Category Archives for "podcast"

RSR037 – Tommy Wiggins – Tommy’s Tracks

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RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR037 - Tommy Wiggins - Tommy's Tracks

My guest today is Tommy Wiggins a singer/songwriter, producer, educator, and mastering engineer now living in Nashville TN. He began his career in Minneapolis as an award winning recording artist releasing many records through the 80s and 90s, and even establishing his own record label called Chilidog Records to focus on alternative music.


With his experience in recording music, Tommy then added teaching audio to his resume at the Minneapolis Hennepin Technical College and later as the program director for Cuyahoga Community College's department of recording arts in Ohio.


Tommy is also creator, host and artistic director of five-time Emmy® winning music interview program “Words & Music” and concert performance program “Crooked River Groove” with 400 episodes since 2001.


More recently Tommy lives here in Nashville TN and records and masters music from his own studio, Tommy’s Tracks.


Singer/Songwriter


Tommy is always writing, recording and performing his music, as a solo artist, with the Americana vocal duo “Wiggins and Haack” and with his Baja band “Los Hombres Del Norte.”

Check out his solo Album Cool Saturdays



“You record because it’s coming out of your soul”

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Mastering Engineer

I’ve been mastering records since the early 90’s. I remember buying my first 1GB, used hard drive for $1,000 and a 5 pack of CDRs for $150. If you screwed up you had the world’s most expensive coaster. Mastering really is a niche that not everybody can do. My ears have really refined and tuned so I’m thinking in half DB increments, and its not what frequency but how wide of a curve (Q) you have or how narrow. To me I want to make records that I would want to listen to, so what I do is really have the artists and the producers back. What is the intent of the record? You have to try to make a really great listening experience for the listener. You want them to put the headphones on and to defy the norm of today of being able to shuffle through your day on your phone. I want to take them away on an experience. You shouldn’t be mastering with that L2 plugin you have because you don’t know where your frequencies are. I have speakers that cost probably more than your car, and I know exactly what the frequency response should sound like. It's a thing where you really have to give up your control at a certain point in order to make a better sounding record.

“The best way to be a producer is to be prepared”

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Producer

Tommy's Tracks

Tommy's Tracks was designed for Tommy. The whole idea is to be able to record a five piece band and a vocalist at once. I’ve always wanted to put together a studio band and be able to make music whether it's mine or me producing someone else. The space is like a clubhouse with a spa. The idea is to create a nice space where people can come and hang, that sounds good, and everything is there. The keyboard part of me is well represented as well with “20 feet of keyboards,” all plugged in and ready to go.

“There’s two kinds of recording: you’re either documenting or you’re creating. Choose one”

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Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - Myself. I was holding myself back because I was insecure with the technology. There's a book called Modern Recording Techniques and I had it by my bedside for several years. I’m the kind of learner that can only read so much, but I need to get in there and do it. Knowing what my brain is like and finally coming to grips to say I’m going to make a bunch of mistakes and I’m just going to do it until I think it sounds good and then remember what I did.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- To be prepared. Go in and know your song, you’ll waste less time in the studio; practice your butt off. Being in Nashville as a musician, I look at myself as the luckiest guy in the room because to be better, I can hire and work with people better than me and then I aspire to be better than what I am. So I’ll rehearse and rehearse and have that song down cold. No matter who you have in the session, you’re the cat on the date right now. They are going to play the songs because they are professionals. You have to meet the expectations of them.

“Everybody in the world wants to belong to something bigger than they are”

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - A secret sauce is: less is more. The less you play the more space you're going to create and the more drama you can create. Eventually, the easier it's going to be to mix. One thing I learned early on, if it's not going right, I’d try to add another instrument. Instead, get the best sound you can out of each instruments and all of a sudden you can have less instruments and each one sounds like a million bucks.

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A- 
1176. I bought my first one for $250, I still have it 30 years later. I have had the same vocal chain for 20 years. Which is Neumann 582 with a large capsule (its an east german Ghelffly thing) into an API preamp 512 into an API 560 EQ, into 1176 into the channel.

“We used to have to arrange our song because we only had so many tracks”

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - I use Wavelab for mastering and its really a great DAW, but I’ll also use ProTools. I used to be the director of the school we had 80 Protool systems and you had to deal with all the changes with computers and everything so I totally respect the modern DAW and totally respect the trouble you can get into from using it. Wavelab is designed specifically as a mastering software, but it can do other things.

Q -Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - No matter who you are, if you're just starting out a really good resource is someone who’s been doing it longer than you that you can play yours stuff to and ask for advice, and have it come back where it's not a criticism but a critique. You can learn from that and do better work from. Everyone needs mentors. I think you need to find mentors whether they are online or not.

“Everyone needs mentors”

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Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - In terms of recording, you need to figure out if you’re a documenter of two track, but chances are you aren't. If you’re a multitrack recorder find yourself a really good 8 channel interface that has really good converters built in, get yourself a laptop, and then use the best cable you can. Buy yourself some good cables or learn how to solder, buy as good of a mic as you can buy: condenser, ribbon, dynamic. For years and years I had a RE20 and a 57 then I bought my first 414 condenser. Then I’d get yourself a good chain and that will take you years to put together. Money doesn’t grow on trees and that stuff costs a lot of money one channel of anything costs $500 and that's buying used stuff. Really its your ears and ability to identify what something is going to sound like recorded in a certain room. So if you don’t have all these plugins, you probably have different rooms in your house that each sound different. Finding people to play music with can come from anywhere.

“If you want to be a better engineer, record better musicians”

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - I would say you need to surround yourself the best musicians you possibly can because by recording them you’re going to be better at being an engineer.

Contact: TommysTracks.com
Email: Tommy@Tommystracks.com
Facebook: Tommy Wiggins 
Wiggins & Haack

Big Thanks to Tyler Cuidon & Merissa Marx for this week's episode!!

RSR036 – John Mayfield – Mayfield Mastering

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RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR036 - John Mayfield - Mayfield Mastering

My guest today is mastering engineer, John Mayfield. Originally a career musician, John turned to recording and mixing in the 80s traveling to studios all over the world.


A decade later he moved to Nashville TN and started his mastering career with his first Sonic Solutions system. Two decades of mastering have allowed John to work with some very talented artists and clients including the Dave Matthews Band, Sara Evans, Kathy Mattea, Naturally 7, Warner Brothers Records and Universal Music Group-UK, to list a few.

John's Studio: Mayfield Mastering 

How Do You Prep a Mix for Mastering?

ONE: Referencing. I'm constantly referencing the competition. Turn the radio on, buy cds, listen to what is successful and selling. As long as you keep referencing your sounds are going to be similar, of the same quality, you're arrangements should be the same. You should model your sounds off of what is actually selling, because that's after all what you’re trying to do.

TWO: The use to high pass filters in digital recording is very important. There's a lot of information that is recorded per mic that is just not needed. A good rule of thumb for determining where to put your high pass filter is to look at the chart look at the piece of music and the lowest note that is played by the instrument go an octave below that and put a high pass filter in at 24DB per octave. And you're pretty much guaranteed not to affect the sound at all, but you’re getting rid of all that low frequency modulation that you may not even be able to hear.

THREE: Use the entire space between your left and right speaker. Don’t be afraid to pan something hard left. What you’re trying to do is carve out a little nest for the most important things that exists in the center image (in contemporary music) that's your kick, bass, snare, lead vocal. The goal is to get that mono instrument away from the lead vocal if you can figure out a way to make it stereo. Making a second track is a wonderful way to do it, or using Ozone 7Advance.

“Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things”

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FOUR: Converting your signal to digital, your A to D converter. There are a lot of not great converter outs there, a stock converter is not going to be state of the art. State of the art costs money. If you have the opportunity to talk to your production people and lobby for any budget for renting a great A to D converter (with a great clock) for lead vocal or any part that is highlighted. It’s really money well spent. Once you record it, you can’t unscrew it up.

FIVE: Proper mic choice and mic placement. One of the best rules is don’t go to your EQ first, go to the mic placement first. Try to get the source recorded correctly then try to fix it with a bandaid. Knowing your mics and knowing how to use your mics is incredibly important. And don’t be afraid to use a mic in omni!! Using an omni is going to pick up reflections all around the room. Those reflections are basically what you’re hearing when you go out and listen. If you can capture it in a way that sounds closer to the real thing, then you’re doing your job.

SIX: File Naming Conventions. The outside person like myself needs to look at that file and needs to know exactly what it is. At the very least I need the name of the song, and then comes the mix version: master, vocal up, vocal down, which vocal up or down, tv track, stereo instrumental.. All of the information I need to be able to make decisions without picking up the phone. Dates work also. The most recent mix is typically the ones that the client has signed off on, but not in all cases. So if there's any kind of question what master was approved by the client, dates can help. It’s also very nice if you provide a common starting point.

John MayfieldWhy You Shouldn't Master Your Own Work

You’re too vested in the project. You have too much baggage. You cannot be objective, you’re going to be subjective and your decisions about what the track should sound like have already been made because you’ve spent weeks on it. It’s very difficult to come at it with a fresh mind

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - Education. You had to get it. You just can’t walk up to gear and expect to know how to use it, so I went to school. I knew that playing live was a young man's game, but I knew it wasn’t going to last me, so I had to get some knowledge.

“Good audio doesn’t have to cost a lot of money”

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Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- Getting the sound right at the source was probably one of the best things I ever picked up because that is where you get your best sound. Don’t go to your EQ to make it sound right. Move the mic, move the person, change the mic do something at the source to make it sound right. By moving the mic you change the proximity effect (the closer you get to the mic, you get more presence, low end, and pops)

“There’s no musicality added to music when it’s really loud” 

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - One of the huge tricks is I use is the simple and old technology of parallel compression. What you’re doing is combining two signals from the original source: the really compressed version and the original source. You're combining those together that you have brought the overall level up a bit, but by bringing in the original you’re bringing back in some of the original transients. The very ability of the sound that you can create is exponential because at the compressor you'll work with your attack times and releases, etc. to determine the type of compression that you’re going to marry up with the original.

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A- 
My best and most important tool is my room and the speakers that are in the room, that’s everything to me. You can give me other software or plugins, but I can’t make those decisions accurately without the room and the speakers that I know.


"A lot of your job is just knowing how to work with people and knowing how to make people feel good around you.”

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Q - Have you been in experiences where you’ve gotten to know other rooms that were less than perfect?

A - Back when I was recording and mixing as freelance, because of the variance of rooms you’re going to walk into, you need to create some common things that you can depend on. Thus, I carried my own set of speakers, my own amps and set them up before work. But the first thing I did before I walked into any room that I had not worked prior to was sat down and listened for a good 30 min; you have to know the room. I’m using my own speakers and amps and cables, but they’re going to sound different in every single room so I had to sit down and listen to a number of different of references. That taught me how those speakers were reacting in that given room.

“You can get used to any speaker”

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Q - What are the simplest ways to improve the sounds of the space in a home studio?

A - The smaller the room the worse it gets. Anything to break up any standing wave issue. You’ve got to find a way to stop the reflections from bouncing back and forth. A couch will address low frequencies very well, some people put big thick triangle shaped absorbing panels in the corner. First you have to stop the standing waves. Any parallel wall or floor to ceiling arrangement, if they are 100% parallel you’re going to get standing waves. The simplest solution is to put up soft panels, fabric covered 703

Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Referencing. You’re creating a commodity. Look at it like a business. If you wanted to go into the business of manufacturing a mechanical pencil. What's the smartest thing to do? Go out and buy every mechanical pencil that would be your competitor. You bring them back, tear them apart, and make sure you’re product is as good or better than anything that’s out there. This is basic economics. That’s all you need to do in this business, your products have got to sell. One of the best tools out there to learn about what sounds good is the commercial music that is out there and is successful. Buy it, listen to it, sit down and study it. You need to teach yourself the ability to create a mental solo button in essence. You need to be able to listen to a piece of music and automatically switch your mind to one instrument in that mix and not listen to anything else and as quick as you did that you need to be able to pop back to that entire song. Just like you would like a solo button on your console. It's one of those tools that you really need to teach yourself. Honestly you've got the best education available and it's free!

Contact: 
MayfieldMastering.com
(
615) 383-3708

Big Thanks to Alex Skelton & Merissa Marx for this week's episode!!

RSR035 – Cameron Henry – Vinyl Mastering

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RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR035 - Cameron Henry - Vinyl Mastering Engineer

My guest today is Cameron Henry a mastering engineer at Welcome to 1979 Studio specializing in vinyl mastering. He has mastered over two-thousand LP & 45-single releases, including Bela Fleck, John Mayer, Sturgill Simpson, Bonnie Raitt, JD McPherson, Spiritualized, Steve Earle, Dinosaur Jr., John Prine, The Rolling Stones, Whitney Houston, and many others.


And since Cameron's mastering room is located in a full-on recording studio, Cameron & studio owner Chris Mara have been able to record direct-to-disk releases for artists such as Pete Townshend, Josh Hoyer, and a handful of others.


One of the very cool things that Cameron also does here is to host a "vinyl camp" at Welcome To 1979 Studio, which is focused on teaching the basics of disk cutting, with hands-on demonstrations, using attendee's music, & a chance to participate in an actual direct-to-disk recording session. The goal of the camp is to provide knowledge to mixing engineers & producers so they can have the foresight to properly prepare an album for a vinyl release.

“Vinyl is heavy, bulky, & takes a lot to manufacture, but it has seen the birth and death of every format that was intended to replace it.” 

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The Process of Creating Vinyl Records

Neumann VMS70 Cutting Lathe

In the room I have a Neumann VMS70 cutting lathe which is a giant spaceship looking machine which cuts a lacquer and that's the first record. The process of making a vinyl record starts with a machine like mine. The music is pumped into the amplifiers of the machine it vibrates the cutting stylus on the cutter head and it just literally, in real time, cuts the groove onto a lacquer.

The cutting stylus on the lathe cuts the groove and is vibrated by the music so that when you put the playback needle on your turntable into that groove it vibrates the same way. A record is cut in a midside fashion where all of your center information is causing a lateral, horizontal groove to be cut on the record. And anything stereo is happening vertically.

A lacquer looks a lot like a record. It’s an aluminum disc with a coating of like nail polish on it. That gets sent to a manufacturing plant where it gets nickel plated. When they peel off the nickel from the record that has grooves on it the metal part has ridges on it, it’s the opposite of a record. That goes into the press which is a complicated looking waffle iron and hot plastic sits between the two stampers and just presses out every copy. So whatever record I cut in here is going to be identical to every record copy that's out on the market.

Record Pressing 

When a record is pressed, there’s a hot hockey puck sized piece of plastic that goes between the two stampers. The stampers push down with a bunch of pressure and the plastic spreads outward, much like waffle batter.

How should you Mix and Master for Vinyl?

Basics - Make sure your music sounds good. If you’re music sounds good, it’s probably going to translate well to vinyl. Listen to the low end and make sure its in phase and actually in the middle, also listen to the sibilance. Those are two frequency ranges that cause the most trouble in a record. 

Mastering for vinyl is completely different then it is for digital. Mastering has a chain with a starting point and an end point. The end point is whatever format it’s going to be so if it's a cd it's making a cd. There’s a point maybe three quarters of the way through the mastering process where vinyl could take a completely different path from digital and a lot of that has to do with dynamics and overall volume. Digital music is way louder than vinyl it’s a totally different reference point.

