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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Battle Of The Knob Twiddlers: Perfectionism vs. Soulful Music, Part 2 By Dave Clark

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Now, ask yourself: how many times have you pitch corrected, quantized, cut, pasted, used a sound replacer on the drums, applied sample after sample, and time stretched tracks to try to make a tune stand up with today’s so-called industry standard? Do you notice the symmetry that occurs from this kind of work? Do you hear it in the work of others? Does it leave you with a less-than-satisfied feeling when the main hook of a tune is a micro sound bite meant to be an ear worm that drags you in like so much fast food, but doesn’t deliver much beyond that? How flat is top ten radio these days? Music that has been “turd-polished” is usually dead on arrival no matter how many times the hype men on the airwaves read the script and no matter who pushes it into movies and television, no matter how much money it garners.

Do you notice when a band has a superlative track that makes you feel so good that you want to listen for the whole three minutes and then again? Sure you do, and you know why, too. That music has soul. It doesn’t matter if the track moves a little or if the singer pushes the pitch envelope some or if the riff isn’t cookie cutter perfect every time. In fact, the subtle imperfections in the track often go unnoticed by the listeners as the connection between them and the band they are discovering is created and cemented by the joy of the experience.


Manufactured Errors By Steve Svensson

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I figure I must be a masochist. Here I sit at 9:49 p.m. in the executive boardroom of a corporate giant attempting to complete the programming and integration of their AV systems. Why am I still here? Was the full day of church sound system set-up not enough? I guess not.

I should be finished the touch panel programming, but I am still here because a manufacturer has managed to reverse Tx and Rx in a RS-232 connection. How do I know this? Because I assumed that somewhere within the control system programming, the videoconference set-up, the Cat 5 extender system, and all the wires that glue all this together, we, the integrators, have made a mistake. So I painstakingly check everything. In true Holmesian fashion, I have eliminated all the other (im)possibilities for this failure, and that which remains no matter how improbable must be the answer.

So with some, but not a lot of skepticism, I wrangle the 9-pin null modem adapter from the bottom of my laptop case and insert it into the signal chain. Success! Touch panel now controls PTZ camera through a pile of gear, and I am not really all that surprised to arrive at this conclusion. (more…)

The Battle Of The Knob Twiddlers: Perfectionism vs. Soulful Music, Part 1 By Dave Clark

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Soul-stirring lyrics, catchy melodies, sensual grooves, unforgettable riffs, and the transference of unbridled energy from artists at their best makes the music that you and I love.

What a joy it is to listen to music and get uplifted and swept away by the hypnotic waves emanating from the souls of the musicians who so dearly wanted to record where they were at in their time in history. So many of these courageous artists recorded with a sense of immediacy, confidence, and strength based on heartfelt stories and truckloads of hard work.

This is as true now as it was when music was first scratched onto wax cylinders. Listen to the Louis Armstrong Hot Five recordings and he sounds like he invented the trumpet and time traveled back from the future just to let folks know what could be done with the thing. (more…)

Attitude Is Everything By Karl Winkler

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

After working in the pro audio industry for more than 20 years, there’s one thing that has really stuck when it comes to the people. First and foremost, those who have truly “made it” and don’t feel that they have to prove anything are very nice, humble, and interested in passing on the inside details of the craft. On the flip side, it seems that those who have a chip on their shoulder are the ones who come across as arrogant. One of the things distinguishing one from the other is someone who blames their equipment for things going wrong. Sound is bad? Blame the speakers or the microphones. Maybe such-and-such processor “sucks.” Got a buzz in the audio? Blame the house power.

The real truth is that the gear is usually fine – the issue is often the operator. House power is a mess? Did you advance the venue and inquire? The ability to solve problems and still present a good product is part skill, part personality. Can you keep cool under pressure? Maybe this is part personality, but nothing helps keep you cool better than a good knowledge of the fundamentals and how to apply them in various situations.

So what is the formula for a Buddha-like calm in the face of impending disaster? For starters, we all need to get our heads around the basic math and science behind what we do. It is shortsighted to think that we only have such-and-such a job – system tech, monitor engineer, FOH… All of these jobs are inter-related and we all need to understand sound systems as a whole.

As an example, monitor engineers need to know quite a bit about wireless mics these days. It is far easier to throw up our hands and blame “black magic” for the interference than it is to hit the books, seminars, and manuals in order to learn the principles behind this complex subject.

Let’s remember just a few of the greats from our industry that we’ve recently lost, including Bruce Jackson, Albert Leccese, and Roger Nichols. Each of these giants contributed to live and recorded sound. Each invented new technology or new ways of thinking and working. Yet each was approachable, humble, and interested in teaching the next generation. They knew their craft as well as it could be known and didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. What our industry needs is more people like them.

