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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Engineer/Producer Ross Hogarth My Inner Circle Podcast

Ross Hogarth image
I've very pleased to have engineer/producer Ross Hogarth on this week's Inner Circle podcast. Ross started in the business as a stage tech and live mixer for the likes of David Lindley, Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac, and eventually moved into the studio where he’s since worked with the likes of Roger Waters, Motley Crue, Van Halen, John Mellencamp and many more.

Ross has also just been nominated for Best Engineered Record Grammy for his recent work with Keb Mo.

On the intro I'll also talk about why an attorney might not to want to shop your demo, and the little Amish town that's the center of the touring universe.

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Beatles "I Feel Fine" Isolated Guitars

It's always fun to listen to hits of years past and dissect the parts, and today's song is no exception. It's "I Feel Fine" by The Beatles, a big hit for them from way back in 1964. This might have been the first example of feedback electric guitar (John Lennon's amplified Gibson acoustic J-160E) on record, but it was discovered accidentally when Lennon leaned his guitar up against the amp after a take. The band loved it and later edited it in to the beginning of the song.

John, who wrote and sang the song, claimed that the riff was based around a Bobby Parker song the band used to play live called "Watch Your Step." What you'll hear comes from the last of 8 basic track takes. Here's what to listen for (it starts at 0:05):

1. John plays the main riff on his Gibson while George Harrison sometimes doubles, and other times plays rhythm on his Gretsch Tennessean.

2. As was the production norm of the day, the parts of the two guitars aren't really defined. They both drift from playing the riff to playing the chords at different times. Today the parts would be much more worked out with every lick in mind.

3. Georges rhythm is a little out of tune, especially in the beginning, but you don't it notice in the track.

4. Listen through to the end to hear the ending not on the record.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Metallica In Slow Motion

We're used to interacting with music on a level that's so fast that we usually only hear the result, but don't see what's actually happening. Here a great video that looks at what happens in slow motion when you play a variety of instruments and vocals, centering around the guys in Metallica.

What you'll see is electric and acoustic guitars, vocal, electric and acoustic bass, slap bass, piano and drums at 2,000 to 5,000 frames per second. My favorite is the snare drum at the end.

This is very cool. Thanks to my buddy Jesse Siemanis for the heads up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Brief History Of Music Production

 Sir George Martin in a session with The Beatles
Although the position of record producer seems like a modern aspect of the record business, the job has been around from the beginning of recorded music. Through the years, the profession has become more refined in terms of responsibilities, but the job has become more complex as well. To illustrate the evolution of the music producer, here's an excerpt from my Music Producer's Handbook that breaks the profession into three distinct eras which we’ll call “the early record label era,” “the mature music era,” and “the independent era.”

"The Early Label Era
Although recorded music goes as far back as 1857, it wasn’t actually turned into a business until around 1900. Because of the primitive nature of the recording equipment, the recordist acted as more of an archivist than a producer in that he (it was almost always a man) was just trying to capture the music onto a medium suitable for reproduction. The composers, arrangers and band leaders of the day had final say in regards to the direction and style of the music, just as many do today.

Several pioneers of the era including Ralph Peer and Lester Melrose (more on them in a bit) began to record less accessible and popular forms of music in an effort to target specific audiences with the music they were recording. The “producers” of this period were part talent scout, part entrepreneur, and part technician, sometimes going on location and holding massive auditions until they found the music that they thought to be unique. They were also some of the people who eventually gave the music industry and record label executives a bad name by stealing copyrights, not paying royalties and stereotyping groups of people with terms like “hill billy” and “race” music.

The Mature Music Era
As the music industry matured, record labels began to employ men (once again, they were almost always men) specifically to discover talent, then shepherd that talent through the recording process. These were know as “Artist and Repertoire” men or “A&R” men that were in fact, the first vestige of the producer that we know today. Unlike the A&R men of today who are mostly talent scouts and product managers, A&R people of that era were usually well schooled in music, being talented composers and arrangers themselves, and were in charge of everything from signing an artist to finding songs to overseeing the recording, just as today’s producers do.

But producers began to have more control over production as magnetic tape became the production media of choice. Now it was easy for multiple takes, and as two, three and four track machines became available, the ability to separate instruments brought a whole new palate of possibilities. First the first time, the producers role became as technically creative as it was musical.

Still, producers off the era were little more than label employees, sometimes not even receiving a bonus despite being directly responsible for the success of the labels artists and their sometimes massive amounts of label income (such as the case between EMI with George Martin and The Beatles).

The Independent Era
As the technical possibilities continued to soar, so did a quiet rebellion on the business side of production. Even though independent record producers existed going back to the 50’s with Sam Phillips (of Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis fame), Phil Spector, Creed Taylor and Joe Meek, they all had their own record labels and it was lot easier to be in control as a producer if you were the label owner too.

