Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Black And White Years at The Basement in Nashville, TN [SHOW]

Want some fresh electro-pop, but don’t want to stray to far from the comfort of your favorite indie rock band?  You’re in luck.   The Black And White Years are an indie art rock band based out of Austin, TX, and the members met while attending school in Nashville, TN.  The band consists of Scott Butler (vocals, guitars, keys), Landon Thompson (guitars, keys, vocals), John Aldridge (bass, brass), and Billy Potts (drums).  This is a creative group of guys that combine distinct sounds from electronics, keys, and guitars to create their unique style.  They have been recommended to be one of the best up-and-coming electro-pop bands in America.  Check one of their most popular songs from their newest album “Patterns” called “Up!”

As you can see, this band has their original electro-pop style dialed in.  The Black And White Years were officially discovered at South by Southwest in 2007 by Jerry Harrison, a member of Talking Heads and Modern Lovers.  Jerry offered to work with the band and produced their debut self-titled album in Sausalito, CA.  The album was released in 2008 and kick-started the group’s success at festivals such as CMJ, Austin City Limits Music Festival, and MIDEM to name a few.  Check out this music video for their song “Cold:”

The band will be playing a show tomorrow night at The Basement in Nashville.  They will continue to tour throughout the east this summer with hype surrounding their newest album called “Patterns.”  This album is their second solid release in three years.  While their music may seem odd or quirky to some, The Black And White Years must be heard live for a full-engagement with their art.  With great sounds, danceable grooves, and a solid all around performance, these guys are worth your time.  Listen to another song called “Patterns” from their latest album.

Visit their website to keep listening, or simply come to the show tomorrow night at The Basement in Nashville, TN.

By: Steve Harpine | Nashville Ambassador | @Steve_MWL | Beat-Play & Music Without Labels, LLC

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Four Tet and Others Remix Radiohead [NEW MUSIC]

http://www.xlrecordings.com/radioheadrmx/lone_four/rdh_rmx.swf

Radiohead is in the midst of releasing a series of 12″ singles, each of which collects remixes of tracks from the band’s 2011 album The King of Limbs. The third 12″ in the series is now streaming on-line; it includes Lone taking on “Feral”, Pearson Sound reworking “Morning Mr. Magpie”, and Four Tet going to town on “Separator”. Listen to all three tracksabove, via The King of Limbs Part 2. It’s out August 1 everywhere except North America, where it’s out August 9.

Listen: Four Tet and More Remix Radiohead

 

By: Shayne Byrne | Beat-Play Ambassador Ireland | @shaynewithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

Stephen Young & The Union [MUSIC]

Songwriter Stephen Young first appeared on the music scene in late 2008 when the release of his debut EP: ‘A Boat Called Lottery’, garnered vast critical acclaim.
Described as ‘a visionary ricochet for the times we live in’ (The Daily Star), it is Young’s capacity to deliver a song with pounding heartfelt retrospect that will set him apart from his luminaries.

The singer joined forces with producers Gavin Glass, Tommy O’Sullivan and engineer Stephen O’Brien to complete his debut album.
The album’s title is ‘Wilderness Machine’ and Young explains: “the concept of the album is loosely based on a character, who left his hometown after the break-up of a relationship and the death of a close friend. He moves to a remote house in the mountains where he writes a series of letters that lead to a novel”.

A highly-praised performance on RTE’s The View, along with two tracks from the album being playlisted by stations across the country – including RTE, BBC Northern Ireland and Dublin’s Phantom FM – have boosted Young and the band. As have extensive features in The Irish Daily Star and Hotpress.
With the LP out March 25 – available from HMV and Tower Records nationwide – the band took the album on the road.

On a three-week tour, Young & The Union played in a number of the country’s top venues. Launching the album in Crawdaddy, they went on to play The Spirit Store, The Stables, McCarthy’s in Dingle, JJ Harlows in Roscommon and Cleere’s Theatre in Kilkenny. Young also performed at a selection of singer-songwriter nights across the country. Accompanied by their Cello and Violin string section, SY & The Union deliver a show that is simply not to be missed.

for more Stephen Young & The Union news check out

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By: Shayne Byrne | Beat-Play Ambassador Ireland | @shaynewithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

Simon Raymonde – Cocteau Twins / Bella Union Label Owner [Interview]

