Monday, August 30, 2010

The Attitude of Engineering - by Grant Greene

Get Yoshed is excited to welcome back Grant Greene in this week’s post!

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since you have seen me on A lot of things have happened since Yosh’s and my first blog. In what may seem a bit of irony, I have gone back to school to finish up my undergraduate degree. If you recall, Yosh suggested that I needed to take a ProTools training course. As it turned out, I did have to take a hard disk recording class as part of my degree. While it might seem there isn’t a lot to learn in an intro to hard disk recording class for someone that has been working with ProTools and other hard disk recorders for over 15 years, I did learn a few tips and tricks, but what I learned the most was a few perspectives of the up and coming engineers in this business and the instructors teaching these students.

During one of the first discussions of the class, the instructor asked the class what made each student hirable in the industry. Most of the students answered that their personality, or good attitude, made them good candidates to be hired at a studio. The instructor quickly dismissed these claims and said that to him, as a studio owner himself, knowledge and skills were more important than anything else. While I agree that you need to be smart and have a knack for learning quickly, I disagree with him that attitude takes a back seat to how well you know how to record, mix, or wire a studio.  Over the past 11 years, I have learned A LOT watching Yosh work. I can’t recall once where he told a client that something couldn’t be done. You give Yosh a problem, he will find a solution. While this might seem to validate the opinion that knowledge is more important to attitude, it is actually the opposite. It’s Yosh’s attitude that drives him to come up with a solution to any problem. He might not know the answer immediately, but he will come up with one, if not five. This is what makes a great engineer in my opinion.

Over the years, Yosh has had many interns and I can tell you this, while most had the “chops” to be successful recording engineers, few had the right attitude. The right attitude makes up for any lack of knowledge. Back in the “day”, there were no schools for recording. Those interested in breaking into the business didn’t walk into a studio with the knowledge to run a large format console, multitrack tape machines, and all the outboard effects gear. They weren’t expected to be able to record a full band or mix an album on their first day either. What they were expected to do was to make coffee, answer phones, get things for the clients, clean the studio, and keep their mouths shut. So you might ask yourself, how did they learn? Well this is where attitude comes in. Those with the drive and determination found a way to learn. If they were told there was a session at 10 a.m., they would arrive at 8 a.m., or earlier, to be sure everything was in order and help the client set-up for the session. If they were told that they only had to work until 5 p.m., they would stay to 2 a.m. to help the assistant engineer tear down. If there was no session happening at the studio, they would ask the studio manager if it was o.k. if they used the studio to hone their chops. Those with the right attitude can always learn something they don’t know. Working in an industry where things are rapidly changing, we are constantly having to learn. There is no way we can know everything about every piece of gear or software out there, but we can have an open mind and a drive to educate ourselves and add more tricks to our arsenal.

In my next appearance here on, I’ll touch on things interns should and shouldn’t do in the studio.
 - Grant Greene

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shure SRH840 Headphone Product Review

These days, it is always good to reference your mixes on headphones.  Sometimes listening to your mix on an iPod with earbuds just isn't enough…

Recently I had the opportunity to try out a pair of Shure SRH 840 headphones.  Shure is a company known for quality, durable, professional products.  We know that about their microphones, and their headphones are certainly set to the same bar.  Before you even put them on your head, the SRH 840s stand out.  Opening the box reveals sturdily built headphones that come with a convenient carrying bag, nearly 10 ft. detachable cord (love that length!), replacement pads for the ear cups, and a high quality, gold plated 1/8’’ to 1/4’’ adapter.

If you want your investment to last, the replacement pads are a great benefit, and even if you wear both included sets out, you can buy more pads sold separately for under $20.00, or swap them out for SRH440 pads if you like those better.  The detachable cable makes a big difference as well.  It makes replacing the cable of the headphones both amazingly easy and really affordable.  Of course, with Shure-like robustness, they made certain the cable won’t fall out of the headphones mid-take with a special bayonet clip. 

