Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Latest Album From James House Recorded With API’s THE BOX
Singer/songwriter/producer James House rents API's THE BOX from Blackbird Rentals for summing of the final mixes for his new album.
With a resurgence of his country music hits from the 1990s, singer/songwriter/producer James House is keeping busy with a new album which was just released, and a sold-out sixteen-show tour throughout the UK.
While recording tracks for Broken Glass/Twisted Steel, James wanted to achieve the classic “APIsound” from the comfort of his home studio in Nashville – Dream On Studios.
To attain the specific sound he had in mind, James rented API’s THE BOX from Blackbird Rentals for the summing of the album’s final mixes.
The project began at Ben’s Studio in Nashville, where each of the tracks was recorded on two-inch tape through a classic API 3232 console. The tape was then sent to James’ home studio, where he recorded the vocals, guitar overdubs, and mixing.
While he was at Ben’s Studio, James heard tracks that were cut for an early demonstration of THE BOX.
“It sounded like classic, warm API,” recalls James. “I’m a big fan of API in the first place, which is one of the reasons why we cut at Ben’s Studio.”
Noting the design and layout of THE BOX, James appreciates how the small-format console is portable, yet creates a classic API sound.
“Without it, I would have had to rent a studio with an API console to sum the record. With THE BOX, I was able to rent it for two or three days and take my time summing and getting all the versions of the mixes. The size and design fills a gap between tracking in a commercial studio and in a smaller home studio.”
James recalls that the sixteen summing channels were a key factor that drew him to the console, as well as the overall quality and clarity it helped him achieve. “I just A/B’d the record with one of my earlier records, and it has a punch and presence that I love.” The first single off the album, titled “Every Time It Rains,” has already earned airtime on top country stations, and the song’s presence is growing with the release of its music video.
“I knew THE BOX was a smart idea,” said James. “The mixes gelled exactly like we hoped they would.”
Posted by Julie Clark on 05/20 at 12:58 PM
Monday, May 19, 2014
Numerous DiGiCo SD Series Consoles Serve 27th Annual MerleFest
Greensboro-based SE Systems has been providing DiGiCo for MerleFest since the festival's beginnings
DiGiCo SD Series consoles supplied by SE Systems played a big role in the audio systems serving the 27th annual MerleFest in Wilkesboro, NC, featuring performances by country superstars Alan Jackson and Merle Haggard as well as bluegrass icons Dr. Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs among the 130 acts featured over four days on the festival’s 13 stages.
MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson, son of bluegrass legend Doc Watson, as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and to celebrate “traditional plus” music, a term coined by Doc Watson to describe the wide variety of musical genres and styles celebrated at MerleFest.
Greensboro-based SE Systems has been handling sound for MerleFest since the festival’s beginnings. CEO and founder Cliff Miller was working with Doc Watson at the time and helped put the audio production in place for the first MerleFest, which was quaintly mounted on the back of a flatbed.
Sound quality is SE Systems’ primary consideration in anointing DiGiCo consoles. “The SD10s have been our workhorse for the last few years; they just sound great,” says Miller, a pro sound pro, as well as a first-rate musician himself; after Merle died in a tractor accident, Miller started filling in on guitar at many of Doc’s gigs.
DiGiCo consoles, according to SE Systems media relations director Bryan Smith, are well suited for country music and bluegrass. “Acoustic instruments come across in a very natural way,” he says. “When you put acoustic instruments in front of a mic, you don’t want the preamps, effects or processing to change the sound. Cliff carried the DiGiCo SD10s on tour with Alison Krauss and we currently have two out with her now. When you’re mixing the number one female Grammy Award winner, it better sound good. The DiGiCos have proved that night after night.”
He goes on to explain that the DiGiCo boards are “very transparent and sound like the old analog desks.” When comparing digital consoles, DiGiCo’s 96KHz performance was “what also helped us decide on the SD10s. All of the plug-ins and effects work perfectly and it’s a fairly easy console for guest engineers to mix on in a festival situation. We also see DiGiCo on many of the artist’s riders.” This detail was underscored by the fact that headliner Alan Jackson brought in a DiGiCo SD8 for his Thursday night set.
On the main Doc & Merle Watson Theatre stage this year, two DiGiCo SD10-36 consoles were used for mains and monitors. The adjacent Cabin stage, which was used for smaller acts while the primary stage was reset, featured a compact SD11 to mix mains and monitors and was positioned next to the primary stage SD10 FOH desk. Smith describes the SD11 as “a great small rack mount mixer with all of the ‘big boy’ features.”
The Creekside stage used two SD10-24s for mains and monitors, while the Dance stage used two SD9s for mains and monitors. “This was the first year we used the SD9 at this stage,” Smith notes. “It worked fantastic; all the guest engineers loved it.”
An additional DiGiCo SD9 was used in the recording trailer. With every DiGiCo console deployed using either a D-Rack or SD Rack, all stages had fiber runs and SE recorded everything to a Live Tracker for archival purposes.
That DiGiCo still figures prominently in the MerleFest gear complement is hardly a surprise. Three years ago Miller bought two SD10s—SE Systems’ first DiGiCo models, not to mention the first SD10 desks in the U.S.—sight unseen. “I’ve been in the industry for a very long time and this was the first time that I ever purchased two new consoles without even putting my fingers on the faders. The sound quality is the best I’ve ever heard in a digital console, surpassing most analog consoles. The SD10 can be configured to operate like any old favorite console, but with hundreds more features,” he says.
Church Sound: Properly Using Compression To Benefit Sound Quality
OK—the band is well rehearsed. They have good equipment, and it’s properly set. They sing in tune.
The balance between instruments and voices is perfect. The execution of the material is flawless. The guitars are perfectly in tune with the keyboard. The front of house engineer (you) is doing a great job mixing and every nuance is in place.
So why doesn’t it sound like concerts we go to? There are quite possibly several reasons, but often a big reason can be due to the lack of a compressor in the system.
Most bands, schools, and churches have to be budget-conscious when considering a new sound system (or the system designer doesn’t have an awareness of compressors!), and a handy and inexpensive piece of equipment gets left out of the mix.
Imagine sitting in your living room listening to a CD. At the end of the song you know the drummer raised both sticks in the air, high over his head, and brought them down as hard as he could to play the final flam on the head of the snare drum. At the same time, he stomped on his bass drum pedal with all his might. You know he did this because you can hear the type of tone created by that sort of attack.
What you have never noticed is this: It didn’t get any louder, did it?
Now imagine you’re sitting in a recording studio in LA, watching this same piece of music being recorded, and you’re in the live room with the drum set. At the end of the song, the drummer does this same move and it’s loud! An assault on the senses and uncomfortable to be around. Why don’t we have this sensation when we listen to the CD?
A simple device called a compressor is the answer. Imagine the volume level of the music as a straight horizontal line. Now imagine the volume level when the drummer does that big ending.
The volume (or sound pressure level, SPL) increases drastically and quickly, which results in a “spike” or transient in our normal listening level. A compressor senses the beginning of the rapid increase in SPL and squashes it back down to something closer to our usual listening level. By doing this, we get all of the variation in tone and very little of the volume change.
In professionally recorded productions, every track that is susceptible to rapid and dramatic dynamic changes is compressed. Vocals, instruments—virtually everything that contributes to the recording—exhibits dynamic changes in SPL, and over the years we have discovered that we humans don’t like momentary and large dynamic changes. It startles and affronts the listener.
Remember when your best friend crept up behind you as a child and slammed a large book shut right behind your head? They had to peel you off the ceiling, right? Therefore, every piece of music you hear on the radio, on and CDs downloads, on the television and at professional concerts, has been compressed everywhere as necessary to limit these uncomfortable dynamic changes and to smooth out the performance.
Now, back to our perfectly performing band. (Remember them?).The reason they don’t sound as professional may well be due to the lack of compression. When a singer or an instrument hits a note or phrase aggressively, the SPL changes (upwards and quickly ... remember, we don’t like that) and the listening audience is subconsciously aware that it doesn’t sound as good as the music we listen to at home.
