Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Friday, March 6, 2015

Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Isolated Vocals

Nirvana Onstage image
Very few artists or bands can change the direction of music but that's exactly what Nirvana did when they burst on the scene in 1991 with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" off of the band's debut album Nevermind (here's a great vinyl reissue).

It's one of the few songs by the band that's actually credited to all three band members as authors, which in this case came about after a number of arrangement changes by bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl to the song that guitarist Curt Cobain brought into rehearsal.

Here are the isolated vocals from that song (which begins at 0:33) as well as what to listen for:

1. The lead vocal has an interesting reverb that sounds more like a long delayed ambience than a typical plate or hall effect. It's delayed and fairly short and dark so it blends into the track well.

2. Take notice that the B-section vocal is doubled and spread out in stereo a little to the left and right. The left vocal is a little drier than the right side, which is pushed back in the mix a very short amount.

3. The last lines of the verses and chorus again feature a doubled lead vocal that's back in the center of the mix.

4. Listen to the sounds of the open mic before the second verse at 1:40.

5. Listen all the way through to the end to hear the ending that didn't make the record.



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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Helping Lorde Rule The World

Michael Levine is my guest on the current Inner Circle podcast, so it's only appropriate that we take a look at a very cool video where he shows about how he helped Lorde do a dark and moody version of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," which eventually became part of the soundtrack for the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack.



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, March 4, 2015

The 5 Ways To Charge For Your Musical Services

Charging For Services image
It's always tough to figure out how much to charge an artist or band that's not on a label for your services. Here's an excerpt from my Music Producer's Handbook that looks at the 5 different ways to charge a client for your production, engineering or musical services, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.

"What if a local band asks you to produce or record them? What do you charge if they’re not attached to a label? There are a number of approaches that you can take, although none will have you retiring to the Bahamas anytime soon. You can:
  • Charge a flat project fee. How much should that be? So much depends upon the type of project, how many overdubs you’ll need, the artist’s or band’s competency, the artist’s or band’s income level, and the number of songs. A jazz or blues band with 20 songs will usually take a lot less time than a pop band with 8 because of the type of music and the layering normally required with pop music. And if the band has a marginal player or two, that can almost double the time spent just trying to get the parts to match the other players in skill level (unless you can persuade them to use a session player.)
Usually, a flat fee is the least desirable way to get paid since projects have a tendency to go a lot longer than anticipated and will tend to drag on and on when the artist realizes that you get paid the same regardless of the time spent. If the flat fee is the easiest way or only way to get the gig, then that’s what you have to do, but otherwise, avoid it if you can unless you’ll very well compensated.
  • Charge a per-song fee. This is better than the flat project fee but not by much. All the same problem areas are still there with the exception that it can sometimes cause the artist to scale back from recording 15 songs to 10 (even though it’s a hit in your pocketbook). You won’t have to worry about the artist wanting to record an extra song at the last minute or suddenly wanting to complete a track originally deemed too weak after basic tracking. With a per-song rate, any additional songs and you have to get paid.
  • Get paid on spec. This is the way that most fledgling producers start their careers. The deal would be that if the artist or band “makes it” (meaning they get signed by a major label and get an advance), then you’ll get paid either your project fee, points, or both. The chances of that happening are always long no matter how much you believe in the act, so be prepared to spend your time working for free. The one good thing here is that you’ll be gaining experience.
If you’re going to work on contingency, you’ll need to get two things from the artist or band. The first thing is a larger deal than your normal rate to make it worth your while, since you’re specing your time. That could be anywhere from 20 to 50, even 100% more - whatever you can negotiate. You can justify it by saying, “I’m providing a lot of valuable time and expertise that you’re not paying me for right now. Maybe it’ll take a long time to see this money or maybe I’ll never see it. That’s worth an extra premium.”

