I have always been a fan of high end recording gear in terms of amps and have to date been a big fan of Ear Trumpet mics, so I was interested to hear what all the fuss was about in the recording sector about this Austrian audio OC818 mic
For those interested in the technical aspects, check the link above.
I’ve used a number of microphones in studios and never really paid a great amount of attention to makes in the same way that I have done to audio interfaces, guitars and amps. Within the first hour of using the Austrian audio OC818, its crystal clear to me that this unit is very different to anything else to date. The responsiveness is quite extraordinary and the initial recordings sound so good that I’m going to re do some parts I had already recorded. To my ears everything sounds like a perfect representation of the vocal take. Many reviewers had made this exact same point and commented on the lack of a need for any post production. I’ve yet to try it out on instruments, but I suspect it will also impress in the same way.
The last nine months have been unusual to say the least with the covid 19 lockdowns and travel restrictions. Fortunately, just before all this happened I was smart enough to upgrade my home studio, not knowing how long this period would last for. Usually I would by now have travelled to Europe, USA and Asia, but of course none of this has been posible.
Recording strategies in the studio
One of the benefits of having a home recording studio is that it can be permanently set up for work. I record on a daily basis, often to sketch out initial ideas. I’ve realised the value of letting ideas develop and not to engage in editing too soon. Sometimes some musical ideas will appear and the key is just to get these sketches down as soon as possible. This is one of the tips I learned from my good friend Tim Booth the lead singer in the band James who talked about his writing and recording strategy in the studio. As a signed artist he would have to deliver material to deadlines set by the record company. If I ever had any aspirations to be a signed artist, these soon disappeared when hearing about record company demands!
Sometimes a song will develop from a set of lyrics that inspire a melody. Since March most of the material has been inspired by musical sketches that often come from just letting ideas appear. In the great songwriting tradition I look for a main verse, a chorus and a middle eight. I never really know what will appear, during this sonic explorations. The Dr Rhythm unit has been invaluable in setting up percussion loops that can be developed into full fledged songs.
The sonic tool kit, guitars and pedals
I’m a massive fan of UAD equipment and plugins. I initially bought a UAD Arrow unit which has been terrific. I recently added a UAD quad satellite which has massively increased the processing power available during the recording process. I have found the UAD plugins to be of the highest quality and the unison plugins which are unique to UAD are described as
“Unison™ technology is an audio processing breakthrough that starts right at the source — the input stage — allowing UA audio interface mic preamps to sound and behave like the world’s most sought-after tube and solid-state designs.”
These plugins used in combination with the ear trumpet mics are really excellent sonically.
One of the benefits of having more time than usual is that I have time to explore instrument and pedal options in some detail. I’ve already blogged about the superb Zen Drive 2 pedal that I have used on many tracks. I have recently added two Jetter pedals to my go to units and am especially pleased with the Jetter 124 Gold unit which is one of the best sounding overdrives I have heard to date. There are hundreds of guitar pedals on the market, but in my experience only a very few really excellent ones.
In terms of guitars I am using my Dan Ranson custom telecaster with Tom Holmes pickups, my Warmoth strat with a Moses carbon fiber neck and my Collings I35 deluxe which is also fitted with Tom Holmes paf pickups. Tom’s pickups are in my view the very best and he’s now at the age of 72 doing his last run. These are all made by hand and are hugely in demand by many guitarists with a nine month back order! Its been quite an experience switching from mostly acoustic instruments in recent years to all electric instruments.
This material will be released across four different projects, each with a different style of music
Tomorrow sees the release of a series of tracks I am recording with Emily Mercer and a host of other excellent artists. I’ve known Emily for a couple of years when we booked her as a support for The Caravan of Dreams ensemble as well as featuring as an artist for Music for the Head and Heart. Emily Mercer is an excellent singer songwriter in her own right and I was lucky to catch her EP launch and see her in action. This is one of five songs I’ve sent over for collaboration, the first being “Wait until the pain is gone” which is currently unreleased. Both myself and my producer Carl Rosamond were so impressed we sent over additional tracks.
