Evil Toy Piano Microphone Shootout

I thought I would share Eric Beam’s blog for my daily audiophile roundup. Beam is particularly versed in making music with different instruments and mixing different sounds together to make new types of music. He recently got a small toy piano, and he used some of his equipment to see what he could accomplish with his new toy.

A classic read from a creative mind. Highly recommended. Read the full article here:
Evil Toy Piano Microphone Shootout

What’s Wrong With Audio?

The Sonic Issues

Robert Green, in the April issue of Absolute Sound examines how speakers interact with the room and especially the floor. His discussion focuses on the frequency range from 100Hz.-300Hz. This is the frequency range where are vocals are present. He sums up his position by stating:

“Somewhere between 100Hz.and 300Hz. there is typically a deep and quite wide trough in the in-room frequency response. The problem is not primarily the speaker’s anechoic response, but the speakers not being designed to interact with the floor correctly. Some of the designers who presumably cannot figure out how to deal with this contend that it is not a problem and that floor bounce is a natural thing. This is nonsense. The natural floor interaction of the original event is already recorded, and whatever floor interaction a system adds, if it does, is spurious and musically devastating.”

Sound Effect

This frequency range that Robert refers to holds the key and emotional connection to our vocals. This is the range where most female and male vocals lie. Male vocals inhabit the range from approximately 150Hz.-300Hz. and female vocals from 200Hz.-400Hz. If we have a dip or trough in the frequency response in this range we lose information. If we can not hear this vocal range because of speaker design issues or room interaction response issues we are doomed if we are going to seek an emotional connection to the music, which has to be our goal.

Bass and Low Frequency
We have the same issues occurring with low frequency or bass energy. Bass notes have long attack and decay modes. It is in this attack and decay process that the true beauty of the bass instruments can shine through. As a bass note is played and is still present in the room, that note will begin to decay. The decay from the first note must be allowed to decay on its own volition and the room response must allow for this decay to unwind on its own and not blur and smear our presentation. Now, a second note follows and the process begins again. It is this attack and decay process that produces a layered bass foundation to our musical presentation where every note is heard in its entirety. The room must be designed to allow this process to occur or we get muddled and confusing bass sounds and we all know what those sound and feel like.

Solution

In order to allow for a tight layered bass response we need a large room. Unfortunately, most people do not have the ability to have a room at least 30′ long to allow for natural bass energy room response to occur. Acoustic product manufacturers claim that end users must “live” with the bass issues and focus on the middle and high frequencies for product design and acoustic control which are much easier to design for. This is nonsense also. Products can be designed to control bass energy attack and decay ratios, so the bass has a tight and layered presentation and we do not need to tear down walls and make the room larger. We also do not need numerous free standing bass absorbers placed throughout the room. In fact, one can take the opposite approach and physically make the room smaller if the bass absorbing technology is designed correctly.

Esperanza Spaulding – A Legend in The Making

Esperanza Spaulding: Complete Musician

Esperanza Spaulding is a bass player. She is 20 years old. She has the sonic wisdom of someone twice her age. She is also a singer and realizes that both vocals and instruments are separate but related issues. In her interview in the April issue of Bass Player Magazine, she discusses her philosophy on both vocals and instruments and how she feels they are intertwined. When asked by the interviewer about the relationship between singing and playing she said:

Philosophy

“You can think of it like a piano player’s two hands, they generally move independently, and the combination of the two gives you the sound of the chord changes. Singing and playing allows you to be like a pianist in that your aware of how the line of your voice and the line of your bass together form a counterpoint that implies the harmony. The key to creating a good bass line is to remember what was already played and is still hanging in the air. If I play a B in a G chord and I am going to a C7 next, then I want to go back to the B and resolve it up to C because that B is still in the listener’s ears. You have to control how the line resolves into the next harmonic sound: notes are not separate incidents. Great bass players are really in touch with that knowing what was just outlined and what was left unanswered. They only have a single line, but with it they try to weave and sew through all the important notes in the harmonic progression”.

