Archive of the MixSounds Category
About six years ago I received a CD from Jonathan Wolfson Entertainment. Not surprising; I get lots of promotional recordings. The press release indicated that this disk, “Rappa Ternt Sanga,” was the work of a young rapper/singer named T-Pain. Track by track revealed an obvious truth: this was a talented kid. “I’m In Love Wit a Strippa” seemed like the logical single, but T-Pain’s vocal strength and production ability were the true stars on this disk.
Cher’s “Believe” introduced the world to the wonders of Auto-Tune (horrors, some would say) and the effect had been replicated by a mind numbing amount of singers and producers. T-Pain jumped on the band wagon, but there was something different about his use of the plug-in. As Eric Persing had done with sound design, and BT with a host of unusual effects in the trance universe, T-Pain managed to create a tonal pallet that used Auto-Tune but did not rely on it. For him, pitch correction was clearly a tool that could enhance his vocal phrasing; it wasn’t needed to correct technical flaws.
Since that time T-Pain has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity and success. He’s collaborated with many other prominent rap artists. Among these, “One More Drink,” tracked with Ludacris, is my favorite.
If you’re not familiar with T-Pain’s work and only have time to listen to one track, I’d suggest that you start out with “Bartender.” The writing is solidly in the R&B tradition, the production is terrific, and T-Pain’s vocal sounds great, during the verses where it’s naked, in the bridge where Auto-Tune is introduced, and the chorus were it’s used lightly. The flange applied to the electric piano and the “wiggle” synth line join the auto-tuned vocal to create an ensemble that sits nicely within the track.
I have to admit that I blanch somewhat when I see cuts with titles like “I Don’t Give a Fuk,” and listen to lyrics that explicitly lay out, well, how T-Pain is going to nail a female friend. Each generation has to define its own boundaries, though, and T-Pain’s message clearly resonates with his peers.
Like I said, a talented kid.
Flipping through the channels last night I landed on the just released documentary, “The Wayman Tisdale Story.” If you don’t know the Tis’ tale, it’s quite remarkable. He was supremely blessed until, well, until he wasn’t.
Wayman grew up in the church-grew up is the operative term; at his maturity Tisdale was a 6’9” hunk of a guy with great hands, leaping ability, and a basket full of bball talent, enough to shepard him through an exceptional 12 year career in the NBA as a power forward-the enforcer position.
Tisdale was also a life long musician who grew up playing and singing in his father’s Oklahoma church. His electric bass playing had roots in 70’s soul, and his style fit neatly into the smooth jazz format that was popular when Motown Records released his first CD, “Power Forward” in 1995. In 2001, “Face To Face” reached the top of Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts.
Producers were smart enough to realize that Tisdale’s strength as a bassist lied in his ability to improvise in the instrument’s upper range, and generally paired him with another bass player (often the incomparable Marcus Miller) who would outline a tune’s harmonic structure and, along with drums and percussion, construct the groove.
Waymon Tisdale was also known as a truly good guy, and life was good for the big man until the day in 2007 when he found out that he had cancer in his knee. He sacrificed part of that leg in an attempt to beat it back, but cancer was an opponent Waymon Tisdale could not box out. On May 15, 2009, he passed, at the age of 44.
“The Wayman Tisdale Story” concludes with Toby Keith singing “Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song).” It’s a beautiful track, check it out.
Two interesting e-mails reached my inbox this week. One was a simple request for cash ($30 was the suggested contribution) from the folks at Wikipedia. The other was a link (see below) that offers a spirited defense of Spotify.
How could anyone who uses Wikipedia as a research tool sit on the sidelines during their yearly fund raiser? Can you remember spending time in the library armed with index cards, trying to sort through the morass formally known as the Dewey Decimal System? Ah, yes, the pain is coming back, you’re deeply grateful to the eggheads who developed the web, and are flushed with warm feelings for Wikipedia.
Sure, the information can be provided by anyone, including non-academics, and it’s important to verify what you read, but isn’t it great to know that if you want to know something about, say, the Dewey Decimal System, you can blow the virtual dust off of Wikipedia and discover everything there is to know regarding Melvil Dewey, the guy who developed this classification system? Yes, you say! So loosen up the purse strings, send an e mail to donatewikimedia.org and throw a few shekels in the pot.
