Category Archives for "Production"

Radiohead “Creep” Isolated Vocals

Radiohead CreepRadiohead has engendered respect from artists and fans alike for following its own path and not being afraid to follow its muse. In fact, many consider the band to be the Pink Floyd of their time in many ways. “Creep” was the band’s first single and later appeared on its first album Pablo Honey. Not an initial success, it took a rerelease a couple of years later to actually catch on. The song was reported to have been recorded in a single take, and has been covered by everyone from Macy Gray to The Pretenders. Here’s what to listen for.

1. There’s a nice long delayed reverb on the vocal that’s fairly dark sounding. That’s the only effect used.

2. Thom Yorke gives a great vocal, but it sounds like it was done with one take (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s a bit pitchy in spots, especially at the end of phrases, something that probably no one has ever noticed in the context of the mix.

3. There are some lip smacks and breaths that are left in. They just add to the intimacy of the vocal.

4. There’s also some distortion during the bridge from an overload somewhere in the signal chain. It’s all about the performance though, so who cares?

New Music Gear Monday: Mojave Audio MA-1000 Microphone

Mojave Audio MA-1000There are lots of great microphones available today that either try to directly copy one of the vintage classic mics, or use it as a starting point for an updated version. So why does the world need another one? Well, when it comes from the mind of the super inventive David Royer, its something that you have to sit up and take notice, which is why the Mojave Audio MA-1000 large diaphragm condenser mic should be on a “must try” list for anyone in the market for a new high-end microphone.

The MA-1000 is part of a new Signature Series and goes for that old Austrian/German sound by using an original new old-stock 5840 tube, a 1 inch 3 microns thin 251-style capsule, and a custom-designed transformer built by Coast Magnetics. Like most tube mics, the pickup pattern can be continuously controlled on the power supply, and the mic itself features both a switchable 15dB pad and 6dB per octave bass roll-off centered at 100Hz.

This mic sounds big and you notice it as soon as you push the fader up. It’s has the same bass extension that we’ve come to expect from those classic large diaphragm condenser mics that we’re all so fond of and can’t afford. And it has the same air that we equate with some of the best vintage mics but with even better definition as well. I absolutely fell in love with the MA-1000 in omni for vocals and dialog recording. Don’t get me wrong, a little proximity effect can be nice and you can easily dial it in with the pattern control, but if you want a vocal free from big pops and a muddy bottom, omni’s the way to go, and with the MA-1000, it’s about as good as it gets.

The thing about vintage mics is that they’re so expensive and most of the time they’re somewhat trashed after 50 years of service, so most don’t sound as good as they used to. The MA-1000 is only $2,495 and for that  you get something that will beat the pants off of most vintage mics (and their knock-offs for that matter) and be at its best for a long time.

The Mojave Audio MA-1000 comes with a very substantial carrying case (the folks at Mojave really went overboard here), a shock mount, and Mogami multi-core mic/supply cable. You can find out the details on the dedicated Mojave Audio page, or watch the video below.

December 9, 2016

A Listen To The Beatle’s Decca Audition Tape

The Beatles Decca demoThe Beatles, arguably the greatest music group of all time, were turned down by every record label they went to until a little arm twisting landed them on George Martin’s Parlophone label. One listen to this audition tape that the band did for Decca Records  leads you to understand why everyone passed however. The band played songs from their live show, and while certainly competent, didn’t provide even an inkling of what was to come later.

The audition took place in London at Decca Studios on New Year’s Day in 1962. The group (which included original drummer Pete Best) travelled down from Liverpool through a snowstorm with driver and roadie Neil Aspinall to arrive just in time for the 11am audition. Brian Epstein had travelled separately by train. The Beatles recorded 15 songs altogether with 5 of them,  “Three Cool Cats,” “The Sheik Of Araby,” “Like Dreamers Do and Hello Little Girl,” eventually appearing on the Anthology 1 collection in 1995.

Here’s the track listing.

01. Money (That’s What I Want) [0:00]

02. To Know Her Is To Love Her [2:26]

03. Memphis, Tennessee [5:01]

04. Till There Was You [7:22]

05. Sure To Fall (In Love With You) [10:23]

06. Besame Mucho [12:27]

07. Love Of The Loved [15:07]

08. September In The Rain [17:00]

09. Take Good Care Of My Baby [18:57]

10. Crying, Waiting, Hoping [21:26]

 The lesson here is to never judge a book by its cover, because you just never know if there’s greatness that lies within.

7 Tips For Improving Your Drum Sound

7 tips for improving your drum soundWhen it comes to your drum sound, 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 3rd 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.

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.