Chicken Skin

Ms. Spaulding knows the importance of one note played and that same note heard correctly in the room in which it is played. She is big on harmonics and how each note contributes to the overall presentation. Look back at your favorite music. You will see that relationship in a vocal harmony or a guitar break. It is that single note or fretboard slide that causes a resonant frequency inside your body that lets you forget everything else at that particular moment and emotionally connect to the music. We all know that sound. It is that sound that causes goosebumps or as my grandma used to say, “chicken skin”. There is no need to explain the cause and the meaning of the “goosebumps” to others. It is immediately understand by all, with no words or explanation needed.

Esperanza Spaulding: Acoustical Engineer

Musicians like Ms. Spaulding are good role models for acoustic design companies to emulate in their product design parameters and their overall acoustical performance philosophy. Every note is important. Every note must be heard and the room and its acoustical design and treatment must allow for this to occur. Acoustical products must be designed to provide the proper amounts of rates and levels of absorption to minimize the surface reflections but not smother them. Each note is important and all notes that follow that first note must be heard in the room. Bass absorbers must have the correct rates and levels of low frequency absorption to provide for the natural harmonic presentation to come through and to be felt and heard. These acoustical concerns must be taken more seriously.

Lessons Learned

Acoustical design companies must take more care in designing their products to allow for musicians work to be heard correctly and in the manner the musician wanted. We need more than fiberglass insulation filled panels and foam filled pillows. We need to control the acoustical issues but remember we are dealing with music first and emotion second. We need to spend more time “voicing” the room and getting the reverberation time and sound stage correct. The bass energy must be controlled, so that layers upon layers of bass lines can be heard and more importantly felt. We need to take that extra step with our acoustical technology that musicians like Ms. Spaulding take in their music. We owe it to the musician and without hesitation, we definitely owe it to the music.

Mixing “I Am The Walrus” And Others With Ken Scott

For today’s daily audiophile roundup I came across a blog entry on the always excellent  bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com. In the post he discusses a new book he is releasing with the books principal Ken Scott who engineered some famous rock and pop music at the Abby Road Studio in England. The title Abby Road to Ziggy Stardust relates his experiences working with some of the biggest names in the music industry from the Beatles to David Bowie and others.

It definitely sounds like an interesting read for all audiophiles given the high water mark this period of recorded material set at the time.

Read the full article here:
Mixing “I Am The Walrus”

Seattle’s Neptune Music Co. Original Record Store

For today’s daily audiophile roundup I want to point you to this article written by Stephen Mejias about a real record store in Seattle. Yes, they mostly have CDs now, but it is stacked and organized just like in days of old when the record store was the happening place to be. Neptune Music Co. is a great find for music lovers everywhere. David Sundland is the proprietor and keeps it all organized for others to come and discover some great music collections.

If you are a music lover and want to experience the nostalgic ambience of a record store just like back in the old days visit the full article here to get a taste for what Seattle is still lucky enough to have:
Neptune Music Co.

Vacuum Tubes Rule The Audiophile World! Really?

I thought I would share this blog entry from Steven Stone which questions the adage in the audiophile world that (vacuum) “Tubes Rule!” by asking “Really?” He points out that the controlled chaos of distortion in the music creation business is mostly aimed at the electric guitar player. He maintains that the popularity of vacuum tubes in the face of the inferred superiority and durability of solid state audio electronics is due to their contiguous availability and their relative reliability for the last fifty years.

Do you agree? What’s your take?

Read the full article here:
Tubes Rule! Really?

Robair Report

I read with great interest Gino Robair’s article in The March issue of mix magazine entitled “Reverse Engineering”. The article’s main theme is the use of empathy. It is not a feeling empathy, but rather a listening empathy. Gino wants us to keep our ears and mind open to how other people hear things and what can happen out of that search process to obtain a desired sound.

He begins with microphones and how each one has a different way of “hearing” and how each microphone’s sound is different and unique. Each microphone has distinct acoustical sound properties and it is the job of each engineer to fit the microphone with the recording purpose and end sound desired. Most engineers that I know have a love affair with their microphones and know in great detail how they will record sound for later use and digital manipulation. There are microphones for vocals and there are microphones for instruments. Each type work well within their design goals. Gino sums it up best when he says, “In essence, the engineer is lending the audience a special set of ears with which to hear the music.”

