Bobby Owsinski

Author Archives: Bobby Owsinski

7 Simple Tips For Improving Your Drum Sound

drum sound - parallel room micsWhen it comes to a live drum sound during a tracking session, sometimes the smallest details can make a big difference when you consider that there are usually multiple mics involved. Changing one thing can sometimes make a difference, but sometimes it’s the fact that many small adjustments have a cumulative effective on the overall sound. Here are 7 tips culled from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition that can individually or together improve your recorded drum sound.

1. Microphones aimed at the center of the drum will provide the most attack. For more body or ring, aim it more towards the rim.

2. The best way to hear exactly what the drum sounds like when doing a mic check is to have the drummer hit the drum about once per second so there’s enough time between hits to hear how long the ring is.

3. Try to keep any mics underneath the drums at a 90 degree angle to the mic on top to keep the acoustic phase shift to a minimum.

4. Most mics placed underneath the drums will be out of phase with the tops mics. Switch the polarity on your preamp, console or DAW and choose the position that has the most bottom end.

5. Try to keep all mics as parallel as possible to keep the acoustic phase shift to a minimum (see the graphic on the left).

6. The main thing about mic placement on the drums is to place the mics in such a way where the drummer never has to be concerned about hitting them.

7. The ambient sound of the room is a big part of the drum sound. Don’t overlook using room mics where possible (see the graphic on the left).

The above tips can generally apply to just about any drum miking setup, but remember to listen carefully after each adjustment to note the difference, if any, that occurs, then make sure it fits with the track.

March 28, 2017

A Look At Building A High-End Turntable

Riga RP8 TurntableThere’s no question that vinyl is back with a bang, and as a result, so is the turntable business. In fact, most turntable manufacturers both big and small have experienced double digit sales growth in the last few years, a trend that looks like it won’t be stopping anytime soon.

But what exactly goes into making a turntable, especially a high-end one? In the following video you’ll no doubt marvel at what a fine hand-crafted precision tool the Riga RP8 is as you see it being made from scratch. By the way, the RP8 sells for $3,500 with the stylus cartridge and $3,000 without.

That’s no doubt more than most people are willing to spend on a device to play their vinyl (in most cases their entire playback system doesn’t cost that much), but it doesn’t make the RP8 any less cool if you have that kind of money to spend.

New Music Gear Monday: Eventide Fission Structural Effects Plugin

Eventide Fission pluginMost processor plugins these days fall into roughly the same categories (EQ, compression, effects, denoise and utilities), so when a plugin comes along that starts a new category it’s big news. The plugin I’m talking about is the the Eventide Fission, which uses what the company calls its new Structural Effects (that would be the name of the new category) technology to break a signal down into its separate transient and tonal components.

Why would you want to do that? A number of reasons actually. For one, you can take any sound and twist it in a new and wonderful way to create something completely different, so it’s perfect for sound design.

But for those of us that just do music, it has lots of uses as well. For instance, it can provide much more convincing pitch alterations since you can keep the transient as it is, then tune just the body of the sound (there’s a great example on both snare and toms in the video below). Maybe you want to soften (or emphasize) a transient of a guitar to reduce the string or fret noise, or do the same with the body of the sound to reduce the room ambience. Maybe you’re doing a dance track and just want to completely mess up a synth sound into something totally new. There are tons of uses for Fission.

Keep in mind that Fission isn’t just another transient designer tool since it works on more than just the transient as you can manipulate the body of the sound as well. The plugin includes six effects (Delay, Tap Delay, Dynamics, Phaser, Reverb, and Gate + EQ) for the transient component, and seven (Delay, Compressor, EQ, Pitch, Chorus, Reverb, and Tremolo) for the tonal component. Fission’s Structural Split controls (Smoothing, Trans Decay, Source Type and Focus) combine with a real-time waveform display to show the user just how they are adjusting the split.

The Eventide Fission Structural Effects plugin has a list price of $179 but has an introductory price based on your Eventide purchase history. There’s also a free 30 day trial period. Go here to learn more, and check out the video below. Very cool!

