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Anderton

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  1. MIDI - The Force Awakens Everyone’s favorite music technology protocol is moving rapidly into the 21st century By Craig Anderton A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well actually it was over 30 years ago in Anaheim, California), two synthesizers—one from Roland, one from Sequential Circuits—talked to each other over a MIDI cable. Through a miracle of inter-industry co-operation refreshingly free of politics, the music industry banded together to create a specification that has endured to this day. But…as the old saying goes, what have you done for us lately? The answer is quite a bit. When hard disk recording and ADAT hit, digital audio recording entered the spotlight—while MIDI’s spotlight dimmed. But then Steinberg introduced Virtual Studio Technology, computers got faster, virtual instruments became a sophisticated alternative to physical instruments, USB made it easy for MIDI to talk to computers, and now, MIDI is more important than ever and actually gaining in importance. With MIDI ramping up to be a part of 2.6 billion devices as it invades the smart phone market, the sky’s the limit. THE GUARDIAN OF THE MIDI GALAXY SPEC It takes effort to maintain a spec—dealing with multiple music business companies (with an overlay of American/Japanese/European cultural divide) is like herding cats. Friendly cats to be sure…but cats nonetheless. That task, which borders on the thankless, falls to the MIDI Manufacturers Association. Lately, there’s been increased interest and participation from consumer-oriented companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, as well as long-time supporters like Yamaha, Roland, Gibson, Korg, and others who recognize the value of being involved with the MIDI specification. By paying their share of the organization’s dues, MMA members have the right to help shape the future of MIDI, and vote—with one vote per member, regardless of size—on the various initiatives. This year's MMA meeting at the Anaheim Marriott started off with a review of what happened in 2016. Regarding the mechanics of how changes happen to the MIDI spec, the MMA is an all-volunteer organization with the exception of one employee—Tom White, who heads up the MMA. When a company has a proposal for an extension to the spec, working groups of interested parties coalesce to explore how it would work, and eventually, proposals go to a Technical Standards Board for review. After that review happens, it’s up to the Executive Board of the MMA to “make it so” (full disclosure: I represent Gibson Brands on the Executive Board.) Also, the MMA works closely with AMEI, its Japanese counterpart. This effectively doubles the available brainpower. The MMA holds an annual meeting at NAMM, with both public sessions (through invitation to, for example, journalists and educators who work with MIDI) and other sessions that are closed to the public. Approval of changes is a difficult, lengthy, and time-consuming process. Different manufacturers have different priorities, the MMA’s all-volunteer nature means software engineers who are normally very busy in their “day jobs” don’t have a lot of spare time, and it’s crucial that anything new doesn’t “break” anything old. MIDI SPEC ENHANCEMENTS IN 2016 Although there are several very exciting initiatives on the horizon (more on that later), 2016 brought several extensions to fruition. Some of the higher-visibility ones include: BLE-MIDI. This allows MIDI to talk to computers over Bluetooth Low Energy, with no special hardware required. Although virtually all aspects of the MIDI spec originated in the music industry, this was originally an Apple standard (spearheaded by Torrey Walker), and was proposed to the MMA. It was then adopted with minor revisions. At NAMM 2017, Cakewalk demoed the Zivix Jamstik working with SONAR (BLE-MIDI support was introduced with Windows 10 Anniversary Edition), despite Zivix itself thinking it wouldn’t be possible. Granted, any software needs the right “hooks” for Windows, but there’s no doubt other companies will be incorporating BLE-MIDI into their software. Other other new features, MoForte's GeoShred 2 software instrument now includes MIDI Polyphonic Expression MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). Championed by ROLI, Roger Linn, and others, this allows expression for individual notes within a polyphonic data stream. It does this by maximizing the use of MIDI channels to allow per-note control of pitch, volume, timbre and more. The bottom line is this brings acoustic instrument-like expressiveness to new electronic controllers, like ROLI’s keyboards and the Linnstrument. Windows 10 Multi-Client Support. This is a fancy way of saying “you can have several MIDI programs running at once.” Ever wonder why you couldn’t run your sequencer and the editor for your virtual instrument that communicates via MIDI at the same time? Now you can, because Windows has the intelligence to separate individual MIDI data streams. There are also many other Windows 10 enhancements, like MIDI support in PowerShell and the Windows Store. This doodle generated sound on Chrome using the Web-MIDI API. Web-MIDI API (Application Program Interface). This is currently supported in Chrome and Opera, and is what allowed you to play a synth on Google’s home page as a tribute to Bob Moog on what would have been his 78th birthday. Firefox is also moving toward adoption, albeit slowly. Microsoft and Apple aren’t committed to supporting it yet, but it probably won’t take long before they figure out this is a really cool feature to have—especially for education. The MIDI Association gave info on all things MIDI that were happening at the Winter 2017 NAMM show The MIDI Association. The MMA also established a free, public-facing, user-oriented offshoot at www.midi.org that explains MIDI, presents news about the spec, makes the spec available for download, and has numerous articles as well as a forum on all things MIDI. It’s a cool site and well worth checking out. THE FUTURE The MMA is understandably reluctant to reveal what’s under consideration. Much of this is to avoid early mentions of something that “seems like a good idea” at the time, but for some reason, doesn’t pan out. As a result, although I’d love to give you a peek in to the future, I can’t. But the fact that I wish I could probably gives you a hint that there’s a lot more bubbling under the surface. What I can say is that both the MMA and AMEI agree on the need to improve MIDI in terms of speed, resolution, and channels, and have a goal of finalizing new extensions to the specification as rapidly as practical. The challenge is how to bring MIDI into the 21st century without invalidating the huge universe of existing MIDI gear, but the music industry’s best minds are on the case…and MIDI looks poised to mean even more in the 21st century than it did in the 20th. Resources Individuals can join The MIDI Association, a global community of people who work, play, and create with MIDI, for free. Companies that make MIDI products and want to help decide MIDI’s future can join the MMA. In either case, visit www.midi.org for more details. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  2. 32nd Annual TEC Awards The venerable industry awards ceremony re-boots - and shines By Craig Anderton Left to right: Alice Cooper, Robert DeLeo, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry perform at the TEC Awards finale. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAMM. All other photos by Lee Anderton) The TEC Awards were created in 1985 under the aegis of Mix Magazine, back in the heyday of print. Its goal was to give recognition to the “individuals, companies, and technical innovations behind the sound of recordings, live performances, films, television, video games and other media.” It’s basically the “Oscars” for the music industry, as well as a chance to contribute to a good cause (the NAMM Foundation), attend a banquet with friends and associates, and be entertained by some pretty high-power acts—Pete Townshend, Steve Vai, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Slash, Chaka Khan, and many, many more over the years—as well as see people like George Lucas, the late Les Paul, Rupert Neve, and other luminaries accept their awards. Geoff Emerick, best known for his engineering work with Beatles as well as Ultravox, Elvis Costello, Jeff Beck, the Zombies, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and others, was the first award presenter of the evening. Full disclosure time: last year, I was asked to advise the TEC Awards Executive Board, which solicited my opinion of the 31st annual awards show. I felt it was too long, too self-congratulatory, too loud, and didn’t recognize that the world has changed since Big Studios ruled the world. They didn’t take offense…they took notes, and paid attention to the feedback from participants, board members, manufacturers, and of course, those who attended the awards. What a difference a year makes. For 2016, the TEC Awards hit the sweet spot of entertainment and honoring the best this industry has to offer—while retaining a light touch, streamlining the proceedings, upping the ante for the visuals, and also, stepping cautiously into the future. ABOUT THE AWARDS There are various components to the TEC awards: the Hall of Fame to honor pioneers of audio technology (this year, it was legendary producer Jack Douglas), the TECnology Hall of Fame that recognizes particular audio products and innovations, the Les Paul award to honor those who exemplify the creative application of recording technology, and a series of awards for both Technical Achievements and Creative Achievements. Jack Douglas, who worked his way up from being a janitor at the Record Plant to working with John Lennon on Imagine and Double Fantasy as well as projects with Aerosmith, Miles Davis, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, and the New York Dolls, was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. The TEC Awards have been part of NAMM since 2010, with the profits going to the NAMM Foundation. The event is held on Saturday, the third day of the NAMM show, in the Pacific Ballroom of the Hilton hotel next to the Anaheim Convention Center. Perhaps not surprisingly, the technical quality of the show is top-notch in terms of sound and visuals. Although the TEC Awards is about technical innovation, some might think the true innovation is an awards show with food that's actually good (that's Aerosmith's Joe Perry in the background). The event starts immediately after the show, with an open bar/”meet and greet” hour, after which attendees sit down to a catered dinner (with—amazingly enough—really good food, not the usual rubber chicken with vintage wine from “Tuesday”). That’s followed by presentations of various awards, punctuated with music from the house band directed by production/industry veteran Larry Batiste. He brings the musical direction skills that have served the Grammy Awards Pre-Telecast since 2006. This year, the awards included video clips from previous TEC Awards ceremonies during the on-stage personnel changes. It was a welcome addition that added a touch of nostalgia, sped up the proceedings, and provided an alternative to the musical bumpers typically used for these kinds of shows. And returning for another year, host Sinbad often went into truly hilarious directions, with a light touch that kept any potential self-importance to a minimum. AND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…JOE PERRY! Aerosmith’s Joe Perry won this year’s Les Paul award, and he brought the Hollywood Vampires with him for entertainment: Johnny Depp on guitar, Alice Cooper on vocals, the Stone Temple Pilots’ Robert DeLeo on bass, and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford on guitar. How about some photos? Johnny Depp introduced Joe Perry prior to Joe winning this year's Les Paul Award. Alice Cooper was outstanding...the dude has charisma. Johnny Depp (left) and Joe Perry (right), Johnny Depp taking a turn on vocals. Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Brad Whitford The band was top-notch, but I have to say I was particularly impressed by Alice Cooper. He may be 68, but man, that guy can rock and he remains the consummate entertainer. You could tell he loved doing what he does, is in great shape, sang his heart out, and had the same kind of enthusiasm you’d expect from someone a third his age. Meanwhile Joe Perry poured out lick after lick, while Depp and Whitford provided the chordal anchors, and DeLeo held down the bottom end. Yeah, it got a little too loud at the end, but hey—it’s rock and roll, right? That’s entertainment. Left to right: Johnny Depp, Robert DeLeo, Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Brad Whitford rock out for the TEC Awards finale. THE AWARDS Oh right…the winners! Well, we don’t need to re-invent the wheel, because you can get the entire list at the TEC Awards home page. This year added two new, and well-deserved, categories: Audio Education Technology (iZotope won for “Pro Audio Essentials”) and DJ Production Technology (congratulations, Native Instruments, for Traktor Kontrol S5). The TEC Awards will continue to evolve, tweaking the show and the process. This year they promised it would be 2.5 hours long and end at 9:30 PM, which no one believed…the show always runs way too long. Yet it ended exactly on time, and if that isn't an indication of a sea change at the TEC Awards, I don't know what is. And when it was over, you could either attend the after-party if you had VIP tickets, or go back to your hotel room and steel yourself for the final day of NAMM. I’m already looking forward to next year. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  3. Craig’s List - 5 Terrific Tips for Newbie NAMMsters Like speed traps, Starbucks coffee shops, and muggers, the Winter NAMM supersized convention is just around the corner! Going for the first time? We’re here to help. by Craig Anderton 1. Beware of appointment safaris. NAMM is soooooo big that if you make an appointment for something in Hall E and your next one is in Hall A, you cross a time zone and you’ll end up being an hour late. Or an hour early, I always forget which. Some people even get jet lag going from one end of the convention center to the other. 2. Two’s company, three's a crowd, but 100,000 is an effing big-ass crowd. In the 4th century A.D., the amphitheater passageways at the Roman Colosseum were so efficiently designed that the entire venue could fill with 50,000 people in 15 minutes. As to the 21st-century Anaheim Convention Center...well, let’s just say we finally have the long-awaited, conclusive proof of de-evolution. Oh, and plan to go to the bathroom 20 minutes in advance. Just sayin.’ 3. Let’s do lunch! Hungry? There’s an eatery on the convention center roof (really*). It’s so secret I can’t tell you where it is, but ask a security guard “Where’s the undisclosed location to which the White House always refers?” Next, give the Special Password (“twentydollarsifyoutellme”), then he’ll give you directions—but only after running a background check, and swearing you to secrecy. Personally I order the pheasant under glass, but I've heard the Duck à la Donald is fabulous--or try the tapas-inspired dish, Ratón Miguel. Oh, just don't ask where the venison came from. Enough kids were traumatized by watching "Bambi." 4. The E-Z way to insanely great demos. Find someone with a Sweetwater, Sam Ash, B&H, or Guitar Center badge, then follow behind them at a discrete distance. Extra points if you have the same literature bag they do, so it seems you’re all “buyer bros” traveling together. Exhibitor hearts get all a-flutter when Big Buyers come around, so you might as well benefit from the beatific aura of potential prosperity and subtle aroma of $100 bills they emit. 5. Important fanboi protocol message. If you see someone famous, don’t go up to them and say something like “Hey, you’re Alan Parsons!” Trust me on this—they know who they are. Well, maybe not after happy hour starts. Or if they’re in the Marriott lobby after 2 AM...but you get my point. * There really is a restaurant on the convention center roof ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  4. The Lowdown on the EB Bass Four or five strings, eight different sounds by Craig Anderton (Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what was going on “under the hood” with these guitars. This sixth article in the series covers the 2017 EB Bass.) Gibson’s EB bass for 2017, part of the Traditional line, is available in a 4 or 5-string version. It’s a different kind of bass for Gibson, with perhaps the most obvious improvement being the balance—it’s easy to hold and play. Aside from the design, part of this is due to the swamp ash body, which is relatively light (also, the fingerboard is rosewood). However, another advantage is that swamp ash gives a high-end “snap” as well as a solid low end, so the balance extends from the physical bass itself to the tone. Tuning. Accurate tuning that can last throughout long gigs is always a design priority. The neck is maple, and being a very resilient wood, it can handle the tension of bass strings while holding tuning well for extended periods of time. The Grover tuning keys also contribute to tuning accuracy, as does the Babciz bridge—which also helps with accurate intonation. The look. The EB has a nitrocellulose satin finish that exposes the swamp ash and maple with the Natural Satin model. It’s not a fancy look; even the extended horn, while eye-catching, has the practical purpose of providing proper balance when wearing a strap. The black pickups provide a stark contrast to the blond wood, as do the knobs and bridge. If it weren’t for the look of the swamp ash body, this is one of those basses that would probably fade into the background on stage. On the other hand if you’re more into sunbursts, there’s a Satin Vintage Sunburst look as well. The electronics. I’ve always loved the sound of the “sustain forever” Thunderbird bass. The neck-through-body construction is a big part of the full, round sound, but it’s a physically as well as sonically heavy bass. In 2013, I made friends with the five-string EB. It was easier for long sessions than the Thunderbird, but the killer feature for me was being able to get eight distinct, different bass sounds without active electronics. Whether I wanted a bright, more pop sound, a percussive “plonk,” something with highs to cut through a mix, or a big bottom (apologies to Spinal Tap), I need to carry only one bass to the gig. The 2017 EB carries on that tradition. Even though it has only three knobs (volume for each pickup and a control for tone), the two volume knobs are push-pull types that activate Gibson’s Tuned Coil Tap circuitry. The “native” pickup sound is a big, growling tone with a fair amount of midrange “bark”; the Tuned Coil Tap voicing scoops the midrange somewhat, which can emphasize the low or high end more by de-emphasizing the mids. This is clever, because if you start with sound that doesn’t have much midrange, there’s nothing you can do to add something that’s not there. The EB pickup’s solid midrange means you can use it as it, or reduce it. Here’s an admittedly subjective rundown of the type of sounds available. Neck pickup: Balanced tone, most bass, mids give some “bark” Tapped neck pickup: Scoops some mids, rounder sound, retains low end Bridge pickup: Less low end, more midrange bite Tapped bridge pickup: Scoops mids, lighter low end, defined highs, good “pop” bass sound Neck and bridge pickups: Retains strong low end, adds midrange but there’s an apparent slight scoop in the lower mids because the higher and lower frequencies are louder Tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup: Major scooping around 500Hz-1kHz, good lows, a hint of brightness, lays back in a track Tapped bridge pickup and neck pickup: Adds some upper mids back in compared to the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup Tapped bridge pickup and tapped neck pickup: Like the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup sound, but adds slightly lower midrange frequencies back in. Of course, these are the “bass-ic” (sorry!) sounds. Once you start using the tone control and varying the pickup volume controls, there are even more possibilities. I also like that you don’t have to deal with a forest of switches or controls to get these sounds, nor do you need batteries. The bottom line on the bottom end. A bass always has to fight the laws of physics. Given the frequencies strings have to hit, they should be longer—there’s a reason why a 9 foot grand piano has bass strings that are so long. Granted, a piano goes down to 27.5 Hz, but a bass goes down to about 40 Hz and trust me, the strings on the EB are not 7 feet long. Because of the string length, a bass’s headstock ends up being quite a distance from the body, and that’s where your balance issues begin. However the EB’s compact body, with the extended horn for your strap, takes care of obtaining a good balance while the swamp ash wood also helps reduce the overall weight. I was surprised by how much more comfortable the 2017 EB is compared to the 2013 version, but not surprised that Gibson elected to keep the same tonal versatility. I’m very happy with the 2013 EB…however there’s no doubt that the 2017 is a major step up. . - HC - Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars: What Makes A Les Paul Traditional Guitar "Traditional"? Inside The Les Paul Classic Met The Les Paul Faded How the Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute Brothers in Arms - The Les Paul Studio and Standard ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  5. Craig's List: 5 Toxic Hazards of Holiday Music Kenny G. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid... by Craig Anderton 1. You’ll hear “Carol of the Bells.” I mean, doesn’t this really sound like it should accompany some scary nightmarish scene from a Tim Burton film? On the plus side, it has the distinction of being one of the few Christmas carols with the power to depress—helpful if you’re feeling too cheery! 2. Stupefyingly bad “contemporary” holiday songs. If I never hear Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” or Neil Diamond’s fake Jamaican accent at the beginning of his reggae version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (I’m not making this up), it will be too soon. PARENTAL WARNING: Diamond’s version is on YouTube, and accessible to children under 13. 3. “The Little Drummer Boy” lyrics “pa rum pum pum pum.” Okay, it’s a nice little song pa rum pum pum pum, but does it really need to end pa rum pum pum pum every single pa rum pum pum pum effing line with pa rum pum pum pum? But, credit where credit is due: That song was written before computerized cut-and- paste. 4. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town—The Police State Mix.” “You better watch out . . . he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake . . . making a list, checking it twice . . . he knows if you’ve been good or bad . . .” Threats, spying, database of offenders, summary judgments without trial—Santa sounds like a cross between a pedophile, the DHS, and your creepy uncle Sammy. 5. Kenny G’s holiday music tours. So there you are at the local casino, doing a little gambling, maybe helping some Native Americans extract their revenge on the original illegal immigrants, and you find that...Kenny G is playing his holiday tour and that particular casino is one of his victims! Run! ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  6. Inside the Les Paul Classic How "Traditional" is the "Classic"? Let's find out. by Craig Anderton (Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what was going on “under the hood” with these guitars. This second article in the series is about the Les Paul Classic.) “Classic” has a vintage ring to it, and this Les Paul does indeed have a traditional flavor. However, there are several elements that differentiate it from the Traditional model covered in the first of this series of articles. We’ll start by covering what’s the same as the Traditional. The electronics are hand-wired, the leaf-style “springy” pickup toggle switch and Switchcraft output jack remain the same, and again, the tone control circuitry uses Orange Drop capacitors. The nut is nylon, and the nickel-plated ABR bridge hardware, coupled with an aluminum stop piece, once more get the nod for the balanced sound that’s characteristic of vintage guitars. Nickel plating also has a more vintage “look,” which contributes to why the Classic may appear superficially like the Traditional. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find several differences that help make it more of a streamlined “workhorse” guitar for today’s guitarists. Classic 9-hole weight relief. Gibson’s guitars offer a variety of weight relief. The Traditional is the most “solid” of the solid bodies because it has no weight relief at all, but the Classic comes very close with nine-hole weight relief. This helps shave off some weight, adds a little resonance, and has virtually no impact on sustain. The neck. The Classic has a SlimTaper profile, which some players (especially those with smaller hands) find more comfortable. It has a more “modern” feel compared to the Traditional, and is more like the kind of neck taper associated with post-50s guitars. It also has rolled fretboard edges that complement the slimmer neck’s comfort factor. Pickguard. The Classic comes with a pick guard already in place; it’s not removable like on the HP line of guitars. Grover locking tuners. Whereas the tuners on the Traditional have a very traditional look, the Grovers depart from that with a somewhat more modern vibe. They hold tuning well, and while they may not have a “vintage” look, they are designed to fit well with the Classic’s overall design aesthetic. Pickups. This is where I heard the biggest sonic difference compared to the Traditional. The Classic uses open coil Zebra 57 pickups (the “Zebra” name comes from one pickup coil being wrapped around a cream-colored bobbin, while the other uses a black bobbin). Removing the pickup cover results a bit less attenuation, but the pickups are higher in overall output than the Traditional models—the sound is something you’d associate more with the 60s than the 50s. Although the Zebras don’t join the quest for ever-higher outputs, they strike a balance between the lower-output pickups of the 50s and the high-output pickups of modern guitars. Knobs. The original “Top Hat” knobs have a lot of sentimental value, but the Classic’s speed knobs are more functional for making quick changes on stage—particularly if you’re into “rolling” knobs with your pinky. Some guitarists also find the lack of a pointer appealing because of the cleaner look. The top. And speaking of looks, while the body remains mahogany with a maple top, the Classic has a plain top as opposed to the Traditional’s rare, highly-figured top. Some players prefer a more understated look, and because a figured top doesn’t make a noticeable difference in the sound, prefer the Classic’s top. Overall, my take is that the Classic is about being inspired by the Traditional’s heritage, but without feeling a need to re-create the past—hence weight relief, a slimmer neck, and hotter pickups. Guitarists with one foot in the 50s and one in the 70s will probably find the Classic the best fit for their playing style. - HC - Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars: What Makes A Les Paul Traditional Guitar "Traditional"? How The Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute Met The Les Paul Faded Brothers in Arms - The Les Paul Studio and Standard For more information on the Gibson Les Paul Classic please visit Gibson.com ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  7. Craig’s List: 5 Reasons Why Cats Make Excellent Studio Peripherals Maybe the song "Nashville Cats" was about...cats by Craig Anderton 1) They help with computer maintenance, because they understand it better than you. Cats know that dust kills computers, and it breaks their little feline hearts when you don’t do sufficient dust control. Besides, if your computer-based gig goes down in flames, bye-bye tuna Meow Mix. So they shed, which means you’ll get out the vacuum and clean up their fur—thus tricking you into reducing dust levels in the studio. Clever kitty! 2) They’re masters of 12-tone composition. Buy one of those laser pointers, like executives use for PowerPoints when they want to look like they actually know something. Then, place your keyboard controller on the floor. Aim the laser pointer at the keyboard, move the pointer around erratically, and bingo! Arnold Shoenberg on methedrine. 3) Cats help you discover new and exciting keyboard shortcuts. Fluffy jumps up on your computer keyboard, and makes a vocal disappear...or quantizes everything to the didgeridoo part, which she then erases. How did she do that?!? Keyboard shortcuts, of course. Observe and learn. 4) They extend the life of devices that produce heat. Cats lie down on things that are warm. Are they cold? No! They’re doing you a big favor by providing a secondary heat sink as they absorb component life-shortening heat into their bodies. But don’t push it—I don’t recommend applying thermal compound paste between your cat and, say, a power amp. It’s hard to remove from the power amp. 5) Black plague? No worries! I don’t mean the death metal band that keeps wanting to book time, but the Real Deal that decimated Europe in the Middle Ages. The people who killed cats for being presumed agents of satan got overrun with rats, whichfunctioned as a mobile Motel 6 for Oriental rat fleas carrying the plague. Oopsies! Unintended consequences. Meanwhile, the farmers who blew off satan and kept their cats didn’t die, thus avoiding…uh…cataclysmic results. Meow! ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  8. What Makes a Les Paul Traditional Guitar “Traditional”? To quote Talking Heads, "same as it ever was"...but why? by Craig Anderton (Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what goes on “under the hood” with not just these guitars, but guitars in general. This first article is about the Les Paul Traditional model, and what elements make it “traditional.”) Although Gibson is known for both classic guitars and high-tech guitars, the most traditional of the 2017 models is the Les Paul Traditional from the T series of guitars—it’s designed specifically to retain those elements of the classic Gibson USA guitars of yesteryear. But what does “traditional” mean, exactly? Here are the specifics. Orange Drop tone capacitors. These capacitors, introduced in the 60s, heralded the capacitors of the modern era—stability, resistance to temperature variation, minimum microphonics, and other desirable characteristics. Since then many other brands of precision capacitors have become available, but there’s something about those Orange Drop capacitors that evoke memories of a different era—and which some players swear have better tone. Hand-wired, point-to-point electronics. Modern Gibsons use circuit boards for the electronics, which provide greater consistency, easier repair, and help to reduce production costs. Hand-wired electronics recall the days of sitting at a bench, soldering iron in hand, and making the connections among all the guitar’s components. However, there is a practical advantage to point-to-point wiring: it's easier to mod if you want to experiment with different tone control capacitors or potentiometer values. In addition, some people feel that the more “open” control cavity creates a subtle sonic improvement. Nickel-plated bridge. Bridges influence tone, and while some players prefer the brighter sound some bridges provide, nickel-plated hardware has a balanced sound that’s characteristic of vintage guitars. It also has a more vintage “look.” Nylon nut. Today’s nuts are made from various materials—ceramic, titanium, etc.—each with its own subtle sonic qualities. A nylon nut is a more traditional choice, and like the nickel-plated bridge, has its own sonic signature. Knobs. Knobs have changed a lot over the years. Gibson has used different knobs for different purposes; for example, a push-pull knob that changes pickup switching is designed for pulling as well as rotating. For the Traditional model, Gibson went back to the knobs you first saw when Eric Clapton or Mike Bloomfield were playing their Les Pauls: a “top hat” shape and golden color that were radically different from other guitar knobs of that era, and featured small metal pointers. No weight relief. The original Les Paul was solid wood—great for sustain, but the weight meant it wasn’t so great for jumping around like a maniac on stage over a three-hour set. Gibson now offers a variety of models with different degrees of weight relief, which can have the side benefit of giving a bit more of a resonant quality. But for those who want the thick, sustaining sound of solid wood…well, that’s another traditional element. “Chunky” neck. Not everyone has the same hands, so there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” neck. The original Les Paul was born before the era of slim necks, and there’s still something satisfying about wrapping your hand around a full-size, solid neck. Of course for those with larger hands, it definitely has the right “feel,” and some find the tone “warmer” than slimmer necks. Burstbucker 1 (neck) and Burstbucker 2 (bridge) pickups. These are the antithesis of modern, ultra-hot pickups. With their lower output level, they have a lot in common with the pickups of the 50s and early 60s, which helps explain the more traditional tone quality. Original “leaf”-style pickup toggle switch. The HP line of guitars has a toggle switch that’s quieter than leaf-style switches, more reliable, and has a smooth switch travel; the old leaf switches had a certain “springy” feel when you switched pickups. If your guitar-playing muscle memory is used to that feel, the switch on the Traditional model is what you’d expect. No pickguard necessary. Back in the day, pickguards were sometimes seen as something that worked against the guitar’s aesthetics. Admittedly there are advantages to pickguards, but there’s also something to be said for seeing the guitar’s fully figured top in all its glory—so the Traditional can be pickguard-free (although one is included in the guitar's case if you do want a pickguard). Manual tuners. There are a lot of tuners, but these Gibson Deluxe models were chosen for their vintage look and feel, not only their ability to hold tuning well. Of course, the Traditional incorporates more modern elements. The guitars undergo the PLEK setup process, which dresses the fret and neck as part of the factory setup procedure. And while the humbucker pickups follow the original design ethic (and more importantly, the PAF-type tone), production is more consistent so you don’t end up with variations in tone among different guitars. Playing the Les Paul Traditional model is like taking a step back into history. I have to say that I’m more of an HP guitar kinda guy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate being able to pick up a Traditional and find myself transported back to the days when I could never have afforded a Les Paul, and I’d sneak into guitar shops as often as I could to play one. That feel and vibe still exists…even if the guitar shops are long gone. - HC - Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars: How The Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute Met The Les Paul Faded Inside The Les Paul Classic Brothers in Arms - The Les Paul Studio and Standard For more information on the Gibson Les Paul Traditional please visit Gibson.com ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  9. Craig's List - 5 Reasons to Vote for Craig in 2016 To be fair, though, no one said they were good reasons by Craig Anderton ... er um, Bob Smith ... Craig Anderton has now learned to talk about himself in the third person, so Craig Anderton is qualified to be president! He’s the only write-in option that’s all about musicians. With the predicted low voter turnout, give Craig Anderton 27 votes and the following platform might become reality! 1: The “Squash Control” law. All consumer gear will have, in addition to volume and tone controls, a “squash” maximizing control for killing the dynamic range. Mastering engineers won’t have to make unlistenable masters any more—consumers can make music unlistenable all by themselves! Power to the people! 2: Craig Anderton will declare a “War on Loudness.” We’ve all heard about the loudness wars. But if it's classified as a real war, then we can distribute trillions of dollars to musicians, who are of course on the front lines. If the Pentagon can pay $434 for a hammer, then by golly, don’t you think your CD is worth at least $90? Oops, excuse me…I meant $900. Or maybe $9,000. Yeah…that’s the ticket. 3: Mandatory drug testing. Ever since the early days of jazz, musicians have had a reputation—deserved or not—for smoking marijuana. Mandatory drug testing will ensure that whatever they ingest is of the highest possible quality, and grown solely in the United States to improve our trade deficit dramatically. Overnight, Kentucky will have a totally rockin’ economy! 