Dynamic music fits on a record better. The physicality of how a record works is you have a disc and there’s a spiral going around and around. The more that groove deviates and moves around then the more space of each groove is required so you can only fit so much time. So, the louder the music is the more space the groove is going to use up. The quieter it is, the less space. When you have dynamic music, in the quieter moments you can cram the grooves together. So over time with the less compressed master you have an overall higher volume output.

“A vinyl master and a digital master aren’t optimized in the same way” @Welcometo1979

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Check Out Cameron's Vinyl Record Label 

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - One of my biggest things was thinking that if only I had the ability to go into a real studio to make a record I would totally do that. I grew up in Toledo, OH and had a port-a-studio and two mics and would make records on that thing. At the time I didn’t realize that what I was doing was super awesome and important to understanding how recording works, by just working with semi-pro equipment. There were times where I thought we could do this song, but we might need this other piece of gear to do it, and that’s the wrong attitude to have.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- Since I worked on the port-a-studios it would be me recording in my garage, I’d be focused on how close do I get the mic to the guitar or this or that, and somebody told me once, why don’t you just sound good in the space you’re in and put a microphone in the space and it should sound good. Don’t worry about where I’m going to put the mic first, worry about what’s happening musically sound good in the space that it’s in.

“I think opportunities are born out of failures” @Welcometo1979

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - I give this tip to a lot of people who ask me, ‘I’m mixing for vinyl what should I do?’ Once you think you’re mix is good put an EQ on your mix bus and put a high pass filter at like 60 or 70 hertz and a low pass filter at like 13k. Take that away, walk away for 15 min and then go back and listen to it and does it still sound like music to you? If it does, you’re probably ok. Those frequencies are the ones that you’ll trick yourself into thinking are good. The sub sonics and ultrasonics are great for fidelity purposes, but you got to realize the song needs to stand alone even coming out of an earbud

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A- A fun hardware tool is actually a unit by Behringer called the Combinator. It’s this multi-band limiter, equalizer, compressor that was actually intended for live purposes so you could shape music to the room you’re in. It’s an awesome piece of gear.


“If you looked at a record groove under a microscope, it's a “V” shape” @Welcometo1979

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - I really like BrainWorks plugins. I use their BX control which is a mid-size “mastering” console. It’s got a great device called a monomaker on it which is emulated off of a elliptic equalizer that was intended for cutting discs. Its got a threshold point where everything below is subbed to mono everything about it in stereo. 

Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - Having a good invoicing software. I use this company called invoice-to-go. I can easier and daily download the whole backlog and it generates reports in real time so I can easily say how much did I make? Who hasn’t paid me? Who has paid me? Etc.. It’s great to just keep track of all that, and I can do that no matter where I am.

“Don’t use a turntable that’s plastic” @Welcometo1979

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Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - I would find the bars musicians are playing in and start hanging out and got to know them personally by being there all the time. Over time they’d find out I’m a recording engineer and we’d starting talking about making records. Find if there’s people to record and cater to that. 


“Vinyl is a really weird medium because there’s no definition of what anything is” @Welcometo1979

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Record things. Everybody’s bad at one point. Best way to get good at recording is to record things.

Contact: 
Welcome to 1979 Facebook

Welcome to 1979 - Vinyl​
Email: mastering@welcometo1979.com

Big Thanks to Tyler Cuidon & Merissa Marx for this week's episode!!

RSR034 – Brad Jones – Alex The Great

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RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR034 - Brad Jones - Alex The Great

My guest today is Brad Jones a Producer, Engineer, Mixer, and Musician based in Nashville. With Robin Eaton he has co-owned the Alex the Great Recording where we are now since 1993. This is a particularly special episode today because Brad was also my mentor when I started out in recording. Alex The Great was the first studio where I learned how to record, and Brad was the one who taught me how to make the musicians feel at home to capture a great performance.


Brad’s production credits are extensive including Jill Sobule,

Bobby Bare Jr., Butterfly Boucher, Hayes Carll, Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, Steve Forbert, Government Cheese, Jason And The Scorchers, Josh Rouse, and The Shazam to name just a few.


Brad is also a songwriter and performer. His solo record Gilt Flake released in 2000 was recognized as a master work of power pop, and I’ll include links in the show notes. He also plays regularly on Nashville stages with The Long Players, a group of musicians that recreate favorite albums in their entirety, everything from The Doors, and REM, to Cheap Trick or The Beatles. So as you can imagine Brad knows many of the classic records intimately, and understands how to create those sounds in the studio as well.

Check out Brad's Solo Record Gilt Flake!!

“We knew that we wanted to offer imagination to people and so that's why we called it a non studio name, Alex the Great.”

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Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'N' Roll

Brad raved about this Peter Guralnick book he just finished about the great Sam Phillips. Sam created Sun Records in 1950. He discovered a lot of the greats such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash! His whole life was centered around bringing about whatever was unique in each artist. 

Brad Jones - On Sam Phillips - 

There are some mistakes that are just bad mistakes but there’s others that if you just give it a moment and listen to it a second or a third time the beauty of that unexpected, unintended thing starts to come out and it starts to sound less like a mistake and more like an inspiration or a mutation. That is after all how the human race or any animal organism gets better over time is by mutating. So it could be that some of those mistakes are mutations and we should embrace them

“I spend all of day one listening to the artist, instead of the artist listening to me”

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Other Things We Talked About 

  • How Brad started his studio from nothing
  • Brad’s go to vocal mic and settings
  • Bobby Bare Jr.'s album “Longest Meow”
  • ​Mixing in stereo vs mono
  • ​Building Alex the Great
  • How coloring tracks influences your perception of the music 

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - Well now you can get a studio in a box with your Mac. Back then you had to figure out how to get in a studio or how to buy gear and it was expensive! It’s not even inflation adjusted its the same or more back then as it is now per hour, plus I grew up in Iowa and there weren’t opportunities.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- Just looking at this room, Bill Halverson when we were setting up the control room, I asked where we should put up the big speakers? He said put them in the back of the control room to get the artist out of your hair, lets you be up front actually getting some work done. That was his take on where you put your big speakers, which is why they are there right now!!

“We forget that the microphone is here to serve the music”

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - I recently got a shotgun mic. Shotgun mics are condenser mics that were used on movies so that you could have a mic picking up the dialog from 5 feet away and it wouldn’t show on the camera frame. It has such a tight pattern, without a lot of room bleed you can still hear the person talk 5 feet away. So I've been experimenting with those because my objective is to not have to mic an acoustic guitar at 12 inches anymore. To not have to mic an upright bass because there's other people playing and there's bleed. I want to hear what that bass sounds like a few feet away from it. The problem with all rooms that you're in is that there's going to be weird wall reflections. So if you use a U87 5 feet away, you’ll hear the bass in a way that sounds way more realistic than that bass would ever sound than if you were up close to it. But the downside is bringing all that weird splashy wall reflection, and that’s kind of an ugly meat-locker sound. So my shotgun mic has been a way for me to sort of hear that bass at 5 feet without the wall reflection.

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A- I love my harmonica mic, my green bullet, I put on everything. Let me put in a pitch for the API 550 because there is some philosophy behind this. Everyone knows the API 550A is the original, great API 3 band EQ. The reason I think it's worthy to reach for in the studio, even the plugin version, there is not a half DB boost on it. If you choose 1.5k, which is the frequency I choose more than any of the others, it forces you to do either a 2 or a 4 DB boost or cut. There’s no little pansy half moves. It forces you to carve big and recklessly, and that's what I adore about it!


