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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Police "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" Isolated Bass And Vocals

It's easy to forget that at one time The Police were the biggest band in the world, and rightfully so. They had artistic integrity, a good amount of playing skill, and some really good commercial songs. One of their bigger hits was "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" from their huge Ghost In The Machine album from 1981. Here's the isolated guitar, bass, kick and snare from the song.

1. Notice that Sting's vocal is doubled, but not closely in the verses (it is somewhat in the bridge). This leads me to believe that the double wasn't intentional, and you're just hearing two vocal passes that were put together in the mix.

2. Since you can hear the bass, vocal, kick and snare (and a ride cymbal in the bridge), it would seem that this is either the center channel from a 5.1 mix or a phase invert extraction from the stereo mix that cancels everything but what's in the center.

3. There's an abrupt edit in the second bridge which isn't found in the original version.


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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Apple's New Product Announcements Affect The Music World

Mac Pro On Display image
Another Apple special event spectacular has come and gone, and once again people are buzzing with what was announced and what wasn’t. Apple is clearly a consumer electronics company, but one that’s highly influential in the music world, and this series of products will influence music more than you might think.

The first significant announcement was pretty much glossed over, and that’s the fact that iTunes Radio now has 20 million users and has served up over a billion songs. Considering that it’s only been a little over a month since the service was introduced (and only in the US at that), and you can see why iTunes Radio is shaping up to be the monster that Pandora and Spotify feared the most. The prediction here is that by this time next year iTunes Radio will have surpassed the cumulative listeners of both Pandora and Spotify together, and you can be sure that will jeopardize the existence of at least one of these services.

But this was an event centered mainly around hardware, and while the brand new iPads are nice and more powerful than ever, most music production is still done on desktop machines and to a lessor degree, laptops that have become almost as powerful. The new Mac Pro (which will finally be shipping in December) touted at the event will have a deeper impact than most analysts believe, basically because it’s more of a strategic product than almost anything else in the Apple line.

To understand why that is, you have to first understand that Apple rules professional audio and has for some time. There’s plenty of great audio products for the PC, but virtually all pro shops are based around the Mac hardware platform and operating system. This has been the case for more than a decade, despite the higher initial purchase price of the hardware. Read more on Forbes.
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, October 29, 2013

The Making Of Lou Reed's Biggest Hit

Lou Reed image
As a remembrance of Lou Reed, here's an excerpt from engineer/producer Ken Scott's memoir Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust. Ken worked with Lou on Transformer, which many consider his best record and contained his great hit "Walk On The Wild Side."

"Bowie was a big Velvet Underground fan and had taken to playing a few of its singer/songwriter Lou Reed’s songs (“White Light/White Heat,” “Waiting For The Man,” and “Sweet Jane”) in his shows, so it was no surprise when David announced that he was going to produce Lou’s second solo album in August of 1972.

Although the record took the typical two weeks to record (again at Trident), it was different in that it was all done during the day because David and Ronno (guitarist Mick Ronson) would run off to rehearsals for a big Rainbow Theater show (one that would prove to be a critical career turning point) during the evenings. It was also different because we used all session musicians except for Ronno. Lou would teach Ronno the song, then Ronno would teach the session musicians, then we would carry on as if it were a Bowie record until it was time to do Lou’s vocals. 

The album would become Transformer and was particularly noted for Lou’s signature track “Walk On The Wild Side,” which was special from recording right through mixing in terms of creative inspiration. For instance, when Ronno was teaching the band the song, the drummer, Ritchie Dharma, who was in the drum booth, was initially playing it with sticks. As I was listening upstairs in the control room, I knew immediately that the sticks were too heavy for the song and wouldn’t work so I dashed down and asked him to try brushes, which we finished up using all the way through.

The classic double bass line by Herbie Flowers was another inspiration, although not for the reason you may think. It didn’t take very long to put down the basic track, and after we were finished, Herbie came up to the control room and asked me if he could add another bass part using a fretless electric. After he explained what he had in mind, we all said, “Sure. Let’s have it,” and it was magic. What we didn’t know (as Herbie’s gone on to explain in a variety of interviews over the years) was that he was mostly concerned with getting paid double for playing the additional instrument under Musician’s Union rules. A bit mercenary, but the line he came up ended up making the record, let alone becoming one of the most copied and/or sampled bass parts ever.

