Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Does Songwriter Vocabulary Matter?

Eminem vocabulary imageIn a study looking at the largest vocabularies in the music industry, it seems that rappers take the cake. The Musixmatch lyric site found that 4 out of the top 5 largest songwriter vocabularies come from rap. Here's what they found.

1. Eminem - 8,818 unique words
2. Jay Z - 6,899
3. Tupac - 6,569
4. Kenye West - 5,069
5. Bob Dylan - 4,883

It should be noted that many artist/writers like Bruce Springsteen don't make the list because they haven't granted permission for Musixmatch to use their lyrics.

There have been other studies that have looked at parameters like lyric density and intervals between new words, but this is the first to check overall vocabulary size.

The study looked at 93 top artists across  25 different genres that ranged from pop to new age.

In the grand scheme of things, this matters little to the listener and is far from a factor in determining a hit, but you can look at it as a gauge of the intelligence of the writer. On the other hand, Julio Iglecious, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Andrea Bocelli also rank high, and no one has ever accused their songs of catering to intellectuals.

Personally, I'd just prefer to listen and not analyze. Do you think songwriter vocabulary matters?

Monday, August 31, 2015

L.A. Session Guitarist Gary Solt On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Gary Solt image
If you're ever been in the studio with a large orchestra, you know that it's an experience you'll not soon forget.

This week's guest Gary Solt has been the favorite guitar player for orchestra dates for dozens of movies and television shows, and he'll tell us what it's like to play with an orchestra both in the studio and live.

On the intro I'll take a look at the interesting answers coming from a Billboard survey of music industry execs, and the latest Logic Pro X update and what that might mean for Pro Tools users.

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

New Music Gear Monday: Moog Music Animoog App

Moog Animoog iPad app image
The iPad is becoming more and more powerful to the point where many are using it as a legitimate music creation device. Moog Music has further added to this capability with its new Animoog iPad app.

Animoog is powered by Moog's new Anisotropic Synth Engine (ASE), making it fully polyphonic and capable of dynamically moving through an X/Y timbre space.

It features a Timbre page, which provides a wide range of classic Moog synth and pedals sounds that are generated by ASE and not via sample playback.

It also features polyphonic modulation, polyphonic pitch shifting, a classic ping pong delay module, a "Thick Module" that provides bit crushing to unison voice detuning and drive, and the classic Moog 4 point filter.

That's not all. Animoog also has a Record Module that allows you to record your performance and overdub new layers on top, then transfer the recordings via the pasteboard. There's also a flexible modulation matrix, and MIDI In so Animoog can be controlled from a MIDI controller.

Moog Music's Animoog is available from the App Store for $24.99. Check out the video below for an example of Animoog at work.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Who "Eminence Front" Isolated Keys

Pete Townshend studio image
Note the VCS3 synth on top of the organ
Here's a piece from a song that you've probably been hearing on television commercials a lot lately. It's the isolated keys from The Who's "Eminence Front" from their It's Hard album (the last with drummer Kenny Jones and bassist John Entwistle).

The keys are pretty buried in the song (although the sequenced synth carries it), so it's pretty interesting to hear just how intricate they are.

1. Listen to how the sequenced synth constantly changes throughout the song in both feel and timbre. This was supplied by Townshend's favorite: the EMS VCS3 (see the picture on the left). Unlike the way most sequencers are used in the studio, Pete Townshend's approach was totally unique in that a sequence never seems to repeat and it carries the rhythm of the song.

2. Likewise, the keys (electric piano and organ) also change with the different sections of the song. They're pretty loose parts in that you'll hear some mistakes (like the second verse around the 2 minute mark) here that you won't hear on the final mix.

3. The song is built around a primitive rhythm machine with is very apparent at the very beginning of the song, but fades into the keyboard mix to where you only hear the kick sound.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Apple Updates Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X 10.2 update with Alchemy synth image
Apple's Logic Pro X is not only one of the best music creation tools available but at $199, it's one of the least expensive as well. Not only that, the company continues to provide free updates that always seem to add something useful, like yesterday's 10.2 update.

The big deal with 10.2 is that it adds Camel Audio's (which Apple purchased earlier this year) Alchemy synth. This is a synth with a wide range of talents, from creating sounds using samples and different kinds of synthesis, to multiple filters and modulation options.

Other than that, Logic Pro X 10.2 provides an easy way to distribute directly to Apple Music and its Connect feature, which was also introduced in a Garage Band update earlier this year.

This can be a big update if you want to load all 14 Gigs of available sound files, but be aware that they tend to lean more on the dance music/EDM side of things, which is great if that's what you need.

Here's a video that takes a look and listen to Alchemy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Using The 1176 - The Dr. Pepper Setting

1176 Dr. Pepper Setting image
The Universal Audio 1176 is one of the greatest compressor/limiters ever made and has been used on countless hits throughout its 50 year history. Here's one of the go-to settings that works like magic on either the hardware or the plugin version.

This is called the Dr. Pepper setting because it takes its name from the old soft drink commercials where it was "Pepper time" at 10AM, 2PM and 4PM.

This is one of the bonus tricks from my 101 Mixing Tricks coaching program. Get 4 more tricks at 101MixingTricks.com.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Computer Or Bach?

