Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cream "SWLABR" Basic Track Outtakes

The great bassist/vocalist/songwriter Jack Bruce passed away last week so I thought it appropriate to post a tribute to the man. Here's a fascinating look into the making of Cream's "SWLABR" that was recorded in March of 1967 for their Disraeli Gears album. What you'll hear is 4 takes of the song.

The song was recorded on 8 track, and what you'll hear is 3 tracks, with the drums in mono on their a single track (as was the technique back then). The first take begins around 2:00.

1. It's interesting to listen to the band try to tune up (Bruce and Eric Clapton never quite get there). It's hard to believe that there was a day when guitar tuners weren't available, but you're listening to live proof here.

2. The band clearly overplays in the first few takes before it settles in. The overplaying is mostly from drummer Ginger Baker while bassist Bruce holds it together.

3. The solo in Take 3 is interesting in that the band clearly goes to another level.

4. The take that begins at 10:28 finally has Bruce doing his vocal along with the band. He really was a fine vocals as well as a great bass player. This take also features a harmonica solo at the end.

5. A bit trivia: SWLABR stands for "She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow."


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The World's Largest Subwoofer

You think you've seen large subwoofers? Yeah, that sub bin with dual 18's is pretty big, and that 32 inch woofer is very impressive, but I don't think the world has seen anything like audio designer Roberto Dell Curti has dreamt up.

He's literally built his entire house around this sub, as each channel is 21 foot long and 3 feet deep. Each channel uses eight 18 inch woofers, but there's no word on how much power is used to drive them (I bet a lot). Dell Curti calls it the Real Total Horn.

It reportedly can reproduce down to 10Hz! I wonder if this causes the listener to loosen his bowels when the subs really get going?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

3 Steps To A Quick Onstage Monitor Mix

Stage Monitor image
It's time to mix a live show and you find you have the thankless job of mixing stage monitors from your front of house position. Don't pull your hair out. Use this quick method to get up and running while keeping the band happy in virtually no time at all.

This method assumes there's only one monitor mix instead of multiple mixes. Here's what to do:

1. Have everyone in the band raise their hand.

2. Tell them to lower their hand as soon they can hear themselves in the monitor.

3. Begin to increase the send of each instrument one by one. Continue to increase until the player lowers his hand. Proceed to the next instrument.

You might still have to tweak the mix a little afterwards, but you'll find that you'll have a workable monitor mix in just a couple of minutes.

You can find more tips like this, as well as a great overview on how to use the PreSonus StudioLive console, in my PreSonus StudioLive Handbook.

Read excerpts from this and my other books on the excerpts section of

Monday, October 27, 2014

Orchestral Conductors Say The Darnedest Things

The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the powerhouse orchestras on the planet, being labeled as one of the "big 5" (the others are the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Cleveland Orchestra). For 44 years, Eugene Ormandy was the music director and conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, collecting 3 gold records and 2 Grammy awards along the way.

He was also quite a character, and for years his remarks were collected by members of the orchestra. To be fair, Ormandy was Hungarian, so English was his second language, but some of his comments still make you laugh. You don't have to be into classic music to get a kick out of these.

"Congratulations to each and every one of you for the concert last night in New York and vice versa."

"Who is sitting in that empty chair?"

"I'm conducting slowly because I don't know the tempo."

"I conduct faster so you can see my beat."

"I cannot give it to you, so try to watch me."

"I was trying to help you, so I was beating wrong."

"I am thinking it right but beating it wrong."

"I can conduct better than I count."

"I guess you thought I was conducting, but I wasn't."

"I purposefully didn't do anything, and you were all behind."

"Why do you always insist on playing while I'm trying to conduct?"

"Even when you are not playing you are holding me back."

"Don't ever follow me, because I am difficult."

"It is not as difficult as I thought it was, but it is harder than it is."

"The notes are right, but if I listened they would be wrong."

"I wrote it the right way, so it was copied the wrong way right.  I mean the right way wrong."

"At every concert I've sensed a certain insecurity about the tempo. It's clearly marked 80...uh, 69."

"It is not together, but the ensemble is perfect."

"Someone came too sooner."

"Start beforty-two."

"Start three bars before something."

"Start at B.  Yes. No. Yes. No."

"Did you play? It sounded very good."

"Intonation is important, especially when it is cold."

"Beauty is less important than quality."

"If you don't have it in your part, leave it out, because there is enough missing already."

"Percussion a little louder."  ["We don't have any."] 
"That's right, play it louder."

"More basses, because you are so far away."

"I need one more bass less."

"There are no woodwinds at number 6." [The woodwinds say they are at number 15.] 
"I know. That is why."