“Each record is its own puzzle, each record has it own set of problems and its own things. You have to approach each record that way”

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - I get so much use to this very day out of the most unsexy, oldest plugins that there are. I find that Digidesign lowly proprietary EQs are intensely usable. They are laid out not with vintage knobs, they are just dull grey backgrounds with a slider. That slider is so much quicker and easier to use. To be able to type in the exact threshold or time that I want rather than putz around with some knob that doesn’t work right. I think there's a lot of visual hocus pocus going into these newer plugin for eq and compression where the older ones are much easier to work. I’m a big believer of McDSP’s they are not sexy to look at, they look cheap. They do everything, and they do it really super well. I use the Digidesign pitch shift all day long.

Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A -  I don’t have a very good answer for that. We’ve never been very ambitious here, it’s always been word of mouth thing, but in today’s environment if you’re out with a studio from scratch you really want to carve out some niches for yourself. Be a studio that specializes in doing location recordings at megachurches or be a studio that specializes in jingles that are geared toward internet placement or be a studio that's geared towards unplugged and acoustic music. Give it a thrust, it might be harder than ever to be all purpose.

“Working in mono all day long causes you to carve harder and make bolder, bigger choices”

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Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - Back to what I was saying earlier, find your niche. Make your gig mobile, record church choirs or sporting events. If you're set up in your home become good at mixing a particular kind of music. On the production side of it, picking undervalued stock. If you’re a new and unknown guy in town go see music as many bands and singer-songwriters as you can. You’ll see the ones that have people hover over them because they are the current buzz band, you’re not going to get that band you need to make an approach to a band that’s being somewhat ignored and you think you know the reason why and the easy fix. You make your pitch to that band explaining why their message isn’t getting through and why you’re the guy to get their message to start coming through, or you have a whole new idea for them. Two things could happen, they think you’re crazy and fire you because they don’t want to hear it, or they think you’re crazy and they give you a shot! A couple months later, when the fans say they’ve never heard the band sound so good.. that's when you're the hero; that’s when you go from chump to champ.


“We don’t need music that is beautifully blended because there's enough of [it]. We need bolder moves”

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Put in the time with understanding how music is put together. Put in the musical time. Learn a new instrument, analyze the musical structure and chords of a song. Figure out why a Beatles melody is so fresh and why others aren’t. Figure that stuff out, it takes thousand of hours to do it too.You have to put in the time.

Contact: 
AlexTheGreat.com

Big Thanks to Tyler Cuidon & Merissa Marx for this week's episode!!


RSR033 – Jon Tidey – Reaper Blog

(Press play on the green strip above or listen on iTunes with the link below)

RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR033 - Jon Tidey - Reaper Blog

My guest today is Jon Tidey, a home studio engineer, blogger, podcaster, and audio jack-of-all-trades from Vancouver British Columbia. Jon has quite a few things going on: epicsounds.ca, audiogeekzine.com, reaperblog.net and homerecordingshow.com


He is a self described mix guy and mic slinger who selected Reaper as his DAW of choice.

In 2010 Jon started ReaperBlog.net where you can find over 100 free videos teaching you how to use Reaper for your home studio. The aim of Reaper Blog is to be an indispensable resource for the REAPER user community, providing news, reviews, tips & tricks, and detailed tutorials on music production using the REAPER software.


And now he has launched an in depth course called Mixing In Reaper volumes 1&2 to show you exactly how he mixes a song from organization through mastering. So if you are ready to truly learn how to use Reaper for your recordings then you have come to the right place.


If you don’t already know about Reaper it is a super powerful DAW that also happens to be super affordable and flexible. For me it was a little intimidating when I first tried it out. So it is awesome to have an expert like Jon here on the show to tell us more about it.

WHY REAPER??

Why did you switch from ProTool to Reaper?

It opens so fast, so if I just wanted to play guitar real quick it would launch in 5 seconds and I was recording in another 5 seconds, so it was a big change in ProTools which would take several minutes. There’s no copy protection (keylock) for Reaper. Just a little license file that gets emailed to you, and you can authorize it for multiple computers.

“The program is so efficient I can run twice as many tracks with twice as many plugins and I had a wider variety of plugins available.” @reaperblog

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What can Reaper do that is unique?

The appeal, at least for me, is the customizability. If you come from Cubase or ProTools or Logic, you are used to the way the mouse works when you move it over an item or how it scrolls through certain keys. All of that can be changed in Reaper. It's completely open to a larger degree than any other program. You can assign a key to an action, but also create your own actions, so you can chain multiple actions together.

Is it expensive?

Super Affordable! You get 60 days for free. After that they ask $60 for someone with a small business license and you get 2 versions. You can upgrade after that.

Check Out -  Mixing in Reaper Volumes 1 & 2

These videos are a look at how Jon mixes a song in Reaper. Throughout, there are tons of:
- Mixing Tips 
- Production Tips
- Reaper Specific Tips for Optimizing Workflow. 

Use Code:
ROCKSTAR
For 25% OFF!! 

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - It was lack of knowledge. My first recording experiences were with my high school band and we had no idea how to use the equipment. We didn’t have anyone we could ask and there was hardly had any internet. I ended up having to go to audio school to figure it out, MetalWorks Institute. I took a one year audio production course. It was a great school, well balanced curriculum. We got to mix on SSL’s and a Digidesign Icon console. There were three different mixing rooms. I learned a lot and it took probably a year and a half of doing stuff on my own for that knowledge to actually click.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- Using analog style gain staging. Keeping your levels lower the way that your equipment is designed to be handled. What I mean by that is not hitting inputs as hard as possible just before clipping. You want like -18 DAW meters as the ideal signal level. That actually makes mixing easier. I can mix with my meters around unity rather than down at -30. Making sure the input of the plugin is the same as the output in terms of volume. That really affects your perception of how things are sounding. Equal loudness.

“First you listen, second you react”’ @reaperblog

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - Here is a tip that I have for making your headphones more comfortable. So the foam padding around headphones gets squished and sometimes the actual driver is sitting on your ear. I would take a short piece of tubing or a dead guitar cable and i would cut that out into a 7” length and tuck it under the foam in your headphones so it spaces it by a quarter inch and that little change makes every pair of headphones I’ve tried on more comfortable.

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A- I do love my Space Echo, but it’s very rarely used. It's a great piece of hardware, but it's a specific sound that's so dark sounding or using that on a snare drum makes it instantly dubby. I never work on that style of music and I never get to use it, but I love it!!!

“I’ve got a nostalgia thing for 80’s sounding music” @reaperblog

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - Besides Reaper, Izotope RX is indispensable. It can declip things, depop things, decrackle and dehum and clean up your noise floor better than your gate can. I do a lot of podcast and dialog editing for my videos and I can’t work without it. But also in music projects, you know sometimes the overheads will have a loud ticking sound from the stick on the ride cymbal, sometimes it's a really nasty, short click. You run Isotope’s declicker on the track and you won’t even hear it anymore. Ever since version 2, I’ve been convinced this software is magic, it works too good.

“I’m easy to get ahold of and happy to talk Reaper Stuff” @reaperblog

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Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A -  I’ve stopped sending invoices. I do a lot of work for clients internationally and in the states, mostly remote work. Now I use paypal.me and add in how much they owe me and they pay it. Maybe it's a little less good for my paperwork, but it's amazing to not log into paypal to send someone an invoice, you can just type in a URL.

Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - I would start off with having recording be your hobby until you can spend more time on it or until you can afford the equipment that really benefits you. But you can do a lot with a simple setup with a Macbook Pro and a two-channel interface and one or two mics. You can get a lot done with just that.