Another very real circumstance that we experience in audio for worship is a pastor who likes to accentuate occasionally to get his or her point across. You (the engineer) have got this pastor’s channel set so when the message is being delivered in a whisper it’s still being heard.
And then, tragedy occurs. The pastor rips out the point of the message in an extremely exuberant fashion and the words that used to be soft and soothing are now really loud—and the congregation is thinking about how startled they are and totally lose track of the message. They’re also wondering how the mix engineer could allow this to happen.
You (the mix engineer), in the meantime, have noticed that your record levels shot from +3 to +15, and you have red lights all over the place. On the recording, when you get to that spot, instead of comforting speech, you’ll have nice hairy distortion. You ran out of headroom at the recorder inputs due to the transient peak.
A compressor can help solve these nightmares. It will also protect your system. If someone drops a live microphone while the system is operating at a high level, the sudden impact of the mic on the floor can cause an increase in short-term SPL dramatic enough to blow a loudspeaker. Many compressors have “brick wall” limiting, which means you can set it so the transient change in SPL simply will not exceed a set point.
A compressor is a means of bringing a more professional audio presentation to your mix, whether it be weekend band, school musical, worship services, or recording activities. The mix will be more pleasant and easier for you (the engineer) to manage.
Many newer digital consoles are outfitted with compression. Or, if you’re adding a compressor, you can use one side of a dual-channel model for your main mix and the other side for your recorded mix. If funds are available, you can get another unit to compress your monitor mix. Remember, musicians that like what they are hearing are happy musicians. Happy musicians generally play better.
You can also insert one side of the compressor specifically into that pesky singers channel, which allows for extreme vocal delivery changes and dramatic execution of the material without all those nasty technical results.
Jon Baumgartner is a veteran system designer for Sound Solutions in eastern Iowa, a pro audio engineering/contracting division of West Music Company.
Sound Designer Mike Walker Goes Digital With CADAC CDC eight For London Production
To date Walker has remained resolutely analog in his choice of mixing consoles, until this recent switch to CADAC digital
Noted theatre sound designer Mike Walker deployed a CADAC CDC eight digital console at the heart of his sound design for the recent 50th anniversary revival of “Oh What a Lovely War” at London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East.
It’s the most high-profile use of CADAC’s new digital desk to date as well as its musical theatre premier on a major production. Further, it marks the first-ever use by Walker of a digital console on such a large theatre production.
To date Walker has remained resolutely analog – and resolutely CADAC analog – in his choice of mixing consoles, until this recent switch to CADAC digital. “The audio quality is stunning,” he explains. “Quite simply, I have never heard such stunning sound quality in a live console before. Until now, no digital desk I have listened to has matched the openness of the big old analogue CADAC consoles, but this is in an entirely different league.
“I almost hate to say it but this desk sounds better than any other I have ever used, and that includes the CADAC J-Type,” he continues. “What CADAC has achieved with this desk is remarkable—it has completely turned my audio world upside down.”
The CDC eight also makes significant advances in terms of operation with its uniquely intuitive user interface, and a far less menu dependent OS than other digital console designs. “The interface is incredibly intuitive,” Walker adds, “The combination of dual 24 inch touch screens and rotary controls makes operation very easy. Everything ends up just where you need it in a live musical environment.”
The technical brief for the production, in presenting a 21st century version of a 20th century classic, was “to provide a completely transparent enhancement of the events onstage,” retaining “signature” staging devices and effects of the original, replicating them with the best current production technology. To this end, the sound design objective was “invisible” reinforcement for both drama and song.
The cast of 12 was miked with Sennheiser 9000 Series (digital) wireless systemss, while the five-piece band was reinforced with a select combination of high quality condenser microphones from Sennheiser, Neumann and DPA. All of this was fed to the CDC eight-32 running the latest V2 software (the first-ever “commercial” use of this, providing additional advanced automation features), via a CADAC CDC 3216 IO stagebox, sited backstage with the FR racks.
A CDC MC MADI Bridge – connected via CADAC MegaCOMMS – integrated QLab with the CDC eight for all the sound effects – and at one point provided direct outs to a BBC recording truck. Lexicon PCM96 reverbs were interfaced via AES cards on the console.
Walker notes: “With the CDC eight, combined with the amazing Sennheiser 9000 radio mics at the front end and the legendary quality of the Opus Audio amplifiers and speakers, I ended up with the most incredible integrity of signal from mic capsule to loudspeaker. I’ve never heard a live system sound this good, ever. Thank you CADAC for such an amazing desk.”
Posted by Keith Clark on 05/19 at 09:03 AM
Friday, May 16, 2014
Yamaha Now Shipping New MG Series Compact Mixers
All 10 models include studio-quality D-PRE preamps, DSP, and solid construction
The new small-format MG Series mixers from Yamaha (Yamaha Corporation of America) are now shipping. The redesigned series provides compact and cost-effective solutions with quality sound for install, recording and live settings.
Ten MG models incorporate technologies originally developed for high-end professional mixers, including studio-quality preamps, powerful digital signal processing and rugged, reliable construction.
All models come with Yamaha discrete Class-A D-PRE microphone preamps. By using an inverted Darlington circuit topography, these studio-grade preamps have multiple circuitry elements designed to provide more power, deliver lower impedance and supply an impressively wide frequency range.
With varying input/output and processing capabilities, the new MG Series includes four XU models that feature an upgraded version of the Yamaha SPX effects processor, including a comprehensive suite of 24 different effects that can be used to add polish to mixes (upgraded from the 16-effect version in the previous MG series).
The smallest model, the MG06X, includes six of the most popular SPX presets. Five standard models range from six to twenty channels.
For XU models offer digital connectivity and software that streamlines the recording process, including Steinberg Cubase AI. A USB 2.0 audio interface capable of 24-bit/192 kHz sound quality allows for playback of digital content from a PC and recording of the mixer output using DAW software.
USB Audio Class 2.0 is also supported so that compliant tablets and other devices can be used without installing drivers. All models in the XU line are compatible with Apple’s Camera Connection Kit or Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter for recording and playback of digital audio content to and from an iPad or iPhone.
MG mixers also include high-pass filters, input pads and 48-volt phantom power. Models with more than 10 inputs are equipped with newly-upgraded, 1-knob compressors that add optimized compression to a wide variety of input sources with the touch of a single control.
U.S. MSRP for the MG Series ranges from $129 to $929.
Yamaha Corporation of America (YCA)
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Noted Post-Production House Kill The Messenger Chooses Avid S5 Fusion Mixing Console
Facility deploys flexible, scalable control surface to quickly create and distribute live sports entertainment across multiple channels
Audio post-production house Kill The Messenger – the exclusive audio producer for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – has chosen an Avid S5 Fusion digital mixing console for its flagship Santa Monica facility.
The hybrid console and control surface enables the facility to meet the demands of fast-turnaround live sports production and diversify into the growing market of TV, web, and mobile projects.
Kill The Messenger will use the S5 Fusion for long-form episodic mixes for UFC events, as well as for independent producers and mixers. The scalable console also enables Kill The Messenger to bring more creative, immersive and complex content to TV, web and mobile productions, with the S5 Fusion chosen for its ability to accommodate immediate turnarounds and a variety of workflows. Kill The Messenger’s workflow is based entirely on Avid systems, including Pro Tools | HDX, which, like the S5 Fusion is now part of the Avid Artist Suite of content creation applications.
“As an industry, we always test the limits of production capabilities to deliver the most captivating and creative content in the fastest time possible, at the lowest cost,” says Mike Sak, president of Kill The Messenger. “We needed an adaptable and powerful work surface that could satisfy the most discerning mixers, producers and sound supervisors. The S5 Fusion fits the bill perfectly. It’s given us a powerful new tool to create and integrate into our daily workflow in ways we were completely unaware existed before. It also allows us to bring ‘large stage’ immersive technical capabilities to ‘small screen’ productions at a more modest price point.”
