A producer's blog about music, recording, mixing, songwriting and gear! (I don't know everything, but what I know I'll gladly share!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Family Force 5

I've become a big fan of these guys. Family Force 5 is really unique, blending tons of influences. Their stuff has energy!!!! It's so entertaining. In the spirit of producing great records, take a look at this article on how they produced their record. There's a major focus on how they tracked guitars. Hopefully you'll get a picture into how they made the record. (Pay attention to the comment about using small amps for big sounds... even a cigarette mini amp!)

Happy guitar tracking!


Tips for tracking guitars.... using microphones and don't forget to use strings!! ;)
(on a serious note, I love SM57's blended with a Royer 121 or an ADK S7 through API 512 pres into a distressor or LA-3A limiters! Peace out!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

REPOST: Buss Compressors and Parallel Compression

This post was published originally on May 3rd, 2009 but I realized that the link was bad. It was worth posting again. Check it out and learn :)

There are SOOOO many ways to use compression. I consider Michael Brauer a genius when it comes to mixing with compression. He is unbelievably innovative and has worked long and hard to develop his fantastic technique.

I remember hearing Coldplay's "Violet Hill" and being so impressed with its unique sound only to find out that Brauer mixed it (he's mixed a LOT of Coldplay stuff). I found this article where he talks about the process of mixing this fantastic song. Check it out...


Also be sure to check our Michael Brauer's website and try to read through all of through and contemplate all of his Q&A stuff. WOW!

Plugins are so dang expensive!!!

As you know, plugins can be very expensive. I think I'd be jaw dropped at the amount of money I've spent on plugins in the last five years or so. Without counting, I must have about 100 plugins and software instruments and I've purchased every single one of them. (I'm a big proponent for PAYING for the tools and music you use... anything else is stealing, right?)

There is hope though! Have you ever considered buying plugins on ebay? Well, if not you should! In the last few years I've purchased many plugins and plugin bundles on ebay at massive discounts. I paid about $60 for Smack!, $125 for the Focusrite Bundle and I purchased the Waves SSL TDM bundle for $600 and the entire Sound Toys Suite for $750. Now, that's still a lot of money, but it's still a great deal! I've purchased the above plugs as well as things like TL Space, the Pultec Bundle, Moog FX, Fairchild Compressors, Auto Tune, etc.

So, before you go spending full price for your plugins, do an ebay search for what you need. You can save your search criteria and ebay will notify you when what you are looking for becomes available.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy giving gifts but I pray you'll spend some time enjoying your families and celebrating Jesus Christ this season.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Are you a learner??

I love to teach and I love to learn. Neither should happen without the other. Those who have learned (I believe) have an obligation to teach and those that teach have an obligation to continue learning. When we refuse to do these things simultaneously we stunt our growth. We'll watch others in our field pass us by. We'll watch them make strides professionally and creatively, then wonder why we're not able to do the same thing. We'll say, "They're no better than me, why are they successful?" or "Must have been luck!"

Learning and teaching are important. After all, someone provided information so that you could learn. Maybe you had a teacher who invested in you (as I did). Maybe you are self-taught and found the information on the internet or in books. Either way, someone provided you an education. Consider this and then spend time investing in someone who wants to learn.


I am always searching the internet for new ways to learn and new things to present to you. My latest find is macprovideo.com. It is a tutorial site for just about any piece of software used for creative mediums. Tutorials for Photoshop, Reason, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic, Native Instruments, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office, etc.

For $25/month you'll receive internet access to ALL of their dozens of tutorials. These videos are amazingly done, in depth, and taught by industry pros in their respective fields. WELL WORTH THE MONEY!

I just finished a watching a tutorial for Spectrasonics' "Omnisphere." It was Incredibly in-depth and easy to understand. One of the best lessons I've seen. Additionally, the tutorial gave a fantastic overview of synthesizer programming in general; a topic I've always had trouble wrapping my head completely around. I can say safely that I not have a firm understanding of synth programming at its core. I can't wait to dig in and build some new synth sounds from scratch!

Subscribe, you'll learn a lot!!