Q01 Who are you, What do you do & where are you based?
You know who I am, silly! I run a record label in London called Bella Union. I was in a band before I started the label, called Cocteau Twins and we made some records on 4AD and then,foolishly, some records for Fontana (Mercury)!
Q02 What album,track,gig or producer inspired you to end up behind a mixing board
I havent been inspired solely in that way, and as I do a few different things in music, I am not perpetually behind the mixing desk. As a young boy, my father who produced many artists and wrote string arrangements for people like The Walker Brothers, would take me to the studios in London sometimes and hearing him talk about Joe Meek, I was always fascinated by his approach and think in many ways, the fundamentals of what Joe practised still apply today in all scenarios. My dad was one of Joe’s favourite arrangers and when I found myself in later life running studios of my own, rediscovering Joe Meek was highly inspirational to me. His use of reverb, delays and compression, tape loops and distortion, echoes and other strange sounds saw him as way ahead of his peers and for the kind of music we were making, there seemed to be parallels.
With a household full of music from a very early age, it might seem like I was destined for a life in music but to be honest, the music I heard as a young teen, from my brother’s room, mostly heavy rock stuff and proggie stuff wasn’t remotely exciting to me, and I was happiest playing football and hanging out with friends, until 1976 arrived and I heard the Sex Pistols and from that moment everything changed. I think the records that blew my mind just AFTER punk were Metal Box by Public Image Limited and The Associates’s Sulk, both wildly different but with an astonishing IDENTITY that was partly production and mostly coming from within the band’s themselves. On ‘Sulk’ Mike Hedges who had earlier produced the first 2 Cure albums, had the gift of not diluting the wonderful spirit and exuberance of the band’s music and Billy’s voice, and yet also making a terrificly modern ‘pop’ record, one that still stands up today. As for PiL, their ability to put two fingers up to the industry was never in dispute, let’s face it, Lydon was THE iconic figure in music for the last half of the 70s, and yet instead of playing up to the cartoon he was in danger of becoming -he was too smart for that- the arrival of Metal Box, blew everything else that was stale and tired about the end of punk out of the water. It was a wake-up call, and one that affected many of us at that time. The D-I-Y nature of the recordings was inspirational and as well as being a brilliantly produced record, the sense of FUN and excitement during the recordings is evident in the finished record.
Q03 Where did you study your trade?’
Never studied but in Cocteau Twins we always had our own studio set up from the early days. Every advance we got we’d buy a little bit more gear and eventually we had a studio’s worth, probably two.  We started our own studio in North Acton in the mid 80s, by renting an empty shell in a light industrial estate and with our friends in Dif Juz, who had labouring skills and bigger muscles, we built the skin of our own 24 track studio. Doing something from scratch like that was actually pretty thrilling. I did have one rather tricky moment. We had a false ceiling and above it we had to fill it with rockwool, that horrid orangey roof insuation stuff that works also as a sound absorber. I was up in the ceiling, carefully walking across the joists, stuffing this rockwool around the ‘roof’, when my foot slipped off the joist and disappeared through the ceiling, made of plasterboard! Luckily we hadnt decorated or put the lights in but it made a helluva mess of my leg and the ceiling. When we’d finished building it all, we had a live room and an office and a tuck cupboard (there was a cash n carry in the same premises so we could buy shop-sized boxes of Minstrels and Galaxy bars!), and it was the first time we were able to make a record in our own studio on our own ‘clock’ where we recorded from start to finish. Blue Bell Knoll was that record. We didn’t rent the studio out during this period but we lent it to friends and Robin did some productions there of course. Pump Up The Volume by M.A.R.R.S was recorded and mixed there. That was, until Fleet Foxes success, the only gold disc I ever had !
In 1991 we moved into Pete Townsend’s Eel Pie Studios building and stayed there for 13 years, eventually running 2 commercial recording studios. And then… the studio went bust, and we had nothin again!  I learnt a lot by watching Cenzo Townsend, Phill Brown, and Robin Guthrie of course who was way more experienced than me, but to be honest, having your own studio and living 5 minutes away, I really had no excuse not to learn and I mostly learnt by trial and error and making my own records, a solo lp, the first release on Bella Union, and producing the Nanaco album that I co-wrote. The last record I worked on at these beautiful riverside studios was the Lift To Experience album ‘The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads’, which I feel was the catalyst for me believing in my own ability finally, as a ‘pair of ears’, both as a label dude and as a ‘producer’. The studio was about to go out of business, we were losing a load of money each month, our band had long-since broken up, the rent was very high and the studio business in general was utterly depressed. Bands werent using studios to make albums any more, they were using them to do string overdubs or drums only and we had this amazing place and not enough clients. We probably werent ‘selling’ it well, cos well we were not business folks, we were musicians and it had suddenly become this massive burden. I was mixing the record all day and all night, by day the receivers would be coming in and taking away the gear around me, and by night I was jumping around the control room in delight at this incredible music I was working on so intimately. Very weird time. So yeah, all these recordings gave me a grounding for the future, but I still would never describe myself as a “record producer”. I occasionally produce records but it doesn’t define me.
Q04 What advice do you have for any budding label owners/engineers out there?
I am not so good at dole-ing out advice as I don’t feel I have the knowledge to advise but given the over-population of most sectors of the music community, I feel that knowing what you want your music, your recordings to sound like before you start, is a key first step. Knowing what you want then it should be slightly easier to find out how to get there. Having realistic targets and expectations is important but then like everything, if you approach your work with love and passion, then these two things should override any other initial inadequacies. When I listen to old recordings of ours, like say the Echoes In A Shallow Bay and Tiny Dynamine which was predominantly recorded in a room we rented in William Orbit’s flat in St Johns Wood on a 16 track recorder, it’s clear that no amount of ‘gear’ makes a great sounding record, it is what you do with the gear that ya got!
Q05 What people in the biz inspire you to do what you do. past heroes and modern upstarts?
From the label side, Geoff Travis is for me the man. I don’t remotely want to emulate him, or copy him or for that matter BE him, but  having seen Geoff come through a myriad of trials and tribulations during the long and dramatic history of Rough Trade, I can comfort myself knowing that simply if you love what you do, then you will come through the wringers and out the other side, and straighten yourself out, and move forward again.  On the audio/studio side of things Dave Wrench, an engineer/producer/musician is an example to us all. He works at Bryn Derwen Studios in North Wales and is an incredible person to work with, with exquisite taste, and immaculate pro tools skills. He also knows how to mic things up superbly and has worked for years in the analog domain so he has multi-skills and he is an amazing guy to sit next to for 6 weeks on a production! That inspires me. Even if I am producing up there, Dave is part of the reason I am there. The studio is close to a quarry, and incredible waterfalls within a few minutes walk from the studio. Its like an old country manor house that’s wonderfully unkempt and bands feel so at home there. The prices of studios in London are beyond many of the bands I work with, and Bryn Derwen is a residential studio with plenty of room for 6-8 , a wonderful mix board a DDA AMR24, a lovely old grand piano, great outboard, and a brilliant engineer, Dave Wrench on tap. I produced the Lucas Renney record here, and the Duke Spirit lp ‘Cuts Across The Land’, and my own Snowbird record ( a new band with Stephanie Dosen)
Q06 Analog or Digital? Tape or DAW? Outboard or Plugin?
Whatever and wherever, but out of choice I love the sound of analog recordings. Our own studio was mostly during the pre-computer  period and I learnt what little I know using 2″ tape, on an Otari 24 track with Dolby SR, and Otari half-inch mastering. We did  buy a lot of lovely old vintage gear, but it all went with the receivers and it’s best not to think about it!!
Q07 What 3 pieces of gear could you not live without?
Roland Space Echo, Roland CR78 drum machine and AKAI MPC-60 (its limitations are its strength) and I am using them ALL on the Snowbird LP!
Q08 What do you think is the best mixed record of all time?
Either Innervisions by Stevie Wonder or Remain in Light by Talking Heads
Q09 What do you do on your downtime from Label/Studio?
Downtime??????????
Q10 If you werent an producer/musician , what would you be doing instead?
Dogwalker.

