Beatles on iTunes?

November 15, 2010

Here is a breaking report on the Wall Street Journal website saying Apple — the computer and gadget company, has finally reached an agreement with Apple Corp., the Beatles’ company, that will allow Beatles albums on iTunes.

And to add more excitement, Apple computer has posted a mysterious message on its website, touting a big development regarding iTunes to be announced tomorrow.

Stay tuned…..

Line 6 offers new blog series on home recording

November 5, 2010

Line 6 has started a blog series on home recording. Find part one, about computer recording, here; part two, on microphones, is here.

Line 6 is a well established company best known for its Pod series of guitar amp simulators and recording interfaces. It also produces the Variax line of modeled guitars. I have and use many Line 6 products, which I find offer incredible variety and quality for the money. You can hear Line 6 guitars, modeled amps and effects all over my music.

New version of Sonar coming: Sonar X1

November 1, 2010

My friends at Cakewalk just announced a brand new version of their flagship multitrack recording software product: Sonar X1. Read all about it here.

As a longtime, loyal Cakewalk user (remember Pro Audio anybody?) I am PUMPED about this one!

Johnny Cash’s simple life

November 1, 2010

This to-do list written by Johnny Cash is currently being auctioned, along with many of Cash’s personal items. At the moment, bidding is only at $600. What an item! It speaks volumes about the man.

STUDIO SECRET REVEALED: How to improve your sound

October 25, 2010

Craig Anderton is an institution in the studio music world as an author, blogger, performer, designer and all-around nice guy.

Today I wanted to share a simple insight from Craig that I saw over on a forum he moderates over at Harmony Central, “Craig Anderton’s Sound, Studio and Stage.”

It’s this:

“The cheapest, quickest, and most effective way to improve the sound of your studio is to write a better chorus.” -Craig Anderton

What a marvelous way of saying that in the end — after you’ve updated your software and mortgaged the house to get the latest tube preamp and that pristine 1957 Strat — what counts most is whether you have a good song in the first place.

So thanks, Craig, from one more composer-performer-engineer guy who needed to hear that it’s about the music, and the performance, much more than it is about the tools.

Getting Better, indeed

October 22, 2010

It was never a single, this little slice of Beatles pop circa 1967, and it is never listed as among their greatest achievements. But for me, “Getting Better” sums up the optimism, the unfettered joy that the Beatles represented better than almost anything else they ever did. And, as a bonus, it features the perfect shorthand version of Paul and John’s relationship.

Recorded at Abbey Road in their ground-breaking sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Getting Better” really doesn’t break new ground musically or lyrically. It re-uses the almost mechanical, four-beats-per-measure percussion that Paul pioneered with earlier songs like “Got To Get You Into My Life” and “Penny Lane.” But in its metronome beat and soaring vocals, the song perfectly portrays that most elusive of emotions – joy.

And after Paul’s hyper-optimism (“Getting better all the t-i-i-ime”) comes John’s sardonic rejoinder: “Can’t get no worse.” A neater summation of the magic of that partnership can’t be found.

And so, apropos of nothing, I submit “Getting Better,” my personal theme song and the relentlessly perfect portion of joy.

John Lennon’s voice

October 8, 2010

As odd as it sounds, John Lennon never really liked his own voice.

He constantly pushed Abbey Road’s engineers to modify the sound of one of rock ‘n roll’s greatest instruments. Thus, the Lennon we’re most accustomed to hearing is typically double-tracked (“Eight Days A Week,” “Tell Me Why”) bathed in 50′s style echo (“A Day In The Life,” “Come Together,” “Imagine”) distorted (“I Am The Walrus”) run through a Leslie organ speaker (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) or even reversed (“Rain”).

As the story goes, he was so interested in altering the recorded sound of his voice that he once asked if his voice could be directly injected into the tape machine, bypassing the need for a microphone. Producer George Martin told him no problem, so long as a jack plug could be implanted into Lennon’s neck!

Given Lennon’s ambivalence, it is somehow ironic that to celebrate what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday tomorrow, his widow, Yoko Ono, has chosen to remix the album they had just released when he was murdered in December 1980 — Double Fantasy — to focus more attention on Lennon’s voice. (The new mix is accompanied by a remastering of the entire Lennon solo catalog done by the same team at EMI that handled the Beatles’ excellent remasters).

The goal, Ono has said, was to strip away some layers of production to better highlight that voice.

Make no mistake – Lennon had a voice without rival for its emotional power. And his versatility is matched only by his one-time partner, Paul McCartney. Both Beatles were equally effective at blistering rock and tender balladry.

The new release, “Double Fantasy Stripped Down,” demonstrates once again that versatility. And in paring back on the production, some of the songs actually gain power.

“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” one of Lennon’s most tender songs, actually sounds bigger and more expressive in the new treatment. With some of the background instruments and harmony vocals stripped out, the elements that remain — the lead guitar, the “oriental” strums and, of course, the clean, intimate lead vocal — gain prominence.

In “(Just Like) Starting Over,” with the 50′s-style slap-back echo removed, the change in vocal timbre is arresting. In that song — which he dedicates in this version to “Gene and Eddie and Elvis… and Buddy” — the echo seems so closely intertwined with the song’s style that I find I miss it.

By contrast, in “I’m Losing You,” the reduction of such vocal effects tends to bring Lennon’s voice closer to the listener, as if he’s standing in the living room in front of you.

That intimacy is most apparent in “Woman,” where layers of electric guitar and background voices are removed, leaving that vulnerable voice set against shimmering acoustic rhythm guitar and simple bass and drum parts.

Ono has been quoted as saying that the remixing process, which she did with original co-producer Jack Douglas, was painful for her. It’s easy to see why. With that voice closer, seemingly, than ever, it’s impossible not to feel a lump in the throat — especially when Lennon sings such hopeful, future-focused lyrics.

Yes, “Double Fantasy Stripped Down” gains some power from its back-to-basics style. And for many who love Lennon still, that power comes with a measure of pain — even today, thirty years after he left us.

A cool video for “Tatooine”

October 7, 2010

Classic, simple animation and a cool song, Tatooine, by Jeremy Messersmith. Thanks to Desiree Perry for passing this along…

SND video uses “Mad Designers” as music theme

September 24, 2010

Here’s a promotional video done in 60′s-era animation style by Brian Williamson to promote the Society of News Design’s 2011 conference in St. Louis. Brian asked me to produce a piece of music for the video, and I tried to come up with a Mad Men-esque sound to suit the visual style. (Which was a treat for me, as Mad Men is my personal favorite show).

For you musicians, I used Cakewalk’s Sonar, synths from Dimension Pro, a Hofner-style bass, a Strat with Line 6 amp and effect sounds and drum samples from Smart Loops.

Let me know what you think!

Using rhythm in pairing music with images

September 23, 2010

http://vimeo.com/15211951

Jon Patrick Fobes, a photo editor with the Cleveland Plain Dealer and an excellent musician, stresses using the rhythm of music to guide your placement of photos in audio/video slideshows. The above project, where Jon created the music and edited the slideshow, is an excellent example of what Jon is talking about. And click here to read a previous Q and A with Jon.


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