those of you who gig with a modeling pedal and don’t want to drag your computer with you, Fender made a version of this called that Runaway pedal that combined the Softube Acoustic Feedback algorithm with a built-in foot pedal. Unfortunately, it’s no longer available, but you might be able to find one used.

Adele “Skyfall” Isolated Vocal

Adele OscarsAdele is a phenomenon unlike any other in music business in at least the last 10 years. With sales of more than 100 million in a time when a million is a big deal, she’s definitely touched a lot of people with her music, and her approach to it. You can attribute at least some of this to the fact that she has some real chops, and this isolated vocal of “Skyfall” perfectly illustrates that. The track uses the “official acapella” from the studio recording, matched to her live performance on the Oscars. Here’s what to listen for.

1. First of all, Adele’s voice is bathed in a dark, slightly delayed reverb. The decay feels longer than it really is because of the amount of verb. Actually, it also has a bit of a midrange honk if you listen on headphones.

2. At the end of the chorus there’s a nice ping pong delay on the last word.

3. There’s actually several lead vocal tracks that overlap. That said, this vocal performance is pretty much perfect, which is somewhat different from other Adele hits that were more “organic” in that a few things were left in that might normally be fixed.

4. The background vocals are spread in slightly left and right to make room for the lead vocal.

5. Compression is used very nicely on the vocal track. You can occasionally hear it on the louder parts, but not so much that you’d ever hear it in the final mix.

December 22, 2016

The World’s Oldest Piano Still Sounds Pretty Good

oldest pianoMany times we take the grand piano for granted, thinking that it’s been around forever in musical history. The fact of the matter is that it’s a somewhat new instrument in the grand scheme of things, being invented in the early 1700s by expert harpsichord maker Bartolomeo Cristofori. The harpsichord predated the piano by about 300 years.

That being said, there are 3 pianos still in existence made by Cristofori, and the video below features the oldest one, made in 1720. What’s more, it still sounds better than you’d expect an almost 300 year old instrument to sound.

When I listened to this video I first thought that I was listening to a harpsichord, since it had a lot of those high harmonics associated with the instrument. The piano is a lot different though, and quite an improvement in that the strings are struck, and not plucked like the harpsichord. As a result, the player is able to play with dynamics, while the notes played on the harpsichord are all at the same volume.

Regardless, enjoy listening to this priceless instrument, which is part of the collections at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Go here for more on the differences between a piano and harpsichord.

Don’t Let Phase Cancellation Destroy Your Drum Sound

Checking phaseOne of the most important and overlooked aspects of drum miking is making sure that the mics are all in-phase. This is really important because with only one out-of-phase mic, the whole kit will never sound as big as it should, and if not corrected before all the drums are mixed together, might not be able to be fixed later. Here’s an excerpt from The Drum Recording Handbook 2nd edition (written with Dennis Moody) that looks at an important part of this issue.

“So just what is phase anyway? Without getting into a heavy explanation, it just means that all the microphones are pushing and pulling together. If one mic is pushing while another is pulling, they cancel each other out at certain frequencies.

There are two types of phasing problems that can happen – electronic and acoustic. An acoustic phasing problem occurs when two mics are close together and pick up the same signal at the same time, only one is picking it up a little later than the first because it’s a little farther away. That said, electronic phasing of the mics is just as important.

Why would there be an electronic phase problem? Most of the time it’s because a mic cable was mis-wired (either repaired incorrectly or originally wired incorrectly from the factory), or the microphone itself is sending a signal that’s out-of-phase from the other mics that your using. In other words, one mic is outputting a positive voltage on pin 2 of the XLR connector when the other mics are outputing negative on pin 2. This is something that was more prevalent in the days before XLR connections were standardized, so it’s not much of a problem now unless you’re using an old vintage mic.

Regardless of how it happens, there are two ways to check the electronic phase.

Checking Phase The Easy Way
There’s a very easy way to check mic phase. After you get a mix balance of the kit together, flip the phase selector (this is more accurately a “polarity” switch) on each mic channel one at a time either on your console or in the DAW. Leave it on the position that delivers the most low end. Do this on every mic in the kit (select the overhead and room mics in a pair, but check the left mic against the right as well).

Checking Phase The Slightly More Difficult Way
This method takes a bit more work, but you’ll know for sure if you have a mic cable that’s wired backwards. Also, you really have to have another person with you to make this work. It’s a two-man operation.

First you have to pick a mic and make it your “reference.” Any mic on the kit will do, but it’s easier to pick a mic that can easily come off the stand.

Now take your reference mic and put it next to another mic on the kit, say the kick drum mic, as in the graphic on the left. Make sure that each mic is at the exact same volume level (this is important!). Now have someone talk into the mic while you switch the phase selector on either the console or DAW. Again, choose the selection that sounds the fullest.

Do this to each microphone. Any channel that has it’s phase selector different from all the others has a mis-wired cable. Make sure you mark it so you don’t have the same problem again!”

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

December 20, 2016

Producer Mike Elizondo On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Mike ElizondoMike Elizondo is a musician, songwriter and producer who’s worked with hit artists as diverse as Dr. Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent, to Kieth Urban, Maroon 5 and Carrie Underwood, to Avenged Sevenfold and Mastadon.

He was nominated for producer of the year in 2008, and has a ton of huge singles and albums to his credit. He has a great story and lots of insight about working with superstars. I’m really pleased to have him as a guest on my Episode #140 of the podcast.

On the intro I’ll look at how streaming music is finally make the Long Tail concept work, and how we acquire our musical tastes.

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

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