Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cream "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" Isolated Lead Guitar

Here's another bit of Eric Clapton genius with his isolated wah track on Cream's "Tales of Brave Ulysses," a cut from their great Disraeli Gears album. I've also included a very cool "making of" video that gives you some behind the scenes of the song.  Some cool things about it:

1. This was one of the first songs to use the then-new wah-wah pedal, which would go on to become a standard piece of gear for every guitar player afterwards.

2. Clapton is rocking the wah back and forth in time with song during the verses, which not many players do, but it works very effectively here.

3. Be sure to watch the "making of" video, which provides some revelations about the song. One of the big things is how the riff was stolen from the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City" and how big an influence the Spoonful was on Cream!

For those of you in the US, have a happy and relaxing Thanksgiving!

If you're going to partake in any Thanksgiving or Black Friday Amazon sales, please consider entering Amazon through this link to help support his blog. Thanks!




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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Making A Great Guitar String

Guitar Strings image
Most guitar players settle on a brand of strings without even realizing why, usually only changing when they can't get their favorite brand. In this excerpt from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook (written with my good buddy Rich Tozzoli), Jim D'Addario, the CEO and chairman of D’Addario & Company, Inc. (the world’s largest maker of musical instrument strings), describes what makes a great string as well as some of the differences between the way manufacturers make their strings to help you make a choice next time it's time to buy strings.

"What do you think makes a great guitar string?
Certainly, that’s a matter of opinion. It comes down to what tone you are looking for, however there are some common denominators that are key ingredients for making a great string. The most important things are consistency in diameter, shape, and the mass of the string from one end of the vibrating length to the other. If there are fluctuations as you’re winding or making the string, and the mass of the string varies at any point along its length, the intonation is going to be horrible and the harmonics will not be true.

As we developed the expertise to design and build our own machinery in the 70’s, we developed ways of controlling the variables that are involved with the manufacturing process. One of the most important variables is the tension that you put on the wire as you wrap it around the core. I would say it’s one of the most critical variables in string making. Because we use soft temper wires you can actually elongate the wire significantly during the process and end up with a completely different diameter finished string. Tension is a critical aspect of making a string!

What are some of the innovations you came up with in string manufacturing?
Twenty years ago we developed a closed loop system where we actually measure the tension on the wire just before it goes on the string. Utilizing a load cell and a digital control that adjusts the tension, we always maintain perfect tension specifications. You can’t do that when you wind a string by hand, and you can’t do that with a mechanical tension device. It has to be closed loop and digital. It’s really very similar to an autopilot in a plane. Our machines are constantly making minute corrections to hit the tension target.

The other breakthrough innovation we developed was a way of tracking the angle that the wire was being fed onto the core, which is also extremely critical. Many competitors are still using machinery with mechanical drives that feed the wire, but back in 1979 we developed a system that tracks the wire feed angle and makes adjustments on the fly to ensure the windings are perfectly spaced. It is one of the reasons why our strings are so consistent. We designed this in 1979. You can imagine how expensive the electronics for that was back then.

If you control the basics, core tension, wrap tension and feed angle, then it’s a question of designing the string properly. Here’s where we create your choices for string tone. A flat wound string is very mellow sounding, a half round string is a little brighter and a round wound string is even brighter. A nickel-plated steel round wound string is bright; a stainless steel string is a little brighter, etc., etc.
It’s like going to a restaurant and looking at the menu. What flavor would you like? You want the chef to do a great job at cooking all the things on the menu, but you want to be able to select the flavor that you’re looking for. Picking and designing the materials that should go into the strings is like picking what you like off the menu. Personally, I like very bright sounding strings. I like uncoated phosphor bronze strings on acoustic, but because I have so many guitars and can’t change strings often enough, I use coated EXP strings. I actually like our 80-20 coated strings better than coated phosphor bronze. I don’t know why, but I do. Over the last ten years we’ve gotten the coating process on our EXP’s down to be so thin that I can’t even hear the difference between a coated and a uncoated string anymore.