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.

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

One Direction “You And I” Isolated Vocals

One Direction - You and II usually post isolated tracks on Fridays and for the most part, the majority of them are classic songs that are somewhat old. The reason for that is that those tracks are more available, but every now and then I find something that’s current, like today’s One Direction isolated vocal track of their hit “You And I,” which was co-written and produced by Julian Bunetta and John Ryan. Here’s what to listen for.

1. Unlike most songs today that are somewhat dry, the vocals on “You And I” are deeply effected. There’s a basic long, very lush, delayed reverb that’s augmented by a 1/2 note and sometimes 1/4 note delay that trails its repeats to the left.

2. There’s a lot of compression on these vocals and sometimes it really stands out. That said, you’d never hear it in the track, and that’s what counts in the end.

3. Listen to the beginning of the choruses at 1:07 and 1:54 on the left (especially at 1:54 and a little beyond). There’s some throat clearing that was left in. This was something you heard a lot back in the old tape days, but hardly much any more in the world of DAWs. There’s also a lot of lip noise during the second verse at 2:32 on beyond. I’m surprised this wasn’t cleaned up. Likewise, there are some glitches around 4:46 and again around 6:30. Can’t tell if these are just digital artifacts from the upload or if on the recording. There’s even a bit of noise from the studio talkback left in.

4. There are some very abrupt cut-offs on some of these vocal tracks, which makes me think that the editing wasn’t as good as it could have been. Usually you put a slight fade at the end of an edit to eliminate that.

5. At 6 minutes and 54 seconds, this is a really long song in a time where shortness prevails. However, like other big hitmakers of the past, One Direction can break the current rules and even establish some new trends thanks to its huge fan base.

Stevie Ray Vaughan “Pride And Joy” Isolated Guitar Track

Stevie Ray VaughanThere’s nothing like listening to a master and guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan certainly fits that description. I remember going to see him in a small club before he broke out big, but right in the middle of stream of big hype. The audience was filled with LA guitar players (including quite a few heavyweights), all with a “show me what you got” attitude. It took about a minute and half of the first song, “Pride And Joy,” to make a believer out of all of us. Yes, this guy was the real deal. Here’s the isolated guitar track from the studio recording of that song.

1.  The first thing you’ll notice is how big the guitar sounds. It has much more bottom than most guitar tracks, but this is a function of the fact that he was playing in the trio version of Double Trouble at the time, so more sonic space needed to be filled.

2. While everyone looks at his incredible dexterity when soloing, Steve was actually a great rhythm player as well, as this track bears out. Listen especially to the turnarounds, which are incredibly precise.

3, There’s a long delayed reverb on the guitar that’s very bright, again to fill in the sonic space.

4. No overdubs here. This sounds like one take all the way through, rhythm and lead guitar!

There’s no doubt the man was really a master. He’s very much missed.

What Will Happen To JBL Now That Samsung Is Buying Harmon?

Harmon logoIf you’ve not heard, Samsung is buying Harmon International for around $8 billion, which should send shivers down the spines of JBL Pro users. The South Korean giant reportedly sees Harmon as a bridge to the connected car business and isn’t all that interested in the audio side of the business, although its saying all the right things about returning those operations to their previous strength. What’s worse is that most Harmon employees discovered the news through social media rather than communication with the company, which isn’t exactly a great way to make a first impression.

The silver lining here is that Samsung may determine that the Harmon Pro companies (which include Crown, dbx, Lexicon, AKG, Digitech, AMX, BSS, JBL Professional, Soundcraft, Studer and Martin Audio, not to mention hi-fi companies like B&W, Harmon Kardon, Mark Levinson, and Infinity) are in a small enough niche revenue-wise that it’s not interested, and spin either the entire division off, or the separate companies. On the other hand, it’s also possible that all will be folded into Samsung and these wonderful brands and products will cease to exist after a while.

Although we live in a corporate world where growth is mantra that all execs live by, the Samsung/Harmon deal doesn’t seem to be about that. Samsung has been reeling from a series of disasters product-wise that were attributed to corporate culture. Apparently in the case of both the Galaxy 7 and their washing machine, both fixes were rushed out the door rather than a thorough investigation to the cause of the problems. This acquisition puts a positive spin on the company when it so sorely needs it, but it also looks to the future as the car gets more and more sophisticated. Harmon makes most of its money from its OEM auto audio systems and has been heavily moving the connected car direction.

JBL Pro has already been fairly corporate for some time, but having new Asian overlords is another level of bureaucracy entirely. Next year’s AES should be very interesting to see if there are any changes by then.