“I think it's really encouraging just putting in half hour effort once a week to making music” @reaperblog

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - The single most important thing that you can do is realize that you suck today and you’ll be a little bit better tomorrow. Keep at it. There's a steep learning curve. If you look back at 60 days of sucky recordings, you’re better today than you were 60 days ago. 

Big Thanks to Kevin Freund & Merissa Marx for this week's episode!!

RSR032 – Slau Halatyn – BeSharp Studio

(Press play on the green strip above or listen on iTunes with the link below)

RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR031 - Slau Halatyn - BeSharp Studio

My guest today is Slau Halatyn is a recording engineer, Producer and owner of BeSharp Studio in New York City where he specializes in classical, jazz and musical theater recordings as well as rock and pop music.


Slau has credits with many Grammy, Oscar, and Tony-winning artists like Steve Houben, Ulysses Owens Jr., Vince Giordano, Dennis Diken, and Shawn Pelton to name a few. But you might be more likely to know these names for the artists and bands they represent such as Steely Dan, King Crimson, The Smitherines, James Taylor, Hall & Oates, Cassandra Wilson and Wynton Marsalis.


He is also the host of a great podcast called Sessions With Slau where he takes you behind the scenes at BeSharp studio to listen to excerpts from sessions, gear reviews, and equipment shootouts. Go check out some his past interviews with Rockstars like Ed Cherney, and MixerMan.


And I have to give a thank you for today’s interview to one of our own Rockstars, Jose Neto, who enjoyed listening to my interview with Blessing Offor so much that he reached out to connect me with Slau for this interview.


What do Jose, Blessing, and Slau have in common? They are all blind recording engineers, and make great records despite this obvious obstacle. In fact Slau works directly with AVID to help make Pro Tools accessible for blind and visually impaired audio engineers and musicians.

Engineering with Visual Impairment 

What is it like to record using only your ears?

I was trained at a time where everything was quite tactile so I was working with consoles that had dedicated EQ buttons, faders, etc, and that's why to this day I still prefer to mix using a control surface because its so much faster for me. Back in the day when I was working with tape, I still had enough residual vision to be able to see a VU meter. Over time I wouldn’t look at the needle so much as I would the peak light.

How do you address a level now? Is there a method to let you know you’re peaking other than sounding like it distorting?

In ProTools the UI elements are actually exposed to the built in screen reader in OS10 which is known as Voiceover, so I can keep track of that. I don’t worry about preamps so much. I got to the point where I use my preamps so much, I just happen to know pretty much exactly where to set those pre’s for an average singer. I usually keep them -10, -6 maximum.

“When you work with great musicians... they make you sound great”  @SlauBeSharp

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Slau on Plugins

How do you compare different plugins?

Everything with plugins, as far as the way voiceover sees it in ProTools, is just parameters. You see what the parameter is, what it’s value is and you can boost it, cut it, change the frequency, etc, but you’re not at all influenced by what it looks like.

Are there some new plugins that have new settings that are remarkable to you?

Plugins like Sound Radix drum leveler. Holy shit I am stunned by what it can do in terms of gating and stuff like that. I could never get that result or effect with any other plugin. The SPL transient designer. I used the hardware unit once in a rental situation, but I did know that was something I wanted to look into, so I got the plugin. It’s just fantastic. I usually ride things into the SPL designer.

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - I don't think there was anything holding me back per say. When I was kid Music/Recording didn’t seem like that viable of an employment option and It did take me years to get to that point. I just didn’t think that I could do that for a living.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- Two things. One relates a little bit more to music. My old piano teacher said “A musician, no matter how good they are, can only be at one gig at a time. Meaning, there a plenty of gigs out there for the taking. So it doesn’t matter if you’re the best. There’s always going to be something for you. The other piece of advice is “Talent will not get you the gig, but talent will allow you to keep the gigs you get."

“Talent will not get you the gig, but talent will allow you to keep the gigs you get” @SlauBeSharp

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - There’s this one thing that I started doing on drums room mics. I’ve asked a lot of engineers and I haven’t heard of anyone doing this. It is to take a blumlein pair of ribbon mics and point the nulls at the drums. So then what you’re getting from those mics, is just room. Yeah you’re getting some direct signal, but it’s a way to get a room sound that sounds even bigger than if the mics were facing a drum kit. Then it’s just getting the corners of the room. Then take that and crush the shit out of it. It’s Fantastic.

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A-
If I had to start all over again, The first thing I would buy would be the Microtech Gefell um70’s. They are fantastic, they are my favorite mics, and I could record anything with them.


“To me recording music is sacred. It’s something that's so deep and so moving” @SlauBeSharp

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - Waveburner from Apple. I still use it to this day. It runs on the latest version of OS and I love it. It’s fantastic just to make DDP files or anything like that. I use it all the time.

Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - Use Square. The studio at one point used to just be cash or check. But since, I started using square last year, It’s fantastic. I mean, if you’re not taking credit cards there's like no excuse.


“Who cares what tool you’re using? It’s what you’re doing with it” @SlauBeSharp

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Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - I think people generally know that a laptop is the way to go with some type of either apoggee or UA basic interface. Then get a couple of mics. Then you know, get involved in the music scene. Just go out there, meet people, hang. There’s like no replacement for that. Because you can do all the science experiments you want in your studio. But if you don't get out there and meet people it's not going to lead to anything. You have to network. I would volunteer to record a few live events. I might also undertake recording things like panel discussions, conferences and not only music venues. Audio is required everywhere.


Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - I don’t think there's a single most important thing. Because, you as a human being are a whole person. You are not a pro tools operator, you are not a person who knows what the business end of a 57 end. You a person with a personality, you are a person with opinions, a person with interesting things to say. I think that you as a person, has to try as a person to become the most knowledgeable, the most fun person to be with. People are going to come to you because they trust you, and feel good about being around you, especially if you have an 8 or 10 hour session in a day. I think you have to become the best all around person that you can be in order to become a rockstar. It doesn't matter how much you know, because if you’re an asshole no one's going to want to work with you.

Contact:
Email - slau@besharpstudio.com
Twitter - @slaubesharp

RSR031 – Dave Tough – Producer’s Room

(Press play on the green strip above or listen on iTunes with the link below)

RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR031 - Dave Tough - The Producer's Room

My guest today is Dave Tough, a Dove award-winning producer, engineer, and songwriter based here in Nashville, TN. He is also a music industry educator at Belmont University, and an active voting member of the Recording Academy (Grammy Awards).


Dave has won the Grand Prize in the John Lennon songwriting contest twice...in 2013 (Electronica Category) and in 2009 (Country Category). He has written and produced over 150 songs for major motion pictures and television including Pretty Little Liars, Empire, Glee, Nashville, and CSI.


And Rockstars, you may also enjoy his television show called Producer’s Room with Dave Tough, featuring interviews with music industry creators, and studio tours.

"The focus of the show is a little different, we talk more about the creative process rather than focusing on the technical side"

“It's not our job as engineers to judge the lyrics, we’re judging the tonal qualities of the recording” @DaveTough

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Songwriting

Writing for TV and Film

"Film is more emotion based meaning the texture and temporal quality of the recording has as much to do as the lyrical content. It's the antithesis of Nashville. In Nashville it's all about the lyrics. We are gonna look at the floor and say that's a red rug with purple flowers on it and we're really going to describe everything about it. In film and tv we leave it more ambiguous. We’d say that rug makes me feel delicious. It’s more of a John Lennon approach. It evokes an emotion, not only the lyric but the texture of the song."

Writing Tips for Electronica Pop:
"My wife and I have a band called Xavier & Ophelia. Our song “Falling Down” won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2013. For this song we wanted to do a Hall and Oates chord progression to a dance beat. So when I sat down to record it, I used references, I like this high hit on this song and this drum beat on this song.. As far as tonality there aren’t any rules besides managing the low end. Side-chaining the bass to the kick."