(To the tubist) "Long note? Yes. Make it seem short."

"Brass, stay down all summer."

"Don't play louder, just give it more."

"Accelerando means in tempo. Don't rush."

"I don't want to repeat this a hundred times. When you see crescendo it means p."

"The tempo remains pp."

"It's difficult to remember when you haven't played it before."

"We can't hear the balance yet because the soloist is still on the airplane."

"Please follow me because I have to follow him and he isn't here."

"Without him here, it is impossible to know how fast he will play it, approximately."

"With us tonight is William Warfield, who is with us tonight. He is a wonderful man, and so is his wife."

"Bizet was a very young man when he composed this symphony, so play it soft."

Mahler wrote it as the third movement of his Fourth Symphony. I mean the fourth movement of his 
First Symphony.  We play it third.  The trumpet solo will be played by our solo trumpet player. It's named "Blumine,"which has something to do with flowers."

"That's the way Stravinsky was. Bup, Bup, Bup, Bup. The poor guy's dead now. Play it legato."

"Serkin was so sick he almost died for three days."

"It's all very well to have principles, but when it comes to money you have to be flexible."

"Thank you for your cooperation and vice versa."

"I mean what I meant."

"I never say what I mean, but I always manage to say something similar."

"Let me explain what I do here.  I don't want to confuse you any more than absolutely necessary."

"I don't mean to make you nervous, but unfortunately I have to."

"Relax. Don't be nervous. My god, it's the Philadelphia Orchestra."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Audiomere Polarity Maximizer

Having trouble figuring the best positions for the channel input phase selections on your DAW? We know to set it to where you get the most bottom end, but as a session loads up with tracks, the possible combinations become enormous, so it becomes impossible to try all the possible combinations. Now a company called Audiomere has introduced a plugin that will automatically find the correct phase switch positions for you with its Polarity Maximizer.

Polarity Maximizer consists of a master and send plugin (there's one for mono and a different one for stereo) for each of the channels. The send routes the audio from the various channels to the master, which analyzes the audio and then uses a special algorithm to set the correct polarity for each track.

Polarity Maximizer also features a gain control on the send plug, and an additional low-frequency mode to emphasize the low-end if needed. There's also a pre-post A/B selection so you can monitor the changes in the sound.

The Audiomere Polarity Maximizer can work on up to 64 channels and is available in AAX, RTAS, VST and AU formats. It's currently available at an introductory discount of $49, and there's a 14 day trial available. Check out the example below and go to the Audiomere site for more.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Mixing Engineer Bob Brockman On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

On the latest Inner Circle podcast, mixing engineer "Bassy" Bob Brockman discusses the evolution of mixing, mixing different musical genres, and much more.

In the intro I take a look at how teens leaving Facebook can be important to artists, and what you should do on stage when a song ends.

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Beatles "Something" Isolated Vocal

The Beatle's "Something" is one of the most covered songs ever, and may be George Harrison's best song. That's why it's so cool to go back and have a listen to the isolated vocal track from this song from the iconic Abbey Road album. Here's what to listen for:

1. The vocal is very in tune, which can't always be said for vocals from this era.

2. You'll hear the nice Abbey Road Studios reverb all around the vocal, which is very mellow sounding due to the EQ they used.

3. The vocal double on the B section isn't too close. This could have been because it was either another take, or they just didn't care much about getting it close.

4. Listen for Harrison singing the guitar solo almost note for note. Doesn't this contradict a passage in engineer Geoff Emerick's book that states that Harrison played both the guitar solo and the vocal at the same time on the last track available? You can hear the guitar solo was already recorded from the headphone leakage.

5. The harmonies, as with all Beatle harmonies, is gorgeous even though it's only two part. Sometimes it's with Harrison himself, sometimes with Paul McCartney.


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, October 22, 2014

Why We Love The Music We Love

The neurochemistry of happiness image
The neurochemistry of happiness
It's fair to say that anyone that's in the music business likes music. No, make that loves music. We've all had that rush when hearing a song that's a feeling like no other. And to play it in front of people is taking it to yet another level.

