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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Michael Jackson's "Beat It" Demo

Establishing a groove on a song is usually the job of the rhythm section, but not always. Sometimes a rhythm guitar part or a percussion track makes the groove and everything is built around it. Quincy Jones once told me that Michael Jackson's sense of time was so good that he could establish the groove with his vocal.

Here's a great example of that from the demo of Michael's huge hit "Beat It," where there are only vocals and no instruments. Since Michael didn't really play an instrument, many of his demos were done just by vocals alone. Here's a perfect case.

Take notice of the great sounding long delayed reverb, and how intricate the harmonies are in this embryonic version of the song.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How To Wrap A Cable

One of the most overlooked parts of recording is treating your equipment properly and it all starts with your cables. Here's a great video on one of the most basic operations in the studio - how to properly wrap a mic cable.

This used to be the very first thing that you were taught when you started at a studio, but with fewer commercial studios around, there are fewer places to learn the proper technique. Here are two techniques that will keep those cables from getting kinked and extend their life.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

14 Studio Etiquette Tips

Recording Session image
Knowing the proper etiquette while recording is almost as important as doing your gig. If you make people uncomfortable or do something that's considered out of place and chances are that you won't be asked back.

Let's look at the way everyone expects you to act during the session with these 14 points taken from The Studio Musician's Handbook. Most of them apply to just about everyone on a session.
"1. If there’s creative dialogue with the artist, songwriter, producer or engineer, make sure that your opinions are wanted and warranted before you offer them. 
2. Be careful about musical references. You may think that the track you’re working on is great because it reminds you of Dusty Springfield’s classic “Son of a Preacher Man” only to find out upon your mention of it that it’s on the artist’s “Ten Most Overrated Songs” list. 
3. Whether you’re on your own or part of an ensemble, focus on your work first. If you have input for other players, make sure it’s warranted and you can actually help them out. Players often tweak each other’s parts or help one another to understand a written passage, remember a song’s form, or get a sound. 
4. Remember – always defer to whoever is in charge. That person is usually the producer, but you may be receiving guidance or input from a musical director, the artist, or the engineer. 
5. Keep an open mind. Greet suggestions with willingness and always respond positively. If you’re receiving input from more than one source and they contradict one another, diplomatically point that out and let them resolve it. 
6. And don’t forget – if you can’t keep your cell phone outside the studio, TURN IT OFF (not just on vibrate - that’s a distraction too). 
7. Put away the magazines, computers, iPhones, and anything else that can be a distraction. The last thing a producer wants to see is you updating your Facebook status in between takes! 
8. If you need time to check your messages or Facebook, make sure you ask first. Most sessions have timed or natural breaks when you can meet you individual needs, but be sure to always ask if you wish to leave the recording environment while there’s work being done, even if you’re not directly involved at that moment. 
9. Your behavior should always be positive, and you should strive to be “present for the moment.” 
10. There’s a time and a place for everything, but sometimes cajoling, goofing around or humor doesn’t belong at a session. Then on another day with the same people, the session may be all about the gags and laughs. Studio pro’s know how to “go with the flow” and are experts at reading people and situations. 
11. If people are conversing, treat the session like any other workplace and try to avoid potential conversational “hot spots”: politics, religion, family and money. 
12. Everyone likes a good conversation and a funny joke, but it’s best not to risk being misinterpreted or misperceived as offensive. 
13. Earn and honor rank. That means if there are players on the session with more professional or personal history with the artist or producer than you have accumulated, let them lead. Everyone benefits when everyone gets along and knows their place 
14. Always wait until the job is done before you ask the powers that be if they are open to your creativity. It’s appropriate to do so before you offer your ideas. Always ask first if they are open to your input. If so, and you hear it in your imagination, let them know."
 The best way to endear yourself to everyone on a recording session is to act like a pro. Follow these 14 etiquette tips, and you'll encounter very few problems along the way. What are your tips?

To read additional excerpts from The Studio Musician's Handbook and my other books, check out the excerpts section of

Monday, April 7, 2014

Could This Be The Future Of Acoustic Tiles?

Baux Acoustic Panels image
One of the things that's way to frequently overlooked in a listening environment is the acoustic properties of the room. As I've outlined in my Studio Builder's Handbook, just about anyone can improve their room without spending a huge amount of money if you're willing to construct some basic wooden frames. That said, here's a company from Sweden that's offering some highly decorative acoustic panels that make it even easier to treat your room and make it look good as well.

Baux makes a variety of what looks like either rockwool or tectum colored panels (they call it woodwool) that are very hip and appear to do a very good job of acoustic control and heat regulation. Another Swedish company called Offecct offers something similar, but with a different design ethic.

The only problem is actually getting these, since they don't seem to be widely distributed outside of Europe at the moment. Here's a brief video on the company and what they have available.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Harrison 950mx Console

When you think of Harrison consoles you conjure up thoughts of film consoles and 1980s records, but the company has been making consoles all along, we just haven't seen them much in the States in recent years. Harrison has been strong in broadcast overseas, so the company has never gone away, just lowered its profile in the recording end a bit. Now it's back with a small format desk designed for the DAW studio with its new 950mx.

The Harrison 950mx is designed to be the analog front and back end to the signal path that so many engineers crave. It features the same sweet 3 band EQ from their legendary 32 series (the one that Bruce Swedien loves so much), a mix of mono and stereo modules, 4 aux buses and two stereo buses. The mix buses are unique in that one is transformer-based and the other is transformerless for different flavors, and they can be both summed during mixing for easy parallel compression. They also have built in bus compressors.

A 24 input version is standard, with additional sidecar buckets also available, as well as a line of matching studio furniture as well. Prices range from $24,000 to $45,000.

Harrison joins most other analog console companies in offering a smaller desk suited for today's studio, and it's prices and features are very comparable. Check out the video below or go to Harrison's 950mx webpage for more info.


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