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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 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.

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?

Mic Preamp – Why Quality Matters

api-512c-mic-preampMic Pre Mojo

If you have an M box, a mixer, an iPhone or anything you can plug a microphone into, you have a microphone preamplifier AKA Mic Preamp. You may not see it or even know that it’s there, but it is.

I am a Microphone Preamplifier lunatic. If I’m producing a recording, I insist on using a studio with the quality of mic preamps that I use for my productions. It is that important!

Some might naively say “But Jim, a mic pre can’t possibly make that big of a difference”. To which I would reply “Oh contraire mon frère, an audio chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.”

If the 1st thing your microphone hits is a substandard mic preamp, you are battling uphill from there. If you’er recording dozens of tracks (as I normally do), the sound will seem much less vital and clear with a cheaper mic preamp. You may not notice the lack of quality as much when you’er recording a single track, but when you multiply the lesser quality with many tracks, the difference will be quite apparent. It takes a quality mic preamp to help capture the true sonic properties that make a voice or instrument sound clear and present in the mix. Without quality mic preamps, you get little clarity and a lot of mush.

Much like plugging your guitar into a cheaper amp or a good amp, you can hear the difference. Like guitar amps, mic preamps have different sound qualities according to make and model. So saying which mic preamp is the best is a matter of taste and opinion.

One of the big problems with mic preamps is of course their cost. Ranging from about $800 to $5000 for a single mic pre, the typical home recording user (usually) isn’t going to buy 20 quality mic preamps. But a good studio will!

People ask me all the time, why records sound the way they do. Well, Great songs, great performances, great Production and engineering, great gear and Great Mic Preamps!

What I Recommend:
If you are recording at home and are serious about your sound quality, I would create a quality single chain by purchasing the following:

api-512c single-channel • One – API 512 mic preamp $800

• One – Empirical Labs Distressor (compressor) $1200. el8-distressor

Not cheap I know, but for 2 k you would have the same channel found in many professional recording studios and the sound to match.

That’s it for now, Good luck. Jim

Recording with or without effects

“Jim, Should I record with effects like reverb or delay on the track?”

recording-with-effectsAs a Music Producer and audio Engineer, this is another question I get frequently. Typically, the answer is no, but it comes down to personal taste.

Personally I record a lot of my guitar effects thru the guitar amp as if the player is performing live. Why? Because I LIKE THE SOUND of guitar effects thru the amp while the guitarist is cutting the track. “But Jim, then you cant change it”. Correct, but I LIKE IT…..so I have made a production decision.

That being said, my preference is to record vocals dry with no effects and adjust them later according to the mix. I do however record vocals with some level of compression. The amount of compression I use is dictated largely by the genre of music the track is for. Pop music is very compressed so I’ll use some compression while tracking and maybe a bit more when I mix. When recording and producing a Jazz record, I will use much less compression while tracking as this genre dictates that.

A lot of keyboards have built in fx. Again, If I like the sound, I’ll use it. If I don’t, I’ll have the player remove them.

When recording Bass guitar, I’ll usually take a direct line straight from the bass and maybe a line from the amp so I can add dirt or distortion if need be. Both of these will get a bit of limiting (high ratio Compression) and I will blend the two later.

When recording Drums, I rarely ever use delay or reverb while tracking. BUT I use a fair amount of compression on the overheads and rooms. Why? Because I love the sound of compressed drums. I will also put a bit of compression on the Snare and kick when tracking. You need to be very careful with this as snare compression can pull unwanted hi hat into the snare mic. We will pay very close attention to mic placement so we usually don’t run into the bleeding hat problem.

A lot of how I record is based on my opinions, preferences and experiences. Some engineer/producers prefer to do all effects/ compression at mix. I do a combination of both. The point is, if you love the effect or sound ….record it. You may not get a chance to get it back later.

Hope this helps, Jim

Recording with or without effects

Preparing for your next Recording Session

Preparing for your next Recording Session
 
So, a lot of what I’ll say here is obvious yet, so often overlooked.
I get into a lot of sessions where a little more gear preparation would have saved a lot of money and made the entire recording process better.

1.) Have your instruments (guitar and bass) setup.
Bad intonation is one of the biggest time-wasting, vibe-sucking elements that has ever plagued a recording session. When we have to retune for each different section of the song because guitar or bass intonation is out, it not only adds stress to the player, but it is easily avoidable. Realize that it becomes obvious in recording if these problems exist and tuning programs seldom fix this. Set up your instruments before your session!