Mixing Tips for Country Music: 
"The first thing is the lyric. Lyric’s got to be heard and cut through so vocal intelligibility is number one. Clearing out the low end besides for bass and drums. Making the others crosshatch together and finding little places in the spectrum that they’ll work together."

“If you’re going to record music.. you should understand music” @DaveTough

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Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - Two things, one I started from a musical perspective. But when I first said I’m going to be an engineer I thought it was a science. I thought man I can do a calculation to get from point A to point B if I once again do this compression ratio, but the more you live you realize it’s more of an art. The second thing was I had gear acquisition syndrome. I realized after a long time that you don’t have to have all of that.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- It’s all about the song and the arrangement and all of that… With my students I’ll play them a really good song, and a really bad produced song and ask them which one they want to listen to. It really depends on their frame of mind, but they see that the production is not what it’s all about. So if you don’t start with a good song, good arrangement, good players, you’re not going to get too far in the engineering world.

“If you want to eat in this town, you’re going to be working on other genres that you may not be a huge fan of” @DaveTough

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - I would say a really solid signal chain on the front end. I’m all about the pre-production, good tones, good arrangement. If I’m speaking for producing I would say also keep a rolodex of musicians. What I typically like to do is if I go out and see a show I take a note on my iphone this drummer is good at rock. Being able to cast players for different kinds of records.

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A- 
Favorite hardware would be a good instrument, and then my signal chain of choice would be something simple like a U87 a solid state condenser mic that has a flat response so I can tweak it later and a nice preamp.


“Engineering was only a function of composition for me” @DaveTough

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - Believe it or not, I actually dig the CLA bundles the Waves OneKnob. Everyone’s like you have the be a beginner engineer to use those. I think one of the most important things as an engineer is to capture your initial gut reaction and if I’m going through plugins and tweaking stuff for 30 min to get a bass sound.. I lost my gut reaction, I lost my initial impression. So with those types of tools the general CLAs, JJPs, Waves Bundle, that kind of stuff that has little pre-sets and their signal chain is built in, I can capture 90% of what I’m hearing within 3 minutes. Other stuff I was thinking about, I use Waves RVox I use a lot, of course everyone uses the UAD stuff. Another tool that changed my mixing was the oxford bundle by Sonnox's. The oxford limiter on the master bus, the oxford eq… One other piece is gear is the warm audio 1176. For $500 it’s pretty nice!

Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - The problem with engineers, is they only want to hang with engineers. That’s totally the opposite of what you need to do if you are trying to start a business! You need to go hang out with the people that need you. So like here in Nashville you need to go to NSAI where all the songwriters hang out and they don’t have any technical chops. And those are the people you need to hang with because then it's a win win. They can use what you do, you can use what they do or their money.. Either way.

“That’s what I love about engineering and music in general.. There’s something to learn everyday” @DaveTough

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Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - First of all I would go out to the clubs and meet some of the musicians and pick their brains. After that, as far as a setup, when I worked with Bruce Swedien (Michael Jackson’s Engineer) one of his ten commandments was always mic in stereo. So maybe two U87’s, two LA 610’s and maybe some apogee converters and a laptop. As far as making ends meet, I heard a good piece of advice from a songwriter once to get a job at night so you can use all your fruitful energy during the day for your craft and then when you’re sleepy you go to work.


Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Find what your deep driving desire is and find your unique voice, I think that’s so important. It may take you not 10,000 hours but 20-40,000 hours to find your unique voice. If you think about all the great artists, Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, George Massenburg, they all have a unique voice in their genre. On the flip side always try to work with an artist with a unique voice. When you can start becoming selective, dont record that guy that sounds like John Mayer, because we already have John Mayer. The label doesn’t need him, society doesn’t need him. You need to find someone with a unique voice that’s saying something unique lyrically but also sounds different and that’s where you’re going to have your best chance at success.

“You will become what you are...whatever’s in your heart, it will manifest itself” @DaveTough

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Nick Bullock

RSR030 – Nick Bullock – 52 in 52

(Press play on the green strip above or listen on iTunes with the link below)

RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR030 - Nick Bullock - 52 in 52

My guest today is Nick Bullock, a musician, teacher, producer, songwriter and music blogger. Nick has been an educator in music as well, founding a successful music school in Ithaca NY while playing and recording music with his band, The Sound Awake. And after years of running his business, playing in a band, and producing both his own records and others, he made a leap of faith and moved to Nashville TN to pursue his larger vision for songwriting and recording.


With his move to Nashville, Nick decided to focus on his own music. He built his home studio, and began to rehearse, write and record with a passion. In 2015 he launched an intense studio project with his band called 52 in 52 where he committed to writing and recording 52 songs in 52 weeks.


Nick’s intense journey has produced some stellar recordings, a blog, and also led to new productions with new artists. I am psyched to be here at Awake Studios to speak with Nick and learn more about the process of creating on such a high level.

What is 52 in 52?

52 songs written, recorded, and released in 52 weeks. Inevitably by the end I wasn’t able to release one song a week for a variety of reasons, but by the end of the 52nd week all of the songs were done and released on my SoundCloud page. Everything that I released, I’m not necessarily happy with it all, but there's at least one thing in each song that I really like. I view songwriting as a craft, so not everything that I write has to be great, not everything that I write has to be done, you just have to do it. Big thanks to Kevin Harper, Tom Elefante, Greg Herndon, Brain Cox, and Clark Singleton who supported and participated in the project. 

Check out Nick's 52 in 52 Blog!! 

“I guarantee you every single person no matter how brilliant they are has felt the fool before” 

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Nick Bullock - On Goal Setting - 

Holding yourself accountable is one of the hardest things, but also one of the most important things to do. If an idea comes to me more than once, then I have to do it. Setting and reaching goals builds confidence and self esteem. You learn from the trials and tribulations as much as the successes if not more. For me, it’s part of my everyday life. I’ve always been self-employed so goals are just part of who I am. Advice on completing goals is number one break it down to a bottom tear goal as you possibly can. If your goal is to write, record, and release a song, it’s really about breaking those goals down into a really easy digestible pattern of behavior that you know you can complete.

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - I would say what was holding me back was confidence and lack of experience. [As far as starting 52 in 52] stress was holding me back. Just the overall overwhelmed feeling of trying to be a human being and make enough income for the family of now three and trying to finish all of this at once. I don’t know if it held me back, but I definitely have more grey hair on my head then needs to be.

Q- How did you get past that initial fear?
A - The courage part is the biggest factor. I’d be the guy that went first, just get it over with. I have no problem making myself look like a fool. Whether it was asking questions of engineers that were mixing my songs about equipment or tape hiss or whatever. I guarantee you every single person no matter how brilliant they are has felt the fool before. It’s just a universal thing that’s a part of life and the quicker you can get over that, the better you’ll be.

“Imagination is where the genius lies in all of us”

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Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- I think how to stay organized is probably the biggest ones, and my wife was really good at talking me down. Just having somebody in your corner, whether it's your mom or wife or whatever. Having a brotherhood and sisterhood out there to just give you support is a huge thing. In every creative process an idea that is born that’s new and different has the potential to be great. But if there's no support system for that idea, it's just going to wither on the vine and die. Surround yourself with people who support you and have your back. From Steve Jobs to Einstein to Mozart to John Lennon. Every kernel of new idea they had was new to the world at the time. I guarantee if they had been in a different position, there would have been somebody that said this is a terrible idea and a waste of time! Look what the world would have lost out on. Surround yourself with love, man.

Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - One of the more fun ones for getting a good vocal sound is using clip gain (gaining down the actual wav file before it ever hits the plugins in your mix) instead of a D-esser of some kind. I’ll go through and highlight the section in protools and cut it out (apple + E) and use clip gain to really adjust the breaths or consonants. I’m pretty sure you can use that in logic too.