Maybe in the spirit of teaching you'll turn someone on to this blog. I'd love to have even more subscribers. The more the merrier!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's all about the song... and the LYRICS

If you wanna work in the music business you'd better be incredibly good at your job. As an engineer you'd better get better drum sounds, better guitar sounds... better EVERYTHING sounds than anyone else. As a producer you ideas better be more fresh, cleaner, more emotional, etc. than the next guy.

Those things are great but if you REALLY want to make it in "the biz" learn to write a hit song. It's the only real way to make money and retire on it. Now, I'm not suggesting that this is a silver bullet but it can't hurt!

Check out this article on lyric writing. Very basic and fundamental but basics and fundamentals should be drilled into our brain. For this reason I suggest reading this article over and over and over again!

Blessings to you! I hope the economy isn't rocking your world too bad! :)


P.S. I'm moving to Nashville this week!! Lots to do. Pretty excited though! I'll blog about my new city endeavors soon!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Track labels

Color coding your tracks can help you find things quickly. Here's my colors of choice and the order they go in.....


(BELOW: Screen shots from John Stearns' song "Believe")

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dropbox and the file sharing revolution

Sharing files, making mix changes and staying organized are very difficult tasks at times. I've shared tips and tricks here and there about how I like to work. I use tools like FileChute, Apple's .mac accounts and google documents to share files. I've found a new handy tool that is changing the way I work (and no I'm not being paid to endorse these guys).

It's called "Drop Box" and it's a sort of dynamic folder that syncs between many users from anywhere in the world! Any file that is saved or altered in my Drop Box folder will be updated on all of the other users' computers as well! Better yet, I can have several folders, each setup for different projects, with an entirely different group of users!

For instance...

Folder: "Charles Billingsley" is setup between myself and my producer friend, Adam Lancaster.
Foder: "CPB" is setup for my clients at Liberty University and their upcoming live album I'm mixing.

So, anything I place in the "Charles Billingsley" folder will be updated on Adam's computer. If I save a mix file in the "CPB" folder, it will notify the other users that a change has been made. I quickly hear back on the approved mixes!

TIP: If you're mixing a project (or producing for that matter) for a client, include a document called "progress" and keep track of how things are coming along. Include questions you have for your client or request mix approval on a song you've mixed. The document becomes a virtual time line as you work on your project.

I must thank my friend Adam Lancaster for introducing me to Drop Box!! Thank buddy!

Write me a song you're the songwriter man!

Ever had an idea, recorded it on your iphone or hand-held recorder, played it back later and couldn't for the life of you remember HOW you played it? Well, I was watching a video interview with a producer named Tommy-D. He had a great idea...

record your song ideas with isight or your computer's video recorder!!! You can now hear AND see your song idea and thus see how you played that cool guitar riff or piano part.

Neat, huh?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I grew up an instrumentalist. For me, that was enough... then I realized that the only way to truly succeed in "the biz" was to become a songwriter. Luckily, I've dabbled in songwriting since I was a young lad. :) I'm still learning but it has been an extremely rewarding journey.

Here's a great article on my favorite songwriting approach... co-writing. Check it out!!

P.S. My blog will be moving soon. I'll keep you posted on the details soon!
P.S.S. I LOVE hearing your thoughts on my blogs. Feel free to comment often!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reverb ideas

I'm not sure what's been going on, but the links I've been posting have not been showing up. Hopefully this will be different.

Reverbs are a tough game. Very difficult to get right. Things that sound dry in a recording are not necessarily completely dry. Perhaps verbs have been used in a way to give thickness but not add a reverberated sound. These psycho-acoustical techniques take a long time to develop and a lot of attention to detail.

My recommendation, spend a great deal of time with the ambient environments in your tracks. The use of compression is often considered the tell tale sign of a pro or amateur, but a close second is the use of ambient effects in a track.

Here's a simple article with some tips for using verbs.

Hope all is well with you all!!


Friday, July 17, 2009

EQ... pre or post compression

When engineers get together we talk about silly recording stuff. It's goofy and silly and if I pretend I'm listening in on the conversation rather than participating in it, I find myself laughing hysterically at how much of a total dork I am. But, that's what happens when you love what you do... you don't care how much of a dork you are. In fact, being a dork about your craft will make you better at it. Because you care!

