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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Proper Use Of Pitch Correction By J. Andres Lara

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

I know many are already thinking: “The proper use of Auto-Tune is none.” While I agree in theory, it is naive to think that there is no place for pitch correction in today’s recording world. It would be like saying the same of digital recording. As the recording world has embraced the DAW and computer recording, so too must we come to terms with the fact that pitch correction is not going away.

That being said, I believe heavy use of Auto-Tune is a passing fad. Some will argue that it’s for effect – what the kids want to hear. But when everyone wakes up from this temporary lapse of reason, they will want to hear actual singing. Digital recording exposes imperfections in pitch and tone more easily than analog. Digital is not as forgiving, and today’s records often lack the warmth of classic records. Tools like Auto-Tune can help compensate for the exposure of these shortcomings in a vocal performance. There are a few things to keep in mind: all those classic recordings were about capturing the performance, not technical “perfection.” What would Neil Young records sound like if he had been forced to sing flawlessly? Secondly, those bands were often very well rehearsed, which unfortunately isn’t commonplace today.

So, what can be done? The best approach is to have a well-rehearsed artist or group record vocals after honing their skills and realizing their strengths and weaknesses. Some may say, “I really enjoy the sound of machine-like, pitch-corrected vocals.” While that may be the case today, I wouldn’t get too used to people admiring singers that can’t actually sing. Rock stars are meant to inspire, so when pitch correction is all that sets a lead singer apart from a fan, that magic is lost.

I think pitch correction should only be used as a last resort to correct minor problems, not to mask a weak vocal performance. So remember, young producers, mixers, and artists, there is nothing wrong with hard work and practice to create a sound that is inspired, imaginative, and perhaps more importantly, unique.

The Dalai Lama Can Help You Thrive In The Music Business Part 2 By Adrian Carr

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

The biggest challenge I face with mastering is staying positive about the two causes of change in our music business: technology and the Internet.

On Technology

Advances in technology have put tools in the hands of every artist, although the experience and know-how may be lacking. So, a part of my business is education. Educating a prospective client is one of the best ways to gain their respect and loyalty. Since the choice for the client is between getting a great sounding master or buying some software that has flashing lights, cool knobs, and promises, the right decision is not always clear.

On The Internet

We’re seeing a proliferation of new indie labels often run by artists. The role of education is essential. Standard operating procedures for a major label are not on the radar for indie labels and musicians. There’s a reason majors don’t mix and master at the same studio. But, budgets have shrunk and everybody is trying to cut corners. I have to impress the value of quality upon indie labels and artists. A great sounding catalogue will get better reviews and build a fan base, not just for one band but others released by the label. So through knowledge, education, and kindness, we can maintain a positive balance in these two areas. If you lose a job over the Internet because someone far away is cheaper, you can still win by making some new friends on Facebook, and adding contacts to your email list. Hopefully, when the potential client does have a budget, they’ll be back. Or maybe they’ll tell somebody else about you. Both the Internet and technology will usually give you
that opportunity to turn things around and stay positive. Being conscious of your checks and balances, not in terms of the bottom line, but in terms related to the Internet and technology is one of the secrets to success in this new business environment.

The Dalai Lama Can Help You Thrive In The Music Business Part 1 by Adrian Carr

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

After owning a CD mastering facility in New York City for 10 years, moving to Montreal in 2009 and setting up shop was a challenge. As you know, the current economic environment and changes in the music industry have created hardships for many people. In this short article, I’d like to point out how the Dalai Lama’s teachings are helping me thrive in these challenging times.

Forget the past and you’ll do better in the present.
I try to forget about how things were done five years ago. Pricing, finding new clients, even mastering practices have changed and need to be redefined in a more fluid way; however, this has given me a great opportunity to sharpen my skills. Grasping onto a broken tree branch while being swept down a river only helps if you can find a new way to use it.

Help others.
This generation of audio engineers has grown up in the digital age and I find it’s important to share my knowledge of recording and analog principles. If I can help someone do a better job in mixing, it helps me do a much better job in mastering.

Profit by making friends and sharing resources.
Rather than competing with someone in your city, turn it into an opportunity to collaborate. That’s what mastering engineer Bryan Martin and I have done at Sonosphere Mastering here in Montreal. In so doing, we learn from each other and we offer our clients experience and know-how no one else can match.

In Part 2, Adrian will explain how the Dalai Lama’s teachings can help you with technology and the Internet.

Trained as a composer and pianist at the Juilliard School, Adrian has worked in New York, Los Angeles, and London. He’s won several Grammy entry nominations for his producing and mastering work. He learned the ropes from Sony Studio’s chief mastering engineer, Vlado Meller, and ran his own mastering studio in New York City for nearly 10 years. Then one day while hiking in the Adirondacks, he crossed paths with a Canadian woman on the trail. He’s since moved to Montreal and set up his new mastering studio, ACMastering.

Capturing The Natural Sound Of A 300 Year Old Cello Part 2 by Ron Searles

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I always track the mics separately so I can adjust the balance in the final mastering, but I print a stereo fold-down at the same time for monitoring purposes. The centre mic is typically mixed in at a lower level than the left and right mics (approximately -6dB) otherwise it will sound too mono.

With any bowed instrument, the bow is also an important, distinctive part of the sound, and in this recording, a few of the world’s great bows were used. I’m not just talking about the sound of rosin on the string, but also the high frequency that comes off the stick, tip, and frog of the bow. These act much like the tweeters in a speaker system and make up a critical element in the mixture, akin to the thrust of “air” in a human vocal sound. I’m careful to listen for this to make sure it’s in proper balance. Height and angle of the mics can affect this.

