Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jimi Hendrix "The Wind Cries Mary" Behind The Scenes

If any of you caught the recent American Masters show about Jimi Hendrix on PBS you know that there was some great seldom-seen interviews that made that documentary one of the best. It seems like there was a lot of footage that didn't make the program, and here's some of it, describing the making of "The Wind Cries Mary" from Jimi and The Experience's first album Are You Experienced.

In the video you'll hear Jimi's late manager and producer Chas Chandler (once the bass player with the original Animals) describing how the song was cut in 20 minutes including 5 guitar overdubs (obviously everything was first take). Then you'll hear my buddy the great Eddy Kramer (you can read part of his interview from The Recording Engineer's Handbook here) isolate some of the guitar tracks from the song.

Sorry, but you'll have to sit through a 15 second commercial first, but it's worth it.


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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Must-See Studios Before You Die

Conway Studios Garden image
The garden surrounding Conway Recording
I was talking to a friend about the studio business in Los Angeles the other day when the conversation drifted to a very famous studio that was slowly being phased out (guess which one below). That got me thinking about some of the great studios that I've worked in over my career as well as some others that are on my bucket list. I decided to make a list of the 10 studios that I believe everyone connected with recording should visit at least once.

Actually there were many more than 10, but these are what I consider the top 10 that come to mind.

1. Abbey Road (London) - The center of the recording universe for decades, the studio that everyone most wants to visit, and what many feel has always represented the epitome of recording excellence.

2. Capitol Records (Los Angeles) - All you have to do is walk down the hallway and see the huge pictures of Frank and Dean and the realization of the studio's history hits you. Great sounding rooms, not to mention the famous echo chambers. Major construction in the area might seriously affect the studio in the near future.

3. Sunset Sound (Los Angeles) - One of the first independent studios anywhere, it's been the home to hit makers since the early 60s. I went to the 25th anniversary party a number of years ago and they played the hits that were made there in the background for four hours and never repeated one.

4. East West (Los Angeles) - Once part of Bill Putnam's United Western (also one of the first indie studios), the studios have remained basically the same since Bill designed them.

5. Oceanway (Los Angeles) - The other part of United Western and until recently, owned by Allan Sides, the studio is now owned by Gower film studios and its future is in doubt. See it while you can.

6. Electric Lady (New York) - Jimi Hendrix's personal studio. His vibe is still there. Enough said.

7. The Record Plant (Los Angeles) - It's not at the original location anymore, but it's still a legend just for the who's-who list of clients.

8. Henson (Los Angeles) - The former A&M Studios located on the old Charlie Chaplin film lot, Henson is one of the few large facilities left. Once again, the home of legends.

9. Conway (Los Angeles) - Mostly under the radar, Conway has been the home to music celebs for decades. You can't beat the beauty of the tropically themed grounds around the studio, which makes it one of a kind.

10. Avatar (New York) - Formerly the Power Station, Avatar has been the home to East Coast hit makers for decades, as well as the place where many of today's most influential engineers got their start.

That was an easy 10, and we didn't even get to Nashville, Memphis and the rest of London, as well as some of the famous studios that are now museums like Motown, Sun and RCA Studio B. Plus it was very LA-centric. Forgive me, my studio friends, if I left your favorite off the list. If you guys like this one, I'll post a second one soon.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Secret To Finding The Pocket

I came across the video at the bottom of this post about find the "pocket" of the groove and it reminded me of something that I wrote in How To Make Your Band Sound Great. Here's that excerpt as well as the video (which takes a little while to get to the point).

"The phrase "in the pocket" is used to describe something or someone playing in such a way that the groove is very solid and has a great feel. When a drummer keeps good time, makes the groove feel really good, and keeps it up for an extended period of time while never wavering, this is often referred to as a “deep pocket”.  It should be noted that it’s impossible to have a pocket without also having a groove.

Historically speaking, the term "pocket" originated in the middle of the last century when a strong backbeat (the snare drum striking on beats 2 and 4) came to the forefront of popular music.  When the backbeat is slightly delayed creating a "laid back" or "relaxed feel", the drummer is playing in the pocket.

Today, the term "in the pocket" has broadened a bit, suggesting that if two musicians (usually the bass player and the drummer) are feeling the downbeats together and placing beat one (the downbeat) at the exact same time, they are said to be "in the pocket." Whether you are playing ahead (in front) of the beat, or behind (on the back) of the beat, or right on top (middle) of the beat, as long as two musicians (i.e. bassist and drummer) feel the downbeat at the same time, they'll be in the pocket.  

In terms of bass and drums locking to create a cohesive part, there are three areas of focus for me. You have to know where your drummer is most comfortable in terms of the beat. Is your drummer very "straight," playing right on top of the beat (which can sound like Disco music or a machine)? Is he or she laid back, sitting in that area way on the back back of the beat (like Phil Rudd does on AC/DC’s Back In Black, anything by Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, or Clyde Stubblefield on James Brown’s Cold Sweat or Funky Drummer)? Does your drummer's playing have that urgency of a musician who plays on top of the beat (like Stewart Copeland of The Police)? This is crucial to know because the bass and drums have to function as a unit. You don't have to play everything the same, but you have to know and understand the way the other thinks and feels.

Getting the rhythm section to groove with the rest of the band is much more difficult than you might think since guitarists don't always listen to the drummer, a keyboardist may have metronomic time yet have a difficult time coordinating his/her left hand with the bass player, and vocalists will often forget that there's a band playing behind them altogether.  The key is for everyone in the band to listen to one another!


Many people feel that the question is not so much what the pocket is as much as how you know when you've achieved it, yet I guarantee that you’ll know it when you feel it because the music feels like it’s playing itself.  It feels as if everything has merged together with all the rhythmic parts being played by one instrument.  Whichever definition you choose to go with or use, having a pocket is always good thing!"

You can read additional excerpts from How To Make Your Band Sound Great and other books on the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.



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Monday, November 18, 2013

How Tape Delay Works

Many 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).

Tape Delay Diagram from Bobby Owsinski's Mixing Engineer's HandbookToday 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 The Mixing Engineer's Handbook 3rd 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."
You can read additional excerpts from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

New Music Gear Monday: Neumann TLM 107

To many, Neumann mics have always been the gold standard for recording, and you can never go wrong with any of the old classics. Neumann's newer offerings haven't quite been accepted in the same manner, but that could change with the new TLM 107.

The 107 has a totally new capsule that's designed to reduce the affect of moisture and humidity, but the cool thing is that it sports a new "navigation" switch that allows you to change the pickup pattern, attenuation, and rolloff. It's also a multi-pattern mic with omni, sub-omni, cardioid, hypercardioid and figure 8 available. The frequency pattern looks to be really flat with a high-end bump, but some engineers who prefer their mics with more color won't find that attractive.

The price is pretty good though, coming in at "under $2,000" according to Neumann. The TLM 107 is available at the end of November.


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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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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