In those geeky conversations we'll often talk about our techniques for EQ and COMPRESSION. One frequent topic is whether or not to EQ pre or post compression. Meaning, whether or not we choose to EQ before a compressor (pre) or after (post). Everyone has their techniques and no one is wrong. I have a very basic way of approaching this. Hopefully these guidelines will help you. Feel free to reply with your techniques for this is in no way a holistic approach. I am still developing my ear too.


We all know that compression controls dynamics but what you may not be clued into is how it affects the sound. In addition to dynamic control compression also does 2 things...

emphasizes dominant frequencies and rolls off the top end.

1) It's important to note that compression is going to overemphasize the dominant frequencies in the instrument you are compressing. The more extreme the compression the more extreme the result. This is important to know because if there is an odd frequency in your bass guitar and you're really smashing it with a limiter, you may end up with a very odd sounding instrument. You may have guessed what you should do... PRE EQ.

If the compressor is doing odd things to the sound of the instrument, do some PRE EQ carving to shape the instrument so the compressor has a more even sound to compress. (TIP, always compare what it sounded like before you tweaked it.)

2) You are almost always going to lose some top end fidelity when compressing. For this reason (and others) many people choose to EQ post compression to try and make up some of the sound lost in the high frequency range caused by compression. Some people compress post EQ almost all the time to try and make up for compression. Not a bad idea.

This topic came up when I was discussing Chris Lord Alge's techniques for mixing. He has a very over-the-top compression sound and he is also known to HEAVILY EQ things. Well, you'll notice if you have the CLA Waves SSL Bundle that all of his presets use EQ before compression. The presets boast a lot of EQ and a lot of compression.

Now, the SSL EQ's are extremely aggressive. They have a bite that is coveted by many engineers. What I've noticed is that you can use this aggressive EQ and the compressor will take off some of the bite. You would also need to add a lot of HF EQ because of how much the compressor is affecting the sound. I guess what I'm getting at... CLA can heavily EQ because he runs the EQ in PRE and then compresses so heavily (dulling the EQ and making it not so extreme). This is part of CLA's massive sound.

Now I don't subscribe to this all the time. I think I'm a bit less extreme than CLA is... and he's a freakin' beast and makes amazing music. To draw a comparison feels pretentious at the least... so I don't :) I do find it useful to use both techniques for different situations.

As you are learning, try being aggressive with compressors and EQ in order to learn the sound of your gear BUT I would encourage you that LESS is definitely more. Your more natural sounding mixes will be loved... I promise. You can slowly work your way into more aggressive mixing as you learn where "too far" is. You've gotta learn what real instruments sound like and how to finesse them into musical submission. It takes a long time. I'm still working at it!!

Hope this stuff helps!!

Friday, July 3, 2009


When recording instruments where there could be a lot of click bleed from the headphones (vocals, acoustic guitar) use the "PCM" sound for the click track. Something about the frequency of the click doesn't bleed through the cans too much :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Organizing Files! The nightmare tamed!

There are two things I really hate... paper and cables! These things clutter my life more than anything else. It happens less now that I'm not doing so much arranging, but I still hate paper... how it piles up. Cables, how they get tangled and messy and how they never wrap up just right.

A close third on my hate list is FILES! Files are a necessary evil for us all (all of us who use computers anyway).

I've come up with a plan that seems to work well for me. I realize there's probably some loopholes in this plan but it has served me well.


I recommend saving a new session file whenever you do something major to your session. Your session files act as a timeline for your project. Find significant points in your production/mix to save a new session file.

It's also important to save the date and time in the session title. Yes, I know that these things are tagged automatically to the file, but I find it useful to put it in the title. For one, it organizes your session files roughly by date and time.

ex. "Get Me 2 U-061709 0554pm drums completed.ptf"

The date and time always follow the title THEN put any additional information. This keeps your files nice and organized.


All session files I am not currently using go into a file I've created called "old sessions." Without exception, the only session file in plain sight within my session directory is the current one I'm working on. You can color code it too if you want.


I also create a folder called "00 BOUNCE" (the '00' ensures that this folder stays at the top of the directory). This is where I save all of my printed mixes.


It's happened to me time and time again. I print a mix, show it to the client and we move on. Later someone says, "You know, I wish we'd not made those changes. Can we just go back to the last mix you sent and start from there?" That's when I'd find myself in trouble. If I did not save a session to correspond to the printed mix, I would have no way of getting back to that point. I have your solution!!! ....