Spotify has been vilified by tons of people. The main charge-that artists are screwed out of a just return on their emotional, financial and artistic efforts-is beyond the scope of this blog. All I can say is that after trying the free service for several months I signed up for the $10/month plan to make sure artists were receiving something from me. Honestly, if Spotify held a holiday fund raiser where all the money raised went directly to artists I’d throw a few bucks in that pot as well.
I love Spotify. Every time I hear about an artist who’s new to me, or pick up the Times and read about someone I hadn’t thought about in awhile (the synth pioneer, Laurie Spiegel, about a week ago, for example) I fire up Spotify. Even if it’s only a track or two, I almost always get pointed towards some music I can listen to immediately. Fantastic! Listen to what David Macias, the president of a Nashville label services company, Thirty Tigers, has to say about Spotify, and don’t hesitate to weigh in yourself at some point!
Initially, I thought I’d write a blog on the epic achievements of Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Like you, I’m sure, I pondered the possibilities: concentrate on Gary’s troubled relationship with his pap, Jerry, or focus on one of his uber hits… “This Diamond Ring,” “Count Me In,” or (my fave) “Save Your Heart For Me.” But then, remembering the moment when, a new resident of Rockland County, sliding down the hill to the high school baseball field to assume my position in center field as a member of the Senators, the Babe Ruth team I belonged to, I thought of Marty Toole.
Ah, fuck Marty… I met him that year; I guess it would be 1966. After a high school career that included acceptable stats as a halfback, wrestler, and reasonable performances as a pull hitter on the baseball team, Toole X (as we called him back in the day) would end up being voted best looking in our high school class. What? What about the alternative types…the girls who listened to Jesse Colin Young and The Youngbloods paid attention to those guys, right?
Steady now… ultimately, it does all come back to Gary Lewis, and the time in American history when a young kid, devoid of talent to a nearly perfect degree, was able to insert himself into popular culture and stand at the top of the mountain for two or three years.
Cinematic Strings (www.cinematicstrings.com) just released an update to their flagship product, and if you’re in need of an attractively priced ($499 US dollars) all purpose string library or want to augment the string samples you currently own, I’d suggest you check out the audio demos and instructional videos posted on their site. They’re very good, and the value of this library is extremely strong.
The sound is rich; the warmth of the samples is enhanced by an excellent convolution reverb, but even with it turned off there is an expressive quality that is extremely attractive. The developers have figured out a way to help you create very convincing fast paced runs. Run mode combines staccato patches (for clarity) and half trill patches (for the smear that inevitably comes when multiple players play fast passages in unison), and you can use controllers to tailor the sound to your liking.
The update adds Ensemble patches that include all sections, and fixes a few bugs. If you’d like to hear the details from the horse’s mouth, click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkxBqtydNP4&feature=youtu.be
Do you remain passionately attached to hardware processors? Or, have you turned your old reverb units into door stoppers and with a pang of guilt perhaps, dived completely within your Pro Tools rig after railing against plug-ins for a decade or more? Either way, I bet you’ll find Mike Storey’s adventure of some interest.
A Brooklyn, NY resident with an interest in classic plate reverbs (the EMT-140 in particular) Storey spent the better part of a year researching and building one of his own. He contacted Jim Cunningham, who spent a lot of time building his own plate reverbs once EMT’s patent ran out in 1977. Storey purchased Cunningham’s blue prints, sought out parts, and went to work.
Storey readily admits that digital recreations of plate reverbs are highly effective and accurate. It’s the little things-dust in the unit itself, for example, that causes the odd audio hiccup hear and there-that impart character to the physical device that its digital counterpart lacks.
Check out the link below if you’re interested in hearing Mike Storey’s, well, story. If you like, he’ll run your audio file through his plate reverb for a small fee.
Checking the MOTU site to see if the highly anticipated (at least by me and, I’m sure, a number of other composers who rely heavily on MIDI) release of Digital Performer 8 for Windows is ready for prime time got me thinking. Dangerous, right, I understand! Still, there’s a question. What is your sequencer of choice? Furthermore, how well do you know the feature sets of the sequencers you’ve passed on?
