So, living in Nashville is pretty amazing if you have a studio. Great musicians are available all the time, you can rent gear from several outlets for reasonable prices, and the there are many world-class techs available to repair, renovate, or modify your gear when needed. On that last score, I have been self-modifying several of my microphones, soldering better capsules and capacitors into my Rode N2 and into a Studio Projects B3 large diaphragm microphone.

After using my Miktek CV4 for a couple of years, and basically loving it for most things, I found that I kept trying to equalize a little high end “zing” – evidently due to the way the capsule interacts with the tube electronics in the body of the mic. I read a Tape Op magazine article about a microphone tech in Nashville named Shannon Rhoades, a guy who used to actually work at MikTek, who could do a killer modification on the CV4. After listening to some digital files of the results he is able to achieve, I bit the bullet (literally – this was not cheap) and decided to go for it. I emailed him and then packed up my CV4 and drove it over to his house. When I walked in, I shuffled past a dog, and a guy coming out of the back workroom with a microphone modified for Martina McBride (I believe it was her, or maybe it was Shania Twain), and met Shannon in the workroom Here’s a little video from YouTube of an interview with Shannon in that room (scroll to about 5:45).

The room was full of microphones, all being modified and personalized for various country luminaries, and Shannon asked me a few questions about what I was looking for in the mic. He got the drift, I left, and he went to work. Two weeks later I returned, paid him through PayPal, picked up the microphone and put it into action recording the Flat River Band (a post to come about that later).

After nearly a year with the modified microphone, using it on vocals, acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and as a room mic, I have to say that it was worth every penny. What was a really, really good $1600.00 tube condenser mic, was now close to a world-class microphone – the kind you’d pay 8 to 10 grand to use. It has that huge, larger than life, “suck you in sound”, with a silky high end, tight and controlled midrange, full and flowery low end that is really nice to have on most vocals and featured instruments. It reminds me a lot of a Telefunken C12, and for about 1/3 of the price. Check Shannon out at https://www.facebook.com/Micrehab/

John Wiley Nelson (a.k.a. “The Rev”) is a folk and bluegrass songwriter residing in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He was the manager of WOMR, the local public broadcasting station there form some years, and still acts as DJ for a regular bluegrass show. He has recorded several CDs here at Jonymac Studio. Over the years, he has focused more and more attention on hiring the finest award-winning musicians for his CDs: Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Adam Steffey on mandolin, Randy Kohrs on resonator (dobro), Ron Stewart on banjo, and most recently Kenny Smith on acoustic rhythm and lead guitars. He also brings in Kenny and Amanda Smith to produce and perform his vocals. Due to the busy schedules of all of these musicians, it is impossible to get them all together at one time to record. We have to multi-track, working around their schedules. Here’s the process:

  • The Rev records a rough vocal and rhythm guitar track to click for all songs (I accompany him on guitar)
  • The Rev creates an arrangement sheet, identifying clearly who plays rhythm, fills, or leads during each song.
  • Kenny Smith comes in and records a rhythm track for all songs, replacing my scratch guitar track.
  • Kenny then records any lead acoustic guitar work needed
  • I record an acoustic bass track
  • This improved rough mix is sent to:
    • Adam Steffey who records his mandolin tracks at his preferred studio (sometimes Ron Stewart’s Sleepy Valley Barn in Paoli, Indiana)
    • Randy Kohrs who records his resonator tracks at his studio (Slack Key Studios, Nashville, TN)
    • Ron Stewart records his tracks at his studio: Sleepy Valley Barn in Paoli, Indiana
  • These artists send their stems to me digitally to put into the mix
  • The Rev comes back into the studio and records his final vocal tracks
  • Kenny and Amanda come in to do background harmony vocals
  • Stuart Duncan comes in to the studio here and records his fiddle tracks which provide the “glue” on the CD.
  • The Rev and I do a good early mix for each song
  • I finish the mixing and mastering

Because of the quality of musicianship, this process works wonderfully.

