SoundToys Little Radiator Plug-in

Man, I saw this promotion pop up earlier in the month, but I was so swamped with my current projects that I put it on my “I’ll get to that right away” list. And we all know what happens when you put to-do items on that list…

Bummed I didn’t get in on the action sooner, but in any case, I finally got in on the action today, and am really excited about my new SoundToys Little Radiator plug-in, which I’m downloading right now as I type this.

Get The SoundToys Little Radiator For FREE!
The Little Radiator is SoundToys’ unique twist on the classic sound of the Altec 1566A tube mic preamp. Much like they have done in previous plug-in releases, they decided to run a promotion this month (ends in just a few hours), in which you can download the Little Radiator for free.

For full details, and to get your free SoundToys Little Radiator, simply follow this link:

https://www.soundtoys.com/sxsw2012/&rc=308-7105-455

Hurry! This is all over in just a few short hours!!

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 25-03-2012
Filed Under (inspiration) by Jon Stinson

This one’s more in the post-punk realm than the shoegaze realm, but there’s a fair amount of similarities in the two music styles (one of the main similarities being that they are two of my favorite styles of alternative rock).

Remember the debut record from Bloc Party, Silent Alarm? That record really made an impact on me – everything from the production style to the songwriting, to the interesting and poetic societal commentary which made up most of the lyrical content.

The lead single from that album was the song “Banquet”. It punched right through the indie rock scene in 2005, as it had such a brilliant blend of unique production and artistic characteristics. You had to pay attention.

To me this song feels like the perfect anthem for a nite of adventure. Imagine it’s 10pm. You’ve got plans to go out with your friends, and you’re waiting on the street corner for them to pick you up. Just then the car pulls around the corner, and you hop in. The whole nite’s adventure is ahead of you; the possibilities are infinite. That’s where this song takes me.

I haven’t kept up with Bloc Party too much after the release of their second album, which I honestly didn’t like too much. However, according to Wikipedia, they’ve got plans to put out a record in 2012.

blocparty.com

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 20-03-2012
Filed Under (contemplations) by Jon Stinson

Invisible white space

It’s a very common line of thinking that the producer and engineer are not supposed to really influence the sound of the music; that they should mostly be invisible to the process of recording, so that the true identity of the band can really show.

But isn’t that why a particular producer gets hired? In order to provide guidance to the recording process, which in effect influences the sound?

Perhaps the line of thinking that producers should step out of the way comes from a certain era in music where things my have gotten out of hand, and the essence of an artist’s music was hi-jacked by the production and A&R team.

However, I can’t help but notice how often producers get hired because of a certain band they worked with or album they produced, myself included.

When a producer and/or engineer is hired to be a part of a project, to a considerable extent they are being invited into a collaborative process with the artist. There’s going to be a degree of influence on the sound that just comes with the territory.

I’m definitely not advocating that a producer, engineer, or anyone else should step in and change the fundamental musical identity of an artist… quite the opposite, really…

But it is an interesting question worth asking ourselves. Even if for no other reason but to keep ourselves in check, so as to not inadvertently eviscerate the very thing that makes an artist’s music special.

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 19-03-2012
Filed Under (inspiration) by Jon Stinson

In my post about What EQ Is For, I mentioned that the story of how the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen was a recorded is an inspiration to me. After I posted that, I surfed YouTube to see if I could find a video of Roy Thomas Baker breaking things down in detail. Indeed I did (unfortunately the audio is a little out of sync, though)…

Roy Thomas Baker Discussing the recording of “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Roy Thomas Baker has worked with some great artists, such as Queen, The Cars, Lindsey Buckingham, and The Smashing Pumpkins.

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 18-03-2012
Filed Under (inspiration) by Jon Stinson

One of my favorite shoegaze bands of the contemporary, nu gaze scene, as well as one that I’ve had the pleasure to meet when the band I formerly managed, Mother/Father, shared the stage with them in Nashville in late September is A Place To Bury Strangers.

