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Although some people still like printed manuals, it’s great that so many manufacturers include PDF files with distribution media, or online as a downloadable file. The search function alone makes PDFs handy, but of course, they also save costs and are environmentally responsible (if you really want a paper manual, you can always print out thePDF). With the iPad’s ability to conveniently store PDFs in a library, you can gather all this material in one place for easy reference.
Many pieces of gear have very specific requirements when it comes to “wall wart” AC adapters, and most manuals will include a warning about how you must use only the supplied adapter. This isn’t just a way to get you to buy a spare (although that’s always a good idea!), but some adapters give a higher voltage than specified because the associated piece of gear will load it down to produce the desired voltage. Others might have an unusual connector; and while some adapters provide a DC voltage, others provide an AC voltage.
Recently while engineering a session in the Santa Fe University of Art & Design's recording studios for the hip-hop group ICC, we were laying down a percussion part with various hand drums (e.g., conga, djembe, bongos, tumba, etc.) when producer Brian Hardgroove wanted a less resonant, more “dead” sound. The object was to avoid conflicts with the main drum track, which had a lot of presence and in some sections was relatively “busy.” I tried the “tape your wallet to the head” trick, but while that muted the sound somewhat, it didn’t change the fundamental character enough.
Recently while engineering a session for the hip-hop group ICC, we were laying down a percussion part with various hand drums (e.g., conga, djembe, bongos, tumba, etc.) when producer Brian Hardgroove wanted a less resonant, more “dead” sound. The object was to avoid conflicts with the main drum track, which had a lot of presence and in some sections was relatively “busy.”
These days, technology becomes obsolete long before it ever wears out or breaks down. Take, for example, early-generation mp3 players, like iPods. The most common reason people give them up is because a new iPod comes along. Or they abandon dedicated mp3 players altogether in favor of a smartphone or the snazzy iPod Touch. That means you can usually find old iPods left around in desk drawers, still with good (or good enough) battery capacity.
Quick, what’s the delay, in samples, for a guitar sound hitting a mic that’s touching the speaker cabinet grille compared to the ambient mic that’s placed 30 feet away? Even if you know that sound travels roughly one foot per millisecond (because you’ve learned that sound travels 1,100 feet per second), it still takes you some time to wrap your head around converting milliseconds to samples. Not to mention multiplying two double-digit numbers.
The Mackie Control became such a common hardware controller that most DAWs included “hooks” to allow for them to be controlled by Mackie’s hardware. But that also created another trend—other hardware controllers emulating the Mackie protocol so that non-Mackie controllers could work with these same DAWs because, from the DAW’s standpoint, they appeared identical to the Mackie Control.
Back in the days of tape machines with varispeed, it was a fairly common technique to reduce the speed somewhat before recording a vocal, then return to standard speed for playback. This added a slight formant change and a little extra brightness that gave a bit more of a “pop” vocal sound. (Sometimes even master recordings were sped up somewhat to make them sound brighter and tighter.)
Apogee's MiC is a fine-sounding mic for iOS devices and as a USB mic, for the Mac; there's a review of it here on Harmony Central. But none of Apogee’s marketing materials mention Windows, the company does not support Windows, and I was told by an Apogee employee that the company has not tested the mic with Windows. Well, after verifying how well it worked with iOS devices and the Mac, I took Windows compatibility as a challenge.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that backing up is important. With today’s “in the box” recordings, backing up is easy: if all the parameters, data, and audio are a part of the project, then backing up the project saves all the data. Easy.
I love microphones! For a recording enthusiast, they're the equivalent of a photographer's lenses - the devices that capture the raw sonic material that we sculpt into our finished aural masterpieces. Without microphones, your recording project will stall before it ever gets off the ground; unless you're working strictly with samples and virtual instruments, you simply have to have them -- but how many do you need? And with so many models and types available, how do you decide which mikes to get? We're going to try to answer some of those questions in this article.
Soldering is something I consider to be a nearly essential skill for electric and electronic musicians. While you can go your whole life without learning how to solder, the ability to do so will save you time, money and aggravation in the long run. If you're a recording enthusiast, the ability to solder can be even more essential, and for those who want to build electronics "kits", it's madatory.
For decades, the conventional guitar pickup with its mono output has served us well. But today, hex pickups that generate a separate output for each string are starting to crawl out of their guitar-to-MIDI conversion ghetto—they're not only in Roland guitar synth products, but also in the Line 6 Variax, Roland/Fender VG Strat, and others. And while sending hex outputs directly into a mixer or recorder remains rare, that's starting to change too as more guitarists experiment with the concept.
I have made plenty of mods and repairs to my guitars in my time, and am no stranger to replacing pickups, broken jacks, worn and stripped tuning machines, and bridge assemblies. But these operations have all been performed on electric instruments where everything is made from the get-go to be modular (it makes for cheaper manufacturing as well as repair). In electric-land things come apart logically and mechanically—using traditional tools like screwdrivers, hex drivers, and wrenches.
