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Friday, July 3, 2015

Madonna "Like A Virgin" Isolated Vocal

Like a Virgin cover image
Madonna has become an iconic artist with hits across 4 decades, but one of the songs that broke her globally was "Like A Virgin," the single from her album of the same title.

The song was recorded at the old Power Station (now Avatar Recording) in New York City, was produced by Nile Rogers, Steven Bray and Madonna, and was also one of the first to use the then-new Sony 3324 digital recorder.

The song also featured the Chic rhythm section of Tony Thompson on drums, Bernard Edwards on bass, and Rogers on guitar. Here's what to listen for (the vocal starts at 0:12).

1. As with many other hits, the vocal is doubled on the last line of the verse, the chorus and the bridge for power.

2. There's a medium length delayed reverb that's very prominent on the vocal.

3. If you're listening on headphones, you can hear the low frequency breath pops from some of the plosives on the B's Madonna sings. I also think that some of them came from the mic stand being accidentally hit, but that's just speculation.

4. The vocal performance is very strong and surprisingly consistent. You might not think of Madonna as a particularly great singer, but here she does a fine job.

5. If you listen loudly with headphones you can hear the song count off at the beginning.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Andy Johns On Recording And Mixing

Andy Johns image
Here's a great video of the late Andy Johns (Glynn Johns' younger brother) giving his tips and tricks on everything from recording to mixing, including how he got the famous drum sound on Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks."

In the video Andy refers to getting some tricks that he uses from my Recording Engineer's Handbook, in which he has a rare featured interview. Of course, Andy's credits read like a who's who of rock, including Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Free, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton and many more.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How To EQ A Live Sound System

Live Sound EQ image
Many live sound engineers sometime make life difficult for themselves by confusing when to use the various types of EQ. For instance, if you use your board EQ more for tuning the room, you'll find that it will take you longer to tune the system every night. Instead, the board EQ should be used for just EQing the mics to either the vocals or instruments onstage, while the system EQ is used to tune the room. That way, there's only one set of equalizers that change from venue to venue.

Here's an informative video from Dave Rat of Rat Sound that explains his method (and that of most other live sound engineers) of EQing a live sound system.

One part of this that's a little different is that he uses a set of headphones that he knows well to EQ the stage mics and as a system reference. Make sure you really know your headphones well if you choose to use this trick.

For more info on live sound you can read excerpts from The PreSonus StudioLive Mixer Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Les Paul Console: The First True Multichannel Recording Desk

Guitarist Les Paul is noted for many inventions but one of his biggest was "sound on sound" recordings using two full track mono tape machines in the 1950s.

Les realized the limitations of bouncing from machine to machine and soon conceived the 8 track recorder, which he asked Ampex to build for him. When the new tape machine (which he called "The Octopus") was delivered to him, Les realized that he needed a way to mix the tracks together and commissioned Rein Narma Audio Engineering to build the first true multitrack multichannel recording console.

The Les Paul Original 8 Track Console image
The Les Paul Original 8 Track Console
The console featured 8 inputs and 3 outputs with equalizers on each channel, was modular, and had a full patchbay.

Keep in mind that Les had the first true home studio way back in 1956, and had 8 track recording about 12 years before it became popular in most commercial studios!

You can see more pictures of the Les Paul studio at this page on the AES Historical site.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Former EMI Records President Rupert Perry On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Rupert Perry image
I'm very pleased to have former EMI Records president Rupert Perry on the latest episode of my Inner Circle Podcast.

Rupert spent 30+ years at the highest levels of EMI, working as the head of A&R for Capitol Records for a time, then moving on to heading the EMI label operations of America, Europe and the UK.

He was also chairman of both BPI and IFPI label trade associations, and was awarded a CBE (one step below knighthood) by the Queen for his excellent service to the British music industry.

In the intro I'll take a look at the uproar over Apple Music's free trial period and the real truth behind Beats headphones.

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

New Music Gear Monday: Here Active Listening System

Here Active Listening image
We live in a noisy world and sometimes everyday life just makes it difficult to concentrate. Noise-canceling headphones have been around for a long time, but the good ones are big and bulky and just not suitable for everyday use. Now comes the Here Active Listening System that's designed to be worn anywhere and everywhere to keep your environment as audibly controlled as possible.

The Doppler Labs Here System is comprised of two wireless in-earbuds and a smartphone app. The ear buds aren't designed to reproduce music but to control environmental noise since they act as extremely small noise-canceling earphones.

What's different is that the earbuds are connected via Bluetooth to an app on your phone that controls the digital signal processing. The app features some useful DSP presets for different noisy environments like walking in the city, the subway, the office or on a plane, but it also has a few that audio folk might not feel are needed, like providing EQ, bass boost and reverb when listening to music.

The Doppler Labs Here System will be available later in the year and will retail at $249, but you can find several discount packages if you visit the Kickstarter campaign. The campaign has already surpassed it's goal of $250,000 (its at $569K as I write this), but you can still get involved until July 1st.

Check out the video below that explains more.


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