Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bob Marley "One Love" Isolated Vocal

Here's the isolated vocal to one of the most iconic songs of the 70s that still resonates today as it plays on commercials everywhere. It's Bob Marley and The Wailer's "One Love" from their 1977 Exodus album. Here's what to listen for.

1. The vocal sound is very interesting. It's fairly thin sounding, but at 1:10 the vocal sounds very different, as it's much deeper and richer. It sounds like the line was the only one kept from a scratch vocal (since you can hear the leakage from the band) while the rest of the vocal was the overdub.

2. There's the typical delay that was used on most reggae records of the time, plus a little bit of a short reverb to smooth it out.

3. You can hear another vocal ad lib vocal along with the melody. Sometimes it Bob, sometimes it's Bunny Wailer, and on one occasion it even doubles the lead vocal.



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Please Vote For Adrianna Marie

A few months ago I had the pleasure of working with a great blues artist, Adrianna Marie, on her Double Crossing Blues album. She's now nominated for Blues Music Awards Best New Artist. If you're a voting member, please consider voting for her.

There are only two more days to vote as the voting will close on March 1st. Go here to vote.

This is some great and authentic 40's blues, complete with the A team horn section of Lee Thornburg and Ron Dzuibla (between them they sound like a big band section), and my buddy LA Jones on his always excellent guitar (with the most authentic era sound you've ever heard).

As many of you know, I cherry pick projects to produce these days, and this is one I'm proud to have worked on (mixed it too).

Check out Adrianna Marie and her Groovecutters site to hear some of here songs.
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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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stories From The Road: Tour Manager Tales

Listen to a tour manager image
If you ever wondered if some of the wild road stories you've heard about blowing up hotel rooms and televisions in the pool are true, you'll be pleasantly surprised to hear that most of them are (and those are just the ones that are popular). Recently Billboard got a number of top veteran tour managers in a room to finally get the stories straight. The gang included Stuart Ross (Metallica, George Michael, Weezer), Patrick Stansfield (The Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond), Dave Libert (Alice Coooper), Gus Brandt (Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Eminem, Nine Inch Nails), and Marty Hom (Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Shania Twain). Here's part of the interview, which can be found in its entirety at BillboardBiz.com.

"How did you handle the logistics, without email or cellphones?
Libert: Every road manager had that enormous book that could tell you the mileage from any city to any city in the entire country.
Stansfield: A Rand McNally Gazetteer.
Ross: If you were going from Anchorage [Alaska] to Xenia, Ohio, you looked up Anchorage and then you went down all of the names until you got to Xenia and it would give you the mileage. And that's how we routed tours. We had no other way to do it.
Stansfield: Remember that in this equation, the band's management had a somewhat different agenda in terms of routing...Management wants you to play where they've decided you're going to play. If you were to say, "I can't guarantee you we can make that gig," [promoter-turned-movie producer] Jerry Weintraub would say, "Pat, I'm a rich man. I pay guys like you to figure this out." Tap, tap, tap on the cigar. "Don't tell me nothing except 'yes.' Now, get the f--- out of my face."
How do you cope when that happens?
Stansfield: You go out, throw the dice and make sure it happens.
Libert: One thing a road manager could do to influence the routing of a tour is, if there were two days off, you would try and figure out where the hottest girls were. That was where we wanted to have those two or three days off. Because to be in a town for one night was one thing, to be there for two or three days was completely different...So I would convince Shep Gordon why it was good business, why we should stay there: It was cheaper, the trucks needed whatever. But it was about the chicks.
The "sweet, sweet Connie," from Grand Funk's "We're an American Band," right?Stansfield: There was this body of knowledge, mano a mano, from your lips to my ears: "Man, that Connie in Little Rock...F---ed me silly. Swear to God. At the end, she brightly says, 'Thank you,' and was off. I found out she went to the other bus and f---ed the entourage until the sun came up." (To Hom): You ever meet Connie?
Hom: Theoretically.
Stansfield: If you played Little Rock [Ark.], you couldn't help but meet Connie. She was a schoolteacher. Third grade.
Libert: She had her own room set up at the arena. There used to be a line.
Was that on a Stones tour?
Stansfield: That was Neil Diamond.
Those buccaneering days, why did they have to end?
Hom: There was so much money at stake. It had to end. You couldn't run wild anymore. In the mid-'80s into the '90s, it started becoming a legitimate, huge business for people to make a living -- not just artists but also those that worked for the talent. You could actually support a family, buy a house, put your kids through school. I think it took a turn around that time. People got very serious about what they do. It was still a lot of fun, we still love it, but it's a business.
Ross: Once we started carrying sound and lights and all of a sudden, it's not just two to six people, you're at 25-100. The dynamics shifted when carrying big production became feasible and our jobs went from making sure people stay out of jail to essentially being the CEO of a small corporation that shuts down after six months or a year.