When it's time to print a mix save a new session based on the date and time but add the tag, "upld1" to the end. So your session file would read "Get Me 2 U-061709 0605pm upld1.ptf" Now print your mix and give it the same title "Get Me 2 U-061709 0605pm upld1.wav." Now once you're finished printing save a new session file and label it one minute after the print "Get Me 2 U-061709 0606pm.ptf." That leaves a session file unaltered from the way it was when your song was printed. You tracking with me?

The reason I do this is because I would often save a new session before I print a mix but I would then alter the session file without realizing it. If I needed to recall 'upld1' the session file would not sound the same. This ensures you'll be able to pull up the mix because any alteration will be made to your new file. Be sure to then put all of the unused session files in the 'old sessions' folder.

Adding the tag 'upld1' or 'upld1' allows you to track which mixes/session files have been printed and sent to the client. This is extremely helpful when referencing each mix.


When it's time to print the final mixes, you treat your session files the same way. Save a session file that corresponds to each printed mix. 'GET ME 2 U-M.wav' would have a session file titled 'GET ME 2 U-M.ptf.' I always put the final mixes in all caps to help me find them easily. Putting the final mixes in a unique folder also can help.

Happy organizing!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

When the chorus gotta pop the bass gotta drop!

OK the title is pretty gay but it's just something I thought about doing (and had heard before but forgot about).

Try duplicating your bass track in order to process the low end differently on the verses and the choruses. The idea is to decrease the low end by a few db in the verses so when the chorus comes in there's an added amount of low end!

Short post but I thought you might want to try it. Also, try listening for this technique in other mixes. It happens more than you might think!

Happy mixing!!!


P.S. I just got new monitors. ProAc Studio 100's paired with a Bryston 4B (the amp is borrowed for now). I'm in mixer heaven. Up next: a summing mixer and new clock! (more on the clock soon!)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Buss Compressors and Parallel Compression

There are SOOOO many ways to use compression. I consider Michael Brauer a genius when it comes to mixing with compression. He is unbelievably innovative and has worked long and hard to develop his fantastic technique.

I remember hearing Coldplay's "Violet Hill" and being so impressed with its unique sound only to find out that Brauer mixed it (he's mixed a LOT of Coldplay stuff). I found this article where he talks about the process of mixing this fantastic song. Check it out...


Also be sure to check our Michael Brauer's website and try to read through all of through and contemplate all of his Q&A stuff. WOW!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thoughts in my head while mixing

I consider this to be my most revealing blog post yet. While mixing, I'm constantly having remind myself of fundamental mixing techniques that lead to good mixes. I have a horrible memory so I started to write many of my techniques down so that I could reference them when I was having a bad day. I may not do these things all the time, but in those times where I'm struggling with a mix, it is most likely because I forgot to do one or more of the following.

If I had to point to one thing that leads to poor mixing it's moving too fast and not LISTENING enough. You've gotta be patient. The following all relate to patient mixing.

DISCLAIMER: These are not all MY ideas. They are things I've picked up on from all kinds of engineers and mixers. I'd also add that everyone's mix style is personal. These are just things that I do and I may not do them forever. For all I know I'll check it up tomorrow :) For now... here they are.


* Listen a lot in mono. Panning, balance, and phase relationships are more easily adjusted when in mono.

* Listen mostly at one volume level. This allows you to judge energy levels and keeps you from getting pumped up simply by turning up the volume. Sometimes you need pumped up, but generally one volume will do.

* Start with Kick, bringing their volume up to -10db on the meter. This gives you plenty of headroom to build a dynamic mix. Next, bring up the snare (probably close to -10db as well). After that bring up the bass (level is typically a touch lower than the K and Sn). Often times vocals are next!

* Balance is the most important part of mixing. Set general levels before adding compression and EQ.

* Set levels with one section of the song (perhaps the second chorus). Set up a loop and start pulling up faders while adjusting balance and panning.

* Try setting up the vocal ambience with just K, SN, bass and the vocal. This ensures that you're giving priority to the vocal's needed space in the mix.