Lou and David got on like the world on fire. Those were two that found each other. Their discussions were witty, funny and cheeky. Very camp, it was. Lou had his fingernails painted black. He played a fantastic rhythm guitar. I love the bass Herby Flowers played on that record.
Klaus Voorman

After the track was finished, there was still something missing, and David asked, “Do you know any backing vocalists that we can use?” I called up this group that I used to work with called Thunderthighs (consisting of Dari Lallou, Karen Friedman and Casey Synge), who came in and sang it. While the line of the song goes “And the colored girls say...” it’s more like “And the Jewish girls say…” since they were all white and a couple of them were Jewish, but they got the effect that everyone was looking for and certainly painted the necessary picture.

Finally when it came to mixing, thanks to his fear of flying, David was on his way to America via the QE2 for his introductory US tour. Ronno came by for one mix that we didn’t get very far with, and Lou was there physically but not mentally, so it was just me mixing all by my myself once again. By the time it came to mixing “Wild Side”, I was so sick of hearing the “Do Do’s” so many bloody times that I had to do something just to relieve the boredom of it. I had this idea of them coming from way back in the distance and walking forward finally singing it right in your face. I started off with just the reverb signal which I kept at the same level during the mix, but I had the source background vocal level come up and up until you hardly hear the reverb at all and they’re almost dry and in your face. It’s amazing what comes out of boredom sometimes.

Other than that one song, Transformer was rather uneventful. While I’ve heard and read many claim that it’s a classic rock album, I really don’t see it that way. “Walk on the Wild Side,” yes, I think is amazing. It’s a classic track. But a single classic track does not a classic album make.

As I said, Lou was there in body for the sessions, but that’s about it. A couple of weeks after we finished the album, I saw Lou again in a Chinese restaurant in Wardour Street and he had no idea who I was. It just didn’t register. Then recently I was asked to do an English TV show that’s based on classic rock albums, where they interview everyone they can get that’s connected with it to tell the story of the album. I went there and did my bit in the morning, then it was going to be Lou’s time, then I was going to do a bit more. So Lou comes in and they introduced me, and once again he had no clue, “Oh, you’re Ken Scott.” It was the strangest thing to go through “Who is this guy?” all over again."

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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, October 28, 2013

The Making Of The New Mac Pro

A lot of us will be buying the new Mac Pro in December when it's released to replace some of the older Mac desktops that our studios now run. I thought that you'd like to see how the new machines are being made in plants in California, Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee Georgia and North and South Carolina. It's an interesting combination of super hi-tech robotics and good old fashioned hand assembly.


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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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 27, 2013

New Music Gear Monday: Triad-Orbit Mic Stands

One of the most important tools of any engineer or musician is the simple mic stand. It's an essential part of our music creation process, but it's also so mundane that we take it for granted. It doesn't help that we've been using stands with the same basic design for more than 50 years. That's all about to change with the new Triad-Orbit articulating mic stands, the first really new idea in stands since the creation of the boom arm.

What makes the Triad-Orbit stands different is that each leg of the base has four ratcheted positions that provide up to 65 degrees of pitch. That means that booms are no longer needed for the front line of a stage, the stand can easily be used on uneven surfaces, and the stand can be more easily placed in tight spaces, among other things.

The Orbital boom is also much different that the standard boom that we've been using forever. It's built around a stainless steel ball swivel mechanism to deliver a very wide range of motion (360 x 220 degrees). The Orbital 2 boom is also way different than anything you've seen since it's basically 2 booms on one stand, solving the many problems normally run into when stereo miking, now with using an iPad during a performance.

Triad Orbit stands aren't cheap at $229 for a standard stand, $139 for the standard arm boom and $259 for the dual boom, but they're built like tanks and very well may last a lifetime. Check out the video below to see a lot more about how different these stands are.

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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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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