Monday, April 28, 2008

How to make a record (1937)

An associate of mine found this little gem on YouTube. I thought I would post this video here as it serves as an important reminder of just how well we have it now when it comes to recording albums on PC's. Without a doubt this confirms that it really DOESN'T suck recording on computers.

So without further ado, let's roll the calendar back to 1937 and see how they made records back then.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Audio Engineering Session 13

The first thing we did this class was a de-brief of our previous tracking session with Greg's band. We reviewed the workflow and came up with a basic strategy that should be used to maintain order and to stay calm. We were told that when recording a rock band, the most important thing is to get a great drum take. All the other instruments/vocals can be re-done easily as everyone was in separate isolation rooms.

An important aspect of tracking is communication. It is important for the engineer to make the musicians feel comfortable. This will bring out their best performance. It is best to keep everyone well informed about the tasks at hand and what will be happening next. If a lot of focus is on the drums for example, you can let the other musicians know that they can kick back and get a coffee. Tell the bass player to relax for 15 mins while the headphone mix is being dialed in. Without a doubt a good Audio Engineer will be able to bring out the best in them and not make them feel like they are under a microscope in a fish bowl.

Tracking can get quite stressful. There are a lot of things going on at once. A clearly defined plan is very important. Most of your energy needs to be directed at making a great mix. This is the ultimate goal in any tracking session. Of course there are several other aspects of major importance (mic placement, tuning etc), in the end a great mix will be inspiring to the musicians. Everything else will fall into place rather naturally if your energy is focused on the mix.

After the debrief we moved onto layering some additional tracks for one of Greg's songs from last session. We did some backing vox first. Greg sang into an Audio Technical AT4033.

After a couple of takes we moved on to recording the piano. We used a stereo pair of AT4033's. These were placed about 10 inches away from the strings. One on the low end and one on the treble end. Now then, Greg has been playing piano forever and this is a very nice piano in a very good room so as one would expect, the piano sounded great!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Meet the band!!

Wow, can't beleive that it took until now for me to introduce our band. Talk about lack of self promotion! Ok, well, Don, Ken and I have been jamming and writing music for some time now. About 5 years. Mind you we have been saying 5 years for awhile now.
Don is the mastermind behind all our songs. He has been playing guitar forever. For whatever reason, Don and I seem to click when it comes to writing music.
My daughter Chelsea has been working with us on a lot of our songs. Her vocals really help shape the sound of our band.
Our EP will be available in the next couple of months. Signed copies are already being distributed. So, that's like 4 copies now so don't hesitate or this spindle of CD's will be gone!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The London Project in.... Germany??

Last week The London Project was lucky enough to receive some airplay in Germany of all places. This just goes to show that the Internet is playing an important role in the Indie music scene.
Click on the link below to hear the German introduction to, and the song, "I Know She Understands" as aired in Germany.

“Well, we are here with a combination of German and English. And now I will play another song as Lonnie is here; and Lonnie is from ‘The London Project’ yes, and the song is I know she understands.”

“Yes, Lonnie also is from Canada, British Columbia and the band with members Don, Lonnie and Chelsea, work together on rock-genre music of the 70’ies, 80’ies and 90’ies. Now we will listen to “I Know She Understands“ and have fun with “The London Project” – Lonnie is in the chat room here.”

After the song “Fantastic music here from The London Project, thank you Lonnie that was great music with your band, congratulations”.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My concert experiences in Vancouver

One of the advantages to living in a city like Vancouver is the access to great music! Much of which is either free or at low cost. My first example great value was this free Canada Day concert in Cloverdale. Ian Tyson, Wide Mouth Mason, Kim Mitchel and check out this video of the headliners, April Wine.

My favorite concert to date would have to be the Dark Side of the Moon with Roger Water's.

Nickelback (I know, I know, w/e) put on a kick ass show. The sound of Kroeger's PRS going through those Mesa Boogies in that drop C! Rock and Roll!!

The Blue Man Group were and incredible experience. I highly recommend this show to anyone.

This video of Heart was made up of the photos I took of their performance at the River Rock Casino in Richmond BC

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Audio Engineering Session 12

No theory this week, we jumped right into tracking Greg's band. I appoligise in advance for the picture quality as they were taken with my cell phone.

Our instructor, Greg, is in a 3 peice band and they have been preparing for their upcoming benefit gig, "Stop the Rain". This was an opportunity for them to rehearse and for us to apply our recently aquired knowledge to a real world situation.

We started by setting up the drums for Trevor in the main live room exactly as we have in the past. (Mic and positioning details are found in previous blogs so I won't go into detail again in this one). As we have experienced a few times now, the Ayotte kits are a PITA to setup. These Ayotte kits may be fully adjustable but without a doubt are one of the more complicated kits to setup.

