Archive for February, 2009

How to record snare and bass drum

February 28, 2009

Recording Tips From Studio Buddy

This Article Originally Published September 2001
By Michael Laskow

Get Studio Buddy

Okay… I admit it. My name is Michael, and I’m a studio addict. It’s been a long time since I’ve engineered or produced any records, but I still think about twisting knobs and pushing buttons once in a while.

Throughout the years, people have often asked me, “How do I record an acoustic guitar?” and I’m happy to tell them. Then it dawned on me. We probably have thousands of members who have “How do I record…” questions. The answer? Studio Buddy™, The Home Recording Helper. A self-contained database that answers the questions most people have about home recording.

It’s FREE. It runs on PCs and Macs. And it’s small enough to e-mail to your friends. We’ve been quietly working on this for a couple of years, and are just a week or so away from launching it.

Alex Reed, TAXI’s Director of A&R, and myself wrote the hundred and some odd answers that are a lay person’s guide to getting great sounds out of your home studio, and our friends at Disc Makers, Recording Connection, and Tascam helped fund the programming.

The result is a program that will give you the information you need to make big improvements in your home recordings. Here are a couple of samples to whet your appetite. We’ll let you know when the final version is out, and where you can get your FREE copy. Enjoy.

“How do I record a snare drum?”

Recommended mics: Shure SM57, AKG 414, Sennheiser 421, Neumann KM 84, Neumann KM 184

For the snare drum, it’s always a safe and highly effective choice to use the venerable Shure SM57. Bring it in from the audience side of the kit and give it a 45 to 60 degree angle with the capsule about an inch or two above the head. The farther away it is from the head, the roomier the sound, but the more potential you have for phase problems. The closer to the head you get, the more bottom end you’ll get—it will give you that “goosh-y” sound. By the way, it’s always a good idea to have the snare mic follow a line to the drummer’s crotch—not that it’s a particularly good sounding part of the anatomy, but because it’s away from the hi-hat and any potential leakage problems.

Recommended eq for the snare is: +2@100Hz on the bottom if necessary; roll off 300 to 700Hz in the lower mids to eliminate the box-like sound; and +2 to + 6 dbs @ 5, 8, or 10Khz to brighten up the top end. Tuning the snare is very important in getting the right sound. If you encounter undesirable ringing in the snare, try a small piece of gaffers’ tape. You can also try taping a small piece of a feminine napkin to the outer edge of the top head to eliminate over ring.

Remember that a snare is full of transients, so keep your levels fairly low to avoid overloading your preamp, tape machine, or the tape itself. -2 or -3 VU or + 2 or +3 peak reading are typical levels.

“How do I record a kick or bass drum?”

Favorite mics: Sennheiser 421, AKG D-12 or D-112

If the mic you’re using has a pad switch, use it. If not, pad the input at the console. Mic the kick drum from the audience side, but only after throwing a sandbag in the drum to weigh it down. Let the sandbag touch the head (that the beater hits) just enough to dampen out any obnoxious overtones, but not the good, natural sounding ones. The mic should be placed about half way in to the drum itself and pointing at the beater. If you bring the mic in from the right side of the drum and angle it at the beater you will be avoiding leakage from the snare drum, which is a good thing to do. You can experiment with the depth of the mic, but always keep the mic pointed at the beater for maximum attack. If you want a “poofier” kick sound, you can point the mic away from the beater, but again, try to avoid letting it point in the direction of the snare to minimize leakage. If you want a roomier sound, you can pull the mic out of the drum a little bit. The further out you pull it, the roomier it will get. Some engineers use a second mic a foot or two outside the kick. Be sure to check the phase relationship of the two kick mics if you try that technique. If you have phase cancellation problems, they will usually manifest themselves by canceling out the bottom end of the kick.

Eq: If you need more bottom end, try boosting @ 60 or 100Hz. Try rolling off lower mids (300-700Hz) to get rid of a box-like sound. To add more attack, try boosting in the 1K to 3K range.

Remember that a kick drum is full of transients, so keep your levels fairly low to avoid overloading your preamp, tape machine or the tape itself. -2 or -3 VU or + 2 or +3 peak reading are typical levels.

