Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Making A Ribbon Mic Part 2

For those of you who haven't experienced the joys of using a ribbon mic, you don't know what you're missing. Ribbon mics are incredibly natural sounding and the tracks recorded with them take EQ very well. What's more, modern ribbon mics are extremely robust and not nearly as delicate as many of their predecessors were.

A few weeks ago I posted a segment from the How It's Made television show that described how a ribbon mic was made using an AEA R44 ribbon as an example. Here's another segment on the same subject, this time showing how a Royer Labs R 121 is made. I like this segment better in that it shows a number of details that were left out of the first one. By the way, I'm a big fan of Royer microphones (as well as their Mojave Audio condenser mic cousins).



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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.

Announcing The 2 Millionth Page View! Thanks Everyone!

Celebration image
I'm proud to announce that The Big Picture production blog has just crossed the 2,000,000th view threshold.

Many, many thanks to everyone who's supported me in this endeavor! It takes a lot of time every day to prepare these posts, but the fact you continue to check in makes it all worthwhile.

When I started this blog 4 1/2 years ago (November 2, 2008) there were 7 views the first week. I'm thankful that you've all encouraged me to stay the course.

As they say in politics, here's to "4 more years."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fall Out Boy:" My Songs Know What You Did" Song Analysis

Reader Jim Yeomans requested a song analysis of the Fall Out Boy hit "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark," which is from their 5th studio album entitled Save Rock And Roll. The song was a worldwide hit, reaching the top 5 in the US on iTunes and in singles charts in the UK, Scotland and Ireland. As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song from, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" has a fairly simple form of intro, verse and chorus with no bridge or solo. As a result it clocks in at only 3:11, a timing that's built for radio, which loves the short song (and even speeds many songs up in order to play more songs per hour).

The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, B section, Chorus, Verse, 
B section, Chorus, B section (2x), Chorus, Tag 

What's unusual about the form is that the title of the song appears in the 4 bar B section. The song is built around a single chord pattern, and that limits the melody somewhat, but there's still a melody there, which is more than you can say about many songs these days. Likewise, the lyrics work fairly well within the context of the song, telling a story and rhyming well without seeming forced.

The Arrangement
When a song is built around a single riff, chord or chord pattern, it needs a great arrangement to succeed. So is the case with "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark." The arrangement elements looks like this:

  * The Foundation: bass and drums, vocal loops

  * The Rhythm: vocal loops, rhythm guitars, claps, synth line

  * The Pad: none

  *The Lead: lead vocal

  * The Fills: vocals, effects

The song begins with a vocal loop and claps for 4 bars, after which a second vocal loop enters along with the drums for four bars, and then an electric guitar for the next four bars to complete the intro.

The first verse sees the lead vocal enter as well as a 16th note bass following the chord pattern. A sound effect occurs after the first two phrases then again after the fifth and sixth. The drums fall out during the B section when the title lyrics are stated, which leads into the big chorus with the drums switching to a half-time feel. On bar 5 "hey's" enter on the upbeat of beat 4, then on the second half of the chorus, the "whoa's" are answered by "I'm on fire" along with a new single note synth line, and then with an "In the dark, dark" vocal sample at the end of each chord pattern.

On the second verse a synth is added behind the sound effects, and a floor tom enters on bar 5. The band drops out completely on bar 12 except for a lighter sound effect. The second chorus is almost identical to the first, but with the addition of some bigger sounding guitars.

The song then returns to the opening 4 bars of the intro with the addition of some very reverbed out "hey's", then to a standard B section that's repeated, only with a very lo-fi vocal. The last chorus is bigger than the previous 2 thanks to additional parts. The song ends with a 2 bar tag of "whoa's" without any music.

The Sound
While the trend in mixing was to keep everything dry for a long time, but "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" shows what seems to be a new trend back to layered effects. Each vocal loop has a different reverb, as does the snare and the sound effects. The vocal uses a stereo tape delay simulation (you can tell by how it gets fuzzy and dull as it repeats), which is also somewhat of a trend these days.

The song is very compressed and borderline distorted, and I wonder just how much better it would've sounded if there were some dynamics left in it.

