It’s become a perennial news story: Multi-Billionaire and multiple headline maker Donald Trump, the very first reality TV star who became a major party United States presidential candidate uses a hit song on the campaign trail, and the artist makes headlines by voicing his disapproval.
Queen — the British rock band best known for its openly bisexual (and unapologetically fabulous) frontman Freddie Mercury — was upset after the homophobic and xenophobic Republicans ended their Klan rally with one of Queen’s most popular songs, “We Are the Champions”. Queen stirred up the conversation on the first night of the Republican National Convention, calling Donald Trump’s use of their song “We Are the Champions” unauthorized. Usher, Michael Bolton, and John Mellencamp recently appeared to perform a musical plea for politicians to stop using their songs.
Just a couple of weeks later, Queen emerged victorious — Trump is now banned from using their music at his events.
But the legal reality behind “unauthorized” use like this is often pretty misunderstood.
In most cases like this, the law is actually on the politicians’ side at first. Performing rights organizations (PROs) enable venues and event hosts to purchase the rights to play song catalogs. The three main PROs — BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC — cover most of the music published in the US. As long as the venue or the campaign pays those fees, it’s allowed to play whatever music is included in the PRO’s catalog.
That means that Trump — and any other politicians who get into trouble for their song choice — is legally in the clear if he secured the PRO license.
So every time musicians speak up against the use of their music at events, they aren’t exactly pointing out an illegal action. It’s more of a request for courtesy toward the artistic intent.
But under BMI (the PRO that licenses Queen’s music), musicians are allowed to request that their songs be pulled from a given politician’s available catalog if they don’t want their work associated with the campaign. After Queen and Adele made such requests this year, BMI sent letters to the Trump campaign and the RNC detailing the artists’ objections. That means their songs are no longer available to Trump under the blanket license.
So no matter what the polls say, it seems like we won’t see Trump walk out to “We Are the Champions” again anytime soon.
Now the big question: if you were given the chance, would you let Billionaire Donald Trump use your song? If so, which song would you let Trump use? Please leave your comments below.
For more information on 2016 IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) , please go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
by Kate Beaudoin & Jessica Brandon
How did Meghan Trainor do it? It’s been a year since pop singer Meghan Trainor hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with, “All About That Bass.” Within the year of the video’s release, it racked up an impressive 1 Billion views on YouTube. Before long, the single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for nine weeks (also hit #1 in 58 different countries) and helped Trainor’s debut album, Title, debut No.1 on the Billboard 200 charts. The media has written that Trainor came from nowhere, but did you know she was discovered in IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) in 2009 and won Best Female Artist with an acoustic song “Waterfalls”? And she became one of the most-talked-about artists of the year. And she did it all on the mantel of empowerment — at least, that’s what she’d have you believe.
“All About That Bass” was so successful in large part due to the idea that it was the new feminist anthem; after all, 2014 was the year of the booty and empowerment was in. But to those who read between the lines of Trainor’s clever marketing ploy, it’s clear as day that “All About That Bass” is as far from a feminist anthem as they come. Trainor’s problematic stance extends far beyond that single. By simultaneously claiming a feminist mantle and advocating an anti-feminist agenda, Trainor has become a threat to all the gains that pop music has made in feminism recently.
What the lyrics are really saying. The messages in Trainor’s songs are often ostensibly about encouraging healthy self-confidence. “I hope [‘All About That Bass’] helps girls love themselves more, because they’re adorable. Women too,” Trainor told Glamour. The issue, however, is that those supposedly empowering lyrics encourage impressionable girls to be happy with themselves only when men deem them acceptable. People criticized “All About That Bass” for its skinny-shaming, but even more concerning is that Trainor claims your worth comes from what men think of you.
“Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” Trainor sings, explaining why it’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch.” It’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch,” but only because some boys prefer you that way.
The crown jewel of Trainor’s anti-feminism is easily “Dear Future Husband.” When the video for “Dear Future Husband” hit YouTube in March, many rightly claimed that her message was sexist. Trainor’s lyrics advocate outdated gender roles (“Cause if you’ll treat me right / I’ll be the perfect wife / Buying groceries”), seeking self-worth based on men’s opinions (“If you wanna get that special lovin’ / Tell me I’m beautiful each and every night”) and, of course, confirming the idea that all women are crazy, emotional creatures (“You gotta know how to treat me like a lady / Even when I’m acting crazy”). But those who defended Trainor claimed that it was just a song and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
“I don’t believe I was [being sexist],” she told MTV. “I think I was just writing my song to my future husband out there, wherever he is. He’s chilling right now, taking a minute getting ready for me; it’s going to be great.”
He’s getting ready — doing crunches and 200 pound dead lifts so he’s ready to be strong enough to impress Trainor!
For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
Acoustic Guitar For The Recording Songwriter
Sage advice on recording guitars at home
Recording acoustic guitar is a love/hate relationship for me. The beauty and tone of tracking with a nice high-end acoustic guitar, such as a Taylor 810, into a great preamp, such as the Neve 1073, ought to be on everyone’s bucket list. The phrase “tone for days” lives in that recording chain.
On the other hand, tracking acoustic guitar can be a headache. It is a much more involved process than simply sticking any old microphone in front of your guitar’s sound hole and expecting it to sound as epic and elegant as imagined. It takes knowledge, cleverness, and patience to find the right gear and set up that works for you, your budget, your room, and your desired results/sound.
