Deconstructing The Beatles

I’ve just stumbled on some YouTube gold that I’d like to share with you. These videos deconstruct some Beatles originals, allowing us to hear the individual parts in all their raw and passionate glory.

Apparently for Rock Band video game, the individual guitar, bass, drums and vocal stems were loaded into the programme. What we are hearing here on YouTube is drawn from that, so we don’t have parts for keys or other instruments.

Still, it’s a brilliant experience to listen to these. I recall years ago seeing a documentary with Sir George Martin, where he was playing back some original tapes in the Abbey Road studio. I remember feeling shocked when he pulled up the lead vocals on one track, it was just so raw and gritty.

You hear that all over these. Rough early uses of effects like delay (echo), really nasty fuzz guitars, the odd brittle falsetto in the harmonies and even John Lennon tapping his foot (or hand) to count himself back into vocal phrases.

And you hear the work that went into the tracks – fearless work.

Anyway, take a listen for yourself.

Deconstructing Revolution

Deconstructing Paperback Writer

Deconstructing Taxman

Deconstructing Dear Prudence

Deconstructing Get Back

SonicScoop Interviews Chris Lord-Alge

SonicScoop is one of my favourite music blogs. They’ve recently posted a great set of interviews with legendary producer, Chris Lord-Alge, who was interviewed by New York musician, Erica Glyn.

SonicScoop Power Sessions with Chris Lord-Alge

In this first part of the interview, Chris Lord-Alge talks about how he feel in love with music and got into the music business. I love the way he talks about starting out and just taking “the smallest, most un-Rock ‘n Roll sessions,” just get himself started.

“It was like flutes and horns and not even a drum kit. But, I was in there to win.”

Part 2 – Mixing and the Magic Chains

In the second video Chris Lord-Alge talks addresses the question of how to produce hit mixes in three hours. He discusses the importance of having the right gear and also, more importantly, knowing how your gear works. He also answers some questions on how things have changed with the advent of digital recording and what that means for a producer and mixer.

The Anthemic CLA Mix

Finally, we get some insight into how Chris Lord-Alge sets up his monitoring and the importance of mixing and working at low volume levels. It’s fascinating to listen to the language he uses to describe the mixing process; he talks a lot about taming sounds and making them work together. He also prefers to do all the EQ work in one hit and doesn’t necessarily compress every track of a song, including critical elements like the snare and kick drum.

“The music is not going to mix itself, you actually have to move the faders!”

If you want to read a little bit more about Chris Lord-Age and his approach to production and mixing, then take a look at this excellent interview on Audiofanzine, Mixing with an Attitude.

“Everyone is just doom and gloom. Well, that’s just your attitude. If you want to be a doom and gloomer, go work in a different business. But as far as I am concerned, music is only going to get better, and you just have to be positive and make it happen. Chris Lord-Alge”

Mutli Output With Logic Pro And EZdrummer

NOTE: With the update to EZdrummer 2 and Logic X, things have changed a little sine I wrote this post. So, you may want to also take a look at the more recent post Multi-Output With Logic Pro And EZdrummer2

Readers asked a number of questions in response to my recent post on using Logic Pro. In particular there was interest in using multi output.

Soft synths and sample players usually default to a stereo or mono signal, but you can set some of them up to feed Logic with a multi output. The number of output tracks will vary, depending on the product. If you have the processing power, I think it’s almost always better to use multi output. That’s because you do the mixing in Logic, rather than letting the softsynth or sample player handle the mixing for you.

And, once you start mixing for each indivual sound, or instrument, you will have more creative control.

Here’s a quick rundown of how I do this with Logic and Toontrack’s EZdrummer programme. You can apply this same idea to other sample players as well (later, I’ll follow this up with a workflow for using multiouput with Logic’s own Ultrabeat drum machine).

When you choose the sample player, you’ll see two options “Stereo” or “Multi Output (8xStereo).” Choose the later.

Choose Multi Output

Now you need to go into the EZdrummer interface and choose the mixer. One thing I like about EZdrummer is the way this interface makes it easy to see how the sample player is mixing the sounds. For those familiar with hardware setups, what we will be doing is replacing EZdrummer’s own sub-mixer and routing everything into Logic’s main mixer.

In EZdrummer, select one of the channels, scroll down and choose “Multichannel.”

In EZdrummer's mixer, chose Multichannel

Your mixer should now look like this, with different channel numbers under each sound.

EZdrummer Mixer with Multi Output

One thing you might notice is that the faders are flat, set to -4.8dB, with no panning. This is my preset for using EZdrummer in this mode. Since I’m mixing in Logic, I don’t need the EZdrummer mixer to do any extra work. Also, if I leave the faders at 0.0dB, the summed mix in Logic will distort and be too loud. In fact, if you don’t already do this, it’s a good habit to set all your soft-synths and sample players to lower output settings.

