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Friday, June 5, 2015

Tears For Fears "Shout" Isolated Vocals

Tears For Fears Shout image
Tears For Fears "Shout" was a huge worldwide hit in 1985 and still enjoys widespread airplay on classic rock radio everywhere. The song was eventually released in 15 versions by the band, but the one with the isolated vocal track that we'll look at today was from an extended dance mix. Here's what to listen for:

1. The vocal has what sounds like a very bright AMS RMX16 reverb that sounds like it's set to the Non-linear preset so it sounds like there's a gate cutting off the tail.

2. TFF are known for their very precise recording techniques and usually don't let anything get by, but you can hear some iffy vocals especially at 0:48 on "violent" and also whenever there's a low note in the verse. You never hear it in the final mix, and that's what counts.

3. The chorus is doubled first by singer Roland Orzabal and then later with bandmate Curt Smith doing the counterpoint.

4. There's a lot of compression on the vocal, especially on the higher phrases, in order to keep the lower intensity phrases the same level as the higher ones.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Next Step Beyond Touchscreens

Project Solis image
DAW controllers keep advancing in capabilities, and many feel today that the touchscreen will soon be the ultimate controller. Google Advanced Technologies And Products Group (ATAP) think there's another step beyond touchscreens with their Project Soli, which uses radar to provide virtual controllers just about anywhere.

What's even more impressive is that they've actually slimmed down the electronics into a single microchip that has no controls connected to it, so it's extremely reliable.

Imagine how this will effect your workflow for a second, since you'll always have the ideal control at your fingertips. Think of the price of new devices employing this technology as well, as the things that tend to cost the most are controls like potentiometers and other physical controls. As a result, the price would come down even further than it is today.

This could open up a whole new world of control to all things audio, and it looks like it's right around the corner. Check out the video.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

8 Things To Check Before You Hit The Record Button

Frances Densmore recording Mountain Chief imageHere's an excerpt from my Recording Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition that's a checklist of questions to ask yourself before you ever hit the Record button.

"1. Does the instrument sound great acoustically? Make sure that you start with a great acoustic sound with the instrument well tuned and minimum of sympathetic vibrations and extraneous noises.

2. Are the mics acoustically in phase? Observe the 3:1 rule and make sure that any underneath mics are at a 90° angle to the top mics.

3. Are the mics electronically in phase? Make sure that all the mic cables are wired the same by doing a phase check.

4. Are the mics the correct distance from the instrument? If they’re too far away they’ll pick up too much of the room or other instruments. If they’re too close the sound will be unbalanced with either too much attack or ring, and not enough of the body of the instrument. Walk around the player, put your finger in your ear, and find the spot that sounds the best. Remember, most instruments need some space for the sound to develop. The ambience from the surrounding area is a big part of the sound for most instruments.

5. Does it sound the same in the control room as when you’re standing in front of the instrument? This is your reference point and what you should be trying to match. You can embellish the sound after you’ve got the sound as close to the way it was when you were standing next to the player.

6. Is there another problem besides the mic placement? A great sound is dependent upon the instrument, the player, the amp (if there is on) and the room. The player has to be able to achieve the tone you're trying to record with his hands or mouth or voice first and foremost. The mic itself usually has less to do with the ultimate sound than the placement, room and the player and ultimately, the project itself.

You should always trust your ears and begin by listening to the musician in your studio, find a sweet spot and then begin your microphone placement there. If you don’t like the resultant sound, then move the mic or swap it with another. EQ is the last thing you should touch.

7. Is the problem in your signal chain? Don’t neglect your microphone preamp. The better your preamp, the less trouble you’ll have capturing the sound, but sometimes a certain mic/preamp combination will give you the sound you need. Don't be afraid to experiment.

8. Is the problem in the players signal chain? A guitarist’s signal chain, for example, can be a huge help or a big hindrance. You’ll get a warmer yet aggressive guitar sound by decreasing the amount of distortion from pedals, but turning up the amp’s volume instead to obtain the sustain/distortion from the amp and speaker. Also, smaller amps and speakers tend to sound bigger than large amps/speakers when recording.

REMEMBER: Mics cannot effectively be placed by sight, which is a mistake that is all too easy to make. The best mic position cannot be predicted, it must be found."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Famous Glyn Johns Drum Miking Technique

Glyn Johns image
There's just about a 100% chance that on any rhythm section recording that you walk into these days, you'll see at least a mic on every drum plus a couple of overheads.

It wasn't always this way though, as most drum recording was done with only a very few microphones back in the heyday of the music industry - from the 50s through the mid-70s.

The drum sound from back then could be huge, but engineer/producer Glyn Johns got a particularly great sound with just 3 mics on those early hits of Led Zeppelin, The Who and many others.

Many have tried to duplicate his technique since, but few come close to capturing the sound.

Here's a real treat, as Glyn himself describes the perfectly simple setup in this very home-made video. Of course, you can also see the technique described detail in my Recording Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition.

By the way, don't miss him give the real key to sound about half-way through, which is to run the mic preamps 10dB hotter than you normally would and back down the fader!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Engineer John "Yosh" Jaszcz On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

John "Yosh" Jaszcz image
This episode of my Inner Circle Podcast features Nashville engineer John Jaszcz, who's affectionately known in the industry as just "Yosh."

Yosh has quite a history, recording the likes of George Clinton, Parliament Funkadelic, and Bootsy Collins in his native Detroit, to his move to Nashville to record some of the greatest gospel and christian artists like Andre Crouch and Kirk Franklin, to country artists Billy Ray Cyrus and John Michael Montgomery.

On the intro of the program I'll discuss the new Instagram #Music and the latest round of woe at Guitar Center.

Remember that you can find the podcast at, or either on iTunes or Stitcher.

New Music Gear Monday: Dynamount Robotic Mic Mount

Dynamount image
One of the most difficult things for an engineer is to place a mic on an instrument or vocal, especially when a small increment of movement can sometimes make a huge difference. This task becomes impossible these days where home studios abound. There are no assistants to rely on, and the engineer has to do everything.

But science and ingenuity comes to the rescue with the new Dynamount robotic microphone mount. The unit allows you to remotely control the positioning of a mic thanks to a wireless iOS, Android or web app, then save the position as a preset if so desired.

The Dynamout comes in 4 different versions. The V1 provides a single axis of motion (like side to side, or up and down), while the V1-R also allows the mic to rotate. The X1 provides dual axis (side to side, and in and out) with the X1-R providing rotation as well.

Imagine being able to tailor the sounds for guitars, kick and snares, vocals and just about any other miking you can think of. Image how you can now more precisely align the phase when recording with two mics. Image that extra pair of hands that you always needed out in the studio. Now you can have it all with Dynamount.

Dynamount is in the final days of a Kickstarter campaign and there are still a few tiers available. The V1 will eventually have a retail price of $399,  the V1-R at $499, the X1 at $599, and the X1-R at $699.

Check out the video below for how it works, and the Kickstarter campaign here.


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