The true revolution began when George Martin left music giant EMI to go independent in 1969. Until then, producers were little more than salaried staff with no participation in the profits they had such a big part in developing. After having to fight for a small bonus after The Beatles literally made EMI a billion dollars, Sir George decided to use his considerable leverage to obtain a piece of the action by leaving his EMI staff position and going independent. Soon many other successful producers followed, being able to cash in on large advances as well as a piece of their best-selling artist’s pie.

But fortunes turned, as they so frequently do. After a while, record labels began to see producer independence as a bargain by being able to wipe out the overhead of a salaried position by turning the tables to where hiring the producer became the artist’s expense instead of the label’s. This meant that the label could afford the best production talent in the world and in the end it wouldn’t cost them a dime as long as the record sold.

As time went on, the producer took more creative control, becoming everything from a coach to a guidance counselor to a psychiatrist to a svengali. Some producers like Holland-Dozier-Holland at Motown and Stock-Aitken-Waterman used a factory approach, where the artists were interchangeable and subordinate to the song. Some, like Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, had a grandiose vision for their material that only they could imagine until it was finished. Some like Ted Templeman, Tony Brown and Dan Huff, Moby and Dr. Dre changed the direction of a style of music. And some like Quincy Jones, saved the music industry from itself and started the longest run of prosperity it would ever see."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Introducing The New MIDI HD Protocol

MIDI creator Dave Smith image
MIDI Creator Dave Smith
The MIDI standard is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so let's take a minute to appreciate just how cool an invention this really was.

For many of you reading this, you don't remember a time before MIDI, but the rest of us remember it as a time when hardware synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines couldn't talk to one another if not from the same manufacturer. You chose a manufacturer if you wanted all three, and usually at least of these were not to your liking.

MIDI, originally proposed by Sequential Circuits founder Dave Smith (now with Dave Smith Instruments and pictured on the left), solved this by suddenly making not only these devices interchangeable, but controllable via external switches, pedals and, a little down the road, computers.

The standard hasn't changed much over the years, but definitely needs some updating, and that's exactly what the newly proposed MIDI HD does. Some of the new protocol's features include:
  • Plug and play network connectivity over USB and Ethernet
  • Thousands of channels for handling complex systems
  • More precise pitch control and articulation for expanded expressivity
  • Tighter timing thanks to time stamped messaging
  • More controllers and parameters
  • Room for future expansion
  • Backwards compatibility with MID 1.0
That sounds pretty cool, but don't get the wrong idea - MIDI HD is not a replacement for the standard MIDI that we're all used to. MIDI 1.0 is really cheap to implement and MIDI HD isn't, at least at the moment, and it's not an industry standard yet either. The added cost of MIDI HD means that many low cost devices just won't have it for a while.

That said, it's exciting that MIDI is stepping into the future. I can't wait to check it out in person to see just what it can do.

For more information, go to the MIDI Manufactures Association's office site at midi.org.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Music Gear Monday: MOTU Monitor 8

MOTU Monitor 8 image
One of the things that's lagged behind in digital audio has been monitoring, but that's becoming a priority more and more when it comes to digital interfaces. In fact, there are now quite a few great dedicated monitoring alternatives now available. Case in point, the new MOTU Monitor 8.

The Monitor 8 is unique in that it can do so many things and fit into so many situations. It can be a control room monitor controller, a live monitor mixer, a multi-channel headphone amplifier, or a computer audio interface right out of the box.

Built-in you'll find a 24x16x8 monitor mixer, a 6 channel headphone amp and a 48 channel USB/AVB audio interface, plus a very nice metering package. For control room monitoring, it has two stereo pairs allowing for main and secondary monitors, but you can also dial up 6 additional cue mixes (which can be individually controlled from an iPhone app) as well.

The unit has the latest ESS Sabre32 Ultra D/A convertors with 123dB dynamic range, and features as little as 32 samples of latency from input to output. It also features a 48 channel software mixer that can take its signal from either a host DAW or the Monitor 8's analog inputs or dual ADAT optical ports, and provides EQ and LA-2 style compression on each channel. The AVB port allows Monitor 8 to connect with a wide variety of hardware using the latest audio networking via CAT-5 or CAT-6 Ethernet cables.

Monitor 8 can work as an interface or a stand alone unit, and it can easily connect to MOTU's other AVB products like the 1248, 8M, 16A, 24Ai or 24Ao, and utilize quick setup presets to get you rolling right away.

MOTU's Monitor 8 is an extremely versatile unit that will find itself in a lot of monitoring situations given its versatility and price point. The unit retails for $995.

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