Q11 What was your 1st professional album, mix/master job?
First job outside of my own solo and band stuff was Billy Mackenzie’s posthumous release on Nude Records called Beyond The Sun. A privilege to be involved as co-producer. As I had loved The Associates, to get a phonecall out of the blue, asking if I’d like co-produce the record blew my mind, and then to sit with the music of this sadly-missed beautiful man who I had met as a naïve 18 year old and be able to put something of my self into it was emotional and super special.
 
Q12 What is some of the recent/future works you been part of?
I am co-producing an album I have co-written for a band called Snowbird, with Stephanie Dosen (Chemical Brothers, etc), this will be  released in 2012 on Bella Union and I recently produced the debut lp on Brille Records by Lucas Renney, ex-Golden Virgins. I brought Paul and Mckenzie from Midlake over from Texas to record with Lucas and that was a great fun experience in Bryn Derwen wirth Dave Wrench.  At that point, I realised that Mckenzie was probably the best drummer around. Hearing him on record and seeing him at gigs is one thing, but seeing him in action was something else. Literally. Two things I wont EVER forget. On one take I was watching through the control room window, he was texting with one hand and playing the drums with the other..that was THE take we used and it was genius! Then on a new song that he and Paul had never heard before, they played it through for the first time and as is usual, Dave and I were recording everything anyway, just in case, and at one point in the song, a very straightforward 4-4 verse chorus arrangement, BOTH Paul and Mckenzie at EXACTLY the same moment did this weird off-beat fill thing that was so unexpected Dave and I just looked at each other and were like “WOAH! Did you hear that?!!” How could they have known to do that at the same time on a song they had only just heard!! When I spoke to them on the headphones after the take, I asked them how the fuck that could have happened, and Paul just laughed and said ‘we’ve been playing together every day for like 7 years, we have an instinctive thing going on ….” Yeah, too right they do. Moments like this are priceless and why I am so grateful for the life I have.
By: Shayne Byrne | Beat-Play Ambassador Ireland | @shaynewithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

The Little Black Hearts – “The Strange” [VIDEO]

The Little Black Hearts is a hard-hitting rock band from Leeds, UK. The four-piece outfit brings a truly raw rock sound, consisting of thundering drums, classic guitar riffs, and a bass that drives the show. While the brute force of their sound might be the most noticeable characteristic, you can’t help admiring the juxtaposition with the rhythm and melodic components. They are unabashed and unafraid, and, for the most part, completely unfiltered. If you take some time to listen to a larger sample of their music, you understand exactly what I’m talking about. To be honest, it’s quite endearing. Fun little tidbit: the video for their single, “The Strange,” was fully recorded and edited on ten iPhones. It’s refreshing to see people work outside of the common molds. You can check out the video below and make sure you check out their music section on their facebook page to hear more of their art.

Bonus Video: “Rebecca” by The Little Black Hearts

Kyle C. Stilley | Marketing Strategist | @stillz | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

Bright Light Bright Light – “Disco Moment” [VIDEO]

In the latter months of 2010, rising singer, songwriter, producer and DJ Rod Thomas released his debut album, Make Me Believe in Hope under the moniker Bright Light Bright Light. The Welsh-born Thomas harps on late-80’s and 90’s influences, such as Depeche Mode, Bjork, and Ace of Base to deliver an exciting electro-pop sound. To borrow German-magazine Finger’s description of Bright Light Bright Light, it’s “pop music you’d like to dance naked in the streets to.” Earlier this month, Thomas released the video to “Disco Moment,” his latest single, which encompasses the very essence of Bright Light Bright Light, from the passionate lyrics to the balladic refrains.

