Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Friday, December 19, 2014

Microphone Master Dave Thomas From Advanced Audio Microphones On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast image
If you ever wanted to get a look inside the workings of a boutique microphone manufacturer, now's your chance on my latest podcast with Dave Thomas from Advanced Audio Microphones as my guest.

I'm a big fan of his mics myself, and you'll know why after Dave explains how he went from owning one of the biggest and best studios in Canada to making some of the best mics (and best values) anywhere.

On the show intro I'll also discuss the music taste of Americans in 2014, as well as 4 ways that you can avoid any client client problems (since we all work for someone in the music business) that might arise.

Remember that you can find the podcast either on iTunes or at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, and now also on Stitcher.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bruce Springsteen "Born To Run" Isolated Vocals

One of the things that we can learn from isolated tracks is what works in the context of a particular hit record. The reverb, compression, performance, and production all make a big difference in how we ultimately perceive the song. That's why this week's isolated track, the vocal on Bruce Springsteen's breakout "Born To Run," is so cool, since it readily exhibits all of those things. Here's what to listen for.

1. The vocal is very compressed, but it's not sibilant. What happens is that we can hear every breath and it just raises the passion of the performance. We might cut out those breaths today in a DAW (as is the norm), but we'd lose a lot of what really makes the performance work.

2. The reverb is delayed, long and dark. Once again, that's probably not what we'd add today since this sound is not in vogue at the moment, but it works very well here. You don't hear it in the track as reverb, and that's what reverb does many times - it just adds glue and a sheen to the mix.

3. Bruce doesn't double track his vocal until the end at 4:02, unlike so many other vocalists and songs of the time. He comes across pretty well without it though. In fact, when the doubling does occur on the outro it's rather startling. You could see how it wouldn't work in any other part of the song.

4. Listen for the not-so-obvious vocal punch at 1:21 where a breath is cut off, and the overdubbed count only on the left side at 3:05 before the last verse.



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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

7 Unusual But Useful Christmas Gifts For Musicians

Like it or not, most working musicians have a lot of grunt work to do when gigging. Setting up and tearing down is a thankless part of the job, so let's make it as easy as possible. Here are a number of tools that are staples of stagehands all over the world, but can really come in handy in those moments when all you want to do is get everything gig ready.


1. Gerber Flik Multitool - It's a pliers, it's a knife, it's a scissors, it's a screwdriver. Why carry a tool box when you can have it all in one tool? About $40, but it's the best there is.






2. Ultimate Focus Tool - This one tool will replace a whole kit of crescent wrenches. If you only use it once, it will be worth it. Around $30.







3. Streamlight Scorpion Flashlight or Olight M20-X Tactical Flashlight - LED flashlights are now the norm, but what you want is a really bright one for looking behind a rack or on a dark floor for that little screw or connector that you dropped. The intensity of the light stream sets these two flashlights apart from everything else. Around $40.



4. Hothands Fleece Gloves - How often have you had to play in a venue that was really cold, or even outdoors during the fall or winter? If you've done it, you know what kind of torture that can be. Now you can make it easier with these heated gloves, which warm up for up to 10 hours when you put their chemical Warmers in place. Around $25.




5. Setwear Hothands Insulated Gloves - And speaking of gloves, musicians, roadies, and engineers have to carry large heavy things constantly, so why not protect your hands while doing so? These gloves are the best, and they're insulated in case you have to handle hot lights as well. Around $40.




6. Burt's Bees Lip Balm - Everybody hates chapped lips, and they're so easy to get in bad weather riding to a gig. Burt's Bees Lip Balm beats anything from a drug store by a long shot. Around $8.






7. Sharpie 24 Pack - Sharpies are the most convenient writing tool available for a band, artist or engineer. Need to write a set list that's large enough to see on stage? You need a Sharpie. Need to mark a cable or console input strip? You need a Sharpie. Here's a multicolored 24 piece pack for around $10.



Need a more traditional gift? Check out my books.
     Social Media Promotion for Musicians
     The Mixing Engineer's Handbook
     The Recording Engineer's Handbook
     Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age
     The Touring Musician's Handbook
     The Studio Builder's Handbook
     How To Make Your Band Sound Great
     and many more.

You can read excepts from all my books at bobbyowsinski.com.

Need more ideas for last minute music or studio gifts? Check out this post for 10 more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ed Cherney On Recording The Rolling Stones

Ed Cherney imageOne of the most versatile and talented engineers of our time, Ed Cherney has recorded and mixed projects for The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Was, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Bob Seger, Roy Orbison, and John Mayer as well as many others. Ed has also recorded and mixed the multiple Grammy-winning Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw CD's for Bonnie Raitt as well as engineered the Grammy-winning "Tears in Heaven" track for the Eric Clapton scored film, Rush.