Tips: If you don’t have gobos to block incoming and outgoing leakage, try placing a moving blanket in a tent-like fashion around the mic stand and kick drum opening. Tune the kick drum up or down according to the key the song is in, making sure that the tuning works well with the register the bass guitar is in.

Studio Buddy®, The Home Recording Helper, is a self-contained database that answers the questions most people have about home recording. It’s FREE. It runs on PCs and Macs. And it’s small enough to e-mail to your friends. To download your FREE copy of Studio Buddy®, just go to www.

Trying to get your Song Demos to major artists? Or your band’s Demo Tape/CD, to a Record Label? Then check out TAXI The World’s Leading Independent A&R Company.

The Universe is Your Dog

February 25, 2009

I knew Christine Kane by her music first. I heard The Four Bitchin’ Babes cover her song (No Such Thing As) Girls Like That and I loved it. Then I heard her singing again in a podcast from Bob Baker. That’s when I discovered her blog. Here’s an article of hers for songwriters and performers.

The Universe is Your Dog
by Christine Kane

“Start by becoming a pack leader in your own world and healing your own world, and the effects will ripple.” – Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer

One of the fun assignments in my Uplevel Your Life Mastery Program is what I call “Mental Dress Up.”

This is a game that you can play daily. It is designed to bring intentions to life by literally embodying them in your own being.

Here’s how it works:

Take a few moments throughout your day and Be [Fill in the Blank with Desired Thing].

As you’re driving you can become a published writer. What would that feel like? When you’re at a party, try being someone that everyone wants to talk to. Be wise. Be someone who has so many clients, you can hardly get through a day without turning people down. Be someone who is certain of what she wants. What does that feel like?

Don’t get all scrunchy-faced and try to VISUALIZE – which is a very high-pressure word.

Instead feel the effortless shift in you, and BE successful. BE a fun person. BE wealthy. BE a rock star. Whatever!

My client Isabella started using this technique when she decided to “be someone who loves to run with her dog in the morning.” She was amazed at the results.

Typically after a few blocks of running, she’d start wheezing and feel awful. But when she became “someone who loved running with her dog,” she had more stamina and felt great during the run. She got better and better at this game until she actually began to love running with her dog!

One morning, she was returning from a run. Another dog and his owner were walking in her direction. Isabella’s dog, Bruno, is still healing from an abusive past and can be aggressive with other dogs. So, Isabella started to get anxious, clinging to Bruno’s leash.

Then, she remembered Mental Dress Up.

Instead of getting nervous and reacting to her dog’s bad behavior, she focused on how calm she felt and how much she loved her dog. She also played Mental Dress Up on Bruno, feeling that he was always very loving and peaceful around other dogs.

It worked! Bruno was fine. He followed her energy, and they both headed home without incident. To Isabella, this was a nice little miracle.

At this same time, Isabella was beginning a new business. She had experienced a whole range of emotions from enthusiasm to fear to excitement to disappointment during the process. At one point, she met with her accountant. The accountant was skeptical, issuing warnings to Isabella about the numbers and telling her the reasons why the business wouldn’t work.

During our coaching call, she shared these stories – about the triumph with her dog, and about the discouragement from her accountant. She wanted to know how to deal with her emotions after this deflating meeting.

Here’s what I told her:

I said, “Your accountant is your dog.”


It’s true!

People follow your energy. It doesn’t matter if they are mentors, accountants, lawyers, audience members, listeners, friends, or customers. People follow your energy, just like dogs. You always have a choice to step up and lead them. Just like Cesar Millan has been telling dog owners for years. And just like Bruno showed Isabella in that one situation.

I told her that the success of her business would always be up to her. I told her that every business owner, artist or entrepreneur experiences bad news, good news, depression, loss, gain and insecurity. The decision to quit, fail, or succeed is always hers.

In that moment, her accountant might have sensed her fear and found all the negative stuff he could muster up to dissuade her. He became her dog and followed her energy.

You don’t have to be a Jedi master to tap into someone’s emotional state of being. You just have to be human. Had Isabella been feeling confident, most likely the accountant would have presented his views in a different light.