One final thing that really helped this new CD. I’ve been less than happy with the basic sound palette when recording and mixing acoustic music such as bluegrass “in the box” in Logic (Pro Tools is not better), so I added an instantiation of Slate Virtual Mix Channel’s Neve console emulation on each bus, and on the Mixbus, and it made an amazing difference. I strongly recommend this! The sound is warmer, rounder, more listenable. The CD will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Napster, CD Baby, etc. soon. To hear a sneak preview, go here!

raalb01556550Credenda is a family band: see more here! Three siblings sing awesome harmonies, and the mother performs on keyboard. They came in and tracked a 6 song EP last summer, and we finished up the mixing in the fall. They released the project a few months ago. Kim Mclean produced the CD and brought in Andy Hull on drums, his son Evan Hull on electric guitar and bass, and Charlie Chamberlain on electric guitar and mandolin. The tracking sessions were very creative and spontaneous, and Mclean gave the artists a lot of room to experiment on each track. The results were beautiful. IMG_9103

We first tracked the drums, percussion, bass and rhythm guitars, along with a scratch vocal track. Because the energy between the siblings was so good on vocals, and I didn’t want to lose that, I recorded the vocals at the same time, after the rhythm and lead tracks were in place. That also gave me an opportunity to try out a couple of microphones I had recently hand-wired and modified, using parts from Micparts.com. I had done their Rode NT-2 modification with one of their RK-47 capsules on my old Rode NT-2 microphone, and their Studio Projects C3 modification on an old C3 I got on Ebay. I had also recently asked Shannon Rhodes do one of his incredible modifications on my MikTek CV-4 (more on that in another post soon!), and used that for the lead vocals. All three modifications took the vocals to a new level, and combined with the live three-part recording, the effect is great! Take a listen here!

My eyes aren’t what they used to be, and I’ve been wanting to get a couple of my favorite preamps (the ones with tiny knobs) up higher and closer where I can tweak them easily. I didn’t want to buy a new desk, so I needed an 8U short rack (12 inches deep only). Poking around online I came across Nice-Racks, which is basically a guy who makes gorgeous all-wood racks in a workshop at home. They are made to order, very reasonably priced, with lots of wood finish options. I chose maple to match my desk. I ordered through PayPal, and the rack arrived in about two weeks. It sits perfectly on my desk. Absolutely  beautiful. I recommend this guy without any reservations!

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All wood, 12in. deep 8U Rack from Nice-Racks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted: November 23, 2017 in Recent Projects

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A beautiful year in the studio. Thanks to all the great musicians who came though the studio this year. It was amazing to work with all of you. Support the arts! Artists make the world better for us all!

I usually record bass guitar both through a DI and through an amp. The DI provides a lot of the weight and lower harmonics, and the amp adds low-mid punch and definition to the sound. I’ve been relatively happy using standard DI boxes (Whirlwind, Radial, etc.) through my rather strange but wonderful Peavey VMP-2 tube preamp.

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That monster is one great bass preamp. And between the two, the sound has been good.

But then I stumbled on this thing:

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The A-Designs Audio, Reddi Tube Direct Box. Quite simply put, this is an indispensable piece of studio gear for those who want rich, multi-harmonic bass sounds from an electric bass guitar in the recording studio. I auditioned one for a project and immediately went and bought one. It was that good. The direct sound I was able to get from my Fender American Deluxe P-Bass was ridiculous! So ridiculous that it gave me enough low-mid punch, along with lower harmonics, when tracked through my Focusrite ISA 430 Producer Pack Channel Strip (with very little eq), that I decided to go straight into the board without the amp for the bass on Mundo Brew’s latest CD. The sound was great, and the mixing simple – the bass sat in the mix like a champ!

What I Charge

Posted: November 11, 2017 in Pricing

So here’s what I find works for me right now:

Songs: 500.00 per song. Includes tracking, mixing, mastering.

Cds: 4800.00 for an up-to-11 song CD. Includes tracking, mixing, mastering. 

