Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mixer To The Stars Dave Pensado On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast image
I'm very pleased to have my good buddy Dave Pensado as a guest on my latest Inner Circle Podcast. You all know Dave as the uber-mixer of huge hits for Pink, Christina Aguilera, The Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, and many more, as well as from his wildly popular Pensado's Place web-series.

The interview with Dave takes a bit of a left turn as we discuss how he went from being a smoking hot guitar player to engineer to mixer to the stars. We'll also talk a bit about his new book written with his partner Herb Trawick.

In the intro of the show I talk about the new TIDAL hi-def music streaming service, and how not to soundproof your studio.

Remember that you can find the podcast either on iTunes or at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, and now also on Stitcher.
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Boston "More Than A Feeling" Isolated Vocals

Here's a great example of an extraordinary voice as we listen to Brad Delp's isolated vocals on Boston's breakout hit "More Than A Feeling." Although it's pretty commonplace for a singer to do all the vocals on a song now, it wasn't always that way, so you can consider Brad a trailblazer in that regard as he performed all the vocals here. Here's what to listen for.

1. The lead vocals are doubled and they're very close except for the first verse, which is a bit loose. Producer/writer Tom Scholz is a noted stickler for detail so it seems to reason that they was left this way on purpose.

2. The background vocals are doubled and spread left and right so they stay out of the way of the lead vocals and cause a nice wide vocal soundstage.

3. In this video you can also hear the various layers of acoustic guitars, but what's interesting is that the vocal actually doubles the interludes after the choruses. This is pretty well buried in the final mix, but it adds to the sound.

4. Delp's vocal range is incredible, but what I found exceptionally cool is how long he holds the last note of the song at 2:55.



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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time-lapse Nashville Tracking Session Setup

Here's a cool video that shows my buddy, Pro Audio Review editor and great engineer Lynn Fuston as his team and the session musicians set up for recording at Playground Recording in Nashville.

This is a small session by Nashville standards in that there's only a basic rhythm section, not the normal 8 or 9 players that usually play simultaneously on a basic track in that city. Watch for a description of the gear being used scroll by at the bottom of the screen.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Groove Versus The Pocket

Drums and bass image
We hear the terms "groove" and "pocket" a lot in music, but what do they really mean? Here's an excerpt from my Music Producer's Handbook that outlines exactly what a groove and pocket are, and more importantly, how to find them.

"All good music, regardless of whether it’s rock, jazz, classical, hip hop or some new space music that we haven’t heard yet, has a strong groove. You always hear about “the groove”, but what is it?

The Groove Is The Pulse Of The Song
And 
How The Instruments Dynamically Breathe With It.

To your audience, the groove is an enjoyable rhythm that makes even the people that can’t dance want to get up and shake their booty. And while the concept of "the groove" is very subjective, the idea is well-understood by experienced musicians at a practical, intuitive level. Funk and latin musicians refer to the groove as the sense of being "in the pocket", while jazz players refer to the groove as the sense that a song is really "cooking" or "swinging”.

A common misconception of a groove is that it must have perfect time. A groove is created by tension against even time. That means that it doesn’t have to be perfect, just even, and all performances don’t have to have the same amount of “even-ness”. In fact, it makes the groove feel stiff if they’re too perfect. This is why perfect quantization of parts and lining up every hit in a workstation when you’re recording frequently takes the life out of a song. It’s too perfect because there’s no tension. It’s lost its groove.

Just about every hit song has a great groove and that’s why it’s a hit, but if you want to study what a groove really is, go to the masters - James Brown, Sly Stone, Michael Jackson, George Clinton and Prince. Every song is the essence of what a groove feels like.

We usually think of the groove as coming from the rhythm section, especially the drums, but that’s not necessarily always the case. In The Police’s Every Breath You Take, the rhythm guitar establishes the groove, while in most songs by the Supremes, Temptations and Four Tops from Motown’s golden age, the groove was established by James Jamerson’s bass.

How To Find The Pocket
The phrase "in the pocket" is used to describe something or someone playing in such a way that the groove is very solid and has a great feel. When a drummer keeps good time, makes the groove feel really good, and maintains it for an extended period of time while never wavering, this is often referred to as a “deep pocket.” It should be noted that it’s impossible to have a pocket without also having a groove.

Historically speaking, the term "pocket" originated in the middle of the last century when a strong backbeat (the snare drum striking on beats 2 and 4) became predominant in popular music. When the backbeat is slightly delayed creating a "laid back" or "relaxed feel", the drummer is playing in the pocket.

