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Stories behind tracking Butch Walker’s “Letters”- Joan

Joan-

Joan was tracked in one take at Butch Walker’s Ruby Red Room in Atlanta. We used a stereo mic setup on the piano, I think it was 2 414s but I’m not 100% sure as it was a while ago. The vocal was a u47 I believe, and yes there was vocal bleed in the piano mics and vice versa. That was part of the beauty of it all.

At the end of the day of band tracking I talked to Butch about doing one of the stripped down tunes. He was completely game and chilled out for a while and got the headspace for that tune while we did the setup for tracking.

About 20 minutes later, Butch came in, we double checked levels very quickly and he performed Joan. One take, no punches tuning or edits. You can hear plenty of mildly out of tune notes if that’s what you’re listening for. I was floored as was Russ-t Cobb who was running Pro-Tools. It’s beautiful when music happens this way, just pure and performed.
I think we tried to find reasons to do it again, but decided against it.

A couple days later, from a recommendation from Ed Roland (Collective Soul) A young violinist named Bobby Yang came by to sort of “Audition” to play on the record. Butch and I were a bit high on our horses and expecting the worst from Bobby Yang.

Bobby shows up and pulls his violin out. I don’t know if Butch or I said “Show us what you got kid”….but it was something like that. He played us Van Halen’s “Eruption” and we were a bit floored. Now what to do with this genius.

We played him Joan and told him we were thinking of a string quartet kind of vibe. Bobby was like “Sure”…..He listened a few times, and wrote some notation and we started building the quartet. Realize, there is no click and the tempo is very freeform.

I think it took Bobby about an hour to track the whole thing. Completely amazing that we had done this beautiful track in such a short time and ease. We used Bobby on a few other tracks on the album that I will Blog later.

Recording “Letters” with Butch Walker

Recording Butch Walker Letters

The best records you make as a Music Producer are always the easiest to make. Butch Walker’s “Letters” was one such record.

“Letters” started with me getting out of the house and visiting my friend Butch In Little 5 Points in Atlanta. I went to drink Wine and hang out with Butch. Then he played me the demo to the song “Mixtape” and we decided a good way to spend the weekend would be to drink wine and do this song.

Butch had a ton of awesome gear setup already in his tiny guesthouse. We cut the first version of Mixtape tracking the drums in the little 8 by 8 bedroom in his guest house. We later re-recorded the drums at Belmont studio in Nashville. I played keys, some background vocals and percussion while Butch was his awesome self being Butch. We weren’t thinking about record sales or a deal, we were just having fun……so of course Sony picked it up.

Jim Ebert & Butch Walker

By the time the deal was done and all was well with the world, Butch had built a small studio in Little 5 points (I believe) and we commenced to making the record. We tracked everything 1n 9 or 10 days and mixed it in about the same amount of time. No over-thinking, no drama, just making music. No vocal tuning, a bit of drum editing on loop based songs but not much on anything else. Vocals were usually one or two takes with a couple of punches. We were just aiming at the soul of the song and perfection would be a bonus.

The players involved were perfect for the project. For me, Kenny Cresswell playing drums was amazing on that record. Great feel and great sense of humor playing and personality wise. This record was recorded so fast, we we’re a little bummed and surprised when it was done. Thinking we had just made the next greatest record ever, we were a bit bummed when Sony said they had no Idea what to do with it.

I thought, (like I had thought so many times before with records I had been involved with, but much stronger with “Letters”) just market it you dumb-asses . That never happened.

There is a core audience that loves this record, and as a producer I have gotten more work production work out of this record than any other. If you don’t have “Letters” you should get it… Jim

 
 

Music Producer Jim Ebert – Recording “Letters” with Butch Walker

Recording Bass Guitar

“Jim- Whats the hardest thing to record?”

Recording Bass Guitar

For me its Recording Bass Guitar. The technique, the part, the bass, the amp (if needed) all play a huge part in making it sound like it’s part of the band. Usually there’s overplaying as the bassist is use to playing at rehearsals or live where they me be required to fill all the spaces. Typically I don’t want all the spaces filled in a Major recording. It’s simple things like don’t play over the snare some times or don’t clack on the pickups (more of a Metal thing).

When recording bass parts I typically use API mic pre’s along with an LA 3 compressor. These two items create a sonically intact front end bass signal. This enables the bass player and I to concentrate on getting the most grooving, underplayed non-clacking part possible.

An easy way to check your technique, provided you’re multi-tracking, is to get a copy of your bass part solo’ed so you can hear what your actually playing. You might be surprised at what doesn’t need to be there.

Of course there is the bass itself. It needs to sound right for what you’re doing. Clear and piano like or dead and muted depending on the genre. Other obvious things, make sure the strings are relatively new and the intonation is set correctly before you start recording…..hope this is helpful……… Jim

 
 

Recording Bass Guitar

Music Submission to Music Producers, Music Supervisors, Publishers, etc.