New Music Gear Monday: Slate Control Monitor Controller

Slate ControlOne of the most important components of a home or desktop studio is the monitor controller, and while there are more and more such devices on the market these days, not all are a good fit for many studios. For instance, the needs of someone working with a laptop mixing on headphones are completely different from someone who’s actually recording people in the room or needs the highest quality monitor signal path possible. The new Slate Control fits into the latter category, with features usually found on a full-blown recording console but that are often needed in today’s in-the-box world.

First of all, the Slate Control head can be used as either an independent table top module, integrated directly into the RAVEN MTX Mk2 or RAVEN Z3 armrest, or even integrated into an older analog console, since it’s only 7 inches deep. If a retrofit is in your stars, Slate Control adds 7 stereo monitor path inputs but also connects to the solo buss signal and logic inputs of your existing console for seamless control.

Regardless of the environment it’s being used, the controller has a wide array of pro features, including 3 speaker selections, each with an LFE Enable switch, and speaker B and C have trim controls for matching levels with speaker A. Speaking of LFE, the LFE Output has multiple modes with a 12dB per octave low pass filter that can be set at 80 or 120Hz, or a Direct Output Mode, along with Polarity and Level Trim. A CAL Mode also allows you to preset a reference level for the speakers, disabling the main control room volume control. The speaker section of the controller also features cut, mono compatibility and left speaker polarity functions as well.

Slate Control also has multiple cue outputs and headphone outputs with some very useful talkback functions. The Talkback System has both a built-in mic and external mic input, which allows both reverse talkback for instant communication with the artist, and a feature called Selectable Auto Talkback that engages the talkback automatically when the music stops.

All inputs and outputs are balanced and diode protected against accidental phantom power (48V) connections, with DB25 connections for inputs and outputs, and DB9 connections for Aux and Talkback Aux remote functions. There’s also an on-board USB Hub for iLok and phone charging, as well as an 1/8th inch input for playback from an mobile phone. Best of all, the audio signal path was designed by famed audio developer Paul Wolf so the audio quality if top-notch.

The Slate Control isn’t inexpensive at $2,499, but neither are the other high-end controllers on the market that offer similar features and quality. Check out the dedicated page here for more information.

Getting The Best From Your Singer

getting-the-best-from-singerThe vocals are the focal point of most songs, and a great performance is necessary to sell the song. A mediocre performance can sink the song no matter how great the tracks are. One of the hardest things about making a record is trying to record a singer who is uncomfortable. Even a seasoned pro sometimes can’t do her best unless the conditions are just right. If you’re a producer, you frequently run into one of the following scenarios though.

The vocalist keeps singing sharp or flat.

The vocalist keeps belting it out when the song calls for a softer sound.

The singer isn’t hitting the high notes like you know he can do.

Here’s a video from my new Music Producer Formula course that shows the techniques to overcome these problems and more.

New Music Gear Monday: Audionamix Speech Volume Control

Audionamix Speech Volume ControlIf you’ve ever had to deal with a noisy track, you know how time consuming clean-up can be. Yes, you can gate it, but that can sound unnatural. There are also many excellent noise-reduction plugins available, but they don’t always do the job without adding some unpleasant artifacts. You find yourself playing with different combinations of tools hoping that you can eventually dial in something acceptable, which can take a lot longer than you’d expect. That’s why the new Audionamix Speech Volume Control (SVC) is so cool. It takes an entirely different approach to noise reduction.

Most noise control plugins try to eliminate or concentrate on the background noise, but SVC works by increasing the level of the vocal or speech so that the noise is no longer a problem. Keep in mind that this is a tool intended for post engineers who work with dialog, but the plugin looks like it can have many uses in music as well (I can’t wait to try it on noisy distorted electric guitars, for example).

SVC has to first acquire the audio in order to be able to work with it, and this done using the Aquire button, and then the Separate button to allow the algorithm to do its thing (the track can be mono or stereo, by the way). At that point, there are a variety of controls, but the main ones are the Speech volume slider and the Background volume slider, which will then allow the user to find the right combination of noise to track that seems natural. There’s also a Pitch slider, which works in conjunction with a number of presets for different types of voices, that allows you to fine-tune the algorithm to the voice.

There are also High Quality, HF Boost and Reverb options (the Reverb selector maintains the wet/dry balance as you adjust the Speech volume control), as well as an Automatic Voice Activity Detection that helps to precisely target the speech content within your audio file.

The Audionamix Speech Volume Control plugin costs $249 to buy and $19.95 for a 2 week rental. It’s available in AAX, VST and AU formats for both Mac and Windows platforms. Check out the video below, or the website for more info.