Journey “Don’t Stop Believin'” Isolated Vocal

Journey Don't Stop Believin'“Don’t Stop Believin'” is one of those classic rock songs that keeps on going and refuses to fade away. You hear it at sporting events, on television and movies, and on the radio even after 35+ years since it was recorded. Journey had a lot of success at its peak, but this may be song that defines them in the end, so today we’re going to have a listen to the isolated lead vocal from the song.

“Don’t Stop…” is an interesting song in that the chorus only comes once in the song and it’s at the end. I can’t think of another song where that happens but it’s not a song structure that you’d teach an aspiring songwriter, and yet here it is in this huge hit. Let’s get into it.

1. Journey vocalist Steve Perry truly has one of the most incredible voices in music and it’s perfectly on display here. The song was recorded as we entered the age of perfectionism in the studio (thanks to the 24 track tape machine), but this performance is still scary good.

2. I didn’t hear one slight imperfection at 0:33 where he went slightly sharp on “…anywhere” but that’s really splitting hairs.

3. The audio quality of this video isn’t great, but you can still hear that the vocal has in a nice long delayed reverb. If you listen carefully to the decay, you can hear a midrange ring to it.

4. On the B sections you can hear a double slightly to the left and an octave below the lead slightly to the right.

5. The vocal is edited together so there’s no big gaps from the instrumental sections of the song.

March 23, 2017

Using Guitar Pedals On Your Mix

guitar pedals on mixI’m a purist when it comes to guitar pedals I must admit. Back when I was a serious player, my guitar rig devolved from one with the typical half-dozen+ pedals to none, as my sound came the “classic” way from just the guitar and amp (and sounded great, by the way). The same with the studio. I always hated using guitar pedals on a mix because of the noise and the inherent sound quality problems that occurred as a result.

Today things are different though, as pedals are now pretty quiet and the audio quality doesn’t change much thanks to the many reamp boxes on the market like Radial’s ProRMP and EXTC. This video by my buddy Dave Pensado shows some cool ways to make use of those pedals as something other than stomp boxes on stage.

4 Quick Drum Tuning Tips From The Famous “Drum Doctor”

Drum Doctor Ross GarfieldIf you’re doing a session in Los Angeles and you want your drums to instantly sound great, then your first call is to the Drum Doctors to either rent a fantastic sounding kit, or have your kit tuned. Ross Garfield is the Drum Doctor and you’ve heard his drum sounds on platinum recordings from Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Mettalica, Dwight Yokum,  Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Lenny Kravitiz, Michael Jackson and many, many more (that’s him on the left with Mick Fleetwood).

Ross was kind enough to do an interview for The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, but I’ve featured some of his tips in other books like The Drum Recording Handbook, The Touring Musician’s Handbook, and The Music Producer’s Handbook as well. Here’s a few of his quick drum tuning tips. For more info on Ross and his company, go to drumdoctors.com.

1. If the snares buzz when the toms are hit:

  • Check that the snares are straight.
  • Check to see whether the snares are flat and centered on the drum.
  • Loosen the bottom head.
  • Retune the offending toms.
  • Use an alternate snare drum.

2. If the snare has too much ring:

  • Tune the heads lower.
  • Use a heavier head, such as a coated Remo Emperor.
  • Use a full or partial muffling ring, or add some tape or Moongel.

3. If the kick drum isn’t punchy and lacks power in the context of the music:

  • Try increasing and decreasing the amount of muffling in the drum, a sandbag, or try a different blanket or pillow.
  • Change to a heavier, uncoated head, such as a clear Emperor or Powerstroke 3.
  • Change to a thinner front head or one with a larger cutout.

4. If one or more of the toms are difficult to tune or have an unwanted “growl”:

  • Check the top heads for dents and replace as necessary.
  • Check the evenness of tension all around on the top and bottom heads.
  • Tighten the bottom head.

