Archive for the ‘recording’ Category

The Joy of Repetition

February 27, 2013

Berklee College

Here’s a songwriting lesson disguised as an interview on audio production. Doug Orey, Online Student Advisor at Berklee Music, interviews Stephen Webber, musician, composer, DJ, record producer, studio designer, and professor at the Berklee College of Music on the topic of Music Production Analysis.

Among many other gems in this 40 minute video are some examples of songs and artists that use repetition creatively. As part of his riff on repetition, check out the discussion at 14:35 on the ‘trust’ hormone that is produced in very intimate human relations and when singing.

Click here to watch the interview:

Gangnam Style, an explanation

October 12, 2012

I don’t know what the lyrics to this song mean, if anything. But if you think the US music industry is strange, you should hear how they do it in Korea.

According to a recent report, there are three reasons South Korean pop music is taking over the world:

1) Korea decided to produce pop music like it produces cars. Industrialize and focus on exports. South Korea is a relatively small country — any industry that wants to get really big has to look outside. So music moguls in the country created hit factories, turning young singers into pop stars and sending them on tour around Asia.

2) Korean record labels transformed the way music was released. From the beginning, new songs debuted on national television, not on the radio, like was done traditionally over here. That means the moment Koreans started listening to Korean pop music, they were listening through their screens. They were watching their music.

3) Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world. So early on in their development, record labels had to get good at YouTube. And they kind of perfected it. YouTube videos by Korean record labels were so good, they got tons of views overseas. And that’s how the record labels knew where to tour their acts. They knew their customers wanted them before they even got there.

Listen to the full report from NPR here.

Music in the cloud

June 22, 2011

Everybody’s talking about putting music in the cloud. Apple, Amazon and Google are all in the game, as are Pandora, Rdio, Napster and Spotify, among many others.

The New York Times’ Jon Pareles talks about the pros and cons from his perspective as a music critic, as well as what to expect as a music consumer and a musician. One consequence of all this easily accessible music has been the trivialization of music. A song is disposable. He says “The tricky part, more now than ever, is to make any new release feel like an occasion: to give a song more impact than a single droplet out of the cloud.”

The tricky part…is to make any new release feel like an occasion.

One way to do that is to have your album take advantage of the new technologies, make it interactive. He mentions a cutting edge project by Bjork (Biophilia) that has a smartphone app built around every song. I’m not sure whether that is something a small indie musician can do.

Read the entire New York Times article at The cloud that ate your music.

Back story of Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane

March 3, 2011

This article from Performing includes 2 music videos and an interview with George Martin where he plays early versions of Strawberry Fields and singles out various tracks, for instance, percussion only, or instruments but no vocals.

Watch/listen to the whole thing.

Broadcast quality tracks

March 9, 2010

Songwriters, check out this item from Taxi’s blog. It discusses how even a basic instrumental track with only one or two instruments can be sold for TV and film, and how much simpler it is to record this type of music at your home studio (compared to a full blown vocal piece with a band).

Affordable studio mics

March 3, 2010

Here’s a quick video review of Fett’s favorite and very affordable studio mics with a little microphone lesson thrown in. Fett is a producer/engineer and owner of Azalea Productions, a full-service recording company that specializes in independent artist CD’s and songwriter demos. He was formerly technology editor at Performing Songwriter magazine.

An unusual creative challenge

October 1, 2009

There’s a 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.

Anyone up for it?

Why should I check my mixes in mono?

May 18, 2009

It’s true that we’ve been living in a stereo world for many years now. Television is broadcast in stereo. FM radio is stereo. And AM radio mostly broadcasts talk shows or older music recorded in mono to begin with. So why does ‘mono’ matter? Because there are still some cases where your mix might get played back in mono or something similar to mono.

For instance, there are several wireless speakers on the market that are switchable from either left channel/right channel or mono. There are alarm clocks that’ll play a CD but only have one speaker. And more often than not, PA systems are set up for mono.

So what might you discover when you listen to your mix in mono? Some stereo effects panned hard left and right can practically disappear in mono playback. This might not be a concern if you’re only dealing with reverb returns. But if you’ve recorded a piano in stereo and panned the tracks hard L/R, the balance in relation to other instruments may seem totally out of whack in mono.

There are ways to combat this. You might buss (send) both channels to a third channel, panned up the middle, and blend it in a little. Or you can move your hard panning in toward the center a bit, maybe around 7/5 o’clock or 8/4 o’clock.

Bottom line: This issue is really minor compared to, say, 20 years ago. But it’s worth spending 15 minutes per mix checking the balances in mono, just to be sure that your work will retain its impact no matter where it is heard.

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 Studio Buddy.

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.

The Advantages of Using Session Musicians on Your Songwriting Demo

April 14, 2009

By Cliff Goldmacher

Why do professional recordings sound, well… professional? There are a number of reasons including high quality microphones, pre-amps, an experienced engineer and a well-designed studio space. But one of the single most important elements in a great-sounding, professional recording is the performance of the session musicians. There is a reason that the job of the session musician exists. It’s these musicians whose talent and studio experience contribute in a major way to the polished sound of a recording. Because there are different rules that apply when you’re recording an artist demo, I’m going to limit the scope of this article to songwriting demos specifically.

Shouldn’t I Be Able To Do This Myself?