Gino goes on to discuss recording techniques and how engineers use different methods of recording sound energy. I really enjoyed his discussion about placing microphones in resonant chambers or cavities. Harmonics can be achieved in a resonant chamber to accent certain qualities found in an instrument or vocal. He sums his position up by saying, “On a pure recording level, it makes more sense to capture an interesting sound at the source via mic choice and position than to stack up plug ins in an attempt to approximate the effect while mixing.”

He uses composer, Pauline Oliveros, as an example of this in the moment recording technique process. He talks about her use of a bathtub as a type of reverberation chamber and her covering and isolation of certain microphones to selectively capture and record the sound energy she wanted in her recordings. He stated that she even put microphones in cardboard tubes. All of these “home grown” recording techniques were driven by economics. During the early days of recording, the professional gear that engineers and musicians needed was too expensive for musicians to buy let alone use. Engineers and musicians had to build their own equipment and discover new ways to record the sound that they wanted because they couldn’t afford the pro gear.

This pioneering spirit is alive and well today. Engineers are using “hot rodded” gear and plug ins in the digital domain. Engineers and musicians are building their own effects boxes and they are doing this with information that they are finding on the internet. They are building amplifiers and processors hopefully, in the same spirit as Pauline Oliveros used her cardboard tubes around her microphones to isolate certain sounds. She used necessity and creativity to achieve the sonic goals she had in mind, without plug-ins and multichannel boards.

Gino cautions all of us in the business about the dangers of relying too much on current technology. He states, “We forget that much of today’s technology was designed to simplify things or remove barriers. Back in the day however,these barriers often kicked our butts into creative space. I believe that challenging yourself by narrowing your options ultimately inspires you to find interesting and unusual solutions that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered, precisely because it makes it more difficult to get things done. A student asked me the second day of class this semester how she could get an “old school sound” when recording. No doubt she expected me to point to a classic mic or a special plug-in bundle. Rather, I explained to her she could start by confining herself to a couple of tracks on a linear recording device that offers only destructive editing capabilities, while severely limiting her mic and processor choices. And then she could give herself one day to make the record.”

This process of creativity under pressure and need without electronic aids is applicable to all walks of life. It is the struggle and growth through that process that produces unique results and creative sounds. It is the journey we need to embrace, the destination will take care of itself.

Improve Your Mixing Skills With These 50 Free Multi-Tracks

For the second part of today’s daily audiophile roundup I thought I’d share this article written by Björgvin Benediktsson of audio-issues.com which is about audio mixing in a small studio environment. The Icelandic born musician and audio engineer discusses several ebooks on the topic, one titled Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio, and how it also offers fifty different multi-tracks in a big variety of song genres. Between the guide book, and the proffered tracks, it seems like there is much material to cover, and these could be used as a way of demonstrating your capabilities to prospective clients.

A good and wide resource of tips and advices on how to improve your mixing skills.

Read the full article here:
50 Free Multi-Tracks to Improve Your Mixing Skills

The Gibson Tonewood Debacle

On my audiophile daily rounds I came across this article which I’d like to point you to. It describes the raid on the Gibson guitar factory in Nashville, Tennessee during August, 2011. The raid was apparently over a supposed violation of the Lacey Act, which was enacted to protect endangered materials, which are sometimes used in the making of guitars. The CEO of Gibson claimed in an interview that the raid was a perversion of the law and was based on the nations exporting the materials desiring more labor for their workforce rather than any actual infringement of the Lacey Act. He expresses concern about the interpretation of the Lacey Act for corporations and consumers alike.

Anyway worth a read for all those that just love any news about Gibson guitars! Read the full article here:
The Gibson Tonewood Debacle

Autotune Accidentally Invented By Oil Scientist

For today’s daily audiophile roundup I thought I’d share this article written by the excellent Bobby Owsinski of bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com about auto tuning. Given the recent popularity of T-Pain and you tube clips of interviews turned into songs everyone knows about auto tuning but what will surprise you is that it was not a musician nor a production company that invented the technique. It was rather a man simply experimenting with ways to find oil! He was just a simple oil digger.

His technology for finding oil involved sound waves and he just stumbled on the auto tune technology and being a lover of music saw a prospective use of it in the modern music industry. Since its discovery in 1990 it has been used for everything from, well, lousy out of tune singers to those who adapted it into their overall style.

If you want to learn more about the history and discovery of auto tuning, best to read more. 

Read the full article here:
Autotune Accidentally Invented By Oil Scientist