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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Heart "Barracuda" Isolated Tracks

A few weeks ago I posted the isolated vocal tracks from Heart's classic hit "Barracuda," which received a tremendous response. Today you'll hear the isolated band tracks from the same song. The song, off their Little Queen album, was a big hit for Heart in 1977, and it's still an classic rock radio staple. Here's what to listen for.

1. The interplay between the guitars. If you want to learn how to produce and mix two guitars playing together, this is a great example. The interplay between Roger Fisher and Howard Leese's guitars works for two reasons: when they're playing the same riffs or chords, the sound of the guitars are different, and sometimes they're either playing in different registers or counter to one another. You hear these examples throughout the song.

2. The effects on the track. There's very little in the way of effects at first except for a very small bit of slap delay on the left cleaner guitar, a touch of reverb on the drums, and a slow flange on the main guitar. That changes on the solo and again on the outro, where different parts have varying degrees of reverb and delay to change the sound and push them back in the mix

3. This was a song built for playing live. The only apparent overdub on the front half of the song is the guitar solo, where the right flanged guitar drops out, just like what would happen during a concert. Even on the more layered outro, it sounds like the song was captured on a gig, just with better acoustics and more effects.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

5 Factors When Choosing In-Ear Monitors

Being Fitted For In-Ears
It's amazing at the extent that in-ear monitors (or IEMs) have taken over in live sound. Today you can go to any club and be assured that at least one of the musicians on stage will be wearing them.

While mixing in-ears is a whole different ballgame, there's a larger issue that musicians must deal with before they even hit the stage - how to choose the right one. The Aviom blog recently posted a nice article on choosing a set of in-ears, but I thought I'd put my own spin on it.

1. True in-ears are not ear buds. They're only the same in the fact that they go inside your ear and that's where the similarity ends. In-ears are designed for high volume levels and have the ability to withstand a lot of vibration without dislodging.

2. Do you really need wireless? If you're a keyboard player that stands at your rig and doesn't move much, a wireless setup might be a waste of money. It would be better to spend the extra cash on a better set of in-ears than on the wireless part of the rig.

3. Do you need them custom-fitted or is a universal fit sufficient? Custom molded IEMs require a visit to an audiologist, and provide better isolation and sound quality. They're also more expensive. Universal ones are sharable (as long as you use clean tips) and less expensive.

4. Do you need multiple drivers? Many IEMs are available with specialized drivers similar to the woofer and tweeter of a speaker cabinet. Some people feel this provides better clarity, while others don't feel the extra technology is worth the extra cost.

5. Check the specs. While the differences in most specs are small, be aware that both the sensitivity and impedance specs directly translate to the amount of power that will be required. A set of in-ears with a high sensitivity and low impedance will be louder than one with either lower sensitivity or higher impedance.

In general, IEMs are just like monitor speakers. The better they are, the more you can hear and the longer you can listen to them without ear fatigue. You're usually better off spending the money on the IEMs first and foremost, then adding the wireless portion later if needed.

Check out Westone, Ultimate Ears, and (among many others) for more info on IEMs.

You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, March 25, 2014

How To Charge For Your Time

How much should I charge image
One of the things that musicians, engineers and producers sometimes have trouble with is how much to charge for their time. Here's an excerpt from The Music Producer's Handbook that covers the pros and cons of all the alternatives. It's aimed at producers, but just as applicable to engineers, musicians, and any professional trying to decide how much to charge.

"What if a local band asks you to produce 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."


You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Can Sound Affect How Our Food Tastes?

food and music image
As we all know, music and sound can affect our mood and our health, but did you know it could also influence how our food tastes as well? There's been a lot of study lately into what's known in sensory science as "modulating taste," with a lot of very intriguing results.

The Crossmodal Laboratory at Oxford University fed volunteers toffee while playing them high and low frequency sounds, then asked them to rate the taste on a scale from sweet to bitter. They found that the high notes enhanced the sweetness and the low notes the bitter (Try this the next time you have a coffee. It works.).

They then took the research to the next level and went to a London restaurant where they served their patrons chocolate-coated bittersweet toffee that came with a phone number. When the customers called, they were instructed to dial 1 for sweet and 2 for bitter, where they were played high and low pitched sounds. It worked every time.

The food/sound relationship seems to be the final frontier for restaurants, who obsess over so many other things but overlook something so obvious. That said, always on the forefront of culinary science, Ben & Jerry's ice cream is actually considering a sonic range of ice-cream flavors that come with a QR code that allow the eaters to access the appropriate sounds via their phones.

By the way, the one place that this doesn't seem to work is in-flight during an airplane trip. The loud background din has been found to suppress saltiness, sweetness and overall enjoyment of food. No wonder that grilled-cheese sandwich doesn't taste that good during a 100dB playback.

You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, March 23, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: The EMS VCS3 Emulator

The EMS VCS3 synthesizer was one of the most widely used synths in the '70s in the UK, but never quite made it to the States. That said, it made its mark on songs by The Who ("Won't Get Fooled Again"), Pink Floyd ("On The Run"), Roxy Music, King Crimson, The Alan Parsons Project, and many more, not to mention its use as the main sound effects generator for the early Dr. Who series.

The VCS3 was actually one of the first portable synths, and one of the first to have a built-in sequencer. It also featured a very distinctive patching matrix that did away with the patch cables that most synths of the time needed for routing.

The EMS VCS3 now is available as a software synth thanks to Trunk Records. You can get it from the iTunes Store for just $14.99. Read more about the VCS3 here.

If you're looking for that vintage early English sound, this is one way to get it.


You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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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