These are just some quick tips, and you can find more extensive tuning techniques from the Drum Doctor in my Recording Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition. You can read more from that and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

March 21, 2017

Engineer Drew Drucker On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Drew DruckerIf you were going to show someone how to make it in the music business, you’d point to engineer and mixer Drew Drucker as the perfect example.

Drew graduated from recording school, then worked his way up in the business by starting as a runner and moving up the ladder thanks to hard work, paying his dues and some good timing. His client list now includes some of hip-hop and R&B’s biggest stars including Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, Travis Barker, Bruno Mars and B-Real, among many others.

We really got down in the weeds when it comes to Drew’s mixing and recording techniques in this interview, so expect a lot of details.

In the intro I’ll take a look at the surprising top selling vinyl records from 2016. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over this one. I’ll also look at a pre-session checklist that every producer and studio owner should follow to make that first session run smoothly.

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

March 21, 2017

You Can Own One Of These Iconic Consoles

TG12345 MK IVIf you love old recording desks, then you have a chance to buy not one, but 2 iconic consoles that have huge pedigrees with tons of hits. The first is the EMI TG12345 MK IV from Abbey Road Studios made famous for the recording of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, and albums by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Kate Bush, The Cure, among many others.

Back in the day, all consoles at Abbey Road and other EMI-owned studios were designed and built by the EMI in-house technical staff. and this particular desk is only one of two like it ever built (the other now belonging to producer Michael Hedges). The console has 40 channels, with a compressor on each channel (which was quite innovative for its time), divided into 24 input channels and 16 monitor channels, since this is from the days of 16 track tape recording.

Many think that the solid state TG12345 MK IV was the best sounding console every built, although I know at least a couple of former Abbey Road engineers who disagree and think the tube REDD series sounded better, but that’s probably splitting hairs. Regardless, it’s still in working order and is up for auction at Bonhams. It’s expected to go for somewhere in the high 6 figures!

Sunset Sound Factory APIThe second classic desk is a very nice API 2488 from Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood which has been heavily modified and fully restored (which cost around $165k in today’s dollars). It has 36 inputs, 16 busses and 29 (!) full monitor channels, plus a Martinsound Flying Fader package.

This console was at the heart of recordings by Chili Peppers, Motorhead, Sheryl Crow, Brian Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Beck, Jimmy Cliff,  Smashing Pumpkins and many more. No mention of the price, but it’s available from Vintage King.

The best thing about these desks is that they’re available in working order and should find a nice home without being parted out. There’s less and less of a need for a big piece of iron like these iconic consoles these days, but hopefully they’ll both find nice homes.

New Music Gear Monday: Von Erickson Skull Microphone

skull microphoneSometimes style and image is a higher priority than the actual sound of a device, and if that describes your place in the music business, then you’re going to want to check out the Von Erickson Labs Skull Microphone. Von Erickson already makes jewelry based around a certain creepy zombie theme, so a microphone was an easy reach for the company that knows what its audience wants.

The Skull Microphone looks like a venerable Shure Model 55 only in the shape of a skull. While there’s no mention as to exactly which diaphragm is being used, the specs are pretty good. It has a frequency response of 60 to 17,000 Hz and a supercardioid polar pattern, which is not expected from the mic of that shape that we know and love. It’s also manufactured in the U.S., which is always good.

There’s not much more to say expect that the Skull Microphone is available in three styles – Bright Chrome, Dark Chrome and Satin Gun Metal, and sells for $375. Come on, you know you want one.

Thanks to my buddy Steve Harvey for the heads up.

Best And Worst Isolated Live Vocal Feeds Of 10 Top Artists

live vocal feedsUsually on a Friday I post an isolated track from the studio mix of a hit song. The studio is one thing, since we’re after perfection and there are many tools to help achieve that (including hard work). That said, top artists make most of their money from live performances, so maybe we should take a listen to the isolated live vocal feed from those.

Here are 10 of today’s most famous artists live on stage with just their bare naked isolated vocal track. You be the judge as to how good they are.

The performers are Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, and Mariah Carrey.

Please note: The comments on the video are not mine, but I agree with them.

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