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Monthly Archives: January 2017

January 19, 2017

The Old Gibson Factory Gets Some New Life

Heritage GuitarsFor 82 years Gibson made guitars a mandolins at the factory on 225 Parson’s Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1984 the company moved all of its manufacturing to Nashville, but the skilled workers there still continued to make guitars just as they always had, only now under the name Heritage Guitars.

Now the old factory is getting a total makeover. One of the big reasons is that manufacturing was on 3 floors of the building, and the company wanted it all on the same floor to increase the efficiency. Another reason is the old building really needed a facelift. You can check out what they’re doing in the video below, but also follow the link to a full story on the history of the building and the company, as well as some great pictures.

Off to NAMM. Full overview next week!

January 18, 2017

An Inside Look At Tape Delay

Tape DelayMany delay plugins today are either trying to directly emulate tape delay or have a tape delay setting. Setting up a tape delay used to be one of the first things you learned how to do when you started in the studio back in the day, since there was no other way to accomplish the task (this was before outboard digital delays came into widespread use). On a typical mix, there may be several delay machines set up – one for a fast 15 ips delay, a second for a slower 7 1/2 ips delay, maybe even one at an even longer 3 3/4 ips delay, and usually another one for predelay to a reverb chamber or plate. The big problem for the assistant was keeping track of how much tape was available on each machine so you didn’t run out during a mix and suddenly lose your effect.

Today very few studios have a tape machine, so most engineers, producers and musicians don’t really know how the real things works. Here’s a short excerpt and diagram from my just released Mixing Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition that describes tape echo.

“In the analog days delay was accomplished by using an outboard tape machine. The delay occurred because the playback head was located after the record head, which created a time delay (see the figure on the left). As the speed of the tape machine was changed, so would the delay.

For example, a 15 IPS (inches per second) tape speed would result in a delay somewhere in the 125 to 175 milliseconds range (it would be different with different models of tape machines because the gap between the heads was different for each), while it would be double that, or around 250 to 350 milliseconds at 7 1/2 IPS.

Because of the analog nature of magnetic tape, it has the characteristics of wow and flutter of the tape path, plus a rolled-off high frequency response and increased distortion with each repeat, which most tape delay plugins try to emulate.”

For years, hardware digital delays and then digital plugins were too clean for those raised on pure tape delay, but many of today’s plugins do a great job emulating the distortion, wow and flutter and rolled off response to give you something close to the real thing.

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

If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it, please leave a comment on Amazon. Thanks!

January 17, 2017

Neutron Project Manager Matt Hines On The My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Matt HinesiZotope’s Neutron is one of the new generation of DAW plugins that analyze the program audio and then make some pretty good suggestions as to the EQ and compression that will work for the track.

Many engineers find this somewhat disconcerting, and are maybe a little intimidated by it, while others embrace it as just another tool. Either way, I though you should get the scoop on the product directly from someone who knows the most about it, and that’s Matt Hines, the product manager for Neutron.

On the intro I’ll take a look at the brain drain that’s happening at the executive ranks of the music business, and the latest in the debate between the A=440Hz versus 432Hz tuning standard.

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

The Magic Of Foley

WB Foley StageMost people (even many audio engineers) don’t realize that the sound effects that they hear in a movie aren’t real. They’re recreated to sound more dramatic or “more real” than they actually sound. That’s the job of the Foley artist, and there aren’t many of them, even in Hollywood.

The process is named after Jack Foley, who started working at Universal Pictures back in 1914 in the era of silent films. When the first picture with sound was being made, the producers realized that the microphones weren’t picking up much beyond the dialog and the movie sound needed help if it was going to be another close to realistic. The call went out around the lot for anyone who had previously worked on radio, where live sound effects were part of many of the broadcasts. Foley stepped up and used what he already knew, and discovered many new tricks for adding sound effects to movies along the way. Most of his methods are still used today.

What’s interesting about the following video (from the Great Big Story network’s Frontiers series) is the everyday objects that are used by Warner Bros. Foley artists Alyson Moore and Chris Moriana.

I’m lucky in that I live close to most of the big Hollywood studios (I can walk down the block to 2 of them, with 2 others a bike ride away), so I’ve been in Foley stages numerous times over the years. They always strike me as someone’s messy garage, yet everything is there for a reason. This video is only the tip of the iceberg of how Foley works.

[photo: Warner Bros Sound]

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Orion32 HD Interface

Antelope Audio Orion 32 HDOne of the problems with audio interfaces is they just don’t have enough I/O sometimes. Most interfaces are either 8 or 16 channels, which is plenty in some cases and not enough in others. While the price for a single 16 channel interface might seem reasonable, when you put two of them together to meet your I/O needs, the costs can quickly get out of hand. Antelope Audio’s Orion32 has been a great solution, with 32 analog ins and 32 analog outs in just a single rack space. The new Orion32 HD takes that yet another step forward.