MP3 File

Like most Music Producers these day, I receive most music submissions via email.

A growing trend I see amongst artists submitting music to me, is to email me a link to their music on a 3rd party sight. At this music site, I have to search for the artist or sign up for the site to hear the song. This is not good!

Now I know that all these musician sites and “Music Insider Sites” are telling you to use their service, host your music on their site and send out links to your music on their site, but this is good for them, not for you.

A lot of the Music Producers, Music Supervisors and Music Publishers I know will automatically ignore your music submission if you do this. Think about it, if every day you got twenty links to different music sites that required you to sign up and search for the artist you are trying to listen to, you wouldn’t have time for anything else. So, you no do this!

Make it easy, make an MP3 of your best song and attach it to an email. This way we can open your email and hear your music right away.

In the past attaching an MP3 was taboo, but now most email accounts accept up to 20mb attachments. Your average 4 minute song is equal to just under 4mb as an MP3 at 128kbps. This is acceptable.

Give yourself every edge you can! Drop a few my way is a great mp3 conversion tool I have mentioned in the past. With Drop A Few My Way, It’s easy to convert audio files to MP3s and it’s FREE!

 
 

Music Submission to Music Producers, Music Supervisors, Publishers, etc.

 

Audio File Conversion

As a Music Producer, a question I get all the time is “Jim, what’s an easy way to convert my Audio file formats?”.

images

The process of file conversion as related to Audio File Conversion used to be a bit of a pain, but no longer is. I use a very simple FREE desktop Audio Conversion software called Drop A Few My Way.

Drop A Few My Way is a simple drag and drop Audio File Conversion software. You simply place Drop a Few My Way on your desktop or sidebar and drop the audio file you wish to convert onto the icon. Once you have dropped the audio file onto the icon a menu will pop up and ask you what format you wish to convert to. The menu will then ask you where you would like to place the converted file. Nice and Easy!

Drop A Few My Way

I like to send Mix reference audio files to my artists to listen to in the MP3 format. As you might know, sending a 4MB MP3 file through email is a lot easier than trying to send a 90MB WAV file. This is when a simple audio conversion tool comes in handy.

I typically record and mix at a sample rate of 88.2. Converting my large mix down audio files to a MP3 file is as simple as drag and drop and it only takes second.

Drop A Few My Way is one of the music production tools I consider a must. It’s Free and saves me a lot of time and as you know, time is money. It’s a win win! Check it out!  Jim

http://dougscripts.com/itunes/scripts/ss.php?sp=dropafewmyway

Recording Methods – Recording A Song A Day

Recording a Song a day

As a Music Producer, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “Hey Jim, How do you like to schedule your Recording sessions?”

Well, if everyone in the band and/or all the session players can be there, I like to go with Recording A Song A Day.

My reasoning behing recording one song per day is that we can setup and perform with only the one song in mind. The sounds we produce and perform will be solely for the one song. This keeps everyones creative visions and ideas focused on the one sone and only the one song, from start to finish.

I’ve certainly Done drums for the album first, then bass on day 2, guitars days, 3-4 , etc. This method is very common and works as well, especially if there are scheduling confilcts within the band or with session players. In my experience, this still takes about the same amount of time as a song a day.

One of the other upsides to a song a day is not having to sing and record vocals on 10 songs at the end of the project. This can be stressful for the best of vocalists.

If You can schedule recording a song a day, I strongly suggest this method. Give it a try. Jim

 
 

Recording A Song A Day

Music Submissions and Demo Recordings

“Hey Jim, when I send you my music demo recordings, how evolved does the recording need to be?”

music-submissionWell, when I receive Music Submissions, I personally prefer the acoustic guitar or piano version of the song. This way I can hear the vocals, melody, chord structure and song arrangement. Then we can talk about the direction of the production.

A cell phone recording is fine with me for this purpose. It’s fine when bands or artists make their own multi-track recording, but that usually takes weeks longer to put together.

The other issue with multi-track demo solicitation is, you may get married to the demo. This can be both good and bad. Good if you created something awesome and we can use it. Bad if you created something not awesome and you can’t hear the song any other way.

Another reason I prefer a basic version is, you brought it to me so we can take your idea to the next level. The next level sonically and artistically. We will best achieve this from the ground up. If I am producing your project from tracking to Mixing, I am going to use the best recording equipment available e.g. Microphones, pre-amps, outboard gear and recording software. This will insure your idea reaches maximum sonic level.

As a Music Producer, I prefer to start with the song idea at it’s most basic level. The melody, chord progression and lyrics need to stand on their own. Let’s get this nailed down in pre production and then build the song out from there. I might have some ideas that you haven’t considered and you might have some ideas that we need to explore.
My experience will guide us through this process in a productive and efficient manner.