Ultimately, during our coaching call, I told Isabella this:

“The Universe is your dog.”

Everything and everyone follows the energy and emotional state you bring to it. Decide that you can do something, and the Universe follows that decision. Choose to radiate love and wisdom, and the Universe follows that radiance. This is not always an easy place to go. But it almost always teaches us about our own power to create or transform any situation.


Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her ‘LiveCreative’ weekly ezine with more than 4,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at

See Christine’s blog – Be Creative. Be Conscious. Be Courageous – at

Get out of the way

February 25, 2009

Creativity is something we are born with. Everyone has it. But not everyone uses it. In fact, many people believe they are not creative. By holding this belief, they are blocking it. It’s easy to block yourself. And the prevailing culture will encourage you to do so. If you say “I can’t do it” often enough, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, whether you’re talking about riding a bike or writing a song. You are getting in your own way.

On the other hand, if you say “I can do it,” there is great power in that. If you say it and believe it, it is even more powerful. Get out of the way and let your true self shine through.

Despite what your friends tell you, your teacher tells you or the media tells you, you are a creative being, full of good ideas and everything else you need to be a good songwriter can be learned through study, practice and working on your craft.

Unblock your creativity and everything else can be learned. So how, you ask, can I unblock my creativity? There are many ways. And it probably won’t be a single, once and for all unblockage, but an ongoing process. The good news is, the more you unblock, the easier it gets.

Many people meditate. It clears the mind of all those extraneous thoughts and opens it to things like creativity. Some people jog with similar results. Others take a walking meditation. Some people just get out in nature to get the juices flowing. Sometimes a good, thought-provoking movie, book or conversation will do the trick.

Negative or self-critical thoughts will block creativity every time. So that’s something to watch out for. When you are just starting to write a song, it is not a good time to be self-critical or self-judging. Later, when you’re in the middle of editing or rewriting a song, self-critiquing is called for. Just remember, you are not criticizing yourself, you are critically analyzing the work.

What is your favorite way of unblocking?

Your unique sound

February 18, 2009

Most musicians start out as music fans. Ask a musician how they got started and you’ll hear stories about seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan or going to a boy band concert and becoming a huge fan.

And often we try to emulate our rock heroes, their moves, their look, their sound and especially their voice. Get over it.

The best thing you can do is move beyond imitating somebody else’s sound, whether it’s a vocal quality or the sound of a favorite band.

Let’s say your favorite band is Coldplay. If somebody wants to hear the Coldplay sound, they listen to Coldplay. Unless you are a tribute band, stay away from trying to sound just like Coldplay. Sure, you might have a similar sound, but the important thing is to let as much of your (or your band’s) own unique personality come through.

What can you bring to the table that’s your own unique sound? It could be anything from an interesting perspective in your lyrics to an unusual combination of instruments to a quirky voice to a blending of musical styles. Find your unique sound and play it up, constantly and consistently, both in your performances and your promotion.

It’s actually a good thing that your singing voice doesn’t sound exactly like your idols. Your voice and your overall sound reflects your unique personality, vocal chords, training and background and sets you apart from all the rest.

Let the world know you’re a songwriter and proud of it, with Songwriter’s Tip Jar caps, T’s, sweatshirts, mouse pads and other swag. Check out the swag here.

Striving for Picasso

February 17, 2009

Do you yearn to be this generation’s most innovative, ground-breaking artist, the Picasso of the music world? Do you want to break the mold and create an entirely new musical style, something completely original and cutting edge?

If that’s your goal, I say go for it! If having goals like these helps you, more power to you. Unfortunately for me, that sort of thinking, if taken too far, causes a major blockage. When I start to compare myself to the world’s greatest songwriters, I just get a headache.

As a young songwriter, I thought that the goal was to create music unlike anything ever heard before. I thought each song had to break new ground and I judged myself harshly if I didn’t achieve it, which was every single time. The result was a complete creative shutdown, in other words, writer’s block. Holding such lofty goals, for me, is
simply counter-productive.

