Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Whole Lotta Love" Isolated Drum Track

Here's a really treat for all you Led Zeppelin aficionados. It's the isolated drum track from their hit "Whole Lotta Love" off of their 2nd album. This cut illustrates perfectly why drummer John Bonham's sound and style is still emulated to this day. Here are some things to listen for (the drums don't enter until :39).

1. The drum kit sounds like a single instrument instead of a series of closely related pieces. That's because that was the way recording drums was approached way back then (1969), where there wasn't enough mics or input channels to even think about miking each drum. As a result, the overall sound was more important than the individual drum sound and there's a lot of  space around the drums because they weren't close miked. Still, there's plenty of power in his kick and snare, because he played them hard!

2. Bonham plays a modified shuffle feel in the song that really makes it work. That's why you rarely hear a cover band play it as well, since most drummers never quite hear inside the beat.

3. Check out the cymbal pattern Bonzo plays in bridge. It sounds random, but it isn't.

4. You can hear him singing (grunting) along at 4:00.

5.  Bonham's fills are simple and powerful. Most drummers would flash technique in a song like this.

6. Listen for the song ending that you never heard on the record.


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"I'm Not In Love" Isolated Vocal Loops

Here's another case of something that's common today but state-of-the-art way back when. I've posted here several times about the making of 10CCs "I'm Not In Love," a hit that relied on an amazing array of tape loops used as the pad element of the song. Today we would just play these loops on a keyboard and sequence them in a DAW, but back then these custom loops were actually played on the faders of a console during mixing. Check out this movie about how it was done.

The movie below allows you to hear all of these loops isolated by themselves. It's a fascinating piece of days gone by. Here's the song in its entirety where you hear the loops in context.


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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Interview With Mixer Andrew Scheps

Andrew Scheps Home Studio image
Andrew Scheps Home Studio (note the dual Neves and sidecar)
When I was writing the 3rd edition of the Mixing Engineer's Handbook, I really wanted to include Andrew Scheps, since I greatly admire his work. Always kind and gracious, Andrew wanted to do the interview at his studio, which is a wonderland of analog as you can see from the pictures on the left. I'm so glad he did, as I had a great time ogling his gear. Here's a portion of the interview explaining how all that analog gear came to his studio.

"Andrew Scheps has worked mega-hit albums for a who’s-who of superstar artists like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, U2, Justin Timberlake, Jay Z, The Rolling Stones, Linkin Park, Jewel, Neil Diamond and Adele."

You said that you mixed in the box for a long time. How did you get back into using a console?
Andrew Scheps: For Stadium Arcadium [by The Red Hot Chili Peppers], the band wanted the record mixed on a Neve. It was tracked on a Neve and they wanted it mixed on one too. I tried all of the available Neve rooms in town and it just wasn’t working for whatever reason, so I ended up renting a console and realized that this room could easily accommodate it. The other thing is that I just loved having a console, and as an investment, it’s not going down in value, unlike an SSL who’s values are still plummeting.

Andrew Scheps Outboard Gear Rack image
Andrew's Outboard Rack
The first desk had 32 inputs but when I knew that I was going to be mixing Metallica, I knew that I needed more. 32 inputs plus the other 10 on the BCM 10 [the small Neve broadcast desk that Andrew uses as a sidecar console] wasn’t going to cut it since their drums alone had around 30 channels. They weren’t all going to be coming up on the board, but 32 just wasn’t enough inputs. I was going to rent the console that I used for Stadium Arcadium again but in the process convinced them to sell it to me. As far as the outboard gear, studios keep closing and that’s where most of that comes from, since it tends to come in batches.

Where do you do your automation; in the box or on the desk?
Andrew Scheps: Most of the automation is done on the desk. The only thing done in the box is for extreme fixes. Once the mix is pretty much done and we’re adjusting something like background levels with the band, it’s easier to do that in the box because sometimes it’s just a certain word that they want louder, and then you don’t want to be sloppy with a fader ride on the console. It’s more precise in the box.

Do you ride the rhythm section for fills or is your mix fairly static?
Andrew Scheps: I still do ride things because the compressors are sucking out some of the natural dynamics of how the instruments were played, especially on some of the louder rock stuff. I’m only adding it back in, rather than creating something out of nothing. I don’t turn the whole mix up at every chorus, for instance. Some people can do that with success but I always hear it when I do it. I do definitely push the drums for the downbeat of the chorus and really try to accentuate anything that might be cool in a guitar performance, as well as some of the idiosyncrasies. The rides aren’t drastic, but most things are moving.


To find out more about Andrew and to see pictures of his great studio, go to punkerpad.com."

To read additional interview excerpts, go to the excerpts page at bobbyowsinski.com.
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Why It's Worth Recording In Louisiana

Singer at mic image
File this in the "why don't other States do this?" bin, but Louisiana actually has a tax credit program that provides a rebate for those who record in great state. The Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit Initiative was created in 2005 to promote music in the state and provides a 25% rebate on eligible expenses on projects that spend at least $15,000 in recording costs.

You'd think that a program like this might be restrictive in what it considers a "recording cost," but it not only covers studio, producer and session musician fees, but in some cases even travel for out-of-state-musicians. And all kinds of recording besides music in the studio are covered as well, including film scores, spoken word performances like audio books, and even live recording.

There are some restrictions to the program however, but a lot of these are in place to make sure that the system isn't gamed. Expenses not included are recording on projects that didn't originate in Louisiana, producer fees in excess of 20% of the project total, excessive equipment rental fees, and duplication and marketing costs. Mixing and master costs also don't qualify unless the recording was initiated in the state as well.

While artists like R.E.M, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Trombone Shorty have benefited from the program, it does max out once it hits a ceiling of $3million per year, and there's speculation that the new legislature may decide to decrease that amount. Also, it can take anywhere from 5 to 8 months to receive any rebate from the program, so the project still has to be fully funded upfront.

Still, it's a great idea that I wish more states initiated. The biggest question I have is, why am I hearing about this only now?

Here's more about The Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit Initiative.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

New Music Gear Monday: The AT 2020USB+ Mic

So much of our everyday audio communication happens at the computer these days, from Skype conversations to Google+ Hangouts to podcast and video blogs. Where once upon a time we could get by with the less than ideal built in mic in the computer, it's more and more important that we sound as good as possible, especially if what we'll be doing will end up on YouTube.

While most of us have home studios, sometimes it's just too complicated to set it all up just for a quick Skype conversation. That's why the new upscale USB mics are all the rage. They're quick and easy to use and make you sound like a million bucks. Which brings us to the subject of this week's New Music Gear Monday - the Audio Technica AT2020USB+.

The 2020USB+ is the latest iteration of the mic that now adds a headphone output for zero latency monitoring. There's also a new mix control that allows you to mix the level of the mic with the output of the computer in the event you're playing something back. It doesn't have much else in terms of controls (besides a level control), but eliminating the need for a preamp and a couple of cables just made your setup so much easier, at no cost in audio quality. The mic has a street price of around $169.

Check out this video that not explains how it works, but give you an idea of how it sounds as well.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

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