Here's an excerpt from the interview that appears in my Recording Engineer's Handbook where Ed talks about his time recording The Stones.

"When you’re tracking, do you go just for a good drum track or do you try to get as much as you can?
I try to get as much as I can. I think it’s musically a lot better that way. Also, I don’t isolate a lot of instruments that much any more. I did the Rolling Stones and the amps were in the room with just a little bit of baffling, but basically open so that they could hear them. Everything was leaking into everything, but that just gave it that glue, especially when it was played well.  

So leakage doesn’t bother you?
It depends on the band and what you’re trying to do. If you know that everything is going to be swinging with the drums, then you’re going to try to get it. Otherwise, you’re just laying down a template so you have to isolate things as good as you can if you know you’re going to be layering guitars and that kind of stuff.  

What are you using on guitar amps?
Like pretty much everybody else, I’ve used 57’s forever, but lately I’ve been using Royer R-121’s. I’ve been liking those and the musicians I’ve been working with have been liking them too. It’s pretty much just put the fader up and they capture what’s going on with the amp. They’ve got a very sweet character.

Do you only use one mic on the cabinet?

Usually, unless it’s in stereo. Sometimes I’ll use a 414 or a large diaphragm condenser back off the cabinet if we want the room sound, but typically I’ve been putting up a 121 in front of the cabinet.

Do you take bass direct or do you use an amp as well?
Again it depends, but I try to do both. If you don’t have a lot of space and you don’t have any isolation, I’ll go with a direct, depending on the player, but usually I’ll go with both with a FET 47, or something like that on the cabinet, and a DI  I like using the Groove Tube DI, but then again it depends. If it’s an active bass, then you might want to use a DI with transformer in front of it.  

Do you EQ when you record?
Heck yeah, but dipping more than anything. If something is a little dark, then it might be because 200 or 300 is building up, so you dip a little of that out and maybe add a little top. If you’re going to tape, then you might want to add a little top anyway. If you’re going to Pro Tools, then you might want to dip a little 2, 3, 4K to take the edge off it.

Was it any different recording the Stones from anyone else?
It’s a rock gig, but there’s five guys there that have been around and know what they want to hear. You’re really not allowed to screw up. Some younger guys might let you get away with something, but you’ve got to be on top of your game more so than with anyone else.

How did you approach Charlie’s drums?
It’s just a straight-ahead rock kit. The less you do the better off you are. You put some mics up and try to capture the drum kit like it’s one instrument rather than separate drums. You just get out in the room, have a listen and try to recreate that but there’s not a lot of work involved. The work is in the perception and not in the knob twisting.

How did you determine where to place everyone in the room?
I think I sat there for a day and half before I did it. I’d go out and sing a song, clap my hands and stomp around and try to create a space where everyone can see each other. I tried to get some things off-axis yet keep the room kind of open and live so people weren’t just relying on their headphones and could hear their amps and have that interplay. I tried to make sure that the line of sight was intimate, yet keep some separation. Also, I’ll ask the assistant where they usually set everything up (laughs).

Do you have a philosophy of recording?
I want to get the sounds to tape as quickly as possible, then play it back so you can talk about it. It’s real at that point. “That’s too bright. That’s too dull. That should be louder.  That should be a different part. That should be a different snare drum.” It’s easy to modify once you can hear it. I’ve been in places where you dick around a lot before you play any music and the session doesn’t move forward. You just can’t make music that way."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mixing Tips From Andy Wallace

Andy Wallace is one of my favorite mixing engineers. He's mixed megahits for Nirvana, Linkin Park, Sheryl Crow, Guns n' Roses, Paul McCartney, Kelly Clarkson, Coldplay, and many more, and every mix he's done is a work of art. Here are some words of wisdom from a class Andy did for Mix with the Masters that outlines a little of his mixing technique.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Audio Technica MSR7 Headphones

Audio Technica has been making great studio-quality headphones for a long time, and its recent M50 model has become an unofficial studio standard. Now the company is trying to take sonic quality to yet a new level with its new ATH-MSR7 to take advantage of the upcoming leap into streaming hi-res audio.

The MSR7 features the company's 45mm True Motion drivers for extended dynamic and tonal range, along with 3 precisely placed air vents designed to control airflow inside the cup. The headset also features an inline mic and remote so it could be easily used with your computer or mobile device.

Comfort is a big deal when it comes to headphones, especially when wearing them for a long session or plane trip, so AT used memory foam for the ear pads to keep those ears from feeling pinched. A padded headband also helps raise the comfort level for extended use periods.

The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 is scheduled to ship in March with a suggested retail of $249, although some import models can be found available now for Christmas delivery at higher prices.


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