4: Now that he's learned to refer to himself in the third person, Craig Anderton will get all major voting blocs to vote for Craig Anderton. To win over the religious right, part of my platform will be “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord—and find out how to ‘make better noise’ from the Harmony Central web site!” To “woo the black vote,” Bootsy Collins will be nominated as Secretary of Funk—a newly-created cabinet position intended to loosen up all those uptight politicians and lobbyists. And for seniors, Medicare will offer free hearing aids that filter out rap and EDM, but let other sounds pass unimpeded. 5: “The “NASCAR Jacket” law. Musicians do endorsements—and Congress could learn something from us! So, all Congresspeople will be required to wear NASCAR-type jackets with the corporate logos of their sponsors, and we’ll know which brands they endorse. Oh, they don’t want people to know? Hmmm…this might take some work. Breaking News! Speaker of the House Paul Ryan Endorses Craig Anderton for President! As Ryan states, "I'm proud to announce my endorsement of Craig Anderton for President. We all know upfront that he's crazy, so the media won't waste valuable time debating whether he is or not. Furthermore, he has now learned to speak of himself in the third person - an essential trait for being President - and his choice of Skeeter the Wonder Dog for VP is a brilliant strategic decision because who doesn't like dogs? Finally, in return for my endorsement he said he'll change my title to 'Loudspeaker of the House,' which you have to admit is much cooler." Discuss Craig Anderton for President here! Especially if you are concerned with "Electile" Dysfunction! ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  10. CME Xkey Air Bluetooth Keyboard Controllers Now MIDI data can float through the air from your keyboard by Craig Anderton This isn’t my first dance with Xkey keyboards; I’ve been using the standard 37-note model in my studio, and the 25-key version for travel when I have enough space to bring something bigger than a Korg nanocontrol 2. Of course, I have “real” keyboards but I often need to test out presets that I’m developing, and having the 37-key model set up in front of my QWERTY keyboard makes for a much more efficient preset creation process. On the road, the 25-key version gives the velocity and aftertouch response I want, is light, and can survive portability (I'm sure the brushed aluminum foundation helps with that). They’re both USB devices, but recently I visited a friend who got tired of cables, and converted as much as he could to wi-fi and Bluetooth. I could definitely see the merits of his approach, and was considering adding one of the Zivix PUC Wi-Fi or Bluetooth adapters ($79 and $99 respectively) so I could convert the Xkey into wireless operation. However then the Xkey Air Bluetooth keyboards (25 or 37 key versions for $199 and $299 respectively) appeared, and seemed like the right solution at the right time. Also note they can still work as wired USB devices. The 25-key Xkey Air - note the Bluetooth sticker on the C key A Better Bluetooth. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE, which is also what the PUC+ uses) is faster and more efficient than standard Bluetooth. However, it is available only on the most modern hardware; fortunately for everything else—whether Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or Linux—CME recommends the WIDI BUD dongle, a small, low-latency, BLE-to-USB MIDI Bridge. I tested Xkey Air with several devices (Mac, iOS, and Windows) and all of them needed the WIDI BUD. Cost is around $49, so you may need to factor that into the sticker price (and don't lose it - it really is tiny). Just Like the Xkey, But… There are no significant differences to the Air versions’ outward appearance or capabilities, and the feel of the low-travel keyboard is the same. For details on the original, see my review of the CME Xkey 25 vs. the Korg Nanocontrol 2 on Harmony Central. However, dig deeper and you’ll see the on-off switch for Bluetooth, some LEDs to indicate status, and note there’s an internal battery that gets recharged via USB—but as far as I can tell, there’s no way to replace it. I always consider this a negative because at some point, the battery will lose its ability to hold a charge. Fortunately you can always use the keyboard via USB. Also note that there’s no port for the breakout cable included with the standard Xkey 37 that allows for MIDI out, a sustain switch, and pedal. This isn’t surprising, given the emphasis on portability. Incidentally, all Xkeys ship with a USB cable that terminates in a micro-B USB connector for plugging into the Xkey’s USB port. Although the connector is standard, the size is thin, and most commercial cables won’t fit—don’t lose the one that comes with the Xkey. It’s 41 inches/104 centimeters long, so you may need a USB cable extender for when you’re not going wireless. The 37-key version. Note the buttons on the left for modulation, transpose, sustain, and bend. Trial by Installation. The Xkey Air is ready for prime time…but then there’s the rest of the world. I tried pairing with a circa 2013 Windows laptop running Windows 10, and a pre-Lightning iPad running the latest iOS; no luck. So I plugged the WIDI BUD into my laptop, and still couldn’t get any Bluetooth pairing—yet Widibud showed up as a MIDI input in Cakewalk SONAR, and I could play virtual instruments perfectly from the Xkey Air. How could that be? Apparently as long as WIDI BUD shows up in Windows’ Control Panel > Settings > Connected Devices, you’re good to go and don’t need Bluetooth pairing because (I assume) the Xkey “pairs” itself with WIDI BUD. In the process of figuring this out, I also I went to the Docs & Downloads page under CME’s support, and found an app called Widi Plus that could update the WIDI BUD firmware, so I did. The iPad solution was the same: use WIDI BUD, which required the Camera Kit adapter for my particular iPad. The WIDI BUD is “the great leveler” that makes operating Xkey Air possible on what appears to be just about anything that normally handles Bluetooth. But even if your device’s Bluetooth is compatible, WIDI BUD supposedly provides lower latency. CME quotes around 7ms, so that fits my “under 10 ms keeps me happy” requirement. I wish CME was a little more diligent about documentation; for example, if you want to use Xkey Air with Apple devices, I highly recommend this forum post. It would be great if CME consolidated everything about using Xkey Air with Apple, Windows, and Linux into individual documents. I suspect some people who don’t have my level of perseverance will just assume it doesn’t work when they can’t pair it the way they would other Bluetooth devices. Yet everything worked flawlessly once I figured out the ground rules. The bottom line is unless you’re using the latest and greatest computers, factor in the cost of the WIDI BUD. For $49, it lets Xkey communicate happily with dinosaurs, allows for very low latency, and even has a helpful little red light that blinks when it’s receiving MIDI data. The Xkey Plus Application. This is also described in the reviews linked above, and it’s exceptionally useful. You can do so much more with the Xkey keyboards than just play notes—for example, assign different program changes to each key—as well as customize velocity and lots more. Best of all, since writing the previous review, Xkey Plus (which is free) now lets you save and load presets. This is huge, because it means you can easily switch between using the Xkey as a standard note player and something that starts to resemble more of a control surface. Other Accessories. If you want to strut around the stage, the $49 Xclip (left) clips to the 37-note model to allow attaching a guitar strap, and there are two carrying cases: the $25 Supernova (middle) for a single Xkey, and the Solar carrying case (right; it's just a name, it’s not solar-powered) can hold both the 25- and 37-key versions, or one and various other accessories; it costs around $40. Conclusions I’m a fan of the Xkey series. The keyboards are sturdy, light, functional, and very handy. Polyphonic aftertouch and the Xkey Plus software are the icing on a very sweet cake. Furthermore, I’ve had my two Xkeys for long enough that I can vouch they hold up over time. Although you might assume the minimal key travel would limit velocity response or make it difficult to adapt, I didn’t find that to be the case at all. In fact I’m confident enough with its "feel" that I have no problem using the Xkey for preset development, and switching over to a standard keyboard only as a final “reality check.” The wireless aspect is very cool, although you pay a premium for that coolness, particular if you need the WIDI BUD adapter (you probably will). And of course, there’s the non-replaceable battery issue mentioned earlier. Still, the latency is low, the system is reliable, you can get about 30 feet away from your computer, and you’ll never trip over a cable or yank it out at an inopportune time. For many users, the Xkey Air series will be exactly what they want—and if they can’t stretch for the price, the standard Xkey controllers remain as good as ever. Resources Available from: Sweetwater, B&H, Amazon, Reverb and Ebay Video: Xkey Air Overview Video: What About Latency? Video: Jordan Rudess playing the Xkey on a mountain in Norway ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  11. Craig’s List 5 Reasons God Must Like Drummers by Craig Anderton 1. They’re the safest member of the band. When people throw bottles, rotten tomatoes, used condoms, and other tokens of appreciation at the guitarist and lead singer, the drummer sits safely on a throne (that’s really what they call it), behind impressive fortifications. Bottles have to make it through a bewildering forest of toms, cymbals, and stands before they can hit their target. Safety first! 2. They have nothing to fear from United Airlines baggage handlers. Drummers beat the living crap out of their instruments every day, so having a baggage handler do the same…been there, done that. No big deal. 3. They get so many groupies, the calculator was invented specifically so drummers could keep count. There’s something about all that physical activity and sweat and stuff…the rhythmic pulsing…moving in and out of the beat…veiled in mystery behind that drum kit...hey, just wondering—does anyone have contact information for Sheila E.? 4. Drummers can get away with anything. Let’s face it, in comparison to John Bonham and Keith Moon, anything you do is going to seem pretty tame by comparison. Yes, even that little stunt you did last week with the pickup truck, Trixie’s mom, Gatorade, four gallons of Crisco, and a complete set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. 5. Drummers are the poster children for mental health. Because they hit things all the time, drummers get to work out their aggressions on inanimate objects. Not only is this great news for lead guitarists and singers, but after searching through 100 years of public records, not one serial killer has ever been a drummer. Just sayin.’ ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  12. Chris Jenkins: Sound for the Beatles Movie After all, the Beatles deserve the best... by Craig Anderton The remaining Beatles and Apple Corps Ltd., as well as Giles Martin (son of the late, legendary producer George Martin) have been rightfully protective of the Beatles’ legacy. Yes, the Beatles were a band…but they were also not just a part of history, they made history. So it’s not only the subject matter that makes The Beatles: Eight Days A Week — The Touring Years important, but the fact that it even exists. This White Horse Pictures release, produced by Imagine Entertainment and directed by Ron Howard, hits the theaters on September 16, with a run on Hulu.com shortly thereafter. However if you’re going to do a Beatles movie, the sound can’t just be “okay”—which isn’t easy due to the technology back in the Beatles’ early days. Howard tapped Chris Jenkins to lend his expertise to the project. Fresh off winning (another) Academy Award for the sound in Mad Max: Fury Road (I was so impressed by the sound I had to stay for the credits to see who was responsible), it wasn’t just Jenkins’ skills but his love of the project, his background as a studio musician, and his understanding of the industry that made him the perfect choice. The first step was gathering the materials. Fortunately, Jenkins didn’t have to start entirely from scratch. “We were able to go to the original sessions and mixes. Giles [Martin] is the guardian of the tapes and masters, many of which are just mono or stereo. Giles also had a huge treasure trove of material that’s been undiscovered or never made public, including studio chatter and outtakes. These helped create the transitions from songs to live performances, and from [the Beatles] quitting touring to falling in love with the studio again.” For many viewers, the restored Shea Stadium concert will be the standout attraction. Those who never saw the Beatles will find the energy and crowd reaction surreal, and those who were there at the time will remember what the excitement was about. Yet it almost didn’t happen. “The Shea Stadium part is a standalone piece, we didn’t get clearance to use it from Apple Corps until late in the process. There was so much work to do on the feature itself we didn’t know if we’d be able to get the concert done—especially because in many ways it is the definitive Beatles concert, so [sir Paul] McCartney wanted it to be the Beatles concert for everyone who didn’t know what a Beatles concert was about. It was shot with twelve 35 mm cameras and recorded pretty well, and it’s an amazing document to see now. Most of the songs were two minutes or so, and intensity-wise, everything started at a 9 out of 10—with 50,000 screaming fans adding to that intensity. “One particular section was astonishing to me, it’s one of the best sections in the movie. They started playing ‘Baby’s in Black’ and the crowd quieted, so you could hear John and Paul singing in perfect harmony. You could really feel, not just hear, what the Beatles were all about.” But then again, what about those screaming fans? In any of the sections I’d heard in the past from the Shea Stadium concert, you could barely make out the Beatles underneath the screams. As Jenkins notes, “We did quite a bit to reduce the crowd noise, because it was hard to sit and listen to that size crowd for that length of time. Giles has some proprietary techniques he used, and I did a long pass on it with EQ, while the team at Abbey Road working on the 5.1 version were dealing with individual sounds. You really had to do an EQ pass for the crowd as well as the music. Giles was able to extract the crowd and create 5.1 crowd stems with no music at all, but the funny thing is that in a stadium setting, the screaming girls were just as much a part of the concert as the music…it’s in the DNA of the music. While we were successful in extracting the crowd, we needed to put all the pieces back together to strike a balance between preserving the legacy of what was happening, but not driving people out of the room because they were put off by the intense screaming.” There was a lot more to the process for the 5.1 version than simply dealing with the crowd, and Jenkins reached back for an old school technique that was remarkably effective and stems (no pun intended!) from his film experience. “Before the days of infinite plug-ins and such, it was always a problem to have looped dialog and sound effects blend into a movie. We ‘worldized’ them by playing them back in acoustic spaces so they didn’t sound like an actor in a studio, or a sound effects library, but something real and occurring in a natural environment. “To create the 5.1 mix, Giles and the Abbey Road team created acoustical spaces optimized with pre-EQ for the various instruments—drums, bass, guitars, voices. Then, instead of upmixing the music, it played back through great speaker systems in these acoustic spaces and was re-recorded from the source material—no reverb, no overdubs, but done as a 5.1 acoustic process. It’s a beautiful way to record, without digital processing, that yielded a very natural sound. This kind of technique is very old school and not for everybody, but it was ideal in this case. Giles did an incredible job of restoring the concert, while staying totally true to the loyalists. The point of the restoration was to bring out the music. “As to the movie itself, the mix was supposed to take 6-10 days, but Giles worked for months on the material, while Cameron Frankley and his crew at Warner Brothers did dialog editing, crowd effects backgrounds, and so on. It took about a month to do all the cutting and the near-field two-tracks and 5.1 mixes.” The mixdown studio—Neve DFC with S6 and S3 for FX (pictured: Ryan Murphy, engineer and Mark Purcell, mix tech). Of course, there’s always a potential concern that when putting this much effort into something, the act of “sanding and polishing” will take off the edge that made the music so interesting in the first place. But Jenkins is candid about accepting the limitations of the source material. “It’s important to understand that 8 Days a Week - the Touring Years isn’t necessarily a ‘good-sounding’ soundtrack; it’s not a Beatles recording project but a documentary, so there are hundreds of performances and interviews in all kinds of locations with all kinds of flaws. The Cavern Club recordings are very lo-fi, the technology for the recordings from 1962-1964 wasn’t very good, and later on the crowds were overwhelming the Beatles. “But then they started not to like touring, and what saved their trajectory was the convergence of studios and recording techniques. The movie follows that trajectory from the Cavern Club to the big stadiums, and then after an hour lands in the studio with all these beautiful recordings. I’ve seen people watch the movie and when it transitions to John playing 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' into 'A Day in the Life,' a common reaction is 'wow…that moment is the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing in my career and my life.'" This picture has nothing to do with the Beatles, but we couldn't pass up the chance to show Chris at the Warner Brothers Batman vs. Superman museum. In a way, then, would you say the movie chronicles the changes that occurred in music technology? “Yes, as you progress further into the movie the sound gets better and better. As it goes from unrefined audio to these beautiful recordings, you get an idea of what’s to come. The mics improved, the amps improved, the technology improved pretty rapidly and the music started to sound much, much better. This movie captures the arc of the recording process as well as the band.” Jenkins is what would happen if you took a cynical, jaded engineer—then flipped his phase switch 180 degrees. He loves what he does, and he talks about this project with unabashed, and very genuine, enthusiasm. So how do you get a gig like this? “It all happened thanks to Ron Howard. We’d been working on a project called ‘Inferno.’ He said ‘Hey, we’re doing this documentary on the Beatles, want to be the mixer for it?’ Well, I was totally a Beatles fan when growing up. He sent an email to Nigel Sinclair at White Horse Pictures, and I was in. I was blown away…I’ve done some really fun projects, but this was a dream gig. It was so lucky. Getting to do the Beatles project is the high point of my career.” I didn’t need to ask “Even more than winning three Academy Awards and being nominated for two, not to mention all the seminal music documentaries you worked on decades ago?” It was obvious he had a deep emotional connection, not just a professional one, with the project. “This was all done with the most care and love possible not only from the crew at Abbey Road, but everyone here who was involved.” Jenkins paused... “You have to honor that love every second.” ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  13. Craig’s List - 5 Reasons to Stop Making Music Come on...you don't need to make music anyway ... by Craig Anderton You’ve been a musician all your life. You love making music, and being part of the industry of human happiness. But have you ever considered why you should stop making music? There are plenty of good reasons! You can still use your instruments for other purposes. For the vertically-challenged, an acoustic guitar makes a fantastic houseboat. Or take off a drum head, and voilà—the perfect kitty litter box for Fluffy! You can’t do much better than a ukulele for swatting mosquitos, and of course, pianos can be used for…um…hmmm…well, maybe not pianos. Kanye West. How you can possibly hope to match the awe-inspiring artistry, talent, and ground-breaking innovation of a man whose brilliance, subtlety, and breathtaking command of his instrument transcends all that has come before? You’ll get so frustrated trying, you might as well just give up now. No more groupies. Admit it: Aren’t you really burned out on all those people who offer you sexual favors, throw undergarments on stage that your poor roadies have to clean up, and insist on sticking around after providing stimulating companionship during those late-night, post-Waffle House hours? Get out of music, and you’ll never have to worry about those problems again! You can turn over a new leaf, and start a more socially acceptable career—like accounting. Accountants lead exciting, cutting-edge lives as they navigate the treacherous waters of IRS regulations, bizarre and incoherent bank fees, the almost poetic qualities of accelerated depreciation, and the terrifying spectre of jammed paper in desktop calculators. The only downside: Now you’ll be surrounded by those super-hot accountant groupies. Oh well…life’s about tradeoffs. Since music makes you smarter, you’ll become part of a minority. As society spirals down to where the movie “Idiocracy” is now categorized under “Documentary” instead of “Comedy,” using words with several syllables, understanding different points of view, reading, and other signs that betray intelligence will brand you as an “innaleckshal.” You’ll be red-lined from neighborhoods, your former friends will shun you, you’ll be denied credit, and you’ll find it impossible to communicate with non-musicians. Do you really want to end up like that? ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  14. Guitar Feedback "Modeling" with Samplers Add an extra dimension to keyboard samplers by emulating "guitar feedback" effects by Craig Anderton One of the great aspects about guitar is feedback, but how can you possibly translate that to a keyboard sampler? Here are some techniques that come pretty close, and add another dimension of expressiveness to keyboards. Note that it will really help to have an E-Bow, but depending on how facile you are with creating feedback, this may or may not be necessary. SEPARATING THE ELEMENTS There are four guitar feedback elements: Attack Sustain/decay prior to the onset of feedback Initial body resonance feedback Body feedback + harmonic feedback (that “whine” that appears at the end of a sustained chord) The problem with sampling these is that different notes go into feedback at different times, and the character of the feedback is different. I feel a keyboard player would want a bit more note-to-note consistency, so I sample each element individually, then mix them together into a single note using a DAW. THE SETUP Of course for feedback, you need to mic an amp. Start recording, and hit a power chord. After getting a good attack, let the note decay without feeding back. Then, bring the guitar in toward the amp and touch the headstock to the amp. Doing this creates noise and thunks until the guitar is firmly pressed against the amp, but using a DAW makes it easy to cut out the sample’s bad parts. Once the guitar goes into body feedback, let it sustain for a while. Then to get the harmonic feedback, I drive one of the chord’s strings with an E-Bow to make the process easy. There will be some discontinuity while switching on the E-Bow and waiting for it to feed back, but that’s not an issue. Capture about 10 seconds of sustained E-Bow harmonics, then stop recording. CUTTING UP I like to get about a 10-12 second sample for each note, and loop the final harmonic feedback. I typically end up with a raw sample that’s about 2 or 3 minutes long, so it‘s chopping time (Fig. 1). Fig. 1: The three elements for a guitar feedback sample, as described next. These eventually get mixed down to a single audio clip, with the end looped using either a digital audio editor or within a sampler. Isolate the best attack along with its natural decay (about 4 seconds); there’s your first track. Then chop out the best 6 or so seconds of the body feedback for the second track. Then cut about 4 seconds of harmonic feedback—there’s another track. Next, add crossfades among the various sections to create a single, unified note. Because a guitar’s sound is so rich, crossfaded sections sounded just like part of the sound’s natural evolution. Now all that’s left is to loop the end. Your DAW probably won’t be able to do that, but you can do the looping in a sampler like Kontakt or MachFive, or a digital audio editor like Steinberg Wavelab or Sony Sound Forge. THE COUP DE GRÂCE To provide some control over the feedback sound, I cheat: within the sampler, I layer a sine wave tuned a couple of octaves, or an octave or two and a fifth, above the fundamental (the optimum choice depends on the note, so I choose different notes for different chords, just so that the sounds don’t have too much “sameness”). The sine wave is modulated by three sources: An amplitude envelope with a really looooog attack, so that even if the player gets into the looped section, there will still be something evolving and changing. Low amplitude vibrato at “finger vibrato” speed. Modulation wheel controlling amplitude, so the player can bring in the sine wave “feedback” at any time. Granted, no keyboard sampler will replace a guitar...but you can still have a lot of fun trying, and even come up with effects that you can’t get with a “real” guitar. Need proof? Check out the resulting sound in the music video “ .” ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  15. G7th Performance 2 Capo for Guitar It's not cheap, but does the performance justify the premium price? by Craig Anderton I was never too interested in capos because I can play in different keys, but lately I’ve realized capos are an easy way to create novel timbres by using familiar voicings in different keys. Also, Gibson’s G FORCE tuning system introduced a capo mode, so it’s a lot quicker to tweak the tuning than doing so manually. But there’s a bewildering variety of capos out there, from a few dollars up to at least $60, as well as some creative variations on a theme—like the Spider Capo (with individual lever pads for each string), Dunlop’s combination capo and slide converter, and more. However the G7th Performance 2 capos stand out from the crowd, not just because of the price point (about $35-$50) but also the functionality. Furthermore, they look like what a capo would look like if Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, had decided to make a capo instead of things like iPhones and iMacs. The industrial design is top-notch. Aside from being lightweight, compact, and attractive, attaching the capo is simple (and you can attach as well as move it with one hand): slide it over the strings, and squeeze the top and bottom sections. The capo holds firmly in place until released by pushing on a small tab. This also means that when not in use, you can simply clamp the capo to your headstock. So is it really that simple? Yes. Just make sure you apply enough pressure to hold the strings down without buzzing but not enough to pull them out of tune; and for best results, place the Performance 2 not too far behind the frets. Also, note that there are several variations on a theme. Both nylon-string and steel-string versions are available in silver, satin black, and (for a nominal surcharge) gold-plated. There’s also a silver version for 7.25” radius vintage necks. With all of them, the company claims the materials that come into contact with your guitar have no short- or long-term effect on the finish. There’s really not much else to say, because the Performance 2 worked perfectly on every guitar I tried, which ranged the gamut from a Gibson SG’s traditionally thin neck to a J-45 acoustic. Granted there are less expensive alternatives (including G7th’s Newport and Nashville lines), but I’ve yet to find a capo that matches the Performance 2’s performance, ease of use, and design. - HC - Resources G7th's video on the Performance 2 The Performance 2 is available from: Sweetwater B&H Musician's Friend Direct from G7th ...as well as local dealers like Sam Ash and Guitar Center ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
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  17. How To Make Keyboards Fit in a Mix Have your keyboard play nice with others by Craig Anderton A guitar covers about 3.5 octaves, a bass about 3 octaves, most voices do a few octaves—but keyboards can cover 7 octaves and beyond. What’s more, synthetic sounds often cover a huge part of the frequency spectrum (second only to drums), from thundering bass to trebly highs. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to get that monster sound to play well with other instruments, and sit in a mix instead of dominate it (unless, of course, the keyboard is supposed to dominate the mix!). THE ELECTRIC/ACOUSTIC DICHOTOMY If you’re recording primarily acoustic instruments, or electric instruments through amps, mixing in a synthesizer that was recorded direct will often sound just plain “wrong”—it will lack the “air” created by recording acoustic instruments through a mic, as well as have an extended high frequency response compared to acoustic instruments. There are four main solutions, which can be used individually or together: Roll off some of highs. A little high-frequency shelving, down maybe 1.5dB starting at 10kHz, will bring the high-frequency spectrum more into line with acoustic instruments. Be careful, though; don’t dull the sound too much, as it may still have to balance sonically with the high frequency transients caused by, for example, picking an acoustic guitar string. Feed the keyboard through an amp, mic it and record it to a track, then blend that with the direct track. If well-recorded, you might even want to use the amp sound by itself. A PA, or portable PA/instrument amp like the Cerwin-Vega P1000X or P1500X, can give a neutral sound while a guitar amp offers more “character.” Play back the direct recorded sound through your monitors, and mic them. This is a variation on going through an amp, but if you don’t really have any other way to add ambience, this will work in a pinch. Add multiple short delays (around 15-30ms), and mix them in at low volume with the direct sound. This helps simulate the sound of getting early reflections in a room. A tapped delay with 8 or more taps is ideal for this; too few taps probably won’t give a realistic enough sound. THE POTENTIAL OF PROPER PANNING Most current synthesizers have stereo outs to take advantage of any onboard stereo effects, as well as provide panning options. For example, some patches might tie notes to panning so that the left notes come out of the left speaker, and the right notes come out of the right speaker; or splits might be placed in stereo. However, few instruments other than drums are stereo. Guitar, bass, woodwinds, voice, and the like are basically mono sources, with stereo created through the use of ambience (real or artificial). If the keyboard covers the entire stereo field, that doesn’t leave much room for other instruments. Fig. 1 shows a typical rock band panning scenario. Fig. 1: The synth pans more to the left and the guitar more to the right, thus opening up the center for bass, kick, vocals, and other instruments. The synth pans from left to somewhat left of center, and the rhythm guitar pans from right to somewhat right of center. The center is left open for bass, kick, vocals, leads, and other “center-oriented” parts, while the drums can be panned across the stereo field, along with “extras” like percussion or delays. To spread the synth as desired, simply pan the left track full left, and the right track to left of center (if the DAW’s track contains a stereo signal, you may need to split the stereo track into two mono tracks so each can be panned individually, or there may be some kind of balance control that does the job). Sonar users can take advantage of the Channel Tools plug-in (Fig. 2), which allows changing not just the angle of each channel in a stereo track, but also the width. Fig. 2: Sonar’s Channel Tools plug-in includes sliders that allow adjusting the angle and width of a stereo signal’s left and right channels independently. For example, the keyboard could spread in “stereo” from left to left of center, or be centered somewhere along that path—in other words, most of the keyboard’s audio energy could be concentrated at the midpoint between the left and left-of-center points. Remember, the whole point of most mixes is to create a great balance among all the instruments, where they sound like a cohesive ensemble but you can also differentiate among the various sounds. The above tips can definitely help your keyboard synth snuggle comfortably into the mix with all the other instruments, yet retain its identity. Join the discussion on Harmony Central's Keyboard Forum ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  18. [ATTACH=CONFIG]n31748736[/ATTACH] I loved this iPad app when I first tried it, and several months later…I love it more. But that’s because even though it’s an iPad app, it’s a musical instrument and like all musical instruments, I’m getting better at it. To find out more about GeoShred, please check out my review. So it’s time for a Pro Review, but this time, we’ll be taking a different tack: a crowdsourced Pro Review. Of course, all Pro Reviews are crowdsourced to a great degree because everyone is invited to comment and ask questions, but we’re going one step further: We’ll provide 15 of you with a free, unlimited code to download the app so you can review it yourself! However, there’s a catch: You have to commit to trying out GeoShred, and commenting on your experiences in this thread. And of course, you also need an iPad 2 or higher. How easy/difficult is it to learn? Which options do you like best? What do you think of the modeling effects? Is this something you’d use in the studio or live? Don’t agonize over writing a huge summary, but do a post every now and then as you find out more about the app, starting with your first impressions. I’d rather see 20 quick, interesting posts than one huge post, but if you want to do huge posts…be my guest! And feel free to create audio or video examples we can post on the Harmony Central YouTube channel. So here’s what you need to do: PM me (Anderton) and explain why you want to check out GeoShred (determines who gets a code in case of a tie), and that you understand in return for getting a free download code, you’ll be posting in this thread. That’s all there is to it! Allow a day or two after your request before you get the code. If you don’t receive a reply, it simply means we’ve run out of codes…but you can certainly feel free to spring the bucks to get your own, and comment anyway. I really think you’re gonna love this app, but thanks to this Pro Review, you can be the judge of that and let us know what you think. Have fun, and let the games begin! [ATTACH=CONFIG]n31748737[/ATTACH]
