Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Les Paul Console: The First True Multichannel Recording Desk

Guitarist Les Paul is noted for many inventions but one of his biggest was "sound on sound" recordings using two full track mono tape machines in the 1950s.

Les realized the limitations of bouncing from machine to machine and soon conceived the 8 track recorder, which he asked Ampex to build for him. When the new tape machine (which he called "The Octopus") was delivered to him, Les realized that he needed a way to mix the tracks together and commissioned Rein Narma Audio Engineering to build the first true multitrack multichannel recording console.

The Les Paul Original 8 Track Console image
The Les Paul Original 8 Track Console
The console featured 8 inputs and 3 outputs with equalizers on each channel, was modular, and had a full patchbay.

Keep in mind that Les had the first true home studio way back in 1956, and had 8 track recording about 12 years before it became popular in most commercial studios!

You can see more pictures of the Les Paul studio at this page on the AES Historical site.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Former EMI Records President Rupert Perry On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Rupert Perry image
I'm very pleased to have former EMI Records president Rupert Perry on the latest episode of my Inner Circle Podcast.

Rupert spent 30+ years at the highest levels of EMI, working as the head of A&R for Capitol Records for a time, then moving on to heading the EMI label operations of America, Europe and the UK.

He was also chairman of both BPI and IFPI label trade associations, and was awarded a CBE (one step below knighthood) by the Queen for his excellent service to the British music industry.

In the intro I'll take a look at the uproar over Apple Music's free trial period and the real truth behind Beats headphones.

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


New Music Gear Monday: Here Active Listening System

Here Active Listening image
We live in a noisy world and sometimes everyday life just makes it difficult to concentrate. Noise-canceling headphones have been around for a long time, but the good ones are big and bulky and just not suitable for everyday use. Now comes the Here Active Listening System that's designed to be worn anywhere and everywhere to keep your environment as audibly controlled as possible.

The Doppler Labs Here System is comprised of two wireless in-earbuds and a smartphone app. The ear buds aren't designed to reproduce music but to control environmental noise since they act as extremely small noise-canceling earphones.

What's different is that the earbuds are connected via Bluetooth to an app on your phone that controls the digital signal processing. The app features some useful DSP presets for different noisy environments like walking in the city, the subway, the office or on a plane, but it also has a few that audio folk might not feel are needed, like providing EQ, bass boost and reverb when listening to music.

The Doppler Labs Here System will be available later in the year and will retail at $249, but you can find several discount packages if you visit the Kickstarter campaign. The campaign has already surpassed it's goal of $250,000 (its at $569K as I write this), but you can still get involved until July 1st.

Check out the video below that explains more.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Golden Earirng "Radar Love" Song Analysis

Golden Earring Radar Love cover image
Dutch rock band Golden Earring was founded in 1961 but came to international fame in 1973 with “Radar Love,” a song still played on classic rock radio. The song started around an idea for the title and grew from there, eventually becoming a cut on the band’s US debut album Moontan.

The song was chosen as a single more through the process of elimination, since it was the only one on the album that lent itself to a radio edit. Ironically, the band never considered the song hit material and were always surprised at the notoriety it brought them. Here's an excerpt from the upcoming Deconstructed Hits: Classic Rock Volume 2 that provides an inside look at the song.

The Song
“Radar Love” has a lot of sections, including two intros and two bridges, as well as an elongated last verse and chorus. This accounts for the 6:22 album length, but it also enables some easy editing to bring it down to the 3:41 running time that most of us are familiar with on the radio.

The song doesn’t really have an instrumental hook other than the driving beat, but the melody is strong as are the lyrics, which take the point of view of an automobile driver rushing to see his lover. During the drive he communicates with her via telepathy as he listens to a rather obscure Brenda Lee hit from 1963 called “Coming On Strong.” The form looks like this:

intro | intro 2 | verse | B section | chorus | interlude | verse | B section | chorus | bridge | bridge 2 |  intro 2 | verse | B section | chorus | outro

The Arrangement
For the most part, the arrangement for “Radar Love” is generally sparse but very dynamic. The song begins with an 8 bar intro that gives way to a second intro built around the galloping snare drum play, then the main bass riff. A tambourine also enters on the right side that continues through the verse.

