Last summer I had the pleasure of working on two records which were released yesterday (June 24th, 2008).
The first being the debut record from the rock/alternative band Seabird, ‘Til We See The Shore, released on Credential Recordings. Last spring my friend Jacquire King, who produced a lot of the record, invited me to be involved in the recording process. I am very grateful for the opportunity, as working with Seabird was a fantastic experience of friendship and professional growth for me.
Til We See The Shore is twelve tracks and runs 47m20s. It’s full of rock/alternative hits which range from piano centered ballads complemented by melodic guitar embellishments to slightly edgier/darker rock tunes backed by complex drum landscapes and unapologetic distorted bass discharges. Every song is brought to total completion via Aaron Morgan’s extremely characteristic and uncommonly warm lead vocal.
The other record I got to work on last summer was Rick Brantley’s debut record, Prize Fight Lover Soul Auctioneer, which was put out by Carnival Recording Company. Mark Wilson, a high school friend of mine, is Rick Brantley’s manager. He asked me to be involved in the recording process, and I was excited to do so. I got to record strings, horns, guitars, mandolins and background vocals on two songs. It’s always fun to hang out and work with friends in the studio. Especially when you’re making rock records.
Prize Fight Lover Soul Auctioneer is a straight up rock-anthem juggernaut. It is six tracks and runs 27m45s. Once you set this record in motion, you cannot stop it. It’s massive guitars and dense drums give the record a perpetual momentum. These elements build the foundation of a mean rock record which is then juxtaposed against the upper registers of warm brass and sweet strings. Rick’s raspy rock vocal rounds out the package. It has the perfect amount aggression to satisfy your rock appetite, and snuffs out any chance to claim this record as anything besides rock.
I seem pretty interested in the promotion of these bands, don’t I? Well that is for two reasons. A) These artists are my friends, and I would like to see them do well in terms of record sales, etc. B) When you talk about these bands to other people you are indirectly supporting me and everyone else who’s name is in the liner notes. No, I don’t make money off the record sales, but I would like to see the projects I’m involved in get some good exposure.
So I want to ask a favor of you. Spend ten minutes listening to these artists’ music via the links I have posted. Afterwards, come back here and leave a comment with your own review. I would love to know what you think of the music. In addition, start one conversation with a friend about Seabird and Rick Brantley within the next seven days. It would be a great way for us all to connect with each other, very personally, around a common musical interest. Beyond that, it would be a great way for you to tell someone about some new music, and we all know how good it feels to be the first to know about a great new band, right?
photo by wilhei55
This is my fiftieth post to producer notes. I want to use this moment to retrace the genesis and initial growth of this blog. I also want to recapitulate the purpose of this blog, and fill you in on what I plan for the future of this blog.
The Creation of a Blog
July 10th will be the year mark for this blog. When I decided to begin blogging, I started out on www.wordpress.com. My main motivation for starting a blog at the time was simply because I was interested in taking up a new hobby. I had become interested in writing, and I felt like I needed my own platform to express my thoughts. After becoming inspired by Glenn Reynolds’ blog [pajamasmedia.com/instapundit] and book, An Army Of Davids [An Army Of Davids on Amazon], starting my own blog was something I really wanted for myself.
After about five months worth of studying the proper way to blog, and writing to find a voice, I decided to migrate over to my own domain on a dedicated wordpress installation. It was at this point that I branded my blog with the producer notes title. I also began to fine tune my topics so that I could more closely target my audience; people who wish to learn how to become producers and engineers.
The Success of a Blog
For being a part-time blogger, I feel that producer notes has been a success so far. Throughout the last fifty posts, I have achieved the goals I wanted for this blog. I have learned a lot about blogging and building web sites, and I have been able to create the outlet I wanted to express myself. I have also been able to create a platform which allows me to promote my production work, and I have gained a modest following of readers and subscribers interested in what I do and the information I offer.
I will continue to set new goals for this blog. There is still plenty of room to learn about what I am doing, and many specific goals I want to achieve. I am continuously learning more about blogging and running web sites every day. I expect that producer notes will continue to be a successful project for me, as I craft this blog through putting to practice what I learn.
The Future of a Blog
There are two final things I want to say in this post. First, is that I am becoming very busy. Radical Notion continues to grow, and along the way it requires us to invest more attention in planning and developing. Additionally, I am going to be working on a couple of records, which will probably take the rest of the summer to complete. Obviously this will take me away from other tasks, such as writing for this blog. I have been trying very hard to have a post prepared every week, but since I am a part-time blogger there are other projects that must take priority from time to time. As we continue in our growth phase with Radical Notion, and I begin these projects in the studio, I am going to have to scale down my posting schedule on producer notes. I still plan to periodically contribute to this blog, but for the next several months I will be off my once-a-week posting schedule, making my appearances here a lot less predictable.
