Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Monday, October 5, 2015

New Music Gear Monday: Audio Technica BP40 Large Diaphragm Microphone

Audio Technica BP40 microphone capsule image
While large diaphragm condenser mics seem to be available at a number of price points, the same can't be said for large diaphragm dynamic mics. In fact, there just aren't that many to choose from when it comes right down to it. Audio Technica hopes to change all that with its new BP40 large diaphragm dynamic microphone.

The BP40 uses a new patented humbucking design (yes, just like the pickups) that decreases electronically induced interference, and provides better hi-frequency performance and less distortion. It's designed to decrease the proximity effect, but it also has an 80Hz rolloff to further compensate for that as necessary.

The mic is actually intended for broadcast but the word is that it's also a killer kick drum mic as well. For those of you who like an RE20 on your kick, this is one to try.

It also has a very tight hypercardioid polar pattern, making it an interesting choice for under-snare work as well.

The Audio Technica BP40 has a street price of $349. The optional isolation mount is $99.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Duran Duran "Girls On Film" Isolated Vocals

Duran Duran Girls On Film image
When Duran Duran burst on the scene in 1981 they were an immediate sensation, thanks in part to the provocative video of "Girls On Film." Here's the isolated vocal track from that hit.

The vocal starts at 0:18. Here's what to listen for.

1. Simon Le Bon's lead vocal is very closely doubled, except for the answers in the choruses.

2. There's a long delayed reverb with kind of a mid-range sound that's not too pleasant sounding by itself. It works great in the track though, proving again that things that don't work soloed often fit in the mix better than things that do.

3. As with all recordings done on tape, there are a lot of noises, pops, and foot movements that you can hear. Sometimes these were cleaned up with the spot-erase feature of a tape machine, but usually they were just left in because you wouldn't notice them in the track anyway. Also notice how sibilant the vocal is, although some of that might have to do with the audio on the video rather than the original multitrack audio itself.


You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Say Hello To Some New Multichannel Music File Formats

8Stem logo imageA couple of new file formats are upon us, but just how much that will rock the music industry is yet unknown. Native Instruments has finally released Stems, an open-file format that allows up to 4 independent elements that can be independently manipulated.

The Stems format is aimed at DJs who want to do remixes of songs during a performance by mixing elements from multiple files. That said, Stem files will play just like normal stereo audio file formats using any software that supports MP4 files (which is most of them).

Stem files have actually available for some time since the format was announced last year, but NI only now has released it's Stems Creator software (which is free). Find out more about Stems and Stems Creator at stems-music.com.

Another multi-channel format from a service called 8Stem allows users to remix a song to their liking. As the name eludes to, each file contains up to 8 stems that the listener can balance as they wish.

I think that musicians will probably love this format, but I'm not so sure that the average listener will embrace it. For the most part, most listeners don't seem to relish the thought of interacting with their music, and if studio cue mixes are any indication, too many variables might actually get them into trouble with a bad mix.

That said, it's cool that some new things are being tried (although Todd Rundgren did something similar on a CD about 20 years ago). 8Stem is still in the early beta stage.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Using The 1176 - The British Nuke Setting

1176 British Nuke Mode image
While the Americans were going for clean, British engineers in the 60s and 70s where going for big and brash. Here’s a really aggressive setting for the venerable 1176 compressor/limiter that’s sometimes called "British" mode and other times called "Nuke" mode, depending on who's using it.

This is a Bonus Trick #7 from my 101 Mixing Tricks coaching program, where there are 107 more tricks just like this. Check it out here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New York's Famed Avatar Studios Up For Sale

Avatar Studios image
One of the big problems for the large recording studios left in the major cities is that the real estate is worth so much more than the actual business is these days.

Studio prices have essentially been stagnant for 20 years or so while prices for everything else have soared. That's why it's no surprise to hear that New York's famed Avatar Studios is to be put on the market soon.

Avatar was previously known as The Power Station and was the home to a number of huge hit records including Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," Rolling Stones' "Some Girls," Peter Gabriel's "So" and Duran Duran's "Seven and the Ragged Tiger."

