Monday, May 25, 2009

AIR User's Blog

This week on the show we talk with Russ Hughes, founder of the Digi AIR User's Blog. The blog is a place for users of the AIR virtual instruments to get tip and techniques, download samples and patches, and keep up with the latest developments.

Not much more to say this week so just check out the Podcast and check out the blog at

Be sure to tune in next week when we'll have pro session and touring drummer Russ Miller on the show.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Live Sound vs. Studio

This weeks Podcast and interview with live sound engineer Trevor Young will take a look at the world of live and touring sound. I don't like typing, so I'm going to get this over with asap. No backspacing or editing. Being mostly a studio guy myself, I wanted to get a professional viewpoint on how live sound issues are different from the studio. One point often brought up by live guys is that they only have a few minutes to get a good mix, whereas in the studio, one can take a week just getting the drums to sound killer. Does this make the live guy better at mixing? Does it make the studio engineer slower? How does the fast pace of the live sound world affect the quality of sound coming from the speakers for the brief moment in time during the concert? To help answer some of these questions, I talked with live sound engineer Trevor Young. He helps dispel some myths and rumors about live sound, as well as emphasizing one of my mantras: "Use Your Ears!"

What do I mean, use your ears. Well, as technology advances and there is more and more gear available to the pro engineer and consumer musician, there seems to be less emphasis on talent and more emphasis on a particular piece of gear or software plugin. We've all seen the ads that basically say, "If you get this equipment, your songs will be better". Right? What people most often forget is that unless they know how to use the equipment and use their ears to tweak it and make it sound like they want, it is useless. many of the best engineers and musicians I know survive with minimal gear. The key is, they know what they want, they know how to use the gear they have, and they are constantly listening.

This rule applies in all aspects of music, including and especially live sound. In a live situation there seems to be less control of each instrument, the audience, the room, hall, venue, arena, etc. In the Podcast, Trevor hits on this point very well. It doesn't matter what the graphic EQ says. It matters what it sounds like. Each band is different, each venue is different, and each engineer has his or her own way of getting the sounds they want.

Stay tuned next week when we'll hear from Russ Hughes of the Digidesign A.I.R. user's blog. Then after that we'll talk with on of the biggest session and touring drummers today, Russ Miller. See ya next week.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ambisonics, B and B+ formats

For the Podcast this week, I thought we'd discuss something that not a lot of people know much about. Ambisonics is not a new audio format, but is making a resurgence in todays new and emerging formats. We interview Miles Fulwider, who is working as production assistant at NYU's Clive Davis Studios. Thanks to him for taking the time to give us an intro to Ambisonics as well as their decoding and encoding processes.

Instead of trying to explain what Ambisonics is, I advise you to listen to the Podcast. Also, I provide this Wiki definition:

"Ambisonics (not to be confused with ambiophonics) is a series of recording and replay techniques using multichannel mixing technology that can be used live or in the studio. By encoding and decoding sound information on a number of channels, a 2-dimensional ("planar", or horizontal-only) or 3-dimensional ("periphonic[1]", or full-sphere) sound field can be presented. Ambisonics was invented by Michael Gerzon of the Mathematical Institute, Oxford, who – with Professor Peter Fellgett[2] of theUniversity of Reading, David Brown, John Wright and John Hayes of the now defunct IMF Electronics, and building on the work of other researchers – developed the theoretical and practical aspects of the system in the early 1970s.

Along with Miles' information in the Podcast, I promised I would provide a few links to Ambisonic related sites. Of course, one can always just Google it and find more info than I can provide in this blog, but I try to make it easy for you. Here's two of the best for newbies to the subject:
At, users can upload and download samples of recordings in various formats, including DTS-CD, which can be played on a conventional 5.1 system.
There are many other links on both of these sites that can lead you deeper into the subject as well.

Next week on the show, we'll have Trevor Young discussing live sound tips and techniques, as well as some funny horror stories. Also coming up in a few weeks will be an interview with Russ Hughes of the Digidesign AIR users blog, and an interview with Russ Miller, one of the top studio and touring drummers today. His album credits include such greats as Cher, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, and a blillion others.
Stay tuned!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Recording Drums, Part 3

This week is part 3 in a three part series of recording drums. Be sure to check out the Podcast that goes along with this weeks blog.

This week focuses on adding additional elements and percussion to a drum mix, and how to make them fit in early on in the mix process. I'll also show you how to use some special efects on a drum mix to make it more lively and have some movement, without being distracting in a mix.

First off, many people add auxiliary percussion to their mixes as a final element to fill in some holes they may have. Being a drummer and percussionist, I like doing it the other way around. Add all the percussion you think you'll need at the beginning. When I record a drum track, I often add some other percussion to go along with it. Even if it may not be used in the final mix, it's there to set a foundation and a starting point for everything else that my come along in the recording process.

Second thing I like to use are some special or weird effects on drum mixes. Of course, there are many purists out there who would never dream of using effects plug-ins on drums, only on electric guitars, but I say if it can be done, why not try it? Then if it doesn't work, move on to something else. I don't want to get too extreme with this first introduction of the process, so we'll just start with a simple reverb plug-in.

Now, though reverbs are common in many types of music, the way it is used can be unique. Here's my unique approach.

1. Take a drum mix, or even just a snare drum track.

2. Duplicate the track.

3. Use a Reverse plug-in to reverse one of the duplicate tracks.

4. Add a Reverb plug-in to the Reversed track. Try setting the reverb time to whatever your quarter note value is. If your tempo is 120, the reverb time would be 500ms. Keep the Reverb 100% wet, because you'll be adding this to your dry signal later.

5. After adding and processing the reverb on that track, Reverse the track again. This will give you a track that has a reverse-reverb on it. Instead of hearing a reverb after a snare hit, you'll hear a reverb coming up to the hit.

6. Add a little of this reverse-reverb track to your dry signal.

For even a little more fun, try alternating the panning on the new track from hard left-right, to center, on each beat. This combined with the reverse-reverb effect gives the impression of the drums spreading out and then imploding to the middle on each beat.

Be sure to download the Podcast so you can hear these processes in action.

Stay tuned next week when we'll hear from Miles Fulwider about Ambisonics and the B and B+ formats.