I’m usually a hermit in the studio, but I’ve opened up a little and had a little episode of backseat producing that led to a discussion that involved Manolo Blahnik shoes. In the past, I rarely let people in the studio while I’d be singing. Hence the reason why I’d produce them myself. I’m changing things around. Especially since I’ve been having George Leger III producing vocals for me.
Another first happened during the vocal recording session of American Mayhem. I allowed my buddy Greg Nicholson and his girlfriend to sit in while I was recording vocals with George at Utopia Parkway studio. Greg and I have written songs in the past. But he’s never sat in on recording with me as the artist. George has one rule – which quickly gets reminded to Greg as he offers up some advice.
While waiting for George we get into a discussion about the Apollo by Universal Audio and shoes by Manolo Blahnik. All of this prior to Greg and his girlfriend are about to go watch the World Cup football (soccer) between USA and Portugal. See, he’s for USA and she’s for Portugal. I’m sure that was an interesting match for the two of them. As we all now know, that was a moving match.
Backseat Producing And Manolo Blahnik
Are you’re P’s coming out okay?
Pah. I don’t know.
‘Cause you had a lot of P’s. So I was just wondering how.
Oh yeah, they’re not popping in the mic.
Ok. Cause sometimes I have to like turn my head just a little bit when I’m singing a P even with a pop filter.
Ha ha ha.
You’re a guest. Not a producer.
No side, no backseat driving.
Exactly. Please. We have work to do. Okay, here we go again. Ready?
Mumbo jumbo. It makes people go really?
In other words…
Why do you need this?
It’s like so when you start updating your studio and she’s living with you at some point in the future. I’m projecting here. And Greg’s like “I need to buy this.” and you’ll be like “Really? Really?”
Remember, that’s what George and Jody said.
This stuff does make a difference.
Do I get a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s?
I don’t know what that is.
Really nice shoes.
I don’t even know what the hell that is. But like, Okay.
A pair of nice shoes is that what that is?
Yeah. They cost quite a bit.
Alright. So, you get the toys in the audio gear. She gets the toys in the shoes.
That’s only fair.
I believe in this. I believe in being fair.
But here’s a question. How much are those shoes?
Between $300 and $500.
That’s totally fair.
Per pair. How much is what you want to get?
The Apollo? How much is that Apollo? About $2500?
That one? $2799 plus tax. No. $2500 plus tax.
I was thinking between somewhere between $2500 and $3000. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.
I was like, we already shook, we already negotiated this deal.
I did not know how much that cost!
I don’t know how much your shoes are, but I’m thinking my thing is 10x of what we just negotiated.
ha ha ha ha.
Fair trade. Fair trade.
Well, now I have to get the most expensive pair of Manolo Blahnik’s now.
No I think it’s only fair that you would get at least a dress.
Ha ha ha.
To go with the shoes.
That’s only fair.
Come with me as we give the Universal Audio Apollo a shootout at Utopia Parkway studio. My Avalon 737 was at the factory so we decided to give George’s Apollo a shot at being the mic pre of choice. We set up a couple of different channel strips to see which input path would give us the best signal for my Telefunken C-12 and my voice on my song “Thump Thump Thump”. It was down to a Neve with an LA2A and a 610 with an 1176.
[sarcasm]It’s riveting. So riveting. Especially if you’ve never been in a recording studio.[/sarcasm] Recording isn’t always the fun and games that people think it is. We do actually spend time figuring out exactly what the best course of recording a sound is. Time consuming comes to mind. Office managers determining a project’s work path is probably the best analogy. After that the real work begins. Laying down the musical parts.
Universal Audio Apollo Mic Pre
Thump Thump Thump recording
Testing mic pre’s.
Testing the Apollo mic pre. Okay Universal Audio.
I lie awake in the middle of the night.
Channel strip two. Well it’s actually one, but I flipped them around.
Well… we’re. It’s the second take on the channel strip on the Apollo.
There’s a push and a pull.
I lie awake in the middle of the night
There’s a push and a pull. As the gears begin to grind.
You know what? That, the 610 sounds more… rock-and-roll. If I was to put a… it has more “ah! to it” more ah.
There’s more meat to it.
That how, that’s how I would describe it.
It’s got more protein, more girth to it. Okay whereas the neve LA2A has a bit more of a refined thin thing.
Yes it’s interesting, I guess there’s a difference in the models. Cause it’s basically the same mic going through 2 different model emulations and they do sound different. Yeah. They are so hard core. I mean really truly. More hard core than most companies are. They want their stuff to be right. and they just really won’t stop until they are.