Since the proliferation of the iPod, reproduction through headphones is a more important consideration than ever. By checking carefully with very good headphones as well as speakers, I varied the mic position until we had the right blend of cello vs. reverb from the room. Headphones usually make the reverb more obvious than speakers, so I leaned toward being a bit dryer than I might if I was only concerned with speaker playback.

Once the sound was established, we drew a diagram of the mic set-up, with measurements of location in the room, height, distance apart, and especially distance from the cello. All measurements were precise to a fraction of an inch. The positions of the mics and cello were also spiked with tape on the floor. I followed up with a series of photographs clearly showing the mic positions. These measurements, diagrams, and photos all remained carefully filed so they were available for the next (repeat) set-up of the continued recording.

Of course, mic preamp settings were noted and ProTools settings were carried forward from session to session. ProTools’ Session File Import is most valuable for this.

Finally, before going in to record on a new day, I would always A-B between the new “live” mics and a file from the previous session to make sure it matched.

Our friend and owner of the house also recorded through a separate stereo pair of tube powered ribbon mics, through hand-braided solid-silver wire cables and custom-built tube-preamps with solid-silver-wound transformers and power-supplies, all ending up on a vintage, professional analog tape deck. Analog tape-to-tape custom copies will be released later to the analog audiophile world.

Ron Searles is a three-time Gemini Award winning recording engineer, with an additional six nominations. He has hundreds of album credits from all music genres and has recorded and mixed the scores for many award winning feature films including The Sweet Hereafter, Being Julia, and Capote. Ron is employed as a Senior Post Audio Engineer at CBC, his most recognizable work there being the current theme to Hockey Night in Canada. www.imdb.com/name/nm0780728/

Turn That Amp UP! by Gordie Johnson

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

I hear a lot of guitar players pluggin’ into a lot of devices to try and find their sound. There seems to be a trend now in our industry where the soundman is the ruler. Guitar players have to turn down their amps, drummers play behind plexiglass shields, and guys use in-ear monitors so that the sound can be controlled. I’m sorry, but that is fucking boring if you ask me.

I don’t know one artist that sounds better for doing things this way. If I want to hear that kind of audio, I’ll go see Phantom at the Winter Garden Theatre, or I’ll go see Cats or something. It is such a Broadway theatre approach. Rock ’n’ roll has got nothing to do with that. Plug into an amp and turn that shit up.

Soundmen, you can do this. You can make the club sound awesome with a loud-ass band playing on stage. After all, that’s your job. Soundmen have done it for decades. If you want to get a gig in a studio, get a job as a studio engineer. Live engineers have to deal with high SPLs. I just don’t think all of the technology they throw at live audio makes it sound better. Some things are advanced: digital desks make festival stages way better than they ever were and wireless technology has made things easy for big festivals, but I really don’t know any rock ’n’ roll band worth the time and effort that plays according to the soundman’s rules.

Capturing The Natural Sound Of A 300 Year Old Cello Part 1 by Ron Searles

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

When first setting out to make this recording – Canadian cellist Winona Zelenka recording Bach’s complete Cello Suites – I realized that capturing the natural sound of the cello was paramount. Winona is playing the “Starker” Guarnerius cello, made in 1707. It is one of the finest cellos in the world today. Our first challenge was finding the ideal place to record. We needed a great sounding space, with few noise interruptions – a constant problem in most churches. Because this was to be a long-term recording commitment, the space needed to be available over a long period of time.

As luck would have it, a friend who had hosted many afternoon chamber music performances in his house was very enthusiastic to help us out. He has a very large, beautiful home north of Ajax, ON that fulfilled all of our requirements.

We started by doing numerous trial recordings in various locations – living room, front lobby, upstairs balcony overlooking the foyer, etc. – finally settling on a very large room at the back of the house. The dimensions of the room are about 35 ft. by 50 ft. with about a 25 ft. height. It has a clay tile floor with sloping cedar ceiling and glass walls; the acoustics are very similar to those of a small church. The cello sounded wonderful!

To capture this sound, I chose a custom-matched set of very high-quality ribbon mics. They seemed to “hear” the cello in a way I really liked – no hype, very natural, with good off-axis response, making the room sound lovely as well. The “figure 8” pattern of the ribbon gives a nice pickup of the distant and denser reflections from the back of the room, while eliminating the closer hollow sounding reflections from the sides. I’m not a fan of adding any artificial reverb for this type of recording, so the way the mics respond to the room’s reverb is crucial for me.
Next came the mic placement. We wanted an intimate sound, but with some bloom from the room – similar to what Winona might hear while playing the cello in a hall. For a number of chamber music and film score recordings, I’ve employed a three-mic array, based on the Decca Tree for the core set-up. Experimentation yields the best final results, but I start with the left and right mic about 6 ft. apart, the centre mic dead centre but about 2 ft. forward of the left and right mics, and in this case, about 4 ft. from the cello’s strings, a bit above the contact point of the bow. Any asymmetry (even a fraction of an inch) will throw off the left to right balance. The 3 mics create a good stereo image, with a more control of centre image than just using a stereo pair.

See Part 2 of Ron’s article in the October 2010 issue of Professional Sound.

Ron Searles is a three-time Gemini Award winning recording engineer, with an additional six nominations. He has hundreds of album credits from all music genres and has recorded and mixed the scores for many award winning feature films including The Sweet Hereafter, Being Julia, and Capote. Ron is employed as a Senior Post Audio Engineer at CBC, his most recognizable work there being the current theme to Hockey Night in Canada.



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