It's clientele has included Elton John, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Madonna, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Chic, John Mayer, Adam Levine among many others.

While the current owners are said to hope that the complex will remain a studio, don't be surprised if the sale eventually leads to some high-priced condos in its place.

That's the problem with the studio biz today. The artists that can afford to use them all have a very competent home studio to at least do overdubs in, so any stay at a major studio is usually short-lived as compared to the way recording was done in the heyday of these major studios. Fewer long term-high dollar bookings means that it's a grind just to stay open.

There's no telling how long the remaining big studios will be around (Electric Lady studios,  and Manhattan Sound Recording -formerly Right Track - still remain in New York), so enjoy them while you can.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Guitarist Pete Thorn On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Pete Thorn image
I'm pleased to have the excellent guitar player Pete Thorn on this week's podcast. Pete has played with superstars like Don Henley, Chris Cornell and Melissa Ethridge, and he also has a monthly column in Premier Guitar magazine called "Tone Tips From The Road."

In the interview, we touch on a lot of topics that a player of his stature doesn't usually talk about. Truly an engaging listen.

In the intro we'll take a look at why people aren't paying for streaming music yet, and the new physical music resurgence - cassettes.

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

New Music Gear Monday: Remo Active Snare Dampening System

Remo Active Snare Dampening System image
Here's something so deceptively simple that it falls into the "why hasn't anyone thought of this before?" category. It's Remo's Active Snare Dampening System and it goes a long way to eliminating the need to taping up your snare to get rid of that unwanted ringing.

Once fitted to the drum by attaching it to the rim, you can adjust the amount of dampening by either moving the Dampener from the center to the edge of the drum head, or by sliding the O ring up or down. Genius!

The system was designed in conjunction with drumming heavyweight Dave Weckl.

The Remo Active Snare Dampening System is available for about $30, and should be part of every drummer, studio or engineer's arsenal. Here's a quick video that gives you a bit of an idea of what it will do (it's not all that dramatic, unfortunately).

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bobby O Interviewed On The Inspirational Creatives Webcast

Inspirational Creatives image
I want to thank Rob Lawrence for having me on his Inspirational Creatives webcast.

He asked a lot of thoughtful and insightful questions regarding the creative process that I'm not often asked.

He also got me thinking and talking about a lot of people that have helped me in the past, that I can probably never thank enough.

Check it out if you get a chance.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Def Leppard "Rock Of Ages" Isolated Vocal

Rock of Ages isolated vocal image
When Def Leppard's Pyromania album hit in 1983 it turned the band into superstars, and rightfully so, since the record was filled with hits (and selling more than 10 million copies in the US alone). One of the best was "Rock of Ages" and that's what we'll be looking closely at today.

Pyromania was produced by Mutt Lange, who has long been known as a perfectionist, and you can hear it in the isolated vocal track. Here's what to listen for:

1. The vocals are perfectly in tune and in the pocket (except for the doubles), and although the punches are pretty smooth (this was recorded back in the tape days), many of the vocal phrases are so on top of one another that the only way to sing them was via tight punching.

2. There's a lot of compression of the vocals so there's almost zero dynamics. That was a trademark of engineer Mike Shipley, and one he did very well.

3. The vocals are doubled primarily on the chorus and intro to the chorus, but on select other phrases as well.

4. Listen for the backwards vocals at 3:02.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why You Can't Perfectly Tune A Piano

Why You Can't Perfectly Tune A Piano image
Real pianos are unique instruments that have an interesting set of tuning problems that most players aren't aware of.

Here's a great video that explains why perfect tuning of a piano is impossible, Kahn Academy-style.

Beware - there's some physics involved here but it's laid out enjoyably well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Correct Understanding Of Gigging Language

It's time for something different. Here's an excerpt from How To Make Your Band Sound Great that talks about how understanding some basic gigging language can be the  secret to getting your band booked.