* Try filtering out the low end and/or high end before reaching for the EQ pots. This could be the needed solution when your trying to get instruments to pop out in the mix

* Make things bigger and more exciting by using chorusing, harmonizers, delays and other audio enhancers

* Make small adjustments! A little goes a long way.

* Even when using many FX in a mix, try using one reverb to glue things together. I've had a lot of success with a large hall setting for "bigger than life" mixes and medium studio spaces on more intimate tracks.

* You can use more ambience if you use pre-delay. Try using a delay plugin on the bus before the reverb instead of using the pre delay on the reverb itself.

* Listen to see if compression to control dynamics is actually needed before automatically adding compression. Yes, at times you want to "color" the sound with a compressor, but many times you don't. Being conservative with compression will make your mixes bigger.

* Leave overheads, toms and room mics out of the mix until much of your levels are set, then begin adding them in as needed. This will make for a very direct sounding drum sound, but I can even get a nice roomy sound with this approach.

* Separation and clarity are the goal. Don't automatically try to dirty things up.

* Make automation changes manually rather than drawing them in. This helps the mix breathe and stay organic. It will also challenge you to use your ears more!

* EQ FX sends before the FX unit/plugin. This helps keep phase in check.

* Ride verbs and delays around the vocal to keep things clear and "in your face."

* Use different FX for different parts of the song.

* Find the most important elements of the arrangement and emphasize them! ... or de-emphasize things around them.

* Ride the master bus to add energy and dynamics. (i.e. bump the master bus by .8db during the choruses)

* Subtractive EQ is cleaner, but additive EQ can be very musical and can bring things forward in the mix.

* Ride the vocal for excitement or to gain intimacy. Particularly listen for interesting parts of the vocal that might get missed... bring these up.

* Make balance decisions at low volumes, especially vocals.

* EQ the vocal after you compress it UNLESS odd frequencies are being emphasized by compressions. If this happens then add an EQ before the compressor and notch out the bad frequencies.

* Vocalists often have a different tonality when singing high and singing low. Try automating EQ when needed OR set up separate tracks and EQ each track a little differently.

* Keep the "motor running" throughout the entire song. Be sure that the motor (hihats, ride, ghost notes on snare) are present in each section.

* Use "EQ Carving" to make space for each instrument. This is even important when instruments are panned hard left and hard right. If carve these instruments too, your mono mix will be better and so will the stereo mix.

* Do fade outs in mastering (because the master fader is pre-fader... the mix will fall apart as the master bus compressor is disengaged)

* Compress less than 3db on the master bus.

* Be conservative when limiting the master bus. Take the limiting off (or decrease it a great deal) when sending off for mastering. I try to limit less than 3db.

* Begin the mix with nothing on the master bus, 1/2 way add some buss compression, when you're close to the end add a limiter just to see what mastering might do to your mix.

* If the groove is off or everything seems unsettled, try nudging certain tracks. It may be that the guitars or bass are ahead. Nudging things back a big can make things settle down.

* Step away once every hour or so for a 5-15 minute break. If you get to the point where nothing sounds good... just stop. You're getting nowhere.

* Check balances sometimes from the bathroom or hallway. This "real world" listen will help you make good decisions.

* The vocal is most important... don't forget it.

* Even when creating a dry sounding mix, FX can still help with dimension. Just use short verbs and very short delays.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

When Pro Tools gets buggy

Every computer program gets bugs, even Pro Tools (go ahead Pro Tools haters... now's your chance ;0) If you ever come to find Pro Tools is just acting a little funny or crashing often if can be helpful to clear out the preferences, clear the cache, etc. I can never remember where these folder are exactly so I always end up searching google for the answer.

A fantastic mixes and friend, Shane D. Wilson turned me on to this little application, "Pro Tools Pref and Database Helper." It's a very quick solution for deleting the cached files that could be bugging up PT.

Very handy! Thanks Shane!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Understanding Digital Audio Clocking

I get asked about sample clocking all the time. YES, I do think that it's important and I do think that some clocks are better than other. Yes, I do think you can hear a big difference.

This is a great 10 minute tutorial about clocking. It will give you an idea what's going on with word clocks and digital sample clocking.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good Music

OK, this will be a short post. No pictures, no flare, no nothing. I'm not even gonna put links... google it!! ha.

I'm obviously a lover of music, songs, artists, sounds. Here's a short list of music I really love right now....