2.) Guitar players:
Change your strings the day before your session so they can settle on the guitar. There will be a lot less retuning if your strings are settled in.

3.) Bass’s are a bit different.
If you want a bright piano like tone, new strings will work better. If you want a warmer r+b kind of sound, older strings are usually OK. Again, have your bass setup as well so we can avoid intonation problems.

You can usually find a guitar tech or at least get a name of someone who can set your guitars up at your local music store or online. Better yet seek out other players and find out who they use.
 
4.) Drummers:
“Wow, I should have changed these heads”. I’ve heard this a few times. Your drums typically don’t record with much tone or presence with old drum heads. Change them the day before your recording session so they can settle.

If you’re using the studio’s kit and you’er booking a fair amount of time, ask them to replace the heads for your session. Usually this is not a problem unless you’er booking only a few hours.
 
5.) Piano:
If Piano is a big part of your sound and you are using the studio’s Piano, make sure the Studio knows this so they can have the piano tuned. Some studios tune their pianos all the time, some don’t. Big time sucking problems can be avoided with some forethought and a simple phone call.
 
6.) Hard drives:
Since we now live in the digital age and you are probably recording to a hard drive, check with the studio to find out what hard drives they use. You will need TWO hard drives. One drive to record on and one drive to backup on. Hard drives are not expensive anymore. This is the cheapest and one of the most critical points to attend to when prepping for your recording session.

Hard drives can crash! If you have hours or days or weeks of work on your hard drive and it crashes with no backup, you’re possibly out of luck. The studio is not responsible for your drives and the hard drive manufacturer usually only covers the drive, not the content on it. Don’t cheap out here. Buy a backup!
 
Hopefully these 6 preparation points will help your next Studio Recording Session go smooth as butter.
 
That’s it for now… Jim

What Music Recording Software is Best?

Hey Jim, What music recording software should I get?

As a record producer, I get asked this question all the time. Most of the Dominant music recording software such as Pro Tools, Nuendo, logic, Digital Performer, Ableton, etc… All have their strong points and are touted by the people that use them. As to which one sounds best, this is a matter of opinion and anyone who says different is usually pimping what they use.
You want to make sure that it will record into a WAVE file format as this is what most
Studios and engineers use. Almost all systems do this by now but just check before purchasing.

So pick your poison. Ableton and Digital performer have extensive MIDI capabilities if you’re looking to do a lot of MIDI recording, other softwares have MIDI recording as well, some better than others. If you’re looking to use what most of the world use’s, get Pro Tools. Pro Tools is not the cheapest but it’s the industry standard and what most studios and Producers use at this point.

Mixing can be very powerful in Pro Tools as well. Pro tools comes in a light and Pro Version. If you have a computer (Mac is more desirable with Pro tools) that meets Pro tools specs, I recommend getting it and learning it, then you can go into most studio’s and Mastering houses and load right in.

Logic is another great music recording software and made by Mac/Apple. Just an opinion but , I think someday Logic will overtake the market. If that were to happen, it would still be years away.

Now that I’ve said all this, the guy down the street might say “I use Reaper (another music recording software) for $100 and it works great”. That’s fine, but it’s not what most of the world uses. There is no wrong answer, do your research, hit up friends who make music at home and decide whether you need compatibility or not.
The other good thing about learning Pro Tools is if you look for a job in the music/film industry, you will have a head start with your knowledge of Pro Tools software.

As for the self standing systems from Korg, Roland, or Yamaha or other box’s that carry all the stuff you need, I’d be leery. From my experience, each system speaks it’s own specific language and in my opinion they are difficult to learn and hard to transfer files out of. That’s Just my opinion.

Good luck, it’s a party out there.

 
 

What Music Recording Software is Best?

Music Producer – What is a Music Producer and What I Can Do For You

As Your Music Producer, my job is to

1. Guide you through the process of turning an idea into reality .
2. Help you reach your maximum sonic potential as an artist.
3. Reach this Potential in a calm constructive efficient manner by utilizing my many years of experience as a Music Producer, Audio Engineer, Mixing Engineer and Song writer.

 
The following is an example of my process when working with a Singer/Songwriter. The process is tailored for each project in that all projects are unique and have different demands. We will discuss the following points in our first preproduction meeting and a course of action will be set from there.