"The following was in a widely circulated email that went around the music community.  It’s from Memphis promoter Chris Walker who explains both how to get gigs, and more importantly, how not to get them.  If you want the hard cold facts about club gigs for acts with original music, read on.
Load-In Time
CORRECT UNDERSTANDING: If a band has a load-in time of say 6:30, from that time they may attempt to enter the premises and inquire about loading in their gear. If they by chance happen to arrive early, they can occupy themselves with other activities to fill in the time, such as visiting the library, worshiping at a local church or synagogue, or beating up the homeless guy living in the dumpster.

INCORRECT UNDERSTANDING: If a band has a load-in time of say 6:30, they arrive at 1:45 in the afternoon and knock incessantly on the back door. Usually they knock while the owner is standing knee-deep in water in the basement working with a plumber to fix a leaking drain pipe. After trudging all the way upstairs to find 5 snot-nosed kids asking if they can load-in now (and hang out all day!), they are politely told to screw themselves and come back at 6:30.

CORRECT UNDERSTANDING: This is a person who actively works to promote a show. He promotes by distributing flyers, plugging the show wherever he can, and tries to get as many people as possible to come to the show. If he has an out-of-town band booked on the show, he takes financial responsibility to ensure they get paid and are taken care of in whatever way they need. He also takes charge in organizing the show and making sure all the bands know when they are scheduled to play and how the money works for getting paid.

INCORRECT UNDERSTANDING: This is a person who, after asking repeatedly to put on a show, does the following: 1) fails to promote show in any way, 2) fails to communicate any show details like lineup or order of the bands to the club (or the bands themselves), 3) makes themselves very scarce at the show, assuming they show up (they sometimes make a pathetic phone call just before doors open to say they've just contracted a rare disease and to please take care of the out-of-town band). If they do show up, when questioned about things like band order, who's taking care of the bands etc, they only respond with a blank stare.

Gas Money:
CORRECT UNDERSTANDING: Gas Money is a term used to designate an amount of money to get a touring band to their next show. It sometimes includes a little more than that so they buy themselves some fast-food on their way or if they’re lucky enough, cover a room at a Motel 6. Generally gas money would be considered anything from $30 to $75 and depends on how well the show goes.

INCORRECT UNDERSTANDING: $200 is not gas money. $200 is, “We're partying all night on the East Side” money.

Touring Band:
CORRECT UNDERSTANDING: This is a band that is engaged on a "tour". They come to the Creepy Crawl while on their tour and often come from far away places such as the far corners of the country, Canada, Europe or Asia. They are on the road for extended periods of time, sometimes for several months at a time, in a van or bus, and experience many new places along their journey. These bands are always entitled to at least gas money or more.

INCORRECT UNDERSTANDING: Driving up from Festus (about 30 miles away) does not make you a touring band.

A "Following":
CORRECT UNDERSTANDING: A "following" is a collection of fans that attend the performances of a particular band. This is what bands try to develop and grow over time to get ahead in the business, and is a measure of their general popularity. The larger a band’s following generally means they will be booked more often and on better nights at the Creepy Crawl.

INCORRECT UNDERSTANDING: A "following" does not mean all the people that attended The Queens of The Stone Age show you opened for counts as your band’s following (perhaps the rush to the bar by the entire audience and club staff when you started playing was an indicator). And, yes, this means the Jager girls at the club that night probably didn't come to see you and probably won't be following you to your next show.

Now you get the idea of how cynical and jaded booking concerts can make you."

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Modern Look At Record Pressing

Vinyl pellets that become a record image
Vinyl is booking these days, but the problem is that the basic technology is still stuck in the 70s. Most lathes and pressing equipment is at least 30 years old, and new ones aren't being made (although there are some rumors floating around).

That means that the gear keeps on getting keeps on getting recycled from plant to plant, and new parts custom manufactured to keep those presses running.

The New York Times ran a great article on the vinyl revolution, and included this video from Independent Record Pressing in Bordentown, N.J.

Although there are lots of videos online showing how record pressing works, most are in black and white from the 50s and 60s. Here's one in full color HD that shows a plant in operation.


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