Monday, December 31, 2012

SNR Playlist #4 King Animal

On our last podcast, Jon and I talked about bands selling out. Mainly the difference between selling out to the man, and selling out stadiums. For a minute, I think I was trying to nail down what album I would cover, when I got enough time to do some research and write another playlist segment. It was in between Cee Lo Greens new Christmas album, and Soundgardens new(ish) album, King Animal.

Clearly I chose the latter. I've loved Soundgarden since I was a little kid and figured out how to tune the radio to the local rock station. Most of the Superunknown singles were still on the air in regular rotation at that point, but what really caught my attention was 'Blow Up the Outside World'. It's still one of my favorite songs by them, and in general, to this day, I love the stuck in a cavern vocals, and the typical super ballsy Matt Cameron drumming, Chris and Kim's guitars, and the opposing/walking bass that Ben Shepard had come up with. 

I was pretty wrecked when they called it quits. Way more wrecked than when Rage broke up. Soundgarden was a little more musical for me, and I'm a sucker for good song structure. I'm more of a pre-pro guy at heart than I would like to admit most time.

Over the past few years, there have been hints, and they've released a few compilations, which were good, but not what I wanted. I wanted another rock and roll album. A real album. Something that reminded me that good big rock and roll wasn't totally dead. The Foos are amazing, but I wanted something to help them out. 

Then it happened. Studio rehearsal shots with all the guys. I about lost it. I didn't listen to anything but grunge for almost a month. Thankfully my wife didn't mind too much. I guess it was better than math rock.

Anyways, lets get to the album, and out of my child/adulthood dreams.

The opening track 'Been Away Too Long' is just what an opening track should be; big, ballsy, and angry. The second track is what literally got me head banging in my car, until the back beat kicked in. 

Goosebumps, a nervous twitch and me roaring "Yeaaah!" followed. 

I was pretty impressed to find out that Ben Shepard had written the music for it. Having cycled through about a dozen bands, and a ton more songwriting sessions that I've sat in on, it's pretty awesome that the bass player wrote my favorite song on the album (we're not always just the worst guitar player in the band).

Let's get over to the technical side of things, before I go through every song on this thing.

Back to the selling out thing. They sell out stadiums. For days on end. That is all.

They've all obviously got the money, so why not do this album the best that they could. And, personally, I think they did. The best for them, and their music. Yeah, everyone goes to JJP or CLA to mix their stuff, but they wanted a more raw, more... Soundgarden sound, if you will.

From the start of the recording process, they went Sam Hofstedt. He worked on Down on the Upside, and other stuff for them. Not to mention Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Deftones, you know, just little guys mostly.

The project was recorded at Studio X in Seattle. Which makes me happy to know that they're still ok with where they came from (not selling out like total douches)

The A room there is set with PT7 HD3, and all processed with an SSL 4000 64 channel desk, and pretty much all top of the line stuff, as you would imagine. Here's a link to the gear PDF for all of the super nerds like us out there. Studio X A room Gear  

From there they took it to Joe Barresi to mix. Mr. Barresi has also covered a killer range of albums, from Tool's 10,000 Days, to The Spiderman 2 soundtrack, to Tom Petty. Dude has some sick chops. He's totally on the top 10 list of my favorite mix engineers of all time. Joe also mixes on an SSL 4000 desk, because, well, they don't call it the hit maker for nothing, 

Now, I've mentioned Sterling Sound before. It's where most big productions get mastered. For a good reason. They're the best. The mastering engineer was a guy by the name of Ted Jensen. His album credits are in the thousands. He started out with Hotel California by The Eagles and worked with some other stuff like Billy Joel's Piano Man, and Green Day's American Idiot.

As I'm continuing to listen to this album, while I'm writing this, I can say that there isn't a single thing that I would change, anywhere in the process of this recording. A lot of the time, I'll hear at least a couple things on big albums, that I would like to hear a little differently, and most certainly I always kick myself when I get a finished product back, and get a ton more ideas for things I could have done differently. Not this time. I even like the few little timing issues, and off note slides, that may or may not have been left on purpose. Yes, I'm aware how much production goes in on something like this, but I love that there's still nuances of imperfection in there, to let you know that it's not all programmed and replaced. It's what rock and roll is about kids.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

SNR Podcast #29 - 12/30/2012 - Home Studio

This week hosts Jon Dayton and Anthony Kosobucki are joined by Matt Mackiewicz. The group talks about home studio steups and methods, delving back into the bad old days of cassette four track machines and working forward. As always you can catch the YouTube version right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

  • SNR Podcast #29 - 12/30/2012 - Home Studio - Jon Dayton, Anth Kosobucki and Matt Mackiewicz talk home studio from cassette four track on up.

Friday, December 28, 2012

USB Interfaces

After the post the other day about getting your first USB audio interface I got a few requests about specifics. This is also coming up constantly on nearly every forum you care to look at. Here are the two that I recommend for starting out.

The first is the ART DualPre. It can be had new for $79, I got mine on eBay for less than $50 shipped. It's a little better than a real no frills model. In fact, it's got quite a few frills which in most cases will more than make up for the fact that the mic pres are a little noisy.

On the front it's got a pair of combination XLR/quarter inch connectors for accepting mic or line inputs and a gain knob for each. On the back it's got a headphone volume knob and a blend knob so you can listen direct off the pres for zero latency monitoring, hear what's coming back out of your DAW, or both. In addition to the 1/8" headphone jack there are a pair of mono 1/4" jacks for connecting studio monitors.  The only odd thing about it is that when you're monitoring direct from the pres you hear channel one in your left ear and channel two in your right. It can throw you a little but I have found it very useful.

Another nice feature is the power situation. The DualPre is bus powered which means it can get all the juice it needs right from your USB port (even enough for phantom power to run condenser mics). But it's also got a slot for a nine volt battery and a jack to accept a twelve volt wall wart. These are pretty common and can prevent issues if your computers USB ports aren't quite doing the job. When not powered by USB there's a button on the back to power the unit down and save the battery.

In addition to all this it can be used as a stand alone headphone amp which I've done several times. The use of adapters is often required depending on the needs of the performer. It's a matter of what you feed to each channel and thus into each side of their headphones.

Another nice option for those just getting started out is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. For less than $150 you can get one brand new which includes a plug-in pack that's worth nearly as much as the unit itself. Connectivity is similar, dual purpose inputs on the front (with line/instrument switch for better impedance matching of 1/4" inputs), headphone and monitor outs, etc. For the extra money what you're getting is a pair of really outstanding Focusrite mic pres. As a company they've been making outstanding pres for ages, some live guys even take them on the road because they prefer them to the ones in their Midases. Now they're focusing heavily on the interface market and we reap the benefits.

Either one would be a fine choice to start out with, although my advice of "save yourself some trouble and buy your second one first" holds true here. A few extra dollars nets you a really nice interface and some great plug-ins to boot. It can also be tempting to want to get something with more inputs but if the budget is tight you can always start with two and then either use ASIO4All on a PC or the Mac's built in aggregate device options to gang more interfaces together. Both work well and will let you piece together a home studio with ease.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rein Those Faders In

I've got a little trick for you today that I sort of stumbled on to. I don't like to admit that it's because I'm slightly lazy that I found this one but that's the case and it's working out so I'm sticking with it. It has to do with the way you set up your gain structure. My laziness has to do with the distance between where my palm rests when standing at the Midas at work and the comfortable spot the faders come to rest when my hands are in position. It's generally somewhere around -5. The faders wind up there and when I sound check the next band I adjust the trims so that they can generally stay parked there. This works out for me for a couple of reasons.