Decidedly, the importance of sonic quality heavily outweighs all this out-of-the-box appeal, and the SRH 840’s sound live up to the same standard of quality.  My first impression was that there was a clarity and tightness in the bass, and still a consistent balance of all the frequencies in the mixes I referenced.  When producing headphones it’s easy to screw up the bass, the high end, and the mids, and it’s a great treat to listen to a pair with such accurate bass, smooth highs, and a midrange that creates a good mix, consistent with my reference speakers.  So many headphones have a scooped out midrange that sounds hyped, but as a professional, I don’t want hyped, I want precise.  I need to know what frequencies are being produced.  Professional grade equipment should absolutely be different from consumer gear, and Shure’s SRH 840s were truly built for the professional engineer or musician. 

Certainly, if you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones, the SRH 840’s are a worthy candidate.  Comfortable enough that those long hours of headphone use won’t leave your ears in pain, one of the best headphones sonically I’ve ever heard, and the same durability the Shure name is known for.  These headphones are an incredible bargain, as well.  Priced at only $199.95, the SRH 840’s are a sure bet (pun intended).  

I’ve outlined a few specs for you below.  Have any of you used the 840’s?  What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Transducer Type: Dynamic neodymium magnet
Frequency Range: 5Hz – 25kHz
Max Input Power (1kHz): 1000 mW
Impedance: 44 Ohms
Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
Driver Size: 40 mm

Friday, July 30, 2010

Piano Miking 3 - Kevin Edlin

This is Part 3 in a series of blogs dedicated to my late brother, Frank Jaszcz who passed away earlier this month while fishing in Yellowstone National Park.  My brother was such a fan of Frédéric Chopin.  He would always try to play his favorite piece, the Polonaise in Ab Major, Op. 53, and though he wasn't the greatest pianist I've ever seen, his passion was a joy to watch.  In light of his love of classical piano, this week's blog posts are all about recording piano.  We started with some of our thoughts in Part 1, got opinions from Randy Poole in Part 2, and this is Part 3 with special guest Kevin Edlin.

Kevin is an extraordinary engineer who has done many classical recordings for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra and has done recordings of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess for Decca Records, and the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 on Naxos among many others, in addition to his role as a guitar player and sound designer for his band Seven Cycle Theory.  My Brother would have loved him because he obviously has a genuine love for classical music.  He was kind enough to offer GetYoshed his thoughts on recording classical piano:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Piano Miking 2 - Randy Poole

This is Part II of a blog in tribute to my brother, Frank, who recently passed away while fishing in Yellowstone National Park.  After spending a weekend in Iowa with my family remembering his life.  One of those memories was his love of Frédéric Chopin, so it is in his honor that we wrote our blog on recording classical piano, and in his honor we are posting this follow-up today.

Randy Poole is a good friend of mine, and also a marvelous engineer.  Working for such artists as Take 6, Natalie Grant, Smokie Norful, and Anita Baker, Randy has gained a reputation for quality engineering.

Of course, every engineer will have a slightly different take on mic techniques, choices, and placements, so we asked Randy for his thoughts on miking a piano.  Here's what he said:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Classical Piano

My brother, Frank, recently passed away in Yellowstone National Park. A biology professor for many years, he retired this year at age 65 and was doing what he loved most… fishing. I spent the weekend in Iowa with my family, celebrating the life he lived and the lives he touched. So many memories were re-lived, and one of my favorites was his love for Frédéric Chopin. I’ve seen him attempt to play the “Heroic” Polonaise in A Flat Major countless times, a piece he truly loved. It is that memory that inspired this blog entry on the recording of classical piano.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Beats: LM-1 and LinnDrum

I was trying to remember exactly when I saw my first LM-1.. I remember seeing it on a session that I was setting up for as an assistant, but I couldn't recall the artist.  I checked in with one of my engineering mentors, Greg Reilly, at the Disc ltd. in Detroit. Greg started out at Holland Dozier Holland when he was barely out of high school. He has an R&B history that is longer than the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit.  Anyway.. He informed me that the first sessions that were done with Linn drum at that time were with a group called One Way.  They were a local Detroit R&B band that came into the studio in late ’79 or ‘80..  I believe at this time there were only 40 of these LM-1s in existence.