It’s the 610 76 that wins.
Okay, to give us the meat.
To get the song to ether.
Come with me inside RA Audio studios as we set up a Taylor Guitar’s K4 EQ. Here’s an outtake from the recording of my upcoming single called “Till We Meet Again” as Robert Navarro and I go through the pre-production of my Taylor 615ce. The amazing thing is that it didn’t take a very long time to plug in the guitar, plug in the K4, wire it to the pre-amp. Of course Robert and I spent a bit of time listening to several settings then proceeded to make a few minor tweaks. Then it was off the race, or rather off to the recording track.
Watch the video and find out what setting we used on my K4 EQ to get one extremely awesome sound for the acoustic guitars on “Till We Meet Again”. Yes, in the final mix down of the song I did use a combination of the K4 direct sound mixed with the KM184 Sennheiser microphones. Definitely a very awesome addition to the sound of great acoustic guitar recording.
Till We Meet Again K4 Setup
The whole concept of, what did I use for this recording? For Taylor Guitars website.
Right now we’re about to set up the sound for the direct sound coming out of the 615 that I’m going to record for “Till We Meet Again” into the infamous Taylor Guitars K4 equalizer.
And Robert and I, who is currently the owner of RA Audio, are about to set all of this up. He’s waving at you. And, get the sound happening. And then we’re recording through a couple of nice Sennheiser KM184’s that… [you’re welcome]
That I got for Robert. Uhm. So yeah, we’re about to do some pre-production on getting the right sound. Then we’re gonna do a track.
So let’s get started.
One second he says.
Wish I had a remote. Tink. Tink.
Ok, should I bring some treble down and the bass up?
That’s sorta nice? Well, I don’t want sorta. I want bad ass nice.
Back off a little on the bass. Ok, this is half of what the bass was when I raised it. So that’s a nice direct tone? Wow! No mid or anything huh?
So for all those out there in Taylor land who want to know the K4 setting that I just used. We’re probably talking 12:30 on the bass, on the low end. We’re looking at about 11 o’clock on the high. And the mids? Nada. Zero. Center all the way. The volume is set at medium, like right at whatever 12 o’clock is.
So the K4 is set, for the 615ce.
One of the things an artist will discuss during the recording is how they will go about singing a breakdown. Which is exactly where I’m about to take you in the following video. George Leger III (co-producer), Jesse Stern (co-writer) and I take a moment to figure out the correct way for me to be singing the breakdown in Till We Meet Again. Jesse takes charge to give a mental picture of an example that should give the right vibe.
What would you do?
Watch and enjoy!
Singing A Breakdown
This is the breakdown where you go out onto the key, that like goes out into the middle of the crowd. And you like, hold the mic stand.
And the band.
You hold the mic stand in your left hand and you get down on your knees.
And you’re just like…
Well then I should the carry on… Right?
Don’t. Do, do, what you would do in that situation.
I’m thinking, carry. Well I, I think it. A softer version of what the original was.
Don’t tell us. Just do it.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Today I’m finally getting around to changing the strings on my Taylor 615ce with a set of Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustics. After several live performances and a couple of recordings, including a cover of “Not A Bad Thing” by Justin Timberlake, it’s time I sit down and get my first impression of a new line of strings.
Sit with me as I take off some old flat strings that got played to death. Then watch me do things I don’t recommend doing with your strings.
Get tuned up. Stretched out. Ready to play.
Finally top it off with what my initial reaction is to hearing how Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustic strings make me feel. Rather what I think they sound like on my favorite acoustic guitar.
First Impression Dean Markley Blue Steel Acoustics
Sometimes your strings are flat and you need to change ’em.
First things first. Sexy, minimalistic packaging going on. Some kind of sticky thing. Inside we have a package. Sealed strings. Let’s open ’em up. Let’s find out what they’re like.
They come in two winds. They look like they’re kind of color coded. Better read the packaging. High E, is black. The B string is blue. G string is black. D string blue. A string black and low E string, blue. Alternating color scheme. I’m using medium acoustics. Thirteen through fifty-six, my favorite kind. De-tune strings. Get ’em off. Here we go.
Low E string if I remember correctly that is going to be black. The B string. Agh. I can tell you right now that they don’t taste very good. String G. Cryogenically activated strings have a very very odd taste. Don’t eat your strings.
Fly and be free.
Black for the A. The lower strings, they don’t taste any better than the upper strings. Ah, what a symphony of sound that is.
