Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Friday, April 24, 2015

Michael Jackson "Rock With You" Isolated Vocal

Michael Jackson Off The Wall image
Here's a song that was considered one of the last hits of the Disco era. It's the isolated lead vocal from Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" from his 1979 Off The Wall album. The album featured 5 hit singles and went on to sell more than 20 million units worldwide. "Rock With You" went on to be a #1 hit in the US.

Here are some things to listen for. The recording is a bit distorted, but I'm pretty sure that came from the copy and not the original master, knowing how precise engineer Bruce Swedien (the Godfather of modern recording) is.

1. Notice the lead synthesizer when it enters in the intro. Bruce was always big on adding a first reflection by sending the recorded synth sound out into the studio and re-recording it. You can hear a bit of it here, plus a nice tape echo.

2.  Michael's vocal isn't too compressed. Yes, you can hear a little in certain places when he sings loudly, but listen to the softer parts where it's brought up with fader movement.

3. All the breaths are left in. This really makes the song as it injects the intimacy that puts it over the top. Many producers would probably eliminate them today in an effort to "clean the track up."

4. The synth solo is dry with the echo added half-way through the solo. Probably something you never noticed on the record.

5. If you listen closely, you can hear Michael's foot stomps in between phrases. Bruce once told me that Michael was always dancing when he sang, so he and producer Quincy Jones decided to play that up and give him a small wooden stage to sing on.



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Thursday, April 23, 2015

An Interview With Producer Butch Vig

Butch Vig image
Many of you reading this are located in a small town recording the local talent. You think that it's impossible to break out onto the national and even international scene, but producer/engineer Butch Vig is a great example that it can be done.

Here's a great interview of Vig as he explains how his breaks with Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana came about.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

6 Auditioning Tips To Get That Tour Gig

6 Audition Tips For Touring Musicians image
It's the dream of many musicians to get a gig with the touring band of a major artist, but getting the audition is a lot easier than getting the gig. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 5 ("Becoming A Touring Musician") of my Touring Musician's Handbook that provides some great audition tips from some of the top touring musicians.

"Depending on how you look at it, an audition can be really fun or so stressful that it makes you want to loose your lunch. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to do the latter, so here are a number of things to help you through the process.

1. Know The Material
You can be a great player with chops that came from Mount Olympus, but the only thing that the artist or MD (musical director) cares about is if you can play the artist’s material well show after show. If you go into an audition thinking that you’re going to wing it, you’re wasting everyone's time, in which case you should be prepared for a very short audition.
First off, I want the person auditioning to play the music exactly like the record. I don’t want to hear them improvise, and I don’t want to hear their take on it. I want to hear them play it exactly with the right feel, just like they were playing Mozart or Beethoven. I want them to respect the music regardless of if it’s Pink’s music, or Cher’s or Janet Jackson’s, I want them to play it exactly as you hear it on the record. Then if I ask them to change it, they’re changing it from a place where I know that they know what it is so they can take their own spin on it after the fact.
Paul Mirkovich
Go-to guys like guitarist Peter Thorn (Melissa Etheridge, Chris Cornell, Jewel, Don Henley) will learn as much of the artist’s catalog possible before the audition, going as far as to dial in the tone of the parts as well. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re up against another guy that did that and you didn’t, who do you think will get the gig?
The other thing is that you have to be not only better than everyone else, but you have to be different. It’s basically a sales pitch. In five or ten minutes, you have to prove to them that if they hire you, they’ll get more for their money than hiring anybody else.
Ed Wynne
2. Don’t Be Late
This will just about eliminate you right from the start. Being late indicates that you have a reliability problem, which is the last thing anyone wants on the road. There are a lot of great players out there, and most of them are punctual and reliable. Who do you think they’re going to pick?

3. How You Look Counts
Not only does clothing and grooming make a good first impression, but it’s important to see how you visually fit on stage with the rest of the band. It’s possible to fit the bill perfectly as a player but still not get the gig because of the way you look.

As an example, an accomplished touring player that I know recently got a gig with a major artist that lasted one day. He went back to the hotel and received a call saying, “We’re good. Don’t come back to rehearsal tomorrow.” They just didn’t like the way he looked against the other players in the band.