The Orion32 HD is unique in that it’s compatible with any DAW on the market, making it an option for users of both Pro Tools and Native systems via HDX or USB3 at up to 192kHz/24 bit. It also includes MADIADAT, and S/PDIF connectivity and 32-in/32-out analog connections via DB25. There are also two word clock or loopsync outs that allow the Orion to serve as the center of a recording setup (thanks to its outstanding internal clock), or make an easy connection with an external clock. Two monitor outputs that Antelope calls “mastering-grade” since they’re the same as the ones on Antelope’s Pure2 Mastering Converter complete the I/O setup.

Orion32 HD also includes a library of over 30 free plugins that include the latest collaboration between Antelope and BAE Audio, with two new EQ models based on their 1023 and 1084 equalizers, as well as a free version of PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW software. The unit retails for $3,495, which may seem high, but it’s still cheaper than paying for 2 high-quality 16 channel units. Find out more on the dedicated webpage or view the video below.

James Jamerson “Ain’t That Peculiar” Isolated Bass And Drums

James JamersonMost musicians and producers hold Motown in a certain reverence, and well they should, since the music has influenced a few generations of artists, players, arrangers and producers. One of the icons of the Motown studio band is bassist James Jamerson, and it’s always fun to listen to anything that shows his genius. Here’s the isolated bass and drums from the Marvin Gaye hit “Ain’t That Peculiar” that doesn’t so much show James’ technique as it does his ability to lyrically pick what to play.

1. The sound of Jamerson’s bass is a little on the distorted side, and what you’re hearing is a miked Ampeg B-15. He also muted the strings on his Precision bass with foam to get his unique sound.

2. There’s lots of leakage, but that’s because the whole band (piano, horns and all) recorded at the same time in a relatively small room about the size of a double garage. When you look at it in that context, the leakage really isn’t that bad.

3. Jamerson plays a repeating line that’s unusual in where it fits with the rest of the song, but listen to the notes he plays around the line. Once again, the notes never seem to fall into the places on the bar that you’d expect, and that’s what made him a genius.

4. The drums are pretty straight, but again, when there are fills they usually aren’t what you’d expect. The sound of the drums is also pretty flat, but that was before we knew what “big” drums sounded like.

5. The interplay between the bass and drums is fairly loose. If you’re used to being in the studio a lot, it’s even a little jarring at first, but by the end of the song it just feels so right!

Oh, for the good old days of people playing together in the studio! Here’s to the great James Jamerson.

14 Studio Etiquette Tips That Your Session Mates Will Love

14 Studio Etiquette TipsKnowing the proper etiquette while recording is almost as important as doing your gig. If you make people uncomfortable or do something that’s considered out of place, chances are that you won’t be asked back. Let’s look at the way everyone expects you to act during the session with these 14 tips taken from The Studio Musician’s Handbook. Most of them apply to just about everyone on a session.

1. If there’s creative dialogue with the artist, songwriter, producer or engineer, make sure that your opinions are wanted and warranted before you offer them.

2. Be careful about musical references. You may think that the track you’re working on is great because it reminds you of Dusty Springfield’s classic “Son of a Preacher Man” only to find out upon your mention of it that it’s on the artist’s “Ten Most Overrated Songs” list.

3. Whether you’re on your own or part of an ensemble, focus on your work first. If you have input for other players, make sure it’s warranted and you can actually help them out. Players often tweak each other’s parts or help one another to understand a written passage, remember a song’s form, or get a sound.

4. Remember – always defer to whoever is in charge. That person is usually the producer, but you may be receiving guidance or input from a musical director, the artist, or the engineer.

5. Keep an open mind. Greet suggestions with willingness and always respond positively. If you’re receiving input from more than one source and they contradict one another, diplomatically point that out and let them resolve it.

6. And don’t forget – if you can’t keep your cell phone outside the studio, TURN IT OFF (not just on vibrate – that’s a distraction too).

7. Put away the magazines, computers, iPhones, and anything else that can be a distraction. The last thing a producer wants to see is you updating your Facebook status in between takes!

8. If you need time to check your messages or Facebook, make sure you ask first. Most sessions have timed or natural breaks when you can meet you individual needs, but be sure to always ask if you wish to leave the recording environment while there’s work being done, even if you’re not directly involved at that moment.

9. Your behavior should always be positive, and you should strive to be “present for the moment.”

10. There’s a time and a place for everything, but sometimes cajoling, goofing around or humor doesn’t belong at a session. Then on another day with the same people, the session may be all about the gags and laughs. Studio pro’s know how to “go with the flow” and are experts at reading people and situations.

11. If people are conversing, treat the session like any other workplace and try to avoid potential conversational “hot spots”: politics, religion, family and money.

