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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Eric Clapton "Layla" Isolated Guitar And Vocals

Here's a rare treat. It's the isolated lead guitar and vocal track from Derek and the Dominos (Eric Clapton's band with drummer Jim Gordon, bassist Carl Radle, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, and supported by guest guitarist Duane Allman) hit "Layla" from the band's one and only album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs.

What you'll hear is a combination of a number of tracks - one of the rhythm guitar tracks in the chorus, the lead in the verses and choruses, the slide lead solo at the end of Part 1, one of the slide leads in Part 2, the end acoustic guitar, and the Leslie guitar at the end. Of course, you'll also hear Clapton's lead vocal as well. Here's what to listen for.

1. The high lead guitar in the intro and choruses is doubled, which isn't apparent on the final mix of the record.

2. The high lead guitar leaning to the left plays throughout the verses against Clapton's vocal, which is a violation of basic arrangement rules since it takes attention away from the vocal. Didn't seem to matter in this case though.

3. Clapton's vocal is doubled on the choruses, which again isn't very apparent on the final mix of the record. There's also a lot of reverb on it, and the verb really doesn't sound all that good, which is unusual for the time when everyone was using plates or chambers.

4. Duane Allman's slide solo at the end of Part 1 is truly killer, as he plays up much of it above the fretboard.

5. There are two slide leads on Part 2 (drummer Jim Gordon's piano part of the song). You hear Clapton's part here, which changes to an acoustic guitar during the last verse.

6. Check out the Leslie guitar at the very end at 5:25. Criteria Recording (where the song was cut) had one of the first guitar input devices for the Leslie that could vary the speed with a footswitch and Clapton loved it (and reportedly absconded with it back to England after the session). There's plenty more on Leslie guitar on the final mix, but you only hear that one piece here.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Celebrating The Legacy Of The Ramones

The Ramones image
Today’s post is for celebrating the legacy of The Ramones, a band that managed to change the face of music in some small way by staying true to their vision.

This all started when I read with great sadness that Tommy Ramone (real name Tommy Erdelyi), the last founding member of band, passed away over the weekend. I only met him once at a Grammy event a few years ago, but he was a charming, soft spoken man if our brief conversation was any indication. Tommy played a major part in the success of the band, acting as their drummer for the first three albums and as one of their producers on several others, but also primarily responsible for their sound in the studio in the early days.

I hate to admit that I was never a big Ramones fan while they were at their peak. I shared a stage with them a few times and experienced their bandstand fury up close, which eventually led to a growing admiration for their singular journey through the music business, as they chose to stay the course of their vision at the expense of major commercial success.

Years later I was lucky to work on three Ramones DVDs (Have A Nice Day Vol. 1, Have A Nice Day Vol, 2, and Around The World) that definitely gave me a different appreciation of the band. Around The World was comprised mostly of behind the scenes footage shot by drummer Marky Ramone (Tommy’s successor) while the band was on tour, which gave an inside look at what the band was really like. So many artists have a different stage persona than their real lives (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but The Ramones were always just a garage band from Queens at heart, and that never changed during the course of the band’s existence. 

For a glorified garage band, The Ramones made a major mark on the music world that we’re still feeling. “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and “Rock n’ Roll High School” are songs that will survive for generations, which is more than 99% of so-called “hit” artists can say. There was a quiet genius in their music though, which is a good lesson for anyone getting into the music business today or any other day. Read more on Forbes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The 4 Families Of Compressors

compressors image
Ever wonder why there are so many different compressors and why they all sound different? That's because back in the analog days there were a number of different ways to achieve compression depending upon the type of electronic building block that you used. Here's a brief excerpt from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook that covers the 4 families of compressors that we generally use today.