The first is that some of the musicians on stage need rather a lot of level going to their ears and having the trims set a little higher lets me get to where they're happy before I run out of knob on the aux sends. The second reason is that I believe it gives me less noise at the outputs when I mix like this.

Less noise? But aren't you just trading 5dB on the fader for 5dB on the trims. Not necessarily. The faders are acting as pads when they're below unity, they only actively add gain to the path when you push them above that. You can check it out on your own mix and see (although results may vary). Next time you've got a clean setup set the trims on a couple dozen channels to unity and then push all the faders up to unity. Now grab something straight and push all those faders up to +5. Hear that hiss? That's what I'm talking about.

So holding back a little on each fader not only gives me a little bit quieter mix, it means that I've got that much more fader left if something does really need to get boosted. Face it, if all your channels are above unity there's not that many dB left before you run out of track.

So there you have it Brethren on the Knob and Fader. I'm going ahead and floating this one out there without empirically testing it. I'm hoping to hear from some of you with results of your own and we'll see if this actually holds up or if it's just some audio hogwash (like so much of the stuff that passes for wisdom on the boards). Let me know.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mid Side Mic Technique

This isn't a proper Project Movie post but you can check the rest of those out with the link if you're interested in the big picture. As I lay out in the audio (MP3 link below) we had a chorus of a dozen voices in a semi circle around a figure eight mic with a pencil mic right on top of it. You record just those two things and then in mixdown you double the figure eight track, flip polarity and pan the two tracks out. In the stereo image the left side is the pencil mic plus the figure eight and the right side is the pencil minus the eight. You can decide after the fact how wide your stereo image is. 

Some people don't like this technique because it feels "too stereo". But in this case that was what we wanted. We were trying to create a chorus of angels so if it sounds a little unearthly that was fine for this project. The nice thing is that you can just pan things in and out until it feels natural to you. Another benefit of this method is that it sums perfectly to mono. You loose the stereo-ness of it but there's no information lost due to phase cancellation. So it's a great choice if your final destination is TV or computer speakers which are generally stereo these days but usually so close together that there's little or no stereo image.

So here's a little lesson in M-S where I lay out the mixdown process for this piece which will shortly wind up on the DVD.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Little Christmas Present

Today I'll be putting my feet up with the rest of the country and enjoying a little time off in the bosom of my family. One of our holiday traditions is to watch "A Christmas Story". It's become almost as essential to the season as trimming the tree or singing "Silent Night" by candle light down at church. I ran across this article the other day about the source of that great story. Here it is. It's not a new line array or that new digital console you were hoping to find under the tree. Just a little peek behind the scenes, which is where all the good stuff happens as all the Brethren of the Knob and Fader know.

To all our readers, we wish you a joyous season, no matter your race, nationality, beliefs or what have you. Enjoy the day, and the story.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

SNR Podcast #28 - 12/22/2012 - Mixdown

This week your humble hosts Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki both have mixdown on the brain and share their thoughts on the subject. Keeping tabs on a high track count project is easy with the right techniques. Routing and automation are your friends. As always you can check out the YouTube right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

  • SNR Podcast #28 - 12/22/2012 - Mixdown - Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki bring out the tricks that make handling a high track count project.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Giveaway [UPDATED]

[EDIT] I was just informed that the link below just lead to another picture of the plugin. Sorry to have misled you. The link is now correct. 

I know we said we were going to just be posing on weekdays for a bit but since there was a bit of slacking going on this week due to day job stuff I thought I'd drop this little tidbit. Waves had some cool giveaways back around Thanksgiving but we didn't get a chance to pass those on. So here's one from Native Instruments. I'm interested in the distortion plugin (pictured below) in particular although that's not all they've got up for grabs.

Distortion is often thought of as something to be avoided at all costs unless you're a guitar player. The fact is though that in small amounts it's something that can really make a mix. That great "analog" feel that people rave about is distortion caused by saturating transformers, tubes, tape heads and the like. It can produce gorgeous overtones that take something from sounding normal to sounding sublime. Then there's the route you can take that winds its way through break-up, saturation, and finally ends up in  total shredding destruction!!!

So without getting into a bunch of examples I'll just leave you with the link and encourage all you Brethren of the Knob and Fader to pull this out and experiment with it while you're off for the Holiday. Then next time you're neck deep in a project and running out of ideas you'll have a little distortion at your disposal. This could come in handy whether you mix jazz or dubstep and anything in between.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Project Movie: Part Eight - Building A Mix In The Studio

Here we are promising you daily posts and then not delivering. It's only because the Holiday madness persists. My task this week was to mix down all the tracks we took from the live events last week. This is yet another post in the Project Movie series so if anything I say here doesn't make sense just take a look back at some of the other posts.

We had thirty-two tracks from each of three performances as well as a couple of the full company rehearsals that we made to test out our methods and to have around for insurance. At a couple points one or the other of the recording computers would glitch. With everything played to a click track though that meant that we could swap tracks in from other performances to build the best tracks we could. 

The first step was to get rough mixes up for the three performances. I merged the two sets of tracks in to new identical sessions for each night. I tamed a couple things down that could have caused trouble but otherwise I just made three sets of "all faders up" mixes and posted them in the office Dropbox for the rest of the team to evaluate. 
After a couple days we had our pics for what the best performances were and I set to work on building yet another session. This one had the same layout as the rough mix sessions so I could just open things up in new tabs in Reaper to cut and paste. There was one other session for a single number. We had a choir of a dozen women around a mid-side mic setup. We were planning on comping together one good pass from the three nights but once I lined everything up I hit play and fell in love with the thirty-six voice choir. With a little careful lining up of the starts of phrases and some automation fading out final consonants when they didn't line up we got a really cool mix out of it.

Now that I had my final mix session I tackled the hardest stuff first. The opening number and one other one were very sparse. I took about two hours to get a violin, piano and string pads to all sit nicely and fill up the space. The rest of the night was full rock band so it had to be big. After that I got down to business on the remaining songs.

My advice would typically be to start with everything up about half way, then get the vocals dialed in, move to the kick, then relate it to the snare and bass, and slowly fill in tracks until you have the whole mix built.  Also, it's a good idea to start at the biggest point in a song and get that right, then build backwards from there so you don't run out of room. 

I had an advantage on this project though because I had already mixed two band rehearsals, three dress rehearsals and three shows. I knew the material pretty well and I just went at it like I did the live mix. I started with a little tweaking on stuff that really needed it but then I just set out mixing with all the faders up. If I EQ'd the kick or the bass, I did it in place. Soloing is good for fixing a little trouble here and there but everything you do affects the whole mix so you should work on things while you can hear how they interact. 