Once the more compact LinnDrum was actually released we saw them more frequently and their popularity peaked around ‘84 when Prince did "When Dove's Cry."  Leave it to Prince to eliminate the bass line and still get a hit!

My early experiences with the Linn were with a group called RJ's Latest Arrival..

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Beats: Roland TR-808

Twenty -five years ago the powers that be said hip-hop and rap music was a fad and it wouldn't last. Seemed to me at the time that I was witnessing the beginning of a new music era that would last a lifetime. There was too much passion for it to go away! Whether you are into the music or not, the one thing that we can all agree on is that the sounds that were used permeated all music including Rock and even Country. The basic sounds that were used then and used now come from the same sources. I remember the first time I saw an 808 drum machine. Dave McMurray, saxophonist for Was Not Was had just purchased it and was programming up a storm... It was like he had taken up a new percussion instrument and he was becoming intimate with every nuance of the piece. Up until this time musicians who had a penchant for rhythm but didn't play drums had to wait until they could get with a drummer and percussionist to work out the rhythm.

Now, one guy could sit at home and come up with the whole concept of the song with new and interesting sounds to boot! On first hearing those sounds it was a little unnerving because we had all been listening to natural sounds. What were we to do with such a thing? Why is it that the bass drum is sounding like an oscillator? The snare sounds like a toy drum!? Well, it soon became apparent that once a drum machine was laid out it inspired all sorts if sonic creativity....

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nashville Flood

Last week Nashville saw its worst flood any residents had ever witnessed. After 18 inches of rain in just two days, the local rivers just couldn’t contain the massive amounts of water. I’m very thankful my home and family are safe, but many lost a great deal of priceless items and more than 20 people lost their lives as a result of the flooding. Though the damage to the music community’s items don’t come close to comparing to those who lost their homes and family members, many priceless instruments and an incredible amount of gear was lost during the flood.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Conversation with Jaebets

I sometimes receive questions about mixing, music, and audio; I do the best I can to answer these questions and help out other engineers and students. Jaebets Honore (pictured at bottom) is a young engineer in Montreal, Canada. He and I have been emailing sporadically. This blog posting is our stream of emails.

Jaebets works for IBM during the day, but at night, this multi-instrumentalist is working hard to make it in the music industry. He plays, records, and mixes gospel music, and studies at Musitechnic in Montreal. Like many from Montreal, his primary language is French, and his English is a little choppy, but his questions are very valid. This is an ongoing conversation: Remember.. read with French Accent!



I’m a young musician and mixer from Montreal, somewhere in Canada, and

a fan of your work and want to learn from the best.

I listen a lot of your mixing and would like to know what is your

approach or how you dealing to mix a gospel song that you have to mix

from any one, other words, like the tye tribbett live album, or the

Israel one, did you take all the tracks from the live show or a lot of

the tracks are remake on studio...

and if you want to give something to encouragement me to never give

up... im here to learn...

thanks ...


Hi Jaebets,

The answer to the live recordings you are talking about is this:

They are usually a mixture of live tracks from the original recording and complimentary studio tracks that are recorded either before the live show or after.

For instance on Tye.. the drums, bass, many of the keys, guitars, lead vocals, and background vocals are from live.. But additional background vocals are rerecorded and blended with originals and certain lead vocals are repaired in the studio.. They also may have added more keyboard parts and guitars... There is no formula.. Just whatever needs to be bigger is made larger than life..

As far as encouragement ... If you love music there is no better way to enjoy it then by working in a studio.. So mix on my friend and have fun with it. Don't ever be too serious and miss the joy in the music!... And.. remember to take time to be with your family!



Ya, i do read all your stuff, it wonderful!!! U a lucky guy to have

that chance to mix all those tracks and albums.

For my concern, the work on a good studio it so hard, or all the

studios are full of assistants, now i try to run some gospel and r&b

projects but the money running low and the quality of the singers are

poor in my entourage, they do not like to push themselves. but i know

God helps me.