Tour managers are famous for solving crises. Tell us about some.
Hom: When Barbra Streisand was play­ing Staples Center, it was like going to the Academy Awards. Everybody was there: Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nich­olson, Dustin Hoffman -- the creme de la creme of Hollywood. What happens is, they all send her flowers at Staples Center. And at the end of the second night, she says, "Marty, I'm going to send my gardener back to pick up all the flowers and have them driven to my house." I tell her, "No problem," and I ask our production manager to lock the dressing room. The gardener shows up at Staples Center the next day, the dressing room door is open, and all the flowers are gone. Panicked, I call Barbra's assistant and ask, "Do you still have the cards that were attached to the flowers?" She did and I called them all and said, "Do you remember those flowers that you did for Dustin Hoffman and Sidney Poitier? Can you duplicate those and send those up to Barbra's house?" I get the 20 arrangements that we were supposed to pick up, and they all get delivered to her house. And then at the end of the day, I give Staples Center the bill and they pay for all the flowers. (Laughter.)
Ross: When you knock on the hotel door and wake up the singer at 1 p.m., then you get the call saying, "I can't believe you woke me up! Now I can't sleep! I've been up all night writing songs. I'm not playing the show!"
Libert: Alice [Cooper] was doing a show in Vancouver and he slipped on one of the props and flipped off the stage like a tiddlywink and ended up in the pit. He cracked his skull open. This was after a couple of numbers. We take him backstage and I know he's in bad shape. And it came down to this: "We'll put a bandage around your head. You go back out there and do two or three songs. Otherwise, we'll have to postpone the show, we won't get paid, and you'll have to come back." So that was the motivating factor. "Go out there and do a couple of songs because as bad as you feel right now, it will feel a lot worse tomorrow." So we put a bandage around his head with a little red ink on it, he did three more songs, pretended to collapse and we took him offstage. And he got paid."
Read the entire interview at BillboardBiz.com. What are your road stories?
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dave Pensado: Working The Low End Of A Mix

Getting the low end of the mix is one of the most difficult things in mixing in that if you don't get it right, you may lose the power of the mix, make the mix too muddy, or cover up either the kick or the bass. The idea is to hear both the kick and the bass and have them work together so you can feel the pulse of the song. Here's an Into the Lair segment video from mix master Dave Pensado as he explains how to control the low end of the mix.

If you're hip to Pensado's Place, you know that Dave is all about sharing what he knows and what his guests know in order to help you improve your mixing and your music. Having known Dave for a long time, I can tell you that he's a southern gentleman who's exactly the same in real life as he is on his show: genuine, true, passionate and insightful, and all that comes across in this video.

Here Dave demonstrates many of the techniques that are covered in The Mixing Engineer's Handbook (here's an excerpt from his interview in the book), such as:

1. Using a high-pass filter to attenuate some unwanted frequencies that can cloud up a mix.

2. Add both girth and clarity to each instrument.

3. Finding space in the frequency spectrum for both instruments to live so neither covers the other up.

4. Using the compressor to bring out the punch and low end of the instrument by controlling its attack and release.

Check it out.



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

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Enhance Your Hearing With Darkness

Mixing Console image
Conventional mixing wisdom has always had it that a little bit of quiet before you mix can help you better zero in on the details of a mix. In fact, that's one of the tips in personal prepping for your mix as outlined in The Mixing Engineer's Handbook and Audio Mixing Bootcamp books.
"Try to stay in the most quiet area that you can for as long as you can before you begin your mix. Concentrate on the sounds that you’re hearing and try to identify what they are and the direction they’re coming from. Studies have found that this can make your hearing much more acute."
The books go on to provide another useful tip that many mixers employ while mixing that many dub The Ray Charles Effect:
"Also remember that closing your eyes while mixing can sometimes improve your hearing by both lessening the distractions and allowing your brain to concentrate additional processing power on that sense."