While I am a big proponent of wearing as many hats as you can in your musical career, there are certain areas where it makes much better sense to rely on experts. First of all, it’s extremely important that you take ego out of the equation. There is no shame in having someone else play on your demo. Remember that a songwriting demo is supposed to put your song in the best possible light in order to “sell” it to prospective artists or place it in films and TV shows. It is not supposed to be proof of your studio musicianship. Recording your instrument in the studio requires an entirely different skill set than playing live. For lack of a better description, studio recording is more like music surgery than a musical performance. While you might be comfortable playing guitar in your living room or even on a stage in front of hundreds of people, it’s an entirely different ballgame to sit in a four by six-foot booth wearing headphones and listening to a clicking sound. Giving a note-perfect, dynamic and in-time performance in this kind of unnatural setting requires a special set of skills.

Isn’t It Cheaper if I Do It Myself?

Given that we all have to keep an eye on the bottom line when it comes to our recording budget, there is the temptation to save money by playing on the demo yourself. The problem with this method is that often it will take an inexperienced musician twice as long to get a viable take as it would a pro. One of the many advantages of using session musicians is that they are not only good at what they do but fast. In other words, the price you pay to hire a session musician translates into savings on studio time compared to playing the part yourself. Being fast in the studio is useful for another reason as well. When a session bogs down with take after take, it starts to feel a lot more like work. When things go quickly and smoothly, they stay musical and fun. Don’t discount the need for a session to stay enjoyable. My experience has been that everyone does his or her best work when the atmosphere in the studio is light and productive.

Great Expectations

When it comes to recording a demo, it’s essential that you keep your listening audience in mind at all times. In the music industry, there is a certain level of “polish” that record labels, publishers, managers and producers have come to expect from the demos they listen to. By bringing in the same musicians that play on hundreds of songwriting demos and major label record projects, you’ll be giving these industry types what they’re used to hearing. We’ve all heard from time to time industry professionals say that they can “hear through” your rough recordings. My recommendation is NOT to take that chance. You’ve only got one opportunity to make a first impression and you should give yourself every advantage. Also, even if there is one industry professional willing and able to hear through a rough recording, you’ll hopefully be pitching this song to a number of industry people many of whom will be expecting a professional sounding demo.

The Care and Feeding of Session Musicians

When it comes to working with session musicians, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, if you’re not comfortable writing out a chord chart, professional session musicians are perfectly capable of listening to your rough recording (also known as a work tape) and writing out their own charts. (See my demo preparation article for more details.) For them, charting is quick process that should take no longer than 10-15 minutes at the most. Then, when it comes time for the musicians to play, always suggest that they try it their way first. There are two reasons for this. First of all, you’ve hired them to make your demo sound great so you should give them a chance to go with their instincts before you offer any direction. Secondly, by letting them do what you’ve brought them in to do with a minimum of interference, you’ll create goodwill that will go a long way towards the overall vibe in the studio. In almost every case, what the session musicians come up with will be better than you ever expected. HOWEVER, if you’re still not getting what you want after they’ve tried it their way, you’re 100% entitled to politely ask them to try it the way you were hearing it. The ONLY appropriate response from a session musician to your request is “absolutely.”


It can be intimidating to work with such talented musicians, but remember, they’re working for you! One of my favorite expressions is “the best ones have nothing to prove.” In other words, when you hire pros not only will they be great at what they do but they should be a pleasure to work with as well. There is no reason to hire even the best session musician if they have a bad attitude. This is extremely rare but if it happens, I’d recommend never using that musician again. There are way too many wonderful, friendly and talented session musicians out there to ever settle for one with a chip on their shoulder.

If you’re not in a major music city like New York or Nashville but still want to use the best musicians those cities have to offer, it just so happens that I have a way of helping you do exactly that.

Finally, if you’ve never used a professional musician on your songwriting demo, do yourself a favor and try it out. You’re in for a treat and you’ll end up with a great demo.

Cliff Goldmacher is a producer & songwriter with studios in New York and Nashville. For more information go to

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.

How on earth did I get nominated for a Grammy?

April 3, 2009

by Zak Morgan

When Bullfrogs Croak

On December 4th, 2003, I listened to an unbelievable phone message from my good friend and PR agent Betty Hofer in Nashville. Congratulations Frogman, you’re a Grammy nominee.” I wish everyone could have the feeling that I had at that moment. I have a new understanding of some of the ridiculous NFL end zone dances you see every Sunday. Luckily there were no witnesses for mine.

How can a person get so lucky, you ask? Betty Hofer says, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” And that pretty much sums it up. There is no easy or cut and dried way to get a Grammy nomination, but you don’t have to have a big record deal or a giant marketing budget to get one, either.

I’m going to tell you the steps I took to make it happen and I hope it will help and inspire you.

Four years ago, at 29, I quit my “real job” and decided I was going to make my living as a children’s musician. I received lots of unsolicited feedback and advice from my friends and loved ones, and most of it was bad. Here’s an example: “What, are you nuts!?! You can’t quit a good job to be an entertainer! In hindsight, all of the bad advice I got had something in common: the word “can’t”. “Can’t” is the worst advice in the world, and I forced myself to ignore it. I decided to seek advice from positive thinkers who had already become successful entertainers. I watched what they did. I asked them questions. And I listened. Sadly, many artists look on others who have succeeded with scorn rather than respect. Instead of learning, they complain and have elaborate discussions with other starving artists.