Second is that I would like you to help me make producer notes better. Is there anything you would like to see done differently? Any topics relating to producing and engineering that you would like to know more about? Have the topics I covered so far been informative, or are they too basic? I want to guarantee that I am covering topics which are relevant and educational to those seeking to become producers and engineers. So if you have suggestions for changes I could make to anything about this site, leave a comment or send an email to stinson[At]producernotes[DOT]com.
I look forward to hearing from you. And remember that I’m not going away, I’m just going to be posting less frequently. Thanks for being loyal readers/subscribers.
When recording, reaching for the EQ knob should rarely be something that you find yourself doing. In fact, EQ should really be thought of as a last resort, only using it as a tool to shape particularly difficult recording scenarios.
EQ is an often overused piece of gear in the studio. In my assisting days I was often told to patch up an EQ simply as a matter of common procedure. I also worked on a handful of sessions where the engineer showed up early and began EQ’ing before any musicians even arrived to play a note!
Now generally speaking, there really is no right or wrong way to go about recording. Recording music is truly an art form, and just like any art is highly subjective. However, there are many scientific guidelines that if used as a base point will help you achieve above average results.
It’s also worth noting that there are a lot of talented engineers who purposefully record using EQ so that they don’t have to use it as much during mixing. This is a very efficient, logical and wise approach. But equally logical is the notion that it’s just best to simplify. Recording with an EQ inserted is an approach that should be reserved for those who have a lot of experience in the field of recording. You could also make the argument that using EQ as an effect is a valid technique to employ when expressing your artistic voice, but this is a special case–not the normal set of studio circumstances.
The most effective way to get a great tone out of any instrument you record really comes down to three main steps:
Find the best place in the room for the instrument
The way a room interacts with musical instruments dictates to a large degree the way it sounds. The farther away from the sound source the mic is placed, the more the room becomes a factor in the recorded sound. Before recording, spend some time having someone play the instrument in different places within the room. Trust your ears the most. Once you find the best position in the room, designate that place for that instrument and repeat the process for the next instrument. Make sure you allot an appropriate amount of time for this process in your recording sessions, because this process can take a while.
Find the sweet spot–the optimal place to position the mic
After you have found the position where the instrument sounds best in the room, you need to find the position where the mic will sound best on the instrument. This process has two halves: a) using your ears in the room to find the initial position for the mic b) fine tuning that position by listening through the speakers in the control room. When recording very loud instruments such as electric guitars or a drum kit, it may not be possible to stand in the room and listen because of the high volume. If you find this to be true, then you may have to just go with the “b half” of this exercise. Also very important is to always wear earplugs when making adjustments in the recording space! Your most valuable recording asset are the pieces of equipment attached to the sides of your head. Protect your hearing at all costs. Otherwise you risk flushing your career down the tubes. Once you have found the instrument’s sweet spot you can move on to the third step in this process.
Choose the right microphone/mic pre combination
The last step in the process is to select the correct mic/pre combination. Honestly, to fully discuss mic/pre selection would require an entire blog post itself, and perhaps I will explore this topic in a future post. But for now, you just want to find the right match that seems to bring the most life to the tone of the instrument you are recording. In a perfect world we would all have any microphone and preamp at our disposal at any given time. If you happen to be in this situation you are a very lucky person, and probably should not be wasting your time reading this blog. For the rest of us reality is a different truth. Spend some time experimenting with the mics and pres that you do have available to you to find a combination that seems to fit best. If your situation is anything similar to mine, then you only have about three choices. Just do your best.
If you find that you are still not achieving the sound you want out of an instrument after going through this process, it is still best to adjust an element of one or all of the steps before inserting an EQ. Resist the urge to use EQ as a crutch. EQ should be used when you have no other options left to help you craft your sound, or if you are going for a specific effect, which as we said before is a special case. EQ should be used lightly and as a tool. If you do find that you need to adjust the sound by inserting an EQ, do so very judiciously. Leave room to do most of your EQ’ing during the mixing stage.
I hope you have found this article helpful. If you feel that I have overlooked something, or have any other tips on getting a great tone without the use of EQ, please leave your tips in the comments. Additionally, if you have any questions or would like to see an article on a specific topic relating to the music recording and/or production process feel free to leave a comment below, telling me what topics you would like to see explored on producer notes. If you would like to keep your suggestions private, you can email me at stinson[AT]producernotes[DOT]com
Good luck finding that tone you are looking for…
The following is a post that was originally published on 6/2/08. Due to a data loss issue producer notes suffered on 6/2/08, I am republishing it today. It is the last of four posts that will be republished in an attempt to retain the integrity of producer notes.