Stretch ’em out just a little bit. Blue steel’s generally don’t require a whole lot of stretching on the electric side. So hopefully they won’t require a whole lot of stretching on the acoustic side.
Handy dandy PolyTune by T.C. Electronics. Awesome app for getting your guitar in tune.
Ok. We’ve got it tuned up. Let’s clip the strings off. Once you’ve clipped the strings it’s a good idea to tune once again. Just incase there’s any slippage.
That’s interesting… No slippage whatsoever, it’s still in tune.
As far as sound goes.
They have a good solid tone to them. Not overly bright but nice and solid at least with the fingertips.
They have a real nice solid tone to them. I really dig it. Don’t sound overly buzzy. They sound nice and big and full. That’s actually a really good thing. I like that.
Dean Markley I think you’ve hit an A+ out of the park home run with these strings.
What could be more out of wack than three white men discussing rap music? That’s right. Jesse Stern starts us off with an off the cuff remark about rap music and George Leger III takes over discussing the state of modern rap in Southern California. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of rap I like for it’s originality, it’s beat, it’s wild-blue-yonder approach. Yet listening to George talk about the artists he’s hearing about from the youth group he works with, is definitely an eye opening and mind expanding situation for myself and Mr. Jesse Stern.
Find out my expression and how I react to a group that I’ve never heard of. Actually all the groups that George mentions are groups I hadn’t heard of until he mentioned them. Jesse takes it all in stride. What ended up happening afterwards is that I’m now more aware of some of the new modern rap coming out of Southern California. Not necessarily a bad thing.
What say you? Who is rapping stuff so awesome that you can’t believe they’re not uber famous yet? Give me some names so I can flesh out my measly commercial rap collection.
White Men Discussing Rap
There’s a lot of really cool rap out.
Productionwise it’s so minimalistic.
That I… it’s like driving on ice.
Do you do a lot of rap?
I do where I work ’cause the kids, that’s what they want to do.
That’s what the kids are doing these days…
They’re not producing music. They don’t even know what music is. Well, that’s not true. I can’t really say that, ’cause… You know. They. It’s been really intriguing with them to try and turn them on to other kinds of music.
And other stuff because they’re so into this ridged little clique of music. ASAP Rocky, fuckin’ ah, SPM, South Park Mexicans. Yeah.
Is that a band or a style.
That’s a band.
I was about to say if that’s a style, it’s way off my radar.
There’s a band down in Orange called FUNK.
They’re just called FUNK?
They’re just called FUNK. And like all the gangsta kids love ’em. They’re all like, I want FUNK man. I hear it. Like who the fuck is FUNK? FUNK is the they’re a band man.
Funk is that guy right there. He got the funk.
Well, they’re, you know. Eh, South Park Mexicans, SPM, there’s like four or five guys, that’s all they talk about when they talk. ASAP Rocky is one of them.
Give me some more rap to check out in the comments.
Enjoy your day!
One thing these days that lots of people have complained about is extremely loud mastering of music and how it tends to kill the song. I’m someone who has heard many a song released where the mastering and/or mix was so brick wall limited that it ends up sounding distorted, lacking dynamics, and it’s disappointing. It destroys the vibe of the recording, all in the name of attempting to stand out above all others when broadcast to the world. The end result of these loud mixes that are overly compressed and limited is one of making the song sound small and shitty. Small and shitty is not necessarily the result any self respecting musician would ever want for their releases. However, many record labels now force this concept of “make it LOUD” to the mixing engineers and the mastering guys.
Once in a while, a mistake can lead to a new discovery about how to approach doing something. Said mistake can end up starting a new way to look at a problem. Such is the case with an approach George Leger III stumbled upon while putting his mastering skills to the test for my song Touch. I have a version of Touch that has been mastered by the great John Rodd. But before I end up releasing the song, I’ll consider going with a second master based on George’s new technique. To put it simply, it’s mind shredding loud mastering, without sounding distorted or compressed.
Watch as I get George to discuss the process of super loud mastering he stumbled upon, to my buddy Jesse Stern, who is also the co-writer on “Till We Meet Again.”
So we can get the low down on all this trickery.
Well really all it is… is this is a 32 bit hard… uh, software mixer right.
But because it’s 32 bit, you can crank the crap out of the levels internally. So I can take this fader and ride it up to say +9. And it won’t clip.
It chops the top off, but it does it in a way that it doesn’t sound dynamically compressed.
Like a soft clipping type thing?