  19. How To Create "Preverb" (Man) Here's how to create a popular sound from the psychedelic era by Craig Anderton “Preverb” was a popular effect in 60s music, where reverb built up to a note instead of decaying after it. It was a fairly time-consuming effect to set up with tape-baesd recording; you needed to record the track to be preverbed, flip the tape reels over to reverse the tape direction, play back the track through reverb, record only the reverb, then flip the tape reels back again so that the music played normally—but the reverb played in reverse. Ironically, now that today’s DAWs make it easy to replicate that effect, people don’t seem to be intrested in using it. Maybe that’s because it could make a track sound “dated” (sort of like how gated reverb on drums screams “80s music”), but it’s still a cool effect that’s worth a try when you want to add a sort of otherwordly quality to vocals, guitar, drums, and other signal sources. ADDING PREVERB Pro Tools makes it particularly easy to add the preverb effect; with their AudioSuite Delay or Reverb effects, just click on the Reverse button. However, this is not quite as flexible as the more “universal” method presented next (which also works with Pro Tools). This requires that the clip have some silence before the first sound, but later we’ll cover what to do if there’s no silence. Start by copying the clip or track to which you want to add preverb, then process the copy with the DAW’s reverse function (Fig. 1). Here’s how you reverse clips in various programs. Fig. 1: The top (red) waveform is the original guitar part. The orange waveform below is the reversed version; the next one down (dark blue) adds reverb, and applies the effect to the clip. The bottom waveform (violet) re-reverses the reverberated track to create “preverb.” During playback, you need only the top and bottom clips. Ableton Live: in the clip overview sample box, click Rev Acoustica Mixcraft: right-click the clip > Reverse Apple Logic: double-click the clip, then choose Functions > Reverse Avid Pro Tools: select clip > AudioSuite > Other > Reverse Cakewalk Sonar: select clip > Process > Apply Effect > Reverse Magix Samplitude: right-click the clip > Effects (Offline) > Sample Manipulation > Reverse MOTU Digital Performer: select clip > Audio > Apply Plug-In > Reverse > Select > Apply Presonus Studio One Pro: right-click the clip > Audio > Reverse Audio Propellerheads Reason: right-click the clip > Reverse Clips Sony Acid Pro: select clip > type U Steinberg Cubase: select clip > Audio > Process > Reverse Insert a reverb or delay plug-in into the copied/reversed track or clip, then adjust the reverb’s effect settings. Choose an all-wet effect mix, with no dry signal. After obtaining the desired reverb sound, select the reversed track and apply (render) the effect so the effect becomes part of the waveform (for example with Studio One Pro invoke Track Transform; in Sonar, use Apply Audio Effect). Now, reverse the backward, reverberated track to “un-reverse” it. Mix this with the original dry track, and now you have preverb. AUDIO THAT STARTS IMMEDIATELY WITH SIGNAL If an audio clip or track has no silence at the beginning, trying to add preverb will be ineffective because there won’t be any place for the reverb to decay when reversed. So, to add preverb at the very beginning of a clip or track, you’ll need a blank section before the first sound. This section needs to be equal to or longer than the reverb’s decay. Either insert silence, slip-edit the track to extend the beginning then bounce it to itself, or whatever lets you pre-pend silence. If you want to add preverb to a track before the entire song starts, then select all tracks and shift them to the right to open up a few measures at the song’s beginning. Now you can extend the original track you want preverbed to the project start so it includes silence. Continue by copying the original track, reversing, and following the steps detailed previously to add preverb. Join The Discussion in the Harmony Central Recording Forum ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  20. How to "Proof" MIDI Sequences Fix those little “gotchas” before they make it into the final mix by Craig Anderton MIDI sequencing is wonderful, but it’s not perfect—and sometimes, you’ll be sandbagged by problems like false triggers (e.g., what happens when you brush against a key accidentally), having two different notes land on the same beat when quantized, voice-stealing that cuts off notes abruptly, and the like. These glitches may not be obvious when other instruments are playing, but they nonetheless can muddy up a piece or even mess up the rhythm. Just as you’d “proof” your writing, it’s a good idea to “proof” sequenced tracks. Begin by listening to each track in isolation; this reveals flaws more readily than listening to several tracks simultaneously. Headphones can also help, as they may reveal details you’d miss over speakers. As you listen, also check for voice-stealing problems caused by multi-timbral soft synths running out of voices. Sometimes if notes are cut off, merely changing note durations to prevent overlap, or deleting one note from a chord, will solve the problem. But you may also need to dig deeper into some other issues, such as . . . NOTES WITH ABNORMALLY LOW VELOCITIES OR DURATIONS Even if you can’t hear these notes, they still use up voices. They’re easy to find in an event list editor, but if you’re in a hurry, do a global “remove every note with a velocity of less than X” (or for duration, “with a note length less than X ticks”) using a function like Cakewalk SONAR’s DeGlitch option (Fig. 1). Fig. 1: Cakewalk SONAR's DeGlitch function is deleting all notes with velocities under 10 and durations under 10 milliseconds. Note that most MIDI guitar parts benefit greatly from a quick cleanup of notes with low velocities or durations. UNWANTED AFTERTOUCH (CHANNEL PRESSURE) DATA If your master controller generates aftertouch (pressure) but a patch isn’t programmed to use it, you’ll be recording lots of data that serves no useful purpose. When driving hardware synths, this can create timing issues and there may even be negative effects with soft synths if you switch from a sound that doesn’t recognize aftertouch to one that does. Note that there are two types of aftertouch—channel aftertouch, which generates one message that correlates to all notes being pressed, and polyphonic aftertouch, which generates individual messages for each note being pressed. The latter sends a lot of data down the MIDI stream, but as there are few keyboard controllers with polyphonic aftertouch, you may not encounter this issue. However polyphonic aftertouch can be extremely expressive, so if your keyboard has it, be sure to take advantage of it as described in this article. Fig. 2 shows Steinberg Cubase’s Logical Editor, which is ideal for removing specific types of data. Fig. 2: In this basic application of Steinberg Cubase's Logical Editor, all aftertouch data is being removed. Note that many recording programs disable aftertouch recording as the default, but if you enable it at some point, it may stay enabled until you disable it again.) OVERLY WIDE DYNAMIC VARIATIONS This can be a particular problem with drum parts played from a keyboard—for example, some all-important kick drum hits may be much lower than others. There are two fixes: Edit individual notes (accurate, but time-consuming), or use a MIDI edit command that sets a minimum or maximum velocity level, like the one from Sony Acid Pro (Fig. 3). With pop music drum parts, I often limit the minimum velocity to around 60 or 70. Fig. 3: Sony's Acid Pro makes it easy to restrict MIDI dynamics to a particular range of velocity values. DOUBLED NOTES If you “bounce” a key (or drum pad, for that matter) when playing a note, two triggers for the same note can end up close to each other. This is also very common with MIDI guitar. Quantization forces these notes to hit on the same beat, using up an extra voice and producing a flanged/delayed sound. Listening to a track in isolation usually reveals these flanged notes; erase one (if two notes hit on the same beat, I generally erase the one with the lower velocity value). Some programs offer an edit function that deletes duplicates automatically, such as Pro Tools’ Delete Duplicate Notes function (Fig. 4). Fig. 4: Pro Tools has a menu item dedicated specifically to eliminating duplicate MIDI notes. NOTES OVERLAP WITH SINGLE-NOTE LINES This applies mostly to bass and wind instruments. In theory, with single-note lines you want one note to end before another begins. Even slight overlaps make the part sound more mushy (bass in particular loses “crispness”) but what’s worse, two voices will briefly play where only one is needed, causing voice-stealing problems. Some programs let you fix overlaps as a Note Duration editing option. However note that with legato mode, you do want notes to overlap. With this mode, a note transitions smoothly into the next note, without re-triggering an envelope when the next note occurs. Thus in a series of legato notes, the envelope attack occurs only for the first note of the series. If the notes overlap without legato mode selected, then you’ll hear separate articulations for each note. With an instrument like bass, legato mode can simulate sliding from one fret to another to change pitch without re-picking the note. Join the discussion on Craig Anderton's Sound, Studio, and Stage ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  21. Windows 10 Report Card for the Studio So should you upgrade from Windows 7 or not? Here's one person's report card by Craig Anderton A while ago I decided to take a leap of faith and go "all in" on Windows 10 for my studio computer—yes, even with an always-on net connection, and checking the "sure, I don't mind sending you user feedback" box. I even did an in-place install over Windows 7 rather than wipe my hard drive clean, so this was some serious living on the edge. And now, here's the report card on 10 subjects for Windows 10. Look: B+ Making it tablet-friendly has also made the interface generally more obvious and simple. I'd give it a 5 if there was the option to turn on Aero, although to be fair even though I thought I'd miss that gorgeous glassy look, I haven't. MIDI improvements: B+ (and maybe even A) MIDI being multi-client is huge—it means a single MIDI application doesn't hog the computer. But if they fixed the MIDI port limitation (and so far, I haven't encountered that limitation, so it may have been fixed) then it's an A. Groove Music: B I was going to give this Microsoft version of iTunes an F because the last time I tried to use it, album song orders were alphabetical. Seriously? But I tried it again and—let’s hear it for the “rolling updates,” because now the song orders are correct. And it’s showing album art, which I don’t remember seeing before. The only reason it didn’t get an A is because it’s very oriented toward organizing your music collection on a computer, not easy auditioning of individual audio files, like us audio types need to do. Handling of in-app purchases: A This was a big surprise. I expected an onslaught of "Like your 1 GB cloud storage? Get 50 GB for only $1.99 a month!!" notifications, but Microsoft has been surprisingly restrained. Maybe they're just laying low until everyone has converted to Windows 10, but so far, so good. Default music file format choice: A Microsoft has jettisoned Windows Media Audio (which was actually quite good, but couldn’t compete with the iPod’s format of choice) and decided that FLAC will be its main squeeze for an audio format. Full fidelity, less space, none of the artifacts of MP3 or AAC…I’m in. Native audio improvements: C+ Yes, Windows' native audio can have lower latency than before...but it’s not Core Audio or ASIO. However, it gets a + because my Windows DAWs run a little bit more smoothly with ASIO. Making sound adjustments in the control panel: D You want to change your default system audio device, so you go to Settings. Logical, right? But then you go to Personalization…uh, okay, and then…Themes? Yes, Themes, and then under Related Settings you’ll find Advanced Sound Settings. However, what kept the grade from going to D- is the ease of messing with the volume control, which is nice and obvious on the taskbar…and it doesn’t disappear mysteriously. Update reliability: B+ I've experienced nothing nasty from updates except after one update, something strange seemed to happen with the USB ports. Or maybe it was poltergeists. Whatever, it went away after the next update that happened a couple days later, so I’ll blame Microsoft just for the heck of it because I’ll assume it was cause and effect. Update notifications: F It's actually worse than Windows 7, which at least had a parade of inscrutable characters telling you things were being updated. But then you'd turn on the computer and it would take forever to boot. Was the update successful? Was there a problem? Was it updating? Who knows...and that aspect remains. Now when a boot seems to take forever, I just go away for a while...have a snack or something so I don’t sit around nervously. There hasn't been a fail, but in Microsoft's desire to make updating transparent and in the background, they've instead managed to make me nervous by not putting up a message that says something like "Your computer is installing updates, please be patient." Doing what Windows 8 was supposed to do: A Those wretched metro apps have been replaced by a smart handling of tiles in the Start menu. We don’t have the musical equivalent of cool iPad apps to put in there yet, but at least there’s an environment for them that won’t make you want to throw your computer out the window. Edge Browser: B+ Internet Exploder was an easy act to follow, but Edge is a major improvement and not just an incremental one. Although it still has a few rough edges—web pages that look fine in other browsers may have some anomalies—it’s a big step up, and feels likely to become even sleeker in the future. And there you have it. Admittedly, Windows 7 was a seriously great operating system, which is why it stays rooted to many a C: drive. However. I’m glad I updated to Windows 10, which was without a doubt the most pain-free Windows update ever. After the Windows 8 fiasco (an OS I tried and immediately discarded), I was skeptical—but Windows 10 got it right. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  22. Better Sound from Acoustic Guitar Piezo Pickups Don't settle for a less-than-the-best acoustic guitar sound by Craig Anderton I just finished a live recording where the player was using an acoustic guitar with a piezo pickup—and every time I hear a piezo pickup, the first thing I want to do is grab a parametric EQ and make it sound like a real guitar! The piezo output doesn’t sound like what you’d hear when listening to a guitar in a room, but it also doesn’t sound like miked guitar. In some ways, a piezo is too accurate because it doesn’t discrimate in what it picks up. Fortunately, properly-applied EQ can tame the piezo sound and make it more realistic. COMPARING FREQUENCY RESPONSES The upper plot in Fig. 1 shows a miked acoustic guitar’s spectrum, while the middle plot shows the unprocessed piezo’s spectrum. Fig.1: Three spectra from a Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar. The top is the miked sound, the middle the piezo sound, and the bottom is the piezo sound after being processed by EQ as described later. In the miked output, note the major boost around 165 Hz. This corresponds to the body’s “acoustic filtering.” Virtually any acoustic guitar exhibits a characteristic low-frequency bump, and capturing that bump is part of the sound. There’s also a slightly higher-frequency dip above this bump. The piezo not only misses the bump’s peak, but the frequency response extends much lower, giving a “boomy” sound. Also, the piezo’s high frequencies are more pronounced because piezos tend to have a natural brightness. Finally, in the miked spectrum, there’s a bit more energy in the upper mids. These differences are why a miked guitar often “sits” better in a track than one recorded with a piezo, as the miked version occupies a narrower part of the frequency spectrum. You can’t make a piezo sound exactly like a miked guitar, because the physics of the transducers are so different. However, EQ can tailor a piezo’s sound (Fig. 2). Fig. 2: Cakewalk SONAR’s ProChannel EQ is using five EQ bands to tame the raw piezo output. Here’s what each filter stage is doing: Highpass filter: A steep, 30dB/octave slope rolls off lows starting at around 116 Hz. Lowpass filter: This reduces highs starting at around 9.3 kHz with a gentler, 18 dB/octave slope. Low parametric stage: Boosts at 161 Hz Lo Mid parametric stage: Cuts around 460 Hz High parametric stage: Lifts the upper mids a bit around 3.1kHz. Now refer back to Fig. 1, and note how the EQ’ed piezo plot at the bottom is much closer to the miked sound. VARIATIONS ON A THEME If you don’t have a miked sound as a reference for comparison, the EQ settings above are fairly consistent “ballpark” settings. But of course you don’t have to imitate the miked sound, and can use EQ to enhance or reduce particular frequencies for specific applications. As just one example, a guitar might have additional resonances you want to reduce (Fig. 3). Fig. 3: Note how the Low, Lo Mid, and High Mid settings have been tweaked to affect three specific midrange resonances. Taken together, these three response dips still reduce the midrange, but do so with more precision. Another option is wanting a “big” sound to accompany a solo singer, but not overwhelm the vocals (Fig. 4). Fig. 4: The highs and lows are accented, and the midrange scooped to make space for vocals. In this curve, the EQ still raises the highs and lows, but doesn’t roll off the highest frequencies to give a bright sound, and gives a significant low end boost to give a big, beefy sound. Also note that the high frequency boost extends down into the upper midrange, which makes the highs less brittle by comparison. Meanwhile, the midrange is taken down to carve out additional room for the vocals. Finally, suppose you want the EQ to support fingerstyle guitar picking and provide a highly articulated sound (Fig. 5). Fig. 5: This curve provides increased definition. The major boost in the 2-3 kHz range imakes the note articulations really stand out, although there’s still some lower midrange drop to make room for vocals. TWEAK THAT PIEZO! Hopefully this will inspire you not to accept what comes out of the piezo pickup, but to tweak it for a more natural sound that’s much more like what we hear from a guitar in a room, or when miked. The results will be much more aesthetically pleasing than the midrangey, “honking” vibe of an unequalized piezo pickup. _____________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  23. Sir George Martin: Thank You You helped so many make better music By Craig Anderton I read the news today, oh boy…such a loss. At Harmony Central, our goal is to help people “make better music.” We can’t think of anyone who lived that ideal more than Sir George Martin, who not only helped the Beatles and many other artists make better music, but influenced and inspired an entire generation to push the envelope of what was possible with recording and artistic expression. However, his dedication to advancing the art of recording wasn’t limited to the elite of the pop world. In 1975, I was establishing a career as an author and had written the book “Home Recording for Musicians.” My publisher asked who would be a good choice to write the foreword. I flippantly said “George Martin,” although of course I was sure there was a better chance of my sprouting wings and flying to the moon than him agreeing to write a foreword. Quite the contrary. He asked to see a sample of the book, and thankfully, loved what he saw so he wrote an eloquent foreword that set a tone of inspiration. It couldn’t have been a better opener…and he did it all for someone he had never even met. But in retrospect, I think I know the reason why: he simply couldn’t pass up any opportunity to encourage others to participate in the joy of making and recording music. Many years later, I attended an event where he was present. I summoned up the courage to approach him, and said “I’m sure you don’t remember, but you did me a tremendous favor years ago. You wrote a foreword to my book and I just wanted to thank you in person.” He smiled and said “Ah yes, Craig Anderton.” I was totally blown away that he took writing a foreword to a book from some nobody so seriously that he remembered it. Apparently he brought the same degree of careful attention to detail to everything he did—not just outstanding record production. Sir George Martin did a lot for the world. He helped re-define the role of the studio, what a producer could contribute, and helped artists make better music…but more importantly, he helped bring joy to millions of people. He changed the world, and he’s leaving behind a better world than the one he was born into. Thank you, Sir George. Leave your thoughts here ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  24. So That's Why They Call It "Playing" Music by Craig Anderton This story involves a politician, but it doesn’t involve politics (you’re welcome). I was on a plane, and sitting a few rows ahead was Representative Paul Ryan, who’s now Speaker of the House. He had earbuds, and was listening intently to…what? Senate proceedings? An audio book, perhaps? While we stood in the jetway waiting for our gate-checked baggage, I asked what he was listening to so intently. Probably the Carpenters’ Greatest Hits, right? Maybe Kenny G? It was Led Zeppelin. Yes, the purveyors of debauchery and on-tour madness had worked their way into the ear canal of the man who, had George Romney been elected president in 2012, would have become vice president of the United States (although I’m sure it would have been a different kind of vice than Led Zeppelin’s). So I asked if he played guitar. “Yes…air guitar,” and he laughed. But I don’t think it was my imagination that a brief flash of regret seemed to cross his face. It’s one thing to listen to Jimmy Page; it’s another to be strutting across a stage, pounding out riffs on a Les Paul while thousands of fans are screaming their heads off. Yet he didn’t take up the guitar, because he said he just wasn’t good at it. Well, news flash: I could never hop a mogul like Jean-Claude Killy, but I liked to ski. And I’ll never make Celebrity Chef, but frankly, I cook a reasonably good salmon and besides, there are no documented cases of anyone dying from my cooking. Listening to music is about enjoyment, but so is playing music. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that making music is fun. But it’s time to let others know. I have a friend who keeps various percussion toys around, and when he puts on music, encourages guests to pick up an instrument and play along. Although they’re usually embarrassed at first, it doesn’t take long before they’re smiling. Maybe that smile will turn into nothing, or maybe it will turn into checking out a Casio keyboard or inexpensive acoustic guitar. As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I’ll probably never see Paul Ryan again, but if I do, I’m going to ask for his shipping address and send him a guitar. He’ll probably never become a great guitarist…but I bet he’ll have fun trying. - Craig Anderton ps: if you have friends who are musicians, forward them Harmony Central's Make Better Music. They'll thank you and we thank you. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  25. Can Music Really Change the World? by Craig Anderton It may sound hopelessly idealistic, but all of us at HC truly believe that music can change the world. During a time when society seems to be filled with complicated environmental, social, religious, and political problems, we believe music can provide the healing mojo that helps bring joy, and reduces the stress of everyday life. But can music really change the world, or is this all a naive pipe dream? The answer is both more complex, and more simple, than you might think. Plenty of studies show that music affects individuals. A paper in the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing describes how listening to music is useful for pain relief and treating depression. Music also decreases post-operative pain. Playing certain types of music can help decrease blood pressure, and reduce heart and breathing rates. Taiwanese researchers have found that listening to Mozart K 448 had an antiepileptic effect in children. And according to a paper published by the National Institutes of Health US National Library of Medicine, music can help in stroke recovery. But the “money quote” from that paper addresses music in general: “Music is a highly complex and versatile stimulus for the brain…Regular musical activities have been shown to effectively enhance the structure and function of many brain areas, making music a potential tool also in neurological rehabilitation.” Or translated into English: Music creates physical changes, too. According to a paper in Neuropsychologia, the corpus callosum—the nervous system highway between the two brain hemispheres—is significantly larger in musicians. Plenty of studies show music is good for your brain. That’s fine, but can music change the world? In some ways, it already has: Music was the soundtrack of the 60s, and musicians like Bob Dylan and the Beatles affected society. And I can’t help but wonder if the “tribal” nature of EDM has something to do with everyone synching to the same beat. If music changes the individual for the better, then hopeful those individuals will also help change the world for the better. But if music is food for the brain, do we want to feed it the junk food of data-compressed files, or quality audio that delivers a more pristine experience? I’d vote for the latter. So maybe while we think about improving the world, maybe we should think about improving music’s delivery medium as well. —Craig Anderton ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
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