You might get rejected because you have a shaved head and so does the artist or another player player in the band and they don’t want two people on stage with that look. Or you might have blond hair and so does the artist. Or you have facial hair and no one else in the band does. Nothing personal, sometimes you just don’t fit in.
I always felt that if someone is auditioning players that he’s not already aware of, it’s a clue that he’s looking for something else besides the way you play or the gear that you have. It’s a good tip that they may be looking more at how you look or at your age. I’ve seen that a lot.
Mike Holmes
4. Your On-stage Demeanor Also Counts
If possible, get a DVD or watch a video of the artist and her band playing live and take notice of the on-stage demeanor of the players. A lot of people get gigs because their physicality is right, which means how they look when they’re playing the music. Maybe the artist wants energy on stage and really likes it when a player is so into it that he’s moving all around. On the other hand, some artists just want you to stand there and play, leaving any showmanship up to them. You’ve got to know your place, so you have to tailor your demeanor to the artist.

5. Bring The Right Gear
You’ve got to tailor the gear to the gig. If you were auditioning for the job as the Strat player for Lynrd Skynrd, it wouldn’t be a great idea to bring a Les Paul or what some perceive as a metal guitar like a Jackson. If you were auditioning for the touring band of 50 Cent, you wouldn’t bring a drum kit with the snare tuned up high for reggae or ska. Can the artist or MD imagine how you’d play with the right gear? Sure they can. But once again, if everything were equal between two players, the one who will get the gig is the one that has the right sound at the audition. That way, no guessing, imagining or wondering come into play. Remember, what the artist wants most is security and one less thing to worry about. Whoever can provide that gets the gig.

6. Be Nice To Everyone
It’s important that you’re nice to everyone, including the crew, while you’re at the audition. If these people are going to spend months on a bus with you, they’d prefer that you didn’t have an attitude of superiority and were very easy to get along with. Remember, if it’s a toss-up between you and someone else, the one who will get the gig will be the one that everyone believes they can live with."


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An Album Made From Guitar Center Doodlers

Guitar Center image
Anyone that's ever gone into a Guitar Center on a Saturday afternoon knows that it's a cacophony of sound. You'll hear just about every famous lick being played by mostly beginners all at the same time. It's difficult not to get a headache after about 10 minutes (I don't know how the employees stand it).

New York experimental artist Noah Wall saw the beauty of it though, and decided to record some of these musical doodlers and compile it into an album. I guess the big question here is "Why?" but you have to admit there's something oddly familiar about the recordings.

Have a listen to a track from Live At The Guitar Center below.



Monday, April 20, 2015

New Music Gear Monday: Slate Raven Z Controller

Slate Digital Z3 image
The Slate Pro Audio Raven has made quite a name for itself in a short time thanks to its revolutionary touchscreen technology control of Pro Tools. The latest version, the Z3, takes the concept to the next level.

The Raven Z3 differs from previous versions in that it has 3 multi-touch screens instead of 1. The main control surface is the standard 46" multi-touch panel (the same as found on the Raven MTX), with two additional 27" screens (as found on the MTI) on the wings mounted in a custom console.

Thanks to the new Raven 2.5 software, Raven can now control most popular DAW packages, including Pro Tools, Logic, and soon Cubase, Ableton, Digital Performer, Studio One, and all PC formats.

What this means is that the 3 screen Raven Z3 can look at up to 3 different workstations at once, but have them all digitally connected. This could allow several operations to happen at the same time, a real time-saver for a high-end project where time is of the essence.

For instance, the left screen could be dedicated to Ableton for composition, then digitally connected to the Pro Tools mix window on the main screen and edit window on the right. Another possibility is for 3 man post mixing where each screen runs a separate DAW, yet keeping them all synched.

What's more, each screen can be switch to control any of the machines via a KVM switcher.

The Slate Raven Z3 is priced at just under $28,000, which seems pretty reasonable, except that you have to remember that the actual computers and workstations are not included in that price, as the Raven is only a DAW controller.


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