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Friday, September 4, 2015

A-ha "Take On Me" Isolated Vocals

A-ha "Take On Me" cover image
It's always cool to hear inside a song that you've heard so much over the years and today's isolated track is no exception. It's the lead vocal track from the new-wave classic "Take On Me" by the Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha.

The rotoscoped music video was a huge hit on MTV back when the song was released in 1985, but you still hear this record played a lot on the radio. Here's what to listen for:

1. The vocal range of singer Morton Harket is pretty evident, as he goes from his full voice in a lower register to a strong falsetto with ease (and no punches, as far as I can tell).

2. There's a lot of grunts, sing alongs and breaths between phrases, which we'd probably clean up if the song was recorded today.

3. Listen to the medium length delayed reverb. It sounds like it's band-passed using a technique like the Abbey Road Reverb Trick. The song was actually recorded at Pete Townshend's Eel Pie Studios (sadly now defunct).

4. You can hear the the 100Hz test tone as the song begins at 0:21 if you listen on headphones.




Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Tour Of Universal Audio

UA Factory Tour image
I'm a big fan and user of Universal Audio gear and plugins, so I was fascinated by this video tour of the UA facility. It was shot by Vintage Audio and narrated by CEO Bill Putnum Jr, the son of the legendary engineer and inventor Bill Putnum. Check it out.







Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Guide On Where To Find Acoustic Panel Materials

I posted this about 4 years ago (has it been that long already?) but the question keeps popping up so here it is again. Where do you find ridged fiberglass (like Owens Corning 703) so you can build your own acoustic panels?

Most of the excellent acoustic materials won't be found at your local Home Depot, unfortunately, so you have to search a little. Here's an excerpt from The Studio Builder's Handbook that covers what material is available and where to find it.

Owens Corning 703 compressed Fiberglass image
Owens Corning 703 compressed Fiberglass
"Acoustic panels can be made from a few different materials, some more effective than others. The difference in materials is not only the amount of absorption, but the absorption ability at different frequencies.

Owens Corning 703
As said in the previous chapters of the book, the standard for acoustic panels is Owens Corning 703, which you won’t normally find at Home Depot (see the graphic on the left).

Instead, look for a local supplier of “Industrial Insulation,” or an HVAC supplier, who should normally carry it. When asking for it at a specialty supplier, sometimes it’s called “industrial furnace insulation board.”

You can also find it online at a number of places including readyacoustics.com and gikacoustics.com among others.

703 costs approximately $12 a panel (sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on where you buy it) and comes in packs of six. Knauf ECOSE, Johns Manville, Roxul Safe and Sound, and Certainteed are the same kind of ridged fiberglass, and can be even cheaper than their Owens Corning equivalent. Just be sure that the thickness and density is the same. Try buyinsulationproducts.com.

Handling fiberglass can irritate your skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and the dust particles are so small that they can get trapped in the lungs and become carcinogenic in some people. That’s why it’s important to always wear gloves and a mask when handling it.

Rockwool acoustic material image
Rockwool acoustic material
Mineral Wool
Mineral wool is another mineral fiber insulation product that works as a 703 or R 13 alternative.

It’s a lot less expensive than 703, and even has better absorption characteristics, but it can be a little harder to work with because it’s not as rigid.

Try Rockwool RWA45, RW3 or the ridged Rockboard 60, which costs about $35 for a package of 6 panels (see the figure on the left).

You may find Rockwool or mineral fiber at your local lumber supplier, or try online at atsacoustics.com, among other places.

Mineral wool is easily handled and does not cause any irritation to the skin, eyes or respiratory system like fiberglass does.

Ultratouch denim insulation image
Ultratouch denim insulation
Ultratouch Cotton
Yet another alternative is Ultratouch cotton, which you might be able to find at Lowes or Home Depot. It’s about the same cost as rockwool and works almost as well, yet has none of the irritant properties of fiberglass.

You can also use it in place of R 13 or R 19 in your walls. It can also be found at sensiblesolutions.com online. What's interesting about this material is that it's basically recycled denim blue jeans.




Frames
acoustic panel frame image
Acoustic Panel Frame
Frames for acoustic panels can be made using 2 inch by 2 inch wood and then covering them with cloth to give them a very pleasant appearance (see the graphic on the left). This doesn’t have to be an expensive wood (pine will work), as it can be stained, covered with a wood trim or just covered with fabric.