I’m back from a two week leave from Producer Notes. My time away from here allowed me to relive a bit of pressure that built up as a result of my ongoing balancing act between my freelance production/engineering career, and the operations of my startup. I was able to do quite a bit of Radical Notion business planning, and pickup several recording sessions as well. I got a whole lot of work done, but it’s definitely not complete. I will likely have to take another leave before the summer is out. Thanks for your loyal readership, and for staying subscribed throughout this process. Now on to today’s post…
Recording should be a creative process. The technical aspect of it should be pretty much invisible. In order for that to happen, you need everything to run as smooth as possible. Nothing derails your creativity quicker than constant technical hiccups. This week I put together 5 tips that will help things feel smoother and more creative when recording your own band, or recording for someone else. This list is meant to be 5 individual tips, not a step-by-step process.
1) Plan your setup beforehand
Planning out your setup should be done at least the day before you intend to record. Determine whether you will record everyone at once, or if you will be building the recording part by part. Figure out the best use of the recording space, and the best place for each instrument within that space. After you know where you want to put the instruments you need to decide what mics and gear to use. Then patch it all up and get it ready.
2) Test your setup beforehand
Once all the equipment is setup, go through and test each input to make sure you are getting a clean signal from the mic, through any gear, to the DAW and to the headphones. An easy way to do this is simply to have a band-mate go around and talk into each mic while wearing headphones. The last thing you want is to sit down the day you are supposed to record, and realize that you are not getting any signal into your DAW. Save yourself from a massive panic attack. Test your setup the day before you record.
3) Record to an external hard drive.
Your internal system hard drive is not meant for recording! It is meant to run the operating system and other various applications that you use on a day-to-day basis, such as your DAW software. Do yourself a huge favor and buy an external hard drive. Keep your session document and audio files in a folder on this external drive. Name the folder the same name as the song. Most DAW software will take care of this folder creation/naming for you. But allocate your recordings to this new drive! Having an external hard drive also makes things more convenient when recording at several different locations. If you are taking the project to a place that has the same DAW software as you, you can bring your drive and everything should open up perfectly on the other system (this is not always true, unfortunately).
You want to always keep the shortest path to the DAW. Don’t put every compressor, EQ, reverb, delay, time displacement discombobulating logarithmic refracting unit known to man in your signal chain. Refrain from over calculating things. Having more gear in the signal chain means having more things to worry about (and more noise). Leave the EQ’ing, compressing and audio time travel for the mixing stage.
5) Keep things consistent
There is no use in changing something just because. Find your basic setup, and keep it the same through the recording process. This way you eliminate the possibility of confusing anyone (or yourself) and causing a technical mess. If your setup is working fine the way it is, then there is no sense in changing what’s working.
I hope you can find a few of these tips useful. Perhaps you already knew some of them. When writing this post I thought of well over 5 tips, so I plan on making this a recurring post. If you didn’t find anything useful this time, maybe you will next time. In the meantime feel free to leave comments with your own tips. Or you could send me your tips via email at stinson[AT]producernotes[DOT]com. I might include them in a future post. Hope your recordings are full of creativity…
The following post was originally posted on 5/12/08. Due to a data loss issue producer notes suffered on 6/2/08, I am republishing it today. It is the third of four posts that will be republished in an attempt to retain the integrity of producer notes.
My friend and business partner, Jonathan Harms, just started his own blog called A&R Notes. He decided to continue with the “notes” theme in order to form a brand of some sort between his blog and mine (Producer Notes, A&R Notes).
I welcome Jonathan to the blogging community. I look forward to reading his thoughts as the future of the music business unfolds, and the craft of A&R takes a new shape.
Read Jonathan’s first blog post here: [www.arnotes.com/7] And make sure you subscribe to his RSS feed so you don’t miss anything.
The following post was originally published on 5/5/08. Due to a data loss issue producer notes suffered on 6/2/08, I am republishing it today. It is the second of four posts that will be republished in an attempt to retain the integrity of producer notes.
eSession is a service that someone told me about around a year ago. I forgot all about it until it resurfaced somewhere else just recently. It’s a pretty cool idea of connecting music makers together via web based tools to collaborate on recordings. The community ranges from amateurs who make music in their spare time, to music industry professionals looking to make their next record. It costs nothing to join, but the use of the resources (various tools, community connections, disk space, etc) cost on a pay-per-use basis.