The verse begins with the vocal punctuated by a guitar on the left side that plays in between the phrases. Background vocals enter on right during the B section, which leads into the chorus, where the vocal is doubled, the left guitar is doubled with a synth and a lead guitar plays fills on the right.

On the second verse the left guitar plays a different riff but in a higher register, with a lower vocal added during the last two phrases. The second B section and chorus are identical to the first.

On the first bridge there’s a new synth bass line and drum pattern, and it begins with a high synth line that leads to a new guitar entering on right side. As the bridge progresses, the lead guitar enters at the end of the phrases on the left. This bridge then builds with a synth to accents at the end

Bridge 2 begins with repeated tom pattern, with the bass and guitar playing the same symphonic line (the guitar panned to the left), with the synthesizer building on the right.

The last verse begins with 8 bars of the bass and drum intro that increases in intensity as it builds to the vocal verse. On the last verse two guitars panned left and right play fills in octaves. This verse is twice as long, although the B section is the same length as all other B sections of the song, and the chorus is also twice as long, with the synth entering on the second one.

The song ends with the bridge bass and drum riff, as the guitars and synth build to a hard ending.

Arrangement Elements
The Foundation: bass and drums
The Rhythm: tambourine
The Pad: synth in chorus
The Lead: lead vocal
The Fills: background vocals, guitar fills

The Sound
“Radar Love” is engineered very well, with excellent bass and drum sounds, and makes great use of panning that you just don’t hear today. The song opens with a guitar on the left that’s balanced out with a reverb on the right. This effect is never heard in the song again.

During the first and second verses, the guitar answers the lead vocal on the left side, and is then balanced out by background harmony vocals on the right during the bridge. During the bridge the left guitar is doubled with a synth on the right. On the third verse, there’s an answer guitar on each side but they’re playing in different registers.

There isn’t much in the way of effects on the song, as it falls to a delayed reverb that’s used mostly on the vocal with a touch on the snare as well. The guitars use either a short reverb, or more than likely, were recorded with a lot of room ambience to set them apart from the rest of the track.

LISTEN UP
1. To the intro guitar with the dry sound on the left and reverb on the right
2. To the off-mic vocal during the second intro
3. To the lead guitar sneak in at the end of the phrases on the bridge
4. To the delayed reverb on the vocal and short reverb on the guitars

The Production
Here’s another example of a band producing themselves successfully, and once again a record that was made to be played live. There’s some sweetening, especially with the synthesizers on the bridge, but mostly the parts are laid down just like they were performed on stage.

Contrast that to most of the songs today that are heavily produced, where parts are doubled and tripled to make them sound bigger, and multiple layers of effects are added. The simplicity of production of “Radar Love” made it a hit and has kept it on the radio 40+ years later. Maybe we should use this as an example of how production should be done."


You can read more about how the hit songs that you love were created in Deconstructed Hits.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Truth About Beats Headphones

How Beats Tricks You Into Thinking It Makes a Premium Product
Beats Headphones most important part
Those of us in the studio community that are used to listening on reasonably good headphones are constantly appalled at the market penetration of Beats brand headsets. Thankfully, you don't see them much in studios unless you're recording R&B clients, but if you've ever listened you know how bad they sound.

PopMech did a detailed teardown of Beats most popular Solo headphones and found that they're incredibly cheaply made with corners cut just about everywhere. For instance, Beats uses glue where most quality makers use screws, so they're really very fragile. Beats also claims that its drivers are specially designed for the company but it turns out that they're just cheap off-the-shelf units.

But Beats pulls out one trick that you probably never considered. The company makes its headphones feel more substantial and worth the money by adding weight!

