Archive for July, 2010

Mango Ghost and the Maypole Masters Hit the Standards

In Nicaragua, there’s no musician alive as responsible for carrying on and maintaining the musical traditions of Maypole, Palo de Mayo, than Mango Ghost. When I arrived in Bluefields this Spring to record with Mango, five years after our initial meeting, it was that Maypole sound, unique to the multicultural Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, that I was after. Back in the 1970′s, Mango Ghost recorded many Maypole standards with his band Los Barbaros. His rich, soulful voice and prolific drumming were signature to the region and propelled Bluefields into the musical and cultural center of the country. Mango told me several stores how he’s recorded dozens of records of many styles: Maypole, Merengue, Calypso, Bolero, Soca, Mento and many more though most were literally washed away by hurricane Joan in the early 90′s. A born performer, Mango Ghost, now 76 years old, has been playing in the barrios, nightclubs, theaters and national venues throughout Nicaragua and Central America since he was a teenager.

When we began rehearsing for the record, it became clear to me that Mango was more interested in laying down some of his classic Bolero ballads that he’s been singing for 50 years as opposed to many of the Maypole numbers that I had been expecting. Going with flow, I was happy to let the material develop naturally and produce whatever songs Mango wished to record. After a few weeks of rehearsal and nearly a month of tracking, we came away with a rich collection of ten songs, eight in Spanish, two in English, heavier concentration of Bolero, one Cha Cha Cha and a few Costeña numbers as well.

After completing the tracking for Mango’s record in mid May, I set out to get the band together and do a Maypole session in the spirit of the season. Tracking in the outdoor La Loma Restaurant at the highest point of the city, we ran through 15 Maypole classics, several which Mango recorded with Los Barabors and others which have been remade and rerecorded by other groups such as Dimension Costeña. But if you ask anyone, no one can hit these classics quite like Mango. Having recently lost a leg due to infection, Mango can’t rock the full drum set like he used to. However, he still hits the congas well and his voice is as rich and strong as ever, with depth and character of a Costeño Ray Charles. Its was a great pleasure to lay down these classics with a true legend.

Tracking with DP 7.01 on my MackBook Pro dual 2.4, I combined my ULN-8 and RME Fireface 800 for A class conversion. Using selectable character on the ULN-8 mic pre’s and running my API 3124 into the Fireface, I also utilized the 4 native pre’s on the Fireface. For Mango’s LP Aspire congas I set up a pair of AKG 414′s as overheads in MS and Sennheiser 421′s for close micing. I used a Schoeps CMC6/MK41 for both Claudi’s acoustic Washburn and Réne’s banjo. Putchie’s bass I ran into the ULN’s front side DI and used SM58, Beta 57 and a 421 for vocals. Finally, I set up a pair of AKG C1000s’s in XY and a Sputnik tube mic for room sound. Setting up and breaking down this rig more than 20 times in two months, my custom Calzone 4 space rack definitely helped keep things portable and efficient.

Apogee Unveils New Symphony IO

With pricing for the base unit starting at $1,695 and additional IO at $1,995, the Symphony IO sym_io_fp.jpgfrom Apogee looks pretty slick. It speaks Pro Tools, Logic Pro and Core Audio and is packed with options being rolled out in a staged fashion with different IO add-on modules bowing monthly. Features include:

  • The latest in Apogee conversion and clocking technologies
  • 32 simultaneous channels of user-configurable, scalable IO
  • Five add-on I/O Modules to include:
  • 8 Analog I/O + 8 Optical I/O
  • 8 Analog I/O + 8 AES I/O
  • 8 Mic Preamp
  • 16 Analog IN + 16 Optical OUT
  • 16 Analog OUT + 16 Optical IN
  • Audio Interface Mode (AIM): Easily configure Symphony I/O from the front panel for these modes:
  • Symphony (connect to Symphony PCIe card or Symphony Mobile Express/34 card for ultra low latency use with Logic or any Core Audio application)
  • Pro Tools HD (connect directly to Pro Tools PCIe card)
  • USB (connect to high-speed USB 2.0 port)
  • StandAlone (I/O inputs routed directly to I/O outputs)
  • Front panel control including two encoder knobs for selectable input gain and output level adjustment and sixteen (16) high-resolution meters, audio system and clocking indication
  • Two (2) studio quality headphone outputs
  • Four (4) word clock connections
  • Future proof with Ethernet and USB computer connectivity to be available with a future firmware update.