How ever, more technical, I like the idea to blend the live with

studio, but after, that's mean you could finish with 40 tracks for the

vocals... WOW! but what are your favorite tools to make a good gospel live

sound, you use a neve console, api, plug ins and hardware?.... and the

reverbs? ..

ALSO, the presence of the PIANO!!!YES, WHY THE PIANOS ON ALL THE








Didn't mix the Clark sisters cd.. just tracked it.. Not my work

How do the horns sound on Kirk Franklin? Or Check out the horns on the latest Ken Reynolds cd " One World/one God" (Integrity). You might like..

But yes sometimes the producers do want things overly compressed and sometimes there can be problems with mastering after it leaves me.

About the track count....after you record the vocals bounce them in stereo pairs .. Tenor, alto, soprano to make them more manageable ..

Anytime you can make decisions like that ...the easier it is to mix..



Nice Drum mix on the Ken Reynolds project; compress to the max ...

like that... and brass sound a little bit more musical... like that...

but you didn't answered about the gear that you like to use to mix

vocals or instruments for gospel... and the piano have to be always on

the back ...


Gear is not that important.. I use what's available.. As far as pianos.. In today's gospel there are way too many elements competing for each other.. I love the piano to be up front but can't always have it.. If there is just b3, piano and guitar then of course the piano will be prominent ..if people would go back to the roots then piano would be paramount again.. You should start a new trend and go back to minimalist gospel.. And as far as horns and strings are concerned they should be used minimally on a CD 1 maybe 2 songs ... Go listen to "Oh Happy Day".. That's minimalism at it's best.. Your comments have nothing to do with mixing disrespect .. What I mean is that the things that bother you about gospel mixes are the arrangements .. If one is going to use all those instruments there must be a sense of arrangement.. A good example of how to use all those instruments if one chooses to do so is by listening to any Sinatra tune.. Listen to how everything falls into place.. There are moments when instruments are featured.. And when the vocalist sings.. Nothing competes.. If you want a great mix find a way to blend a great Gospel song with a great arrangement and the mix will mix itself.


wow this was good, u right... sorry for my misunderstanding, i forget

the arrangement part. like jazz big bands...

Just to clarify, the arranger is with you when you do the mix, right.

Sorry but i taught that we have to do the in and out of every

instrument that we want to be hear at a specific moment, like


I will do some good mix with the material that i have and tried to

push me more and listen more music ( i already listen on repeat

tracks). but my mix for now will never sound like yours... i have to

practice more and try to fine a good studio to accept me has an


I like the example that you give me to pay attention; could you give

me some more... to learn...




I did a arrangement for next week and i use the same approach that you

told me, and it's good, for it's so hard to influence people to be

that professional, but it's a good start for them.

Just like that, i read something about the LA-2A; that machine could

boost you sound about 40 DB!!! My question is : Did you use a lot of

compression on your mix?

Did you like hardware compression module or Computer like the Waves

plug ins? (I know that you told me you use what's available, but be


And give a example of somehing that you compress a lot and something

that you don't have a lot, and your point of view.


Bravo on trying to make the arrangement better..

About the LA - 2A. I doubt that it would boost your mix 40 db ... But it is a great compressor/ limiter.. Used mostly on vocals and bass.. There's a switch on the back that goes from compression to limiting.. I use it mostly on compression for tracking vocals.. It is very smooth.. Have never used two on the two mix, though..

As far as mixing in the box I use McDsp compressors and Mcdsp Filterbank eq's and some waves stuff including the SSL strips and two-mix compressor.

I also use some plug-ins from a company called PSP audio;

Vintage Warmer, and some of their other eq's and compressors

For efx... I use all the stuff from Sound toys.. Echboy, tremolator, filterfreak, etc...

Verbs... I rely on TLspace and Waves Rverb..

Hope this helps..



this will help...

This week end i will rec a church service with the 003 plus and

externable device to have 16 inputs, I am limited but i told my self if

in the past people were able to record with a 4 tracks... i could do

it ... and i will do my best to make this sound good...

What that i learn from you, it's that's you trying stuff, you not

stuck to one plug ins, but you use everything that you could have in

the hand.

