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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chicago "25 Or 6 To 4" Isolated Vocal and Guitar

There are some songs that everyone knows regardless of their age because the songs are always played on the radio somewhere every single day. Chicago's "25 or 6 To 4" from the band's second album (Chicago II as some call it) is one of these iconic songs. Here's a number of the tracks from that song broken out. You'll hear the bass and drums as a reference, but Peter Cetera's lead vocal is loud and clear as well as Terry Kath's excellent guitar playing.

1. The bass and drums and really tight, but not like the tightness we find today where it's note for note perfect with the kick, snare and bass. This tightness is the organic kind achieved from lots of time playing together. Both instruments push and pull the tempo, but that's what makes it exciting.

2. Terry Kath's guitar playing is excellent as always. His sound is sort of distorted, but without a lot of sustain. When I saw him on the tour for this record, he was using an old Bogen Challenger PA head for his amp plugged into a Fender Bassman 2x15 speaker cabinet. Very unusual to say the least.

3. There are a number of small guitar fills that you'll hear that didn't make the record. Listen after the solo and before the last verse, and at the very end of the song. We miss you, Terry.

4. Listen the compression on the lead vocal. The melody is very dynamic because it spans ranges so the compression has to keep it in check.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Does Sound Look Like?

We all work with sound every day, but how many of us have actually seen it? Now thanks to Schlieren Flow Visualization and a high-speed camera, we can now see what a clap actually looks like. Thanks to my buddy Buzz Goddard for the heads up on this.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

EQing The Nashville Way

Ed Seay in action image
One of the best engineers on the planet is my good buddy Ed Seay, who has a long history of mixing hits for country greats like Blake Shelton, Lee Brice, Martina McBride, Ricky Skaggs, Dolly Parton, Pam Tillis, Highway 101, and Collin Raye, among many others. Ed has a great way of explaining how he equalizes a track that he so kindly shared in my Mixing Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition.

"I just try to get stuff to sound natural, but at the same time be very vivid. I break it down into roughly three areas: mids, the top and the bottom; then there’s low mids and high mids. Generally, except for a very few instruments or a few microphones, cutting flat doesn’t sound good to most people’s ears, so I’ll say, "Well, if this is a state of the art preamp and a great mic and it doesn’t sound that great to me, why?" Well, the mid range is not quite vivid enough. Okay, we'll look at the 3k, 4k range, maybe 2500. Why don’t we make it kind of come to life like a shot of cappuccino and open it up a little bit? Then maybe I’m not hearing the air around things, so let’s go up to 10k or 15k and just bump it up a little bit and see if we can kind of perk it up. Now all that sounds good but our bottom is kind of undefined. We don’t have any meat down there. Well let’s sweep through and see what helps the low end. Sometimes, depending on different instruments, a hundred cycles can do wonders for some instruments. Sometimes you need to dip out at 400 cycles, because that’s the area that sometimes just clouds up and takes the clarity away, but a lot of times adding a little 400 can fatten things up. 

On a vocal sometimes I think, "Does this vocal need a diet plan? Does he need to lose some flab down there?” Sometimes we need some weight on this guy so let’s add some 300 cycles and make him sound a little more important. It’s kind of contouring. 

Also frequency juggling is important. One of the biggest compliments people give me is that they say, “You know, Ed, on your mixes, I can hear everything.” There are two reasons for that. One is, I’ve pushed things up at the right time when they want to hear it, but the other thing is I don’t EQ everything in the same place. You don’t EQ 3k on the vocal and the guitar and the bass and the synth and the piano, because then you have such a buildup there that you have a frequency war going on. Sometimes you can say, "Well, the piano doesn’t need 3k, so let’s go lower, or let’s go higher." Or, "This vocal will pop through if we shine the light not in his nose, but maybe towards his forehead." In so doing, you can make things audible and everybody can get some camera time."

To read additional excerpts from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition and my other books, go the excerpts section of

Monday, April 21, 2014

Is It True That This Place Buys Your Used CDs?

If you've been in the music business for any length of time, then you probably have a huge load of CDs laying around. Sure, you might've transferred them all to your computer at some point, but that doesn't mean that those pieces of plastic still aren't haunting a closet somewhere. What do you do with them? It emotionally hurts to throw them out, and it's not exactly great for the environment either.

Now there's an alternative that allows you to free yourself from those round pieces of polycarbonate and make some money while you're at it. Decluttr will buy all of your CDs, DVDs, and even video games and even pay for the shipping.

You might wonder why a company would do this and how they can stay in business. It turns out that there actually is a market for some CDs that people feel are collectors items. In order to get the ones that are precious to some, Decluttr is willing to buy a load of crap in order to get to the good stuff. It will take everything, because it feels if it turns you down on anything, you might not want to keep trying.

The company will pay a minimum of $0.50 per disc, but may pay as much as $5.00 for a gem like Green Day's Insomniac, Judy Collin's Living, Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Weld or Steeleye Span's Now We Are Six.

What's more, the company plans on expanding past media into clothing and watches. It's sort of like an online flea market, where you can find some diamonds along with some junk that might feel like a diamond to you.

To sell your CDs, go to the Decluttr website and enter the barcode of the disc and you'll see what the company is willing to pay. There's also a free iPhone app that lets you scan the bar codes directly. I'm opening up my CD closet right now.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Gibson Memory Cable

Have you ever heard a lick in your head but didn't have any way to record it before it was forgotten? Gibson thinks it's come up with a solution to that dilemma with a new instrument cable it calls a "Memory Cable" that actually contains a flash audio recorder inside.

The Memory Cable records up to 13 hours of 44.1kHz/16 bit audio on a 4GB micro-SD card, either continuously or only when your playing. It uses an AA battery and a LR44 battery to work, which could be a problem, since we all know how much musicians hate to change batteries. If you run out of storage space, the Memory Cable deletes the oldest recorded material, so you're always covered when it comes to recording your latest thoughts. The engineering was done by Tascam, who have always been a leader in digital recorders and which is now owned by Gibson.

The Gibson Memory Cable is 16 feet long and costs $99. It's targeted to be available on May 15th.

I can't decide if this is a brilliant invention or an idea that's missed the boat. Anyone care to share their opinion?



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