Gabe Dixon
Dave Barnes
Matt Wertz


Kings of Leon


John McLaughlin


Electric Light Orchestra
Elton John

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The difference between the talented and the talented and successful

I have the pleasure of calling some VERY successful people in the music industry my friends. These friends teach me a lot and I thoroughly enjoy being around them. I covet their friendship because we always have something to talk about. They are often recording geeks like myself. They can talk for hours about music like I can. I learn a lot when I'm with them. They are just great people to be around!

I've invariably asked myself "what makes these people so successful?" "What have they done that I can do?" I've determined the answer...

You see, there are TONS of talented musicians in the world. You can hear some of them playing for coins on a city street or subway terminal. You can meet them while they work the day shift at McDonalds. Talent is not the determining factor to success. If it were, there would be a "talent threshold" and anyone who's talent exceeded the threshold would achieve fame and forture based on their musical genius. No, you can find some very mildly talented people finding success in the biz. There are many exceptions that allude to the fact that talent is not the determining factor.

The determining factor is DISCIPLINE! A musician/producer who can meet deadlines, prioritize and "deliver the goods" has that unique factor that brings success. This is the secret sauce of making it in the music industry. It's what divides those with talent and discipline from the ones that are simply talented alone. I once asked a successful producer, "So, are you the kind of guy who always meets your deadlines?" He answered (with a smirk), "I never miss a deadline. This is very important to me." ... telling don't you think.

There are exceptions to this, sure, but there are very few lazy people truly finding success in the business. I guess you could say that this is why there are managers. True. I'd still be willing to bet that the laze musician who finds success will enjoy it for a much shorter time. The disciplined musician has a greater chance of enjoying long term success. Discipline allows a person to work within a set of rules that allow for efficiency. These rules also allow a person to adapt and chance course when needed. Thus lengthening the career of a disciplined musician's career. I know many artists turned producer turned manager turned successful record label owner.

You might say, "but wait, I spent years of my life being disciplined about studying music. I must be disciplined!" OK, I hear you. But, wouldn't you say that most of that "discipline" came from the love of music? Personally, I never considered my music study a discipline. It was a form of discipline, but I played because I loved it! I played because I enjoyed getting better. I loved being creative, not being disciplined!! Studying business, leadership and time management is very hard for the creative person.

If you think about it, it makes TOTAL SENSE why many musicians (and artists) have such a hard time building disciplines in their business. I personally spent 24 years of my life almost exclusively developing the right side of my brain. My brain has to be very lopsided! The discipline I was creating by studying my trumpet was creating a very creative person, but not a well rounded person. I think this is the case for most artists. We find it very hard to be disciplined, show up on time, etc.

For many of us, our talent has carried us too far. We've been allowed to coast through life... like the charismatic gentlemen who gets his way with women with little effort. He doesn't learn to nurture relationships correctly. It's far to easy for him. When the going gets tough, this man can cave in and leave the relationship prematurely. Creative people are much the same way. We get scholarships to school, get our picture taken with fans, free meals on occasion. Perhaps if if were hard for us, we would have worked harder.

The above is my story! It wasn't until I came to Saddleback that I realized that my success would be determined by my ability to get things done on time and deliver the goods to my clients. My successful (disciplined) musician friends painted a clear picture of who I would have to become in order to achieve my goals. I probably spend as much time reading leadership books as I do reading music books. It's a new life-long journey!

Check out this blog by Seth Godin. He touches on this subject. Seth is a marketing/business genius. His blog is worth subscribing to!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Imogen Heap and her crazy mind!!

Hey guys. I have a lot of "favorite" music. In all actuality, I don't typically single out many favorites because I just love music. It seems like whenever someone mentions an artist I know, I'm like "I love ________ they are one of my favorites!" I do that because I love a LOT of music.

For real, Imogen Heap is one of my favorites. She's a cut above creatively. I mean, seriously, she writes, produces and engineers her own songs!!!! and it's fantastic.

If you don't know of Imogen's music or you want to get a glimpse of how she creates her masterpieces, then check out her video blogs. They are fantastic.



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Have to post this...

If you're not a major audio nerd just LEAVE NOW. I had to post this because it had a lot of sense and I had not heard (read) this.

