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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Check Out My Interview On Recording Studio Rockstars

Recording Studio Rockstars image
I was humbled and honored to be interviewed by Lij Shaw on his most recent Recording Studio Rockstars podcast.

Lij asked a lot of insightful questions that I don't think I've ever been asked before, and he was nice enough to mention both my books and 101 Mixing Tricks coaching course during the show.

Even if you don't have time to listen to the full hour or so of the podcast, check out the show notes for some excepts, where you can also subscribe to his podcasts.

Thank you kindly, Lij!

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Guess Who "American Women" Isolated Drums

American Women cover - The Guess Who imageThe Guess Who's "American Women" was a big hit for them and Lenny Kravitz, but it's basically the same riff over and over. It has a very interesting drum track though that's unusual for its time, as you'll soon hear.

I was told by one of the band's former road crew that the song was basically a jam that the band was playing one night while waiting for sing Burton Cummings to arrive. As the story goes, Burton walked on stage and began free-styling the words and a hit was born. It just so happened that a fan was tapping with a cassette recorder that night and the band managed to obtain a copy so they could relearn it. The studio version reportedly changed very little from what they did that night.

Here's what to listen for.

1. The kick drum pattern by drummer Gary Peterson is far more complex than the mix lets on. It makes perfect sense that the drum part came out of a jam because it would probably been a lot simpler had the song been written as normal.

2. The kick drum pattern is also a bit floppy. Peterson is a great drummer and his time is solid, but that doesn't mean that the kick doesn't flam on occasion. No problem, as you never hear it in the mix.

3. Yes, the drums are in mono and panned to the left. This was 1970 recording techniques, after all.

4. Check out the dry and tight sound of the tom in the intro.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Session With An Original Universal Audio 610 Console

UA 610 Console Session image
Engineers and producers have a long love affair with tube consoles, and well they should. You just can't beat some of that original hardware when it comes to a big, fat sound. It's something that seemed so instant back in the day, but we have to constantly work to get today.

Here's a cool video that shows a session using Neil Young's vintage UA 610 console. It features a bunch of talented musicians who just happen to work at Universal Audio, and is run by Neil Young's engineer John Nowland.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Big Picture Music Production Blog Named #8 In Top 50 Awesome Blogs

Stereostack logo
Many thanks to Amir Muminovic for naming the Big Picture Music Blog at #8 on the Stereostack Top 50 Awesome Blogs To Follow to learn more about the music business.

3 Steps To Choosing Your Monitor Speakers

Monitor Speakers image
Recently I've received a number of questions about choosing a set of monitors, so it's a good time to revisit this particular book excerpt. Your monitors are one of the most important purchases that you'll ever make, so it's best you take some time before you pull the trigger with your credit card.

Here's an excerpt from The Studio Builder's Handbook that provides some useful tips for choosing monitors that you'll love listening to for a long time.

"So what do you look for when you’re choosing monitors? It’s surprising that so many monitors are chosen by a review or word of mouth, since they’re such a personal item. Here are some things to think about before you purchase a set of speakers.

1) Don’t choose a monitor because someone else is using them. Just because your favorite mixer uses a set of Tannoy Precision 8D’s, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be right for you too.

Everyone hears differently and has a different hearing experience. Plus, the match with your room might not be ideal, they might not be a good match with the type of music you work on, and if they’re unpowered, you may not have the same amp to drive them with as the reviewer, so they’ll sound different from what someone else hears.

2) Make Sure You Listen to the monitors before you buy them. The pros take their time and listen to them under a wide range of conditions before they commit to a purchase, so why shouldn’t you?

It’s true that you might not live near a big media center with lots of pro audio dealers, and even if you do, you may not have a relationship with one that gets you a personal demo in your own studio.

That shouldn’t stop you from listening though. Take the trip to your local pro audio or music store and spend some time listening.

Here’s what you should listen for when you evaluate a monitor:

• Listen for An Even Frequency Balance - Check to see if any frequencies are exaggerated or attenuated while listening to a piece of music that you’re very familiar with. Listen especially to the mid-range cross-over area (usually about 1.5 to 2.5kHz), then to cymbals on the high end, vocals and guitars in the midrange, and bass and kick drum on the low end.

• Listen to the Frequency Balance At Different Levels - The speakers should have the same frequency balance at any level, from quiet to loud.

• Make Sure The Speakers Are Loud Enough Without Distortion - Be sure that there’s enough clean level for your needs. Many powered monitors have built-in limiters that stop the speaker or amplifier from distorting, but this also keeps the system from getting as loud as you need it to be.

Be sure to listen to them at various volume levels to determine if they’ll be loud enough for your needs, if they will distort, or if their sound characteristics change dramatically at different volumes.

