Thursday, January 5, 2012

David Gilmour's Recording Studio

Here's what the money from Dark Side Of The Moon will buy you, as we look at Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's houseboat studio. The album stayed on the charts for 741 weeks (that's 15 years) and sold 50 million copies world-wide. I think I'd buy something like this as well. The show this is from is kind of wacky, but it's a look at his studio that few have seen.



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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

James Brown "Cold Sweat" Song Analysis

Today's song analysis is a classic - James Brown's "Cold Sweat," which is considered by many to be the song that originated the modern funk genre. Although "Cold Sweat" was supposedly done in one take, I found a different version where you can hear the engineer slating "Take 2" that also had a different horn mix. For this analysis, we'll be looking at the first version that everyone knows.

An edited version of "Cold Sweat" was released as a single on King Records and immediately became a #1 R&B hit, and later reached number seven on the Billboard Pop chart. The complete 7 minute version was later included on the album Cold Sweat. Like all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
The song form is unique in two ways. First of all, it's based around a bass and horn riff (which became the signature of all of Brown's funk songs), and the form is somewhat random, as James shouts orders to the band when to change and when to hold the form. On the full 7:26 version of the song, the form looks like this:

Intro (4 bars), Verse (16 bars), B Section (10 bars), Chorus (4 bars), Intro, Verse, B Section, Chorus

That's where the single version ends. On the album version it really gets interesting as this is what follows:

Intro, sax solo, drum solo, drum and bass, Intro, Verse, B Section

This is where James directs traffic, calling for tenor sax player Maceo Parker to play a solo, letting him go for a random length, then asking the band to "Give the drummer some" which turns into a short drum solo (played by the great Clyde Stubblefield), then James calls the bass in. He then counts the band back into the verse, but tells them to hold on the B section, and that's where the song ends. Only James Brown could do this and have a hit, thanks to his legendary band discipline.

The Arrangement
The James Brown Orchestra was a gigging machine in those days (1967), so every arrangement was created to play live, which is why they could do the song with no overdubs (according to James' band leader and co-writer Pee-Wee Ellis), but I think that they probably only recorded on a mono or two track machine anyway. The arrangement elements look like this:

  * The Foundation: Bass and drums, with an electric guitar doubling the bass

  * The Rhythm: The 2nd guitar playing "funk chunks" along with a baritone sax answering the sax riff.

  * The Pad: None

  * The Lead: James Brown's vocal, Maceo Parker tenor solo

  * The Fills: The horns playing the riff line in the verse, and again answering during the B section and chorus.

The Sound
"Cold Sweat" was recorded in May 1967 at King Studios in Cincinnati. Recording wasn't that sophisticated at that time, especially in a non-media center in the middle of the country. That said, a number of things stand out. First of all, the balance between all the instruments is great, especially the horn section. Second, there's a very long reverb on the vocal, and later on the sax solo (who was probably using the same mic, just like during their show). Everything else is dry. The you have the drums, which sound okay until the solo when he begins to play the toms. They sound separated from the rest of the kit, which makes me think they were miked separately. Finally, the song is very light in the low end, which was a trait of most music until about the late 70s.

The Production
The production of "Cold Sweat" is all in the arrangement and the direction of James Brown during the song. There are no overdubs, so there was no layering, and either the band got it or they didn't. It's obvious they captured something that still works 45 years later.

Anonymous suggested the following video of the song, which is the long album version that we know followed by the 2nd take. I also included this short clip from a concert James gave in Zaire in 1974, which shows him at his glorious peak. The arrangement is different from the original though, which is often the case with all James Brown songs. He changed them a lot the more the band played them.






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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rare George Martin-Beatles Footage

If you're a Beatles fan, you're going to say "Wow" many times as you watch this video. It looks like it was recorded directly off a television, but it also looks like most of the footage are personal home movies. Regardless, this is footage that is so rare that I doubt most fans have ever seen it.

You'll see a completely at ease George Martin telling stories at home, a walk through Abbey Road Studio 2, the Beatles original demo tape - and that's only in the first 2 minutes! What I loved the most was George Martin, Paul and Ringo discussing Ringo's drumming, and Cilla Black in the studio.

Enjoy this before EMI gets wind of it and has it taken down (although it comes from the "colorful" Clive Worth, and I have no idea how he's connected to George or The Beatles).



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Monday, January 2, 2012

5 Tips For Memory Card Care

Now with solid state memory becoming more and more the norm, it's important to realize that it can occasionally also be at the root of some problems as well. Although it doesn't happen that often, some nasty crashes can be avoided with a minimum of maintenance.

Here are some tips for memory card care from Scott Bourne (he has a photography great site called photofocus.com) that I've adapted for audio instead of a camera. You can read his original article here.

1) Always format your card after you have downloaded files from it rather than erasing them one-by-one or taking them to the trash. This cleans up the file system and greatly reduces your chance of a crash.

2) Try to keep you memory cards dedicated to a single device. That means you shouldn't share it between different recorders or your camera. This can cause a crash since the other device may attempt to write a system, desktop or file of unknown format to the card.

3) Stay away from the super large cards until they have been on the market for six months to a year. 90% of memory problems come from these cards because they use gimmicks or acceleration routines that may or may not work in your recorder, but possibly can cause instability. They are also really expensive so that’s plenty of reason to avoid them anyway.

4) The very large (and expensive) cards, are prone to far more File Allocation Table (FAT)-like errors. For ultimate safety, stick with cards that are at least one size smaller than the largest available until later, when they will be down in price and up in reliability. Besides, you can store plenty of audio on a standard and inexpensive 8 Gig card that are remarkably cheap these days.

5) Do not remove your card, or power down your device while the card is writing. This can cause critical data loss. In fact, always turn your device off before inserting or removing a memory card, just to be safe.

By the way, you may see memory cards that are designated by classes going from 2 to 10. Remember that the higher the class, the faster the operation. In other words, a class 10 card is the fastest, although that usually won't make much of a difference for just two channels of audio.

Memory cards are very trouble-free these days, but you can increase their reliability even more if you follow these tips.
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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.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Building Britsh Grove Studios

Former Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler owns one of the finest studios anywhere, and I've already posted a few clips of him using it in the past. We're going to start the new year off with an interesting movie showing how his British Grove Studios was constructed.

Take notice how well this studio is built, with cinder block and concrete walls rather than the usual drywall in order to get the best isolation possible.

Although you get to see the finished studio, the only thing missing in the video is a shot of the studio with all the gear in it. You can get a look at that in this clip of Mark and Engineer Chuck Ainlay that I posted a few months ago.

If you're interested in learning more about studio construction you can check out The Studio Builder's Handbook or read a few excerpts here.


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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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