EPs: 2500.00 for an up-to-6 song EP. Includes tracking, mixing, mastering. 

Mastering only: 100.00 per song

Tracking only: 450.00 flat fee for a 1 to 8 hour day, inclusive of studio setup, tear-down, cleanup, and to bounce and send stems (so on average between 5-6 hours of tracking max. per day, depending on the setup, number of instruments, etc.). If you want the stems comped and cleaned before they’re bounced and sent for mixing (removing noise, stripping silence between parts,  fades, etc., you’ll need to factor that in as well at 55.00 per hour. This could be as much as 1-2 hours per song depending on number of tracks (especially with drums).

I expect 1/2 on the front end, and the other half when the project is done.

For a good video on song and album costs from the great folks on the SonicScoop podcast, go to the following link and begin at about 9:00 minutes in: https://youtu.be/mB9_ilSut5k

For my rationale.

I hope this promotes clarity. Now – back to work!

Just finished recording John Nelson (the Rev) with his new bluegrass project. Man does he ever roll with some great artists! Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Adam Steffey on mandolin, Randy Kohrs on resonator and electric slide guitar, and for this CD he brought in Kenny and Amanda Smith. Kenny played acoustic guitar and they both sang backup vocals. Check out this great CD today!

Click below for YouTube of one great song from the CD:

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Mundo Brew: Consolation Cafe

Posted: November 10, 2017 in Recent Projects

 

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Just finished! Mundo Brew’s amazing new CD Consolation Cafe. Its always great fun tracking Mundo Brew, a Brazilian style Americana group from Louisville, KY. The songs written by band leader Chris Elwood with Latin American jazz chords and changes. Once again, the session was “old school”  –  completely tracked in a four-day marathon “live-in” experience. Chris (vocals and guitar) and Brad Wigger (percussion) lived at the house. Chris’ daughters, Isabelle and Josephine, drove down and stayed at a nearby hotel, tracking backup vocals. Flutist Doug Yeager drove down to track flute and harmonica, and Burns and Lorraine Stanfield flew in from Massachusetts for a day and a half to track keyboards and trumpet and sing backup vocals. Kim Cabrera drove down for Kentucky and tracked saxophone, and Nashville great Jeff Byrd came by and tracked a few more saxophone parts as well – an amazing addition on the song “Wrong Way.” The CD has a lot of live feel and energy and tons of great spontaneity. I’d say it is the perfect antidote to the crazy political climate today. Check it out and pre-order your copy now!

So, as a project studio, owned by someone who records, mixes, and masters “on the side,” I’m often approached by artists who are looking for a deal – which sometimes means they expect free service. In many instances, these are friends, or friends of friends, and in some instances they are really good artists – the kind I’d love working with! There is a part of me that would love to do this free of charge. I love what I do, and I love helping others achieve their musical goals. Early on, as I was “working on my chops” I did a few free projects – which took some of the pressure off and helped. When I listen back to some of those projects, I’m glad I didn’t charge!

As I got better, I found myself 50-75 hours into a project, listening to an artist ask me to “tweak” something (which sometimes would take several hours) and saying to myself: “I’d feel a lot better about this is I were getting paid!” True enough.

The fact is that many artists are unaware of the amount of time it takes, beyond tracking time, to get a project mixed and finished – even if it’s just vocals and guitar, or a few tracks of audio. Tracks have to be cleaned (gated or “stripped” of noise between clips of audio), de-essed, de-breathed (fixing loud breaths), equalized, sometimes compressed, automated as needed (louder in some spots, softer in others), run to busses, etc. etc. And even if a song is recorded in series with nothing changed, all of this has to be done differently for each song. In other words, a separate file has to be created for each song – and all of these steps done for each song. All of this adds up to TIME.

So about 10 years ago I started charging for my services. In my humble opinion, I’m still “a steal” if you compare my work to comparable work. And at this time I mostly charge by the project, rather than by the hour, which allows me to be the laid back guy that I like to be in the studio – and not to worry when I’m a little slower than some (perfectionist that I am).

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