What goes into the making of a hit song? This is a curious question. If there was one true answer, everyone would be doing it, and nothing would actually end up being a hit. Right? Conspiracy theorists like to believe that the major labels have some sort of computer algorithm that can predict if a song is a hit or not. As the British say: Bullocks. They don’t know any better than any one else, the different is, they’re in a position of power to sell something.
While recording Till We Meet Again, George, Jesse, and I get into a quick discussion about things that can help make a song a hit song. In this case, we’re talking about a little trick that Jesse and I did with a particular transition of a song from one part to another. We changed something about the song structure in such a way that it makes people take notice. Watch the video about making a hit song and find out what we did.
Making A Hit Song
Did you catch what we were talking about? Think you can go write a hit song now?
Not long ago I came across a new form of capos. In galaxy very close by. Actually it was this galaxy. More specifically it was in a town known as Anaheim. The Anaheim that sits in the California region of the planet earth. Capos are a funny business. Lots of musicians use the cheapest products they can find without thinking about how they affect the sound. I always look for the thing that will get the great sound. Oddly enough capos and the kind you use can make a difference. Which is why on such a faithful day where I found out about a company called G7th and their capos, I instantly made the switch. Why? Because they’re awesome. Actually it had a couple of better reasons. First their weight. They have a good solid weight to them. Second, their ease of use. They work on some kind of engineering magic where you can set the tension as simply as closing your fingers. That way it doesn’t clamp down too hard on the strings and push them out of tune. It’s a love thing.
Today I’d taking you into the studio for a little clip about my upcoming song “Till We Meet Again” wherein you see me making use of the G7th’s awesomeness. Click on that video and realize I too use capos to get the proper key and sound for a guitar and my voice.
So if you’re looking for badass capos, especially the one I use – then you need a G7th. You won’t regret it!
Capos And Recording
I think we’re ready. Let me double check my tuning real quick.
technically with the panning you don’t need to pan the microphones in my headphones
as we’re recording. That’s what I’m saying you can turn them back to center.
Alright. Let’s see if we’re
all set to go. That sounds beautiful my
There’s a little drum pattern that starts at what? Bar 3? You can set the record button to
the song position line to start there
‘Cause that’s a two bar count in for me and I start at 5. Do what? A one bar pre-roll? That’s fine. As long as I know it’s two bars.
We were in love…
and it was magic.
We all like to talk shop in the studio, especially if it involves name players. Talking about amazing musicians we’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of working with, playing with, or meeting. Come on inside Utopia Parkway as George Leger III, Jesse Stern and I talk about some people we’ve met. Ok, mostly George talking about some amazing players. But still step inside, walk this way, you and me…
It starts with talking about Barry Manilow’s guitarist knowing about guitar playing from over 100 years ago and then progresses into the more modern instrument of electric bass. It then quickly swings into a little chat about a very famous female bassist (big name players type) that both George and I have met, but Jesse had not.
Big Name Players In The Studio
Because the song was done in the 1800’s.
He wanted to play it, like they played guitar in the 1800’s. He knew enough about the history of music and guitar playing, to know what kind of chords they would have played. How they would have played the part. I was like. I talked to him after. I asked him, you know that stuff?
Yeah, I have to know that stuff.
How do you know.
I mean, do you?!?
Some. Yeah, I studied, I studied guitar for many years.
But I mean like…
And and classical and and history for different parts of the world.
That’s where I started too. So I could technically say the same thing, but I don’t go around spitting that kind of information out.
Well and I also…
He, but he, I mean this guy, I mean I couldn’t believe what he’s played. How complex it was and there’s no little fret “icks” or nothing. I mean the guy is just like a fucking machine, what he was playing was unbelievable.
The history of bass, of electric bass is a lot shorter.
Than history of guitars. So.
But boy is it ever cool.
The first guy that I studied, like that I really studied not just learning the notes, but learning how the notes were played and how the tone came and all that stuff was Roger Waters.
Oh, well there you go.
And so, and then, you know from there I kinda learned, I kinda went back.
Do you know who I met and talked to for about a half hour?
Yeah, at NAMM two or three years ago. She was sitting there all by herself.
Was she nice.
But was she nice?!?
She was awesome.
You know why we both ask that question?
Because she’s not known to be nice. She’s known to be very very mean.
She has a reputation for being very very bitter and having a chip on her shoulder.
Not with me. She was so cool.
I’m glad to hear that.
We talked about making records an’ shit and everything.
She’s a, I mean, obviously a phenomenal.
And I have pictures of her and me, from the NAMM show. She was so… Really?!? She’s like that?
Oh yeah yeah.
That’s what people say. I’ve never met her.
I’ve met her.
She wasn’t like that with me man. She was just like, be just like I’m talking to you. So tell me ya know, I know you played with so and so, can you tell me what was it like when you guys first started playing. I mean you’re a girl, you were playing. You know and she was like, yeah, you know I was there sometimes, just taking care of my family is really what I was doing. You know and I was really grateful to be doing that stuff. But yeah she was just like yeah I’d show up in a dresses and sessions and stuff like that and people would look at me and then I’d play my instrument and then they would look at me totally different.
Well, it could…
She was just such a sweetheart.
Well, it could very well be that maybe she’s mellowing a little bit now. Because when I met her…
It could also be me. Cause I’m pretty respectful of people like that. And I’m also really, respectful of their experience.
Nothing is more annoying than a noisy mouse in the headphones. Recently in the studio while getting ready to start knocking out vocals for American Mayhem and we had an issue with a hum type of noise going on in the headphones. This makes for unpleasant recording. Not to mention that it also can be an issue if it’s being recorded on to the track in question. Adding noise from an unknown source isn’t always a great idea.
Find out what was causing the noise to occur. A kind of noise that flares up when the mouse is being moved. Nothing like a bad noisy mouse, however, that was a result of the issue, not a root for the cure. We did find it!
Noisy Mouse In The Headphones
What are we up for George? What are we looking at?
I just hear some weird hum.
Yeah, it came and then it kinda went.
I can kinda hear your mouse moving.
Mouse noise is what I’m saying. Not like the actual physical noise. I’m hearing in the system.
Somethings tweaked in the system.
That seems a bit quieter.
Yeah, well the transformer was on the audio cable.
Sittin right on the cable? Yeah, that’s bad. Studio badness. Do not put your audio cables right on a transformer.
Oh yeah. Much better.
Ok. We’ll be recording now. Shhhh.
Red light ‘s going on.
No squeaky chairs. No nothing.
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!