“So Far Away” is the new single off A Place To Bury Strangers EP Onwards To The Wall

Onwards To The Wall was released Feb 7, 2012, and is available via Dead Oceans

A Place To Bury Strangers website: http://www.aplacetoburystrangers.com/

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 16-03-2012
Filed Under (recording) by Jon Stinson

When I played in a garage rock band in high school, I was always in search for the perfect distortion pedal – the one that could make my guitar sound exactly like the wall of distortion I heard on all my favorite albums.

I would listen to these records over and over, trying to pick apart each guitar tone in order to “reverse engineer” the sound so I could replicate it.

Somewhere around the summer after I graduated I realized that the sound I was hearing was not one single guitar pedal, but actually many different guitars overdubbed with different pedals, amps, microphones, and other gear.

That was a huge epiphany to me. I now had a whole new sense of empowerment into how to achieve the sounds I heard in my head, and capture them in the recordings I was making at the time.

Now I have a lot of fun working with guitar players to create the perfect sound. And it’s not always a “wall of distortion” that we’re after. Simply layering up a couple of guitars with slightly different tones, and subtle (or not so subtle) variations in the way a part is played goes an incredibly long way in creating a guitar part that dances with interesting nuances.

Next time you’re looking for the perfect guitar tone, you may find it by layering up a few different guitars, and making a few adjustments to the pedals and amps used as well.

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 15-03-2012
Filed Under (mixing) by Jon Stinson

Last week I wrote an article on What Compression Is For, which gave a little history on how dynamics compression in music recording came about. I was afraid that post would be too boring, but I got a little feedback that indicated otherwise. So continuing on that theme, I thought I’d put together some similar thoughts on EQ.

EQ is meant for sonic correction, and to help carve elements in a mix such that they fit together agreeably. Back in the early days of recording, before multitrack came along, engineers had to record a lot of different instruments to the same track, or group of tracks. You’re probably familiar with the famous story of how The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album was recorded entirely on a four track. My personal favorite is the Queen Night At The Opera album – particularly the song “Bohemian Rhapsody”. On this recording, each band member performed their vocal part about 70 times, resulting in somewhere around 200 tracks of vocals. But they only had 24 tracks to work with.

When making a record this way, recording engineers had to literally be mixing all throughout the recording phase. They had to constantly be thinking ahead, anticipating what would happen to the sound when multiple tracks of tape were bounced down to just one or two tracks, in order to make space for overdubs.

To help with this, recording engineers came up with the equalizer. Equalizers were named such because they “equalized” the sound. This gave recording engineers the tool they needed to compensate for the buildup of overlapping sonics, and constantly changing tonal response of the analog tape. This way, they could carve and mould the sound the way they needed to in order to keep one instrument from getting in the way of another, as well as guaranteeing that a particular instrument wouldn’t sound too dull after hours of running the tape.

Now that multitrack recording has changed, the concept of EQ has evolved a bit as well. No longer do we really have to worry about using EQ in a way that compensates for overlapping sonic buildup when bouncing tracks, but we still often have to employ a bit of sonic shaping and correction at times. Sometimes a little bit when recording, but definitely fairly often when mixing.

Like everything in record-making, there are no rules. Use EQ when an how you want. This is art. But there are some best practices to keep in mind, which when used will get you more consist results.

The general approach I would suggest is to, experiment and make most drastic changes at the source instrument to get the sound you want – during the recording phase. In the control room, patch in an EQ only to fine tune and make subtle changes to the sound you have come up with in the tracking space. It’s really best to leave most the EQ’ing (think sonic correction) to the mix phase.

Typically, EQ is not meant to shape the defining sonic characteristic of a sound (use guitars, microphones, pedals, snare drums, etc for this). If you commonly approach EQ in a way that attempts to define the essence of the sound, you’re usually going to spend 10 times longer dialing in the sound, only to be disappointed when the ending result is never quite there.

Of course, like everything there are exceptions, and I’ve certainly abused EQ to create a unique sound, but that’s a scenario that comes up less than one percent of the time in the day-to-day life of making records.