“Audio facilities are under relentless pressure from clients to produce more and more projects with much faster turnaround times – and they are provided with lower budgets and fewer resources,” adds Jeff Rosica, senior vice president of worldwide field operations at Avid. “With the S5 Fusion, facilities like Kill The Messenger can expand into new markets and manage a variety of formats and deliverables with ease.”
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Clearwing Productions Hosting New Yamaha QL Series Console Demo This Week In Milwaukee
Free event, no registration required, to be held from noon to 4 pm on May 15
Leading touring and event technology company Clearwing Productions is hosting a demonstration of the new Yamaha Commercial Audio QL Series of digital consoles in Milwaukee on Thursday, May 15, from noon to 4 pm. Attendance is free.
Yamaha Commercial Audio regional district manager Mike Eiseman will conduct the demonstration at the event. The new QL Series inherits CL console features such as all-in-one mixing, processing, and routing capability for small- to medium-scale live touring sound, houses of worship, corporate A/V, and speech applications.
11101 W. Mitchell Street
Milwaukee, WI 53214
May 15, 2014
Noon to 4 pm (U.S. Central time)
Call 414-258-6333 for further details.
No advance registration is required, and as noted earlier, attendance is free.
Yamaha Commercial Audio
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Backstage Class: Developing The Sound Of A Rock Show
My sonic vision should be well in line with the way the artist wishes to be presented
Beauty in art revolves around the realization that there is no “correct” way for something to look, sound or feel. I believe this to be also true about the way audio is presented at a rock show. In fact, there’s a fairly wide range of possible sonic footprints which a sound engineer can offer the music to the audience while still maintaining an impressive auditory presentation.
An even bigger challenge is to find a “sound and mix” that optimally compliments the artist’s vision and management’s expectations while fueling audience immersion. So let’s take a look at some of the various factors in play.
First we have the way the artist wants to sound. Awkwardly, the humans that create and play the music rarely get to hear the way their own show actually sounds, so they must rely upon the opinions and reactions of other people. I smile when chatting with a band after the show and they ask me “how did the show sound?” when ultimately it is them who should be telling me whether my mixing skills and choices rocked or not.
The driving force behind the confidence that stage performers gain in their sound engineer’s skills tends to be based heavily on the opinions of band management, spouses and close friends. Concert reviewers, fan club message boards and real-time audience reactions are also very important aspects of the equation. To reach a level of harmonious success as an engineer, it’s important to also be aware of your own personal preferences, biases and opinions.
I’ve developed a bit of a strategy to balance out the sometimes conflicting pressures in order to end up with a mix that is a solid fit. Though I often do not have the luxury of following the complete process, I’ll share the steps here.
Meeting the band for the first time is like any personal or business relationship: first impressions are crucial. If possible, I’ve already listened to some of their recordings and asked whoever hired me some basic questions. Early on I really want to determine their expectations. Am I helping a young band get their sound dialed in? Am I temporarily filling in for another engineer? What were the issues and assets of my predecessor? Did he/she leave, get fired, or is it just a logistical choice to use an engineer in this geographic region?
It’s pretty much a fact that every band wants to sound as good as they can - but - are they willing to spend some money to hire in high-quality gear to help achieve this? Or perhaps they want me to squeeze better sound out of whatever gear I happen to encounter?
Persuading artists and management to approve an adequate sound budget can be extremely frustrating. One of the methods I use in order to surround myself with the gear I desire is to say, “if you give me the tools I need to do my job, I will make every show sound great.” This is a very powerful statement because it establishes a self confidence in skill.
Further, it institutes a level of accountability and value in that the expenditure will achieve results. If they do provide the gear you ask for, then you must perform, and they get what they truly desire: a great sounding show. Additionally, the more money they spend on the gear you request, the higher their expectations in results will be.
Focus On Playing
Returning now to meeting the band: “Ooh, that’s cool, how long have you played through that amp?” “What did you play through on the most recent album?” “Is there new gear in your setup?”
By asking them questions along these lines, I want to determine how set they are in their stage sounds. Are they happy and comfortable, or flexible and searching for some new solutions?
I don’t like to change the sound of a band on stage, what I want to do is stabilize it. I want to help them create an acoustic environment that works well for them so they can focus on playing the show instead of messing with the gear.
The next adventure is hanging out at some rehearsals. For me, this is the most important interaction. My mode is watching, listening, and wandering. I will stand near each of the players and hear what they hear when playing. For example, I’m more interested in the tone of the guitar amp where the guitar player stands than what is coming from the amp.
And, how similar are the instrument sounds to the recorded material? I make mental notes of any discrepancies and address them later with the artist. Do you prefer the sound on the album or the rehearsal sound? What about the vocal effects? Some album effects are nearly impossible to do live. How much focus should I put on emulating the backwards guitar solo?
Minimize The Changes
Also in evaluating rehearsals, I start building a mental picture of how I think the show should sound. Factors that are taken into account include: Is there a single person that is the driving force behind the band, or is it balanced between two or more members? Which instrument will reproduce the lowest frequencies? Will the kick sit tonally below or above the bass? Will vocal sibilance create breathy high frequencies above the cymbals?
In addition, there are many ways to overlay two guitars. There is the “wrap around” with one mid-range guitar and the other guitar with lower and higher totality and the mids scooped out a bit. There is the “high low” with a heavy chunky guitar and an edgy bright guitar that sort of combine to form a whole guitar sound. And then there is the “overlap’” with both sounding similar and relying on stereo panning and width to offer spatial differentiation. These also can be combined and altered based on the song or part of a song.
A big goal is trying to minimize the changes I actively need to make during a show so that the primary focus is on distilling several “sonic scenes” that suit particular songs or song tempos. Slow songs work well with extended low frequencies, crisper highs, and longer reverb times. Fast songs light up with a tighter kick and bass, as well as more snare bottom.
About Those Levels
I also pay very close attention to volume levels. Experience has taught me that when a band has a well-balanced stage volume, it makes everything else easy.
By well-balanced. I mean that when I stand center-stage and all of the stage monitors are off, I should hear a well-balanced mix of all amplified instruments meshing well with the acoustic drum sounds.
If things are amiss, I open a discussion about refining stage sound, ideally with each player individually. Since there may be past resentments between band members over volume levels, the last thing I want is to be seen as taking sides.
I stay away from suggesting changes in the volume levels of the amps; instead I discuss physical placement distances and tilting upward, inward or outward of the speaker cabinets. Another thing I avoid is directly broaching the subject of turning down amp volume unless I know the artists well and a strong trust has been developed, and further, that there is no doubt that a distinct improvement will be realized.
Quite often, I’ve found that once the artists realize there is a truly functional and logical stage volume to strive for, they will adjust amp volumes on their own. I also try and get each band member and backline tech to stand stage center at some point and listen.
Speaking of backline techs, I can’t count the number of times that a musician would gladly play at a lower volume, yet the tech, in an effort to please, finds turning the rig up as loud as possible to be irresistible. It’s not uncommon for the amp sounds at rehearsal to be quite good and then at the actual show, everything gets turned up and the sound falls apart.
If all goes as planned, working with the musicians and techs will result in dialing up a desirable stage volume. Whether it’s during rehearsals, sound check or maybe directly after a particularly good show, as soon we reach that happy balance, I take photos of all the rigs and the drum set. They provide a great starting point or somewhere to return to.
If permitted, I will also grab a recording of some rehearsals as well. From this point forward it’s all about complete immersion into the band’s music. in my car, at home, and in my headphones while traveling.
My goal is to commit the music to sub-conscience memory. I want it to be second nature, where my hand automatically moves to push a guitar solo. I also start figuring out which songs have backing vocals, and/or unique effects, and whether I hear any other instruments beyond what I’m aware of on stage.