EXP is a micro coating on the wrap wire that’s only 2/10,000ths of an inch in thickness. What it does is seal it from the environment so it doesn’t corrode and doesn’t get affected by your body chemistry. Those are the key elements that break a string down and make it lose its tone prematurely."

To read additional excerpts from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook and my other books, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.

Here's a great video from the How It's Made program showing the making of a D'Addario string.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

A Look At Abbey Road Remastering Iron Maiden

With vinyl albums coming back in vogue again, most legacy bands are reissuing their catalog on good old fashioned 12 inch records. Iron Maiden is no exception, and recently went to Abbey Road Studios to have their entire collection remastered. Here's a video that shows you a bit of the famed studio's mastering suites as well as the story behind the project.

Anyone that's really into Maiden can find the boxed set here. It makes a great Xmas gift for that metal head or vinyl junky in your life.



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Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: AEA Nuvo 8 Ribbon Microphone

Ribbon mics have made quite a comeback over the last 10 years to the point that most new ribbon mics that you buy are better than ever. The problem is that you have to go beyond about $1k to get a quality product. That barrier has recently been broken by Royer with its R101 and the AEA Nuevo 22. Now AEA takes the N22 one step further with a phantom powered version with the introduction of its new Nuevo 8.

The N8 uses the same Big Ribbon TM technology used in its famous R44 (the excellent reproduction of the original RCA 44) and couples an internal preamp to increase the output, so there's no need for a special hi-gain preamp that's often needed to raise the output of a ribbon mic up to a usable level. And it can take a ton of SPL without distortion, topping out at 141dB!

The N8 also utilizes a new sleeker design with a matte finish that's a lot less obtrusive than AEA's traditional mic bodies, so it's perfect for video shoots and getting into spots that aren't available to larger mics.

The AEA Nuevo 8 comes with a storage case and sleeve and has a street price of $1098. Check out the AEA website for more information.

Here's a great demo using two N8's as drum overheads and an R44 on the kick (just like the famous John Bonham setup).


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Mixer To The Stars Dave Pensado On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast image
I'm very pleased to have my good buddy Dave Pensado as a guest on my latest Inner Circle Podcast. You all know Dave as the uber-mixer of huge hits for Pink, Christina Aguilera, The Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, and many more, as well as from his wildly popular Pensado's Place web-series.

The interview with Dave takes a bit of a left turn as we discuss how he went from being a smoking hot guitar player to engineer to mixer to the stars. We'll also talk a bit about his new book written with his partner Herb Trawick.

In the intro of the show I talk about the new TIDAL hi-def music streaming service, and how not to soundproof your studio.

Remember that you can find the podcast either on iTunes or at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, and now also on Stitcher.
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Boston "More Than A Feeling" Isolated Vocals

Here's a great example of an extraordinary voice as we listen to Brad Delp's isolated vocals on Boston's breakout hit "More Than A Feeling." Although it's pretty commonplace for a singer to do all the vocals on a song now, it wasn't always that way, so you can consider Brad a trailblazer in that regard as he performed all the vocals here. Here's what to listen for.

1. The lead vocals are doubled and they're very close except for the first verse, which is a bit loose. Producer/writer Tom Scholz is a noted stickler for detail so it seems to reason that they was left this way on purpose.

2. The background vocals are doubled and spread left and right so they stay out of the way of the lead vocals and cause a nice wide vocal soundstage.

3. In this video you can also hear the various layers of acoustic guitars, but what's interesting is that the vocal actually doubles the interludes after the choruses. This is pretty well buried in the final mix, but it adds to the sound.

4. Delp's vocal range is incredible, but what I found exceptionally cool is how long he holds the last note of the song at 2:55.



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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, November 19, 2014

Time-lapse Nashville Tracking Session Setup

Here's a cool video that shows my buddy, Pro Audio Review editor and great engineer Lynn Fuston as his team and the session musicians set up for recording at Playground Recording in Nashville.