Now there's been a definitive study that really gets down to why we love music. It's called The Neurochemistry of Music and takes a look inside the brain of music lovers. Here's some of what they found.
  • When we first hear a song, it stimulates our auditory cortex, and we convert the rhythm, melody and harmony into a coherent whole. From there certain parts of the brain react depending upon how much we like the music. Sing along and you'll active the premotor cortex, which coordinates your movements. Dance along and your neurons actually synchronize with the beat of the music. Your prefrontal cortex may also be stimulated, which can prompt personal memories.
  • Brain imaging shows our favorite songs trigger the brain's pleasure points, and a significant amount of those internal drugs that we all love, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, are released. The more we like a song, the more these neurochemicals are released. Music becomes a drug!
  • This happens with everyone, but it happens more intensely if you're young. People between the ages of 12 and 22 get a giant dose because of the stage in their hormonal development that they're in. This explains why the main audience for music has always been between those ages.
  • Those musical memories that we experience at that point are hardwired into our brains and stay with us for the rest of our lives, which explains why we're always partial to the music of our youth.
  • Because of the impact that the music of our youth has on us, it becomes a part of our social self-image, although the effect appears to diminish over time.
Does any of this sound familiar? These points are things that we really all inherently known, but now it's nice to have a study to back it up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Most Overlooked Part Of Preproduction

Music Preproduction image
Music production is so much about being familiar with the artist that you're working with, but many producers overlook the "Getting To Know You" phase of the job. The reason is that intimately knowing the likes and dislikes of an artist can really help you keep the production moving forward down the line, or stop it in its tracks if there's something that you don't know about. Here's an excerpt from my Music Producer's Handbook that outlines this phase.

"Preproduction sometimes is so much more than the process of working out songs. For a producer working with a new artist or band, it’s a time of getting to know each other. It’s important for the producer to learn the likes and dislikes of the artist, be it food, music or politics, as well as their working habits and idiosyncrasies. Knowing these things can help the producer determine how far to push a singer, or discover what gets the best performance out of the guitar player, or the signs of when the drummer is getting tired, or the hot button issues of the day to stay away from. If you’re going to be working closely with an artist even for a short time, the more you know about him, the better you can serve the project.

One of the most important aspects of getting to know an artist is learning what music she loves, was influenced by, and is listening to now. One of the most effective ways I’ve heard of doing this back in the days of vinyl record albums was for the producer to go to the artist’s house and have them throw a bunch of albums from their collection on the floor and have them describe what they liked and didn’t like about each of them. You can still do this with CDs or an iPod playlist. Among the questions to ask might be:
  • What do you like or dislike about the artist your listening to?
  • Do you like the sound of the recording?
  • What recordings do you like the sound of?
  • What are some of your favorite records?  Why?
  • What are your biggest influences? Why?
  • If you have a body of work as a producer already, what does the artist like about you? Why?
You can probably add any number of additional questions, but can you see where this is heading? This is the information that you need to help attain the artist’s vision. It gives you a common point of reference so you can say, “Let’s go for a sound like the lead guitar on The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry,” and have the artist know exactly what you mean because you’ve found out in preproduction that’s one of his favorite songs. Or if the artist says to you, “Can we get the sound like on the Arctic Monkey’s Still Take You Home,” you’ll know exactly what he’s talking about."


Monday, October 20, 2014

Watch Studio Guitarist Tim Pierce At Work

Studio guitarist Tim Pierce is widely used on hit recordings today, having played on hits by Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Faith Hill, Dave Mathews, Rascal Flatts and many more.

Here's a video that shows why, as you'll both see and hear how Tim goes about adding his special sauce to a track. You'll also see why great studio musicians have to be arrangers as well to really help a track along. Find out more about Tim at


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.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Harrison Lineage Preamp

So many huge hits of the 70s were cut on Harrison consoles that we're all familiar with the sound even though we may not know it - AC/DC's Back In Black, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, and Michael Jackson's Thriller just to name a few.

While Harrison no longer makes its iconic 32C series desks that those albums were cut on, it has re-released the preamps from that console, as well as those from other Harrison consoles as well with the new Lineage Preamp.

The Harrison Lineage is actually an 8 channel preamp that has a pair of preamps from each of the various eras of Harrison consoles. You get:
  • 2 channels of Harrison's latest Trion preamps
  • 2 channels of the famous 32C console preamps from the 70s/80s
  • 2 channels of preamps from its Series 10 consoles of the 80s/90s
  • 2 channels of preamps from its Series 12 consoles of the 90s/00s
While many customers would have gladly settled for 8 channels of 32C preamps, the Lineage is a unique take on preamp packaging, giving you 4 different sounds in the same 1U rack space.

The price of the Harrison Lineage 8 channel preamp is $2,995. You can find out more on the Harrison website or on the video below.


Friday, October 17, 2014

AES Wrap Up On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

If you want more detail on the last week's AES Exhibition, check out the latest episode of my Inner Circle podcast. There's a more in-depth conversation about the most interesting gear that I saw during my travels around the show.

No commentary on music or the music business this time, just gear, gear and more gear!

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


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