Notes are jotted in my phone, ready to be asked the next time I see the band. Hopefully, whether this process is a day or two months in duration, by show day, I have a strong mental image of exactly where I want to go with the sound.
My sonic vision should be well in line with the way the artist wishes to be presented. The amount of time I’ve spent with them, in addition to demonstrating a high degree of attention to detail, will ideally establish a confidence in my skills so they can focus on purely playing the show, while I can focus on connecting the music created with the audience that desires to experience it.
Dave Rat (www.daverat.com) heads up Rat Sound Systems Inc., based in Southern California, and has also been a mix engineer for more than 25 years.
Monday, May 12, 2014
SSL C300 & C10 Consoles Power Post Production For Creative Sound In Paris
“We’ve been using SSL consoles with great success since we opened." -- Cristinel Sirli, owner/engineer, Creative Sound
Multi-suite post production facility Creative Sound in Paris is delivering its services with three Solid State Logic C300 HD master studio systems and one C10 HD.
The studio and its team have won numerous awards at Cannes and other European film festivals for European cinema projects and has an extensive history of creating French language versions of international films, including such recent projects as The King’s Speech, Diana, Homefront and August: Osage County, as well as the upcoming releases Selfie and Gemma Bovery. Creative Sound accomplishes all of its recording dialog sound effects, Foley and music for projects in 7.1, 5.1, Dolby surround and stereo through the SSL consoles.
“We’ve been using SSL consoles with great success since we opened,” says Cristinel Sirli, owner/engineer of Creative Sound. “We continue to install multiple consoles from SSL because they are reliable, offer innovative technology and have the best sound quality in the industry. The after-sales service has also been great. SSL completely backs its products with immediate support, and that is essential for an operation as busy as Creative Sound. As soon as our clients see the SSL name, they know that we deliver a superior product.”
Creative Sound recently installed its third C300 HD, using the console line in both of its Auditorium Cinema studios, which are Dolby Digital Cinema 7.1 surround capable as well as in Auditorium B studio, which is focused on fiction and documentary production for television.
“Creative Sound chose the C300 HD because the platform offered the audio fidelity and processing power of an SSL digital audio console, combined with comprehensive multi-format monitoring and multi-system machine control we need,” states Sirli. “The C300 gives us advanced integration with our Pro Tools and Pyramix systems right on the console surface, allowing us to concentrate our energy on the project and not on the technology.
“Operating a major post production facility that attracts some of the biggest film and television projects is always a challenge. The C300 offers a level of quality and improved workflow simply not available in other consoles or control surfaces, and we use it as a creative tool to exceed our client’s expectations and meet project deadlines.”
A C10 HD has become the console of choice for Creative Sound’s new Foley and ADR stage, representing the first application of this type for the compact broadcast console. “The SSL C10 HD was the perfect console for its ergonomics, audio quality and efficiency in our new Foley/ADR stage,” continues Sirli. “We built a new facility for the C10, and, while we love the AWS 900 we have for our existing ADR room, we liked the idea of a digital console, and that led us to the C10. The console fits our size requirements and is expandable if needed.”
Solid State Logic
Friday, May 09, 2014
RE/P Files: An Interview With George Martin At A.I.R. Studio In London
A true legend talks about the creative process, technology, the Beatles and more...
From the archives of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, enjoy this in-depth discussion with legendary producer George Martin at A.I.R. Studio London, conducted by William Wolf. This article dates back to the January/February 1971 issue.
William Wolf: What do the letters “A. I. R.” stand for?
George Martin: Associated Independent Recordings.
WW: Has A.I.R. done any independent production locating the talent, etc. as yet?
GM: Yes, but not much. We left our respective companies just over five years ago—three of us left EMI and one left Decca—and we had to do a deal with EMI which lasted five years; in fact, it ended about a month ago.
This was basically an independent deal but it also covered the servicing of artists that were contracted to the company anyway. Obviously the Beatles came under that, and other artists that we handled—there were quite a few. So we had to maintain those artists and so our time for finding other artists was obviously limited.
But at the same time, as the years went by it became more and more difficult to get new artists not because they weren’t there but because the deal that we had with EMI was limited to an overall royalty which gradually became—well, in fact, very quickly became out of date. So that by the time the contract ended we couldn’t possibly hope to secure any artists because we couldn’t offer them any money. We were bound by that and we couldn’t do anything about it.
Now that we’re free we can really look around—sniff the air—which is what we intend to do. But we decided, in fact, before we did that, to build a studio.
WW: Several of the studios I’ve visited in England are equipped, as is A.I.R., to handle visual material as well as audio. Do you feel that there is a potential in integrating the pop music field with visual technology ?
GM: Actually there aren’t all that many studios here that also do visuals. There are far more—fewer sound ones. But the tendency is, of course, to open up the visual side—mainly because, I think, this is inevitably the future. You’re bound to have video recordings; they’re on our doorstep.
WW: What are your feelings about four-channel sound?
GM: We haven’t built it into our boards mainly because it’s a very new development and most people in this country don’t know anything about it. We know about it because we go to your country. I honestly don’t believe it’s a very important development. It’s quite nice, it’s pleasant, it’s a very nice gimmick, but I can not imagine the average person going to the elaboration of fixing up four speakers in their room so that they can hear the ambiance of the concert hall behind them…
You could have circular sound, of course, but when I was introduced to quadrasonic sound, my comment was that if you’re using four speakers the ideal is not one in each corner of the room, but it is three in an equilateral triangle below you and one above you so that you’re in the center of a tetrahedron. Then you’ve really got all-around sound, in all manners—you’ve got up and down as well.
But this is being idealistic and I really don’t think it’s for the average man. It’s very nice, but I can’t imagine Mrs. Jones of Wiggum or in your case Mrs. Bloomfield of Connecticut taking the trouble of fixing up her drawing room or ... whatever you call it ... the lounge with four speakers.
WW: Is there stereo radio transmission in England?
GM: Yes, there is, but it’s very limited. It’s third program stuff; that is, you get classical concerts occasionally broadcast in stereo and occasionally you get stereo record broadcasts. I should think the number of people in England who listen to it is about .001 percent. And also, people don’t listen to radio much anyway. The average man in this country is glued to the television set.
WW: Would you describe what you feel the responsibilities of the producer are on a “rock” date?
GM: Yes. I’m glad you defined that because a producer’s responsibilities do vary an awful lot. For a rock date I think he’s got to get to know the group musically and obviously psychologically he’s got to know the people. He’s got to get into their minds and he’s got to try to find out what they’re trying to express and if he can find out, it’s then his job to realize it in terms of sound. So, his function is not to impose his will upon the group and produce his sound using the group as his puppet, but more to draw out from the group the best sound he can possibly get, and get them to play the best possible music.
WW: Then you feel that sound, as well as music, is a major responsibility of the producer?
GM: Yes. That’s the way I see it. It’s also psychological. I think you’ve got to learn how to get the best out of people find out when they’re going past it and so on.
WW: How would these responsibilities vary for a classical music session?
GM: Well yes, they vary enormously. To begin with, in the classical session, unless it’s chamber music, you’ve only really got one person’s ideas to deal with, and that’s the conductor; and then, from the amount of classical recordings that seem to take place today, it’s more a question of the diplomatic handling of that conductor and trying to get the best out of him rather than the technical details of a good sound.
The classical producers of today, and I’m not calling myself a classical producer, seem to leave everything to the engineer and just act like a kind of ... what shall I say ... host to the conductor. I don’t think they interfere too much musically, which I think is a pity. I think that classical music could be in fact improved by adapting certain pop techniques to it. I wouldn’t mind having a go at recording something classical in a different way.
WW: Would you, for example, use close miking?
GM: Yes. Most classical records are made like photographs of concerts, if you know what I mean—aurally speaking. The ultimate aim is to reproduce as naturally as possible the sounds of the orchestra as created in the concert hall.