12. Everyone likes a good conversation and a funny joke, but it’s best not to risk being misinterpreted or misperceived as offensive.

13. Earn and honor rank. That means if there are players on the session with more professional or personal history with the artist or producer than you have accumulated, let them lead. Everyone benefits when everyone gets along and knows their place

14. Always wait until the job is done before you ask the powers that be if they are open to your creativity. It’s appropriate to do so before you offer your ideas. Always ask first if they are open to your input. If so, and you hear it in your imagination, let them know.”

The best way to endear yourself to everyone on a recording session is to act like a pro. Follow these 14 etiquette tips, and you’ll encounter very few problems along the way. What are your tips?

To read additional excerpts from The Studio Musician’s Handbook and my other books, check out the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.

January 11, 2017

The 4th Edition Of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook Is Here

Mixing Engineer's Handbook 4th editionI’m very happy to announce that the 4th edition of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook is now available on Amazon.

So what’s different? This updated version is self-published for one thing, but it also contains new sections on Immersive Audio and online mastering, as well as new and updated hit-mixer interviews. If you haven’t seen the book since the second edition, it also has a brand new “Advanced” chapter that covers all the techniques that are now expected of a mixer that you won’t find anywhere else, including cleaning tracks, adjusting track timing, pitch correction, sound replacement, and automation techniques.

The print edition of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition is now available on Amazon, with the Kindle and electronic versions following shortly on the iTunes bookstore and Barnes & Nobles.

College and university instructors that use the book for their courses will be happy to know that it can be ordered through Ingram. An Instructor’s Resource Kit is also available, which contains a syllabus, course outline, discussion topics, Powerpoint/Keynote presentations and quizzes for a 12 week semester. Please drop me an email for the download link.

A table of contents and book excerpts can be found at bobbyowsinski.com/mixing-engineers-handbook.

Finally, if you own a version of this book and feel that it’s helped you in any way, it would help me out a great deal if you could post a review on Amazon. Thank you kindly!

January 10, 2017

Strings Guy Stevie Blacke On Episode #143 Of My Inner Circle Podcast

Stevie BlackeStevie Blacke is a multi-instrumentalist known around Hollywood as the “strings guy” because he’s often called upon to record full string sections of violin, viola, cello and double-bass (up to 40 tracks!) all by himself. He’s much more than just an orchestral string player though, as he also does sessions on mandolin, dobro, sitar and virtually anything else that has a string on it.

Stevie has played or recorded with a wide variety of music superstars, including Beck, P!nk, Madonna, Snoop Dog, Ludacris, Gary Clark Jr, Rihanna, Colbie Callait, and many more. He’ll talk all about the intricacies of recording strings, and provide some interesting tricks, on my latest Inner Circle Podcast.

On the intro I’ll take a look at the fact that the music world has changed now that we’ve reached 100 million paying streaming subscribers, and take a look at the 5% of the population that actually doesn’t like music.

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

Muscle Shoals Studio To Reopen

Muscle Shoals Sound StudioIn the list of iconic recording studios, Music Shoals Sound Studio is right up there with the most famous. During its heyday of the 70s, the studio hosted a wide array of artists that produced dozens of hit records, including Aretha FranklinCher, Boz Scaggs, The Rolling Stones, the Staple Singers, Bob Seger, Traffic, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Leon Russell and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The studio closed in 1978, but thanks to a grant from Beats By Dr. Dre, the studio is set to reopen once again.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio will first be open for tours with an admission fee of $12, but will soon reopen as a working facility in the coming months, according to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that now owns the studio. The studio is the Alabama Tourism Office’s Attraction of the Year, which will be heavily promoted.

State tourism director Lee Sentell thinks that the documentary “Muscle Shoals” played a direct influence on the decision by Beats Electronics to restore the studio. “Without Steven Badger’s documentary, the (Alabama) Music Hall of Fame would probably still be closed, and Dr. Dre and the people at Beats Electronics probably would not have known that the studio in Sheffield was just sitting there waiting to be revived,” he said.

The interesting thing about this is that the famous artists that worked there did so mostly because of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the studio band that owned the facility. Consisting basically of keyboardist Barry Becket, drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, and guitarist Jimmy Johnson, the Rhythm Section backed up musical luminaries like Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Joe Cocker, Glenn Frey, Bob Seger, Percy Sledge, the Staples Singers, Aretha Franklin, Alice in Chains, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Little Milton, Sawyer Brown, Tony Joe White, the Oak Ridge Boys and many more.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios was actually moved to a different larger location in town in 1978. It was sold to Malaco Records in the mid 80s and remained in operation for another 20 years.

This original version of the studio will soon be open for sessions again though, although chances are that much sought-after swampy sound won’t be found without the players that made it happen.