This is a small session by Nashville standards in that there's only a basic rhythm section, not the normal 8 or 9 players that usually play simultaneously on a basic track in that city. Watch for a description of the gear being used scroll by at the bottom of the screen.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Groove Versus The Pocket

Drums and bass image
We hear the terms "groove" and "pocket" a lot in music, but what do they really mean? Here's an excerpt from my Music Producer's Handbook that outlines exactly what a groove and pocket are, and more importantly, how to find them.

"All good music, regardless of whether it’s rock, jazz, classical, hip hop or some new space music that we haven’t heard yet, has a strong groove. You always hear about “the groove”, but what is it?

The Groove Is The Pulse Of The Song
And 
How The Instruments Dynamically Breathe With It.

To your audience, the groove is an enjoyable rhythm that makes even the people that can’t dance want to get up and shake their booty. And while the concept of "the groove" is very subjective, the idea is well-understood by experienced musicians at a practical, intuitive level. Funk and latin musicians refer to the groove as the sense of being "in the pocket", while jazz players refer to the groove as the sense that a song is really "cooking" or "swinging”.

A common misconception of a groove is that it must have perfect time. A groove is created by tension against even time. That means that it doesn’t have to be perfect, just even, and all performances don’t have to have the same amount of “even-ness”. In fact, it makes the groove feel stiff if they’re too perfect. This is why perfect quantization of parts and lining up every hit in a workstation when you’re recording frequently takes the life out of a song. It’s too perfect because there’s no tension. It’s lost its groove.

Just about every hit song has a great groove and that’s why it’s a hit, but if you want to study what a groove really is, go to the masters - James Brown, Sly Stone, Michael Jackson, George Clinton and Prince. Every song is the essence of what a groove feels like.

We usually think of the groove as coming from the rhythm section, especially the drums, but that’s not necessarily always the case. In The Police’s Every Breath You Take, the rhythm guitar establishes the groove, while in most songs by the Supremes, Temptations and Four Tops from Motown’s golden age, the groove was established by James Jamerson’s bass.

How To Find The Pocket
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 maintains it 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) became predominant in 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 quantized drum 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. They don't have to play everything the same, but they 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!"

To read additional excerpts from The Music Producer's Handbook and my other books, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.
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Monday, November 17, 2014

The 20 All-Time Catchiest Songs

Catchy Songs image
A year-long survey by the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester has revealed what they consider to be the top 20 most catchiest songs.

There are two interesting things about the list: first of all, most songs are at least 20 years old and some more than 50. Secondly, even though the list comes from the UK, most of the artists are not from there. Also, Elvis, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson all placed more than one song.

So here we go with the top 20 catchiest songs of all time:
  1. Spice Girls - Wannabe: 2.29 seconds
  2. Lou Bega - Mambo No 5: 2.48 seconds
  3. Survivor - Eye of the Tiger: 2.62 seconds
  4. Lady Gaga - Just Dance: 2.66 seconds
  5. ABBA - SOS: 2.73 seconds
  6. Roy Orbison - Pretty Woman: 2.73 seconds
  7. Michael Jackson - Beat It: 2.80 seconds
  8. Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You: 2.83 seconds
  9. The Human League - Don't You Want Me: 2.83 seconds
  10. Aerosmith - I Don't Want to Miss a Thing: 2.84 seconds
  11. Lady Gaga - Poker Face: 2.88 seconds
  12. Hanson - MMMbop: 2.89 seconds
  13. Elvis Presley - It's Now Or Never: 2.91 seconds
  14. Bachman-Turner Overdrive - You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet: 2.94 seconds
  15. Michael Jackson - Billie Jean: 2.97 seconds
  16. Culture Club - Karma Chameleon: 2.99 seconds
  17. Britney Spears - Baby One More Time: 2.99 seconds
  18. Elvis Presley - Devil in Disguise: 3.01 seconds
  19. Boney M - Rivers of Babylon: 3.03 seconds
  20. Elton John - Candle in the Wind: 3.04 seconds
Songwriters, start your engines.