Now I think this is terribly limiting. I mean it’s been done, and it continues to be done better and better because engineers and acoustics and recording techniques have advanced enormously. But I think we’re missing out on something. I think that if Beethoven or Bach were alive today, they would call that a very timid approach, and I think they would go back to first base and say, “You’ve got tremendous tools here; let’s use them.” And I think if you go back to the actual music and adopt, really, very modern recording techniques and produce a work of art which is different from what you hear in the concert hall, and not necessarily inferior which most people might think.
WW: Then the rock producer presently has more room for creativity?
GM: Unquestionably. That’s what appeals to me.
WW: (Before A.I.R. Studios were built) Your responsibilities also include selection of the studio and engineer?
WW: In recording a rock group, will you attempt to capture a “live” studio performance, or will you construct a recording using, for example, overdubbing.
GM: I’m afraid the latter is true. One doesn’t go for a performance as such in the studio because you know darn well that if you do that there are going to be shortcomings in various other departments. You might get a great vocal performance, and the bass line may not be so great. So, there are various things that you can do-you can go and overdub the bass line if you’ve got good enough separation.
You’ve seen us working recently ... what I was trying to do yesterday, in fact, with Peter, with the whole group, was to try to concentrate on Peter’s performance tying to get something out of him, and then worrying about the rest of it.
But in fact we’ve reversed the process today because we’ve decided that Peter will probably do as good a performance by overdubbing anyway. So we’re going back to first base and concentrating on the actual sound. It doesn’t seem to impair the total result. Most rock recording is done that way today. You obviously get a much better sound on everything; you are able to pay much more attention to detail.
WW: You mentioned before the importance of psychologically understanding the group. Could you be more specific?
GM: It’s just instinct really a kind of sixth sense you build up. You’ve got to get to know people and sense what’s happening.
WW: Would you say that a sense of humor is important?
GM: Oh yes, a sense of humor is terribly important. Absolutely. If you didn’t have a sense of humor on rock dates, then everybody would go sour. I can’t bear people who take themselves loo seriously, including rock musicians.
WW: Do you find that you do a lot of producing during the mix down stage as well as during the recording stage?
GM: It depends on the artist and the record you’re making, and what techniques you’re using. If you’re making a record like Sgt. Pepper, for example, the mixdown is just as complicated, in fact more so, than the original recording because you’re painting a picture in sound and you’re using extra things: you’re bringing in sound effects, you’re distorting sounds, you’re playing with them, you’re soil of shaping them-sculpting them, if you like—and mixing them down at the same time.
So that kind of production is probably more complicated and more important in the mixing stage than at any other time. But if you did that all your life, you’d be spending all your time mixing and none of it recording.
WW: Then it varies greatly from group to group?
GM: Very greatly, yes.
WW: When mixing down, do you physically operate the console, or do you direct an engineer?
GM: Like most producers I like to get my hands on the controls, and it’s wrong. Sometimes I do—sometimes you have to—because sometimes the mixes are so complicated that one pair of hands won’t work. In fact, on many Beatles mixes, we would have the engineer sitting in the middle, me sitting on the right, and one of the guys on the left.
It depends whose song it was—it might be Paul or John or George. And we would all be playing with the faders, the three of us; we would actually be playing a sort of triple concerto. But the snag with that is that you still need someone else to listen because when I’m controlling the controls on a mix, I’m listening for certain things that I’m controlling and I don’t have that essential requirement of being able to listen to the whole thing with absolute impartiality.
So nowadays I tend to get out of that scene and say, “This is wrong. You shouldn’t be handling the controls. You should be standing back and telling people what to do, and listening to the whole thing.” It’s only by being free that you can really see the whole picture.
George Martin and engineer Bill Price
WW: What qualities do you look for when selecting an engineer?
GM: Oh, that’s a big question. First of all, he’s got to be an enthusiastic engineer. I’m very fortunate with Bill (Price); he really is a dedicated engineer. He must be keen on his job, keen on sound, and preferably—and there will be many people who will quarrel with this—preferably without the ambition to be a record producer, because I think that gets in the way of good engineering.
WW: Why is that?
GM: Well, there are an awful lot of engineers who become record producers, which is fine; I’ve got no gripes against that. But I don’t think you can do two jobs at the same time. And there’s always the transition period when the engineer tries to do a bit of production, or goes back to doing a bit of engineering after he’s been a producer. And I think that they lose out because of that. They are two separate jobs and they need detached minds.
WW: Anything else?
GM: He’s got to be good at his job; he’s got to know a lot about recording—that goes without saying. He’s got to know the board, and he’s got to have a good ear. He’s got to have a personality where, without being servile, he makes it plain that he is there, in fact, to serve the group.
He doesn’t have to be a humble person. On the contrary, he must be a person of some authority and some spirit; but he must always give that impression, that he is there to get the best sounds out of people, just as the producer should give that effect.
WW: So you don’t care if the engineer has a musical background?
GM: No, not really; not personally because that should be the job of the producer.
WW: What kind of language do you use to communicate with your engineer? You mentioned to me before that you were non-technical, therefore / assume that you do not communicate in technical terms.
GM: Well, in fact, I do. I’m non-technical, but I still say to him, “I think we need a bit of top at 4,000 (Hz) on that, or try it a little lower down.” When I say I’m not technical, I mean I haven’t any technical training. But you can’t grow up in the recording industry, and go from mono recording through stereo and multi-track, working all the time on boards, without picking up a little knowledge.
WW: Then you feel that the producer should be able to operate the console himself—at least in his head?
GM: I think it helps—anything that gives a greater understanding between people. I think that if my engineer knows that I know what’s going on, then he will respect me more and he’ll work more closely with me. If I don’t know what I’m talking about and I ask him for something that is patently impossible, I’ll lose his respect, and he won’t work so well with me.
WW: Do you prefer to work straight through with one engineer?
GM: I prefer to work with one engineer for a particular job, but I don’t want to work with that engineer all my life.
WW: Many Beatles recordings employ techniques or tricks such as phasing very tastefully. Did the ideas for these techniques come from engineers? Or, to put it another way, do you encourage your engineers to make suggestions?
GM: I certainly would encourage engineers to make suggestions. But in fact, all the techniques we used that you’ve described have come about not because the engineers made suggestions, but because we actually asked for particular sounds.
Phasing came about as a result of experimenting with the automatic double tracking, ADT, which was, in fact, suggested by an engineer, who strangely enough wasn’t a balancing engineer. He was a backroom boy who came forward with this idea. He was an EMI bloke; he’s now in fact running EMI studios, which is nice. And so phasing came about as a result of that—playing with ADT. In most other cases they’ve been a result of personal experimentation in the studio. My experience with spoken word recordings—building up sound pictures without music was invaluable in that respect.
WW: Are there any special considerations that you keep in mind when producing a 45 RPM single release?
GM: Obviously it’s got to be a little more concise than an album track. There are a lot of things which you put on an album, which stand up on an album because they are part of a long scene, which obviously wouldn’t mean anything on a single. In any case, you are making records to a certain extent for a particular market. One is well aware of the nature of the music that is played on the top 100 in the “states”, so you’re obviously thinking of that when you select your single.
WW: Is there any instrument, or instruments, that you consider particularly important, especially with regard to singles?
GM: No, I don’t honestly consider any one thing to be particularly important—I think they’re all important. When I’m doing a recording of a rock group, I do actually, mentally, go through every sound that I’m hearing, saying, “Is that the right sound?” I apply the same devotion to each one. If you miss out on one, you’re not doing your job.
WW: Is it true that the early Beatles records were remixed by Capitol for release in the states?
GM: They weren’t remixed by Capitol; they might have been re-equalized by Capitol. Yes, in fact, I’m sure they were. The story was in those days that American record players were different from English record players, and therefore they had to cut their own masters to suit their own tastes. And they did that; and I didn’t like the results, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
WW: Could you describe the differences in sound between the American and British releases?