So now my attitude is much more self-supportive. I simply aim to be who I am, write what I write, improve my skills and continue to learn. It’s a completely freeing feeling to be OK with writing something that isn’t 100% unique and innovative. And as I get more skills and more confidence, I believe if I’m meant to be that sort of songwriter (a
Picasso, so to speak) that will fall into place.

Meanwhile, I get to follow my muse, express myself and some people even seem to like it.

How do you write melody?

February 13, 2009

Here’s a question we hear a lot.

Q. I have the very frustrating situation that, although I am good with accompaniments, I need help with how to arrive at a melody.

A. Good question. I bet a hundred different songwriters would give you 100 different answers. And then you would have to figure out which one (if any) would work for you. That’s not such a far-fetched proposition. But I’ll get back to that.

Here are some things that work for me. It helps if I’m not starting from absolute zero. What I mean is, if I have no music, no lyrics, no chorus, just a blank piece of paper, that’s the hardest place to start from, IMHO.

If I’m writing music to a set of completed (more or less) lyrics, that’s much easier. It doesn’t matter if I wrote them or someone else did. What I do to find a melody is to follow the rhythms of the syllables. I speak the words out loud to see how they flow. I may add a word here or there to make the flow better. Or I may stretch a word out or
make a section of words staccato. All this without singing a pitch. That usually leads to bits of melody, which lead to more bits which usually build into a complete melody.

Another thing I pay attention to in lyrics when I’m looking for a melody is the meaning or the mood. I want to support whatever mood is created by the words. Simply put, I don’t write a bouncy, happy melody to lyrics that tell a serious or sad story and vice versa. If you really listen to the words for meaning and mood, I believe you’ll hear the melody.

What if you don’t have the lyrics first. Another piece of the puzzle that can help find the melody is the chord progression. Some people, myself included, like to write the chord progression before writing melody. Maybe that’s because melody is hard for me to write, I don’t know.

At any rate, the chords give you a huge head start. You can limit your melody to only using notes in the chord being played at the time. That’s a good place to start. The chords also set a mood, so pay attention to that.

All right, now the toughest question. What do you do when there are no lyrics and no chords, no theme, nothing. One teacher I know suggests walking around. In fact, many writers do their best creative thinking while ambling about in nature. There’s something to this. It has to do with getting your blood flowing to your brain and with breathing more deeply than you would sitting at a desk. It has to do
with inspiration in the outdoors (even in a city) and it has something to do with relaxing, taking the pressure off. I has to do with all those things and probably a lot more. I can’t explain it. It just works.

I hope some of this was helpful. Now back to the 100 songwriters. Since all of the above is just one person’s opinion, wouldn’t it be better to get opinions from a large variety of talented songwriters? There are over 11,000 songwriters registered for the STJ message boards, plus thousands of others who drop in every month. Check it out.

Good luck.

Let the world know you’re a songwriter and proud of it, with Songwriter’s Tip Jar caps, T’s, sweatshirts, mouse pads and other swag. Check out the swag here.


February 12, 2009

Have you seen the web site called Album-a-Day, in which the site’s
owner challenges people to write and record a complete album in a 24 hour period and post it to the internet (preferably with no sleep break in-between). He then adds your project to his list. He defines an album as a minimum of 20 minutes or 30 songs.

His parting words: “A bad song is better than no song.”

Anyone up for it?

Use delay instead of reverb?

February 10, 2009

The most common choice for novice engineers who want to make an instrument sound “special” or more like a record is reverb. And while reverb is an extremely useful effect for giving mixes their own unique ambiance, there’s another way to achieve that sound without eating up as much space in your mix.

Next time you want to liven up an instrument without sounding gimmicky or obvious, send its signal to a delay unit. A delay usually consists of some, but not all, of the parameters you’d find in a reverb processor. You can use a short delay to add thickness (try 4-8 milliseconds with 10-20% feedback on a rhythm guitar); you can go a little longer for a “slap” effect often found on lead vocals (try 30, 60, 90 or 120 ms to employ an Elvis or John Lennon vocal effect.) Or you can use a really long delay (e.g. 800 ms w/40% feedback) for a more obvious effect, like having certain words of the vocal repeat and trail off in the distance.

