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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Oldest Recording Ever

Talk about old school, here's a captivating PBS Newshour segment about the restoration by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of one of the oldest recordings ever made. The recording was originally done on a thin piece of tin foil that was so fragile that it couldn't be played, so they had to scan it with a super hi-res 3D camera in order to digitize the modulation for playback. The foil was folded 7 times and stored in an envelop for 140 or so years before it was found, so the fact that they were able to extract any sound at all is amazing. Simply fascinating!




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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, January 16, 2013

Performing Music Gets Us High

No music, no life image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Non-musicians are always confounded as to why musicians struggle so much for their art. If you look at it logically, there's really no reason why some of us would give up promising careers in "legit" businesses to groval for a few bucks in an effort to keep on groveling for one more day. And this is all in the hopes of someday "making it," which usually means that we can continue making music, just without the day-to-day groveling.

But there's a reason why we do it. Performing music makes us high. Every musician who's ever gigged has experienced the rush on stage when you played something so cool that they rest of the band would give you that acknowledging smile. Or when the whole band does something at once in such a tight fashion that it's like thinking with the same mind. Or hearing the whistles and applause at the end of a song. That's what keeps us doing it.

No matter if you're just starting out in the garage or a superstar at his peak, you can't get enough. We all know it on some level, and we all crave it. And it never goes away. Even if you haven't played in a band in 20 years, it takes about 10 seconds after the first downbeat to get back into it again. And if you're "retired" as a player, the thought of performing is consciously suppressed because you're afraid that you'll miss it so much and get pulled back in. All it takes is just one small taste.

We know we're addicted, but to what exactly? Now according to a study published in Evolutionary Psychology, it turns out that performing actually releases measurable amounts of endorphines (the body's natural opiates) during performing. That means we're not only psychologically addicted, but physically addicted as well.

The study was conducted at Oxford University by Professor Robin Dunbar, who wanted to see if performing music would increase a person's pain tolerance. Three experimental groups were studied; church singers involved with communal singing, clapping and lots of upper body movement, people in a drum circle, and finally a group of musicians rehearsing. What he found was that performing released endorphines that resulted in "a mild opiate 'high' corresponding with a feeling of well-being and light analgesia (the absence of pain)."

I've also felt that performing music goes a step beyond the physical to the spiritual, if I can get metaphysical here for a moment. A musician "in the zone" is unknowingly performing a ritual that's touching somewhere above the physical plane. It's a place that's so compelling that we want to go there again and again, but it goes beyond that. We also open this spiritual link to the audience as well, which is why they want to come hear us play. It's something they can't easily reach for themselves, and need us as a gateway. Our music speaks on multiple levels, and has the ability to take us and our audience to places unknown.

So keep on playing as much as you can. When done well it's good for you, and for everyone around you. You are more special than you know.

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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.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Inside The Purdie Shuffle

I just love great drummers. Who doesn't? Bernard Purdie is one of most influential drummers on the planet, and a good deal of that is thanks to his "Purdie Shuffle." Here's a blast from the past as the man himself explains just how it's done. Note his impeccable time and feel.




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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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Recording Session Checklist

Basic Tracks image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog Here's a recording checklist derived from both The Recording Engineer's Handbook and Audio Recording Basic Training that, if followed, will pretty much keep any engineer, or musician trying to record himself or his band, out of trouble.

1. Does the instrument sound great acoustically? Make sure that you start with a great acoustic sound with the instrument well-tuned and minimum of sympathetic vibrations and extraneous noises.

2. Are the mics acoustically in phase? Observe the 3:1 rule and make sure that any underneath mics are at a 90° angle to the top mics.

3. Are the mics electronically in phase? Make sure that all the mic cables are wired the same by doing a phase check.

4. Are the mics at the correct distance from the instrument? If they’re too far away they’ll pick up too much of the room or other instruments. If they’re too close the sound will be unbalanced with either too much attack or ring, and not enough of the body of the instrument. Walk around the player, put your finger in your ear, and find the spot that sounds the best. Remember, most instruments need some space for the sound to develop. The ambience from the surrounding area is a big part of the sound for most instruments.

5. Does it sound the same in the control room as when you’re standing in front of the instrument? This is your reference point and what you should be trying to match. You can embellish the sound after you’ve achieved this.

6. Is there another problem besides the mic placement? A great sound is dependent upon the instrument, the player, the amp and the room. The player has to be able to achieve the tone you're trying to record with his hands first and foremost. The mic itself usually has less to do with the ultimate sound than the placement, room and the player and ultimately, the project itself.

You should always trust your ears and begin by listening to the musician in your studio, find a sweet spot and then begin your microphone placement there. If you don’t like the resultant sound, then move the mic or swap it with another. EQ is the last thing you should touch.

7. Is the problem in your signal chain? Don’t neglect your microphone preamp. The better your preamp, the less trouble you’ll have capturing the sound, but sometimes a certain mic/preamp combination will give you the sound you need. Experiment.

8. Is the problem the players signal chain? A guitarist’s signal chain can be a huge help or a big hindrance. You’ll get a warmer yet aggressive guitar sound by decreasing the amount of distortion from pedals, but turning up the amp’s volume instead to obtain the sustain/distortion from the amp and speaker. Also, smaller amps and speakers tend to sound bigger than large amps/speakers when recording.

REMEMBER: Mics cannot effectively be placed by sight, which is a mistake that is all too easy to make. The best mic position can't be predicted, it must be found.

Check out bobbyowsinski.com for more book excerpts, or take a look at the Audio Recording Techniques video course at Lynda.com.

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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, January 13, 2013

New Music Gear Monday: EH Talking Pedal

Here's a guitar product that came out at Summer NAMM that I managed to miss. Remember the Talk Box that Joe Walsh ("Rocky Mountain Way"), Peter Frampton ("Show Me The Way") and Aerosmith ("Sweet Emotion") used on their hits in the 70's? While it was pretty cool, one of the problems was that you needed a separate amplifier, not to mention a decidedly unsanitary plastic tube in your mouth in order to play it. Now Electro-Harmonix has released a unique version of the Talk Box called the Talking Pedal that provides the same effect without having to resort to the separate amp and mouth tube.

EH released a Talking Machine pedal about a year ago that provided the same effect automatically depending upon your playing dynamics, but the the Talking Pedal looks to be much more expressive in a similar way to the real thing.

Here's a video of the Talking Machine pedal. It's pretty authentic sounding. The Talking Pedal can be found for less than $100.



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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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