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Sound Advice

Teching And Happy To Be There by Trevor C. Coppen

October 18th, 2002

Teching a PA should be treated with the same kind of care as mixing the band. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’ – where have I heard that before? The PA tech can definitely make or break a show as much as the mixing engineer. Touring bands are not always fortunate enough to travel with their own production, and even if they do they rely on the audio systems tech to keep things up to snuff.

A systems technician is a question/answer man, an advisory board and handy man all rolled into one. The performer’s engineer has been hired for a reason and that should be respected. Although you may not agree with their methods, you are there to accommodate and make sure the system runs at its best, safely.

There are many things that can be done prior to the artist’s engineer arriving that will help keep the day and yourself together:

* PA and console functioning properly, free of noises such as ground buzzes
* talk back mic, CD and/or cassette for playback
* outboard gear (effects, inserts, functioning)
* inserts (if any) ready to be patched
* board taped, not necessarily labelled (engineers may word things differently than yourself)
* space and AC available if the engineer carries any of their own outboard equipment
* knowledge of the system in use, its flexibility and limits, both to be respected by yourself and the touring engineer

Keeping lines of communication open all day is very healthy. Make sure things are going well and functioning properly but stay out of the way, keeping in an eye’s distance. (It’s not a good idea to take a lunch break during the band’s sound check!)

When all is said and done, what it boils down to is showing respect for the club and/or PA company you are representing and having that reciprocated by the touring engineer.

Trevor C. Coppen, freelance sound technician based in Toronto, Ontario. Trevor has been touring recently with the Barra McNeils and is currently in the U.S. with Moxy Früvous.

Creating Timeless Recordings by Daniel Lanois

September 18th, 2002

A timeless recording feels right. And a recording that feels right is usually made up of some kind of truth – for example, a true documentation of how people were playing in the room at that time, uninterrupted by external opinion. If something has a natural feeling, then that’s also a real good ingredient for timelessness.

The irony of timelessness is that sometimes the most dated things are timeless. You listen to a P-Funk record from the early ’70s – and there’s a crass wah-wah pedal that is dated specific to the day – and everybody thinks it’s wonderful and timeless! I think it’s because there was so much commitment that went into it; it was so much the “sound of the moment” and done with such naiveté that it is timeless.

Naiveté is not something that you can be aware of when you’re trying to work, it’s something that you’re aware of maybe a year down the road; but it’s also a pretty important ingredient to recordings you want to keep listening to.

Daniel Lanois, recording artist, producer (U2, Robbie Robertson, Peter Gabriel). Originally printed in “Sound Advice”, Professional Sound, Winter 1995.)

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.


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