Monthly Archives: March 2017
Monthly Archives: March 2017
I 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.
This effects chain is the order generally recommended by most of the pedal gurus. There are several rules that make up this order:
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.
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 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.
If 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.
OK, this is rather nutty but fun. If you have a powerful laser and too much time on your hands, you too can burn music onto virtually anything. To prove it, William Osman uses his laser for good instead of evil as he burns music onto a taco, a piece of cardboard, and finally onto an old piece of plastic called a CD. It all sounds like crap but at least it proves that it can be done.
Modulated waveforms are so 1999 though. I think I’ll stick with digital files, thank you very much.
If you grew up in the days of recording studios built around consoles and hardware, then you were probably used to using a Lexicon reverb. Although not the first digital reverb, the Lexicon 224 and subsequent versions became a must-have for every studio to have in its arsenal in no time, and we all grew to love its sound. Michael Carnes helped design and perfect these reverbs for Lexicon for 25 years before he began making reverb plugins with own Exponential Audio. The company already has some pretty cool reverb plugins, but Michael’s new R4 gives you the best features and character of those old hardware units at a very reasonable price.
The Exponential Audio R4 has a super amount of flexibility, allowing you to conjure nearly any reverb sound you can imagine, or it can be dead simple, with dozens of meaningful presets that can be easily searched for a quick solution to every situation. Among its many features (taken from its press release, which I couldn’t top) include:
I’ve been playing with the R4 for a while, and I can tell you that unlike many reverbs that you have to struggle with to make sit in the mix, this one just works with almost no hassle. Dial up a preset and you’re ready to go, or you can get as tweaky as you desire with all the available parameters if you want.
The Exponential Audio R4 reverb plugin is now available on all platforms for $299, with a free demo available. If you’re an Exponential customer already, there’s also a $150 discount available. Check out the product page for more details, as well as the excellent videos that explain the features of the R4 supplied by Groove3.
There are few guitar players that you can truly say are influential, but Randy Rhoads is certainly one of them. His playing on Ozzy Osbourne’s initial solo album set the guitar world on fire, and for many metal players, it’s still the bar that everyone aims for. When “Crazy Train” exploded onto the radio guitar players everyone said to themselves, “What the f$*k was that?” and that’s exactly what we’re going to listen to today – Randy’s isolated guitar track from that hit. Here’s what to listen for (the guitar enters at 0:19 on the video).
1. Yes, that’s two guitar parts spread left and right and not an electronic double (actually producer Max Norman claims that there’s a third part in the middle but for the life of me I can’t hear it). You can hear some inconsistencies with some of the harmonics and chords, but there are very few. Pretty amazing how close the parts are.
2. The ambience that you hear on the guitars is mostly from the room, again according to Norman. There’s also a little bit of an AMS 1580 delay set to a light flange.
3. The solo at 2:49 is just one guitar panned a bit to the left with a short delay from the AMS on the right.
4. Randy used a fully cranked Marshall 100 watt amp (no master volume) with 2 cabinets, so it was a full stack – unusual for recording. The mic on the cabinet was an SM-58 (!!), with an AKG 451 a few feet back outside the amp room, and a couple of Shure SM87s in the room. The use of microphones intended for live may have come from the fact that Norman was primarily a live sound engineer before moving over to the studio.
I know, I know. You can’t finish that mix until you get the sound of an old surveillance tower to pull it all together. But where to find one? Well you’re in luck as the impulse responses from the Teufelsberg National Security Agency tower in West Berlin are now available. Best of all – it’s a free VST plugin.
The Teufelsberg security tower is a three-domed structure erected on a “devil’s mountain” of WWII rubble dumped on top of a half-finished Nazi military school. From this perch high above Berlin, the US government and its allies listened in on the communists of the Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union. It’s still standing, and you can add its cavernous sound to your tracks, thanks to Balance Audio Tools.
The plugin provides 6 different IR reverb sounds, all with fast, zero-latency convolution. There are only two controls, blend and gain, along with A/B compare and preset saving functions. It’s available as a free plug-in for Mac, Windows, and even Linux, and it’s open source.
Have a listen to what it sounds like.
If you want to tour of the structure, check out the video below.
