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Friday, November 27, 2009

5 More Lists

Everyone says that lists are really popular on the Web and it's really true. Yesterday's post of some previous lists that we've posted over the last year was a smashing success, so here are a few more. Back to business on Monday.

5 Reasons Why Trade Shows Are Obsolete - You know they are and hate them as much as I do. But did you ever think exactly why?

20 Most Popular Facebook Artists - From earlier in the year so it's probably changed a bit, but still an interesting look.

5 Reasons To Hate The Live Nation/Ticketmaster Merger - Some of the predictions did not come to pass, but a lot has to do with the flagging economy and the general decline of the concert business in general.

10 Pieces Of Technology That I Hate - Just reread the article and still hate everything there except the last one, since I've learned how to love and respect social media.

Top Ten Websites - This is from January of 09 so it'll be interesting to see how it's changed in a month or so.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Review Of The Best Lists

Happy Thanksgiving to those readers who celebrate it. I thought it would be a good time to review some of the past posts that feature lists. Here are five of the most popular.

5 Lies Indie Musician's Tell Themselves - Who else can you believe if you can't believe yourself first?

5 Criteria For Video Stardom - It takes more than a camera, a nice smile and a Youtube account.

9 All-Time Bad Tech Predictions - Even smart people can be way off base sometimes.

5 Reasons For Bad Concert Videos - Can't watch concert videos because they make your head spin? Here's why.

5 Reasons Why Concerts Sound So Bad - Was the concert you just left a jumbled mess of incoherent audio? The reasons might surprise you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Overlooked Recording Variables

Most recording engineers (both those learning and experienced) place way too much stock in the kind of gear they're using. It seems like if the gear is not vintage, a name brand or high priced, it's automatically shunned, but the major variables that go into making a good recording always lie in other places than the gear itself.

Here’s a list of recording variables that you must be aware of when recording just about anything. While you can’t really quantify exactly how much each variable contributes to the way something ultimately sounds because each situation, even within the same project, is unique, you can generally break it down to something like this:
  • The Player and the instrument contributes about 50% to the overall sound. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less – but always the greatest portion. You can prove this to yourself. Get a player who’s not yet that accomplished and record him with his equipment. Chances are it will sound pretty mediocre. Then get a great player to come in and play on the same equipment. You’ll be shocked how good the gear suddenly sounds. It’s not as dramatic going the other way around sometimes, but you can definitely hear the difference when a mediocre player goes from mediocre equipment to finely tuned studio gear. When I was the musical director for former Rolling Stone's guitar player Mick Taylor for a tour (here's a nice picture of us on the left), Mick didn’t travel with any gear, preferring to use whatever his fans could provide him at each town. He frequently played with some really big stinking heaps of crap gear, but every night he still sounded just like “Mick Taylor.” The gear never mattered.
  • The Room contributes about 20% to the overall sound. Even on close-miked instruments, the room is far more responsible for the final sound than many engineers realize.
  • The Mic Position contributes about 20% to the overall sound. Placement is really your acoustic EQ and is responsible for the instrument’s blend in the track.
  • The Mic Choice contributes about 10% to the overall sound. This is the last little bit that takes a good sound and makes it great.
Therefore, if something doesn't sound right, there are a lot of things to consider changing before you even think about twisting an EQ knob. Try the following in this order:
  • Change the source, if possible (the instrument and/or amplifier you are miking)
  • Change the mic placement
  • Change the placement of the instrument in the room
  • Change the mic
  • Change the mic preamplifier
  • Change the amount of compression and/or limiting (from none to a lot)
  • Change the room (the actual room you are recording in)
  • Change the player
  • Come back and try it another day

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Frank Zappa And The Black Page

As we were finishing guitar overdubs on the latest Snew album last night, we were talking about musicianship and I was reminded of another Frank Zappa story. Frank was a historic stickler for great musicianship, but if you didn't play with heart and have a great natural feel, that didn't work for him either. But more than anything else, Frank hated anyone with an attitude.

