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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Peavey Restructuring Its Business

Peavey Headquarters image
In another example of an industry in transition, Peavey Electronics recently announced an extensive global restructuring. The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, which is no small accomplishment in the musical instrument/pro audio business.

The company announced that it will lay off as many as 100 factory employees at one of its hometown facilities in Meridian, Mississippi beginning on November 25th. It will also close its UK distribution center as well.

Although long trumpeted as a national success story with much of the manufacturing kept within the borders of the US, Peavey has been gradually moving some of it to Asia, primarily to keep shipping costs down to other parts of the world.

That said, product development, engineering, sales, marketing, tech support and service remain in Meridian, as well as manufacturing for its highly successful MediaMatrix digital audio distribution systems.

Unfortunately this may not be the only downsizing that we'll see in the industry this year. The business is shrinking thanks to more and better software and less need for hardware, which cuts right to most manufacturer's bottom line. Not only that, the trend is more to smaller and compact systems rather than large expensive boxes, which requires a company to be extremely nimble and efficient to survive.

Peavey has done a great job of supplying a quality product at a very reasonable price over the years. The company has grown to become one of the backbones of our business, and a strong and healthy Peavey also helps the industry stay healthy. Let's hope that this restructuring means another 50 years for the company.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Drum Prep Checklist

Sad Snare image
The drums are the heartbeat of any recording and the secret to a great drum sound that anchors the song is the drums themselves. Here's a quick checklist from my The Recording Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition that will help you get a great acoustic drum sound in the room.

"Now that we’ve looked more closely at what it takes to make a drum kit sound great, here’s a simple checklist to follow before you set up any mics.
  • Have the heads on all the drums been changed? Be sure to change at least the top heads before recording
  • Have the drums been tuned? Are they tuned to work with the other drums in the kit?
  • Are there any sympathetic vibrations occurring? Tune the drums so that any drum that’s hit does not cause another to ring.
  • Is there an unwanted ring? Suppress it with tape, a muffling ring, or MoonGel.
  • Is the hardware quiet? Spray with a lubricant like WD-40 if not.
  • Is the level of the cymbals all the same? Balance the level with lighter or heavier cymbals as needed.
  • Is there another snare drum available? A song may call for a different snare drum sound."
If you follow the above checklist, you'll find that your drums will sound so much better before you even place the mics.

To read additional excerpts from The Recording Engineer's Handbook and my other books, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

10 Songs That Define America

Musical Genres
I'm not sure why the US State Department is involved with defining American music, but it posted an interesting article on the music genres that are native to the US. The genres are:
  • Jazz
  • Blues
  • Rock n Roll
  • Disco (although the Europeans took it to another level very quickly)
  • Rap
No problem there, but what is a bit more controversial is its list of the 10 songs that define America. These are:
"Hellbound Train" - Robert Johnson 
"Smokestack Lighting" - Howlin' Wolf 
"Ornithology" - Charlie Parker 
"Well, You Needn't" - Thelonious Monk 
"So What" - Miles Davis 
"Crosstown Traffic" - Jimi Hendrix 
"No Fun" - The Stooges 
"Sucker MCs" - Run DMC 
"Follow The Leader" - Erik B & Rakim 
"Nuthin' But A G Thang" - Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg
What do you think? Are there other songs that better define America?
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: Tascam DR-44WL Portable Recorder

Tascam DR-44WL
One essential item for every musician, engineer and producer is a portable recorder. We all want to record gigs and rehearsals, as well as podcasts and audio and sound effects for videos, and as a result, that portable recorder has become a standard piece of kit that we just can't live without. That said, the hunt for the best recorder for you is somewhat like a surfer catching that perfect wave. Each one offers something just a little different.

Tascam has released the new DR-44WL that ups the ante for all personal recorders. It's a 4 track recorder complete with dual shockmounted XY condenser mics and two locking XLR combo inputs. The inputs are said to be extremely low noise and can handle sound pressure levels as high as 132dB. The four track recorder allows for recording just a single track at a time, or a backup recording at -12dB so you never have to worry about an overload spoiling your recording.

One of the coolest things about the DR-44WL is its ability to be controlled via a Wi-Fi connection to a free iOS or Android smartphone app. You can start and stop the recording, check the meter readings, trim your levels or even transfer or share your recordings from the app. The unit also comes with a 4GB mcro-SD card and SD card adaptor.

The Tascam DR-44WL has a street price of $299. You can find a lot more information on the DR-44WL website.
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Nashville Engineer Ed Seay On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Ed Seay is one of Nashville's finest engineers and he's my guest on the latest Inner Circle podcast. Ed has a way of looking at and explaining recording that's crystal clear and he always has multiple nuggets of wisdom to offer, so this is one that I think you'll really enjoy.

In the intro section I'll also discuss the future of the album and take a look at how different tuning standards can affect our mood and even our musical enjoyment.