Above all, don’t buy a set of speakers without listening to them because it’s difficult for them to live up to your expectations if you haven’t heard them first. In fact, it’s not a good idea to buy any set of speakers unless you’re really in love with them. You’ll have to listen to these monitors for a lot of hours so you might as well like what you hear.

3) Listen with source material that you know very well. The only way to judge a monitor is to listen to material that you’re very familiar with and have heard in a lot of different environments. This will give you the necessary reference point that you need to adequately judge what you’re listening to.

You can use something that you recorded yourself that you know inside and out, or a favorite CD that you feel is well-recorded. Just stay away any critical listening with MP3’s; the higher the quality of your playback source, the better. A high quality 24 bit source like from a personal digital recorder is great because it gives you a better idea of the frequency response of the system.

If the monitors that you’re auditioning aren’t powered, you might want to bring your own amplifier to the audition because the amp/speaker combination is a delicate one.

A speaker has a much greater interdependence on the power source than most of us realize, and many engineers search for the perfect amplifier almost as long as for the perfect monitor. Thankfully, that’s not as much of a problem these days since most high quality monitors have built-in amplifiers perfectly matched to its speaker drivers by the manufacturer.

That being said, you can easily get used to just about any speaker if you use it enough and learn it’s strengths and weaknesses in your room. It also helps to have a reference point that you’re sure of to compare the sound with, like your car or a particular boombox, then adjust your mixes so they work when you play them there."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Foam 3D Batteries May Be In Our Future

Prieto 3D Battery
From effects pedals, to laptops, iPads and cell phones, to computer accessories like the keyboard and mouse, to wireless microphones and even cars, so much of what we do today is built around the battery.

While batteries have improved greatly over the years, there hasn't been a huge leap in technology, at least until now.

An article in MIT Technology Review covers a new battery process called a "3D" battery that's actually composed of a foam. This process is taken to an operational level by a new company called Prieto Battery based on technology developed at Colorado State University.

Traditional 2D batteries have a limited storage capacity and are slow to charge because the electron flow is on a single plane. They also present a toxicity problem due the liquid electrolyte used.

Prieto's 3D battery has more surface area in the same space, allowing multi-dimensional electron movement, which translates to more energy, more capacity, faster charging, and a longer battery life.

The hazardous liquid electrolyte used in standard lithium batteries is also eliminated, as the Prieto battery uses only non-toxic citric acid.

Check out this video for a more detailed explanation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Failure Drummer Kellii Scott on my latest Inner Circle Podcast

Failure drummer Kellii Scott
I'm pleased to have Failure drummer Kellii Scott on this week's podcast.

Not only has Kellii played with failure on and off for over 20 years, but he was also part of producer Lynda Perry's studio band, performing on records with Christina Aguilera, Pink, Hole, Faith Hill and many more.

The interview starts off a bit geeky about Kellii's drum kit and style, but the second half turns into a philosophical discussion on production and music that you won't want to miss.

In the intro, I'll give you an overview of the new Billboard Lyric Chart, as well as look at Abbey Road Studio's new music tech incubator and institute.

Remember that you can find the podcast at, or either on iTunes, Stitcher and now on Mixcloud and Google Play.

New Music Gear Monday: Line 6 Helix Guitar Amp Simulator

Line 6 Helix guitar amp emulator
Line 6 virtually created the guitar amp simulator space with its groundbreaking Pod in 1998. Now the company has taken amplifier emulation to a whole new level with the new Helix.

The Helix provides spot-on emulations of 45 classic amplifiers, 30 popular cabinets, 16 mics and 70 effects. The black metal floor board contains 12 capacitive-sensing foot switches, an LCD display, an expression pedal, customizable LCD scribble strips, 6 "smart edit" controls, and a master volume and master headphone volume controls.

If that sounds like a lot, the I/O is extensive as well, with AES, SPDIF, and L6 digital outputs, a dedicated Variax connection so you can control Helix from the instrument, XLR, 1/4 inch and headphone analog outputs, 4 analog send and return loops, MIDI in and out, an XLR mic input connector complete with phantom power, external amp and expression pedal CV outputs, and a primary and aux inputs.

That's a nice feature set, but it's the sounds that really take the Helix to the next level. I was privileged to take part in a blind A/B test before the product launch. A number of classic guitar/amp setups were recorded along with a recording of the Helix emulation. I have to say that it was difficult to tell the difference between them, and I was often surprised to find out that the one I chose as sounding best was the Helix.

The Line 6 Helix is available in a floor or rack mount version and each sells for $1,499. Check out the great site that Line 6 has built for Helix for more information.


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