For now i will buy a APA32 from waves to run the RTAS from them and

also I have a UAD-1 from UA. And I like the sound of the Pultec on

drums and some instrument.

But the Best Plug ins made for me it's the Waves Plug ins, With the

Vintage and the SSL ( but I never tried the API but people said they

sound good.)

And also Im trying to Buy a TC Electronics M-One XL for the RVB and

Delay, for my live sound and Studio...

I think with all i got now i could do a good Job, and practice.








I pay attention to the song and the vocal performance to see where it leads me.. Once I understand the structure I tear down the structure and build it back up.. Most times that means starting with drums and bass and making that foundation solid.... Then add the rest of the instruments.. But you have to put the vocal in soon after to make sure there is space for it..

Not a fan of gating bass.. Kik sometimes.. Depends on what you are going for.. You could use the SSL plugs for gating if you wanted to experiment.



Now I’m working on a mix, and never satisfy with the sound but i have

waves plug ins ( V comp, SSL... ) I trying to make it sound good. My

question is:

how many hours you could put on a mix... To be satisfy, and when you

feel like you finish to mix that song.


As far as your question about how long to spend on a song..

To start it is best to try to do the initial mix as quickly as possible. I generally am able to get the basics of the mix together in 3 to 4 hours or faster.. Then I take a break and rest my ears and then dig into the details.. Usually my first mix instincts are the best and the rest is just "icing in the cake." if I spend too much time in the first part of the mix I could miss the whole point of the song..

The whole process should take 8 to 12 hours spread out over a day and a half.. But you have to know when to stop.. Sometimes it may only take a few hours..

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Mixer 2010

April 15th is more than just tax day here in Nashville; it’s also the date for the AES sponsored annual event known as the Spring Mixer, a mixing competition for audio engineering students. The participating students will be given the multi-track for a professionally recorded song, a studio at MTV’s downtown Nashville facilities, and eight hours to mix the track. They’ll then anonymously submit their mix to a panel of industry professionals, volunteering their time to support these students by offering their critiques and advice, and by judging the competition.

This year the students will mix a song entitled “Wall” by the hip-hop artist Da’ T.R.U.T.H. from their Grammy nominated album Big Picture, originally mixed by John Jaszcz and produced by Freddy Washington Jr. They will be judged by a great lineup of judges: Chris Stevensn (Carrie Underwood, Matt Kearny), Otto Price (Natalie Grant, Barlow Girl), Ken Love (Switchfoot, Toby Keith), Brett Teegarden (Veggie Tales, DC Talk), and James Waddell (Vickie Winans, Donald Lawrence). A big thanks to all of these Nashville engineers for their time and holding the responsibility of awarding the coveted “Top Mixer” trophy for the school who’s representatives create the best mix.

Schools participating this year will include Belmont, MTSU, SAE Institute, International Academy of Design and Technology, and the Art Institute of Nashville. The goal of this competition is education. It is an invaluable experience for these students to work and be taught by some of Nashville’s finest engineers. Thank you to these recording schools for facilitating their student’s educations and allowing them to participate in the event.

You can go listen to the mixes and hear the judging at 7:00 p.m. after a 6:30 social. More information is available at It’s a great opportunity to support the engineering students of Nashville and is a great AES event.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Studio Monitor Controllers

Home studios are growing hugely in popularity. Smaller budgets for projects and far cheaper professional equipment are making the home studio more and more appealing for many engineers today. We do quite a bit of Yosh mixes at home. We wanted to talk about one important component of a studio: the monitor control section.

The monitor controller has a number of important jobs in a DAW based studio. It allows the engineer to control the volume at which he listens, select reference monitors, select inputs, provide talkback, cut the speakers, listen in mono, and (maybe most importantly) convert the audio to the analog realm.

An engineer’s ears are his greatest tools and he has to be able to trust what he hears. This is why engineers buy very high quality monitors and keep them around for years after they “get used” to them. It is also why high quality processing is key. A signal path is only as good as it’s weakest component. Here at French Beach Studio, we use the PreSonus Central Station. One of the main reasons for this choice is its completely passive circuitry. It provides a very clean signal path, allowing the listener to trust the mix being heard is the actual mix, not the mix through another box.