Frank was looking for a piano player, but he needed someone who was a particularly great reader. Steve DeFuria (his then Synclavier programmer and now VP of Corporate Strategy at Line6, and one of my oldest friends) and I knew a piano player from our Berklee days who just moved out to Los Angeles, and we gave Mr. Piano a hearty recommendation. Frank once again cautioned us that he "had to be a great reader" and we told him that Mr. Piano was a former Berklee teacher and could read a fly running across a page. Trouble was that Mr. Piano had a bit of a superiority attitude, which we assumed he would tone down in the presence of someone so esteemed as Frank Zappa.

Just to be sure that Mr. Piano had a fair chance at the reading part of the audition, Frank gave him 2 pieces of music to work on a week before the audition was to take place. One of these pieces is called "The Black Page" which was pretty dense with notes and a real challenge to play. Challenge enough that Mr. Piano kind of gave up learning it as precisely as needed and decided he was good enough to wing it during the audition instead. Fatal mistake #1

When the audition started Mr. Piano gave Frank a little of his natural superiority attitude - fatal mistake #2! Frank's acerbic side reared up and about 4 bars into The Black Page he stopped Mr. Piano as said, "Can you play the song backwards?" Mr. Piano now starts to sweat a little bit as he realizes that he's in for more than he expected.

After about another 4 bars of playing Frank stops him again and says, "Can you switch hands so that the right hand is playing the bass clef and the left hand is playing the treble?" Mr. Piano is now really obviously nervous since he's way deep in unfamiliar waters (Frank Zappa's natural environment), his playing is completely inverted, plus he's still attempting to play the song backwards (from end to finish). As a result, his attitude comes back to earth in a sudden crash, just where Frank wants it.

After another rather limp 4 bars Frank comes in for the death blow. "Can you play the song without using your thumbs?" Now Mr. Piano is a quivering mass of jelly and can't even get a bar through when he stops and says to Frank, "That's impossible. No one can play it this way!" To which Frank replies, "You're a pretty good player, but you're not that good. I know 3 drummers who can play this with no problem."

And with that, Mr. Piano player was on his way, his ego definitely in a different place than when the day started.

But to show the other side of Zappa's love for musicians, Frank was playing a gig at the Cobo Arena in Detroit when one of the janitors came into the green room with a guitar before the gig. "I just have to do this," the janitor said with an "Ah, Shucks" kind of attitude. Frank gave him the go sign and Mr. Janitor did a couple of songs. Frank thanked him and asked for his card. The band chuckled, thinking that would be the last time it would touch Franks's eyes, but six months later Mr. Janitor Ike Willis was on an airplane out to Los Angeles to sing on a record with the esteemed Mr. Zappa. And he sang on almost every record Frank made until the end.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Music 3.0 Book Released

My latest book "Music 3.0 - A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age" has just been released and is currently available in book and music stores and online.

Although we've touched on some of the issues here in recent posts (the book was actually born from a post here about Guns n' Roses almost a year ago), I've decided that the subject needs a blog of its own. Therefore I'm devoting an entire new blog to the subject called appropriately "Music 3.0", that will cover more of the business side of the music business. This blog will cover more of the production and music side of things from here on.

Music 3.0 is an aggregation of concepts on the new music business that I’ve been following for some time. These concepts include Seth Godin's "Tribes", The Theory of 1000, Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail", and "The Economics of Free" among others. The book looks at how these concepts pertain to the marketing and distribution in the business right now.

It also contains the guiding insights of some of the music industry’s brightest minds about where the industry has been, where it is now, and where it’s going (see tomorrow's post on the Music 3.0 blog for a list). With so much information currently available, I wanted to do what I do best - collect it, organize it, and present it in a way that hopefully everyone can understand.

I'm really proud of this book, and I hope that its readers find it as helpful as some of my other books.


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