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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" Demo

A few weeks back I posted Michael Jackson's amazing home demo of "Beat It." That was based solely around Michael's singing with no instrumental backing at all.

Here's a demo of his breakthrough hit "Billy Jean" that's the complete opposite in that it's thoroughly produced. In fact, it sounds so close to the final record that it seems like all they did was clean it up and give it a great mix.

Does anyone know if any of the tracks on the demo where used in the final mix?


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Amazing Pyroboard Visualizes Audio With Fire

Musicians seem fascinated by fire. On stage, we use lighting as a stand-in for it, but you can bet if the fire laws weren't as strict as they are, a lot of shows would be burning more than candles. Here's an example of music and fire taken to the extreme.

This video features what's known as a Rubens Tube 2D "pyro board" that translates audio waves into flame. The basic device was invented in 1905 by German physicist Heinrich Rubens as a way of demonstrating acoustic standing waves.

The pyro board takes the idea to the next level, with the pressure variations of the sound waves affecting the flow rate of the flammable gas, which then affects the height and color of the flames. Pretty cool, especially when music plays at around 3:30.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The 5 Types Of Studio Time

Music Producer image
Many first-time music producers are unaware that there's many more responsibilities required to complete a project that go beyond the music. One of those responsibilities is often booking studio time, but there's usually a bit more to it than that. Here's an excerpt from my Music Producer's Handbook that describes the 5 types of studio time required on most projects.

"A fairly large project usually has numerous rentals of both long and short term. The trickiest long term rental is always the studio, since if you don’t complete what’s needed on time, then you’ll have to move somewhere else if the studio has booked time after your booking has run out. This can be a royal pain, since it means tearing everything down and setting up again, loosing some time and momentum, and your sound, in the process.

Studio time is broken into 5 categories:
  • Preproduction - This is the time to work material out before hitting the hi-priced studio. It can be in a garage, a bedroom or a rehearsal room and can last from as little as a day to a couple of months (more on preproduction in Chapter 7). It should be said that a long preproduction schedule is usually a function of working with artists or bands that write their own songs and are early in their careers since the songs and arrangements usually require a fair amount of tweaking. Artists and bands later in their careers usually have a great sense of arrangement and have become sophisticated enough musically to keep the preproduction phase to a minimum. There is no preproduction for commercials, movie or television scores since the composer/arranger has it pretty well worked out and the musicians are skilled enough to learn or read it on the spot.
  • Tracking - Sometimes called “basic tracks,” tracking usually consists of recording just the rhythm tracks, although in certain situations it could mean the entire band as well. The rhythm tracks can be comprised of only the drums, only bass and drums, or only drums, bass, guitar and/or keyboards, and can last anywhere from a single day to months, if there’s no preproduction (more on tracking in chapter 9).
  • Overdubs - Overdubs usually consist of recording at least the lead vocals and/or any kind of solos and lead lines that the song requires, but could also mean overdubbing layers of guitars, keyboards, horns, strings, percussion and background vocals. The overdub phase can last anywhere from a day (in very rare cases) to months or even years (again in extremely rare cases). Overdubs may take place in the same studio as tracking, but in these days of smaller budgets, it’s now common to go to a smaller, cheaper facility (or a free one owned by the producer, engineer, or band member). This is also the most difficult portion of the project to gauge the time, since it can vary widely (more on overdubs in chapter 10).
  • Mixing - It used to be that mixing was a pretty easy part of the schedule to determine how much time was required. A day to a day and a half per song was pretty much a standard measurement, especially if you used an A-list mixing engineer. Now with recall and automation on mixing consoles, and mixing “in-the-box” in your DAW, it’s easy to bring back a mix exactly to where you left it. While that seems like it should lead to faster fixes, it seems that more time is spent mixing than ever, a result of trying to get every last tweak possible. It’s still best to figure a couple of days per mix if you’re mixing in a studio with an analog-style console (more on mixing in chapter 12).
  • Mastering - The mastering phase is the easiest to gauge since it’s usually only a half to a full single day for an entire album, regardless of the number of songs. In rare cases (and big budgets), mastering can turn into a multiple day affair or even use different mastering houses, but that’s not usually the norm."
You can read additional excerpts from the Music Producer's Handbook and my other books on the excerpts section of

Monday, May 5, 2014

Introducing The Bobby Owsinski Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski Inner Circle podcast image
I'd like to introduce you to my new weekly podcast called Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle.

The Inner Circle podcast will feature the latest in music industry and production news and analysis, as well as an in-depth interview with a variety of guests from all different parts of the music business.

The first 3 episodes are now live and have some exciting guests and topics, including:
Episode 1: Engineer Dennis Moody, who's the engineer of choice for drum gods like Dave Weckl and Steve Gadd as well as a world-traveling live sound engineer, discusses the differences between mixing live and in the studio. Commentary includes why Apple's Carplay is such a big deal,  and a condition where some people actually can't enjoy music. 
Episode 2: Thom Kozik, COO of Omnia Media, a YouTube multichannel network catering to music, talks about making money from your videos. Commentary includes why streaming may become more lucrative than you think, and how Guitar Center has been financial engineered to where it might be difficult to stay in business. 
Episode 3: Los Angeles session bassist Paul ILL discusses how the mindset of a session musician is different from a gigging musician. Commentary includes a look at the music industry sales numbers from last year and how CDs are still a bigger seller than most people know, and some tips on how to charge for your services.
Some of my upcoming guests include:
  • EveAnna Manley discussing how Manley Labs started and the surprising level of care that goes into each product.
  • Grammy-winning producer and former president of the AIMP Richard Feldman gives a broad overview of today's publishing business.
  • 15 time Grammy-winning engineer Benny Faccone on the differences between Latin and American music.
  • Jingle producer David Campos talks about modern day jingle production.
And many more.

So join me every Thursday for the latest edition my Inner Circle podcast

I hope you enjoy it! If you dig it, please leave a comment on iTunes, and please send me your comments and requests about it as well.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New Music Monday: The Mi.Mu Music Glove

Musicians are always looking for new ways to control their instrument, with many over the years being attracted to the simplicity of the way the theremin works. Wouldn't it be great if you could control your music just by a wave or gesture of your hand?

Now that dream might be closer at hand thanks to Grammy-winning artist Imogene Heap and a team of designers from NASA and MIT.

The Mi.Mu Music Glove is equipped with the latest wearable sensor technology that tracks the motion of your hands, senses postures, detects sharp movements like drum hits, and enables customized gestures tailored to your style of music.

The wireless gloves are fitted with lights and vibration motors to provide sensory feedback to the user. Utility software integrates the gloves to the software of your choice.

A Kickstarter campaign for final glove design and production fell short of the 200,000 British pounds (about $337,000) goal, but had more than 600 backers, so many recognize how useful a controller like this can be.

This thing is very cool. I hope they raised enough money (almost $225k) for it to come to fruition.



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