Again, hope this little history lesson wasn’t too long and boring. Just wanted to offer more background on another common studio tool to perhaps help you gain a better perspective on how to use it and why it exists.

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 14-03-2012
Filed Under (mixing) by Jon Stinson

The solo button on your mixer or in your DAW is meant to be used in specific circumstances. In other words, not for EQ’ing individual tracks when mixing. That should be done mostly in context of the whole arrangement.

Here’s a few scenarios of when I use the solo button:

  • zeroing in on the exact melody of a part, so it can be more easily learned by me or another musician
  • Scoping out where a distracting noise is coming from
  • Listening to how just a few instruments balance together
  • Taking a look at the meters of the main mix bus when listening to just a single instrument or a group of instruments
  • Checking out how well my edits worked

In each one of these examples I only use the solo button momentarily to get an idea of what’s going on. Once I get an understanding I imediately put all the tracks back in, so I can make all my serious adjustments in context of the whole arrangement.

It may seem kinda weird or hard to do at first, but you should always make all your serious decisions about how you want your mix to sound while listening to the whole arrangement. Otherwise, you run the risk of making choices that cause each instrument to compete for space in the mix, and you will run in circles.

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 13-03-2012
Filed Under (commentary) by Jon Stinson

What’s the difference between someone who is regarded as a creative, artistic person, versus a person who is generally regarded as non-creative?

In my mind the difference is simply a person who actively pursues creativity, and works on their art every day.

Making art is hard work. There are a million forces to fight in any given moment before an idea can be shipped:

  • laziness
  • fear
  • lack of inspiration
  • lack of time
  • lack of money
  • confidence
  • priorities
  • countless other forces

I believe that people often think they are not capable of being artistic, so they never try to be. The funny thing is, applying this logic even people who are successful artists are not artistic.

People who are regarded as artistic by others, are generally perceived as such because they are willing to take the risk of openly creating bad art, in order to ultimately create something that will inspire others. In other words, they most likely get it right 1 out of 10 (or 20 or 100) times. But it’s this one time that they get it right that causes people to compliment them with the “creative” or “artistic” perception.

Pretty much a year ago, my friend Austin wrote a book about overcoming inertia and meeting creative goals, which he published on his website for free. As a creative person willing to do the hard work of pursuing creativity, you owe it to yourself to download and read the short book (it’s 59 pages).

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 12-03-2012
Filed Under (inspiration) by Jon Stinson

Well, I didn’t get to my weekly shoegaze post yesterday, so I’m doing it today instead.

I got turned on to Bear In Heaven a couple years go when they were touring and promoting their Beast Rest Fourth Mouth album.

Now they’re back with a new release (April 3rd), I Love You, It’s Cool

Here’s the video for “The Reflection Of You”, one of the first singles from the forthcoming new album. I love the video’s high quality, but not too high quality indie feel.

“The Reflection Of You” is a pretty synth-heavy track, with some fantastic harmonic movement on the bass dancing underneath from time-to-time. I love Bear In Heaven’s general outside the box creative thinking, and unorthodox approach to making music and art.

Bonus 1:

Check out their other single from I Love You, It’s Cool, “Sinful Nature”, which you can download on their Soundcloud page.

Bonus 2:

Remember when the Eyjafjallajökull voclano exploded in Iceland a couple years ago, and messed up international travel for a few days? Well, Bear In Heaven got stranded at the Madrid airport during that incident. They spent their time in limbo making this incredible video, very fittingly set to their song “Dust Cloud”

I Love You, It’s Cool comes out April 3rd on Dead Oceans/Hometapes. You can pre-order the new album now via SC Distribution

And Check out the Bear In Heaven website, where they are running a stream of I Love You, It’s Cool in it’s entirety, slowed down so slow that it’s lasting 2,700 hours: bearinheaven.com

//Jon
Website: jonstinson.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stnsn
Twitter: @stsn

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