Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, April 4, 2013

An Outtake From The Incredible Mr. Starr

Ringo Starr is often overlooked for the great drummer that he really is, since his personality and legacy now seem so large. Here's a great isolated outtake from the outro of "Good Morning" from The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album that not only showcases his style perfectly, but his playing as well.

I'm not sure if he did this with double kick drums or with a double bass pedal (were they even available during the 60's?), but it's solid. He misplays a fill at around :18, but other than that I find this cut very impressive. You don't here drummer like this any more, unfortunately.



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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.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Get Ready For Wide-Band Phone Audio

HD Voice image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
From almost its beginning, the telephone has suffered from a bandwidth that has been restricted to around 300Hz to 3.4kHz. Some of the band limiting was due to the limited range of the transducers used, but also by intention as well. By limiting the bandwidth to only those frequencies that humans hear well, transmission was more efficient, which was extremely important in the early days of electronics where small tube repeater amplifiers where necessary all along the telephone line for it to work.

Through the years phone audio gradually became a little cleaner, mostly thanks to the digital encoding techniques introduced, but the bandwidth basically remained the same. Of course, you could always order a high-bandwidth ISDN line to do some serious recording via the phone, but this was somewhat expensive and a little tricky to set up (at least when the technology was first introduced). To give you an example, this used to be done with the Capitol Records Studios all the time so people could take advantage of their wonderful reverb chambers without actually mixing in their studios.

That said, the limited phone bandwidth is all about to change as AT&T begins to roll out its HD Voice feature later in the year as part of its 4G LTE network. The company will double the sample rate to around 16k and be able to deliver a much improved 80Hz to nearly 8kHz bandwidth as a result.

This isn't exactly the first time something like this has been done before, as many European carriers have had HD Voice equivalent for years, as does many VOIP networks and online carriers like Skype. That said, US cell phone service pales in comparison to the rest of the world, so we'll gladly take any little improvement whenever we can get it.

For all you geeks, AT&T plans to use the AMR-WB codec, which stands for Adaptive Multi-Rate WideBand in the new system.

One bummer is that you have to be talking to someone on a network that supports HD Voice for you to hear it, but you probably figured that out already.

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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, April 2, 2013

The Producer's First Meeting

Music Brain image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Almost everyone knows the main phases of an album project (preproduction, tracking, overdubs, mixing, mastering), but the fact of the matter is that there's one more phase that actually begins the process - the meeting.

That's where the producer meets with the artist for the first time and they both decide if they like each other, can work together, and most importantly, be creative together. Of course, there may be other meetings before this decision is finally made, but the first one is critical for both the producer and the artist.

The problem is that any times the artist or band doesn't know exactly what to do or expect (especially one without much experience), so that leaves it up to the producer to guide things. Here are some questions to ask to determine if you’re a good fit with the artist.
  • What are some of your favorite records? Why?
  • What are your biggest influences? Why?
  • What recordings do you like the sound of?
  • What kind of sound are you looking for?
  • What is it that you like about the projects I’ve done?
  • What do you expect from me?
  • How much control over the project will I have?
  • Will I have control over the budget?
  • Is there a studio you want to work in?
  • Is there an engineer or musicians that you want to work with?
  • How many songs do you have written?
  • Do you feel that the songs are ready to record?
  • When do you expect to begin recording?
  • How long do you have to complete the project?
  • Who's paying for the project? 
These aren't the only questions, but they're some of the most important, as they can help you gauge the musical taste of the artist, how much guidance they're looking for, and the amount of time that the project may require. If this first meeting goes well, you can determine the details later. 

For additional production tips, check out The Music Producer's Handbook. You can read excerpts at bobbyowsinski.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.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words

As the title says, sometimes only a picture can tell the true story of what's going on. Here are some that are pretty interesting.

Blown speakers from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog




If you take notice, all of the cones on the speakers, including the driver on the horn, are blown out. Not from high volume or a blown amp, but because a roadie placed a concussion pod too close to the speaker.










Big pedalboard image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog




I always felt that someone who drives a monster truck on the street was compensating for some small reproductive equipment (if you know what I mean). Could this be the same? After all, no human could possible get to these during a song.




Mixing available ad image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog




This one was discovered by Nashville engineer Lynn Fuston and goes to show that a little education goes a long way. The "awesome mixer" has over 4 months experience and will finish his first class in May. Plus, he can bring his laptop and his headphones to do your mix for only $20. But wait, it looks like he'll pay you to mix your songs. If that's the case, I have about a hundred here he can work on.


Jam with my band cable image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog







Anyone that's played in clubs knows that at least once a night you get the "Can I jam with your band" guy that won't give up. Here's the perfect solution.








Marshall Fridge image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog






And for the guitar player that really needs a cold one handy on stage but still wants to maintain an image, the MarshallFridge is only $399.


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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, March 31, 2013

Phil Ramone: A Different Perspective

Phil Ramone
Phil Ramone At A&R With His New 8 Track
By now you've all heard that the legendary producer Phil Ramone has passed. If you read any of the obituaries, you'll notice that they all quote his many Grammys and the superstars he worked with, which indeed placed him above the majority of his contemporaries. Phil was more than that though. He was a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker on the technical side as well, always eager to embrace new technology.

Phil started as a musician (piano and violin), but before long became interested in the technical aspects of making music, and became a Grammy-winning engineer (with the groundbreaking bossa nova record Getz/Gilberto in 1964). He soon opened up A&R Studios in New York, which for years was one of the premier indie facilities on the East Coast and a place where a host of engineering legends got their start (Elliot Scheiner, Shelly Yakus, Don Hahn, Roy Cicala, to name a few). Just to show how into the tech side of things Phil was, he personally tuned his plate reverbs, and they became part of the signature sound of the studio and a big reason why people wanted to work there.

In 1966 Phil made the decision to install the first solid-state console in a mainline studio, then he was always the first to use any version of Dolby that they released. He was the first to use an early version of what today is an ISBN (typo) ISDN line to record an artist from a different location, and one of the first to eagerly switch to digital tape machines when they became available.

As if that wasn't enough, he was the first producer to embrace the CD, with Billy Joel's 52nd Street (named after the location of A&R) becoming the first commercially available release in that format.

Phil was an engineer with big technical chops, and he never was afraid to get down in the dirt of engineering if he had to, despite being one of the most successful producers ever. And he was never afraid to try something new if he thought that it might help the final product in any way.

I never worked with Phil, but I did get a chance to spend a full week with him on a Caribbean "Home Theater" cruise in 2003 where we were both speaking on the same panel. The entire week was nothing but great stories from him and Al Schmitt day and night. One of the best was about Howard Stern's father, who was actually the maintenance engineer at A&R for a time. For as loud and boisterous as Howard is, apparently his father was as quiet as a church mouse, mostly seen and never heard. Of course, the stories about the music mafia were priceless (probably best left unprinted).

Perhaps the best of my memories with him is of just he and I watching a Monday Night Football game together in the lounge one night as we sailed just off the coast of Cuba. He was a regular guy, and as into sports as any Joe Sixpack.

I had always hoped I'd get the chance to hang with Phil more and really felt that it would happen someday, but alas, that's not to be, at least in this lifetime. Pleasant journeys, my friend. You were a giant in the music business in so many ways.
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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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