The wood trim can be standard wall molding that can be purchased quite easily at any hardware store or big-box discount hardware store. Typically hardwood molding can be very expensive and run from $8 to $40 and up per linear foot, but try high quality pine molding, which is both affordable and looks fantastic once it’s lacquered.

You can rent a pneumatic air hammer at your local tool and building supply company for not much money on a daily rental. If you use this nail gun with very small one inch finish nails to attach the trim to the wall panels, you’ll have a very nice look on your finished work.

Fabric
Covering acoustic panels is pretty easy in that all you need is a material that easily passes audio. This can be almost anything from burlap (probably the cheapest) to even speaker grill cloth.

The best way to test it is to blow into it, and if you feel your breath coming through the other side, it should work.

Maybe the most expensive covering is by Guilford of Maine, but it has the advantages of being acoustically transparent and flame retardant as well as being available in a wide variety of colors. You can find it online at soundaway.comacousticalsolutions.comnoisecontrolproducts.com, as well as many others.

All that being said, cloth is available in many thicknesses and densities and there should be lots of local outlets in your area where you can purchase it at a discount. Sometimes it works better if you have thinner cloth that’s wrapped several times for a few more layers.

Try doing a test panel first to see how the cloth will work for you. You may find it best to use the thinner more affordable cloth even though you probably will have to take the extra time to attach multiple layers."

To read additional excerpts from The Studio Builders Handbook and my other books, check out the excerpts section on my website.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Does Songwriter Vocabulary Matter?

Eminem vocabulary imageIn a study looking at the largest vocabularies in the music industry, it seems that rappers take the cake. The Musixmatch lyric site found that 4 out of the top 5 largest songwriter vocabularies come from rap. Here's what they found.

1. Eminem - 8,818 unique words
2. Jay Z - 6,899
3. Tupac - 6,569
4. Kenye West - 5,069
5. Bob Dylan - 4,883

It should be noted that many artist/writers like Bruce Springsteen don't make the list because they haven't granted permission for Musixmatch to use their lyrics.

There have been other studies that have looked at parameters like lyric density and intervals between new words, but this is the first to check overall vocabulary size.

The study looked at 93 top artists across  25 different genres that ranged from pop to new age.

In the grand scheme of things, this matters little to the listener and is far from a factor in determining a hit, but you can look at it as a gauge of the intelligence of the writer. On the other hand, Julio Iglecious, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Andrea Bocelli also rank high, and no one has ever accused their songs of catering to intellectuals.

Personally, I'd just prefer to listen and not analyze. Do you think songwriter vocabulary matters?


Monday, August 31, 2015

L.A. Session Guitarist Gary Solt On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Gary Solt image
If you're ever been in the studio with a large orchestra, you know that it's an experience you'll not soon forget.

This week's guest Gary Solt has been the favorite guitar player for orchestra dates for dozens of movies and television shows, and he'll tell us what it's like to play with an orchestra both in the studio and live.

On the intro I'll take a look at the interesting answers coming from a Billboard survey of music industry execs, and the latest Logic Pro X update and what that might mean for Pro Tools users.

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

New Music Gear Monday: Moog Music Animoog App

Moog Animoog iPad app image
The iPad is becoming more and more powerful to the point where many are using it as a legitimate music creation device. Moog Music has further added to this capability with its new Animoog iPad app.

Animoog is powered by Moog's new Anisotropic Synth Engine (ASE), making it fully polyphonic and capable of dynamically moving through an X/Y timbre space.

It features a Timbre page, which provides a wide range of classic Moog synth and pedals sounds that are generated by ASE and not via sample playback.

It also features polyphonic modulation, polyphonic pitch shifting, a classic ping pong delay module, a "Thick Module" that provides bit crushing to unison voice detuning and drive, and the classic Moog 4 point filter.

That's not all. Animoog also has a Record Module that allows you to record your performance and overdub new layers on top, then transfer the recordings via the pasteboard. There's also a flexible modulation matrix, and MIDI In so Animoog can be controlled from a MIDI controller.

Moog Music's Animoog is available from the App Store for $24.99. Check out the video below for an example of Animoog at work.




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