“I think there’s huge value to be learned from other people’s mistakes, experiences, and knowledge”

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Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A-
Probably my 335 or my 65 Twin. I do everything in the box, but all of my investments all kind of stem from instruments first. It goes from instruments to microphone to preamp.. All that sexy stuff comes after. But it's really those first three that are most important in capturing a great sound. So the bulk of my career has been investing the those. My Wurlitzer is a beautiful piece of vintage gear. My piano, I know exactly what it does, but my 335 is probably my favorite.


“I’m more of a melody and chord guy” 

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - The UAD stuff is amazing. The Apollo Quad is my interface and I use ProTools. Some of the Waves stuff is decent too!

“Holding yourself accountable is one of the hardest things, but also one of the most important things to do”

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Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - I just downloaded this app called invoice2go that's very handy. One important lesson I’ve learned is when you’re cutting a record talk to who’s cutting the check.

Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - If they want to make a full time living maybe that’s a different set of parameters. For me, since I did it directly. I was lucky with the selling of my previous business to give myself some buffer. As far as something practical, I like to spend my money on the front of the chain rather than the back of the chain. Don’t spend money you don’t have to. Settle for a laptop and interface of some kind. The Apollo is really great. Then you have this library of plugins that come with that and all you need is a guitar and a mic!


“I’m just not interested in playing it safe”

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Always be open to learning from anybody and everybody. Always have a mind of curiosity. Be generous with your presence. 

RSR029 – Craig Alvin – Badass Mixer

(Press play on the green strip above or listen on iTunes with the link below)

RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR029 - Craig Alvin - Badass Mixer 

My guest on the show today is Craig Alvin, a fantastically talented recording and mixing engineer originally from Portland, OR before moving to Nashville TN.


He has been making records for over 20 years, and has an eclectic discography having worked on several Grammy nominated projects. His work spans Contemporary Christian Music on one end of the spectrum, to cool pop, and rock music on the other end.


His credits include Amy Grant, Vanessa Carlton, Lady Antebellum, Frankie Ballard, Chase Rice, Will Hoge, The Features, Butterfly Boucher, Erin McCarley, Hanson, and How I Became The Bomb to name a few.


I’ve known Craig for years as a badass magician of mixing that can take the tracks I’ve recorded and make them sound like what I imagined they could sound like. He has long since mixed with a hybrid of digital and analog gear that brings the best of both worlds together to create a sound that is powerful and compelling.

“I’ve had records that I’ve worked on that have won awards, that have been hits in various markets, that have been nominated for Grammy’s...and none of them are records that I really love, or am proud of, or have on my demo reel. The records I’ve made that I’m really proud of tend to go unnoticed.”

Craig Alvin

“It took me a long time to listen to how [music] makes me feel rather than to think technically about what I was doing” @CraigAlvin

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Craig's Studio: 

I have a Harrison Series 12. It's about 20 years old, its digitally controlled analog. Its sort of like having protools mixing but in analog form. I can take a sound from ProTools send it to outboard gear, then back into the console on a fader. When I work, I start a conversation with the song. It keeps me in a positive mindset and thinking on the thing I’m supposed to be thinking about which is the song, and the song should be speaking back to me. Once you’ve been sitting in the same room for 8 years mixing by yourself, you have to develop some ways to trick yourself into thinking you’re working on music with people.

Harrison Series 12

“Music is meant to be shared and experienced as a group” @CraigAlvin

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Favorite Effects or Outboard Gear: 

1. Distressor (super versatile compressor) I have them set up as parallels for my kick and snare trick I learned from Joe Chiccarelli. On kick it gives me a solid punch sound that I can bring up. On snare, i have it pretty squishy so i can give it more length.

2. I have a AKG BX10 spring reverb that I’m absolutely in love with. It’s the only reverb I ever found where I can drown a vocal in reverb and people still think it's dry.

Gates Sta-Level

3. Gates Sta-level. I bought my sta-level back around 1990. From a guy in Portland in $50, I then traded it to Seasick Steve, he used it for about a year and traded it back to me for a mic that he wanted. That thing has been on every lead vocal of every mix I've done since about 1996.

4.I have a Neve 33609 that lives on my drum bus and that compressor can do no wrong. It doesn't matter how hard you hit it, just running through it makes things sound better.



Favorite Albums He's Worked On: 

Ryan Lindsley’s - White Paper Beds

Erin McCarley -  Love, Save the Empty
Peter Barbee -  Among Savages

Andrew Belle -  Black Bear

“Ryan Lindsley’s White Paper Beds, is one of my favorite records I’ve ever worked on” @CraigAlvin

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Tips for Recording Great Drum Sounds: 

I have a philosophy that some things should be left alone or done with minimal processing such as my close mics. (kick snare, toms, overheads should be set up to get the best sounds without a lot of processing) then I have the opposite where I have mics set up specifically for lots of compression or EQ or distortion to give the kit its character. At mix those can be varied or eliminated. I also tune (the drums) to almost every song.

“Engineering 101: if you’re studying audio engineering, gain staging is everything. What I’ve found, is when I gain stage certain pieces of gear, I start to get this affect where I have optimized everything. I start off every mix by getting my low set, I set my kick drum and bass guitar and they always hit and they always hit the console at the loudest part of the sound at the same meter. Once you have set that, that's where you know your low end sits best, ..I do the low end first because the low end requires the most amount of energy then I start to build up the rhythm section around that. Those two don’t change because we’ve hit the optimal spot for the console”

“You cant just watch a video or read an article and be good at it right away, you have to train your ear and learn the technique” 

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Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - I think it was that I wasn’t focused. I wanted to play bass, I wanted to be in bands, I was in school trying to learn theology and I was just not focused on it. I took a decision to stop playing in bands, stop running live sound for everyone, get out of school and just focus on recording.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?
A - The very first time I walked into the studio and Joe (Chiccarelli) was there setting up drums and working on a 24 track we needed as many tracks as we could get. So we decided to mix the overheads with high hat and tom mics and I looked at him and said, “we’re gonna mix these now?” He looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the world, he said, “We’re mixing right now. We’re always mixing, mixing is our job.” And that was a huge revelation to me. The truth is when you choose a mic, you’re mixing. When you choose a location for that mic, you’re mixing. When you choose a particular musician to play a part, you’re mixing! There’s another bit of advice that I got. I lived in Oklahoma for a few years and my friend Ted, who spent some time in the music business, would always say, “the difference between whether something happened or didn’t happen, it whether it happened or not.” It makes no sense, but what he meant was, if something's not happening in a mix and you choose to let it go by, then that’s your choice. It didn’t happen because you didn't make it happen. I think he said it to make you take responsibility for the situation

“I can now have a studio where the knobs never turn on the outboard gear” @CraigAlvin

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - The first thing I do (when it comes to vocals) I believe in the careful care and feeding of compressors. And what you’ll notice when looking in ProTools is that the waveform will be very loud in the bridge and quieter in the chorus. The first thing I do is go through with clip gain and even that out in a general sense so it’s kind of one volume the whole way. I do it visually so it’s more or less the same volume. The reason why is because I want the compressor and the other effects to be more or less in the “butter zone.” I get it so I can set my compressor once and leave it. Then I use automation to turn the volume up and down, after compression. After that I’ll filter out low end rumble and vocal pops with the RX plugin or the linear EQ from waves and use that in audio suite. After that the best thing i’ve learned for a vocal is something we used to do with tape. I have the UAD studer plugin. This the custom "Craig Alvin" setting on that: 456 tape with noise turned off. Then I run it at 7.5” per second, I turn the bias all the way up to make it darker and turn it to +9 to get more saturation. Right above the bias, there’s a high frequency tilt that’s on the record side, and I turn that up till the high end sounds right again. What this does is it gives you tape saturation, but that works in a really beautiful way with s’s. You can get by with so much less de-essing, and it’s probably the best vocal compressor that you can find

Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A-
You really can’t underestimate the power of having good delays. Like in particular the PCM41 by Lexicon. They’re kind of looked down upon because the 42 is supposedly the better version. I think its important to have bad gear laying around. The great thing about having bad gear like the PCM41 is that it has built in character. It has a sound that harkens to a particular era. With the 41, I will turn the delay all the way off but turn the mix all the way up and run acoustic guitar through it. You can turn a really nice sounding Martin guitar into a crappy old archtop that way. A lot of old altec consoles have these crazy, really kind of bad sounding mic pres and EQs that are phasey weird spring reverbs and stuff. Those things are fun to record percussion. When I was working on the features Wilderness record, I went around to pawn shops and bought all the old 12 bit audio gear I could find. I found this thing called the Yamaha Rex50, which is a 12 bit version of the SPX90. That became really a big part of of his sound he had to go out and find a couple to keep with him when he tours.

“We have a listening deficiency going on right now. People believe the hype machine, the believe the rumor mill, but they don’t spend the time to be diligent and just go listen to everything” @CraigAlvin

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - I am completely in love with the UAD tape emulation especially the ampex and the studer. But I found Echoboy from Soundtoys and I turn off the delay and turn the mix all the way up. They have all these filtered sounds that essentially are what I was talking about with the weird audio gear and you can vary them in all kinds of ways and I do that ALL the time. I’m using a delay, but not as a delay, more like a channel strip.

Q - Is there any trick we should know about how to effectively name pre-sets and keep them organized?

A - I remember these in context through the song, so I name them based on the context. I have a reverb named Adam Lester Magic because there was a guitar player names Adam Lester and I found this pre-set that made his guitar come alive. And I use Adam Lester Magic on a lot of guitars now.

“I do some records simply because I have to pay the rent, but I think you should always strive to do meaningful work” @CraigAlvin

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Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - I’m not good with the business side. Honestly the thing that’s helped me the most is getting management to negotiate for me because I always sell myself too cheap.

Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - If I was in that situation, I wouldn’t think of gear yet. I would go find a job someplace where musicians gather maybe a bar, coffee shop, lyft or uber driver, someplace you can meet the people making music. Make a budget and figure out how much money you need a month to live and save until you have 3 months saved. Put that away and do not touch it. Now, by this time you’ve met the musicians, keep doing your job, and get behind those people and push life crazy. Help them record, help make their studios better, engineer for free, help them unload after a gig, do that stuff, make yourself invaluable to that scene and you will succeed. But you have to have money in the bank first so that you don’t go crazy.


“I really believe you get better results when you don’t mess around with the basics” @CraigAlvin

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Practice mixing everyday for hours a day. Seriously, get ahold of track do everything you can to practice making them sound better. Listen and compare your mixes to ones you know are good, and keep working on them until they sound as good as those mixes. You have to discipline yourself and spend a lot of time doing this. But once you do that, you’ll have trained your ear to know what a good sound is. 

Contact: 
facebook.com/craig.alvin
craigalvin@gmail.com

Kevin Ward

RSR028 – Kevin Ward – Mix Coach

(Press play on the green strip above or listen on iTunes with the link below)

RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

If you dig the show I would be honored if you would subscribe, and leave a rating, & review in iTunes.

RSR028 - Kevin Ward - Mix Coach

My guest today is Kevin Ward, a producer, mixer, audio blogger and teacher who has been making award winning records since he moved to Nashville in 1991.


Kevin started with playing guitar at six years old, but later caught the recording bug at eleven, when he discovered that you could take two tape cassette recorders and link them together to record multi track overdubs. He went on to spend a long career in the studio.


Along the way he created Vine Records and has won many Dove awards for the great artists that he produces. His extensive client list includes Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Dolly Parton, Boots Randolph, Jerry Springer, Vassar Clements, Sam Bush, The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Rhonda Vincent and Richie McDonald of Lonestar.


Kevin then took all his experience and knowledge from years of producing and mixing and decided to help others learn how to record themselves creating an online coaching program called Mix Coach.


There you will find many courses to teach you how to mix in different styles and genres from rock and Jazz to full orchestra and pop country. There is even a complete Pro Tools course to help you really know your DAW before your begin.


And what you’ll really want to check out Rockstars is Mix Coach Pro Membership. In this course Kevin delivers a new song to you each month allowing you to mix alongside both the pros and your peers. So that you can take your mixing to the next level, and learn how to create great mixes across a variety of genres.


In Kevin’s words “You don’t have to be famous to make a living at this”

Kevin Ward's 
The Mix Coach Program

Each month you’ll receive the most cutting edge training and insight to help you mix more professionally. We walk through sessions that have been mixed by professionals and tell you why each plugin is in place.

We give you step by step tutorials and song-specific tricks. No “theory” here.

We show you presets we use, mixing templates.

It doesn’t matter what kind of DAW you use… Pro Tools, Mixbus, Logic or Garageband, Our goal is to make YOU a better mixer.

Check out Kevin's FREE video..
The Top 5 Things Every Great Mixer Should Know 

MixCoach Pro Member 

In addition to receiving great mixing insight, you can also join Kevin's mixing community One of the coolest parts of being in a community like the MixCoach Pro Community is the insight and expertise that each member brings 

These other members are recording and mixing just like YOU and are instantly available to help.

They are waiting to hear from YOU too!

Even though mixing can be a solo sport, you don’t have to do it alone.

Get involved with our members

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - I guess it depends on when I consider myself starting because I consider myself a recording engineer at age 11 when I had two tape recorders. Really the only thing I guess was being in the proximity of fast growth. 



Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?
A - Back in Asheville, there was a mentor I had named Eddie Swan. I remember him saying, "If it sounds good, it is good." And I thought, man that's about as bottom line as you can get. 


“It's about experience and about being the problem solver” @MixCoach

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Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.
A -
There's several things I cover on YouTube videos, but there's a few I can think of instantly. One thing I noticed that happened to me is that what you mix last, you mix loudest. So now I teach my guys to mix backwards and make what's last be the most important thing. So in Nashville, usually you want to make the lead vocal last. That puts everything in the right perspective and it makes you achieve a good balance on a mix really quick. 



Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
A- I always hesitate to say this because I don't want to discourage anyone, but I just bought a set of Barefoot MM27's and that's probably the most expensive thing I've ever bought for my studio ever. I don't think everyone has to go out and buy huge set of speakers, but it made a difference for me. 

“Nashville would not operate without songwriters” @MixCoach

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - Melodyne is unbelieveable because it can make a person sound better then the best mic, the best pre, compressor. If they’re flat then it’s just a really good recording of a flat singer

Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A -  I listen to a guy named Michael Hyatt, he’s a great resource for leaders. If you have a recording studio and you are at the helm of helping people with their projects then you are a leader.

“Its very important if you want to be a mixer that you surround yourself with people that will hold your feet to the fire” @MixCoach

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Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - I would get a laptop, Blue Yeti, and some software, and I would go and find songwriters. This town and really the whole music business revolves around songwriters. I would either start writing or start finding songwriters to help. The bottom line is be somebody's problem solver.  

”Consistency is probably the key driver for whether or not you get the next gig” @MixCoach

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Always try to make the guy you are working for look better then they are already. Never call attention to something somebody did wrong. Your pay grade really depends on who you’re making look better. I call it serving up. 

Contact:
http://mixcoach.com
facebook.com/mixcoach
@MixCoach