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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Music Software Popularity Index

Music Software Internet Popularity image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Here's an interesting chart on the left from Digital Music Doctor that shows the popularity of DAW applications. As you can see, Pro Tools is still in the lead, but FL Studio is coming on strong, followed by Ableton Live. Last years challengers Cubase and Sonar have dropped back some.

Digital Music Doctor doesn't measure the installed base of users or even sales of software packages, they measure Internet search results, so don't misconstrue what the chart is trying to say. It's the popularity of a software package based on search activity on Google, Bing, Yahoo and AOL. The idea is that the number of searches directly correlates to the DAW's real popularity, which may or may not be the case.

As I said before, I'm no shill for Pro Tools but I can tell you that if you really want to work professionally in just about any area of the entertainment business, knowing how to use it is a necessity because that's what the majority of pros use. From music production to film and television post to voice-over work to anything else you can think of, it's a Pro Tools world for the most part. That's not to say that any of the other fine DAWs don't have their place. They're great learning and production tools, every one of them. But if you're looking for a job that has to do with audio, you'll need some Pro Tools operational skill no matter which way you cut it.

This comes from a person who started with Digital Performer version 1.0, then switched to Nuendo 1.0 (which I loved), only to go kicking and screaming into the Pro Tools world after it became just too painful transferring projects back and forth to those other platforms. I've never looked back and my projects never suffered from the change. So just a word of warning when looking at software popularity charts; they don't always tell the whole story.


You should 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 social media and the new music business.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Single Mic Drum Recording

Complexity - Simplicity image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Sometimes we get caught up in a complex technique simply because we can. The technology that's available to almost anyone today offers so many choices that we want to use them all - sometimes even at the same time.

Then sometimes we use a technique because that's what everyone else is doing, or even worse, because that's what you're favorite engineer, artist or producer does. The problem here is that each situation is different. The song, arrangement, players, environment, and signal path means that what works great for someone else may not work in your situation.

And then again, sometimes the simple, old-school way can work best.

Take drum recording, for instance. Back in the very old days when a 4 input mixer was considered "large format," placing a single mic on the drum kit was the norm. The drums were considered a single instrument, not a number of individual units (as is thought too many times today). They used a recording technique then that can still work surprisingly well today - using just a single mic.

Here's how it's done:
1) Place a mic about 3 feet directly in front of the drum kit at height of around the drummer's eyes. 
2) Aim the mic down at the snare. 
3) If you want more bass drum and less cymbals, lower the mic. 
4) If you want more room ambience, move the mic backwards a couple of feet at a time until you get the right blend. 
5) Add a couple of dB of compression to both tighten the drum sound and even out the balance between drums.
This technique will work really well with any kind of mic, but the better the mic, the better it will sound (no surprise there).

Give it a try; it really works, especially if you're looking for that classic 50's sound.

You can read more about drum techniques like this in The Drum Recording Handbook and The Recording Engineer's Handbook. Check out the excerpt section of my website to read more.

Next week we'll look at another classic method - this time using 2 mics.


You should 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 social media and the new music business.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Beatles Drum And Bass Sounds

Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust book cover image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
One week from today on June 6th, the Ken Scott memoir Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust will be released. It's an auspicious date in that it's the 40th anniversary of the release of David Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars album as well as the 50th anniversary of the first time The Beatles recorded at Abbey Road (then known as EMI) Studios.

Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust has lots of stories about the multitude of hits and superstar acts that Ken work on and with, but it also has plenty of technical info as well. We separated all the tech stuff out into sidebars so those that could care less about that sort of thing can easily skip over it, while those of us geeks that revel in it could easily find it.

For what it's worth, the book appears to be a best-seller even before it's been released, ranking #5 in Books > Entertainment > Pop Culture > Beatles, and #6 in Books > Arts & Photography > Music > Recording and Sound. Thanks to all who have pre-ordered!

Here's an example from Chapter 4 Recording The White Album, where Ken talks about some of the ins and outs of The Beatles drum and bass sounds.
"While the majority of The Beatles drum sound can be directly attributed to one Mr. Starr, there were a number of additional factors as well. One was the use of tea towels across the top heads of the snare and toms (a tea towel is a very thin dish towel), which were used as standard operating procedure on all tracking sessions. This was something that they were doing on previous albums, and if you listen to their earlier stuff you can hear the sound was very dead as a result. I’ve tried to use the same technique a number of times since, but it just never sounded as good as with Ringo. 
The other thing that was rather radical for the time was the front head of the bass drum was removed and the sound was deadened with towels, a practice that’s become commonplace today. Once again that was something they were already doing by the time I became their engineer.  
A third thing was changing the position of the snare drum mic. Geoff [Emerick] had used it below the snare, while I preferred the sound of miking the top head instead. Although I’d been engineering for a while by the time of The White Album and I was far more comfortable with what I was doing, I was still coming in behind Geoff, so I couldn’t instantly jump in and change everything. It had to evolve from the way he had started it. 
Another thing that occurred during my watch was that the four string bass was sometimes doubled by a 6 string bass on some songs. By this time Paul had acquired a Fender Jazz bass which he used in lieu of his Rickenbacker, and a Fender Bass VI was always around the studio. As I understand it, the band had heard German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert double an upright with a six string bass when they were in Germany, and decided to give it a try with electrics. Although they might not have known at the time, the practice was also used in Nashville on a lot of country songs and even had a name ; “Tic-toc bass.” You can hear it on “Piggies,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Glass Onion,” and “Rocky Raccoon.” The two parts were always played live and never overdubbed."
There are plenty of other technical details also in the book including the mics that were used, the outboard gear, and some of the Abbey Road equipment that they used. To read more or order the book, go to