Today, the term "in the pocket" has broadened a bit, suggesting that if two musicians (usually the bass player and the drummer) are feeling the downbeats together and placing beat one (the downbeat) at the exact same time, they are said to be "in the pocket." Whether you are playing ahead (in front) of the beat, or behind (on the back) of the beat, or right on top (middle) of the beat, as long as two musicians (i.e. bassist and drummer) feel the downbeat at the same time, they'll be in the pocket.  

In terms of bass and drums locking to create a cohesive part, there are three areas of focus for me. You have to know where your drummer is most comfortable in terms of the beat. Is your drummer very "straight," playing right on top of the beat (which can sound like Disco music or a quantized drum machine)? Is he or she laid back, sitting in that area way on the back back of the beat (like Phil Rudd does on AC/DC’s Back In Black, anything by Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, or Clyde Stubblefield on James Brown’s Cold Sweat or Funky Drummer)? Does your drummer's playing have that urgency of a musician who plays on top of the beat (like Stewart Copeland of The Police)? This is crucial to know because the bass and drums have to function as a unit. They don't have to play everything the same, but they have to know and understand the way the other thinks and feels.

Getting the rhythm section to groove with the rest of the band is much more difficult than you might think since guitarists don't always listen to the drummer, a keyboardist may have metronomic time yet have a difficult time coordinating his/her left hand with the bass player, and vocalists will often forget that there's a band playing behind them altogether. The key is for everyone in the band to listen to one another!

Many people feel that the question is not so much what the pocket is as much as how you know when you've achieved it, yet I guarantee that you’ll know it when you feel it because the music feels like it’s playing itself. It feels as if everything has merged together with all the rhythmic parts being played by one instrument. Whichever definition you choose to go with or use, having a pocket is always good thing!"

To read additional excerpts from The Music Producer's Handbook and my other books, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.
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Monday, November 17, 2014

The 20 All-Time Catchiest Songs

Catchy Songs image
A year-long survey by the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester has revealed what they consider to be the top 20 most catchiest songs.

There are two interesting things about the list: first of all, most songs are at least 20 years old and some more than 50. Secondly, even though the list comes from the UK, most of the artists are not from there. Also, Elvis, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson all placed more than one song.

So here we go with the top 20 catchiest songs of all time:
  1. Spice Girls - Wannabe: 2.29 seconds
  2. Lou Bega - Mambo No 5: 2.48 seconds
  3. Survivor - Eye of the Tiger: 2.62 seconds
  4. Lady Gaga - Just Dance: 2.66 seconds
  5. ABBA - SOS: 2.73 seconds
  6. Roy Orbison - Pretty Woman: 2.73 seconds
  7. Michael Jackson - Beat It: 2.80 seconds
  8. Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You: 2.83 seconds
  9. The Human League - Don't You Want Me: 2.83 seconds
  10. Aerosmith - I Don't Want to Miss a Thing: 2.84 seconds
  11. Lady Gaga - Poker Face: 2.88 seconds
  12. Hanson - MMMbop: 2.89 seconds
  13. Elvis Presley - It's Now Or Never: 2.91 seconds
  14. Bachman-Turner Overdrive - You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet: 2.94 seconds
  15. Michael Jackson - Billie Jean: 2.97 seconds
  16. Culture Club - Karma Chameleon: 2.99 seconds
  17. Britney Spears - Baby One More Time: 2.99 seconds
  18. Elvis Presley - Devil in Disguise: 3.01 seconds
  19. Boney M - Rivers of Babylon: 3.03 seconds
  20. Elton John - Candle in the Wind: 3.04 seconds
Songwriters, start your engines.

Which songs do you agree with and which would you replace?
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Satori Monitor Controller

One of the most important pieces in a modern DAW studio is the monitor controller not only because the level of the monitor speakers needs to be adequately controlled, but also other features that modern studios need like being able to select multiple audio sources and switch between multiple speakers are addressed. Of course, the sound quality of this device is hyper-critical as well.

That's why Antelope Audio's new Satori monitor controller is so impressive. It incorporates not only a mastering quality D/A convertor, but a wide variety of input and output options as well. The unit can switch between 4 sets of monitor speakers, has 4 independent headphone outputs, can switch between 4 stereo inputs, and even includes an 8 channel analog summing mixer.

Satori also has a number of features frequently overlooked by other monitor controllers like a dedicated subwoofer output, talkback input, and M/S monitoring. Plus there's a Mac or PC software app that provides greater precision than offered from the front panel of the unit, as well as user presets. Connection to the computer is via USB.

The Antelope Audio Satori monitor controller should be available any time now, and the price will be around $1500. Check out the website for more info, or the video below.


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