Although we set EZdrummer up in Mutli Output (8xStereo) mode, by default EZdrummer uses only 7 outputs (1. Bass Drum, 2. Snare Top, 3. Snare Bottom, 4. Hi-Hat, 5. Toms (in stereo), 6. Overhead Mics (in stereo), 7. Room Mics (in stereo)). Each soft instrument will have quirks like this and it’s worth exploring them before you start setting up the Logic Mixer – as we’ll see in a moment.

Now open up the Logic mixer (x is the keyboard shortcut to open the mixer window).

The Open Auxillary Tracks Button

Below the mute and solo buttons you’ll a button marked “+” that will open auxillary tracks for each output in EZdrummer. The trick here is to press it once for each extra track you need. You can in fact open up 8 tracks, but since EZdrummer is only exporting 7 tracks, that last track will be empty and silent. Once opened up, your mixer window will look something like this.

Multi Output in The Logic Mixer

From here you can mix and effect each track to your heart’s delight. For example, this is what my mixer window looked like, after applying track names, effects and mixer settings.

Effected and Mixed Multi Output

Take a listen to the clip below. The first bar is a funky drum pattern as you would hear it stright out of EZdrummer in stereo. The second is the same pattern, in Muti Output, with effects applied. There is group reverb and compression (with individual settings for each track) then each drum sound is individually EQd, with some other effects thrown in (distortion on kick drum, transient attack variation on snare top, tape delay on snare bottom, stereo spreading on hi-hats and complex delay on the room mics).


Anchoring A Recording Studio

Ibanez JSM100

When we imagine a professional recording studio the vision that normally comes into our head is of a mixing desk, or recording console, with rows of faders, knobs and controls. In fact, the people who build and run studios will often talk about the console “anchoring” the studio, both in terms of sound and workflow. Maybe the recording console also anchors the idea of a studio in our imagination as well?

For a lot of us who started out in the pre-digital era, the large console also marks the difference between a “professional” and “home” studio. After all, they are an expensive piece of kit – starting out at the kind of price most of us would pay for a car and often costing more than many of us have ever paid for a home!

But, as you can imagine, digital recording software has brought a lot of the functions of a recording console into the computer. You can now create a quality sounding song “in the box” without the need for an expensive desk. A lot of the music we hear today has been created partially, or even completely, in this manner.

So why do we still see large consoles in studios today? Firstly, they represent a powerful and flexible way to record; especially if you want to track bands playing live in the studio. If you need to run lots of microphones then a console represents a cost-effective, ergonomic solution.

Secondly, high quality desks will have a distinctive, even iconic sound. Studios will sometimes use the brand of desk as part of their marketing. In fact, there is a whole industry built on re-creating the sound of classic desks in software form.

I’ve been pondering this because my big project for the second half of this year involves building a new studio. This space will be a home for the next two years of recording and composing. Since it will involve a substantial outlay on equipment (which will move with me in future relocations), I’m thinking hard about what will work best for my approach.

If I was going to build a conventional recording studio, I would probably buy a console. It’s an elegant solution, since most engineers are used to working that way and most musicians expect to see them in place. There’s a growing number of consoles that also allow you to control your digital audio software as well, with the Allen and Heath GS-R24 being one of the most attractive and cost effective on the market.

But, my plan is a little different. I’m not going to be recording bands – not in the short term. What is driving this build is the desire to work more efficiently on my own compositions. I’ll mostly be recording guitars; either in mono or stereo. In a lot of ways a console would be overkill.

I do however, want to give the studio a distinctive “sound.” I’m enamoured with 500 series modules. These allow you to build the components of a great sound (preamplifiers and compressors) into a small rack space. You can get the quality of a console, with the added benefit of different modules from different brands. Flexible and powerful, as long as you don’t need to record a lot of instruments at the same time.

One thing that divides a lot of people is whether songs mixed “in the box” sound as good as songs mixed on a console. I’m inclined to prefer the latter, assuming both approaches are engineered with the same skill level. In my experience, running tracks out of the computer and through analogue gear has a beneficial effect, especially when it comes to software synthesisers and drum machines.

A way to achieve this without a console is by adding a summing mixer. This handles the process of mixing down eight, sixteen, or twenty four tracks to stereo, outside the computer. In fact, a summing mixer from an iconic brand, like the Neve 8816, or Manley Labs 16×2 is a way to buy into the benefits of a high end console, without the added space or cost (not that these units are cheap, by any measure).

The kind of studio I’m imagining will produce a high quality sound (what I haven’t mentioned is the role of microphones and room treatment in that process). But, I know some people will baulk when they don’t see a big console in there. Although digital technology has fundamentally changed the way we write, record, edit and distribute music, the people behind this industry, the engineers, musicians and others are often very conservative.

But, being conservative has never worked for me.