"In the days of analog hardware compressors, there were four different electronic building blocks that could be used to build a compressor. These were:
  • Optical: A light bulb and a photocell were used as the main components of the compression circuit. The time lag between the bulb and the photocell gave it a distinctive attack and release time (like in an LA-2A). Optical compressors don't react very fast to the oncoming signal, but that actually makes then sound pretty smooth, which is why they've become a favorite on vocals and bass.
  • FET: A Field Effect Transistor was used to vary the gain, which had a much quicker response than the optical circuit (a Universal Audio 1176 is a good example). FET compressors are often used on drums because of their quick response.
  • VCA: A Voltage Controlled Amplifier circuit was a product of the 80s and had both excellent response time and much more control of the various compression parameters (the dbx 160 series is an example of a VCA-type compressor, although some models didn’t have a lot of parameter controls). VCA compressors can be very aggressive, which is why the dbx 160 series have long been a favorite on rock kick and snare.
  • Vari-Gain: The vari-gain compressors are sort of a catch-all category because there are other ways to achieve compression besides the first three (like the Fairchild 670 and Manley Variable Mu). You might think of a vari-gain as the ultimate smooth sounding compressor because it was originally made for a radio signal chain, something that had to be as transparent as possible. That said, it's hard to beat a vari-gain compressor across the mix buss for the added "glue" that's difficult to get any other way.
As you would expect, each of the above has a different sound and different compression characteristics, which is the reason why the settings that worked well on one compressor type won’t necessarily translate to another. The good thing about living in a digital world is that all of these different compressor types have been duplicated by software plugins, so it’s a lot easier (not to mention cheaper) to make an instant comparison on a track and decide which works better in a particular situation."

To read additional excerpts from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook and my other books, go to the excerpts section of Also check out The Audio Mixing Bootcamp video course on

Monday, July 14, 2014

Another Historic Nashville Studio May Fold

Ben Folds Nashville Studio - the old RCA Studio A image
Industrial progress has been cruel to some of the great old recording studios where so much history was once made. We've seen wonderful rooms in every major city disappear because of rising real estate costs, while the amount of money that a studio can charge a client has actually dropped.

I was recently in what used to be the old RCA Studio B space in Hollywood to sit on a panel about YouTube. Everyone from Sinatra to The Stones recorded there at one time. Now it's a very nice theater owned by the LA Film School. Not one person I talked to knew they were standing on hallowed ground.

Now it looks like RCA Studio A in Nashville will meet the same fate. The studio is now rented by singer/songwriter Ben Folds, who has just been informed that the studio will be sold to a developer who plans to turn the space into new condos, an awful fate for a studio that once hosted the best of the best of Nashville, from Waylon Jennings to Eddie Arnold to Roy Orbison and many more.

Ironically, the studio is owned by Harold Bradley, a former member of the famed A Team of Nashville studio musicians who played on literally hundreds of hits. It was Harold and his brother Owen, along with Chet Atkins, who created the "Nashville Sound" and built the city into a music powerhouse.

Bradley is quite aware of the history of the place, but states that he's wanted to sell the studio for more than 20 years and it's only coming to fruition now. He's also not as sentimental about the space as many others are, stating that the music made there will still live on.

That said, Folds is trying to get the studio designated as a historic site and have the developer incorporate it into the project that will be built.

Many of the other great studios in Nashville have been bought by Mike Curb (like RCA Studio B and Oceanway) and donated to Belmont University when threatened with a similar fate. Will he come through again?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: The Hammer Jammer

It's really hard to create a guitar product that's completely new and not just evolutionary. We see this every NAMM show where we hope to find something new and cool, but are usually disappointed. The Hammer Jammer is different though, as it's both new and evolutionary at the same time, and will definitely give you a sound that you really can't get any other way. It's an easy way to get the hammering effect on a guitar, but with much more precision and dexterity than ever before.

The Hammer Jammer is the brainchild of Ken McGraw, who initially developed the idea in 1985. He formed a company called Guitarammer and received some input from both Ricky Skaggs and Chris Martin (of Martin Guitars) in 1990, but abandoned the idea after initial manufacturing problems and when other business opportunities came about. Now he's back with a new Kickstarter campaign to get the project rolling again.

For only $65, you can get in line for one of the first models. For another $25, you can have one donated to a disabled person (since this is a great way for someone with disabilities to enjoy the guitar again).

We spend so much more money on pedals that we generally don't need, since they more or less do the same thing. Spend a little to get a new sound and help a company get rolling. Go to Kickstarter to check it out, or to the Big Walnut Productions website for more into.



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