Archive for December, 2011
Makemusic (www.makemusic.com) releases a new version of its flagship product, Finale, each year. Sometimes the advances are radical, other years less so. Finale 2012 offers users who rely on the Garritan Orchestra instruments that have shipped with the product for the last several years increased flexibility in instrument assignment, more control over the audio engine, greater implementation of the Unicode standard, a significant simplification of the score spacing function, and a printing option that, while not sexy, is the new feature I find most useful.
If you’re a power user who integrates score creation software into a fully loaded work station environment, the advancement in Finale’s audio engine may not interest you. I hit Finale after a score is completed, and therefore have little experience routing staves to the instruments from the Garritan library. However, it’s obvious that the new, highly customizable Score Manager feature will be extremely attractive to writers who need to maximize control over Finale’s internal audio play back functions. Each year Makemusic moves a few steps closer to developing Finale into a stand alone DAW for composers who need to verify the accuracy of their scores solely within this environment.
Let’s face it: spacing remains the most problematic aspect of all notation products. Allowing for fluid placement of all the symbols and articulations that make up a score is simply a difficult job for any program to handle. All of us have had frustrating moments entering a forte symbol and then having to grab and place it where we thought it was originally stamped.
I write several large orchestral works a year, and spacing of systems is an issue that I have to deal with. In 2011 Makemusic made it easier to grab individual systems and move them around without disturbing neighboring ones. The new Space Systems plug-in goes a step further. You can grab an individual page, several, or the entire score and experiment with the different spacing options… very helpful.
Most of my scores are written on a Windows 7 machine. Previous versions of Finale forced me to load Cute PDF, a free app that acts as a go between between Finale and the PDF format. This year Windows users have been given the gift of elimination- scores can be saved as PDF docs directly, and in addition to the convenience factor there’s another huge advantage: Finale 2012 uses its own page size functionality, not the computer’s, so the size of the score you output is aways correct. Save an 11 x 17 score as PDF, and you can print the PDF will print to either an 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17 inch printer accurately.
If you use this application and are interesting in streamlining your workflow, FInale 2012 is clearly worth considering.
Ok, I admit it… I kind of choke up every time I hear Andy Williams break into “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” Forget the fact that his hot as can be ex-wife was convicted of killing her model good looks ski bum boyfriend, this track speaks to the family get togethers that seemed mythical in the universe my birth family inhabited.
Obviously, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” sung by anybody- I prefer Judy Garland’s original, from the film musical “Meet Me In St. Louis,” is a tear jerker for all but those who spent some time in the Muqtada al-Sadr “kill whitey” training schools. And yet, year after year, I keep spinning the late great Donnie Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”
Maybe it’s because we know that this gifted young artist tossed himself out of a mid-town Manhattan hotel room, but whatever the reason, Donnie managed to conjure up the joy and magic of Christmas without denying the genuine pain that’s part of this coveted holiday for so many people who live on the fringe, the outskirts.
Whoever gets your vote, I wish you Peace, Joy and SOUL (wait, isn’t that how Don Cornelius signed off of every episode of Soul Train?) throughout the holidays, and beyond.
With the help of Chris Juried, whose father took this and many other pictures of New York City studios…
To visit this work in progress, click on the link below.
I have identified some of the equipment, but feel free to comment, especially if you can identify the mystery gear – console, white boxes over Pultecs (which Pultecs??), name of that style patch bay, pix of dual-pronged patch plugs, etc.
MiraSound NYC mid-to-late sixities
I first met Andy Bloch at the Mannes College of Music back in the mid-1970’s when we were both students of the great guitarist Fred Hand. Fred; there was no one like him back then, and few players can hold a candle to him today.
Andy has gone on to preside over Human (www.humanworldwide.com), a hugely successful music production company with offices in New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris. We spent about an hour on the phone the other day catching up.
Gary Eskow: “How has the music for advertising business changed in the last five or ten years.”
Andy Bloch: “In a couple of important ways. The collapse of the recording industry has forced artists to find alternate income streams. As a result, more and more tracks are available for television and radio use, and these sync licenses have had a detrimental impact on the amount of original scores that commissioned.
“This development has made it critically important that we deliver tracks that have the aural polish of masters, even when we’re submitting demos. If a client is listening to your demo over an iPad and you’ve only had half a day to put the track together, you’re at a clear disadvantage when the next cut he or she plays is from an artist who spent six months making a record.