Tip: For your lead vocal, try using a delay and a reverb. The delay is only used to thicken the vocal – dial up anywhere from 30-90 ms, with little or no feedback, and leave the fader just below where you can detect the sound of the delay. Then utilize the reverb (short hall, small plate, etc.) to create the more noticeable ambience for your vocal.

The information above came from “Studio Buddy — The Home Recording Helper.” It’s a self-contained, easy to use database of recording tips designed specifically for people with home studios. If you find this article helpful, you should download the FREE program at

Reprinted with permission from TAXI: the world’s leading independent A&R company helping unsigned bands, artists and songwriters get record deals, publishing deals and placement in films and TV shows.

© 2002 TAXI. All rights reserved.

Let the world know you’re a songwriter and proud of it, with Songwriter’s Tip Jar caps, T’s, sweatshirts, mouse pads and other swag. Check out the swag here.

An open letter from Ani DiFranco

February 9, 2009


“I’m just a folksinger, not an entrepreneur. My hope is that my music and poetry will be enjoyable and/or meaningful to someone, somewhere, not that I maximize my profit margins…I’m glad I didn’t sign on to the corporate army. I mourn the commodification and homogenization of music by the music industry, and I fear the manufacture of consent by the corporately-controlled media. Last thing I want to do is feed the machine.”

— Ani DiFranco

Have you seen the open letter (below) from Ani DiFranco? It was written in 1997, but her ideas are just as valid today, if not moreso. It’s well worth the time to read it if you are a performing songwriter or recording artist.

From the Ron E., the Righteous Babe Records Minister of Communications:

The li’l folksinger has asked me to distribute the text of this open letter to the editor of MS, in response to a short paragraph in their Sept./Oct. 97 issue. It’s a tad long for e-mail, but Ani wanted folks to be able to read the entirety of her message instead of an edited version. We would really like to see this posted on websites wherever possible.

**You may distribute or forward the following as long as you do not alter or edit it.**

November 5, 1997

Marcia Ann Gillespie
Editor in Chief
Ms. Magazine
135 W. 50th Street
16th Floor
New York, NY 10020

So I’m poring through the 25th anniversary issue of Ms. (on some airplane going somewhere in the amorphous blur that amounts to my life) and I’m finding it endlessly enlightening and stimulating as always, when, whaddaya know, I come across a little picture of little me. I was flattered to be included in that issue’s “21 feminists for the 21st century” thingybob. I think ya’ll are runnin the most bold and babe-olishious magazine around, after all.

Problem is, I couldn’t help but be a little weirded out by the paragraph next to my head that summed up her me-ness and my relationship to the feminist continuum. What got me was that it largely detailed my financial successes and sales statistics. My achievements were represented by the fact that I “make more money per album sold than Hootie and the Blowfish,” and that my catalogue sales exceed 3/4 of a million. It was specified that I don’t just have my own record company but my own “profitable” record company.

Still, the ironic conclusion of the aforementioned blurb is a quote from me insisting “it’s not about the money.” Why then, I ask myself, must “the money” be the focus of so much of the media that surrounds me? Why can’t I escape it, even in the hallowed pages of Ms.?


Where were you when the lights went out?

February 6, 2009

It was very eerie… reminiscent of 9-11. I watched from my living room window as the traffic to the Lincoln tunnel came to a stand still on the viaduct. People were standing outside their cars and trucks for about and hour. All the traffic was then diverted off the highway and the viaduct was empty! Manhattan was CLOSED ….

AGAIN ! All night long there was a mass exodus of people aimlessly walking from the NY Waterway ferries up the dark local streets, guided by the beam of their flashlights or the voices of the people in front of them.

At some point when it was still light, I decided to start grilling whatever meat I had in my fridge before it went bad. And of course I had to open a bottle of wine!

So what’s left for a songwriter to do … as darkness set in and the wine kicked in, I lit some candles opened up my notebook and started clustering!!!!! Broke out my guitar for the rest of the evening and now I have the start of a few new blackout inspired songs!!

submitted by Phil Risen,
Acoustic rock with a world beat feel and a blues edge

I met Phil at Paul Reisler’s Song Camp a few years ago, where he blew me away with one after another of his amazing original songs.