Not long ago studio musicians, particularly those writing for film and television, used Pro Tools as a recorder with Logic or another sequencer functioning on the front end. Of course, Digidesign understood that it was limiting its market share and eventually integrated a well designed MIDI sequencer into Pro Tools. Steinberg, Apple (post their purchase of Logic), Ableton-you get the idea-have continued to release periodic updates of their sequencers, though some feel that MIDI architecture has been fully maxed out.
What sequencer do you use? Do you feel that any one of them yields a better (read: warmer, more analog) sound? Do you use any of the analog tape modeling plug-ins? When was the last time you visited a colleague’s studio, stopped into a music store, or tapped into YouTube to check out the competition’s feature sets?
I’d be quite interested to hear from you on this topic. Whenever you get a chance, please drop me a line.
At about 1:45 this morning power coursed through the veins of our home’s electrical system. Lights flashed! The television spoke! Last year we went without power for nearly a week, and this time, according to our town mayor, it would likely be longer. Hurricane Sandy, however, forced us to deal with candles and Kindle light for just two days. What a blessing (quiet, don’t awaken the grid gods-the system could collapse again)!
So many in our state of New Jersey suffered and continue to endure profound losses, including the deaths of loved ones. We’ll let the climate gurus argue about global warming and its possible effect on this catastrophic storm and the one we endured exactly a year ago. Of course, when spikes send us looping off in unexpected directions we tend to hold onto to the things that matter most. Family first… fortunately ours was ok.
Then,,, ah, music! I was rewriting the last movement of “Not Forgotten: Three Scenes For Violin and Piano” when Sandy struck on Monday. Like countless others, Jerri and I climbed into bed quite early that night,,,before 9 p.m. We read and were about to fall out when I grabbed a flashlight and headed down to the basement, where my studio is located. I sat at the upright piano and worked on the piece for another 45 minutes or so. What a pleasure!
It was easy to imagine Beethoven, who (according to legend) sat up in his death bed to shake his fist at a raging storm, doing the same thing.
Virtual composers-check that, living, breathing composers who use samples to create orchestral music recordings-have a wide pallet of tools to choose from, including those offered by the Vienna Symphonic Library. Three years ago VSL released the Vienna MIR (Multi Impulse Response) mixing and reverberation software. The idea behind MIR was fairly radical: to move beyond convolution reverb and help the user place sounds in a three dimensional space. The implications for surround sound mixes are obvious, but even in a two dimensional stereo environment the presence of the MIR plug-in adds a perceptible increase in depth perception. See what I mean? Wait-strike that last, pitiable attempt at word play.
A severe limitation came with MIR, however-it was only available within the closed VSL environment. VSL has rectified that situation by releasing MIR (which comes in two flavors: MIR Pro and the lighter Vienna MIR PRO 24), as a plug-in. All major formats (AU, VST, RTAS, and AAX) are supported, which means that mix engineers working in both audio post and music now have access to MIR.
No cost trial versions of this product are available at the VSL website (www.vsl.co.at) and you can also access data on the company by visiting their American distributor, Ilio (www.ilio.com).
You may recall that in March of this year I posted a blog on 15 year old Avery Thompson. Avery’s the son of Josh Thompson, a guitar virtuoso, accomplished song writer, and music producer whose colleagues include George Benson, Joe, and Alicia Keyes.
The Thompson family was sitting pretty until a bomb exploded beneath them in early 2012, when Avery was diagnosed with t-cell leukemia. Hoping for the best, Avery’s folks took him for treatment at Manhattan’s Sloan Kettering Cancer Center-and prayed a lot.
Good news! Avery’s affliction is in remission. Currently being home schooled while the family and doctors monitor the returning strength of his immune system, Avery has had to put his passion for basketball on hold, but he’s been mining his musical talents, and the first recording that shows the depth of his talent, “Balla Can’t Ball,” is available on iTunes and Spotify.
This is a very strong record. Written by Josh Thompson, David Pic Conley, and Avery Thompson, it features an impressive set of vocal tracks by Avery. Josh performed all of the instrumental parts and handled production chores out of Tallest Tree Studios, his home recording environment.
Check this kid out when you have a few minutes.
Fairlight Xynergi Media Production Centre
Mix The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the Briefing Room for the latest press postings.