Bonus: Rod Thomas’ debut single from Make Me Believe in Hope, “Love Part II” was released last fall to warm reception. It’s an “interesting” video that clearly won’t be winning any awards, but it certainly does nothing to hinder the music.

Make sure you head over to Thomas’ website to check out more tracks and stay in touch with this talented artist’s next moves.

Kyle C. Stilley | Marketing Strategist | @stillz | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

TUTORIAL: PRO TOOLS LE 8 POWER TIPS

 SPEED UP YOUR WORKFLOW WITH THESE FIVE ESSENTIAL TECHNIQUES

 

Despite a Reference Guide that stretches beyond 1,000 pages, as well as a handful of additional guides and manuals, there is so much you can do with Pro Tools LE that it can be overwhelming to approach the documentation directly. (Though, to Avid’s credit, the guides are easy to navigate.) For those who just won’t RTFM but want to get things done now, this article offers five techniques that every Pro Tools LE user should know, but which are often overlooked.
One of the things that sets Pro Tools apart from the competition is its elegant routing system, yet it’s the simplest application of the sends and buses that often intimidate 
Pro Tools users. I’ll explain a couple of ways the pros use them to get the most creative mileage, with a fun technique at the end for fans of old-school, tape-speed effects.
Throughout the article, I’ll offer keyboard shortcuts whenever possible. Command/Control indicates that on the Mac you use Command, while on the PC you use Control as part of the key sequence.
PRINTING EFFECTS
Unlike in an analog mixer, the insert section in Pro Tools is post-fader. This means that even though you may have effects plug-ins on your track while you record, you’re not recording—or printing, as we say—those effects to disk. That’s a good thing when all you want to do is give singers some reverb around their voices. On the other hand, if you want to keep that awesome sound you’re getting from your amp-modeling plug-in, you’ll need to use an aux track to host the plug-in and then route its output, using a bus, to an audio track to capture the processed signal.
Begin by creating an aux track that will serve as your main audio input (Track > New, or Command/Control+Shift+N). If you’re playing guitar, a mono track will do, but if your input is stereo, create a stereo aux track. The aux track serves as the effects conduit that will feed other tracks. So if you’re recording a lead guitar part, this is the track in which you will load your favorite amp-modeling plug-in.
Notice that the aux track doesn’t have a Record Enable button like audio tracks do. You need to create a destination, so hit Command/Control+Shift+N to open the track dialog box again and create the number of destinations tracks you want. (Typically, I’ll create the aux and audio tracks at the same time, but for the sake of clarity, I’m doing them separately here.)
To feed audio to your destination track, use a bus in the I/O section rather than one in the Sends area because you don’t want to hear the unprocessed track while you play. (If you were to use a send in the aux track, and kept its output tile set to Out 1-2, you’d hear both parts—processed and unprocessed—at the outputs, which gets annoying when you’re playing.) Therefore, select an unused bus for your aux track’s output—let’s say bus 7 for now—and then select the same bus number as your input for your destination track. Hit the Record Enable button to see if you’re getting signal when you play (see Fig. 1).

FIG. 1: The aux track (left) hosts my plug-in and routes it to the middle track. The right track records the unprocessed signal, which I’ve noted in the comments field at the bottom.
Remember that your input gain setting should be set at the interface. In the case of an electric guitar, plug into the DI input, push the DI button to set the initial gain level, and then set the input trim control on the interface itself so that your signal is not overloading.
In the Mixer window, the amount of signal you send to your destination track will be determined by the aux track’s fader level. To get the best signal-to-noise ratio and use the most bits possible, make sure your input signal is hovering in the 75-percent range of the aux input’s meter—mostly in the yellow zone and rarely (if ever) hitting the red.
At this point, you should be able to hear your processed guitar from your destination track. You can set the fader level of the destination track to whatever is comfortable because it doesn’t affect the signal while you record—it’s for monitoring only. Set it to a listening level that inspires your playing. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t go to 11.)
While you’re tracking that killer guitar tone from your modeling plug-in, it’s also a good idea to record an unprocessed version of your part just in case you want an alternative tone later on. To get that, create a new audio track with the same input that is going to your aux track, hit Record Enable, lower the fader to zero (so you don’t hear the dry guitar part), and hit Record.
A good habit to get into is naming the tracks (by double-clicking on the name tile) in a way that will make it easy during mixdown to see what’s there. And be sure to add notes in the Comments section (View > Mix Window View > Comments) below each track when you record multiple tracks in this way. Comments provide a good way to remember a patch setting, show a collaborator what you did to get that sound, or tell the mixer how to treat the track. Figure 1 shows my annotations for this particular set of tracks.
LOOP RECORDING, COMPING
A common practice in the studio is to create the perfect vocal or instrumental track from several alternate takes by cutting and pasting the best sections together. This is called 
comping (short for compositing). You can set up 
Pro Tools so that it repeats the section and automatically records and names take after take. This process is called loop recording.
Pro Tools will automatically create a new playlist on the same track for each alternate take. Think of each alternate take, or playlist, as a virtual track below the main playlist (the top track that plays back). Although you could manually create a new playlist and then record each take individually, using the loop-record function lets you stay in the groove by not interrupting your creative flow. (It also works best if you’ve chosen beginning and end points for the loop that aren’t too distracting.)
A bit of setup is required to make this process run smoothly. Begin by going to the Record section of the Operation page under Preferences (Setup > Preferences > Operation). Check the box next to Automatically Create New Playlists When Loop Recording, and then click the OK button.
If you want to see all of the alternate-take playlists automatically fan out below your main playlist when you stop recording, change the Track View tile from Waveform to Playlists (see Fig. 2).