While this was mostly empirical knowledge, a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University have found that a temporary loss of vision does indeed improve your hearing. The findings were published in the peer review publication Neuron and found that the brains of adult mice could be rewired to compensate for vision loss by improving their hearing. 

Of course, anyone who has spent at a little time around Stevie Wonder knows how acute his sense of hearing is, as is that of all blind people. We didn't need a study to confirm that.

But what it does confirm is that by just sitting in a quiet dark room before you mix, or closing your eyes during a mix, can often allow you to zero in a things in a mix that you missed before. And lowering the lights in the mixing area has always been done for a good reason, whether we realized or not. Give it a try. Go to laboratoryequipment.com read a synopsis of the article.

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

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Top 10 Microphones

It's time for another top 10 list, and this time we'll be looking at the mics I use. Now once again keep in mind that I've excluded lots of great microphones only because I don't have frequent access to them. Mics are such a personal choice because it has to do with how your ear matches up to what the mic is capturing. That said, here's what I find myself using over and over when I record if they're available, but you could ask me again next week and the order might be different and some models would be replaced with something else.

1. Neumann U87: I've had a love/hate relationship with the 87 over the years, but I have to say that it's back on the love side of things. Without getting into splitting hairs on the models, I know what I'm going to get and the sound is always up to the high standard that I expect from the model. I love using it on toms, percussion, guitar and bass amps and vocals (especially in omni).

Royer R-121 image
Royer R-121
2. Royer R-121: What a wonderful mic! It sounds great on most anything, takes EQ incredibly well, and is as rugged as a ribbon mic can get. I'll use it on electric and acoustic guitars, overheads, percussion from a distance, and even on vocals occasionally.

3. AKG C414: Once again, you can split hairs over the models (there's no doubt that the older versions sound better), but I know what to expect from the mic and it generally does not disappoint. I'll use this most anywhere I'd use an 87 where the sound might need a bit more edge.

4. Neumann KM84: This is one of the best small diaphragm mics ever, in my opinion. I'll use a 184 if I can't get the real thing, but once again, it's not the same. I love it on the snare, hat and acoustic guitars.

Shure SM-7B image
Shure SM-7B
5. Shure SM-7B: One of the most overlooked mics ever, it's really an SM 57 on steroids with a much bigger and bolder sound. This is a great vocal mic, especially for singers with an edge to their voice. It's also a great mic for voice-overs, which I do a lot of.

6. Electro-Voice RE-20: This is one of my favorite kick drum mics. There's no hype involved, just a nice big bottom if the drum has it in the first place. It also makes a great vocal mic on some singers.

7. Shure Beta 57: While many engineers swear by the regular old SM57 for guitars and snare, I like the newer Beta 57 better. It has a tighter pickup pattern so the isolation is better, and it's a little crisper. I'll use it on snare, guitar amps (along with a R-121), and hand drum percussion. I do prefer the older Beta 57 to the new 57A a little, but they're much harder to find these days.

Mojave MA-200
8. Mojave MA-300: David Royer is a smart fellow and his tech knowledge extends beyond ribbon microphones, as his Mojave condenser mics testify. The MA-300 is a multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser that can be used anywhere I'd normally use a U87. I'd have to say that it's a bit smoother sounding, although sometimes that's not what you want. I've used it on acoustic guitars, strings, and percussion. I'd love to try it on toms, but there's usually never enough of them around for an entire kit.

9. AKG C12: I have this down lower on my list not because it's not a favorite mic, but because you can't always find one. I love it on vocals, it's magic on overheads and with strings, and it's great on a bass amp (thanks Ken Scott, who uttered the words seared into my brain - "This is what I used to use on Paul.").


ADK 3 Zigma C-LOL-12 
10. ADK 3 Zigma C-LOL-12: That's a mouthful of a model, but it's basically an AKG C12 emulation and it's a really good one. I like it on toms and bass. It's very impressive for the price.

Once again, you might find some of the choices unusual. I'm not trying to say that other mics don't deserve to be on a top 10 list somewhere, but these are the ones I find myself reaching for if they're available.

What mics are on your list?
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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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