“Fortunately, great strides have been made in the area of mastering plug-ins. We have 14 composers working out of our NY and LA offices, and all of them have their own mastering chain. For a grand you can pick up the Waves Mercury bundle or something comparable. I love the Waves CLA-2A compressor; throw that across the main buss and your tracks pop. Like it or not, we have to be aware of the importance of competing with mastered records in terms of volume. I love the Sonnox plug-ins. The Inflator is great, and when I’m in a pinch, with no time to master a track in detail I’ll throw on the Sonnox L2. The plug-ins that Tony Maserati designed for Waves are a necessity for me as well.
“Having a clean signal path into your DAW is obviously of critical importance. It’s amazing to me how little you have to spend on quality microphones. The MXL mics are outstanding. Knock-offs made in China, they sound great. For $129 or so you get a condenser and pencil microphone. We recently conducted a shoot out between a U87 and the MXL mic. The $4,000 you spend on the 87 gives you an incrementally better, more wide open sound. If you have the money to drop, great, go ahead.
“There are so many companies making excellent mic-pres and compressors. All you need is a couple of channels of high quality analog gear and you’re good to go.”
GE: “I remember spending a small fortune putting together 3/4” reels and sending them out back when I had a music production house. The industry eventually switched over to DVDs. Do you still send out reels?”
AB: “No! Of course, it’s still important to have reps who go into meeting with ad agency personnel, and they’ll take a DVD or two with them. No one wants you to send them a reel anymore, though. They just want you to provide them with a link.”
GE: “Has the internet opened up new distribution opportunities?”
AB: “Yes. If you go to our site and click on SPECIAL PROJECTS you’ll be taken to a link to an album (“Under The Holiday Star”) that we recently recorded for Stella Artois, which they’re releasing as a free download on their site.
“We recorded this album live at our studios. The idea was to track eight classic holiday songs with a 60’s French vibe. It was a lot of fun to do. You remember Gordon Minette, right? He’s one of our writers. We tracked the eight tunes at his place, and mixed and mastered them at Fluxivity (www.fluxivity.com) over in Brooklyn.
“Fluxivity is a great place to work. They’ve got a classic Neve board over there, and during the three days we spent working there I didn’t hear a single click or pop. Matt Shane was the mastering engineer, and I recommend him highly.
GE: “You’ve had an office in Los Angeles since 2004. Do you still go out there as frequently as you used to?”
AB: “No, in large part because the integration of our facilities through the web has gotten so much tighter. On any given day we’ll have between 60 and 80 jobs in our database, in various forms of developments. We are in constant contact with our LA office as well as those in London and Paris, but there’s very little need for me to be anywhere but here, which is great. It’s easy to stay on top of things from wherever you are, at any time.”
Ten years ago some industry analysts believed that modeling would replace samples as the top dog in the virtual instrument world, perhaps as early as the day we are now living in. Creating instruments based on psycho-acoustic calculations that can compete with recorded sample libraries has proved difficult, however, albeit with some interesting exceptions.
Applied Acoustics Systems (www.applied-acoustics.com), a company based in Montreal, Canada, was founded in 1998 by Marc-Pierre Verge and Philippe Dérogis. Engineers and musicians, the pair were well suited to bringing modeled instruments to the market, and their line- particularly Lounge Lizard EP-3, which many keyboardists feel is the most realistic replication of the Fender Rhodes- and Ultra-Analog VA-1, a personal favorite of mine, has proved popular with both pros and amateurs. AAS released a new product, Chromaphone several weeks ago, so this seemed like a good time to catch up with them.
Eric Thibeault joined AAS immediately after graduating from college. He’d interned at the company and so the transition was smooth. “I was studying electrical engineering here in Montreal,” says Thibeault. “I was able to do two internships prior to graduation. They offered me a job, and I’ve been here ever since, for about ten years.”
I remember liking the voicing characteristic of Strum Guitar. “Right, that’s a nice feature. You can activate a setting that will translate a three note piano triad into a full bar chord, voiced as it would be on the guitar, which makes the performance much more realistic sounding than it would otherwise be.”
So, where are we in the evolution of modeling technology? “Still advancing. Chromaphone is a clear development in this area. In the past we’d send a signal from one resonator to another; a modeled guitar string, for example, would be fed into the model of a physical object, the body of a guitar.