The Central Station also allows flexibility to use powered monitors, a power amp with passive monitors, a cue system …whatever the studio requirements are. We use their digital input and high quality converters to feed our powered Adam A7 monitors.

Before we get too carried away selling one particular unit, however, there is one issue with it. We have used the Central Station in many studios, including our own, and have been very pleased with it. Nevertheless, we recently purchased a second unit, and found the folks at PreSonus made a change. The “dim” feature, and single button to pad the output, now attenuates the monitors by a whopping 20dB, rendering it pretty useless. It’s very convenient to listen on dim and then press one button to listen loud for a while, and go back to the previous level, without moving the knob. With a 20dB attenuation though, there’s just no use for it. If you start at a reasonable volume it’s practically inaudible when engaged, or blasts your ears if you disengage it. It is a severe disappointment in the unit, and PreSonus was less than helpful with the issue.

When shopping for a control section, it’s important to find a product that you can trust to process your audio and has all the functionality and flexibility that you need in your studio. Thankfully, there are many great products available today. Besides the PreSonus we have, there is the ever popular Mackie Big Knob, JBL makes a handy little desktop model with built in “room mode correction technology,” and there are even really affordable models such as the Samson C-Control. Whatever you choose, the unit has to work for you and aid in how you work, have the right inputs and outputs, be easy to use, etc. We’re mostly happy with the PreSonus, except for the new one. It doesn’t adequately aid in how we mix music, in the workflow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nashville Recording Workshop and Expo

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Nashville Recording Workshop and Expo hosted by the Audio Engineering Society last weekend at Belmont University. The two-day event featured panels, master classes, and demonstrations with some of the industry’s dominant professionals, and during any downtime between these events several companies and organizations were represented to exhibit their products.

NRW+E was kicked off in great fashion by renowned artist and producer Ben Folds. He delivered the keynote address; discussing the making of his new album he is just finishing now. From the recording techniques he and his engineer, Joe Costa, used for the strings, to his process for writing some of the songs, and struggles he had to complete his first major album without record label deadlines, Folds captivated the audience with humor and great insight.

From the moment the keynote ended, the cast of amazing music professionals began delivering information rich presentations. The list is too long to give credit to everyone deserving, but to name a few: Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift, Jewel), Lynn Fuston (DC Talk, Michael W. Smith), Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Iggy Pop), Mills Logan (Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts) Bob Bullock (George Strait, Reba) … I feel bad leaving so many out, but the list goes on.

The discussions covered a lot of ground. There were panels to discuss mixing, recording electric guitar, long distance collaboration, and developing a song in addition to several others. John Mayfield, well-known Nashville mastering engineer gave a master class on the basics of mastering. John Storyk, internationally known, New York based studio designer gave a presentation of practical acoustics. AES Nashville’s own Mike Poston gave a master class with Michael Fleming on home studio tech essentials.

Several retailers attended the NRW+E to exhibit their products and services as well as many manufacturers. AEA Microphones, Mackie, Endless Analog’s C.L.A.S.P., CAAB Audio, Whisper Room … Harrison, the legendary console manufacturer was there to demonstrate their audio editing and mixing software Mixbus. All in all there was a fairly decent turnout of exhibitors supporting the workshop.

For engineers it was a great opportunity to network with other professionals and catch little tips and tricks that may be of use. So often people in the same line of work don’t have the chance to talk with one another very often because they’re working at different places, but the benefit of seeing others work and hearing other’s viewpoints is undeniable. For students it was a huge learning experience. The wealth of knowledge represented was staggering and information was freely given.

I and the community owe the Audio Engineering Society Nashville Section a huge thank you and a round of applause for their highly successful second annual NRW+E. I would encourage you all to attend the 2011 edition. -Jon Blass

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Recording Drums... a few tips.

The drum recording can make the mix a joy or a gigantic hassle. The drum kit is one of those key elements of a mix that really make great music shine, but it all starts with the recording. What mics, where are they placed, how does one get the amazing drum sound they’re after?