“All is fine until the world goes pop” has already been recorded three times, including a brilliant remix by Black Star Liner with a superb video by Nick Bloomfield, which is a terrific but very different interpretation of the track to the Emily Mercer collaboration
The new video tomorrow is also by Nick Bloomfield and will premiere at 9am here
My producer and I spent 2 hours yesterday on creating a spread sheet to track progress of the work on 25 different songs currently in play in addition to 19 songs that have already been mixed. We currently have 13 different musicians involved in this work which will result in three very different sounding albums. This project requires a great deal of organisation and coordination as there are many moving parts. We are delighted to have a number of great vocalists and musicians involved in creating some really unique material. Some songs are going to appear in very different styles. “All is fine, until the world goes pop” has already been recorded and mastered in three very different styles.
During covid 19 I see little point in releasing entire albums, but we will put out a few tracks for radio play and on my sites. Special thanks to Andy Coote at Source FM for the latest in a series of radio plays here
The recording process
All work starts in my home studio in the UK. Unusually for me, I’m doing everything on electric guitar with my Henriksen amps, Motown Acme DI box, Zen Drive 2 and other pedals, with all vocals through the superb Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic. All tracks are recorded via a UAD Arrow into the Reaper DAW. Its a very stripped down setup that works brilliantly. Once I have worked up basic ideas, they can go out to other musicians and producers working with the material. Its a fascinating process to bring together so much excellent talent and I’m grateful to all those who are involved.
Release dates and video
Full albums are planned for mid 2021, depending on the covid 19 situation. In the meantime Nick Bloomfield is doing a great job creating video for existing and future releases.
I’m currently working on 40 tracks across two very different projects. There are 2 totally different arrangements of songs written since covid lockdown, so they can legitimately be classed as totally different in all respects.
One of these projects is under a total different identity and a brand new genre of music for me with a world class producer. The second one is either solo or with my usual band with a whole bunch of amazing guests, many of whom I will be recording with for the very first time. Unusually the remixes appear first and the original tracks will come later. I can get some parts done remotely, but covid 19 has slowed down what I can do with the band. This means I’m working solo mostly on vocals and guitar parts and creating core ingredients for what follows. This stripped down way of working has been surprisingly productive and I am super pleased with the results to date
Its a massive amount of work and I am grateful to all those who have been involved to date. The ones with timings have already been recorded and the remixes have already had numerous radio plays
Here is the list of all the tracks to date
All is fine till the world goes pop 4.19
Gather round 6.57
Nothing here sounds good 3.21
All Kinds of Crazy 5.24
Your chosen one is coming 4.12
Please take this time 4.24
321 Lockdown 3.41
Hold that thought 3.30
Sticks and stones 3.40
The world is burning 3.39
That gals as cool as fuck 3.25
All about her lies 3.29
Come on down 3.51
Let it flow 5.17
Bring this strength 5.56
Wait until the pain is gone
Slow time (Find what you love and let it kill you)
Since covid 19 and the absence of being able to play live gigs, many musicians have understandably moved to using social media as a way to communicate their music. Aside from many of the technical challenges, its useful to not FaceBook’s terms relating to music which are as follows
Music Guidelines These supplemental terms apply if you post or share any videos or other content containing music on any Facebook Products.You are responsible for the content you post
People use our Products to share content with their family and friends. Keep in mind you remain solely responsible for the content that you post, including any music that features in that content. Nothing in these terms constitutes any authorization by us with respect to any use of music on any of our Products.
Use of music for commercial or non-personal purposes in particular is prohibited unless you have obtained appropriate licenses.You may not use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience We want you to be able to enjoy videos posted by family and friends. However, if you use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience for yourself or for others, your videos will be blocked and your page, profile or group may be deleted. This includes Live.Unauthorized content may be removed
If you post content that contains music owned by someone else, your content may be blocked, or may be reviewed by the applicable rights owner and removed if your use of that music is not properly authorized.You may not be able to post or access videos containing music in every country of the world
We want you to be able to share videos with your family and friends wherever they are, but any music in your video, if it is allowed at all, may not be available in all countries of the world.
The key phrase here for many is
Use of music for commercial or non-personal purposes in particular is prohibited unless you have obtained appropriate licenses.
FB Customers v FB users
Many musicians fail to appreciate that “FB customers” are thos who pay for adverts and FB is of course a substantial public limited corporation with its own business plan in play. Many of us are “users” and there are conditions set out by FB as to how we use their business model. I’m always amused when artists insist “FB should do X and Y” as FB is not a charitable resource for musicians, its a business and much as I would love for them to be the former role, its not going to happen anytime soon.