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Auto-Align plug-in: Snake oil or not?

I’m always skeptical of products making hard-to-believe claims, but the new Auto-Align plug-in from Sound Radix might have something here (within reason). I’ve asked for a review copy for Mix for further evaluation across a wider range of examples but the two YouTube videos below explain a lot. The first example is a recording of an amped guitar using two mics at different distances that clearly exhibits comb filtering when combined, the result after running them through the plug-in is impressive. However in the second video which is a drum recording, the jury is still out. Yes there is more low frequency content after the plug-in is applied, but how does this aligned OH and snare sound with the rest of the mics on the kit (kick etc.). In the big picture, phase alignment is a good thing and you could technically align every mic perfectly on a drum kit using this or other methods. But does that really sound “right”?

Sound Radix has put some thought and innovation into their interface. The meters display frequency content with lower frequencies represented by wider bars while higher frequencies are thinner. There’s also a spectral phase correlation meter and noise floor reduction adjustments which all seems pretty intuitive. It’s $149 and would be a valuable tool in some cases, so based on just these examples, I’d give it a BUY.

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Mix Nashville. It’s On!

We have dates! September 13-14, 2010, at the all-new and rebuilt Soundcheck Nashville. It took awhile to line up dates that would work for sponsors, attendees and, most importantly, the engineering community of Nashville. But we’re excited to be moving full-steam ahead with our favorite event of the year. Same great programming, a few added benefits, and  it’s FREE to all greater Nashville residents, and a mere $39 for earlybird registrants from outside Davidson County. Visit our Mix Nashville website today for all information and links to registration. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Top 10 Pro Tools Speed Tips

Pro Tools Quick Keys and other features can increase your workflow resulting in more $$$ in your pocket. The following ten tips are my favorite for jetting between screen sets and other tasks in short order.

1. Window Configurations – Jumping between screen setups is a breeze with this handy feature. They can also be saved and imported into any session.

2. Shift + Command + G – Suspending/Unsuspending Groups quickly gives you better individual control over your mix

3.  Command + Comma – Creating Sync points allow you to spot a specific audio event (such as a drum hit or sound effect) anywhere on the timeline. First, move the cursor to your sync point and push Command + Comma to make your sync point. Then move your cursor to the location where you wish to move the sync point and push Control + Shift and Click on the region to lock it to the new location

4. Command + = – Quickly jump between the Mix and Edit window with this command

5. Command + 4 (10-key) – Use this to gain quick access to the Automation Enable window to see what’s being written when you put a track in Write and push the space bar

6. Command + 5 (10-key) – The memory location window give you quick mouse access to your markers, even when they’re off screen

7. Command + M – Mute sections of a region and bypass cumbersome automation controls all together with this command. First, select a section of audio you wish to mute, separate the region with Command + E. Then use Command +M to mute the region. You can do this with Pro Tools playing or not allowing you to mute sections live or offline using markers.

8. Option + Page Up – No matter where you are on the timeline, use this command to scroll your Pro Tools screen to the left

9. Shift + Control + P – This command will select an adjacent track in the Edit window. Use Control + P to jump between tracks.

10. Command + Option + B – After making a selection on the timeline, jump quickly to the Bounce To Disc menu with this command.

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What’s a Pomplamoose?

Pomplamoose is a word derived from pamplemousse, the French word for grapefruit but it’s also picture-2.jpga fresh and inspiring musical collaboration between the Bay Area’s Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte. The duo writes and performs their own music and some incredible covers all which are posted on their YouTube channel and iTunes. The covers are numerous and range from Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose to Lady Gaga’s Telephone which has over 4 million hits. It’s all produced at home and deceptively low-tech while offering high-end results.

Their musicianship is excellent, arrangements skillful and their videos are playfully edited and addictive. It’s all performed on a simple and revolving range of instruments with Nataly’s vocals artfully stacked on top.

Nataly and Jack have embraced the web and turned it into a creative outlet that has taken them beyond the Bay Area to collaborations with the likes of Ben Folds. They were recently interviewed on NPR where they explained to host Linda Werthheimer how they’ve made a living off of YouTube, despite never printing or selling a single CD, being signed to a label or having a publicist.

With nearly 28 million upload views and over 150,000 subscribers, it will be interesting to see what comes out of their work with Folds and other musicians in the future. Keep your ears (and eyes) on Pomplamoose.

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