GM: I didn’t think they (U.S. releases) were as good. It’s difficult to get a good answer to that one because I was hearing their records on my machine and I don’t know what they would have sounded like if I had heard them on their machines. They may have been alright, but they generally sounded much thinner and harsher than our sound, and less bass certainly.
WW: Early Beatles records were characterized by a particular vocal sound which has been very influential on pop music in general. How did this come about?
GM: Because we had particular kinds of vocalists, really.
WW: You mentioned ADT.
GM: That was a particular sound we put on. You know, once we got over the first hurdle of being a success, they were always looking for something new. They were continually coming to me and saying, “Do something different.”
They were always prodding and trying to push some things out a bit further. John hated the sound of his own voice, which I personally thought was a great voice, and quite often he would come to me and say, “Can’t you do something with my voice; it sounds terrible.” He’d say “I know it is terrible, but let’s do something about it. Don’t make it sound like me,” which was worrying in a way because he expected magic.
I don’t know quite what he was expecting to hear, but it wasn’t what he was producing and consequently we did play about with the voices quite a bit. Sometimes, I think the results weren’t very good, but in a lot of cases they were.
WW: Is it true that Sgt. Pepper was recorded on four-track machines?
GM: Yes, absolutely true. It was done four to four.
WW: Who did the engineering on Sgt. Pepper?
GM: Geoff Emerick, I think he did all of it.
WW: What other Beatles records has he worked on?
GM: I couldn’t give you a catalog—there are quite a few. When we started out, the engineer we had was a guy by the name of Norman Smith. I can’t give you which record he stopped on, but we could find that out easily the facts arc there.
But he came to me one day and said he wanted to be a producer… he was an EMI engineer. . . and did I mind. And I said, “No, fine. Off you go.” He said, “The only thing is, I want to go on engineering the Beatles.” And I said, “Well, now, I don’t think you can do that.” I was very firm, but quite polite, and I said, “If you want to be a producer, that’s one thing and that’s fine. Go and make some good records. I’m sure you can, but I don’t think you can go on engineering at the same time,” which comes back to your previous question.
So he made the plunge and he left and became a producer, and he’s done some extremely good stuff. He made all of the Pink Floyd’s early records. He’s now a staff producer for EMI. But then I had to find another engineer.
Now there were lots of engineers senior to him at EMI, but I decided at that time that I wanted someone very new and young. I’d been looking around—looking for talent, so to speak, and I decided to give the chance to Geoff Emerick, who in fact had done very little recording before. He’d been balancing for six or nine months before I gave him the job with the Beatles. He jumped at that and it was really tossing him over the deep end; but he was marvelous—he came out with colors flying. And after Geoff we used other people as well, but in fact, we brought Geoff back for Abbey Road.
WW: He didn’t, then, work on the Beatles white album?
GM: No, he didn’t.
WW: Would you describe some of the techniques used on Sgt. Pepper, for example on “For The Benefit of Mister Kite”?
GM: That’s really quite simple when you know about it. John wanted a calliope kind of sound. He wanted to get the impression of a fair ground and he played me this song that he’d written, and asked what I could think up to give it that kind of fair ground atmosphere.
And I thought a lot about it, and I decided the best way to do it was to use some of the techniques I’d done with spoken word records. I decided that to get the kind of swooping, steam organ noise he wanted, I got him on one Hammond organ and me on another; actually I think he was on a Lowry and I was on a Hammond.
And we recorded some half speed organ, and I did some chromatic runs with the tremelo on fairly fast over two octaves and then sped them up to double speed. That was one of the things—the swooping noises. But for the background mush, I got lots of steam organ tapes, genuine fair ground organ recordings of all sorts of pieces of music—“Stars and Stripes Forever” and those kinds of things—and cut them into short lengths (of tape) and threw them up in the air, literally, and just told the engineer to pick them up again and join them all together. He thought I was mad.
We played it and of course the result was very cacaphonic. We used that as just a general background, mingling mush, which gave the required effect ... all kinds of funny jumping—some of it was backwards—but it worked.
WW: Beatles records are also characterized by constructive use of echo effects. Do you pay particular attention to echo on your recordings?
GM: The right kind of echo, yes. There’s a tendency these days to use plates an awful lot, in fact exclusively. We have plates here but we also have an echo chamber, which I must confess I haven’t used a great deal yet. But I believe that a good chamber can beat a plate any day. I used chamber mainly on Beatles records.
Actually, we used a combination of chamber and tape, which we called “steed”—I don’t know why we called it “steed”—but it was basically sending the delayed signal by means of tape into the chamber.
WW: Why weren’t any of the engineering teams credited until Abbey Road?
GM: EMI policy, and they didn’t like it even then. (Abbey Road)
WW: Beatles records, especially since Sgt. Pepper, have caused a rekindling of interest in the electric bass. Was bass a particular problem in recording the Beatles?
GM: Paul was always worrying me to get more bass on the records, certainly, and it was my job to try and get that bass on, true. Probably it was the single most worrying factor, of any sound that we produced, because Paul is a perfectionist and even when we got a great bass sound he didn’t think it was very good. Now, you say that we got some great bass sounds, which is nice to know. I’d like you to relay that information to Paul.
WW: I’d be glad to.
WW: Could you describe a technique you used on the bass on Abbey Road, say, for example, “Come Together”?
GM: I think on that particular one we used a combination of direct injection and live sound.
WW: And limiting/compression?
GM: Yes, of course, and also a little bit of echo too. But each sound is treated on its own merits. That’s why we, in fact, got lots of varied sounds, some of which were not so good as others.
WW: The instruments and voices on Abbey Road have a particular clarity and presence that seem to be derived from close-miking or similar techniques. Was directed it in the studio. Everything else was mine. this your aim?
GM: I was aiming for clarity, but oddly enough, it isn’t very necessarily close-mike techniques that provide this. This essence of that clarity that you talk about is the ability to differentiate one sound that is interfering with your bass, for example, then you do something about it. You change it. And I think the clarity comes from having distinguishable sounds anyway.
WW: Then from a production standpoint, if you’re going to have two sounds in the same frequency range, they should be playing approximately the same part, or else they will muddle each other?
GM: That’s right.
WW: Did you do all the horn and string arrangements for the Beatles?
WW: Yes, with one exception. Oh, I certainly didn’t do the “Let It Be” one, which Phil Specter did. I was quick to disown that. There was one exception; it was one of the string ones, which an English arrange did. He gave us the score because I wasn’t around at the time and Paul wanted it done very quickly. Mike Leander it was on one title. He gave us the score and I directed it in the studio. Everything else was mine.
WW: Do you think that you’ll work with the Beatles again, or any of he Beatles?
GM: In the answer to the first question, I think it’s possible if the Beatles ever work together again. As to the individual Beatles, I don’t know. Each one of them is very talented, two of them in particular, in fact George, John, and Paul are obviously more talented than Ringo.
All four of them are very talented anyway, but none of them is as strong as the four of them together. The four individual parts were not as great as the entire whole. The Beatles, four people together, did something that nobody else had ever done before, and the fact that they’re not together I think is a very sad thing.
Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.
Take the PSW Photo Gallery Tour of audio equipment ads appearing in RE/P magazine, circa 1970.
Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.
Belmont University Takes “Top Mixer” Honors At AES Nashville Chapter Eleventh Annual Spring Mixer
Belmont trio takes Golden Mixer trophy
The Nashville chapter of the AES recently held its annual “Spring Mixer,” where the team from Belmont University took home the coveted “Top Mixer” perpetual trophy, the school’s fifth win over the 11-year history of the event.
