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Friday, September 24, 2010

My Appearance On AudioNowCast

I had the great pleasure of appearing on the excellent AudioNowCast, a bi-weekly podcast about all things audio and the music industry. The show is hosted by Mike Rodriguez and features industry vets Rob Arbittier, Scot Gershin, Andrew Shoeps and Gary Mraz in a lively roundtable discussion.

This is the 91st episode of the show, and much of it was focused on Music 3.0. You can listen to audioNowcast here, and take a look at their Facebook page here.

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Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Apple To Introduce New Smaller Audio Jack

Every pro audio person hates small audio jacks. While no one has any problem with 1/4 inch guitar jacks, the 1/8th inch "mini-jacks" are usually a sign of portable consumer hardware and something an audio pro generally doesn't want to touch.

But in an effort to shrink the models in their iPod line ever smaller, Apple has applied for a patent for a new smaller jack using a technology called "pogo-pins." All this was discovered by the ever vigilant Appleinsider website. Here's Neil Hughes post on the subject.


In its continuous pursuit to create smaller, more compact devices, Apple has shown interest in creating headphone jacks for iPods and iPhones that will take up even less space inside a device.

A new patent application from Apple was revealed this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Audio Jack with Pogo Pins for Conductive Contacts," it describes an audio headphone jack that depends on deflectable Pogo pins to conserve space.

The application notes that audio jacks include several conductive pads in order to create contact with a standard 1/8-inch audio cable when plugged in. Through these cables, audio, power and data can be transferred.

Current audio jacks typically depend on "cantilever beams," which extend into the cavity and deflect away when an audio plug is inserted. The cantilever beam, however, can take up a large amount of space.

"In particular, a cantilever beam can require a substantial minimum length for ensuring that the force generated by the beam deflection is sufficient to maintain the beam in contact with an audio plug contact portion," the application reads. "In addition, the cantilever beam requires space in at least two dimensions, which can prevent the size of an electronic device from being reduced."

"This can especially be an issue for electronic devices so small that the audio jack size effectively determines the size of the device."

The application has become public as Apple has introduced its latest and smallest line of iPod players ever. Design considerations for the size of the headphone jack can be seen in the latest iPod nano, which employs a tiny 1.54-inch display.

In its teardown of the new iPod nano, iFixit found that the front glass on the sixth-generation device sticks up about .3mm from the flat face of the outer case. The solutions provider said that decision was likely made because of the size of the headphone jack.

"Apple wanted to keep the device as thin as possible, and the curvature of the edges would have forced the case to be thicker for a completely flush glass panel," they said. "A thicker case was ditched in favor of the glass sticking out slightly."

Apple's solution would rely on Pogo pins embedded the audio jack cavity, which would extend to create contact with an audio plug. Upon insertion of an audio plug, the retractable portion of the pins would become depressed and would meet the contacts on the plug.

The use of Pogo pins would allow the size of an audio jack to be "greatly reduced in two dimensions," the application reads, including along the axis of the cavity and in one direction perpendicular to the axis of the cavity.

"The contact mechanism for the audio jack only needs to extend in one direction (e.g., in one direction perpendicular to the axis of the cavity, or y)," it states. "This may allow an electronic device in which the electronic device housing follows the dimensions of the audio jack for around at least one half of the periphery of the audio jack (e.g., all of the audio jack conductive pads and the movement of the audio jack conductive pads remains in a plane that includes the central axis of the cavity)."

Pogo pins are a registered trademark of Everett Charles Technologies. Its name came due to a comparison with a pogo stick toy. Pogo pins are typically formed as a slender cylinder with two sharp, spring-loaded pins.

Made public this week, the application was first filed for on June 10, 2009. It is credited to Sean Murphy and John Difonzo.

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Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" Clearance Problems

The following is one of those rare times when a cross-post between my Music 3.0 blog seems appropriate.

Copyright can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand it protects artists and makes sure they get paid for their work, and on another it can stifle creativity and suck a revenue stream dry. The latter is what happened to The Verve with their still much loved 1998 hit "Bittersweet Symphony."

It's hard to believe that Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger and Keith Richards get all the publishing income from that song, but that's what's happened. The reason why is that "Bittersweet Symphony" is closely based on the Stone's 1965 hit "The Last Time." Hard to believe if you know the song, I know, because I didn't hear it at first either.

"Bittersweet Symphony" is actually based on the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra's (the Stone's original producer) version of the "The Last Time" (listen below) rather than the Stone's version. The Verve acknowledged this and actually got a license from Jagger/Richards to use a sample of the song, so they thought they were in the clear.

But when Bittersweet Symphony came out, the Stone's representatives were immediately on the phone saying, "We want 100 percent of the song, or take it out of the stores!" The reason was that The Verve didn't just use a sample, they lifted virtually the entire song and just put new lyrics to it.

