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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

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.

 

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

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

Tales From The Vault #2

Music Producer Stories from Jim Ebert

Back in the 90s, I produced a song called “Hooch” by the band Everything. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and myself and the band were trying figure out where to record the album. The budget was ok but by no means a 90’s label budget. At the time, the band lived on a farm property which had an old, brick ,large mainhouse that was vacant. The house was a couple hundred years old and had a ton of charm. We worked a deal out with the property owner to rent the house for a month to record the album.

Then we went to work, somehow I rented a package from an LA rental company, which included: A studer 827 24 track, 10 API mic pres,2 la2a’s, 2 1176’s, an Elam 251, 2 akg 414’s, A bunch of hooch-by-everythingSennheiser and Shure Studer-a827-24-trackMics, Cabling, Snakes, and other stuff. I brought pro tools and a few instruments, the bands friends bought a console to monitor with and after 2 days of wiring, we had a studio.

As far as tracking, all the rooms in the house sounded different. We would set the drums up in one room and see what song fit that drum sound. So, we recorded drums in several different rooms. The drum loop for Hooch was recorded in the servant’s quarters(200 year old house) with 2 shure 57’s straight to a cassette deck then dropped into pro-tools for arrangement. The background vocals were recorded on the back porch after trying several other options. The only expensive mic we used was the Elam 251 for lead vocals. The rest of the mic’s were mainly 57’s.

All of this was a lot of fun and work and really made possible who rented me everything for 7k and that covered shipping for all the gear as well. This made it possible to expand our timeline from 2 weeks to 5 weeks to record the record.

It takes time to make records, to look at options sonically and musically,emotionally,
This was a magic time in my carreer and my liver will never forget it.

Music Producer Jim Ebert

Tales from the Vault #1

Music Producer Story Files

Ozzy-from-the-vault

So I’m working at A+M studio’s in the 90’s…..I believe I was mixing a Trey Lorenze track in the big SSL room in the back. A famous dark metal band from the 70’s(60’s) is mixing across the hall when the singer (famous for biting bats) waltz’s into my control room and with, a sheet of paper in hand, asks my assistant engineer how to spell “Sorcerer”…. My assistant gives him the info and he struts out. After finding out what he asked , I said “he’s had to have spelled sorcerer fifty times by now”….then we finished our mix…..

Music Producer Jim Ebert

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.

Quality not quantity

Washington D.C. Area Music Producer Jim Ebert’s recording Tip of the Day

At the end of the day, people don’t care if you spent $5 or $50,000 to make your recording. As opposed to doing ten songs with medium care to detail, do three songs really well. Anyone who is going to hire you is probably only going to get through the first 40 seconds before they decide to hire you or not. You’ll have something you’ll be dramatically happier with for a much longer time.