Key of Song
Song Arrangement
Lyric Review
Target Audience
Budget
Use of Appropriate Musicians
Appropriate Recording Environment

We will begin by discussing what you are and what you want to be as an artist. Every artist and project is different requiring different techniques and thought processes. Deciding upon the appropriate process for you as an artist in preproduction helps create a more creative and productive environment throughout the recording process.

Review your Songs, Lyrics, Arrangements and Key


Song Key – The right key for your voice is essential. Just because you wrote your song in A major doesn’t mean its the best key for your voice or the instrumentation. You just might sound better in a different key. Again, this seems obvious but is often overlooked or unexplored.

Arrangement – Sometimes you have performed a song so many times you can’t hear it any other way. I’m a fresh set of musical ears on the project. I’ve had several successful projects that thought their pre chorus was the chorus or vice versa . It’s a great asset to have an extra set of experienced musical ears to make sure that all options are not overlooked. Having said that, a good producer won’t change your song for the sake of change. We change only for the betterment of the song.

Target Audience

Over the years many artists have brought me projects that were started with other producers and soon went a direction the artist never intended. This is usually a producer making his record and not your record. Nothing wrong with that, just not right for you!

This usually occurs when great care was not taken in the preproduction stage. Vast amounts of time and money get wasted by not addressing as simple a detail as target audience. For example, you discuss with me that your audience would be similar to Allison Krause’s audience, but your song is put together in a more dance/pop fashion. This will be addressed in preproduction as well a as how your song should be treated in order to reach your target audience.

Over the years I have produced records in a vast array of styles, from Punk to Pop, Rock to Reggae, Country to Classical. I understand the musical properties intrinsic to these styles and how to achieve them for you. If I don’t know, I won’t do your project. It’s that simple! Your producer needs to be your partner in this journey.

Budget

Part of the producers job is to make sure your project stays on budget. We will discuss exactly what it will take to finnish your project before we start and set the budget accordingly. The budget can change during the course of the project but not without it being discussed first.

There are several different ways a producer charges.

By The Hour
By The Day
By The Song

It is important that this is set up front. I have a very good idea of how much time should be allocated to each phase of your project. As long as we are clear up front, there will be no surprises for anyone.

A producer is also entitled to a royalty percentage if your music is to be released nationally or worldwide. This rate differs from producer to producer and comes from the net sales. This will be negotiate up front if applicable.

Appropriate Musicians

I have a vast network of players and programmers that are genre specific. It takes time to develop such relationships and to have access to the right people for the right job is crucial. I’m not going to bring in an authentic punk guitarist to play a country song. This may seem obvious but more often than not this is overlooked. Having a strong network of musicians is a must for a good producer. I have such a network and so will you.
Music Producer Pack

Recording Environment and Recording Equipment

A lot of Music Producers such as myself have a background in audio engineering as well as song writing and performance. This means I want the right creative environment for your music and the necessary equipment to make it sound right.

A professional recording studio typically has a large selection of studio microphones, preamps, studio software and other professional recording equipment. Recording equipment is expensive and usually not feasible to buy for a home recording studio. Use of a professional recording studio is usually the best option.

That being said, with the right recording gear at a home studio, you can typically record vocals, guitars and do your programming if needed for budgeting reasons. What ever environment we choose, I will be there as your producer.

Making Music and the Creative Process

Each project is different and so is the creative process for each. As an Artist myself, I am very comfortable talking to you creatively. Let us not forget, this is an artistic endeavor. Lets say you wanted to convey yearning in the verse and relief in the chorus or you wanted really aggressive tracks against sensitive lyrics. This should be discuss before we start the recording process.

As your producer, I will know how best to create the sonic environment in which to achieve the mood you are looking for as well as how to best treat your vocal accordingly. Again every project is different. We will find what is right for you.
 

Music Producer – What is a Music Producer and What I Can Do For You

 

Record Producer Jim Ebert:

One of the many Producer deals Jim has to offer-The Red Room Producer Pack at Cue Recording.

I’m accepting one-on-one Music Production Student’s for next year

I’m accepting one-on-one Music Production Student’s for next year.

This is a Virginia State Certified Course

http://www.centerforaudioengineering.com/2011/01/17/music-production-become-a-music-producer/

Virginia State Certified Music Production Course