The bass player was setup in the air lock off of of the control room. He (John) was play an awesome Ricky through a Sansamp so his setup was fast and easy. Greg was in one of the other isolation rooms playing his Godin through a Roland BR-8 and into a Roland amp which we mic'd up with a SM57.

The next step was to create a decent headphone mix for them to monitor with. We began with the drums. Adjusting the levels for each one of the mics, one at a time. Then we introduced the bass guitar into the mix and once again adjusted the levels. Finally, we adjusted the levels for Greg's guitar/amp and the vocals. After about 45 minutes we had what we thought was a solid mix for them to monitor with but found that the output to the headphones was not loud enough. The output from the V-Studio on it's own simply didn't have enough power to be heard over the drum kit. We quickly inserted a headphone amp to increase the output to all the headphones. This gave us more than enough volume and we were ready to start recording.

The band played 4 songs and we tracked 2-3 virtual tracks of each song. By the time we finished tracking our session was over so we didn't have any time to review what we had recorded. We will do this next session.

Monday, April 7, 2008

G&L Tribute Invader XL

There is a little bit of a story behind this guitar. When I attended the NAMM Show in 2007, I knew that I was going to be meeting with Dave McLaren, President of BBE Electronics/G&L Guitars. What an opportunity I thought. Not only getting a tour of the G&L factory but possibly being able to wrangle myself a good deal on a new axe while I was at it.
I began searching the G&L website in anticipation of what would be my next guitar purchase. I quickly fell for this beautiful translucent red Invader XL. Cash in hand I thought I was going to score. Dave informs me that G&L has discontinued this model. Oh shit! What am I going to do now? No fear cause Dave pulls through. Turns out that he has a hand selected guitar sitting in his office. How much do you want for it Dave? Well how about... FREE! Wow, much too cool. Turns out to be a demo model that has been Plecked, complete with good ole Leo pups.
While I was at the G&L factory, I was privileged to be able to take a look at Leo Fender's vault.
Well enough of the nostalgia. Time to talk about why I like this guitar so much. In Leo's later days he spent a lot of time refining pickups. I had always loved the sound of Fender pickups during the peak of his career. The Invader XL had these hand wound G&L pickups that sounded great. Hand-wound in Fullerton CA. However, most of the G&L guitars were wired with these Fender alnico pickups, What I especially liked about this model was the ability to split the pickups using a second selector switch. For that true Fender Stratocaster sound, you have to try out a G&L.
Here are a couple of videos that I made of the tour I went on at G&L. The first one shows you the guitar manufacturing process. The second video is Leo Fender's lab. The lab had remained untouched until last year. Our group was one of the last to see the lab in it's original state. It has now been moved to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Audio Engineering Session 11

Theory for this week filled in a couple of blanks that we have had left over from previous sessions. First thing we did was finish ofF the acronym for the seven characteristics of sound (WAVEPHF). We now know these characteristics as Wavelength, Amplitude, Velosity, Envelope, Phase, Harmonics and Frequency.

One of the blanks we filled in was "Harmonic Content". In this example we will use "whole number multiples" of the A note. The first harmonic is the fundamental note. The remaining harmonics follow this example;
A = 110 Hz = 1st harmonic/fundamental, A = 220 Hz = 2nd harmonic, E = 330 Hz = 3rd harmonic, A = 440 Hz = 4th harmonic, C# = 55o Hz = 5th harmonic, E = 660 Hz = 6th harmonic,
G = 770 Hz = 7th harmonic, A = 880 Hz = 8th harmonic.

One example that was used to illustrate harmonic content was by using a piano. Upon striking the A note, you could hear the various harmonics as the note rang out.

The next item to discuss was "envelope". Envelope is also known as "loudness contour". There are three properties on an envelope. These are "attack, decay and release". A piano can be used to illustrate these envelope properties. When the keys are first struck, until the time the note reaches maximum amplitude, this could be considered the attack. The decay is the time this note will ring out and the time it takes to fade away. If the noted is "choked" then the time it takes for the note to finish ringing out is called the release.

An "envelope generator" introduces "sustain". In the case of keyboards for example, the envelope would be "attack, decay, sustain and release".
Now that we have moved on from the theory aspect of the session, it was time finalize our mixes. We began opened up our mixes where we left off last session. I found this illustration that provides a visual representation of mixing.

With many thanks to Greg, I have included a version of my mix which can be heard using the player below.

I have also posted a seperate track of the drums only. You can find the "drums only" version in the previous Audio Engineering Session 9 below. Next week we will be recording Greg's band doing a live set.