Another thing I'd like to stress is that it's good to be careful about when you start in with your automation. I like to mix until the faders can pretty much stay where they are and everything is sitting pretty well in the mix. Then I'll engage the automation to start to make things live and breathe. I like to switch each track over to read mode as I start to put automation in. If you're in trim/read and you grab a fader that you've already automated you can really get yourself into trouble. You can still do it but you'll have to make the conscious choice to switch modes.
Time management is pretty important. I'm they type that will just mix and mix and mix and never be done with it. If I got to a point where I was getting into details that were really tiny I stopped myself, gave the track a final listen and just printed it. That's what listen backs are for. You need to get your head clear of all the repetitions and come back with fresh ears before you mix any more.

After a full day in the chair I had every song mixed down but one and only stopped then because I had to go mix a rehearsal. The following morning I finished it up and later that day I sat down with my boss to hear everything with fresh ears and get some notes.  With a few things to touch for each song and a couple overdubs to take care of I'm finally down to the home stretch on this project. 
Just a final word here. "Overdubs?" some of you are saying.  Yes. It's done on live projects. In some cases it gets pretty ridiculous, like a Thin Lizzie live album where they just kept the kick and the crowd mics. In our case we were able to fix problems that came up, little mistakes and such by flying in part or a whole track from another performance. In a couple cases though there just wasn't any fixing it so we'll do a quick punch in here and there.
In a few weeks we'll have all the DVD content together and the duplication finished. After the initial run we'll post the project on Vimeo and I'll get a link up so anyone who's interested can take a look at what we did.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear SNR: Recording Interfaces

On the message boards the most common question asked is "I'm just getting started. What audio interface should I buy for my computer?"  or some variation on that theme. All the gear snobs inevitably have a lot to say about high buck options and the way one mic pre sounds compared to another. The simple fact of the matter is this. It doesn't matter.
You're new. At best you've got more than one cheap microphone at your disposal and probably something atrocious for speakers. You could spend all you want on something with super duper mic pres and dual pump action A/D converters but it just won't matter. If you're green you haven't got the chops yet to properly work over the stuff you're capturing anyway so you may as well not break the bank getting it in there in the first place.
You're at the stage in your career where you just need to absolutely murder some projects in order to get better. So go ahead. Your best investment at this point is your time. Learn how to get that second hand SM57 positioned to get the most out of it when you record your best friend's solo acoustic version of the latest A7X tune. Find out the limitations of gain structure while you make awful board recordings at your mate's rehearsal space. Buy a condenser mic and find out just how hard it is to get good sound out of the world and into a computer.
It gets better.
After a while you'll find that you know the limitations of your gear. You'll know this because you'll be better than the gear will allow you to be. That's when you know you've made a quantum leap and you're ready to get something that's better than you are again and start working up the next rung of the ladder.  But you can't make good multi-track recordings until you can make good one track recordings.

That's the reason that in every studio in the world, no matter what kind of highfalutin, multi-thousand dollar mics they have in their locker, you'll always find a humble 57 or two because people who've learned their craft started there and know exactly what they're good for. 

So to the younger members of the Brethren of the Knob and Fader I say: Don't spend more than $150 on an interface and then get out there and ruin some music! Go ahead. That's what it's there for! Save your money and invest your time. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Drum Mics - The Glyn Johns Technique

I've known about this little trick for micing up drums for a long time but rarely ever use it. I grew up in the era of big production and the idea of getting drum tracks or doing a show with fewer than ten inputs made me squeamish I guess. 

It's a simple setup. Take two condenser mics, preferably large diaphragm, and place one roughly over the rack tom, about head height, aimed at the snare. Place the other one, same height, roughly over the floor tom, also looking at the snare. Done.

You can mess with the panning to control stereo width. You can use a kick mic or not. You will always get a great drum sound with very little work. You get better separation of the cymbals because of the spacing of the mics, but a very tight image of the snare because they're equidistant from it and both aimed at it.

I tried it out on my drum overheads in a live setting and loved it there too. I used to be pretty happy with an X-Y or A-B setup, but the asymmetrical Glyn Johns technique trumps them all in my book. Here's a video of the man himself explaining things to a group of young Brethren of the Knob and Fader.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

SNR Podcast #27 - 12/16/2012 - Holiday Wrap Up, Mic Techniques

We're finally back to podcasting after the long Holiday production hiatus. Hosts Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki got right down to business with a wrap up of all the production that has kept them away from the blog and podcast. Then followed up with a review of the 12-12-12 concert, covered some mic tricks and techniques and covered a few other random odds and ends in there as well.  As always you can check out the YouTube right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

  • SNR Podcast #27 - 12/16/2012 - Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki do a Holiday production wrap up, review the 12-12-12 concert and cover some mic tricks and techniques.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kick vs Bass - Sidechain Solution

I've heard some engineers recently talking about the kick and the bass always being in a fight and one of them having to win. That struck me as kind of a foreign concept until I started working at my current gig. The subs are pretty small and have a limited amount of power available to drive them. Frequently the bass would have to win out in order for everything else to sound right and I'd make do with mostly beater sound from the kick. It was a shame though because every time I heard the kit by itself I always thought it sounded pretty darn good (even if I do say so my self).

I had resigned myself to my fate and hoped that some day we'd revamp the system. Then I finally landed on an idea that's used a lot in mixing records, particularly dance records where both elements have more of a lead role than they do in other types of music. Using the side chain on a compressor on the bass channel. 

Side chaining, for those not familiar, is a method of making a compressor respond to something other than the signal going through it. Normally, signal goes in and gets split. Half of the signal goes through a detector that tells the compressor when to engage based on the settings you've given it, and the other half is processed and fed back into the console. Using the side chain allows you to use something besides the signal being processed to engage the process.

For example, in my case, I could take a direct out from the kick channel and feed it into the side chain of the compressor on the bass. Whenever the kick hits, gain is reduced on the bass channel, effectively making some space for the kick to come through in the mix. How much space is determined by the settings I choose. Go too deep or too long and it will be obvious and sound bad. But get the settings dialed in right and the kick should just come through nicely in the mix without sounding like it's punching holes in the bass line.

One further benefit of using this technique is that if your drummer and bassist aren't always exactly together, if the kick is coming up through the bass on downbeats it will obscure that tiny bit of difference by being higher in the mix. The bass is still felt and still present, but with the kick controlling it rhythmically you get a tighter performance.
Tune in next time Brethren of the Knob and Fader, when maybe I'll remember to write about how to use side chaining to de-ess a vocal.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Project Movie: Part Seven - Recording the Live Event

I know it's a lot of posts lately about the recent movie project but I want to get it all down while it's still fresh and today's post has some importance for other applications as well.

When the time came to put our show up we had a pretty good input list going and wanted to get every last bit of it recorded so we'd be able to mix down all the live music and actors' performances for the DVD. (If you're just showing up now check out the rest of the Project Movie posts here)

We didn't have an ideal setup but we used what we had. Coming through the Midas Legend 3000 at front of house I had twenty-four instrument inputs, four vocal inputs, a set of choir mics, lavs on the actors and pastor, and a backing track. To get it all in the box I had at my disposal a Presonus StudioLive 24 digital mixing console with Firewire out and a MOTU 896mk3 Firewire audio interface, good for another eight analog ins as well as digital, which comes in later.

For our first full rehearsal I routed the first twenty-four channels of the board to the Presonus via direct outs on the channels. This gave my assistant good control over the gain structure of the recording to prevent overs and make sure nothing came in too cold. The Firewire connection brought it into a MacBook and we recorded in Reaper. The MOTU interface handled the vocals and backing track (we re-recorded it so as not to have to worry about sync as much in the final project.) and brought those inputs into a second MacBook running Reaper.