FIG. 2: Select Playlists in the Track View tile to see all of the alternate playlist lanes when you’re done loop recording.
You can also set an amount of pre-roll time before you begin loop recording, so select something that makes sense musically to get you into the section. However, you will only hear the pre-roll material once before you begin loop recording. If you want to give yourself a bit of pre- and post-roll on either side of the part you’re tracking, select loop points that give you the extra beats or bars before and after the section.
To set Pro Tools into Loop Record mode, select Loop Record from the Options menu (or simply right-click on the Record button in the Transport window until the circular arrow appears on it). Also be sure that you’ve selected Link Timeline and Edit Selection in the Options menu.
In the Edit window, use the Selector tool to click and drag over the area in the audio track where you want to record. If the beginning or end of the area needs to be adjusted, hold down Shift and drag near either side until the edges of the selection are in the correct place.
Record Enable your track, and then hit the Record button followed by Play to begin recording (Command/Control+Spacebar). If you’ve set a pre-roll amount, Pro Tools will begin playing the session, but it won’t actually start recording until the cursor enters the selected region (loop zone). But once recording begins, it will loop the selection until you hit the spacebar to stop the session.
Now it’s time to create your composite track. To do this, you’ll want to see all of the alternate takes you recorded. If you set the Track View tile to Playlists before loop recording, you’ll already see each take in its own playlist lane once you stop loop recording. If you only see one playlist, select the region you just recorded and right-click to get the popup menu. Then select Matches > Expand Alternates to New Playlists to view all of the playlist lanes.
Let’s say you have eight takes of a solo, each with its own playlist. Choose the best parts of each alternate take and automatically paste them to the top position (the main playlist). To listen to an alternate playlist lane, use its Solo button. Then select the portion you want to move to the top, right-click on the region, and then select Copy Selection to Main Playlist (Edit > Copy Selection To > Main Playlist). The shortcut is Option/Control+V to paste the selected region into the main playlist (see Fig. 3).

FIG. 3: The main playlist contains my comped guitar solo, built from the playlists below. I added a crossfade between the first two regions to smooth out the transition.
The most efficient way to create a comp is to begin with the take that includes the most material that you’ll keep, and then paste the corrective sections from the other takes into it. If the better of the takes isn’t the main playlist, select the current main playlist, right-click to get the menu, and under Matches pick the take you want to be on top (see Fig. 4).

FIG. 4: Move an alternate playlist into the main position by right-clicking and selecting it under Matches.
Once you’ve created your perfect take, you can hide the playlist lanes by right-clicking on one of the name tiles for a playlist and selecting Filter Lanes > Hide All Lanes. To create a single audio file of the comped regions, select the entire solo and choose Consolidate under the Edit menu (or use Option/Control+Shift+3).
BEYOND THE BOUNCE
The Bounce to Disk feature is the primary way that beginner and intermediate Pro Tools users create and export a mix. However, when you bounce a mix, you are locked out of making changes to your session as it plays back in real time. In addition, many experienced 
Pro Tools users say that the audio results aren’t as high as what you’d get when you do a 
layback—in essence, re-record you entire mix as a stereo track back into Pro Tools. Once you’ve done that, you can drag the resulting stereo file out of the Audio Files folder as a pair of mono left-and-right files, or export it as a 
stereo interleaved file using the Export Regions as Files command. Remember, the file you layback will be at the same resolution as your session: You cannot create a 16-bit, 44.1kHz file from a 24-bit, 96kHz session using this method. If you need to do that, use Bounce to Disk.
You can also use a layback to create submixes and stems—any situation where you want to create a mono or stereo file from a number of tracks—either because you’ve got more tracks or voices than you can play back or because a client has asked for them. In this example, I will focus on creating a final mix from a simple multitrack session that includes audio and instrument (virtual instruments controlled by MIDI) tracks.
Although doing a layback is simple, a couple of conditions have to be met. First, you have to make sure you haven’t exceeded the number of voices you can work with in your Pro Tools session. (This is not a problem in this example session, with seven audio and three aux tracks.) Second, under the Options pulldown menu, select Link Timeline and Edit Selection and de-select Loop Record and Loop Playback.
Next, create a stereo audio track that will be the destination and name it something useful. (I’ve called it Layback in this example.) To easily locate it in the Mix and Edit windows, I’ve also dragged it to the right of the Master Fader in the Mix window. (It’ll also appear below the Master Fader track in the 
Edit window.)
Leave the layback track’s output set at Out 1-2, but change the input to an unused pair of buses. (I’ve selected Bus 9-10.) Next, change the output for every track you want to include in the layback to match the bus tracks used as the input for the layback track (see Fig. 5).