“Now we have an equation that emulates the acoustic energy that’s shared between these two objects. Simply put, in the past one object influenced the other, now the influence is bi-directional. A piano has many of these kinds of couplings going on at all times. To effectively recreate its sound you need to model all of these interactions. Chromaphone bring us one step closer to that goal.”
And how does the market look from the perspective of Applied Acoustics? “There are two ways to look at it. Apple just reduced the price of the Logic Pro 9 Bundle by several hundred dollars. That’s great for the user, and potentially for companies like ours, because the user will have cash left over to purchase products like the ones we make. On the other hand, Logic is packed with features, so they will most likely wade through all of them before looking beyond the boarders of Logic!”
I teach, therefore I am constantly experimenting, so when students ask “How long have you been doing this or that,’ sometimes my reply is “I just tried it for the first time.”
Of course, we ALL rotate through the ‘known’ tricks until satisfied. Last week, a student walked in with TWO B&O ribbon mics and we immediately put them to good use. (The mics were borrowed from another instructor, Tom Garneau, the B&O design inspired Speiden and then Royer.)
For our control room rehearsal session we set up three mics about 5 feet from the drum kit. About 1 1/2 feet off the floor were the B&O ribbons on a Cascade T bar. Four feet directly above was an EV-664A hyper-cardioid to catch the top side of the kit.
You can hear the tracks in isolation at the link immediately below. Spoiler alert – the tracks were essentially solo’d from the mix so they have EQ and Compression.
0:00 – 0:42 = B&O
0:43 – 1:06 = EV 664a
1:07 – 1:29 = Live chamber + all three mics
1:30 – 2:08 = Bass DI (left) + Bass amp (right)
2:09 – end = other instruments added.
I have been favoring dynamic and ribbon mics as they tend to have less top end, better rejection and work well in ensemble sessions where rejection is useful.
If you want more space and no proximity effect the EV635A is great – on acoustic guitars, drums and even those guttural metal vocals. It’s still manufactured and @$119 street, is affordable.
NO FEAR OF REJECTION!
A pair of ribbon mics on a singing acoustic acoustic guitarist can deliver remarkable isolation, presence and warmth. I’ve had access to several ribbon mics, including the Royer, Reslo, RCA 44A and 74 Junior, Coles 4038 and Cascade. All are unique but only the Cascade models are within a student’s budget. I have a pair of Fatheads and a Vin Jet (RCA 44 ribbon style) in my classroom mic cabinet.
The cascade Fat Head (short ribbon) is $175 and is great on guitar amps – about 2 feet from the cab works pretty well. The VinJet (long ribbon) is a bit like the RCA 44. like all ribbons, they do not exaggerate the amplifier grit that brighter mics do.
This past week, my class used a stereo pair of Fatheads on the drums – as described above – along with the EV-664A (plus a Sennheiser shotgun to catch the room bounce). Here’s a mix of the session, mostly live, with fatheads on the lead and tremelo guitar ODs.
Student ‘Zed Lep’ Session Recording
Students should keep in mind that ribbons should not be ‘eaten’ by humans or drums (avoid extreme close-ups) because the ribbon is delicate. They also have low output, but you can get an external preamp / booster. One version is called the Cloud Lifter – available in mono and stereo versions.
CLOUD Ribbon Mic Helper
Another vintage fave is the EV-664 another ‘isolationist’ mic that’s good on vocals, kick and toms.
The bass amp on both of these recordings is an SWR LA-8 practice amp with either an EV RE-11 or a Shure SM-58 directly on the cab. The DI is via a JFET preamp with an optical limiter of my own design.
When capturing bass amp tone, I rely on proximity effect to do the heavy low-end lifting, tweaking the amp EQ a little bass shy so that the mic gets what I want. That plus getting the amp off the floor a helps alot with ‘de-stimulating’ the room and reducing leakage.
If you’re new to recording, please let me know if you find these tips helpful and feel free to share your own.
PS: My thanks to James Andrew Meadows (Drums), Dillon Marchus (Bass), Zach Johnson and Shaun Ortman (Guitars and Eng), Peter Vel and Jake Goodroad (Eng and Tape Op), Michael Freeman rogers (Vocals – although not featured in these mixes), John Kargol (Tech Support) and Stan Coutant for his awesome microphone site!
Year one of the new decade offered up a slammin’ set of new audio products sure to make any audio-head squeal with joy. Check out my picks for the best products of 2011 based on their uniqueness, great feature sets and overall quality.
1. The Universal Audio UAD-2 Satellite plug-in accelerator gives users a powerful, desktop unit that powers a growing list of plug-ins via FireWire.
2. The Bag End INFRASUB-18 Pro and PMM-8 monitors provide a turnkey, stellar sounding, full-range system that sounds bigger than its size.
3. The Retro Instruments Powerstrip Recording Channel features a great sounding tube preamp, EQ and compressor in a two rackspace unit.
4. The Empirical Labs Doc Derr 500 Series Module takes the compact format to a new high with multi-button access to a wide range of hidden EQ features.
5. The groundbreaking Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro Codec Pug-in gives the user feature rich AAC and MP3 encoding in real time.
6. IK Multimedia’s Amplitube Custom Shop offers a la carte pricing, try-before-you-buy, and consistently excellent digital models.
7. Sonodyne’s SM 100Ak Monitors produces excellent bass response, a wide sweet spot and superb imaging, all in a small and affordable package.
8. JZ MIcrophones’ Vintage 12 is a version of the legendary AKG C12 replacing the original C12 tubes with high-quality transistor technology with equivalent frequency response with fewer maintenance and care issues.
9. The Waves Vintage Aphex Aural Exciter plug-in offers a completely unique plug-in application of a vintage and boutique hardware processor.
10. Monster Turbine Pro Gold in-ear speakers yields a great listening experience, are musical across the entire frequency range, have an open top and faithfully represent bass and mid-range frequencies.
11. Grace Designs M501 preamp is a great sounding, pristine mic amp at a fair price. Its ribbon mode, DI input, high gain and low noise make it a must-buy for anyone with an open 500 series rackspace.
12. Cubase 6 knocked this upgrade out of the park by offering stable 32- and 64-bit operation (Mac and PC), filling feature gaps from past versions, plus faster workflow, great tempo detection and accurate MIDI conversion.
13. The Sennheiser HD800 headphones serves up impeccable fit and finish plus musical and balanced reproduction in an open-ear and super-comfortable form factor.
14. Cakewalk’s SONAR X1 brings an excellent new GUI, SkyLight and ProChannel enhancements and an arsenal of stock plug-ins and instruments.
15. Pelonis Sound and Acoustics Model 42 Compact Studio Monitors are not only unique looking, but present an excellent listening experience that can be tailored to any environment via DSP, all in a super-small footprint.
16. Pro Tools HD Native broke through a number of price-per-feature barriers brining near-TDM throughput to users at an extremely affordable price point.
17. The Magma Expressbox 3T PCIe expansion chassis for Thunderbolt technology created a breakthrough for those needing portable and powerful DAW workflow via a laptop.
18. AEA’s KU4 directional ribbon microphone is an accurate re-do of the vintage KU3 from RCA. It offers excellent reproduction of a wide range of instruments plus vocals making it an instant redux-classic.
19. The Dangerous Music Liaison offers easy and super-clean switching between six stereo-insert loops, assignable to two stereo buses; flexible and parallel processing; instant recall of any gear patched through the unit; and seamless integration with Dangerous Master.
20. The DPA 2000 Series are the company’s first mics for less than $1,000. It features separate heads and bodies that are compatible with DPA’s higher-end capsules for easy upgrades.
Despite my best intentions to blog every week, I have been neck deep in audio geeky-ness. In future columns and blogs I will begin sharing in detail what I have been working on. Here’s the condensed version…
My assistant and I have been tweaking his Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Part-1 of the mods will hopefully appear in the January Issue, with Part-2 in the February issue. We are also interested in your mod requests.
January’s column also begins to address musical instrument speaker idiosyncrasies. What are YOUR faves?
We’ve also been working on mods for two sixties-era AKAI / Roberts vacuum tube tape recorder electronics – turning them into mic preamps, expanding upon an existing online idea… That might be revealed by the March Issue, unless…
Also on our plate is another sixties-era relic, an EMT-156 broadcast compressor-limiter-expander, bringing my experience with said beasties to 5! Repairing hardware dynamics processors and then using both hardware and software versions in recording and mixing adds great insights into how the designers intended them to be used. Do you have a preference for specific hardware? If so, why? If so, do you find hardware to be consistent? What are your fave software dynamics processors?
Our vacuum tube work has led us into the realm of what qualities to look for, what to expect and for how long. All of this ‘research’ is being applied in two ways, one being a solid-state vacuum tube emulator and the other being the type of technical analysis that best correlates what we hear with a measurement.
This from Kenneth Williams via Facebook…
“I really enjoyed your article Great Education Expectations – It’s what I found myself doing – searching out several sources and ways of explaining what I do intuitively while mixing. I just wanted to say great article and great advice.”
Meeting Readers on FB, not only is it great to get to know ‘who’s reading,’ especially when a message turns into a real-time chat.
Best Wishes to all!
The course I teach at the Kintock Halfway House in Newark isn’t really about music. The guys I work with fit the profile outsiders would expect to find, for the most part; young men from financially stressed backgrounds form the general population. Most of them have little academic training and almost no exposure to cultures that live outside the mean streets they call home.
Current statistics say that the recidivism rate in NJ is about 74%. That means, I tell the class on day one, that we’ll be offering most of you graduate courses upon your return to the joint. Hoping to reduce that rate by just a trace amount I try and extend an inmate’s capacity to relate to people and cultures that seem foreign by asking him to consider the possibility that artists from radically different backgrounds might- at times- express common themes. Stravinsky and Shakur- what does their art reveal about the ways they differ as individuals, and could it also show us that their needs, fears, and sense of joy intersect at a deep, core level? If they can draw a line between Beethoven and Beyonce, might they one day be able to bond with someone sitting across the desk from them who has a good job to offer?
So we start out with the main man himself. A distant figure, for sure, until I tell them about the brutal treatment Beethoven was subjected to by his father. We talk about the Heilegenstadt Testament, the suicide note that Beethoven left for his brothers in 1802, when, overcome with grief at his growing deafness, he contemplated suicide. He was drinking too much at that point- but he was drunk much of the time, for most of his adult life. Somehow he pulled himself back from the brink of despair and wrote the Eroica Symphony. We play the first movement, and the guys take it in. Then we listen to bits of the Pastoral Symphony; the room feels quieter, and when it’s over the men explain to me how Beethoven’s courage led him to a place of greater peace.
THE SHIT IS REAL
This is a story of the South Bronx
where at the age of 14 I was already knockin’ off punks
My moms was on welfare
I knew I had a father, but yo
the nigga was never there
So what the fuck was I to do?
Fat Joe didn’t have it any easier, and he lays it all on the line in this autobiographical rap. What would Joe and Ludwig talk about if they sat down and had a beer together?
Our Broadway unit traverses a fifty plus year span. We listen to “Oklahoma!” “Guys and Dolls,” “West Side Story-” the usual stuff, and end up listening to excerpts from two contemporary shows, “The Light From The Piazza,” and “Grey Gardens.”
Ado Annie, what a wonderful character! The second female lead in “Oklahoma!,” Annie is the bad girl with a heart of gold. Check out these lyrics, from the great song “I Cain’t Say No!” that Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers wrote for her:
I’m jist a girl who cain’t say no,
I’m in a turrible fix
I always say “come on, let’s go”
Jist when I orta say nix!
When a person tries to kiss a girl,
I know she orta give his face a smack.
But as soon as someone kisses me,
I somehow, sorta, wanta kiss him back!
I’m jist a fool when lights are low
I cain’t be prissy and quaint
I ain’t the type that can faint
How c’n I be whut I ain’t?
I cain’t say no!
I’m jist a girl who cain’t say no,
Kissin’s my favourite food
With or without the mistletoe
I’m in a holiday mood.
Although i can feel the undertone
I never make a complaint
‘Til its to late for restraint
Then when i wanna i caint
I caint say no!
“S&M,” a brassy Rhianna statement of sexual liberation, may not reveal the level of craft that Hammerstein was able to conjure, but does the character she’s created have something in common with Ado Annie?
Love is great, love is fine
Out the box, outta line
The affliction of the feeling leaves me wanting more
‘Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But chains and whips excite me.
“Yeah,” said one of the guys at our last session. “They’re both freaks.”
Ah, the joy of seeing a student make a connection.
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