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Friday, January 16, 2015

Engineer Wyn Davis On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Wyn Davis image
This week my Inner Circle Podcast features engineer Wyn Davis, who's worked with so many legacy rock artists, from Dio to Foreigner to Bad Company to Great White and many more.

Wyn also owns Total Access Recording, a great studio that I've had the pleasure of working in, and we'll talk about his thoughts on how a commercial studio can survive in these days where everyone has a home studio.

We'll also talk about how he gets those great guitar sounds that we just love so much on the records he does.

On the show intro, I'll talk about just exactly what the product is in our new music business, as well as the most popular keys and chords used in hit songs today.

Remember that you can find the podcast either on 
iTunes or at, and now also on Stitcher

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Beach Boys "California Girls" Isolated Vocals

The Beach Boys image
Here's an absolute classic. It's the isolated vocals from The Beach Boy's all-time great hit "California Girls." The band was already big long before this song, but this 1965 song put them in a new stratosphere.

The song was written by Brian Wilson (who also produced) and lead singer Mike Love. The basic track took 44 takes by the studio band known as The Wrecking Crew (which included Leon Russel on piano here), recorded at Hollywood's famed United Western Recorders. The vocals were recorded about a month later in New York City at the equally famous CBS Columbia Square studios.

An interesting side note, this was the first song that Bruce Johnston sang on, having just replaced Brian Wilson in the road band. You can hear him on the falsetto parts on the outro. Here's what to listen for:

1. Mike Love's lead vocals are doubled and panned left and right. You don't hear the double so much on the final mix because they're fairly close (especially given the era this was recorded in).

2. There are two sets of harmonies that are spread slightly left and right. Although some parts are doubled in places, for the most part there are mostly different counterpoint parts that mesh together perfectly.

3. This is one of the best examples of the BBs trademark, which is the low bass vocal part. It's something that you rarely hear during background vocals of any era.

4. The harmonies aren't perfect. When you think of The Beach Boys, you think of impeccable vocals, but in this case, there are little inconsistencies throughout. There's a few wrong notes, a few minor sour ones, and some ragged releases, especially towards the end.

5. Listen through to the end, where you'll hear what took place after the fade of the final mix.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Avid's Relisting Means For Pro Tools Users

Pro Tools logo image
Last month everyone's favorite DAW maker Avid was relisted on the NASDAQ stock exchange, a move that came as a surprise to many.

When the company was delisted back in February of 2014, many analysts (including yours truly) felt that this was the first sign of the eventual slow demise of the company, and that it was highly unlikely to ever find its way back onto the exchange. Avid defied expectations by working with auditors to supply the exchange with the information required to resume trading there. The company was officially delisted for not filing the required quarterly reports for over year, which Avid claimed was due to accounting rules changes

Since being relisted, the company's stock has risen from $13.50 to just a shade under $15. It continues to trade under its AVID symbol.

Regardless of the happy event, this is a challenging time for Avid. While having a virtually stranglehold on the professional audio workstation world, that market is somewhat saturated, and with more powerful computers now available, the native versions of the software now works for many cases where an expensive hardware accelerator card was once required, which means less revenue for the company.

Add to that the general frustration of the Pro Tools community that feels somewhat abandoned by the company's recent employee turnover, and many users are now open for an alternative should it arise.

Still, Avid's relisting also means that the company is much stronger than before. Sources of capital are more readily available if needed, the stock is much healthier than it was 12 months ago, and the company's public perception has risen. All that doesn't matter much if it doesn't find a way to assuage its customers who feel burnt by the company, of which there are many. We all like to upgrade to get new features, but the feeling of being forced to do so has rubbed many the wrong way through the years.

The upcoming NAMM show next week can be a pivotal one for the Avid, depending on the new products they show, or even worse, might not have. Could this be the year of serious DAW competition?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Look At Drum EQ Points

massive drum kit image
Musicians and songwriters often have trouble with EQing drums so they fit in a track. A lot of that comes from over-EQings already good sounding samples, or having to deal with poorly recorded drums to begin with, but even so, the basic technique isn't that difficult if you know the basics.