Which songs do you agree with and which would you replace?
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Satori Monitor Controller

One of the most important pieces in a modern DAW studio is the monitor controller not only because the level of the monitor speakers needs to be adequately controlled, but also other features that modern studios need like being able to select multiple audio sources and switch between multiple speakers are addressed. Of course, the sound quality of this device is hyper-critical as well.

That's why Antelope Audio's new Satori monitor controller is so impressive. It incorporates not only a mastering quality D/A convertor, but a wide variety of input and output options as well. The unit can switch between 4 sets of monitor speakers, has 4 independent headphone outputs, can switch between 4 stereo inputs, and even includes an 8 channel analog summing mixer.

Satori also has a number of features frequently overlooked by other monitor controllers like a dedicated subwoofer output, talkback input, and M/S monitoring. Plus there's a Mac or PC software app that provides greater precision than offered from the front panel of the unit, as well as user presets. Connection to the computer is via USB.

The Antelope Audio Satori monitor controller should be available any time now, and the price will be around $1500. Check out the website for more info, or the video below.


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Friday, November 14, 2014

Engineer/Tech Writer Barry Rudolph On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast
The great engineer and tech writer Barry Rudolph is my guest on the latest Inner Circle Podcast. You may know Barry from his many gear reviews in magazines like Mix and Music Connection, but he's been an A-list engineer in LA for a long time. Barry will tell us all about recording some iconic acts like Rod Stewart and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as his take on the latest audio gear.

In the intro I'll talk a little about how SoundScan works to get your album on the Billboard charts, and some effective pre-production techniques to make your next production project go a lot smoother.

Remember that you can find the podcast either on iTunes or at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, and now also on Stitcher.
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Eric Clapton Isolated Solo "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

I posted this a few years back, but it's one of the posts I keep on getting requests to post again. It's Eric Clapton's isolated guitar track from George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" off the The Beatles White Album.

Didn't know it was Clapton playing lead? It was a loosely held secret for a while, but EC was one of the few ringers that The Beatles used on their records. Clapton was brought in because he was a close mate of Harrison's, and since George wrote the song, he felt he had more say in who played on it. Here are some things to listen for.

1) There's always been a question as to what gear Clapton used on the song, and none of the people at the session can remember exactly.

Here's what Ken Scott (who engineered the session) said in the book we wrote together Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust:
"The “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sessions I’d really like to remember since I’ve been repeatedly asked about them, especially the Eric Clapton overdub session, but the only recollection I have is of mixing the song. Eric had been reluctant to play on the record because “no one plays on Beatle records,” but was convinced by his good friend George that the rest of the band would be okay with it. To his credit, he wanted to sound as far away from Eric Clapton as he could, so he insisted on not using any of his own gear and used The Beatle’s gear already set up in the studio instead (I wish I could remember exactly what gear he used). 
This wish to sound as un-Clapton-like as possible extended to mixing as well. In order to make it sound “more Beatley,” the ADT setup (see sidebar) was used to get the warbling sound that’s on the lead guitar and organ, since they were both on the same track. Chris Thomas was put in charge of manually turning the varispeed of the tape machine up and down during the mix to obtain the distinctive wobble. 
I thought it was stupid because it was such a gimmick, but that’s what they wanted because Eric didn’t want it sound like him. They wanted it really extreme so that’s what I did. I did that for hours. It was so bloody boring.Chris Thomas (George Martin's assistant)"
What you'll be hearing here is only Clapton's track, which was probably submixed to another track along with the organ to open one up for additional overdubs.

2) What struck me about the performance is how loose it is. It sounds like a single take as you hear EC switch between playing rhythm and lead. He never sounds sure of exactly what he's playing though, and you can hear the odd flub, especially in the B section and the transition between sections.

3) Listen for the toe taps as EC keeps time.



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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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