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Friday, February 12, 2016

The Guess Who "American Women" Isolated Percussion Track

The Guess Who American Women cover imagePercussion is the secret weapon that producers use to give motion to a song. Sometimes the percussion is obvious in a mix, and sometimes it's almost imperceptible (like the shaker on Tom Petty and the Heatbreaker's big hit "Refugee"), but it almost always makes a big difference how the song feels.

For decades now garage bands have been playing The Guess Who's "American Women" and wondering why it didn't sound like the record, and the reason is they're not playing the percussion that's an integral part of the song.

Take a close listen to the following video and you'll realize why it's almost a different song without the conga and  tom hit.

Note that they're not playing totally in the pocket, but that was the state of production for the era, when timing wasn't scrutinized as closely as it is today.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

George Massenburg On Recording Drums

George Massenburg recording drums image

George Massenburg is not only a legendary engineer, but he's one that likes to experiment.

Here's a video where George breaks from the norm when recording drums and tries some different and interesting techniques.

As always, there's a lot of thought behind everything that he's attempting to do.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

4 Reasons To Add Reverb To A Track

Reverb front to back imageLike many other aspects to mixing, the use of reverb is frequently either overlooked or misunderstood. Reverb is sometimes added to a track to create width and depth, but also to dress up an otherwise boring sound. The real secret is how much to use and how to adjust its various parameters.

Let’s look at some of the reasons to add reverb in this excerpt from my Audio Mixing Bootcamp book.

When you get right down to it, there are four reasons to add reverb.

1. To make the recorded track sound like it’s in a specific acoustic environment. Many times a track is recorded in an acoustic space that doesn’t fit the song or the final vision of the mixer. You may record in a small dead room but want it to sound like it was in a large studio, a small reflective drum room, or a live and reflective church. Reverb will take you to each of those environments and many more.

2. To add some personality and excitement to a recorded sound. Picture reverb as makeup on a model. She may look rather plain or even only mildly attractive until the makeup makes her gorgeous by covering her blemishes, highlighting her eyes, and accentuating her lips and cheekbones. Reverb does the same thing with some tracks. It can make the blemishes less noticeable, change the texture of the sound itself, and highlight it in a new way.

3. To make a track sound bigger or wider than it really is. Anything that’s recorded in  stereo automatically sounds bigger and wider than something recorded in mono, because the natural ambience of the recording environment is captured. In order to keep the track count and data storage requirements down, most instrument or vocal recordings are done in mono. As a result, the space has to be added artificially by reverb. Usually, reverb that has a short decay time (less than one second) will make a track sound bigger.

4. To move a track further back in the mix. While panning takes you from left to right in the stereo spectrum, reverb will take you from front to rear (see the figure on the left). An easy way to understand how this works is to picture a band on stage. If you want the singer to sound like he’s in front of the drum kit, you would add some reverb to the kit. If you wanted the horn section to sound like it was placed behind the kit, you’d had more reverb. If you wanted the singer to sound like he’s in between the drums and the horns, you’d leave the drums dry and add a touch of reverb to the vocal, but less than the horns.

If we were going to get more sophisticated with this kind of layering, we’d use different reverbs for each of the instruments and tailor the parameters to best fit the sound we’re going after.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

7 Rarely Used Pro Tools Features

7 Rarely Used Pro Tools FeaturesFor those of you who use Pro Tools, you'll enjoy this video by Paul Maunder. It's all about 7 rarely used PT features that could save you a lot of time during your next session. If you use another DAW, you might be able to find a similar function as well.

The rarely used features are:

1. Plug-in Settings Auto Increment
2. Restore Last Selection
3. Consolidate Clip 1kHz Tone
4. Rectified & Power Waveform Views
5. Metadata Inspector
6. Slip/Grid Mode
7. Cursor Location Indicator

Very cool. Thanks, Paul!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Engineer Richard Chychi Discusses The New Dream Theater Album

Richard Chychi imageMy guest on this week's Inner Circle Podcast is engineer Richard Chychi, who was on the podcast about a year ago. This time he comes on specifically to tell us about recording the new Dream Theater album, which was pretty spectacular technically.

The album features the band augmented by a full orchestra and multiple choirs, which lead to some songs having more than 500 tracks across 3 Pro Tools rigs.

The story of putting it all together is fascinating (especially the 700 hours of mixing). I'm no longer going to complain when I get a 100 track session in to mix!

In the intro I'll discuss how AM radio is dying both in the US and in other parts of the world, the latest RIAA metric giving 1500 music streams the equivalent of 1 album, and the layoffs over at Avid.

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

New Music Gear Monday: IZotope's Free Vinyl Plugin

iZotope Vinyl plugin imageDid you ever want to get that old vinyl record sound on a recording? It's pretty hard to do manually, since you have to simulate everything from scratchiness to electrical noise to record warping. There is a plugin that will do all of that for you and more, and and the best part is that it's free!

I'm talking about iZotope's excellent Vinyl plugin - the ultimate lo-fi weapon. The plugin will return your tracks to a previous era quickly and with ease, and once again, it's free!

Vinyl provides controls to inject mechanical noise, record wear, electrical noise, dust, scratch, and warp, as well as simulating the era of the recording (1930, '50, '70, '80 and 2000) and the speed of the record (33, 45 and 78 RPM). There's even a unique Spin Down feature that simulates the sound of slowly stopping a record, as well as a stereo to mono switch.

A few years ago I was mixing a song that was a newer version of 1940's blues song, when the artist asked me to "make it more realistic." Vinyl was inserted into the stereo buss, and before you knew it, you'd swear we were back there listening on an old record player.

To get Vinyl, go to iZotope's website. Did I say that it's FREE.

Here's a Soundcloud example of Vinyl getting that old radio sound.


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