Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Joe Chiccarelli Interview

Here's a great video interview with one of my favorite people in the music business - producer, engineer, mixer Joe Chiccarelli. Joe has worked with a lot of great artists over the years, starting with Frank Zappa, to Counting Crows, Elton John, U2 and even The White Stripes, among many others. In this video interview, Joe talks about his typical signal path and philosophy when recording vocals, and provides some useful production tips. The video is done for Summit Audio, so you have to listen to a minute or two of endorsements, but they make some great products so that's not so bad.



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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Storage Holy Grail - The RAMcloud

While most of the consumer world is just getting used to the idea of cloud computing, corporations have been using it for years. For those of you who don't know, cloud computing means storing your data and even your apps on an external server that's accessed via the Internet.

A number of behind the scenes companies like RackSpace offer cloud services, but Google and Amazon also have huge server farms around the country that have been renting their storage in their clouds for years. Over the last year, the cloud has been brought to consumer's attention thanks to Amazon and Google's cloud music initiatives, and of course more recently by Apple's iCloud.

The big problem is that cloud storage is often failure-prone, slow, and quirky. Of course the cloud is never supposed to go down, thanks to so-called redundant systems, but that hasn't always been case. Of course, when the cloud goes down, it can be devastating. Don't forget when your data can't be accessed, your dead in the water until it's fixed. Although it's rare that you lose any data, outages are a nagging problem.

The reason why a cloud goes down is because just like your personal computer, server farms still store their data on spinning hard drives, and therein lies the problem. Enterprise-level drives are much less likely to stop working than the run of the mill drives that most of us use, but they still go down. That's why a group at Standford University has a radical suggestion: datacenters should just put everything in RAM.

The proposed system, which the researchers are calling RAMcloud, means that those spinning drives are replaced by the latest solid-state disks (SSDs). Since they don't use mechanical spinning parts like a hard drive, they're not only a lot more reliable, but a lot faster too. Of course SSDs are still a lot more expensive than hard drives, but if only a few server farms switch to SSDs, it's thought that the huge number of drives ordered would be enough to cause SSDs to decrease in price immediately.

Don't forget that almost all websites are stored on a spinning hard drive somewhere. Imagine how much faster they'd be in a RAMcloud. When it comes to the Internet, fast is never fast enough.
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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Secrets Of The Click Track

It's time for another book excerpt, this time from The Music Producer's Handbook. Here's some advice about not only getting the click to cut through the mix and making it groove, but preventing any bleed into any open microphones as well.
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Many times just providing a metronome in the phones isn’t enough. What good is a click if you can’t hear it, or worse yet, groove to it? Here are some tricks to make the click not only listenable, but cut through the densest mixes and seem like another instrument in the track too.
  • Pick The Right Sound. Something that’s more musical than an electronic click is better to groove to. Try either a cowbell, sidestick, or even a conga slap. Needless to say, when you pick a sound to replace the click, it should fit with the context of the song. Many drummers like two sounds for the click; something like a high go-go bell for the downbeat and a low go-go bell for the other beats or vice-versa.
     
  • Pick The Right Number Of Clicks Per Bar. Some players like 1/4 notes while others play a lot better with 8ths. Whichever it is, it will work better if there’s more emphasis on the downbeat (beat 1) than on the other beats.
     
  • Make It Groove. By adding a little delay to the click you can make it swing a bit and it won’t sound so stiff. This makes it easier for players that normally have trouble playing to a click. As a side benefit, this can help make any bleed that does occur less offensive as it will seem like part of the song.
Preventing Click Bleed
OK, now the click cuts through the mix but it does it so well that it’s bleeding into the mics. You’ll find this mostly with drummers (who usually want to hear it at near ear-splitting levels) and string players (who play very quietly and therefore need the gain of the mics turned up). Try the following:
  • Run the click through an equalizer and roll off the high end just enough to cut down on the bleed.
  • Have the players use one-eared headphones. Many times players will leave the phones loose so they can hear what’s going on with the other players in the room. If they can have click in one ear (in the headphone) that’s sealed closely to the head, then they get the live room sound in their free ear. One-eared phones have become almost standard for ensemble recording for horn and string sections, and are sometimes preferred by vocal groups as well. A good example is the Beyer DT102 (shown on the left).
To read additional excerpts from this and other books, go to the excerpts list of my website.

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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Bob Ludwig Discusses The Loudness War

This is the third or fourth week in a row that I've featured something by mastering legend Bob Ludwig, but both I and most of my readers can't get enough of this guy's wisdom. In this video from the 2009 AES show, he discusses how the loudness wars are as old as recording itself and even plays some before and after examples.

Perhaps the biggest pearl of wisdom is about how little a mastering engineer does (or should do) to a well-recorded master.

Speaking of AES New York, I'll be signing books at the Hal Leonard booth at 2PM this Saturday, the 22nd. Stop by and say hi if you're planning to attend the show.



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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

You should follow me on Twitter 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 16, 2011

Feature Creep On A Guitar


Although I love vintage guitars and instruments as much as the next person, I also like to see new innovations as well, which is something that's been totally lacking for a number of years in the MI space. But then there's Gibson.

It's amazing how such a venerable guitar manufacturer and maker of such fine vintage instruments can get things so wrong on a consistent basis over the last decade or so. Let's start with the "digital guitar" which allowed each string to have it's own separate output. What's the purpose? Can anyone tell me? Can't for the life of me see how that could be useful.

Then there's the "robot guitar" that tunes itself. The only people that need this are beginners who don't know how to use a tuner, and they can't afford the $3,500 to $5,000 it takes to buy one.

Now comes another example of including features on an instrument that no player really needs with the new Firebird X. Not only is this one butt-ugly guitar (Gibson, how could you?), but it's filled with "features" that most players don't need. Like what, you might ask? How about all your stomp-box effects built into the guitar, for one. The thing is full of switches and sliders to control distortion, echo and modulation in an effort to get rid of all those pedals on the floor.

On the surface this might seem cool except for two problems. First, how do you switch these things in while your playing? That's what makes stomp-boxes so useful - you just use your foot to switch it in. The second thing is that the guitar is a maze. I'm pretty tech-oriented, but I couldn't figure the thing out to save my life in the brief time (about 15 minutes) that I spent with it. Granted, I didn't look at the manual, but why should you have to for a guitar?

Then you have the issue of a guitar that converts the analog output of the guitar to digital so it can process it, then converts it back to analog again. The last thing you need is two conversions in your signal path. There was a lot of great sounds back in the 50s, 60s and 70s that came just plugging a guitar directly into an amp with nothing in between. I can't image how converting the signal from analog to digital back to analog again can sound anything like what we'd consider close to a "good sound" today.

Finally, the thing costs $5,570 retail. You can buy a new reissue Firebird for about $1,600 and 10 great pedals and still come out way ahead.

The Firebird X is the type of thing that gives tech innovation a bad name in the MI world. I do like the fact that Gibson is at least trying to think somewhat outside the box, but guys, your engineer's need to a measure of constraint. Just give the people what they want - a reasonably priced guitar that plays well and sounds great. When you come up with some new digital add on that makes it sound even better and is transparent to the player, give us a call.
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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

You should follow me on Twitter 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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