Remember that you can find the podcast either on iTunes or at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, and now also on Stitcher
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Led Zeppelin "Ramble On" Isolated Lead Guitar Track

Here's a very interesting isolated track from "Ramble On" by Led Zeppelin. It's the isolated lead guitar track, and while there isn't that much music of it (most of the track consists of only headphone leakage), it is pretty telling of how Zep recorded.

What you'll hear is Jimmy Page's guitar parts in the turnaround before choruses, the solo harmony parts, and an interesting part at the end that's not on the record. Here's what to listen for:

1. The first part enters at 1:05 and it's the pre-chorus clean guitar part. Nothing particularly remarkable here; it sounds just like the record.

2. The first solo begins at 1:55 and it consists of long sustaining distorted notes that are a harmony to the main guitar part. Listen to the end, where Page plays a very busy fill that doesn't make the final mix.

3. The second solo comes at 2:31 and once again it's a harmony part. It's not performed with great precision but it certainly works within the context of the part.

4. At 4:00 the reverb is turned way up and Page plays some harmonics and sustained notes, then some fills at the end. This is something that you won't hear on the record as the song is faded by the time these parts enter.

5. The interesting thing in this track is that it appears that Page knew exactly what he was going to play in every section beforehand. Where today we would take each section at a time and work on it, in this case it was more like, "Go into record for the entire song and let me take a pass." As a result, this might have been the only take of these parts.



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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Desqueak A Guitar Using iZotope RX4

iZotope RX4 is one of the great tools for postproduction, now a standard for every engineer doing ADR, foley or sound design just about everywhere. It's also very effective in a musical capacity as well, as you'll soon see.

This video by Russ at Pro Tools Expert (which is a great site you should really know about if you use Pro Tools) shows how you can use RX4 to clean up the squeaks from an acoustic guitar track. This is something that drives mixers crazy, but RX4 does a great job of attenuating them so they virtually disappear from the mix. RX4 also works great on electric guitar as well, and there's a video on how to do that as well.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Look At Life On A Tour Bus

On a Warped Tour bus
For most bands playing club gigs, the goal is to get popular enough to get out of the van and into a tour bus. Many musicians and techs also have a vision of going on the road with a popular act, but unless you've experienced life on a tour bus before, you'll find it's not at all like those days going from gig to gig in a station wagon.

Here's an excerpt from The Touring Musician's Handbook about life on the tour bus and the proper etiquette to use when you get there.
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"The tour bus is looked upon as the mansion on the hill. It holds a unique place in the minds of concert goers and musicians everywhere, but when it comes right down to it, it’s just a way to get a bunch of people from point A to point B as comfortably as possible. The definition of comfortable, however, is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s take a look at life on the bus.

The Bus Itself
Most tour buses are laid out the same. There’s a small front lounge, a larger rear lounge, bunks for either 8 or 12 people, a galley, and a bathroom with a shower. Most buses have a satellite television in both lounges as well as a DVD player and sound system, wireless Internet, and maybe even an X-Box or other gaming device. Many now have iPod docs as well.

The rear lounge can usually be reconfigured as a twin or queen size bed as necessary. There are multiple air conditioning zones (up to four on some buses), so there’s usually at least one area that you can find that has a temperature you’re comfortable in. The bus also has a generator so you’ll have plenty of AC power for plugging in laptops and anything else requiring external electrical juice. Most bunk areas are small, but many have a flip-down television, a DVD/CD player, and their own power outlets.

If the artist and the band share the same bus, it’s not uncommon for the artist to commandeer the rear lounge, even though it’s supposed to be for everyone (you better knock before trying to enter). Someone might even sleep back there if they’re claustrophobic in a bunk.

Life On The Bus
Because you share such tight quarters with seven to eleven other people, it’s very easy for tempers to fray. That’s why everybody has to be on their best behavior, no matter how difficult that may be. Because you can offend someone without even knowing, you have to be extra considerate of everyone on the vehicle and respect their physical space and personal belongings. Keeping yourself and your area clean and dumping the trash at every stop goes a long way to keep from setting off anyone’s phobias or quirks.
“Traveling by bus with eight other people is not something everyone can deal with.You have to have a certain type of personality to handle the intimacy and lack of privacy. The bus is close quarters, you can't walk down the aisle without bumping into someone, you can't sit alone anywhere without there being noise and a conversation, maybe someone watching a movie or listening to music. It's difficult to read because there are too many distractions and there is literally nowhere to go except to your bunk, which is about the size your coffin will be when you die. You have to be extremely cool and conscientious of others and hope they will be the same to you because it can be completely psychologically draining.”
 Sue Foley
As far as the bus goes, you never want to leave any of your stuff out in the aisle. When I started touring, they told you once to put your shoes in your bunk and if you didn’t listen, the next morning they were gone. You always want to clean up after yourself and you don’t want to go to sleep leaving your beer bottles or food out.
Walter Earl
You also have to take into consideration the opposite sex if you have a mixed male and female band. Women have different needs and a different energy from guys, which changes the dynamic of the behavior on the bus dramatically. Surprisingly, it tends to get mellower as the testosterone levels seem to decrease.
I know this is going to sound really old school but I always bring a book because sometimes when you’re on the bus with a lot people crammed in, the chances of having some kind of unpleasant discourse between band members or management or crew is pretty high. The longer you’re out, the less sleep you have, and the more you see the differences in personalities. It’s inevitable that there’s going to be a blow-up. I always want to have an escape or a self-defense to get out of those social situations which can go bad and lead you to losing your gig. Burying yourself in a book is a good way to stay out of those situations.
Ed Wynne
Is it a smoking bus, and does that bother you? How much are recreational drugs or alcohol a part of your touring life? Can you sleep on the bus? These are the things you must ask yourself before you take the gig.
TIP: Buy a cheap pair of slippers just for the bus. They’re easier to slip on and off in the tight quarters of your bunk."