In fact, 30% of the weight of the phones comes from 4 tiny parts that do nothing else but make them feel heavier (see the photo above).

So do yourself a favor and grab something that's worth the money the next time you're buying phones. Three models that I use all the time are the Monoprice 8323 (for really inexpensive but great sounding phones), the broadcast standard Sony MDR 7506, and Audio Technica ATH-M50x.

What are your favorite headphones?

UPDATE: It appears that the unit that was dismantled by PopMech was a knockoff.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How To Build A Shipping Container Studio

shipping container image
Here's a novel idea that many have dreamed about that was actually brought to fruition. If you've built a studio before, then moved, you know that all the construction you did stays where it's at. A way around this is to build it in a standard size shipping container, which is what Mike Dever did.

A container can be had for around $1500 to $2000, and after the studio is finished, you can take it with you anywhere to move to from then on. It's a little cramped, but still highly usable.

This video gives you a good idea about the various stages of construction. You can also find out more details on building your own studio from my Studio Builders Handbook.





Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Commissioning A Neve 8078

Restored 8078 image
Having a "real" console is a dream that many studio owners have, but most are unaware of the work that goes into rebuilding a vintage desk. Here's a video that shows just how much work can go into bringing a classic console back up to spec.

In it you'll see just what Vintage King did to get an old Neve 8078 up and running in The Parlor in New Orleans. You can also go here to see some additional picture and details.




Monday, June 22, 2015

Producer/Engineer Garth Richardson On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Garth Richardson image
Garth Richardson grew up in the studio thanks to his dad Jack Richardson, who produced Alice Cooper, The Guess Who, Badfinger, Peter Gabriel and Poco among others.

After being around music all his life, it’s no surprise that Garth has gone on to engineer records for luminaries like Taylor Swift, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nickelback and Motley Crue, and produce acts like Rage Against The Machine and Mudvayne.

 He’s also one of the founders of the excellent Nimbus Recording School, and I'm pleased to have him on this week's podcast.

In the intro I'll take a look at Apple Music and why it could eventually make a difference in industry income, and Moog Music's decision to give the company to its employees.

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

New Music Gear Monday: MOTU 1248 Audio Interface

MOTU 1248 audio interface image
For many musicians, bands and artists with home studios, it's a struggle to find a computer interface with enough I/O at a reasonable price. On top of that, many of the popular ones currently available don't have enough of the features needed for a home studio. The new MOTU 1248 is different though, hitting the criteria required for many small studios on multiple levels.

To start with, the MOTU 1248 has a lot of I/O for such a small package in that there's 8 rear panel analog inputs and 12 analog outputs, along with 4 mic inputs complete with front panel trim, phantom power and pad controls, and two front panel instrument inputs. The 12 outputs are divided into 8 channel outs, 2 main and 2 monitor, plus there are 2 dedicated front panel headphone outputs with level controls.

There's also 2 ADAT inputs and outputs that allows for up to 16 more inputs if you have one of the many 8 channel mic preamps available with ADAT outs. Keeping on the digital side, you'll also find a SPIDF input and output. All this combines for up to a potential 32 inputs and 34 outputs, quite a lot from a single rack space box.

The 1248 can also interface with the computer in multiple ways in that there's both Thunderbolt 2 and USB connectors. Plus there's also an AVB Ethernet connection for connecting the unit to a network, which could include a number of additional 1248's for expanded capabilities.

The front panel also contains master volume controls for the Main and Monitor outputs, and a large display that can show the various functions or act as level indicators for all the inputs and outputs. That said, the unit also comes with a software mixer capable of up to 48 channels, each with its own EQ, filter set, gate and compressor, with up to 7 aux sends and 4 groups. This mixer can be loaded not only onto a desktop computer, but also on an iPad or iPhone for remote control of the unit, something which musicians and engineers are demanding more and more.

The 1248 is capable of operating at sample rates up to 192kHz, although that will limit the I/O capabilities. That said, the unit is deep in functionality, has some excellent audio specs, and in general is a huge bang for the buck at a street price of $1495. Check out the video below or go to the MOTU website for more details.