The topic is harmonic distortion. Harmonic distortion is added by tubes and transistors and adds harmonics on top of the sound fist in octaves, then in fifths...


Even order harmonics are more pleasing and add a thickness to the sound. Odd order harmonics introduce more dissonant colors and can be less pleasing. This would come in handy when dealing with your EL Distressor which has a distortion option (DIST 1 is even order and DIST 2 is odd order).

What I was excited to learn was about the pleasing and not so pleasing qualities of these two types of distortion. This was new to me. Thanks to Jim Roberts for posting this post. Check out his blog. It's great.

You can read more here.


Monday, January 5, 2009

TOP 10 PRODUCER MISTAKES (I know, I've done them all!)

I notice things about producers... things that people do over and over again that I notice. I notice them because I used to do them, or struggle with these things myself. I thought I'd compile a list of some of these things. Here we go... my top 10 producer mistakes... (in no real order)

#1) Caring more for creating cool, technical band arrangements at the expense of the song and lead vocal.

** Guys, c'mon... it's about the song! it's about the vocal!

#2) Leaving bad edits in your song, not cross-fading and checking things before they head off to mix.

** I notice this because some producers do this to me! They leave bad edits, don't cross-fade those edits and general leave things "unfinished." This stuff could make it to the final mix! Don't chance it. Your mixer is not your editor.

#3) Picking the wrong tempo for a song.

** I'm aware that this is preference but I hear a lot of songs that are simply to slow or too fast for the style. If it makes the song sound awkward, then it's the wrong tempo.

#4) Not being patient enough to get good vocals!

** It can take a lot of effort to get a good vocal take. It takes a lot of psychology to coach an inexperienced or nervous vocalist. What is worse is hearing a poor vocal performance but a killer guitar solo.. THE VOCAL IS KING! Be patient and get the vocal! Nothing else matters.

#5) Over-tuning or not being careful when tuning vocals.

** This takes time, but listen carefully and make sure you can't hear the auto-tune working. You might have to dig into manual mode and get picky but it' worth it. I like hearing out of tune vocals more than I like the sound of auto-tune! YUCK!

#6) Double tracking everything!

** To many guys, double tracking is the key to everything. It makes things bigger, covers mistakes, and gets you excited about guitars! Double tracking everything can also make for a boring mix! Double what is necessary. Leaving some stuff un-doubled (does that work to say?) makes the stuff you did double sound bigger in contrast!

#7) Putting high-pass filters on everything.

** I know some people that put HPF's on everything including kick and bass guitar. Now, this can be necessary but it sound be determined by YOUR EARS not what you think you should do. Use HPF's on when you have instruments competing for low-end real estate. Your mixes will sound thin otherwise.
NOTE: check stuff on small speakers. If you blow one up, you have too much LOW END :)

#8) Phasing issues with Overhead mics and guitars!

** There's one thing that my poor hearing has done has made me listen in mono more. What you'll notice is phasing issues. It is very easy for guitars to be out of phase because of the complexity the wave form (particularly distorted guitars). If you check your work in mono and the gain is decreased and everything falls apart you know you have phasing issues (I say "the mix folds into itself! that's what I think phasing sounds like.) Search google for ways to avoid phasing.

#9) Using synth pads all the time!

** Sometimes you need space in a mix. I much enjoy it! Pads can make things muddy and ACTUALLY they can make stuff sound dated and lame! Sometimes it is actually the right thing to do, sometimes it's not.

#10) Not using me as your mixer!

** I'm affordable and good looking. I'm sure to do a good job on your next record :) ha!!

UNTIL NEXT TIME "Stay classy San Diego!"

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Programming the Neko

I've really been enjoying the Open Labs Neko we just got at Saddleback. I can't wait to get my own!! Maybe I'll start collecting dimes until I have enough saved up.

I'm scheduled to play keyboard at FUSE tomorrow night and so I thought that'd be a good chance to break Neko in. I spent today installing all of my sounds and plugins. Since I was installing some 80gigs of samplers into the keyboard it took some time. It went off without a hitch. Already I'm having more fun playing this thing than any other keyboard I've ever played. The possibilities are endless for using your favorite patches and FX. Here's what I've got going so far.