The second thing is an agreement stating the terms of how much and under what circumstances you’ll get paid. While you should go to an attorney to get this drawn up, this can cost you money that you don’t have or don’t want to spend on a project that may never pay off. Even if it’s only a single page long, just be sure to get it in writing because people have a tendency to forget or remember differently over time and it pays to have something on paper. At the very least, put down what songs you’ve worked on (or going to work on), the amounts agreed upon, and a time frame that you’ll get paid (example - 30 days after signing a major or indie label agreement), and how you’ll get paid (“in full by cashiers check”) just so no one forgets. This may not be legally binding or may have plenty of holes that a high-priced lawyer can drive a truck through, but if the people you’re dealing are on the up and up, you’ll at least have a piece of paper to remind everyone of your contribution to their success and how you all agreed you’d be compensated.
  • Charge an hourly rate. The safest way to go as long as you can get paid, an hourly rate means that when you inevitably spend that extra week on overdubs or mixing, you’ll get paid for the time you’re putting in. The hourly rate keeps people focused and stops them from adding those extra 5 overdubs “just to see what they sound like,” or from trying 10 more takes when you all agreed that number 3 was great.
  • A combination of the above. Many times payment consists of a little bit of money or a little bit of spec, some items at a flat rate and some at hourly, or some combination. Try not to get too complicated. A simple deal works best for everyone, especially when it comes to getting paid. Just realize that there are a lot of options available.
There are a lot of good books on the subject of how to structure a deal for yourself that are much more comprehensive then what was just laid out above. Even if you decide not to read them, get an attorney if it means any money more than what the attorney will cost. At the very least, always get it in writing."


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, March 3, 2015

Music For Cats

Music for Cats image
After reading the headline you're probably thinking, "This is a joke, right?" Nope, it's the real deal.

A study published in the Applied Animal Behavioral Science journal found that many animals respond favorably to specific types of music, especially cats.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that when played a specially prepared piece of music "...cats showed orientation and approach behavior toward the speaker with the cat music, rubbing against the speaker while the music was on."

This might sound like a bunch of hokum, but there's actually some science involved here. The researchers looked at the natural vocalizations of cats and matched the same frequency range, which is about an octave above a human's voice.

They then matched the tempos to the rhythms of a cat purring or suckling, and added a lot of sliding notes and frequencies, since that's what cats do normally in their calls.

The researchers tested this on 47 cats that were all domesticated house pets (including their own) and first played a couple of classical pieces (Gabriel Faure's "Elegie" and Bach's "Air on a G String") as a control. While the cats weren't frightened, they showed no interest (sounds familiar, right?).

When the researchers played the specially composed "cat music" created by David Teie, the cats responded by purring and rubbing up against the speakers.

I played the snippets of cat music found below for my two kitties (ages 12 and 11) and they both were more interested than they normally would be from any other music, one a little more than the other. No rubbing up against the speakers though.

The researchers found that certain breeds of cat respond more, as does either younger or older cats. Middle aged cats respond like..........cats.

If you own a kitty, play him one of the following snippets and see if he responds.

Spooks Ditty

Cozmo's Air

Rusty's Ballad

You might also want to check out the Music For Cats site. Do your cats dig this?

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, March 2, 2015

New Music Gear Monday: Harrison 32cs Channel Strip

Harrison 32cs channel strip image
Many people feel that one of the best sounding consoles ever was the Harrison 32C series. It's the signature sound of Michael Jackson's biggest hits as well as records by Queen, Sade and ABBA, among many others. Now you can have that sound at your fingertips with the new Harrison 32CS channel strip.

The 32cs features that good old transformer coupled mic preamp along with switchable high and low pass filters. What's interesting there is that the high pass filter has what Harrison calls a "Bump" switch that provides a boost right above the selected cutoff frequency - perfect for kick or bass.

The channel strip also features a 4 band semi-parametric EQ with switchable shelving and bell modes, a switchable insert point either pre or post filters,  and a host of input/output connects including a front panel combo jack, front panel headphone jack, and rear panel XLR input, output and insert jacks.

The 32cs also has a feature that's unique for a channel strip - a monitor/mix section with a 2 mix buss that allows zero-latency monitoring through the headphone jack or reach channel outputs. The Blend control on the front panel allows you to mix the output between the 32cs and a stereo source fed into the 2 mix input jacks on the rear of the unit.

As you can see, the Harrison 32cs isn't just another channel strip. The price is still to be determined. Here's a preview video from Rob Tavaglione where you see the unit first hand.



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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