All area schools with audio recording programs were invited to participate. Participating teams included:
—The Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville (Darrius Porter, Ryan Van Guilder, and Zach Helsinger)
—Belmont University (Anthony Dipiazza, Joey Doyscher, and Patrick Anderson)
—The Blackbird Academy (Jeff Todd, Brandon Schnierer, and Michael Freeman)
—Middle Tennessee State University (Charlie Garcia, Frank Gerdts, Luke Lasater)
—Nashville State Technical Community College (Gregory J. Bergeron, Destine Kaine Ellis, and Justin M. Osborne)
—The SAE Institute-Nashville (Jeremy Moulder and Dalton VanVolkenburgh).
Second place went to SAE Institute-Nashville, and third place was secured by The Blackbird Academy.
Each team was given identical raw original studio tracks recorded in a Nashville studio, identical mixing environments, and eight hours to create a stereo mix and complete the session documentation per guidelines from the AES and The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing. Entering the competition, the students were only informed of the judging criteria and what equipment they would be using.
The mixing was done over a two-day period in six identical Pro Tools HD mixing rooms in CMT’s audio post rooms in Nashville. The students were informed as to which version of Pro Tools to expect, which plug-ins would be available on those systems, and the studio monitors that would be supplied.
The final mix created by each team used tracks from a recording session of “Takin’ It Slow” by Canadian country artist Bobby Wills. The producer, Michael Pyle, spoke to the students via a video chat before the session and made them aware of the sound he was going for on the finished mixes. Rules prohibited any additional outside materials, re-recording of any new material outside of the given tracks, or any outside assistance.
The competition was judged by a panel of six industry judges: producer/recording engineer Neil Cappellino, recording engineer Bob Clark, mastering engineer John Mayfield, producer/engineer Steve Marcantonio, recording/mixing Engineer Randy Poole and recording/mixing engineer David Schober. Judging was based on aesthetic elements such as the fidelity, imaging, width/depth, dynamic range, mix balance, preparation for mastering and documentation-completion of page 5 of AES/P&E Wing Session Documentation.
Held at the W.O Smith Music School, the evening was moderated by AES Nashville committee member/recording engineer Jill Courtney, and she awarded the winning teams their prizes.
AES chairman Kerry Kopp states, “The AES Nashville Section’s Spring Mixer is an event which we always greet with anticipation. This year’s event was one of the best in recent memory, with superlative judges who offered extremely beneficial mix evaluations. I believe each student that participated in this year’s event now has a much clearer vision of what they may experience when they enter the hyper-competitive environment of the technical side of today’s music business. Congratulations to the all of the teams that participated and benefited from this year’s event, with special accolades for the winning team from Belmont University.”
Sponsorship of the 2014 Spring Mixer competition, including prizes for the top teams and their schools were from MikTek (PM9, C1 and CV3 mics); Softube (Tech Classic Channel Bundle); Asterope (guitar and XLR cables); FabFilter (creative bundle); Cascade/Corner Music (BE Fathead Ribbon mic); Mayfield Mastering (mastered mixes and consulting time); and Iron Mountain (t-shirts). The sound system for the judging was provided by Blackbird Studio, and live sound mixing and coordination was provided by CMT director of engineering Tom Edwards and live sound engineer Garry Farris.
AES Nashville Chapter
Posted by Keith Clark on 05/09 at 01:40 PM
Simplicity Rules: A Well-Considered Sonic Approach For Broken Bells
Technically, Broken Bells is a duo, a Los Angeles-based indie-rock band comprised of Brian Burton (also known as Danger Mouse) and The Shins lead singer/guitarist James Mercer who first conceived the idea of doing a project together after meeting at the Roskilde Festival in 2004.
On stage, however, the band is rounded out by multi-instrumentalists Jon Sortland (drums, keys, bass) and Dan Elkan (guitars, keys, bass), and all of players routinely take over other instruments or work one of four keyboard rigs.
So there’s a lot going on, but the group’s mix engineers have endeavored to keep the audio approach as straightforward as possible. I caught up with London-based Dave McDonald (front of house) and Chicago-based Steven Versaw (monitors) prior to a show on the recent tour at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall. McDonald told me that the old school theatre, now converted to a live venue, reminds him of the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton, UK.
Broken Bells are currently on the road in support of their sophomore full-length album, After the Disco, with the tour slated to stretch well into October. Right now they’re playing a variety of theatres and clubs and aren’t carrying loudspeakers with the exception of wedges – and fewer of those as time goes on.
Dave McDonald at the Allen & Heath iLive-112 mix surface at front of house. (Photo credit: Jordan McLachlan)
“I’m trying to phase the wedges out,” McDonald notes, “because a clean stage is a wonderful thing for an engineer, so we’re in the last stage of the clear-out. Brian’s the only one using wedges at the moment, L-Acoustics 115XT HiQs, which are lovely.”
It’s the first time out with this band for both engineers. Burton had tried to get McDonald onboard for the previous tour but he was already out with Adele, while Versaw signed on after five years as monitor engineer and production manager with Wilco. Both desire simplicity as a general practice, and in particular given the nature of the current assignment.
McDonald chooses to mix on an Allen and Heath iLive-112 digital mixing surface – which he praises for its ease of use, compact footprint and accuracy – combined with an iDR10 MixRack.
Broken Bells in action on the latest tour. (Photo credit: Jordan McLachlan)
Right now, he’s working solely with the mix surface rather than employing a tablet or laptop, with the addition of a Dante card delivering up to 64 channels to a recording rig. He’s also giving the console’s effects a considerable workout in emulating the band’s recorded sound in the live realm.
“There’s so much going on with the vocals and so on. It’s very ‘Beatles-esque’ and psychedelic, but the iLive has all that I need onboard,” he told me as he fired up the console for that night’s show. “Sometimes when you add effects you’re struggling to hear them, and it’s not quite right. With the iLive, they’re very accurate,” adding that the Symphonic Chorus, ADT Doubler and EkoChorus plug-ins have proven particularly useful.
“When I went to rehearsal,” McDonald continues, “they brought a box of outboard gear and I opened it up and said ‘That’s nice.’ And then I closed the lid and put it back in the truck,” he laughs, “and that was that.”
The iLive iDR10 MixRack on stage playing a pivotal role in signal routing.
One of the potential complexities of the gig is the number of keyboard stations on stage and the fact that the players move from instrument to instrument, but Versaw takes that in stride. And, rather than isolate or turn the band’s amps away from them, he prefers to preserve the feel on stage by taking “an additive approach to the IEM mix.”
All keyboard sounds are triggered from an Ableton rig hosted by two Mac pros located at monitor world and patched directly into a splitter that goes to monitors and FOH.
“For the IEMs, I’ve created a general drum mix with kick and snare at 100 percent and rack and floor at about 40 percent,” Versaw adds. “That’s being sent to a group that I’m squashing a bit to provide a gritty, even sound. Then I pepper in my overheads by themselves to make it more live.
“When Brian plays the drums, it’s lighter than Jon, so I add in some non-compressed snare in the ears,” he says. “The group mix is sent to everyone as the drum mix, and then I can add in individual drums if necessary.”
Currently Versaw is mixing on an Avid VENUE Profile, chosen primarily because of his familiarity with its interface and workflow. “Both Dave’s iDR10 MixRack and my Avid Stage Rack are on stage. I have a splitter that feeds all inputs from stage to the Profile and sends to Dave’s iLive rack via a Cat-6 line. So he has a control surface out at FOH, and that’s it.”
Like McDonald, Versaw uses only onboard plug-ins. “Nothing external. When it comes down to it, I need EQ, compressors and a few gates. The rest of it is aesthetics,” he says. “I’m using reverb to add ambience to the backing vocals, and some delay – typically for James’ vocal – to recreate a slap back effect from the record, but that’s only for me and James.
“It’s a sweet and simple setup and it’s only going to get simpler,” he continues. “I actually plan to move over to an iLive because of its simplicity, and also so I can work more on my mixes and less on setting up. Simplicity rules.” He adds that he’s happy to switch platforms and technology when necessary to keep the system streamlined and his workflow fluid. “You use your ears and your intuition, and if something’s hard to use or you can’t figure it out really quick, then try something else.”