Here's an excerpt from my Audio Mixing Bootcamp book that shows some basic EQ points for each drum and cymbal. Although these points may change slightly depending upon the drum kit, drummer, tuning, arrangement and song, they're pretty much in the ballpark. Just remember that you usually don't need a lot of EQ to make a difference on a well-recorded kit.

"The drums present an interesting dilemma - does the song demand that the drum kit works as a whole, or should the snare or kick stand out? Once again, it depends upon the song, but we can take a look at both approaches.

The kick and snare are extremely important in modern music because the kick is the heartbeat and the snare drives the song. By simply getting the sound and balance of these two drums right, it’s possible to change a song from dull to exciting.

There are certain frequencies on different drums that you should be aware of.
Kick - Girth at 50Hz and below, bottom at 80 to 100Hz, hollowness at 200 to 400Hz, point at 3k to 5kHz 
Snare - Fatness at 120 to 240Hz, point at 900Hz to 2kHz, crispness at 5kHz, snap at 10kHz 
Hat - Clang at 200Hz, sparkle at 8k to 10kHz 
Rack Toms -  Fullness at 240 to 500Hz, attack at 5k to 7kHz 
Floor Tom - Fullness at 80Hz, attack at 5kHz 
Cymbals - Clang at 200Hz, sparkle at 8k to 10kHz
These frequencies are not cut and dried for each drum kit, since the size of the drum or cymbal and the material they’re made of contributes greatly to the tone. Remember to sweep the frequencies around each of the above to find the correct frequency for that particular drum or cymbal.

Beware that boosting from 40 to 60Hz too much may make the kick sound big on your speakers, but it might not be heard when played back on smaller speakers. Also remember that the ideal spot for a 22 inch kick drum (which is the most commonly used) is around 80Hz."

To read additional excerpts from The Audio Mixing Bootcamp book and my other books, go to the excerpts section of You also might want to check out my Audio Mixing Bootcamp video series on

Monday, January 12, 2015

Do All Country Songs Sound Alike?

Professional songwriters often write to what's currently popular in order to better their chances of having a hit, which is why some songs sound so homogenized sometimes. This isn't new since it's been going on for decades, but it's never been quite as blatant as in this very interesting mashup put together by country music critic Grady Smith.

In it you'll hear six big country hits and how interchangeable they are with each other, even down to the keys of the songs. These are the songs:

"Sure Be Cool If You Did" by Blake Shelton
"Close Your Eyes" by Parmalee
"This Is How We Roll" by Florida Georgia Line
"Ready Set Roll" by Chase Rice
"Chillin' It" by Cole Swindell
"Drunk On You" by Luke Bryan

There's such a thing as influence and imitation, but these examples seem to go above and beyond. Thanks to reader Rand Bowman for the heads up on this.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Music Gear Monday: Resident Audio T4 Thunderbolt Interface

With Thunderbolt a standard feature on every new Mac computer, we've been patiently waiting for a new generation of audio interfaces to take advantage of this latest technology. The Resident Audio T4 Thunderbolt IO is one of the first to let you do that, utilizing it to its full potential by requiring no external power as it receives its power directly via the Thunderbolt buss.

There are actually a number of reasons why Thunderbolt is great for audio, and buss powering is one of them. While most USB busses max out at 5 volts and 2.5 watts, Thunderbolt provides up to 10 watts and 18 volts. What this means is that the attached device can operate with greater headroom, which is exactly what the T4 does. The unit has 4 combo inputs of mic/line preamps that take full advantage of the power the buss provides, complete with phantom power, as well as high-powered analog to digital convertors.

The T4 also features a monitor control that allows blending between the input source and the tracks from your computer for easy overdubbing, 4 separate outputs, a headphone output, and MIDI in and out jacks.

The Resident Audio T4 Thunderbolt Interface retails for $499, and it includes a Thunderbolt cable, which is cool because most Tbolt devices don't, and a typical cable costs around $30.  Find out more at


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