So you can push it up and it sounds loud without sounding [distorted] compressed. Or distorted. Jody was just like: I don’t know what you did man, but the file you gave me, the mastering… It’s the loudest I’ve ever heard and it’s like doesn’t sound bad at all. It sounds great.
Well, yeah. He did a master of Touch.
That he gave back to me and I was like it was just… what did I say? Mind shredding loud?
Yeah. It was super super loud. [it was so loud…] I didn’t even realize I had done this when I did it. Until I went back and looked and I went, oh wait a minute I didn’t go through this whole thing that I thought I was going through.
And I’m looking at the meters of my thing and my meters are still going up and down with all the dynamics. I’m like how the F^#$ is it so God damn loud!
Yeah. And not like: Phhhhfffftttt! Like crushed. Normally you do that and it gets crushed. What I discovered is that you can actually use this internal little mixer to jack the heck out of your levels, but it doesn’t distort.
And it doesn’t sound compressed.
It is really cool. Cause it’s like you can add 6 to 9 db of limiting without it sounding at all like that’s what you did. The nice thing that I like about the master that I did is… The attack of the kick and the snare are still there. Dynamically it’s like BAM BAM it just sounds so good. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, what the hell.
Okay, are we ready?
We’re ready. We’re ready. Anybody ready?
Have thoughts on loud mastering for your music – chime in in the comments below. I’m happy to discuss.
New Song Finished
Touch is in the can! Which means I’m happier to start talking about it. That’s right, the mix is off to the mastering engineer and will be back in my nimble lanky fingers within 24 hours! Actually I already hear a mastered version but opted to tweak a few things about the mix before putting the fork in it. Happily the mastering engineer is going to rerun it for mastering.
Who Was Involved
Touch as it’s called, was written by yours truly. That means I created all the music and vocal melodies, plus the lyrics.
The rapper is a bloke from Los Angeles who goes by the name Jacarri. He did tweak some of my lyrics I. The bridge to better suit his flow.
The idea for using a rapper in the bridge of the song came from Brian Austin Whitney.
My partner in crime in making the recording sound insanely great is George Leger III.
The awesome mastering is done by the infamous John Rodd.
Who Did What
For the recording of guitars, bass, drum programming, mouth noises, synths and other FX – I put on my alter ego hats and laid down parts for each. I also did an enormous amount of singing over the course of 4 days. Also did the final touches of the releasing mix. It added up to a few tracks north of 100 tracks in the mix. Largest mis I’ve ever done.
George did some additional drum tweaking, sound switching, vocal engineering, and some other various things. He also did some premixing on the track.
Jacarri brought some rapping skills to the tune.
John Rodd brought the final mastering touches.
I have to thank George, John and Jacarri for putting in some fantastic work on making this song as awesome as possible. Plus I need to thank a bunch of people who took valuable time to sit and listen to various mixes to determine which one should be the released version of the song.
I’m getting a real fuzzy feeling about the whole thing. I get even warmer thinking about how hot the video is going to be.
Maggie May Cover
I’m not often prone to doing cover songs. Mostly because I’m usually so busy writing and creating new music. However, I’m being asked more often to realize songs by other people. Thus, right now, you get to witness an experiment utilizing the power (or lack thereof) of the internet. I’m posting a video on YouTube of myself doing a Maggie May cover of Rod Stewart with my friend Chris Hellstrom.
Mind you, be aware neither Chris or I had ever “Jammed” over Skype before. We now know why. It’s not an ideal way to play music live, specifically because of the massive delays between participants. Chris and I did our best to make it work and there are a few stumbles. That’s to be expected when you’re flying blind. There’s so many variables that apparently go into this. Connection speed, something that isn’t as much an issue for me as it was for Chris. I enjoy a speedy 10Mbps up and 50Mbps down. Chris on the other hand not so much. Video obviously adds a lot of data to the bandwidth. I hear there are other things like data packet loss and such. Either way, if Skype really wants to make it’s world domination complete, they will have to figure out how to reduce these delays down to milliseconds. Enjoy our little escapade.
Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I just made arrangements to do this again with another friend. The twist is next time I’ll be playing guitar and he’ll be singing. My goal is to gather video from both sides so it can be side by side.
For now, I’d be happy to have you share this barebones rendition of the infamous (well, ok, it’s famous) song written by Rod Stewart called Maggie May.
p.s. – don’t tell Rod I screwed some of it up.
p.p.s – this was posted before the video went entirely live on YouTube, so you’re an early watcher!