Blend Of Components
A primary goal is to have as little sound coming off stage as possible, with all band members on Ultimate Ears IEMs, primarily UE11s. The gear the tour is carrying is a blend of components supplied by Rat Sound Systems (Camarillo, CA) along with equipment drawn from Burton’s studio and The Shins touring rig, including Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G2 wireless monitoring systems and some of the microphones.
Monitor engineer Steven Versaw at his Avid VENUE Profile.
“When it comes to mics it’s very straight up,” McDonald says. “In rehearsals, when a guy starts playing his guitar I’ll stand in front of it for a few minutes and see what the guitar’s saying and what he’s saying, and then put a mic in front of it. If it doesn’t sound like that at FOH, we move the mic or change it. It’s simple – there’s no magic.”
Two Sennheiser e 902 dynamic cardioids are applied for kick out and floor tom, with a Sennheiser e 901 dynamic cardioid for kick in. Neumann KM 184s cardioids are deployed for hi-hat and overheads. “The e 902 on the floor tom provides depth,” Versaw says, “but apart from the Neumann microphones on overheads and hi-hat. it’s really traditional. We’ve got a Shure SM57 on snare top from The Shins’ locker and clip-on Sennheiser e 604s for snare under and rack toms.”
The stage also hosts several Radial passive DIs as well as SM57s on guitars – a Fender and Marshall combo located center stage for Mercer and stage left for Elkan, respectively. “With those mics, you can just light the fuse and run away,” Versaw adds. “And we went with SM58s for the vocals because James (Mercer) is accustomed to them.”
A partial view of the drum miking approach.
Less Is More
“I’m hauling a board, a brain and an engineer on this tour,” McDonald says as we were coming up on sound check time in Toronto. “I come from a world of where you would have the biggest board in the world and have as much outboard gear as possible, but what really matters at the end of the day is what’s coming out of the speakers.”
Speaking of which, the loudspeaker count began shrinking even before the tour kicked off. Stacks of side fills with subwoofers were originally specified but only made it through pre-production, although they actually served as the FOH system in a makeshift rehearsal studio in Portland.
“We had rehearsals in LA and then just before the tour kicked off, we brought in all the elements – Dave at FOH, as well as lighting and video systems – into a raw loft workspace and built our show,” Versaw adds. “Initially, I specified components to suit all occasions, but we’ve never brought the full rig in for a show.”
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.
In The Studio: A Small Change To Cut Mixing Time In Half
Do you struggle with mixing? Does it take you forever to be happy with a mix? If so, you may be falling prey to a very common and very preventable problem.
I recently picked up a new mixing gig for a client. The songs are full band arrangements, and they are very well produced. There are a few tracks here and there that aren’t recorded as well as I would like them to be. Even so, I’m finding myself mixing these songs much faster than I expected.
Why? Because I am not trying to be a magician. The key to mixing quickly (and this is so important) is to understand what you can and can’t do as a mix engineer.
I’m not talking about what you personally can or can’t do. I’m talking about what is actually possible in the mixing phase. So many people wrestle with mixes in vain, not realizing that they are really having a problem with the recording, not the mix.
You can’t make a recording sound wildly different from what’s actually recorded. You can’t take a country arrangement and turn it into death metal with a bunch of fancy mixing tricks. It just doesn’t work that way. The song will sound like the song sounds, regardless of how you mix it.
Your job as a mix engineer is to enhance the recorded material. That’s it.
Your job isn’t to change it. Your job isn’t to fix it. Your job is simply to enhance it.
If you find yourself spending hours on end trying to alter what was recorded to suit your needs, give up now. It will never work. Listen to the tracks, pick a direction, and go. Don’t wrestle with the mix.
The sooner you develop a deep understanding of what is possible during mixing and what is not, the faster you will be at mixing.
If the mix isn’t the best-sounding mix you’ve ever heard, there’s a good chance it could never be the best-sounding mix you’ve ever heard, because you’re not working with the best-sounding tracks you’ve ever heard.
My best mixes are of songs where the recorded tracks themselves were very good. My worst mixes are the ones where the recordings are very bad.
It really is that simple.
Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.
Thursday, May 08, 2014
American Music & Sound Names Kevin Madden To Head Eastern Region Sales For Allen & Heath
Brings live and studio mixing experience as well as product and market development to the position
American Music & Sound has named Kevin Madden as eastern U.S. regional sales manager for Allen & Heath, where he is responsible for the continued growth of the brand in the region.
Madden brings decades of experience as a live and studio engineer to the position, in addition to a resume of product and market development. Previously he’s held positions with leading brands such as AKG Acoustics, JBL Professional, Omnitronics and Innovason, working in market development as well as domestic and international sales management.
“I started my career in both studio management and as a live monitor guy,” Madden says. “Being responsible for in-house studio maintenance and sitting in the hot seat side of stage gave me a great foundation to progress through technical service to product development and then sales.
“This career progression has given me rich experience in a diversity of market segments, including PA rental, house of worship, MI, boardroom, lecture hall, convention center, and general commercial audio segments,” he adds. “I look forward to working with this iconic brand and continuing to develop what is already one of the leaders in the audio console and digital technology market.”
American Music & Sound
Allen & Heath
SE Systems Deploys Yamaha Consoles, NEXO Loudspeakers For Multple Stages At 2014 MerleFest
Two Yamaha CL5s used for front of house and monitors at both the Americana Stage and the Hillside Stage
Held the last weekend of April in Wilkesboro, NC, this year’s MerleFest included more than 125 artists with area roots such as Alan Jackson and Merle Haggard, and as they’ve done for the past 27 years, SE Systems of Greensboro, NC provided audio production, supported by Yamaha Commercial Audio supplying four CL5 digital audio consoles to add to the inventory of the festival, which already utilizes a strong contingent of Yamaha-NEXO gear.
Two Yamaha CL5s were used for front of house and monitors at both the Americana Stage and the Hillside Stage. “All worked flawless and sounded great,” states Bryan Smith of SE Systems.
“The Yamaha CL5 is a great-sounding, and versatile console that was perfect the Americana Stage,” adds Melissa Joplin Higley, who mixed front of house. “The console, Dante networking, and Rio input/output boxes performed consistently. I found the CL5 to offer more flexibility and horsepower, and the Premium Rack effects are a tremendous advantage.”
Higley also utlized a good deal of the CL5’s onboard processing. “I particularly enjoyed the Custom Fader Banks, especially since we used a festival patch,” she explains. “It was great to have each band’s input list consolidated on one page for easy access to channels, and we were able to quickly and easily adapt to many different scenarios, including hosting guest engineers, patching artist stage snakes into our Rio boxes, running ‘ears’ from front of house, etc.”
Jeff Neubauer mixed monitors at the Hillside Stage using a CL5. “I enjoyed the custom page feature that allowed me to just choose the channels that we were using out of the Festival page for each act,” he says. “The ease of Dante to route audio between consoles was also a nice feature, and I also liked the ability to recall parts and pieces of show files.”
SE Systems also deployed four Yamaha PM5D consoles for FOH and monitors at both the Walker Center and the Chris Austin Stage, while the Creekside Stage was served by NEXO GEO D arrays with GEO subwwofers. And for the main Watson Stage, SE Systems provided NEXO 45-N monitors with NEXO NXAMP 4x4 power amplifiers. Finally, in the video/recording trailer, a Yamaha O1V 96i console was used to route to DVRs and converters.
“This year, a new stage was added to our production,” Smith notes. “It was a small courtyard style stage called The Plaza and used for smaller, local acts. We only needed to cover audio in a small area, so we decided to use eight Yamaha DSR 112 active loudspeakers—four for mains and four for monitors. No subs were required. The DSR loudspeakers sounded awesome and projected just like we expected—the bass was strong, but not overpowering, and a perfect match for this stage.”
Yamaha Commercial Audio