Friday, June 19, 2015

The Beatles "Girl" Isolated Vocals

Girl cover - The Beatles image
For many, Rubber Soul is the consummate Beatles album that really turned the genre into an art form. One of the most covered songs from that album is "Girl," and we'll take a look at its isolated vocals today. Here's what to listen for.

1. There's a count off at the beginning that you won't hear on the final album mix.

2. The lead vocal features just a single John Lennon vocal track on the verses. This is unusual in that Lennon didn't like the sound of his voice and always preferred to double it (which happens in the chorus) on most of the songs that he sang.

3. There's a fair amount of compression on the vocals along with the famous Abbey Road reverb that just melts into the track.

4. The Beatles harmonies vocals are doubled (except at the end of the bridge) and as beautiful as ever. Listen to the end of the bridge at 1:20 where it gets a little pitchy, and a mistaken vocal entrance at 2:02. Obviously, these aren't heard in the final mix.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

If You Were Ever Worried About Our Musical Youth

Pelican212 image
A conversation that I frequently have with musicians who have been around for a while centers around the fact that the next generation of musicians may be a little too computer-centric and don't spend enough time on their musical craft as a result. In short, there's a general lament about the musicianship behind left behind for technology.

If you feel like that, this video might change your mind.

It's a band from Louisiana called Pelican212 that my friend Katie Rees (the adult of the group) formed with some really stage-savvy kids. They're a lot more professional than a lot of adult acts that I see, with a swagger that you seldom see. Oh, and they play and sing great too.

Louisiana musicians (of any age) have so much soul and power. They're always entertaining.




Wednesday, June 17, 2015

4 Tips For More Efficient Rehearsals

Band Rehearsal Tips image
Rehearsals are the life-blood of a band. Whether you're neophyte players in the garage or a bunch of A-listers in the studio reading down a chart, you want to get the song down so it sounds great as quickly as possible.

Here are 4 tricks from my How To Make Your Band Sound Great book that any band can use to not only make that song sound better than ever, but also do it in the most expeditious manner possible.

"No matter what kind of music you play, here are a few rehearsal tips to help things go a bit smoother.

1. When your first learning a song, stop as soon as there’s a train wreck and work it out.  Talk it over to see what everyone is playing, then play just that part until you get it.  Sometimes the problem may be in the middle or end of a section, so if you’re able to play just that section, great.  It’s pretty easy to work out.  Most bands just can’t get into unless you start four bars before or even at the beginning of the section to work it out.  Whatever it takes to make things sound great!

2. Find the hardest part of the song and concentrate on that first.  Slow it down to where it’s easy to play, then bring it up to speed when everyone can play it cleanly.

3. Sometimes it’s best to start with the chorus, especially the out-chorus, since it usually repeats.  It’s the section of the song that you’ll play the most anyway and probably has a hook so it’s easy to remember.  Starting with the chorus can give you confidence about playing a difficult song.

Once the band knows the form and can make it through the song, then come back and work on the things talked about in Chapter 8 and below.

4. It’s The Little Things That Count
As we’ve been saying throughout this book, it’s the little things, the nuances, that take your band to another level.  They’re what make you sound great.  We’ve talked about these things before, but let’s list them again, because these are the things that you’ve got to have down.
  • You know the part inside out
  • The turnaround between song sections is defined.
  • You know the dynamics of the song
  • All rhythms are in the pocket and the song grooves
  • Attacks and releases for each part are worked out
  • All the sounds are layered so nothing clashes either rhythmically or frequency-wise
  • All vocals are in the best range for the singers
  • Background vocals are defined and tight
These are the things that you should be concentrating on during rehearsal, not so much your individual parts. Or, if you must learn your parts at rehearsal, make one rehearsal for the parts and the next for the nuances, but don’t take the song out of the room until you’ve got both down cold!"


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