[i]Karl Winkler is Director of Business Development at Lectrosonics Inc. He also plays viola in The Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been involved in pro audio for the past 20 years.[/i]

What’s In Your Tool Kit? By Blair Francey

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Regardless of whether you tech full time or just for fun, you should always expect the unexpected. One of the best ways to prepare for a gig is to put together a tool kit that covers as many technical issues as you think prudent. I’ve put mine together over 20 years of troubleshooting. This is the list of the tools that I take to every show:

  • AC outlet polarity tester
  • Battery-powered multimeter
  • Screwdriver with interchangeable bits
  • Combination wire cutter/stripper/crimping tool
  • Small locking pliers, hole reaming tool, and fuse removal tool
  • Miniature screwdriver, nut driver set, and miniature awl
  • Allen wrench set up to 3/8″, Torx bits, right-angle Phillips screwdriver
  • Metric and Imperial socket set with ratchet driver and extension
  • LED flashlight, measuring tape, Sharpies, pens, and pencils
  • Drum keys
  • Assorted XLR, 1/4″, 1/8″, and banana plug connectors and adapters
  • Nylon cable ties, cable shrink wrap, and tape head cleaning swabs
  • 10/32″ rack screws, and miscellaneous fasteners and washers
  • Assorted picks, fuses, guitar hardware, pots, strap pins, etc.
  • Vacuum tubes: 2 x 6L6GC, 3 x 12AX7, 1 x 12 AT7, 1 x ECC83
  • Co-axial and Cat-5 inline couplers, and USB to PS/2 keyboard adapter
  • Video adapters: DVI-F to VGA-M, DVI-M to VGA-F, and DVI-M to HDMI
  • 45-watt pencil soldering iron
  • 2 GB USB memory stick

Everything listed above fits in one 7.5″ x 14″ x 11.5″ plastic tool case that weighs about 25 lbs. fully loaded.

I also take a second road case containing the following:

  • Passive and active DIs
  • Headphones
  • SPL meter
  • Guitar tuner
  • Spare microphones, stands, and analog audio cables
  • FireWire, USB, and digital audio cables
  • Masking, gaffers, and coloured electrical tape
  • Laser distance meter
  • Power conditioner
  • Extension cords, IEC power cables, and power bars
  • Clipboard, paper, input list, stage plot, tech rider, and contact list for performers and venue

An industry colleague suggested I add fibre optic cables and couplers and a laptop computer with software to perform RTA and RF analysis. Welcome to the future!
Customize this list to fit your needs and remember, this is a small community; if you’re honest, dependable, work hard, and rise to the challenge, you will earn a reputation as a “go to” person. When that happens, work will find you.

Blair Francey joined his first band as a guitarist and vocalist while attending the University of Western Ontario over 30 years ago. His love of music combined with his desire to understand audio production theory, techniques, and equipment have remained an important part of his life. He is currently a Pro Audio Product Specialist for Music Marketing Inc. in Toronto, provides audio production and recording services in southern Ontario, and is a Member of the AES Toronto Chapter.

Recording An Acoustic Guitar On A Shoestring Budget By Joe Lapinski

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Recording An Acoustic Guitar On A Shoestring Budget
By Joe Lapinski

Sound engineering is an art form. Just like the painter who simply needs a brush, a canvas, some paint, and a vision, a recording artist can create a great sounding recording with minimal resources.

First, finding a good space takes time and experimentation. Ask yourself: “What do I want this recording to sound like?” Sometimes a large living room is a good place to start for a big, warm sound, while a bedroom is good for something up-close. Both rooms contain furniture that will help minimize unwanted echo – unless you want a natural echo. That’s up to you!

Next is microphones and placement. For an acoustic guitar, I recommend a mid- to large-diaphragm condenser and/or a tube mic – or two of each. These will help capture the detail of the guitar with a wide frequency range. They are versatile, and when combined and positioned properly, create a wonderful conditions for the mixing phase.

Right out of the gate, you probably aren’t going to find the best position for your mic. Record samples of each position and note whether you like it or not. I recommend taking pictures so you can reposition the mic(s) as accurately as possible in relation to the sound you’ve chosen. You need to listen carefully. What sounds best? Is this the sound I’m looking for? If not, move to a different room or reposition the mic(s) more radically. Try one microphone 5″ to 7″ from the sound hole of the guitar and your second microphone about 2 ft. to 4 ft. from the sound hole. This will give you two varying tracks to work with in your mixing phase. Placement is really up to you.

After graduating from the school of mic placement, think about investing in a higher-end microphone preamp. The prices may scare you at first, but a really nice preamp will bump your recorded sound quality substantially. Some professional recording engineers would choose a high-end preamp over a high-end microphone if necessary.

Whether you have high-end gear or not, your only concern should be creating the best possible recording.

Joe Lapinski has been performing, writing, and producing music in St. Catharines, ON for the past 12 years. He is the founder and chief of Yummy Recordings, runs Into The Future Studios, records and produces a variety of music from folk to rock, and works on projects from theatre sound design to film soundtracks. He is the current musical director for Suitcase In Point Theatre Company and is a co-founder of In The Soil: Niagara Homegrown Arts Festival.


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