Mic placement may be the most important part of recording since a change of half-an-inch can sometimes make a huge difference in the sound. Finding that correct placement isn’t always easy though, so here’s an excerpt from my Recording Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition to give you some easy tips to find that “sweet spot” quickly.
“Quickly finding a mic’s optimum position is perhaps the single most useful talent an engineer can have. Sometimes the search resembles questing for the Holy Grail as more trial and error is involved. That said, you should always trust your ears first and foremost by listening to the musician in the tracking room, finding the sweet spot, and placing your microphone there to begin. If you don’t like the resultant sound, then move the mic or swap it with another. EQ is the last thing to touch.
TIP: Mics cannot effectively be placed by sight, which is a mistake that is all too easy to make (especially after reading a book like this). The best mic position cannot be predicted, it must be found.
How to Find the “Sweet Spot”
How you listen to an instrument in the studio is just as important as the act of trying to capture its sound. As good as many microphones are, they’re still no match for our ears, and we can sometimes be fooled in what we’re hearing over the monitor speakers. Here are a few tips to help you listen more closely to the way the mic your using is capturing the sound.
Before you start swapping gear, know that the three most important factors in getting the sound you want are mic position, mic position and mic position.
Get the instrument to make the sound you want to record first, then use the cover-your-ears technique to find the sweet spot, position the mic, then listen. Remember that if you can’t hear it, you can’t record it. Don’t be afraid to repeat as much as necessary, or to experiment if you’re not getting the results you want.”
You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.
Today is the 3rd anniversary of my Inner Circle Podcast and I’d like to thank you for being a loyal listener. I never envisioned getting to 150 episodes, but it’s all been made possible by followers like you!
Episode #151 brings back engineer Dennis Moody. Dennis was my first guest, and he’s celebrated every podcast anniversary with me since. As always, we look at the many trends that are happening in both the studio and live sound business. If you’re not familiar with Dennis, he’s the engineer to drumming gods like Steve Gadd and Dave Weckl, and also mixes live sound in arenas to clubs, so he has quite a history.
In the intro I’ll take a look at Spotify’s current A/B tests of its new Hifi tier, and at some killer vintage recording consoles with big histories that are now for sale.
David Garibaldi has played with artists like Patti Austin, Natalie Cole, Larry Carlton, Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, Boz Scaggs, and The Yellowjackets, but it’s his place as drummer for powerhouse horn band Tower of Power that most people know him for. David credits much of his success to what’s known in drumming circles as the “King Kong” beat. He’s since gone on to refine it and add some latin elements, but still believes that knowing this beat is a major reason for his success.
In the video below, David outlines the syncopated beat in a way that everyone can see exactly what he’s doing. This is great for drum programmers, by the way. If you can capture the nuances of David’s playing, you’re a long way on the path to realism.
For a generation of engineers prior to their discontinuation in 2001, Yamaha NS-10′s were a monitor fixture in every control room, no matter how big or small. They weren’t used because they sounded good, mind you, but quite the opposite – they sounded rather ordinary. That’s why it’s a bit of a mystery that the company’s new HPH-MT-8 headphones bear the moniker “NS-10 inspired.”
NS-10’s were never particularly accurate (legendary mixer Bob Clearmountain started the trend of putting tissue paper over the tweeter to tame the high-frequency response), so when Yamaha touts the MT8 as its “most accurate headphone set ever offered” you have to wonder whether its marketing and engineering departments are on the same page. That said, with the number of home studio engineers relying on headphones more and more to keep the noise level down, the need for an accurate headphone that closely mirrors real world acoustic monitoring is greater than ever. Still, you’d probably never hear “most accurate” and NS-10 in the same sentence from anyone that used them, but that dichotomy of perception makes me want to give these a try all the more.
Now for the tech: the MT8 features custom 45mm drivers with a 15Hz to 28kHz frequency response, built with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils, and neodymium magnets. Other features include a detachable straight 10-foot cable and coiled 5-foot cable (you see this combination supplied with more and more headphones these days), corrosion-resistant gold-plated stereo mini plug and quarter-inch stereo adapter.
The Yamaha HPH-MT8 has a street price of $199. A less expensive version, the HPH-MT5, is also available at $99. There’s more information on Yamaha’s dedicated webpage. If monitoring on NS-10s is your thing, then you probably want to check these out.