I see a lot of cool music and music gear related videos online. Lots of people on the forums have been getting involved in DIY productions for various reasons - to showcase their playing abilities or songs, to demo their band, teach how to use a piece of gear or play a particular song, or to show others how the cool new pedal they just purchased sounds. Lately, I have also had to start doing more photo and videos. I'll admit it - I'm cheap. Or budget-challenged.
Probably like most musicians, when I get a song down well enough to perform it without making mistakes—and maybe throwing a little confidence and pizzazz into the delivery—I like to capture my efforts on video. I’ve shared my webcam/hand-held/phone-grab ad hoc efforts with friends and fellow Harmony Central forum members, even letting these videos enjoy quasi-permanent residence on my YouTube channel.
You have a ton of options when it comes to miking up an electric guitar amplifier, and they start with microphones; each microphone has its own individual sound and characteristics. Some microphones, such as the industry standard Shure SM57, have an upper midrange "presence peak" in the 5-7 kHz range that can help a guitar "cut through" a mix.
When I’m not in my studio hunched over musical instruments and audio gear, I escape to the great outdoors and look skyward while engaging in my other hobby, flying radio-controlled model airplanes. I fly both big and small craft, gas- and electric-powered, but what has really taken off in the hobby lately is the advancement of electric flight, largely due to the development of better and better batteries (very similar to what’s happening with automobiles; it’s not the motors holding us back, it’s the batteries).
When I interviewed Eric Johnson in his Austin-based studio a few years ago, I was struck by something that at the time seemed rather mundane. With his guitar in hand, Eric talked and played, demonstrating some of his approaches to soloing. But as brilliant as that was, what caught my eye was the periodic modifications he made to the his guitar while he played.
You can create your own phase-inverting/polarity-reversing adapter simply by swapping the leads of pins #2 and 3.
A phase switch on an amp or mixer is handy because it can eliminate problems when two signals from the same source arrive together at the summing destination, but at slightly different times, due to a delay in one of the signals.
Packing foam comes in all sizes, and lots of it can be re-used and put to good purpose for padding. If only you weren't looking at a sharp-cornered slab when your instrument and microphone padding needs graceful curves and gentle hollows.
For recording guitarists, one benefit of a head-and-stack configuration over a combo is that you can separate the amplifier from the speaker cabinet and run a long cable between the two. A speaker-level signal can travel a longer distance than can a guitar cable, so in a remote recording situation that requires really loud levels, you’ll sometimes see a head and cab in widely separated places.
If you buy a new instrument of a certain quality, chances are it comes with a case. Usually a good one. It might not be strong enough to endure the gamut of disgruntled baggage handlers at a cash-strapped airline, but you can at least throw it in the trunk of a car or haul it around town without worry of the precious cargo inside getting damaged.
Guitarists who adopt multi-effects processors usually cite one of these three reasons for doing so: 1) to consolidate their effects devices; 2) to employ programmability in their effect changes; and 3) to eliminate clutter and extra cables. If you have complex sonic setups, and must change between them quickly, a multi-effects processor can’t be beat.
Guitar amps are, no matter how you cut it, black boxes. You may think you have control over them, but when it gets down to it, you can’t really see inside the black box, and even if you could, there aren’t any moving parts. Electricity is largely non-mechanical. Or in other words, magic. And when the magic stops, most people think all they can do is resort to prayer. Or an amp technician.
One of the most expressive devices available to any musician is vibrato. Playing notes loud and soft or varying the tempo may create a sense of drama, but if you really want to make that high note shimmer—and send shivers down the spine of your listeners—add just the right bit of vibrato, and you can steal the show. Or at least immortalize the moment.
Most guitarists have an intuitive sense as to where basic effectsshould go in their signal chain. If you have two pedals, a distortion unit and a digital delay, you would naturally put the distortion before the delay (the guitar goes into the distortion, the distortion into the delay, and the delay into the amp). But the more pedals you use, the trickier it gets, and some truly bizarre gizmos—like a digital whammy pedal—might put you at a loss to explain just why effects go where they do relative to others in the chain.
Recording your guitar part used to set its sound in stone. Although you could add processors like EQ, reverb, decay, and the like while mixing, they altered the basic sound, but couldn't provide an entirely different sound.
However, re-amping is a way around this. Maybe you wish you'd recorded through a Vox AC30 instead of a Fender Twin – no problem. There are two main options for changing your sound after the fact: standard re-amping, and using software plug-ins to do re-amping.
Most guitarists adopt multi-effects processors for some combination of these three reasons: 1) to consolidate their effects; 2) to employ programmability in their effect changes; and to eliminate clutter and extra cables. If you have complex sonic setups, and must change between them quickly, a multi-effects processor can’t be beat.
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