First of all, it doesn’t matter if it’s a live recording with audience, a PA, and far too loud floor wedges, or if it’s a studio recording in any of the best drum rooms in the world, the most important component of a great drum sound is the drummer. Get a good drummer! He’s got to feel the pocket and hit the drums the way only a true drummer can. Additionally, a good drummer knows his instrument; he knows how to tune the drums, how to play the right cymbals, how to hit the drums, and how to make the kit itself sound right. Without a good drummer, any of the following advice may help, but won’t get that sound your mind craves.

Let’s start at the bottom. The kick drum is crucial. Ask any two engineers what the right way to mic a kick drum is and you’re sure to get at least two different answers. I’ve miked a couple kits with Yosh and he is not one of those engineers with “one right way.” I’ve seen him use an RE-20, and MD-421, a Beta 52, an Audix A6… It really depends on the drum and on the style. It takes a good engineer to know the microphones, know how they’re going to respond, and know how the sound they pick up will translate in a mix. The Beta 52 is a really consistently good microphone inside a kick drum, however, and Yosh likes to use it, especially in coordination with the Yamaha Subkick. It gives nice support for the bottom.

Next in line: the snare. Usually double miked, one from the bottom and one from the top, the snare is another really crucial part of a recording. As such, usually the snare, along with the kick go through the choice pre’s the studio offers. Yosh sometimes even brings his own favorites, Neve 33114’s. These pre’s are from an old Neve broadcast console and really help punch out those elements of the kit. Typically the top snare mic is a SM57 or sometimes a good pencil condenser like a KM 84 that has a 10 dB pad and high SPL handling. Typically this would be angled in from under the hi-hat, keeping it as off axis to the hats as possible. The same mics make excellent choices for the bottom, angled in at the snares to get that sizzle.

Speaking of the hi-hat, Yosh often mics it with a small-diaphragm condenser, but not too close. He keeps it a good 3 inches, or so above the hat.

Toms are usually MD-421’s, a classic. Again, don’t put them too close, the tone of the drum needs a little space to develop, but we’ll typically put one of these on each rack tom, and then on the floor tom we put one above and one underneath the drum. This technique really allows the power of the floor tom’s lower end to come through and fully impact the sound of the kit. Make sure that the bottom mic on the snr and the floor tom are electrically out of phase by inserting the phase switch on the pre.

It’s important to remember when dealing with a drum kit that the kit itself is an instrument as a whole. Each drum is not treated as an instrument but as part of the one instrument. This is one of the reasons why the overhead mics are really an important part, and often a good place to start listening. Though overheads are used primarily for cymbals, it makes such a difference when the engineer is careful to make sure the whole kit sounds good through them. The overheads can help a tom drum sound full and big and can add the perfect ambience for the snare track.

The method Yosh uses for his overheads vary, once again, on the style, situation, and room. In a studio situation, he typically uses two large diaphragm condensers, one on either side of the kit, above the crash cymbals. Quite often he’ll keep these rather low and close to the cymbals. Of course, with this technique, take great care to make sure the microphone can handle the high SPL of being so close when the drummer feels inspired. Another problem that can arise if the engineer is not listening attentively is the whooshing noise of the air as the cymbal moves after being hit. Really good microphones such as U-87s make great selections. Another technique we sometimes use is the XY pattern over the drummer’s head. This is a bit more spacious and doesn’t always achieve the same stereo width, but is sometimes the right method for the situation. However, in a live situation, Yosh uses three condensers: left, right, and center. This allows him to bring them in rather close to the kit to achieve as much isolation from the live elements of the PA as possible without losing the center in the mix. This is done because sometimes vocals are fixed in the studio and by keeping the original vocal out of the overheads it it is easier to repair the vocal without the bleed.

Where to put the room mics completely depends on the room. We try to find a place in the room to put two microphones that will capture the sound of the room and add reality and great space to the kit. Often, Yosh will select a pair of good ribbon mics that respond smoothly and evenly.

Beyond that, it’s up to the creativity of the engineers to get the sound they’re looking for. Sometimes what’s needed is the sound of a 57 pointed at the glass and then run through the worst sounding guitar amp the studio can manage to find. Most importantly, use your ears. If it doesn’t sound good, don’t do it because you read it in a textbook or on a blog. Each day in each room with each kit is going to be so different that there is no one right way, the only right way is the way that sounds great.

This will be an ongoing discussion with some more interesting techniques to follow.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tracking at Westlake

Best part about coming to LA are the restaurants. My favorite hang is Canter's! Not only for the food but for the Seinfield like atmosphere!

Only a mile from Westlake on Santa Monica, it certainly beats breakfast at the hotel..

Speaking of Westlake... They are still one of the best studios in LA.. Unlike some studios they stay up with the technology and make sure all their PT systems are up to date with the latest software.

Not only that, but they still have a fantastic mic selection.. Their Neuman M-149 turned out to be the best fit for our vocalist that Kurt Carr was producing.

I also had the opportunity to work in studio D, the room that "Thriller" was done in, recording the 11' Yahmaha.. Boy did that piano sing! Since there were several tracking sessions going on at the complex and the mic selection was running low I used two AKG C 414's running through a pair of Neve 1073's. Of course it didn't hurt that Kurt Carr played on one song and Michael Bereal on another!

After that we went on to record Kurt's background singers... Always a treat.. The room souned great using some Neumann U-67's .. but, because we do multiple passes and to avoid buliding up too much room we placed some baffles around the vocalists to minimize it.
All in all, it was a great session.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Endless Analog

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to record rhythm tracks to analog tape. This isn’t something we do often; the ease of Pro Tools so often trumps the vibe of good ol’ magnetic tape. However, this session was a little different. Chris Estes of Endless Analog ( was kind enough to bring a little box he calls C.L.A.S.P., or a Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor. We recorded to a Studer 24-Track analog tape machine while simultaneously recording into Pro-Tools HD in the A room at Nashville’s own Quad Studios on Music Row.

The technology was truly amazing. It worked effortlessly with playing along to tracks already in Pro Tools and even Quick Punch worked perfectly. Missed a punch, just drag it back, just like using an all-digital rig. It was a lot of fun and a truly impressive box and the tracks came out great.

We recorded the band Like Candy Red (, a seriously talented band with three fantastic female vocalists backed by the ZodLounge music production team ( Be sure to check out a couple of the tunes we cut at the band’s Facebook page.

A Motown Medley

History is a crucial part of music. All of today’s music comes from a long history of development and sonic art. Last weekend we had the opportunity to work with the MTSU Record’s ( class to pay tribute to one of the great eras of modern music: Motown. The class is shooting a documentary of Detroit’s famed record company, and as a part of that documentary, we made a trip to Michigan to see the Motown museum and record a medley of Motown hits with some of Detroit’s top players.

Though we arrived late (a long story involving two flat tires, a tow truck, an assortment of state troopers, and an hour at the Walmart tire center), the majority of the group received a tour of the Motown museum by Musician’s Hall of Fame member and renowned Motown string arranger, Paul Riser.

The medley, a conglomeration of ten Motown hits juxtaposed by the class’ instructor, Dick Williams, was recorded at Studio A (, one of the area’s best recording facilities and the studio where I used to work while living in Detroit. The musician’s were top-notch: Louis Resto, keyboardist for Eminem, 50 Cent, and others; Donnie Lyle, the musical director for R. Kelly; Dave McMurray, saxophonist for Kid Rock; Ray Burton, bass player for the Spinners; and Ron Otis, drummer for Earl Klugh. It was truly an honor to sit on the other side of the glass from such phenomenal musicians.

MTSU graduate student Adam Price is leading the project with help from cinematographer Dacosta Jenkins. It will feature vocal performances by Jason Lane, Christina Adams, and Charles Collins, all undergrad students in the class. The rest of the recording will take place in the college’s recording studios and engineered by students.

It is exciting to see the development of this medley and documentary and the hard work the students put into them. The end result will undoubtedly be a quality production. I’m proud to be a part of this documentary helping to preserve the history of the Motown story.