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Sound Advice

Mix it Quickly by Kevin Doyle

September 18th, 2002

Mixing should not be a long and tedious job of analyzing and salvaging. I’ve heard songs that took over 100 hours to mix and I am dumbfounded as to why, because in the end they sure didn’t sound that great. Some of the best-sounding records were mixed in the ‘60s and ‘70s and took 2-3 days to completely mix an entire record.

One of my best theories about mixing, is to try and finish a mix before you start to hate the song. If tracks are recorded half decently, and everyone involved is getting along and are into it, you’re pretty well guaranteed to mix a really good record.

Kevin Doyle — head engineer at D.A.V.E. Has recently mixed projects for Marc Jordan, Harem Scarem, and is presently working on a film project for Yo-Yo-Ma.

You Paid Only How Much? by Bud Bremner

September 18th, 2002

Have you ever wondered why real estate agents cannot work part time, Only full time? It’s to prevent any part-timers from watering down the market and, more importantly, to maintain a professional service in a very important industry. The agents who commit their careers to it should be able to earn a decent living.

Unlike the realtors, many of us in the music industry put our whole lives into our art and/or our business, while some merely dabble in it. Having part-timers in our industry is the only way some of us could ever get our start; however, when non-professionals begin to remove professionalism and profit margins from the industry, everybody suffers.

Case in point: CD-R replication. We all know that the cost of these babies has dropped like a rock in the last year and it was only a matter of time, so it’s no surprise. Actually it’s good because for those willing to invest in the necessary duplication equipment, short-run CD-Rs opens up a new market. But what if some guy in his basement with one CD-R recorder and a PC starts giving away this service to all his friends for only the cost of the discs? How soon would more friends find out and, before you know it, profit margins for the serious players go right out the window? How is anybody supposed to make any money in this business when idiots like this trash any chance of profit? Profit is what buys new gear and more CDs, and rents gear and everything else that keeps this business afloat. Without profit, no value-added business can really take place.
So if all you want to do is water things down, volunteer at your local fire department; but if you want to get into this business, please be prepared to bring something valuable into it so that we all can stay in business long enough to enjoy what you have to offer.

Bud Bremner — owner and operater of Coastal Mastering in Vancouver, B.C.

Studio Etiquette by Colin Nairne

September 18th, 2002

Try and leave the world outside when you’re in the studio. Take care of any business before you go in so you can keep your thoughts on the task at hand. Having said that, be prepared for anything and have fun. Recording is the best part of the whole process of record-making. Take breaks often as you’ll feel better as the days wear on. Eat! Go for walks! Watch Formula One racing on TV! Schedule a late start for Saturday! Above all, trust your producer . . . you paid the ‘big bucks’ for a reason.

When I’m busy working on a record, I become so focused on the task at hand that all etiquette and manners that my mother taught me go completely out the window. When in the studio, it is important to be sensitive to the situation and the client — everyone finds it less offensive.

Colin Nairne — producer for Barney Bentall, Mae Moore, The Paperboys and Spirit of the West.

The Joy of Digital 8-Tracking by Michael Phillip-Wojewoda

September 18th, 2002

As soon as I bought my Fostex RD-8 ADAT, I immediately locked it up to the 24-track and began using it on albums I produce. On The Waltons’ Cocks Crow, I used my ADAT as an extension of the 24-track, so I ended up with 23 tracks of analog (one track had the timecode running), plus eight tracks of digital (because the ADAT has a hidden ninth track for chasing code). I actually like the idea of using the analog for the rhythm section and the digital for layering vocals; I sometimes don’t enjoy the colouration that you get when you record vocals analog.

A lot of times, I’ll take some tracks on the ADAT machine and import them into my Mac at home. I’m running Deck II, so I have four virtual tracks to work with all in the digital domain. I can edit or comp and even overdub stuff at home, and then take the ADAT back to the studio with the new sounds and lock it up. On Ashley MacIsaac’s Hi? How Are You Today? album, I was doing that a lot; I actually did some pre-mastering. I noticed that the kick drum wasn’t loud enough on one mix, so I found an isolated kick drum and literally pasted in another kick drum visually using the drawn wave shapes on my Mac. I did some rebuilding of tracks that way as well; it was like sculpting.

Michael Phillip-Wojewoda — Juno award-winning producer of acts including Barenaked Ladies, Rheostatics, The Waltons and fiddler Ashley MacIsaac.

More Joy of 8-Tracking by Blair Packham

September 18th, 2002

I had been making a record with singer/songwriter Arlene Bishop at Studio 306 in Toronto, when I had the revelation that once we had the drums recorded, we could do all of our overdubs at home on my DA-88.

I had an AKG 414 that sounded good on Arlene’s voice, but we needed a really good compressor — so I got a TL Audio dual valve preamp compressor. That way, we could go direct to tape. We had a DA-88 tape striped with timecode, and we’d do a rough mix onto one or two tracks on the DA-88 in synch. Then at home, listening to that rough mix, Arlene could overdub vocals and I could do guitar overdubs to my heart’s content. We could then go back to the studio and transfer the remote overdubs back onto the two-inch master tape and mix it. We then have the benefit of getting the drums recorded with a better mic selection and a big room, as well as the intimacy of recording at home, all on one recording. I’m now able to work on projects that are meant for release at home. It’s the difference between doing a demo and doing a master. You get the feeling that everything you do now counts. And at a much cheaper price.

Blair Packham — producer/composer; projects include the television score for the series Destiny Ridge and various TSN themes, as well as numerous artists projects.

Live Sound Crutches by Trevor C. Coppen

September 18th, 2002

Many articles have been written on this topic, but it continues to be a popular issue among many touring live sound engineers.

Many live sound technicians travel with items that make their evening run more smoothly. Much like the musicians that hire you, there is an investment being made to the sound that is desired.

A guitar player will buy a special amplifier or guitar which is crucial to their sound. A sound technician should consider the purchase or rental on a per tour basis of microphones and related items such as headphones, mic stands, clamps and patch cables. Model numbers and brands are irrelevant at this point. These are all personal preference.

Using the same headphones and microphones every evening allows you to more quickly distinguish trouble spots in a sound system. In the event that trouble-shooting is necessary, you are able to start further down the chain because you are aware of your own gear, and it is less probable of breaking down.

After completing a tour with an artist, or during those down times, you can always use these “tools” with other artists. These items create a consistency, especially with vocal mics, where hygiene is also a consideration. No matter what the condition of the PA is, or if you are mixing on the fly, you know what your equipment is capable of.

Having your own tools becomes very handy in a support band situation, whether you are supporting or if a support band is in front of you. Your stands and mics are up and there is no question of supply from the club. The support band will get all the house mics and stands. Or, in a supporting situation, the headliner will be pleased to see you with your kit and instruments clamped, miked and ready to go. This will save a lot of worries for yourself, the band, and reduces change-over time, allowing your evening to flow that much smoother.

Trevor C. Coppen is a freelance sound technician based in Toronto, ON. He has worked with such acts as Hayden, Our Lady Peace and The Waltons.


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