FIG. 5: I’ve routed all of the track outputs to Bus 9-10 and matched the input for the destination track.
Click the Record Enable button on the layback destination track, hit Return to start at the beginning of the session (or select the amount of the song you want to record in the Edit window), and then hit Play. You should see the meters moving in the destination track and the Master Fader.
Before you begin recording, play the track through once to make sure that none of the sections in your mix cause the meters in the layback track to go into the red. If they do, figure out which tracks are the culprit and adjust the fader levels to correct the problem. Then hit Record and Play (Command/Control+Spacebar) to initiate recording and create your mix. When it’s done, hit Save.
At this point, you may be wondering how to use insert effects on the master bus—reverb, compression, limiting—and have them print onto your layback files. To do that, you’ll use a similar technique that you used in the previous section of this article: You add an aux track with the effects before the layback destination track (see Fig. 6).

FIG. 6: You can print effects during a layback by using an aux track before the destination track.
Create a stereo aux track, assign the input to an unused stereo bus, and then assign the outputs of the playback tracks to the same bus. Next, assign the aux output tile to another unused stereo bus and match it to the input of the layback track. Finally, assign the insert effects you want to use on the aux track, Record Enable the layback track, and you’re ready to record with effects. Again, play the track once through before you record to make sure that the effects are not causing any overs or changing the music in a negative way.
HOW HIGH THE MOON
As a reward for getting this far, let’s finish with something fun: half-speed record mode. Yes, it works just like it does with a tape deck: As you record, the session plays back at half-speed while your instrument sounds at the correct pitch. When you’re done recording, play the session back at regular speed, and the part you just recorded will sound twice as fast and an octave higher, just like it did when Les Paul and Frank Zappa used this technique to fill out their orchestrations.
The technique in Pro Tools is simple. Prepare your audio track to record as you normally would, and then put it in Record Enable mode. As you simultaneously hit the Record and Play buttons in the Transport window, hold down Shift (or use Command/Control+Shift+Spacebar), and the session will begin recording at half speed.
If you want to play your session back at half-time for transcription or lick-learning, Shift+Spacebar does the trick. Although you can’t record the slowed-down session using the layback technique discussed earlier, the RTAS/AudioSuite plug-in Flashback ($199, or $19.90 for 31 days) from Synaptricity (synaptricity.com) can do it. Because Flashback records in the background as you work, it will capture half-speed playback faithfully, as well as anything you do with the Scrubber tool. The plug-in opens up a new world of sound-design possibilities in Pro Tools, and I highly recommend it.

By: Shayne Byrne | Beat-Play Ambassador Ireland | @shaynewithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

 

Is it loud to you? [MUSIC HELP]

All too often we hear complaints that the sound is too loud at concerts. Further, widespread enactment of sound control regulations often requires concert sound engineers to limit SPLs to mandated levels. However, despite regulations and a growing awareness on the part of concert engineers that high SPLs are dangerous, few seem able to turn it down. Though concerts are louder than ever-and many in the music business suffer some hearing loss-there seem to be hidden forces at work that encourage engineers to turn up the volume. We are painting ourselves into a corner.

This is not a trivial problem. Results of the free screenings offered annually at the AES convention by the House Ear Institute suggest that hearing loss accumulates in our industry like black T-shirts. The averages by age show several dB of loss above 2 kHz for each ten years of age, a process that accelerates with time. For those in their 40s, the mean threshold of hearing measured was reduced by 12 dB or more above 2.5 kHz. Pushing down all the sliders on the right side of a graphic EQ simulates the hearing of the typical middle-aged audio professional.

After four hours at 95 dBA in one day, a listener’s hearing is considered at risk. under somewhat lax oSHA guidelines, exposure time should be cut in half for each 5dB increase, so for levels averaging 100 dB, over two hours is considered dangerous, and the European formula is even stricter, halving permissible exposure for each additional 3 dB. Clearly, we are able to hurt ourselves, our clients and their audiences with today’s concert sound levels.

There are many political and career forces that encourage engineers to turn it up-the guitarist’s girlfriend and the band’s manager spring to mind. Plus, the physiological and emotional impact of loud sound simply gets everyone’s heart beating faster. Bad venue acoustics or a terrible mix position often tempt a mixer to turn it up (not always a successful tactic). But there are also subtle mechanisms of human audio perception that tend to make the console’s faders “upwards sticky” and encourage higher concert levels.

LOUDNESS PERCEPTION

The ear is not a linear device-its response varies with frequency. Hearing sensitivity peaks in the high-mids and falls off at the extremes, and the hearing curve also changes with volume, becoming slightly flatter at higher SPLs. In order to maintain a perceived balance between high and lows (and mids and low-mids, and so on) a “flat” playback system may need to be EQ’d differently for different levels of reproduction. The “loudness” control on your stereo attempts to correct this problem by applying a progressive EQ that compensates for the well-known “equal loudness contours” of human sound perception. Because our ears become less sensitive to bass and treble at lower levels, a loudness control adds bass and treble when the hi-fi system is idling.

Some research indicates that the ear is more sensitive to these relative EQ changes than to the volume change itself. As a result, music or other familiar audio sources that sound correctly equalized at one level may sound a little “off” at a different volume. When the level of a concert sound mix changes by 10 dB, it can sound as if an invisible hand is reaching over to the P.A.’s system EQ and changing the curve by a few dB in many places.

It’s no surprise that our ears are especially sensitive in the octave around 4 kHz to begin with. But as a concert gets louder, the ear gets even more sensitive there. This corresponds to the resonant frequency of the ear canal, and is the frequency range where hearing overload and damage occurs first. Ears that have sustained damage often experience discomfort at these frequencies earlier.