At the end of the night after two full run throughs we went back to review the tracks. This involved importing the audio from one of the sessions into the other and lining things up. This was easy to accomplish but we found that once we had done it, there was considerable lag on the part of the vocals by the end of a ninety minute pass. Something in the neighborhood of fifty milliseconds. Not wanting to chop things up and line every song up we got to thinking.

What to do? Well, the MOTU has lots of options for bringing in digital audio. S/PDIF, AES/EBU, ADAT, and Toslink. The problem was, the Presonus only has Firewire out. The MOTO can accept an external clock, but the Presonus is again out in the cold. It is possible to bring Firewire audio into the MOTU as well, but not as many tracks as the Presonus had.

The final answer was a simple piece of RCA cable. The Presonus has a S/PDIF out option for sending two selectable tracks of audio. I selected the L/R mix and ran it to the S/PDIF input of the MOTU. A few knob tweaks later I had the MOTU looking to the Presonus for time code and all was well.  Mostly.  The MOTU was actually the better option for clock signal but the Presonus only has digital out.

In the end we got good results. The vocal tracks were lagging less than one millisecond after a ninety minute pass. I have no way to measure the jitter but I'm assuming that since the predominant method of playback will be TV speakers for the final product that only the dog will notice if there is any.

Well Brethren of the Knob and Fader. I hope that info comes in useful some day. As the home recording market continues to grow, ganging multiple interfaces together is a more and more common practice. Just having them slaved into the same DAW on the same machine might not be enough to save you in every situation. Always keep an eye on the clock!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The One Click Trick - Using Inserts as Direct Outs

It comes up every now and then that someone needs a way to take individual tracks of audio from a mixer into a recorder but there aren't enough outputs to do it and the console doesn't have direct outputs. There's a little trick you can use, in a number of ways, to get the job done.

If the console has insert jacks you're in luck. An insert jack uses a TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) connector to send audio out for processing and receive it back on the same jack. With a Y cable the audio path uses the tip to go to one TS plug that feeds signal into a piece of outboard gear and the other TS returns signal on the ring. They share the ground. 
By inserting a TS plug into the insert jack just to the first click. That takes the send signal and effectively makes it a direct out. If you have Y cables on hand you can use those, the send branch is your direct out and you can just ignore the return. Some consoles have send on the ring and return on the tip. Older British desks especially. So make sure you check into this first. In a lot of cases though you've just taken a direct out without interrupting the signal in the channel.

Sometimes it's worth it to make up special cables to insure a better connection, especially if it's for frequent use. A cable with a TRS connector at the mixer end and a TS connector for the recording device at the other made from shielded instrument cable is desired. At the mixer end, solder a jumper from the tip to the ring of the TRS connector. This allows the jack to be fully inserted which is more secure and will not interrupt the audio through the channel. The TS jack on the other end functions as a split.  This is the way to go if your desk uses the old British convention as well. Here's a simple diagram:

Mixer End                                                                                    Recorder End
T_________________White Wire_______________________T
S_________________Black Wire_______________________S

The last thing to remember is that inserts are most commonly located immediately after the mic pre. While larger consoles or ones intended for recording will often have an option to have direct outs be either pre or post fader, on a smaller console there's just one place to get the gain right and not as much opportunity for fine tuning. At home or in the studio this isn't as much of a problem as when you try this out on a gig. The FOH guy may or may not want to cooperate with you on gain structure as his job is to make the show sound good, not keep your clip lights off.

One final thing to mention and this is a pet peeve of mine. Lots of people who start to build their own cables will use black for the signal and white for the ground/shield. While this is correct if you're wiring a house (In North America anyway) audio wiring generally follows the convention for low voltage systems. In those systems the ground is black and signal wires are the rest of the colors. This makes it a lot easier to keep track of things when some of your cables are black/red and some are black/white. Only when you run into the odd red/white cable do you need to make a choice and stick to it. It's important to stick to the system because when you're making quick repairs in the field, especially at a live event, reversing the polarity will have an effect on the signal, sometimes a pretty big one.

That's all for now Brethren of the Knob and Fader. Keep those questions rolling in. We'll be starting up with new podcasts again this week!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Project Movie: Part Six - The Big Finish

It's been a while since I've been able to post anything, largely because of the movie project. Things got pretty hectic in the last few week of post production work. So it's only fair to start things back up with a look at what's been filling up my days and nights lately.

The last Project Movie post was about the first few days of shooting. That was where the trouble really started. On those first few days I was putting into practice all the things I had been studying for nearly a year. The problem was that I didn't do enough testing before we hit the locations. I wasn't recording hot enough. I could hear the lines in my headphones but there wasn't enough there to pull the dialogue out of the background noise and mic pre hiss when I got to mixdown later on. The first four days were some real marathons, with very little sleep in between. It was on the last day that I really should have spoken up more and gotten the actors to raise their voices. But I was tired and things were taking a long time already. It was a lapse in judgement I won't soon forget.

Later on when I had cut video to work with and started pulling up the tracks I had to process things so heavily that they started to sound really unnatural. I worked and worked and no matter what I did the audio from the DSLR cameras still sounded better. That lead to ditching most of what we had recorded and going with just a single room mic that had less self noise than the others and going to town on it. 

I massaged the gain structure to within an inch of its life. I got a noise reduction plugin that was basically a glorified expander but with a pretty good algorithm for isolating dialogue. After many many tries I finally had something that was presentable, but not what any of us wanted it to be. It was a hard lesson but one that was worth learning. In a way I'm glad that's all it was. It was really my first stab at doing full production sound for a movie and the majority of it turned out all right. But a little more preparation on my part could have avoided it completely. Another couple of scenes needed some ADR to get up to par. That took a few tries as well and seemed to work out better. Nobody caught on that we had done it. If there had been just a little more time we might have gone after the other scenes. But with one of the lead actors being out of town it just wasn't going to happen.

Anyway, I'll be able to do a better job on the next one. On to the live event.

The movie that we made was to be part of a larger live production. It started and ended with a live actor on stage and there was some live drama in the middle as well. One of our house bands was on stage the entire time as well to score the whole thing and provide full song numbers over some of the scenes that advanced the plot without dialogue.

A set piece was built. The band was crammed into a corner of the stage. We lit the whole thing with lights that weren't in use for a regular service because we had a couple of those smack in the middle of the run as well. I came up with an input list and made it all work with the mics, channel space, processors and recording capabilities that we have. Throw in a pinch of haze and dry ice fog to make it all look extra heavenly and there you go. (I'll grab some photos and a sample of the audio for the next post.)

We ran for three nights, pulling in video of some of the live sequences and thirty-two tracks of audio to mix down. In the end we'll get it all on to a DVD to distribute right after Christmas. Last year we had an audience of about 2000 over two nights and had about 300 DVDs go out. This year we extended to a third night and had 4000 come to the live event. That's not staggering in mega church terms but it was pretty good for us, especially considering how busy people are during the holidays.