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Apple's New Audio System For Thin Devices

Apple Speaker Patent image
Every since Apple hired my friend and surround sound mentor Tomlinson Holman a few years ago, I knew that the company would be working towards higher audio quality in a profound way. And generally speaking, the sound of Apple products does continue to improve, even if it's hardly ever noted. I just purchased a new iMac and Macbook Pro, and could immediately tell the difference between my 3 year old versions.

iPhone 6 plus speaker imageThis recent Apple patent application was dug up that's titled "Long Throw Acoustic Transducer," and it relates to a playback element in the thin device iOS environment. The idea behind it is that it has two permanent magnets that are joined by a linkage with a high magnetic permeability to form a a piston that is inserted into a housing. There are two pole coils surround the housing with each coil adjacent to one of the magnets, and they oscillate within the housing when an electrical signal is applied. One of the magnets can have a vent passage, but that's not entirely necessary. The whole idea is to provide a greater volume of air from a compact device than was previously possible.

We don't know for sure because it's not marked, but it doesn't look like the transducer in the new iPhone 6 plus is using this technology yet. Here's a picture of it thanks to the breakdown of the phone on ifixit. Either way, the boffins at Apple haven't forgotten audio, and we Mac/iPhone/iPad fanboys should be thankful.
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: UAD AMS RMX16 Plugin

There is so much new gear coming out for the upcoming AES show that it's an exciting time. One of the things I'm most excited about is the new AMS RMX16 plugin for the Universal Audio UAD platform. The original hardware box had a very distinctive sound that, along with the SSL 4k buss compressor, is really the sound of the 80s in many ways.

The algorithms in the RMX16 plug are exactly the same as the hardware unit, and includes those wonderful Ambience and Non-linear programs that we all used so much way back then. There are also a number of features that are unique to the plugin that weren't on the original hardware unit like dry/wet mix, wet solo, and much easier editing.

The plugin costs $349, and of course, you need a UAD-2 DSP card or Apollo interface. Check out the video below that features Mark Crabtree, the original designer of the RMX16.


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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Engineer Ed Stasium On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast
My latest Inner Circle podcast features the great engineer Ed Stasium who talks about the excellent guitar sound that he gets (my personal favorite) on the records that he's done for The Ramones, Living Color, and Mick Jagger among many others. We'll also touch upon some interesting other bits of his engineer career, like his first record ("Midnight Train To Georgia").

In the intro section, I also talk about the pros and cons of giving your music away, as well as the 8 different things that enter into creating a production budget.

Remember that you can find the podcast either on iTunes or at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, and now also on Stitcher
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Who "Who Are You" Isolated Drums

I just love listening to tracks from a hit song. It doesn't matter from which era, since each hit captures some kind of magic, and it's fun trying to sort out exactly what that magic is. Today we'll look at the drum track from a hit from The Who from 1978 called "Who Are You."

This was the last recording of drummer Keith Moon, as he died 20 days after the album was released. Moon was a one-of-a-kind drummer, especially when compared with the drummers of today, and you'll hear that his playing is almost garage-band like, although it was perfect for The Who at the time.

What's interesting was that the drums here were overdubbed, which is why all you hear is headphone leakage, and the leakage contains obvious overdubs. Here's what to listen for.

1. Listen to how dynamic the high-hat work is. Moony plays more than the beat, as the playing really breathes.

2. The sound of the drums is really the sound of the kit. This song used engineer Glyn Johns famous minimalist mic technique (as compared to today) so that the drums sound more like one instrument rather than what we hear today. Check out this video that will show you what he used.

3. The playing's not perfect, especially the kick. You can hear slight lags in timing in the kick, tom fills and the hat, although I'm sure that never bothered anyone listening to the record. Today we'd fix all that, most likely to the detriment of the song.

4. You can hear Moon singing and/or grunting at times throughout the song. Again, we'd probably fix that today.

5. At 3:30 you can hear a tympani overdub that isn't that obvious when listening to the entire mix.



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

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