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Friday, February 5, 2016

Michael Jackson "Thriller" Instrumental Track

Bruce Swedien image
Engineer Bruce Swedien
Michael Jackson was a star for a long time before Thriller, but the iconic album made him a superstar. Here's the instrument-only track (with some background vocals) that is a model of excellence, from the production (Quincy Jones) to the engineering (the Godfather Bruce Swedien), to the great performances. Take a listen.

1. Check out how the song develops, with something new happening in every section and in every 8 bars of the verse. Either a new instrument enters or a main instrument moves to a new register.

2. Listen for the synth on the left side during the chorus. It's difficult to hear during the final mix.

3. Bruce Swedien is a master of ambience. Check out how each of the instruments are in their own space, from the synth pad to the handclaps to the guitars to the horns, everything fits so well. Especially listen for the parts where you can hear the reverb tails to hear how they fit into the song.

4. Listen for the percussion in the last verse around 3:10. Again, it's something that's easily missed in the final mix.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ringo Shows How To Play Beatles Hits

We all love Ringo Starr, don't we? The understated Mr. Starkey has shown he's one of the most influential drummers ever, but there's a secret behind his brilliant fills, and he reveals it in this video.

Here Ringo shows Dave Stewart how he came up with some of his coolest drum patterns.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mastering Compressor Tips And Tricks

Mastering Compressor Tips imageWith powerful mastering tools now available to everyone, it's easy to do more harm than good when self-mastering. Although you're always better off going to a true mastering engineer, sometimes that's just not in the budget.

Here are a few mastering compressor tips from my book Mixing And Mastering With T-RackS: The Official Guide that I don't think you'll find anywhere else.

"Adjusting the Attack and Release controls on the compressor and/or limiter can have a surprising effect on the program sound.
  • Slower Release settings will usually make the gain changes less audible but will also lower the perceived volume. 
  • A slow Attack setting will tend to ignore drums and other fast signals but will still react to the vocals and bass.
  • A slow Attack setting might also allow a transient to overload the next plug-in or piece of equipment in the chain.
  • Gain changes on the compressor caused by the drum hits can pull down the level of the vocals and bass and cause overall volume changes in the program. 
  • Usually only the fastest Attack and Release settings can make the sound “pump.” 
  • The more bouncy the level meter, the more likely that the compression will be audible.
  • Quiet passages that are too loud and noisy are usually a giveaway that you are seriously over-compressing."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Avid Has Another Round Of Layoffs

Avid Layoffs imageThings are getting ugly at Avid again as the company pink-slipped as many as 60 employees from its Pro Tools, Venue and other audio teams last week.

According to Pro Tools Expert, the layoffs happened in the places where Avid could least afford - Product Management, Beta and QA, Applications Engineer and Marketing.

Although Avid stock is not at an all-time low, it's pretty close, down to $6.90 when this was written, which is way off from its 52 week high of $18.10. To put it in perspective, Avid stock hit a high in February of 2005 at $66.90.

This is another great example of why a public company doesn't belong in this niche space we call the audio business. The industry is filled with mostly boutique operators who care deeply about their products and customers, some to the point where barely making a living is enough as long as their customers are happy.

A public company like Avid is beholden to its stockholders and not its customers however. The bottom line is more important than its users and dealers, and that's been obvious ever since Avid purchased Digidesign.

Some analysts think that this might be a last ditch effort to set the company up for a profitable quarter, but that's not going to save the company.

There's a lot of disgruntled Pro Tools users out there, and it won't take much for them to switch to another DAW en masse. That time might come sooner than you think.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Artist Management Consultant Mike Gormley On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Mike Gormley imageMy guest on this week's Inner Circle Podcast is artist management consultant Mike Gormley.

Mike was head of PR for Mercury and A&M Records before he headed into management, where he worked with acts like The Bangles, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo and Danny Elfman, and now heads up LA Personal Development.

We'll discuss the differences between PR and management from the classic days of the 80s and 90s to today, and you'll hear some good war stories as well.

In the intro I'll discuss how Spotify will now stream video but not for the reasons you might think, the latest music streaming platform called Cur Music, and the latest in the labor dispute between Guitar Center and its employees.

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

New Music Gear Monday: Waves NX Virtual Monitoring Plugin

Waves NX imageMixing with headphones has always been an iffy situation. While it can be done, the mixer runs the risk of missing on the low-end component of the mix since the phones are so close to your hears. It's not how much of the world listens to music, so you end up constantly comparing your mix on speakers anyway. All this might change with the introduction of Waves NX however.

Waves NX is a virtual monitoring plugin that lets you hear the acoustics of a high-end mix room over headphones. It tracks your head via your computer camera to optimize the sweet spot, and allows you to monitor either in stereo or in 5.1 surround on your regular stereo headphones.

NX attempts to bridge the gap between monitoring on speakers and monitoring on headphones so that you no longer have to worry that what you’ve mixed on headphones will sound different once you switch to speakers. The plugin lets you hear the same natural depth and stereo spread on headphones that you would hear on external monitors so there's less need for cross-referencing between the two.

Waves NX works on most DAW apps on both Mac or PC. Nx requires a webcam, and will support any webcam that works on your system. It's available at an introductory price of only $49. Check out the Quick Start tutorial below.


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