The Production
As stated before, when a song is built around a single riff, chord or chord pattern, it needs a great arrangement, as well as great production to succeed. "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" is pretty cool from the standpoint that there's always something new going on as you go through the song. There's either a new sound effect or a new vocal loop in every vocal hole, the song's intensity changes, or a different reverb or echo can be heard.

What's also cool is the unusual drum beat in the intro and verses that then changes to a half-time feel during the big choruses. What's also unusual is that for a guitar band, the guitars aren't featured in the song. Of course, add all of the above together and you have a hit.

Send me your song requests for analysis (no originals, only hits) at "requests 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.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Talking Robot Mouth

One of the common every day things that we take for granted is speech. It's an incredibly complex operation, but one that we never even think about until we see the following video from professor Hideyuki Sawada at Kagawa University.

While most robots speak using electronic technology (mostly speakers), this one actually mimics the human body in that it's a working mouth, complete with nose. As you'll see, there's so much more that goes into speaking than you ever thought.

The robot is still primitive (it still doesn't do "f" or "s" sounds), but it just makes you appreciate the human body all the more.



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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, May 13, 2013

Using Automation To Add Dynamics To A Mix

Mixing Automation image
The heart of a modern mix lies in it's precision automation and the soul of a mix is in the way it dynamically breathes in the right places. In this excerpt from the new Advanced chapter of the Mixing Engineer's Handbook 3r Edition, we see 10 tips to use a DAW's automation to instill excitement in a mix by adding dynamics.

"For the most part, a mix where the faders remain more or less static can be boring and unexciting. Even before automation, mixers were constantly riding instrument and vocal faders during a mix in order to make sure they stood out in certain places or added an extra intensity to the mix. The best part about automation is that those moves can be exactly replicated on every playback.

Among the ways to add dynamics to a mix are:
  • Slightly boost the rhythm section during fills, turnarounds and even choruses (usually only a couple of dB is all that’s necessary, but it depends upon the track). 
  • Boost the snare and toms during fills.
  • Boost the kick, snare or cymbals on accents or the downbeat of a new section.
  • Duck the rhythm instruments during an instrument solo to help clear out space in the mix.
  • Boost the high-hat in parts where it’s being struck and decrease it where it’s not.
  • Add additional reverb or delay to an instrument when it gets masked as other instruments are added to the mix.
  • Pump a strumming rhythm guitar in time with the music, pushing it especially on 2 and 4, or push it on the upbeats (one AND two AND three AND…)
  • Gently boost the fills or other instruments in between vocal phrases.
  • Pull back the downbeat of a chorus if the drummer hits it too hard.
  • Pump the “4 AND” on a percussion track.
TIP: The key to understanding how to use automation to add dynamics is by observing a performance by a great band. This will help you to be able to hear all the nuances that the dynamics of the mix needs in order for it to be exciting. "

To read additional excerpts from this book and others, go to 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.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Music Gear Monday: UAD Ocean Way Studios Plugin

We live in a world of plugins to the degree that even old school pros with a ton (literally) of available analog gear use what's in their DAW as a matter of course in their every day work. While most plugins now attempt to be some emulation of an old piece of gear or a new variation of an old concept, every once in a while something new comes along with some truly out-of-the-box thinking. Which brings us to one of the most unique and useful plugins to come along in a long time - the Universal Audio Ocean Way Studios plugin.

The Ocean Way Studios plugin works on any of the UAD hardware platforms and takes room simulation to the next step by modeling the sound of two of the studio's famous Bill Putnum-designed tracking rooms (Putnam was the original owner of both United Studios - now Ocean Way - and Universal Audio when it manufactured hardware starting back in the 1960s. Bill Putnam jr. runs Universal Audio today). You're able to choose from a number of Ocean Way owner Allen Sides' great vintage mic emulations and place them any distance in the room, as well as mix and EQ multiple combination of mics.

After using the plugin on a project that I'm currently mixing I can say that there's really not anything exactly like the Ocean Way Studios plugin on the market. I can see how this could be a great addition to a home studio owner who only has a small room to record in, but wants it to realistically sound like a larger one - and with the Ocean Way sound to boot.

Check out the video below for more details.



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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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