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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, May 28, 2012

8 Street Performance Tips

Piano Street Performer image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Musicians have to make a living, and when enough income to stay alive isn't coming from music, then you have to resort to other things. Some get a straight job, which can easily ensnare your time and focus, while others insist that playing music, anyway anyhow, is the only way to go.

Here's a great set of tips on busking (another word for street performing) taken from the Discmakers blog. You can read the entire article here, but the tips and tricks are found below.

"1. Watch other street performers
Observing strategies used by experienced street performers can help you know how to adapt to any performance situation and make your own public show a success. “Do other street performers announce each song or just play straight through? Do they make eye contact with their listeners? Does their repertoire change depending on who’s there and what’s going on?

2. Know what’s legal
When you decide to busk, the last thing you want is to have your spellbinding street performance interrupted by a ticket-wielding police officer. A quick internet search should give you a good idea of what’s legal when it comes to public performances in any given community, and a call to a local police precinct or town hall won’t hurt either. Be sure to ask not only about performing publicly, but about accepting tips or donations, and selling CDs, as well.

3. Pack light
Whether you’re playing in a train station or local park, the less gear you have to lug, the better — especially if you have to relocate on the fly due to rain, law enforcement, or any other number of factors outside of your control.

4. Experiment with times and locations
There’s no magic formula by which to choose the ideal spot and schedule for your busking forays, so observation, trial and error, and word of mouth are good paths to follow. Much of your choice when it comes to venue will depend on the character of your performance, and on your personality as a performer. Safety is also a concern, and Gelman recommends busking in an area that is both well lit and provides you with a solid wall, statue, fountain, pillar or other structure behind you.

5. Choose a diverse repertoire that you connect with
Regardless of whether you’re playing gutbucket blues or bossa nova, make sure that your material of choice excites you. “I probably differ from about 90-percent of buskers in that I perform nearly all of my own music,” says Gelman. “That’s how I sell CDs. I connect most strongly to my own songs and people connect to that and respond to that in turn.”

Above all else, try different selections and see what draws audience attention. “We experimented with Mozart and Beethoven classic quartet music, but that tended to not work as well for earning money as popular classical standards like Pachelbel’s Canon,” says Premawardhana. “If people hear something that they know and love, they’ll generally stop and put bucks in.”

6. Bring paraphernalia
Whether you have post cards, a sign, or a banner, make sure you have something for people to read while they watch you, says Pattillo. “Signs are how I grab people’s attention,” adds Gelman. “And there’s the added bonus that if people take photos and videos of me and they end up on YouTube, then my name is there in the video.”

Beyond signage and postcards, having a CD to sell is important, even if the recording isn’t professional, says Pattillo. “Sometimes people want to take a bit of that experience home with them, so be sure to give them the option to buy something they can hold on to.”

7. Go with the flow
“When you busk, don’t take yourself too seriously,” advises Gelman. “Honor that what you’re doing is unpredictable and subjective to your audience, more than at any other place. If you can tune into that energy, you’re going to have a much easier time.”

Part in parcel with that philosophy is focusing not just on making money, but on connecting to the audience, spreading your name, and generally growing as a musician and a performer. “I always saw busking both as an opportunity to practice and to perform,” says Premawardhana. “Singing or playing an instrument is like flying an airplane. The more flight hours you can put in, the better.”

8. Give, and expect, respect
Since busking isn’t generally as regulated as a club gig, it’s important to be aware of your fellow street performers. That means showing up early to claim prime busking locations, being friendly and respectful towards others busking musicians, and standing up for yourself when you need to."

Street performing is a great way to not only make a little money, but really hone your performing chops. Some buskers have even gone on to greatness (that's how Justin Beiber started), so take it just as seriously as any other gig. Read the entire article, as well as some others on busking, here.


You should 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 social media and the new music business.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mastering With Greg Calbi

Mastering is a black art to many, but what it really is all about is listening to years and years of good and bad projects to really get a reference point of what really sounds good and bad and how to deal with each. Greg Calbi of Sterling Sound in New York City is one of the best. I was lucky enough to interview Greg for my Audio Mastering Handbook, but you can hear him talk about his gear and how he uses it in the video below.

If you'd like to read some excerpts from the Audio Mastering Handbook or any of my other books, click here to go the excerpt section of my website.


You should 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 social media and the new music business.


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