There are two ways to sign up: 1) as an eMember 2) as an eTalent member. An eMember is the standard signup method. An eTalent member is a musician or engineer who has at least 15 verifiable major label credits. The only difference between an eMember and an eTalent member is that eTalent members are publicly visible professional accounts. eMembers are not publicly visible unless someone does a search.
Please do not take this post as an official review, as I have not tried out eSession yet. The service simply piqued my interest because it’s a pretty cool idea, and it is free to join. But I am probably going to set up an account to get a better feel for how it works.
As the internet develops, the music making world continues to become an online collaboration. eSession seems to be a useful tool as studios and musicians continue to connect and collaborate with one another globally via the web.
What do you think? Is there anyone who is already using eSession? Visit the link and then come back and leave comments with your thoughts. [www.esession.com]
The following is a post that was originally published on 4/28/08. Due to a data loss issue producer notes suffered yesterday morning, I am republishing it today. It is the first of four posts that will be republished in an attempt to retain the integrity of producer notes.
This past weekend I went to my friend Aron Wright’s show at Portland Brew here in Nashville. It was a fantastic show featuring the intimate sounds of Aron Wright, McClain and Robby Hecht.
But I really wanted to tell you this morning about something remarkable Aron did for the show. He set up a live video broadcast over the internet using a service called UstreamTV [www.ustream.tv] This is something that I have been planning on incorporating into the shows that Radical Notion promotes. I knew I would be able to set up a live broadcast of audio, but being able to offer video was something that I was still brainstorming. So it goes without saying that I’m very fired up about this service. Look for our live broadcasts in the near future here: [www.ustream.tv/RadicalNotion]
Check out Aron Wright’s broadcasts here: [www.ustream.tv/aronwright]
Anyone else already using UstreamTV? I would love to see what you are up to. Post links to your broadcasts in the comments below.
Yesterday morning producer notes hit some turbulence, and didn’t quite make it through without sustaining some damage. Long story short, all the comments throughout the entire blog were erased. I have no idea what caused this, but I am still pretty amateur when it comes to maintaining web sites.
Lately I have been getting hit pretty hard by spam bots. I have my preferences set to moderate all comments, and I usually bulk moderate everything on posting days. Sometimes spam comments can build up quite a bit by the time I get around to moderating anything.
Yesterday morning I posted a new post, and then began moderating the comments. I selected the “Awaiting Moderation” tab in the WordPress admin panel. I know for a fact that I was only moderating comments that had not previously been approved. I even went over each comment to double check that I was not marking one as spam that shouldn’t be. I marked around 120 comments as spam. When I was finished there were no comments under any category. Not under the “Show All Comments” tab, the “Awaiting Moderation” tab or the “Approved” tab. Everything had been erased!
I figured the best thing to do would be to restore my previous database backup, but the most recent backup I had was a month old. Restoring it meant that I was going to lose 5 posts. I decided to do it. Once I got the old database loaded up, I noticed that some things were out of sync with the blog vs. the feed, and there were a few other broken features. At this point I felt that I was losing too much, and trying to save a few comments was just not worth it. After all, my blog is still pretty new, and I really didn’t have that many comments (only five). So I “un-did” the backup, and decided that I would just lose the comments.
But this morning as I woke up I was not happy with this decision. I felt I really needed those comments even if there were only five. Having comments on your blog is an integral part of what gives a blog its value. I highly value the interaction of people, and joining together as a team to build something. It took a lot of dedication to get those comments, and I distinctly appreciate each person that took the time to stop by and interact on producer notes. To just let that go like it meant nothing would have been a disrespectful waste.
So after much flip-flopping on the issue, I have decided to restore the month old database, regardless of what content I lose or what features break. I do have the five lost posts on file which I plan on republishing one at a time over the rest of the week. Any features that end up breaking I feel confident will be fixable. And if the RSS feed gets out of sync, worse things have happened. The important thing is that I have my comments back. Well, most of the comments. Unfortunately I was not able to recover one comment, and I’m sorry for that.
Sorry if my mishap has caused any confusion. Thank you again for being subscribed and/or loyal readers. In the end I have learned a few things from this incident. The first of which is that I’m going to vamp up my backup routine to a more frequent schedule.
You should begin to see four of the five lost posts start to reappear, starting today with UstreamTV and following with:
I’m going to leave one post, Leave of Absence, unpublished as it is no longer relevant.
Thanks to those who have participated in the interactivity of producer notes.