Etude by Kulitta image
Maybe the robots are finally taking over. Yale computer scientist Donya Quick has developed a program that can create pieces of music that are so close to Johann Sebastian Bach's work that people have trouble telling the difference.

She calls the program "Kulitta" and it can learn the music quickly and create new pieces on demand in a matter of seconds.

In tests over 100 students judged the pieces to be the work of a human, and even some of the experts were occasionally fooled.

Kulitta analyzes the works of a composer then applies the rules it's learned from them when creating a new piece of music.

The one thing it can't do is determine a good piece for a bad one, but that's such a personal thing that even us humans can't seem to agree on.

Quick looks forward to having Kulitta do mashups between genres, with her ultimate goal a combination of Metallica and Mozart.

Could this be a new income source for artists where your musical algorithm is copyrighted and new compositions are created for the listener on the spot? Time to bow to our musical overlords.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Room Tuning Expert Bob Hodas On My Inner Circle Podcast

Room tuning expert Bob Hodas
This week I'm pleased to have on my podcast the go-to guy that studios big and small use to fix the sound of their rooms - Bob Hodas.

Bob has been tuning rooms for over 20 years and there's nothing he hasn't seen. From big commercial studios (like the famous Record Plant) to home studios to mobile trucks to dubbing stages to home theaters, Bob as tuned them all.

In this episode we discuss some of the common problems that listening environments have, as well as how he goes about tuning a room.

On the intro I'll take a look at the music video site Vevo and why Warner Music might finally sign on, and look a little into the pitfalls of self-production.

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

New Music Gear Monday: Acoustic Power Lab APL1s Speaker EQ

Acoustic Power Lab APL1s Speaker EQ image
Virtually none of us have a perfect listening environment, which means that there are some anomalies of the room that are preventing us from hearing everything we need to hear. Of course, this is even more pronounced in a home studio, where acoustics are many times just an afterthought. If that's the case, the Acoustic Power Lab APL1s loudspeaker equalization solution might be just the thing to help.

The APL1s is a two channel hardware box that provides and custom FIR filtering to your monitors to better integrate them into the listening environment.

The unit supports 48kHz and 96kHz operation and has a built-in sample rate convertor to compensate for a wide range of additional sample rates. The unit also features an ultra-low jitter clock (external sync is also available), and the outputs are protected by a power on/off anti-pop feature. There's also 16 presets available from a selector on the front panel.

There's also a variety of input and output connectors on the back panel, ranging from AES, TOSLINK, coax, or analog via XLR inputs and outputs.

The measurement software is either APL's own APL Workshop or APL TDA EQ, which is an extra cost. The results of the measurements are then loaded into the APL1s via a USB connector on the front panel.

The AES/XLR version of the Acoustic Power Lab APL1s is available for around $700 US, while TDA EQ software for around $365 US. Find out more on the APL website.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction" Instrument-Only Track

Early Rolling Stones image
One of the more iconic songs of the last century is "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. Every guitar player learns the famous Keith Richards lick when learning how to play, and every garage band plays the song sometime during their career.

The problem is that it's never played quite right since the arrangement is difficult to hear through a distorted final mix.

Today's isolated track is a real treat in that it features the very clean instrumental-only track of "Satisfaction" where you'll hear some things you probably never noticed before.

The instrumentation includes Keith Richards on electric guitar, Brian Jones on acoustic, Bill Wyman on bass, Charlie Watts on drums, and arranger Jack Nitzsche on piano and tambourine. Here's what to listen for:

1. The acoustic rhythm guitar really pushes the song along. In the final mix it blends into the track but the song would have a much different feel if it wasn't there.

2. Speaking of blending in, the piano also fills out the rhythm section and is pretty imperceptible on the final mix. You can hear it best on the verses.

3. Listen to what happens during the drum breakdown. Charlie Watts continues to play the same beat as he did in the rest of the song while the signature rhythm hook is played by the tambourine (which is also played during the rest of the song). The number of cover bands that get this right is about zero, although maybe the way we think we hear it is the way it should have been played in the first place.

4. Listen to high tight the band is. The timing is excellent, a trait that would get sloppier as the years went on.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What's The Best Driving Music?

Driving Music imageAn Israeli research endeavored to answer the question "What's the best driving music?" and found the answer. The problem is, it's not one that you'll like.

Psychology professor Warren Brodsky of Ben-Gurion University discovered that the answer is none, or at least none that's good for you!

It turns out that music is a major distraction for all drivers, especially if it's a song you like or one that frequently changes tempo and volume. Any music with a beat that gets you drumming on your steering wheel increases your potential for drifting into a different lane without you noticing. An old favorite can get you reminiscing about the past, while something that you've never heard before can make you concentrate more on the lyrics than your driving.

Probably none of you reading this are going to give up music in the car for talk radio, so what's the solution?

Brodsky suggest unfamiliar music with a steady tempo but no lyrics, so I guess that means we'll all be listening to smooth jazz in our cars soon, or not.

If you're interested in reading the study, the findings were published in his book "Driving With Music: Cognitive-Behavioral Implications."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Description Of Each Frequency Band In A Single Word

One of the things I've found over the years is that it's easy to interpret the demands of a client during a mix if you understand what they're trying to get across. It's amazing how just a single word can describe a frequency condition if we know what to listen for.

Here's a chart from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition that describes each frequency band with just a single word (along with some alternates).


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