This is one of the many reasons why I always advise artists to create their own web presence that they control rather than rely on 3rd party businesses and often placing “their egg in one basket”
I’m astonished that many artists don’t pay attention to this aspect of marketing and fail to appreciate that social media and platforms like Spotify are all businesses whose primary function is to maximise profits. I’d love this to be not the case, but that’s plain wishful thinking…
With the absence of live events globally, understandably many artists are instead running online events. The medium is of course totally different. Instead of a 3D live experience, you have a 2D experience with all the technological changes that are commonplace with attempting such activity. Even major artists are discovering the limitations of technology. Even my favorite live artist Nick Cave had issues with the live streaming of his recent solo event “The Idiot’s Prayer” and it seems that the technology is not really stable enough universally for such events.
Concentration time and cost for watching online?
Personally I’m not a fan of anything online on a PC that is longer than an hour. The experience is fundamentally different to a live event. Yes. there’s no driving, parking and issues with people talking during gigs (a pet hate) but the atmosphere is not the same. Also the sheer volume of material online means that I feel bombarded by the amount of choice. I find myself passing on opportunities to watch artists I would normally jump at.
Many online events are free or pay as you feel, so it seems to me that artists are still adjusting to this new medium. A friend commented yesterday that she was surprised that an artist was charging 20 pounds for an online event and commented “I love her music, but I’m not paying that!” Personally I can’t get enthusiastic about many online viewings and that maybe the volume of material out there or the lack of differentiation.
Songs of Hope and the future of live events
A few of us at Music for the Head and Heart even before covid 19 decided to release video showcasing artists from around the globe. The idea is always to keep shows concise and episode 5 that launches monday is under 20 minutes. I have a suspicion that this is around the best length to keep an audience engaged.
Time will tell what happens to live events, but when longstanding shows like “Phantom of the Opera” close, then that’s a real indication of changing times. Big festivals and tours require planning and I suspect things are still too uncretain even for planning in 2021. Yes, there is talk of socially distanced outside events, but I’m not sure of the demand for such scenarios. Hopefully something great will emerge from this shake up, time will tell
One of the smartest things I did pre covid lockdown was to review my home studio setup. I’ve blogged previously about using the Arrow UAD, and Acme Motown DI which have become my core tools.
The benefit of having a home studio that it is there 24/7, so I can drop in at anytime to put down sketch ideas or add to existing ideas. This has proved to be a brilliant way to make best use of time and to work in a really spontaneous manner. Many of the new tracks were recorded really quickly and as one of the producers I am working with keeps saying “don’t overthink it”
I’m a big fan of working in this way and its certainly working in terms of producing a really great set of new material that is different to anything I have created to date. I’ve always felt that songs appear in all kinds of unexpected ways and one of the keys to get the best results is to capture them as soon as the idea first appears
I was talking to a good friend today about the concept of “albums” as opposed to projects. To date, I’ve always thought of releasing albums, but I’m now inclined to think instead of releasing tracks as part of a project. The latest project “All Kinds of Crazy” will have the title track released with accompanying video on April 20th as part of “Songs of Hope” from www.musicfortheheadandheart.buzz
This is a very stripped down track and I play all the guitar parts on the superb Waterloo acoustic with the excellent Ella Playford guesting on vocals. I’m really pleased with the end result. We just finished the secord track for the project “Your Chosen One is Coming” and Nick Bloomfield is also going to explore video options for this track. A third track “All is fine, until the world goes pop” is also in progress. I playing all parts on this material and using the superb Arrow UAD unit in a studio to studio set up. For the first time, so far everything is played on guitars, not a ukulele in sight!
I have no idea how long the pandemic lockdown will be for, but it looks like there will be no shortage of time for this project.
I have always been a massive fan of UAD plugins and during this pandemic lockdown I decided to grab an Arrow UAD interface. My initial impressions is that this is really excellent. Crucially it gives me access to my already purchased 31 UAD plugins, but also alsong with the Reaper DAW allows me to work with a seriously high end portable recording unit. The only limitation is that I can only use a few plugins at any one time, but often “less is more” in such situations and my new project is all about working in a stripped down manner.
I’ll report more of my findings in due course, but I’m seriously impressed by the Arrow and the sound is absolutely terrific.