Many already know this and regularly take out some high-mids in the normal course of adjusting their sound system’s EQ. But do they take out enough? It’s not just the compression driver’s response that needs to be tamed. At higher volumes there’s additional driver distortion, plus the way we hear it also needs to be taken into account. Above 105 dB, the ear itself begins to distort.

SYSTEM EQ

Is there a step in the pre-flight process that is missing? Talking into a microphone, listening to familiar playback material or running pink noise while observing an analyzer’s display usually occur at a lower level than the system will be run for the show. Whatever method is used to adjust the system’s EQ, if adjustments are made at a lower volume than the performance, then those adjustments are likely to become inaccurate at higher levels.

The next step is to soundcheck the band. Individual instruments and voices are checked through the P.A., and then the entire group plays a few songs together, usually at a louder level than when the system EQ was set. Adjustments made to individual channel EQ incorporate the overall response of the system and the operator’s hearing at these higher levels. Some engineers soundcheck at an even higher level than they intend for the show because it’s easier to hear and quickly make adjustments. This process of adjusting channel EQ during soundcheck results in EQ corrections that overlay the system equalizer’s settings.

Now, the ability of the system EQ to be correctly adjusted in the first place is another discussion entirely, but let’s suppose it was perfect at the level you first checked it and listened to your CD. At the new, higher levels used for soundcheck, the ear’s response has changed a little, plus distortion in the system has increased. The P.A. gets a little more boomy, muddy and harsh, plus there’s the sound coming directly from the stage. Channel EQ used to make each instrument sound “good” by itself and in the mix incorporates everything heard at this level (with the room empty, but again another story, another time). You may even make a conscious, well-intentioned effort to take the master level down a few dB after soundcheck, because you know that you soundchecked a little too loud.

Well, now it’s show time and you’re relaxed and ready to move to the other side of your brain and simply mix the show and become one with the music. You’ll spend a few moments in the first song deciding if the system EQ is okay, but then you’ve got to get right to mixing and become the fifth Beatle, playing with effects, riding solos, checking inserts and tweaking the lead vocal. Somehow it never sounds quite right until the volume creeps up past a certain point.

FIND YOUR SPACE

one more aspect of hearing perception is that the relaxed listener is comfortable with higher levels. This means that levels used during the tension of getting soundcheck together are raised without alarm when mix engineers (and band) relax and get “into their space” as the show progresses. When this physiological effect is combined with the better fit that channel EQ settings from soundcheck make with the system EQ as it’s turned up, it’s easy for levels to make their way past the loudest settings used at soundcheck.

Many recording engineers make efforts to manage control room levels, knowing that if it sounds good low, it will sound good louder, because it gets fuller, warmer, a little less bright, and articulation in the high-mids improves vocal presence. This is an important part of the studio engineer’s craft, since he or she has no control over the level at which the final product will be heard. one tool that helps is a good pair of near-field monitors. For live shows, lower soundcheck levels can also help the mix sound better lower, but it’s up to the band and engineers to work together by reducing stage volume as well.

One final thought on system optimization is that, ideally, it is a good idea to check the impulse response of a sound system. With the advent of computer-based analysis, it is possible to examine the phase response of concert systems. Correct alignment of not only the various speakers in a system, but also of the components in each frequency band, can result in a response that is less blurred and more coherent, improving intelligibility and transparency. For each speaker component, when wavelengths get larger than the transducers producing them, the signal lags behind. This is most apparent in subwoofers, where waveforms the length of a truck are coming out of 18-inch drivers. It is not uncommon for ten or more milliseconds of delay to be required on the mains to get them lined up with the subs. Dynamic instruments are more easily discerned when their reproduction has a singular arrival, allowing lower mix levels to sound good.

And on the subject of subwoofers-the least efficient transducers that take up the most space-perhaps it’s time to rethink their use. Most reflex enclosures are tuned for the octave below 100 Hz, with response falling rapidly below that where the ear is also least sensitive. If these are adjusted at relatively low playback levels, when the concert starts the subwoofers may be too boomy and lack enough headroom for accurate performance. Additionally, distortion above the crossover point can further skew their response when driven to full output. Turning them down and carefully equalizing and aligning them with the mains can add more perceived power. Cleanly extending the lowest octave is one of the last great challenges to accurate sound reinforcement.

THE TALENT KNOB

Many live sound engineers are familiar with the experience of listening to the tape of a loud show, only to find that what had seemed like a good performance was in fact plagued by out-of-tune instruments and off-key singing. Though the deficiencies of such live recordings are often blamed on the necessarily incomplete nature of board tapes-we are talking about “sound reinforcement,” after all-this only explains problems with mix balance or EQ. Critical bandwidth, the ability to discern tone or pitch within a range, is affected by high SPLs and, as a result, many singers will pitch slightly flat in loud environments.

This extra reason why louder sounds better is also a barrier to improving the performance. If you’ve been in search of the missing “suck” knob, here it is. As volume increases, what might have sounded out of tune or off-key now sounds okay. The widening of critical bandwidth makes it harder to discern tones that are close to each other when it’s louder. Similarly, cramped rehearsal spaces can give false impressions. Another example is garage bands that go from clubs to larger venues and have trouble getting their sound right.