I'll skip all the spiritual stuff and just leave you church guys out there with a final thought. Our church has been looking for a way to reach out better. There's already a church in town that does big concerts and another that focuses on seminars and special events. We took a look around and found that we had all the raw materials to make a movie within our own congregation and decided to try and move in that direction. It's not like we're known as the "Movie Church" now, but that wasn't the point anyway. It's about using the talent that you have on site, even if that means doing something that's not the norm for a church. Think about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And.... We're Back

An end has been declared to major Christmas operations. We get our big production up early in the season so that people are free to attend and so that our staff and volunteers are free to celebrate with their families when the time comes. Except that things don't ever really let up for production people. If you've been following along with the Project Movie posts here's a little update.

A few weeks away from opening, the dialogue of the film just wasn't right. I had studied all I could but I should have done more practical testing and when the time came on set I should have insisted on better takes from the actors. Some of our most tender and significant scenes were just a wreck. It was a pretty serious crisis and I'll cover more of it when I wrap up the series. What it meant for me was that an already hectic part of the year got even more hectic.

Fortunately it was saveable though and eventually we got down to the business of incorporating the movie with live action on stage and a live band to score the whole thing. All this in front of an audience. Rehearsals were intense. Interference from a nearby sports stadium was an ever present problem. Updates and adjustments to the show were constant. 
And then we had three terrific runs.

I have a couple days off to recover before heading back into the fray. A lot of people on the project were worried about Post Show Letdown. I've been immune to it for quite a while but even I had my doubts as to whether it would strike this time. It didn't. Funerals pop up that need tech. Clients call that need a spot of location recording. Oh, and my kids haven't had much time with me for the last month and they kind of miss me. Not to mention that the multi-track recordings from the live events need to be mixed down for the DVD. So far I'm not feeling the slump.

As I was helping the lighting guy strike his gear we got to talking about how we relate our stories to kids that say they want to get into the business.  Well, the pay isn't spectacular, the hours are daunting, the challenges frequently seem insurmountable and nobody really understands what it is that you do. But every once in a while... you get a good one. A gig that will stand in your memory long enough to keep you at it until you get another good one.

I'm pretty fortunate to work in production for my day job. I work with wonderful, creative people day in and day out. So I guess for me they're all good ones lately. But this last weekend I got to be part of something really spectacular. A true gem of a show. Something that went way beyond digital audio and video, beyond sets and makeup, beyond story and script and music. I got to work on something that was greater than the sum of its parts.

OK, OK, enough of the sappy stuff. Tomorrow I'll get back on the grind and start in with the technical stuff again. Thanks to all who made contact during the hiatus. That really meant a lot. We'll be looking to hear from you all now that we can get back down to business as before. We've got a few topics to address and some ideas for fresh podcasts. Feel free to start sending in questions again too. We love that.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

SNR Podcast #26 - 11/10/2012 - DAW Control

Here's another one from the vault that got left behind in the Christmas production rush. I vaguely remember talking about Steve Slate's new touchie big screen DAW controller. There may be some other stuff in there too. So with no further ado, here's the last forgotten podcast before we get back on track to bring you fresh talk (nearly) every week. As always you can check out the YouTube right here, or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

Quote of the Day: Show Day Worries

"The only bad news that I have... is that there is no bad news..."
                                                        - Trevor Kaufman

Dang... that is bad news.

SNR Podcast #25 - 10/25/2012 - Digital vs Analog

Jon Dayton here, your humble host, nearly back from a too long hiatus from the blog and podcast. As Anth said in his post yesterday we're closing in on the end of our murderous holiday schedule. I finally got the two previously recorded podcasts processed and ready for your enjoyment. This first one was so long ago that I can't even remember what we talked about. I just remember already being tired even though it was only October. So here it is, from the vault. As always you can check out the YouTube version here, or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Time is Coming

If we even have any readers left at this point, this weekend, and more specifically the 9th of December signifies the end of the Christmas production season for Jon and I. At least for the really big, time/soul consuming stuff. We've got a couple podcasts in the bag and will hopefully be getting those up soon. In the mean time, I'm sure we'll get a podcast up about how the productions we worked on went, and hopefully have some cool stories to get out. In addition to that, I got to demo the new Mackie iPad controlled console, which I'll work on a review for shortly. Other than that, I hope you guys have some more questions for us to answer. We'll need some help getting back on a roll. 

Thanks for sticking with us.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Looking for some input from you guys

Hey everyone, I know I said we would try and write more, but this last week hasn't been any less of a work load for either Jon or I. I honestly think he may be a zombie by now.

But I'm not a member of the walking dead yet, so I have a question for every one out there. 

I have been asked to help put together a professional studio. I have a gear list that I'm pretty happy with, and am looking to meet with our investors soon. However, I want to know what you guys think are essential studio needs. Hit me with press, dynamics, channel strips, mics, instruments, plugins, really anything you can think of. I want to know what you guys are using, or would like to use if you were able to. Nothing is really off the table.

So far what is really set is a new ProTools HDX system, 32 ins and 3 of the cards for the Mac. 

Hey, if you want to get super carried away, and send us a dream list of your own, go for it. I'll post it, and give some input on it if you would like.

Hopefully that'll fuel some new topics and a few Podcasts for Jon and me. 

Most importantly, thank you for still reading and checking in on us, while we've been racked with work. Sometimes we wish living the dream included a vacation every once in awhile.

Looking forward to hearing from everyone!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We're not hermits, I swear

Hey everyone. Sorry for the delay in writing anything, for over a week. Jon and I have been rather busy, and haven't had a whole lot of time to get anything up here. He's in the middle of a movie shoot, along with having a rather large nationwide touring act coming in this weekend, and I have been a little busy working on engineering five projects, producing four of them, mixing three of those four, and playing guitar and bass on all of them. Oh yeah, then we have normal day jobs on top of that.

So, lesson here is, if you want to get into this business, and make a living off of it, this is just a heads up, as to what you'll be getting yourself into. We love it, and wouldn't have it any other way, but, we sure are busy.

So please, if you guys have any ideas, or need any questions answered ASAP, shoot us an email, find us on twitter @Smart2NoiseBlog and @AnthKosobucki we're usually pretty good at getting on top of those things, the more we are reminded about them.

Keep on living the dream brethren.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How Do You Listen?

I just heard a great quote from Bruce Swedien, something he heard from one of his mentors long ago. "Don't listen to your equipment, listen through your equipment." Just let that wash over you for a couple seconds before you go on.

That statement immediately hit home with me because that's exactly how I've been doing things for as long as I can remember. When I put up a channel and start listening to the sound, be it live or in the studio, I'm sort of picturing my ear out near the source and comparing what the mic is hearing to what I know the source sounds like. The practice assumes that you've had a chance to hear the source yourself but after a while you can kind of fake it, especially if you know your gear.

The key to getting great sound isn't truckloads of expensive gear. It's the ears of the person using it, and what's in between those ears processing the experience. I'm able to make eyebrows go up with some of the stuff I do because people expect high buck gear to be the cause. More often than not it's some hundred dollar mic that I know like an old friend. 

It also has to do with a lot more than just the mic and it's placement. Everything between that mic and the final product has an effect on the sound. The cable, channel trim, EQ, fader position, dynamic processing. I remember one time in a studio in college one of the studio guys (I was the one "live" guy in the program, faking my way through) was looking at the meters on my kick and snare channels from a live recording I had done. He couldn't believe the isolation I had gotten and was pressing me for my tricks. My answer was simple, I know my gear and I know where to put the gain to it.

Taking that thought process a little deeper there's so much depth to analog gear but it can also be somewhat of a trap. Many engineers have favorite channels on old analog desks. There were definite practices about what you put on each track of a tape, depending on how close to the edge it was. Room temperature could effect things. Manufacturing processes of mics weren't as tight. One might sound amazing while the vast majority of the same model were only so-so. 
You might think that in the age of the plug in a lot of that magic is going away, but I can tell you that the reliability and repeatability that the digital age brings is a huge benefit. Every time you pull up a plug it's going to sound how you know it should sound and that you don't have to worry about tolerances in components, the unit overheating, corrosion on contacts. The magic can happen every time. There's also the ability to push plug ins to places that physical gear could never go, limitations that you never have to worry about.

With that said though you still have to know the stuff inside and out and you can read all you want but the only way to do that is to spend the time with it. You also have to make the decisions about how you use your resources. If you only have one Pultec you've got to think carefully about how you're going to use it. If you can plunk one down on every channel with a plug in, that's great but you still need to decide every time you do it like it's the only one you have. Is it worth it? Will it help? Should I just leave it alone?

It's a lot to think about. To the Brethren of the Knob and fader though it's what's running through our minds day and night. At least for me I know it is.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Smart 2 Noise Playlist #3: Wake Up!

Until a couple years ago, I refused to listen to any kind of hip-hop at all. I haven't really moved on from that too much. However, there is one group in particular that I just can't seem to stop listening to. The Roots. I knew who they we're but really didn't know anything about them. I just knew they we're a hip hop group. Then I saw them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and discovered that they weren't your typical hip hop schmucks. They actually played instruments. There is some sampled stuff in there, but really, almost every rock album has something sampled in it now, as well. It's a fair trade I think.

I chose to start off with this album, because it's a really neat collaboration with John Legend, and the groove from front to back on this album is bad ass. I don't really know how to describe it, other than that. Unless you're born without some kind of soul and groove, you can't help but moving a little when the first track on this album hits. I understand that most white people have a problem with groove. It's a phenomenon I don't quite understand, but man, can black people groove. My wife asks me fairly regularly if I know that I'm a white guy born in the 80's, not a black guy born in the 60's or 70's. A lot of times I wish it were the latter. Coincidentally, the only white guy in The Roots (at the time the album was recorded, since 2011, Owen Biddle has left to pursue his solo career) played bass. He sure doesn't sound like a tall skinny white guy when he plays.

Back to the album.

This came out back in 2010. The whole premise of the album was to cover a whole bunch of old Vietnam era protest songs. They also wanted to stay away from the more mainstream songs, so that they felt a little more free to change arrangements, and not be criticized for it. Honestly, I had no idea that they we're all covers (except Shine, which was in the movie 'Waiting for Superman' which is actually a really good movie about the educational system) and I didn't find out until I had listened to the album everyday for about 5 months. I really wasn't that upset about it either. There have been a lot of songs that are covered, that I just can't stand. It seems that most of the covers are the covering artist trying to prove that they can record or play the original song better than the original artist. 

I've read some pretty mixed reviews of the album, saying that it was either a great rearranging of these songs, or that, it was awful and that they must not have had anything better to do other than destroy some old songs. I personally think the album is great, and without it, I never would've started getting into Bill Withers. The Roots bring an amazing neo R&B feel to this, and I think John Legend, did a pretty good job with the vocals. They made the songs different enough to make them their own. There's no way I could listen to this and say that JL and The Roots didn't record this. An excerpt from AllMusic states "The source material will be unfamiliar to the average fan of the artists." That pretty much sums it up. 

The album was recorded digitally, but has a really great organic feel to it. It almost feels live, especially the Bill Withers track 'I Can't Write Left Handed'. It sounds like the group in a nice live room, all just playing. That tends to be a lot of what I appreciate in recordings. I like to hear mistakes from time to time, and it to all flow together. 

The one track I really want to dig into is titled "Compared to What" originally written by Eugene McDaniels. 

The song starts out with a tight little groove, some Rhodes, organ and some guitar, bass and horns drop in before the vocals kick in. The verses are all pretty laid back, just carrying a groove, to give the vocals a chance to open up, and the lyrics to be discernible,  even though he sings a little quieter, and dirtier. As soon at the chorus kicks in, ?uestlove kicks in a nice little jazz groove on drums, and Owen Biddle rips into a seriously nasty grooving bass line. As soon as I heard it I went over to grab my bass and learn it. It took me a little while, because translating what he did on a six string bass, onto a four string wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Mostly because of him, I am in the process of designing my own 6 string bass out of some gorgeous 80 year old clear peruvian wood, that my mother in law has sitting around. 

I still love listening to this song, even though it doesn't have as much of a punch as some of the other tracks on the album, JL's voice really pumps the energy into the chorus. Also, the sax solo is great. It's a little basic to start out with, but it gives that instrumental just what it needs. 

Below is a live version of this song, which is even funkier than the album version. I highly recommend watching it in HD if you can. The SubKick really comes through, along with the horn section, that way. 

Hope you guys have a chance to check this album out.

Also, if you're bored and have nothing better to do follow me on Twitter @AnthKosobucki
I promise some sort of interesting and amusing audio nerd speak

Basic Equipment

Anyone who's been mixing live sound for a while has run into a venue that's lacking some critical gear. The church with just a mixer amp and some pole speakers, the school with an aging console, an amp and a couple Shure Vocalmaster boxes from the Sixties. They're out there. And they suck.

The problem is that the people responsible for the systems, that is, the money going into the systems think they have  a complete setup and don't see the need to spend on anything else. So you wind up with these places that probably don't have stellar talent on stage (reads: difficult to mix) and don't have all the pieces they need to make it easier. That's three strikes and it means a lot of people have to sit through a lot of events that could sound a lot better.

So what's needed beyond the basic equipment required to pass signal from a mic or playback through a pair of speakers pointed at the audience? 

It's a deal breaker. While you do hear a pro talk about a great gig where "the graphs were flat" or they "could have left the EQ at home", those are far and away the exception and not even the least bit close to being the rule. EQ comes in two forms, the kind used to shape sound to be more esthetically pleasing, and the kind used to correct for room acoustics. The kind you find on a console is the former, unless the desk has graphic EQ built into the master section and even then they're usually far from adequate.
So when the person holding the purse strings gets a complaint or a request, if they know anything at all about sound they probably think, "Well, the board has EQ built into it, why should we buy more?" Well, with a channel of graphic EQ for each output of the console (mains, fills, monitors, etc) you can remove frequencies that are likely to feed back and make other adjustments like possibly adding some lows for warmth in a cold sounding room. That leaves the EQs on the channels free to be used to tailor each  specific input so it can sound its best.

The bottom line: for less than $150 you can pick up a used two channel, thirty-one band equalizer and patch it into your mains. People could argue that cheap gear will degrade your sound and cause phase issues. Those same people will probably wail just as loudly in the absence of any system EQ. Spend the money.

Dynamic processing (compressors, gates, expanders, etc) are a little bit more tricky. Something simple like a limiter to prevent amplifier overload will likely be built in to more modern equipment but on older systems where it's even more necessary you'll have to bring your own. With a little investment and a little math you can set things up so no matter how hard you flog the outputs, your amps won't clip and blow your speakers. (It's a little more complicated than that but that's the basics).
For everything else though, "set it and forget it" isn't really possible. The most basic setup for adding dynamic processing would be to have a couple channels around for problem inputs like a podium mic or the lavs used on the leads in the school play. Slightly more complex is the use of a channel of compression on each sub group so you can have specialized settings for vocals, instruments, wireless, etc. But for the second scenario you need operators who understand routing and for both the ops need to know how to run a compressor.

The lessons can be short and one could even print out an instruction card and what do do and what to look and listen for. Again the investment isn't a big one. For around that same $150 you can add four channels of compression and gating to a rig. But with multi-use rooms like churches and schools and no guarantee that the op will ever even look at the comps it can be pretty hard to convince the money men (or women) to pony up the dough.

What can help your argument?
Doing a demo will likely be the only way to convince people that you know what you're talking about.  The simple act of patching in some sub comps and showing an op how to route through them and use the threshold and ratio knobs can take a Sunday service or school production from a jagged, ear fatigue causing experience, to one where the sound is much more transparent and easy to listen to. 

Finding a way to take care of the educational aspect is another big step. Providing written instructions, links to websites and offering (or even requiring) training is the way to go about it. The people learning don't need a golden ear, just the ability to read lights on a meter and turn a couple knobs to attain a result. It's not the most ideal situation, but I'd much rather listen to a show produced in that manner than one with no processing at all.

The last thing you can do is go with the "Well everybody else is doin it" argument. Every piece of media that crosses our paths these days has compression on it. YouTube videos, streaming audio, DVDs, CDs, and especially TV and radio are all heavily processed for one reason or another. Jumping on the band wagon produces a sound that's more consistent with what people are used to hearing. 

So Brethren of the Knob and Fader, there's a few steps you can take to make some inroads on those Three Strike venues out there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sometimes, you need some help

I know this is a little off topic from what our blog usually is. But, I feel that this is something that I should at least say, so that it's out there. 

A couple of days ago I found out that someone I used to work with in music, and day job setting had overdosed, and died. He was a great guy, always gave good advice, was always there if you needed him to be. I had lost touch with him over the last couple years. I moved, jobs changed, just general life type stuff happened. 

He had battled with hard drugs for awhile. As long as I've known him actually, he was almost always into something. He went to N.A. and completed the program, and was doing well, from what I had heard. 

Then a few things got the best of him, and he got back into what had gotten him in trouble before. That's really all I know. I haven't been able to get into contact with anyone who was too close to him, to find out any specifics. Just what I found on Facebook. 

What I want to put out there is that, no matter how much you think you're in control, and can take care of yourself, sometimes you just can't. Bad situations can arise, and you're left essentially helpless.

I've had my own struggles with this as well. I was addicted to cocaine, opiates, prescription pills, and was a boarder line alcoholic, by the time I was 18, and lived that life for awhile. I'm truly surprised that I was never committed anywhere. 

But, there is help out there. A.A. and N.A. and other support groups are around, and have been around for a long time for a reason. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, to straighten you out, or to make sure you're staying clean. In this line of work, it seems that there's just a constant over flow of booze, drugs, and anything else you can imagine. It's hard to keep yourself clean sometimes, trust me. After parties were the worst offender for me in particular. When it comes down to it, it's just not worth losing your life over. It may not seem like it, at the time, but there's always a way out. And, there can always be a brighter road ahead, if you're willing to look for it. I got my act together, got a real job, got married, and have a nice place to live in now. I couldn't of done that by myself, no matter how strong I thought I was. Jon and my wife are the two main reasons I'm still alive today. They helped me out, called me out when they needed to, and I've been clean for over 4 years now. 

I apologize if this strikes anyone the wrong way, I'm certainly not trying to talk down to, or condemn anyone, because I know that never makes any situation better, it only makes it worse. But please, at least try and give yourself a fighting chance. I promise now, that, we'll get back to some audio nerd speak, and I'll try and stay a little more on topic from now on.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Lighting Mishap

So I just got some new LED fixtures in at work and set out to get them incorporated in the rig. At T-minus two hours to show time I was having no luck getting them to receive DMX and while poking around in the console I managed to shift into some mode that when I shifted back redistributed all the dimmer patches. Evenly. Across all the channels.

There wasn't time to panic so I went to the disc and found that the last time I had saved a show was over a year ago. A lot had changed since then but at least the house lights would be in there and that would save locating two dozen patches. From there on out my scant paperwork was all I had to go on. I was able to get about two thirds of what was left from three different scraps of paper I found in the pile on my desk. The rest I just had to go through in dimmer check mode and fill in.

With that out of the way there was time for a quick pause to go outside and scream. Then it was right back to the console to get some cues in place before people started to arrive. I built half a dozen basic looks and saved them as low number cues, then pulled them up and changed them to fit the needs of the upcoming service.

Then I saved the show. Twice. Fortunately I have a box of old school 1.44 MB discs squirreled away in case of just such an emergency. So. If you're in the same boat as me, a sound guy also pulling duty as a lighting guy. Save your stuff frequently and keep some sort of paperwork around in case that doesn't work out. In this instance I had enough time and enough to go on to put my show back together before anyone got there (it even looked better after I was done), but you can't always count on catastrophe having respect for your schedule.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

SNR Podcast #24 - 10/14/2012 - Effects

Sorry for dropping off the face of the Earth again, production schedules wait for no man and sometimes the blog has to go on the back burner. We're back though with another podcast and we spent most of the hour talking about various effects, their origins, and their uses in live and studio sound. Topics abound for future posts and podcasts so stay tuned, although next week we may not be able to meet to record so we may try to work some contacts to do a Skype interview. As always you can check it out on YouTube or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

SNR Playlist #2 - Appetite For Destruction

Anthony Kosobucki
OK kids, I got a lot of sentimental crap out of the way last week. Here is where it gets more musical and less touchy feely, I hope. 

This weeks selection is Appetite For Destruction. You all know it, whether you love or hate it, I don’t really care. There is really no other guitar player for me, to top Slash. The rest of the musicians are marginal at best, but they put out an enormous project back in ’87. It topped charts, and to date has sold roughly 18 million albums in the states, and close to 30 million through the entire world. (As a side note, John Cougar Mellencamp was going by just John Cougar in ’87) 

Anyways, music had a pretty good spread that year, Joshua Tree came out, Prince’s Sign O the Times came out, but so did Cher’s self titled album, and Michael Bolton probably put some garbage out too.

Anyways, the 80’s had a much less static economy, and people would be more willing to lay it all on the line for music. So you have a group of kids about my age (24) who had played in bands for awhile, but nothing ever really stuck. Then, finally, they just kind of struck gold. Yeah they worked and played their asses off to get noticed, but I know I’ll get too consumed going through that whole story. 

So you’ve got some guys, who want to play some rock n roll. They can write some good songs, and some good music. Axl’s voice is questionable at best, but it almost gives the music a nastier, grittier side than someone like Whitney Houston would. It was a good collaboration all around. Then you throw in some sex, drugs and booze and really make it authentic *SNR does not condone illegal activity* and you have an immortal album. Clearly that stuff doesn’t always work, but it seemed to be a good starting point back then.