Host: Ableton Live 6 (hopefully gonna get the upgrade to v.7 soon. Comes with some cool new sounds)
Instruments: Native Instruments Komplete 4, Reason 4, Atmosphere, tons of VST instruments that I've not even explored yet
FX and plugs: Waves Mecury Bundle (yes, I paid for this!!)
Controllers: NI KORE, NI KONTROL

The great thing about having a computer as the host for this keyboard is that I can make this thing sound as good as my studio. Some things I'm doing...

MASTER BUS: I'm using the Waves V-Series compressor on the master bus, warming up the sound and adding just a little bit of compression to the signal. I also have guitar rig running on the master bus. The reason I've done this is for FX. I'm using KONTROL as a foot controller for FX. Guitar Rig has several FX that I can kick on at any time. I've got a distortion, delay, reverb and flanger. It's just for a bit of fun when creating crazy sounds.

SENDS: I have Waves R-Verb set up for a general reverb, Super-Tap delay set to a basic analog delay, Super-Tap 6 with a crazy delay, True-Verb setup as a great sounding convolution verb. I can send any instrument to these FX at any time with the touch of one button.

GRAND PIANO: I have NI Akoustic Piano running a nice piano sound. I'm using the SSL Channel to beef up the low end and add some sparkle to the top. I'm also compressing just a touch. I'm using the true-verb send to give some great space to the sound. I LOVE THIS ONE!!

UPRIGHT PIANO: This guy is setup for rock piano. It's got heavy compression with the SSL Channel and a moderate delay that I can turn on at any time.

RHODES: I'm really proud of this one! I'm using a basic MK2 rhodes patch with a delay patch that I can add in. What I like about this is that this patch is being sent out a separate output and being sent to my VOX AC15 amp!!! Is that crazy or what??!?!?

B3: Using NI B4 I can create any patch I want. The faders also act as drawbars!!!

PADS: I have several pads each with it's own ambience and delay parameters. I'm using Absynth, Reason and Atmosphere here.

I gotta say. This thing is really amazing. Gonna have a lot of fun with it. More to come!!!

The Beatles

OK. I have an unhealthy obsession with the Beatles. When I was a kid I had a toy record player and I would play my dad's records (I'm 26 and I DO know what a record player is!). One record I remember was a 45rmp of "Help!" I recall being totally fascinated with that song. I loved that I could sing it (I learned all the words). I loved how energetic it was! I loved everything about it.

My dad was a music minister at our church. We had drums and other fun instruments there. Every now and then my dad would let me bring the drums home and play them. This was always a treat and it rarely happen. I remember one time, I was in 4th grade (right about the time we got our dog, Abby) my dad surprised me and brought home the drums. They were a beat up Tama Royal Star kit... bright red. My dad set them up near the stereo and put on all kinds of records for me to play along to. Among them were The Beach Boys, Elvis, ELO, Elton John and The Starland Vocal Band. The Beatles were played often those few days too.

It's worth noting that this is one of the few memories (one of 2 actually) I have of my dad sitting down to play the drums! I mean he was no drummer but I recall that he could keep the beat... he's musical of course. It's funny thought, I told my dad, "Dad, if I worked at a church where there were drums, I'd never get anything done... but you never play them?" I literally did not understand why he didn't stop every hour to go play all the fun instruments. But I didn't understand why my dad listened to talk radio either. ha!

Well, thanks for letting me reminisce about my childhood for a few minutes.

Oh yeah, the reason for the post. Over the last few weeks I've been reading books and watching DVDs on the Beatles. It's been a fun departure from my normal day-to-day arranging and recording. One such book I read was "Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording The Beatles" by Geoff Emmerick and Howard Massey. Emmerick was the engineer that recorded much of the Beatles work. It was REALLY great. Tony Guerrero got it for me as a Christmas present (it's actually an audio book so I actually listened to it.. I didn't "read" it). If you're into recording you'll like it. It's really interested to hear the way things were done in the 60's. If you just like the Beatles you'll love it too just because of the cool stories. Go on. Go get it.

About Me

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I'm a producer, mixer, songwriter. I recently moved from Orange County, CA to Nashville,TN I love making music. It is my means for creative expression. I've been married to my wonderful wife Erin for 7 1/2 years and I have a dog named Dexter.