This nastiness probably could've been avoided with some shrewd negotiation up front, but that era of the Stones catalog is represented by the notorious Allen Klein, who was one of the hardest and most hated negotiators in the business while he was alive. It seems sure that the exact use of the song wasn't revealed until after the song became a hit, and The Verve thought they were in the clear.

What can you learn from this? If you're going to use a sample, remember that there are 2 licenses that you must get - one from the publisher and another from the record label for the recording. And remember that the length of the sample may become an issue so specify how much of the song you're using in advance.

Below are 2 videos. One of "Bittersweet Symphony," and the second from the version of the song that the music was lifted. You'll be amazed how similar they are.

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Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Uprising" - Muse Isolated Guitar

Last week we listened to the bass and drum tracks for Muse's "Uprising." Today we'll listen to the guitar tracks, although there are a number of additional overdubbed tracks also on this track.

1) The tom fills and handclaps that everyone missed from the backing track last week are on this track.

2) The vocal in the chorus is the delay-only signal. It's pretty long and timed to the track.

3) There are a variety of guitar sounds that really makes the song. One of the things that most young bands do when they first record is use the same guitar sound for every part in every song. Muse is obviously not a young band and you can tell just from the way they layer the different guitar parts and sounds (among other things).

4) The guitar drops out during the solo. I suspect that this track is a couple of the channels of a 5.1 mix and that the guitar drops out because it's being panned.

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Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Monday, September 20, 2010

6 Tips For Editing Your Timing

I have a new book that just came out called "Mixing And Mastering With IK-Multimedia T-Racks: The Official Guide." I usually don't write books that are specifically about a single product, but I find T-Racks particularly useful, especially the stand-alone version. Although you can never beat a pro mastering engineer, there are those times when you have to do it yourself and T-Racks works great. It also has some excellent metering functions that I now find hard to live without during mixing.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book, which is about prepping for a mix. This section provides some editing tips that can come in handy the next time you're in "cut and paste world."


No matter how great the players on the session are, there’s always some portion of a player’s recording that doesn’t feel quite right. The exception being that you have enough time to have the musician play their part until it’s perfect, or you punch in all the suspect parts as you go along.

Usually, the timing of the basic tracks will be tweaked right after your tracking session so you have a solid rhythm section to overdub against, but if you’ve not done that or you’re just now discovering some sections that don’t feel right (which happens a lot), prepare for the joys of slipping and sliding time.

Here’s a list of some of the do’s and don’ts for tweaking timing:
  • Don’t edit by eye - You can’t edit successfully by just trying to line everything up to the kick and snare. Often times, tracks that look perfectly lined up don’t sound or feel right. That’s why listening is more important than looking. Turn your head away from the monitor and just listen before and after you move anything.
  • Every beat doesn’t have to be perfect - In fact, if it’s too perfect, you’ll suck the life out of the performance. Unless something really jumps out as being out of time, you might get away with leaving it as is. Another way is to just line up downbeats and any major accents. That gives you the best of both worlds. A loose feel that still sounds tight.
  • Copy and paste another section - If you have to make too many edits to a particular section, chances are it won’t sound as good when you’re finished as just finding a similar section in another part of the song and pasting it in over the area that’s suspect. It’s a lot faster and easier to do, and will probably sound cleaner and groove better as well.
  • Be careful with the bass - Many times the bass will speak better if it’s a few milliseconds behind the kick drum rather than right with it. It still sounds tight, but both the kick and bass will be more distinct.
  • Listen against the drums - If you listen to the track that you’re editing all by itself, you can be fooled into thinking that the timing is corrected, especially if you’re editing to a grid. The real proof though, is when you listen against the drums. If the instrument sounds great by itself and great with the drums, you’re home free.
  • Trim the releases - This is one of the best things you can do to tighten up a track. Everyone is hip to tightening up the attacks, but it’s the releases that really make the difference. Regardless if it’s an accent played by the full band, the song ending, or a vocal or guitar phrase, make sure that the releases are pretty much the same length. If one is longer than the rest, trim it back and fade it so it sounds natural. If one is a lot shorter than the rest, use a time correction plug-in the lengthen it a bit (see figure 1.2).
Of course, if you’re using loops or MIDI instruments, you’ve probably quantized things to the track by now. If you haven’t, now’s the time.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Tears Of A Clown" Isolated Vocals

Here's another piece of Motown history as we listen to the isolated vocals from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles big hit, "Tears Of A Clown."

1) When you isolate most tracks from the songs from the original Motown in Detroit, you find that they're usually pretty distorted. That's not the case here, as the vocals for Tears Of A Clown are much cleaner than other tracks we've listened to from that era.

2) The reverb sounds really good. It's short and dark, but it's perfect for the song.

3) The background vocal arrangement is superb. Not only do the Miracles blend so well together, but the counterpoint lines to Smokey's lead vocal fit the song perfectly.

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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.


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