Tech Stuff:
Back when AfD came out, stuff was analog. No plugins, auto tune, or beat detective. Real, live music. They recorded it at some fantastic places, which unfortunately don’t have websites for me to link to, so everyone can drool at them. They were all around Los Angeles; Can-Am, Rumbo, and Take One. Then shipped to New York City for edits and mixing, then it went toSterling Sound for mastering. I feel like that’s an important name for everyone to be familiar with.

Anyways, tape. Tape and a razor blade.  Knock it off emo kids, razors used to be for work, not to make sure everyone knows you’re depressed. Long days, long nights. the album took about 4 months of work. I can’t vouch to say it was full time every day, but, if you’ve ever been in a real studio, it’s like being in a casino. You never know what time it is, and you don’t really care. Especially if you’re not the one footing the bill. 

They spent the time, and made some magic. I’m sure Mike Clink had his work cut out for him when he was in the studio. 

As much as I would like to wander off on some etherial gear rant, the truth is that I don’t know a whole ton of the tech end of this album. Other than good engineering, and mix and master. But, that all kind of comes back to what we’re trying to do, doesn’t it? We all want our stuff to come out great, and if you’ve got good stuff coming in, you’re going to have good stuff coming out.

Music Side/Album Voodoo:
-So, a lot of people know that Slash didn’t actually play a real Gibson Les Paul on this record. What I didn’t know a lot about was the guy who built it. His name was Kris Derrig, a pretty hippie looking guy, who played, built guitars and was a hair stylist. Not too bad for a hippie. He made some great guitars, and unfortunately died of cancer at the age of 32.

-When vinyl albums were pressed they had an A, and a B side. What was different with Appetite, was that there was a G and an R side. The G(uns) side was the side with songs about problems with police, rock and roll, drugs and drinking. The R(oses) side was all the “softer” stuff about girls and sex. I feel like a lot of the songs could really go either way. 

-Nightrain was written about cheap wine. Somthing like $2.00 for a jug, which when they were broke, they drank a lot of.  It’s also my favorite song on the album. I really dig the dual lead/rhythm approach to song writing. Especially in a ballsy song like that. And I don’t care what anyone says, the use of cowbell in this song is way better than Don’t Fear the Reaper. And I love Christopher Walken. When you listen to the song, especially the solo section, you can hear the diva side of Slash come out. I don’t know if he had any part in the mixing of it, but, Izzy’s solo is panned hard left, but as soon as Slash comes in, he’s almost dead center. For almost everything else on the album, it’s pretty much the same. Izzy left, Slash right. Until he starts soloing.

Next, I think Paradise City gets looked at in a few different ways, and here is my version of it. They were hair metal/glam rock, or whatever you want to call it. They loved girls and drugs, and drinking. This was a killer era for metal, and I think the last couple minutes of the song is essentially Slash saying, "Oh yeah? Think I can't play fast enough for you?" and then shredding the end of the song out. No he's not Dave Mustaine or Kirk Hammet, but at least you can distinguish all the notes that he's playing. And it still sounds like a coherent thought, instead of just seeing how many notes you can fit into a phrase. I also think it's pretty impressive that at almost seven minutes long, the song doesn't really get boring, Hell, after 3 minutes of a song on the top 40, I usually just turn the damn thing off. I actually disconnected the antenna in my car for almost 3 years. It was great.

I dig the fact that there's really only one slow song on the album. Sweet Child O Mine. It's not all that slow either, just their one obligatory ballad per album. I find it funny that the one oddball song on the album is what made them the most money. I'm almost positive that if you asked someone the first thing that comes to mind when you say "Guns N Roses" it will be Sweet Child O Mine.

This album is clearly more mainstream than the last album I wrote about. Thats not necessarily a bad thing. There is usually a reason that music becomes pop music. Then there's an added staying factor, which this album has. I know this type of music isn't everyones cup of tea, and it certainly isn't a record I would use to tune a room. But, if you're ever looking for something to give you some inspiration for recording and playing rock music, I think this could be a pretty good thing to have around.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

SNR Podcast #23 - 10/7/2012 - Dear SNR

This week Hosts Jon Dayton and Anthony Kosobucki are joined by panel member Gordon Wood to go over some of the questions brought in recently by readers and listeners. We covered some of the same ground that was covered in the articles we posted but there was plenty to keep us busy for an hour. As always you can take in the YouTube stream right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save it for later. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Project Movie: Part 5 - First Shoots

I've been detailing the progress on a movie project that the church where I work has been doing. The previous posts can be found with this link. We finally got under way with shooting in the middle of September but this is the first chance I've gotten to sit down and write about the experience.

All though the summer we went through script revisions, location scouting, casting and some rehearsals. The first production weekend we scheduled for four days with about twelve hours on site each day.  The first day unfortunately got scheduled right on top of an out of town gig that I had scheduled months before. That complicated things a little but with some fast figuring I managed to come up with enough gear to cover it all.

I had to get a friend to come and mix church for me because the intern who would have covered was out doing location sound in my place. It was a little nerve wracking to turn a nineteen year old kid loose with Reaper and the new MOTU interface for the first time but it all went great and he brought home some good audio. The only glitch from the first day was that a lot of set up footage was shot without audio so I spent a couple days in the editing bay recreating the sounds of the environment, down to footsteps and fabric swishes. The other big challenge that day was getting the whole shoot crammed inside a bus and not have any loose ends sticking into the frame. But they did it.

The location for Day Two was at the house of a church member. It was about the best setup I could have hoped for having been on the road half the night and also having caught a cold. The only spot for me that was off camera was in the corner of a sectional sofa. So I sat there all day, nursing a DayQuil cocktail and getting the takes. There was a little trouble with the radio mics that we had pinned on the actors. Changing frequencies helped but didn't completely eliminate the occasional buzz. Fortunately we got all the takes we needed in the clear. The only other thing bothering us that day was that the room and boom mics that we were using were good enough to pick up the refrigerator. The host family graciously located the breaker and shut it down for us.

Day three was an outdoor shoot. The first scenes we shot were in a parking lot so I was able to power up my whole rig from an inverter in my van. Midway through the morning though we moved to a more remote spot and it was battery only. I switched from the MOTU 896mk3 to a little ART USB interface that was bus powered. With that I was able to phantom power a pair of condenser mics. While I was able to capture everything, environmental noise, especially from the wind that picked up make most of the audio useless and is going to require additional dialogue recording (ADR) at a later date back in the editing bay.

On Day Four we took over a co-worker's house. Not only did they have the place showroom ready, but they also bravely turned over their infant son to be in the film. Lucky for us he seemed quite willing to cry and settle down almost on cue so he got through his scenes without too much stress. The biggest issues on that day were hard surfaces giving us too much room sound on all the mics. Likely some ADR will be needed on that footage too. A few other things didn't cooperate, like a couple of stairs that would creak nicely and a couple that seemed to go off like gun fire. A little more careful editing should take care of those though.

All that happened nearly three weeks ago. In the time since there have been three more weekends of shooting along with all the usual day job stuff that we have to get through every week. That's why it's taken so long to get anything posted about the project. Stay tuned for more though. I've been spending hours in the wood shed, editing dialogue and pasting together sound effects.