OTHER TOOLS

Another mechanism at work is the masking of one frequency range by another that is proportionately too loud. In the frequency response of a sound system, smooth peaks are preferable to sharp ones. It is increasingly understood that graphic equalizers do not have sufficient precision for smoothing out the response of sound systems. Their controls fall at fixed intervals on standard ISo frequencies, unlike the system’s response peaks, which-surprise!-rarely match the ISo marks. In the course of setting individual channel EQ, you often see many of the same boosts and cuts across the board, which simply act as corrective adjustments to the system EQ.

If a system is optimized for a smoother response with precise parametric filters, perhaps the best use of a graphic is to quickly re-contour the P.A. to help its response at louder levels. In fact, this is how you find the best mix engineers using their graphic during a show. All EQ is subjective.

Perhaps a more precise system EQ tool for mix engineers would be a set of filters centered at frequencies where human audio perception changes with different sound pressure levels (with additional facility to compensate for increased component distortion at higher levels). It is worth noting that we are now seeing crossovers on the market with dynamic filters available on each output, and a few live engineers already use a mastering EQ across their mix bus.

GO ON, MIX

Last but not least, the amount of headroom in contemporary sound systems has become a panacea for a multitude of sins. All of the previous suggestions may not have as much of an impact as a good, active mix. Move the faders, feel the force, Luke. In the past, engineers were forced to mix around the limits of their systems. Back in the days when mixers brought elements up and then back down, hundreds instead of thousands of watts were sufficient for quality sound. Today we often see the insertion of many channel compressors in attempts to create a console that mixes itself. It’s not unusual to find younger engineers “mixing” without touching the faders.

A static mix must be higher in volume for all its elements to be heard. Employing an active mix, as an alternative to simply achieving a balance where everything is heard equally, can help the show sound better at a lower volume. What would happen if the lighting guy just turned all the lights on? organize the order of your input list so that individual channels can be turned up AND down without taking your fingers off other faders. As a last resort, you could try using your VCAs to mix. Eight fingers, eight faders. Cool, huh?

One final thought: You have heard the show hundreds of times, know all the words and need something extra to make it exciting, but your audience may have different needs. Try mixing for them.

SAY WHAT?

Now all this may fall on deaf ears. Sure, I know some of you are already damaged goods, but it doesn’t have to get worse. Some of the best engineers have hearing problems and manage to compensate. The important thing is to manage your daily exposure so it doesn’t get any worse. It is possible to have a loud show that isn’t damaging. Recently I was the system tech at an outdoor show with a headliner whose engineer had mixed top arena rock bands for years. When the sound cop finally showed up halfway through the set, he was forced to turn the volume down 10 dB. Because of outstanding engineering skills and mixing chops, the show sounded just as good at this lower level, perhaps better. I’ve heard this year’s lack of sell-out shows attributed to everything from high ticket prices to competition from entertainment alternatives. Is it possible that the decline of tickets sales in an otherwise growing economy can be attributed to disgruntled concertgoers? A quarter-million tiny hairs suspended in fluid, winding through the coil of the inner ear. This nonrenewable asset is our most precious resource in the concert business.

By: Shayne Byrne | Beat-Play Ambassador Ireland | @shaynewithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

Arrow in the Sky – Winter’s Requiem [MUSIC]

Arrow in the Sky consists of a deuce of multi-instrumentalists,

Conor McCauley and Brian Murphy. They hail from Ireland’s belly

button where they have been honing their craft for a number of

years in one ensemble or another. Driven together by a mixture

of circumstances, of which there is no need to go into here,

they have created two fine and upstanding mini-albums

Do what thou wilt Cover Art

Do What Thou Wilt (2009) and

Winter's Requiem Cover Art

 

 

 

Winter’s Requiem (2011)

They are currently hard at work on their debut full length

recording, which is sure to be epic!

The sound live can be likened to other harmony laden,

song driven artists such as CSN and Simon & Garfunkel or

more contemporary artists such as My Morning Jacket,

Fleet Foxes and Bowerbirds. With an arsenal of traditional

instruments doing very untraditional things, strange and

boundless vocals, Arrow in the Sky have created a world

and sonic imagery all of their own. Weaving an aural tapestry

of folk, blues, alt-rock into their own unique blend of

Irish-Americana.

“’Winter’s Requiem’ proves to me that they are one of Ireland’s best bands in the Folk-rock genre.” Peter Nagle – 2uibestow.blogspot.com

“With these gorgeous folk melodies on their second EP, Arrow in the Sky mark themselves out as a force to be reckoned with” Ronan Hunt-Murphy – swearimnotpaul.com

 

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By: Shayne Byrne | Beat-Play Ambassador Ireland | @shaynewithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

Yoav – “Yellowbrite Smile” [VIDEO]

Yoav

 

South African native Yoav has traveled the world with his guitar, loop petal and soulful voice.  Eastern scales and rhythms fuse with a dance club groove that creates his unique sound.  For his most recent album, a Foolproof Escape Plan, he worked with artists from around the world as well as the outstanding American producer and drummer Joey Waronker (who has worked with Thom Yorke, Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, and R.E.M.).  From the US, to Europe and now back to South Africa this talented artist is a must see, and will be playing at the Assembly in Cape Town August 13, 2011 – mark your calendars now!

 

 

By: Elizabeth Stene | Beat-Play Ambassador South Africa | @LizMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC