“White Christmas” Acapella

Santa may have headed back up north, but the ball hasn’t dropped yet (never will again for Dick Clark, RIP) so you still have time to imbibe a holiday blog along with your spiked egg nog… ouch, sorry for that, I’m in a hurry!

Have mentioned my good friend Ed Goldfarb (edgoldfarbmusic.com) on these virtual pages in the past. He’s a true multi-threat musician, the musical Willie Mays of his generation. Ed writes, plays, produces, and is a hell of a mixer. He’s also a teacher out in the Bay area where he lives. Several years ago, while teaching a music course at Foothill College in Los Altos Goldfarb became friends with one of his students, Ben Dixon (http://bendixonmusic.com/). An outstanding singer, Ed used him on several projects before Ben and his family moved to Nashville. They’ve stayed in touch, and a recent collaboration-a gorgeous a cappella version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”-is available online at no cost. Check it out: https://soundcloud.com/ben-dixon-11/white-christmas-acappella.

Gorgeous, right?! Ed wrote the arrangement, laid down a piano guide track, and sent the score and audio file to Ben, who tracked all the parts. I spoke with the two artists about this project a few days ago.

“I’m a big Clare Fischer fan,” says Goldfarb. “He was a great arranger, who worked as a jazz arranger and orchestrator before Prince, Paul McCartney, and Chaka Khan picked up his work and hired him. I was thinking of Clare when Ben asked me to arrange this piece for a Christmas project he’s working on.”

Many artists who take straight jobs to pay the rent keep that aspect of their work life hidden. Not Ben Dixon. “I work for a company called G Squared Wireless, a corporate telecom wireless company. We offer support for management who offer their employees cell phones, tablets, various pieces of technology. Being that this is Nashville, there are quite a few musicians working in this company, and several of us decided to put together a Christmas CD, which we plan on releasing next year. Ed’s arrangement of “White Christmas” will be on that disk.

“I pulled Ed’s piano parts into ProTools LE, which I run on a MacBook Pro. I recorded the parts using an Audio Technica 4062 microphone, through an API 512C lunchbox series mic pre. After the API my path takes me into one of Pete Montessi’s BAC-500 compressors. That’s it. I don’t use any effects while I’m singing, or pitch correction.

“To help me nail pitch I pan everything dead center while I’m recording. Each of the five parts was recorded three times, and having everything in the center lets me hear all the subtle nuances and discrepancies between the tracks. It makes it easy to get things ridiculously tight, and when they get panned in the mix the result is a nice wash.”

Goldfarb says that the vocals required little polish. “Ben’s singing across a wide vocal range, and there were a few places where I automated a syllable to goose things, but the intuitive decisions Ben made about how to inflect and phrase were perfect, and the tracks blended beautifully together.

“I created sub groups for each of the five parts, eq’d them individually, and did some dynamic panning. In a few spots I manipulated the spatial effect, using reverb to extend a note just a bit. It’s hard to avoid stinging some of the s’s in ‘Christmas,’ so I wrote volume dips in a few places. Ben is a terrific singer, and for the most part what you’re hearing is what he gave me.”

Great work, guys!

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