Other times a more established band will have recorded tracks for a demo with the intent to turn it into a master. We will have discussed this in preproduction and we would re-cut any tracks that are not sonically relevant. Again, we would have established the musical direction before I accepted the project.

Hope this helps, Jim Ebert
 
 

Recording Matthew Ryan’s Certainly Never

Tales from the vault

may-dayIn the mid 90s, I had the pleasure of recording Matthew Ryan’s Debut album “Mayday” on A+M records. We recorded the record in NY, LA and Nashville using some of the finest recording gear available. We used 2 inch tape for the whole record, as most people did then. I used lots of equipment to get a very rugged natural sound but the biggest example of this was the song “Certainly Never”.

Matthew and I talked about the production on “Certainly Never” and he wanted a very room like, no frills sound for the song. At the time we were recording at Bearsville Recording Studio and I had access to the finest microphones and gear around.

The track consisted of Matthew playing piano and singing and Dave Ricketts playing Stratocaster (I believe) across the room about 20 feet away. Keeping with the spirit of the song, I took one AKG 414 and put it into the figure 8 pattern. I had Matthew and Dave play half the song, then I moved the mic a bit for vocal piano blend (still using the figure 8 pattern) and adjusted Dave’s amp volume a bit. I then had them play the song again. Was it perfect? No… Was it the right vibe?….. I believe it’s one of Matthews favorite on the Record. The lesson here is? Don’t over-think.

Audio File Transfer

WAV FileHey Jim, can we use stuff we’ve recorded at home and bring the parts into the studio?

Of course you can, I do Audio File transfers all the time. Oh, but before you bring me those files, here are a couple of things you need to think about.

Most studios operate in Wave Files, so hopefully your system is using wave files or can convert your audio to WAV.

Here’s the tricky thing for some systems, we need the files to be continuous files from 0:00 or the beginning of the session. In other words, if your vocal track(in this case) has dozens of edits, each of these edits is a different file. So when I bring it in to my system they’re all out of time and starting at the beginning of the session as opposed to where they are supposed to be.

Putting these files in correct order and in the correct spots is very time consuming. This time will cost you a lot of money if I have to fix it.

Studio Software Pro toolsThe solution is simple. Clean your edits and consolidate or create continuous files from 0:00 and we can avoid this time sucking job all together.

But Jim, will they sound as good as if you recorded them? Well…… Maybe , Ummmm…. maybe not….Did you record with a decent microphone or preamp?

Good mics and preamps can help audio to sound good. Although, sometimes you don’t have the good gear at home, but because you were relaxed and in the right frame of mind, your tracks come out sounding great. This happens all the time. Your best vocal, sometimes is when you’re sitting at home with no pressure. I’ll take vibe and performance over sonic quality any day. Of course if it’s distorted, (and we don’t want distortion) we might be retracking it anyway.

Jim, can we do it as an analog transfer? Meaning we just play the file from the workstation right into your system? Not the preferred way to do it, but if it’s something we just can’t recreate, we will give it a shot. There will be no synchronization so the timing will be off, but that’s not the end of the world. With todays advanced studio software, it might take additional time to sync the tracks up, but it can be done.

I hope this helps. Jim
 
 

Audio File Transfer

What are the best Speakers for my Home Recording Studio?

Auratones

Hey Jim…..What type of speakers should I get for my home studio?

Well now we’re into a debatable topic.
 

In my opinion when you are purchasing speakers/monitors for your home recording studio, you’re looking to find speakers that fit your minds ear. In other words, when you play a mix you’ve heard a thousand times and everything sounds as your mind remembers it sounding, then you’re close. If you put on something you know, and start hearing things you never heard before, that’s probably not the best speakers to mix on.

You see, your goal is to find speakers that are neutral enough, that when you take your mix elsewhere e.g. (your car, Headphones, other stereos, P.a.’s etc.) The mix should sound similar on all speakers.

Example… If you buy really bass heavy speakers cause you love bass, then you go home and mix on them, your mix’s probably won’t have the same amount of bass in the rest of the world. Make sense?

Genelec Speakers

So my advice is to listen to speakers either at a store or a studio, and put on music that you’re extrememly familiar with. If The mix sound like you remember it , your looking at a pair of speakers that may fit you. Everyone hears things differently, so a $400 pair of speakers may be better for you than a $4000 pair and vice-versa.

Jim, do you ever use headphones to mix? Typically,I don’t use headphone’s for levels or frequency evaluation, but I do use them for checking Reverb and delay panning and making sure the left and right volume returns are balanced on certain things.

 
Hope this helps….ROCK FULLY…..
 
 

What are the best Speakers for my Home Recording Studio?