Saving the music industry: live CDs for sale after gigs

30 Dec

One of the most classic ways of “piracy” that has been around since the start of live rock and pop music in the 60s has been the “illegal” recording of live gigs and concerts. This was called “bootleg recordings” and happened when someone in the audience succeeded to smuggle into the venue a portable recorder connected to a microphone that would be pointed at the center of the PA system. Simple as that: record what you’re listening to (if security staff doesn’t notice what you’re doing!) This yielded what is called “audience recordings”, which got better from the 70s on as the technology improved and made equipment smaller year by year, growing a very big industry with the advent of easy-duplicating cassette tapes and such. The recordings also improved greatly in sound quality and some of them are really good documents of the live sound of mythic rock bands at that era such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones. There are also some recordings sourced directly from the mixing desk on to tape (soundboard recordings) or from an FM broadcast of the era. That recordings are the best sounding ones almost for sure although some of them suffer from not having enough audience response.

A bootleg front cover

Since the 80s on, these bootlegs generated a big market around them, causing festival organisation to run raids on the audiences and such. For more info on the history of bootlegging, I recommend that you read Clinton Heylin’s excellent book “Bootleg! The rise and fall of the secret recording industry”. Continue reading

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Recording with the Black Daniels Popcorn Makers

28 Dec

Today in the morning I have been to Rec House Studios (near my home) to watch the Black Daniel’s Popcorn Makers in their first recording session for their upcoming EP, comprised by 6 songs. These guys come from Tres Cantos, in the north of Madrid (Spain), and although their style variety is quite wide they can’t deny the funky and soul-y heritage that runs through their veins.

This band is formed by Guille (drums and percussion),  Álvaro (bass), Carlos and Pablo (lead and rhythm guitars), Dani (lead vocals & trumpet), Javi (keyboards),  Álvaro “Peri” (sax) and Victor (trombone). Quite a few as you can notice!

The reason for me being there, apart from Álvaro the bassist being my cousin, is that I love to see how other people record, which equipment they use and in general, pick their brain in their recording and mixing methods and techniques. Rec House Studios are located in the basement of a common 4 flight residential building in the Lucero quarter… but it is a really big basement! It comprises an acoustically treated control room which can act as live room for guitars and bass, and an isolated booth suitable for a full drumset, vocals or any other instrument. The control room and the isolated booth are separated by a double glass window that rolls open when you need to go in or out of it, but that is also acoustically isolated from the control room. Continue reading

Reference recordings: [Jazz] Ella Fitzgerald – The Intimate Ella (1960)

27 Dec

Hi everyone again! I hope you are enjoying a great and well deserved Christmas break with your relatives and friends. Some people hate Christmas, some people love it; you know, to each one his taste. But what’s undeniable is that, consumerism apart, this time of the year is great to recap on what we have done in the past months and set our goals for improving ourselves and the life of those who surround us.

Off to work now. I am writing today to introduce a new series that I’ll be updating in the blog regularly: a compilation of albums that I feel that somehow excel in sonic quality because of the techniques and care used at the recording, mixing and mastering stages. These albums, under my point of view, would make solid references for audio engineers when recording or mixing artists that work in a similar music genre to those that I am going to present. As you can imagine, this won’t be useful for already skilled and experienced audio engineers that know the tricks of the trade and make their living by producing different kinds of music genres and artists. But for all of us who don’t have many years of experience, it’s always good to have milestones that illustrate masterpieces of different genres to compare our work against them. When we are starting (or acquiring experience), we can never go wrong by first learning from the masters who went through it all before us. Once when we have mastered that sound, we will keep improving our skills by adding our own personal touch to each work we produce.

With this, I am not saying “If you don’t know how to record this kind of music/artist, copy what you’ll hear and you’ll produce a perfect record”. Nothing further from the truth: experimenting is always key if we want to improve or learn. But sometimes it’s good to know where the North is in case we get lost in the way. Continue reading

Do ProTools, Nuendo and Logic really sound different?

14 Dec

When I was discussing this last weeks with my master peers something about recording sessions in ProTools, one of them told me “well yeah, ProTools is great for recording, mixing and editing, but Logic has a better audio engine than ProTools”. I asked “What? Is that real?” and he answered me “Yeah, there are some studies showing that. It even has the AES award for the best sound in a DAW”.

From then on, I’ve searched the seas of the Internet without finding any scientific evidence of this (neither the AES award mention). Just lots of subjective talk in loads of forums on whether you should choose one or another interface to record or mix. So, having read what people say round there leaves me with a lot of questions that I’d love to see answered in a proven way. Or in some way at least!

  • Logic, ProTools, Nuendo: all of them have different internal algorhythms for signal mixing, routing and summing. But I want to find the difference between them ONCE that the signal has been converted into the digital domain, not relying on the A/D interface in front of them as of course, each one will sound different.
  • Pan laws: It is known that the panning law in ProTools, Logic and Nuendo has been always different. For some explanation on how it works for non-geeks, you can read this magnificent explanation. This is for sure one of the factors that make that a mix created for stereo in Nuendo and the same mix in ProTools might sound different if we are not careful with the setting of the Center Pan law (let alone the summing algorhythms of each DAW).
    • ProTools: Before ProTools 8, its Center Pan Law was set to -2.5 dB in the center and you couldn’t change it. From ProTools 8 on, you can select it to be  -3, -4.5 or -6 dB.
    • Nuendo/Cubase: By default, it is set to -3 dB (equal power), but you can change it to be 0, -4.5 or -6 dB
    • Logic: It is set to be -3 dB

But if you set up all of them at the same level, they should be the same, right? Continue reading