In this article I will give you an honest rundown of the “dos and don’ts”, “that could be cool to try”, and “hmm, I heard about Sylvia Massy doing this trick once”, for recording acoustic guitars at your home studio.
My favorite working solution for recording acoustic guitars anywhere is with my iPhone 5S. (I will pause as you laugh. Done now? Okay.) As a guitarist and songwriter, I want ideas captured when inspiration strikes. There is no better way to capture the moment than by using your cell phone, since it’s easy and usually next to you. If you use an iPhone, try using the Voice Memos app to capture ideas in a split second; it’s where my best, worst, and most honest ideas live in their infancy. Inspiration hits and I immediately reach for my phone and track the idea before it’s gone. It is as about as simple as it comes in terms of recording, but in some cases, the most important—the genesis of creation.
The engineer and tone junkie in me stands up and objects. We also need to capture the sound, man! The richness, depth, brilliance, and punch of an acoustic guitar obviously deserves a better final resting place than on the Voice Memos of an iPhone. Without further ado, let’s dive straight into the deep end and explore all there is to recording acoustic guitars in a home studio.
Before you track, it’s wise to invest in new strings and a reliable tuner. The guitar ought to be properly intonated, and in tune, with fresh clear strings. Make sure the guitar’s strings are properly stretched out so tuning issues become less problematic.
Next, consider where your tracking room is relative to where the guitar is. More specifically, is your studio cold, hot, or say 72 degrees? Do you live in Colorado where it can be freezing outside but your studio is nice and warm inside? A guitar will not stay in tune until it gets comfortable in the room you’ll be tracking in, so try to leave the acoustic in the room/studio (out of its case!) for about 45 minutes prior to tracking.
This will definitely help allow it to stay in tune and let the wood settle in and adjust. During that time, tune every once in a while to make sure the neck and body temperature of the guitar and room begin to agree. Otherwise a cold guitar goes sharp, while a hot guitar goes flat.
Are you tracking with a pick, or your finger? The use of different pick shapes, sizes and thickness will alter your tones and recording. From experience, begin with a medium pick and adjust accordingly. Also, have options and experiment as to which you prefer sonically. Lastly, remember that fingers will produce a tone and volume that is much different than a pick of any size or thickness.
Every guitarist and engineer has a different idea of what sounds “best” when recording guitar. You will need to understand the factors involved and how they contribute to a final result you’ll find pleasing.
The first thing needed to get a good guitar sound is a good sounding guitar. It is simple, but it is true—a guitar’s tone and timbre will have a much larger impact on your recordings than whichever microphone you choose and which set up you opt for. With that in mind, what kind of guitar do you have to track with? Obviously a Taylor will sound vastly different than a Martin or a Fender. Is your guitar bright and detailed, or warm and rich? What kind of wood is it made of? Is it a dreadnought, auditorium, jumbo, concert, or baby?
This will dictate the guitar’s tone and what to base your subsequent decisions on, in terms of microphones and room ambience while tracking. If you own a bright guitar, perhaps you’ll favor a darker, richer-sounding microphone to balance out your sound. On the other hand, perhaps going with a brighter sounding microphone will enhance the brightness you may want to capture as your sound. Ultimately, the only person who knows that answer is you.
Having a good sounding room is important. What’s even more important is that you don’t have a bad sounding room. Ask yourself: is your room overly bright, or dull-sounding? Either natural sound is somewhat adjustable.
In general, I prefer a more lively room. If your room is dull, has poor sound quality, or lacks live vibrant acoustics, then your acoustic guitar tracks will naturally lack excitement via room reflections. Also, a lively room will make the exact mic position a bit less critical, since harder surfaces will cause the sound to bounce all around the room.
To get the most liveliness out of your room, position yourself near hard reflective surfaces. Hard floors without carpet, uncovered walls, and even hard-surfaced furniture can augment your room’s live sound. To further augment your room, try leaning sheets of metal or hardwood boards against one or more walls. This is also a solution found in major recording studios.
On the other hand, if your room is too bright and reflective, try the following to deaden your space. David “Davie” Martinez (Capitol Studios, Stagg Street Studio) recommends hanging up blankets over walls to kill reflections, and placing a rug on the floor if there isn’t carpet. Mic placement in those situations usually depends on where the quietest part of the room is; dealing with noise inside and outside can be a never-ending battle in a home studio!
Barry Conley, veteran engineer and educator, prefers not to have too much liveliness in the recording space when tracking. If the room is too reverberant or unpleasant sounding, Barry will throw down some carpet on the floor and drape some packing blankets over mic stands, even building a little room by surrounding the playing area (on both sides and in back of the guitarist) to make a deader environment. In these applications, Barry would close-mike the guitar; more on this below.
Jeff Gartenbaum (The Village Recorder) recommends something similar. Take a boom microphone stand and hang or drape packing blankets over it. Then those draped mic stands are placed around the microphone and/or the guitarist to better isolate sound and eliminate any nasty room sounds.
For a more permanent solution that will help all recordings, not just guitars, consider treating your room. Try bass traps and other diffusion materials in key areas such as corners, where the walls meet the floor, and potentially a “cloud” over your head to treat the ceiling’s reflections. Proper room treatment will allow you options, when it comes to either close or distant miking, for blending in the sound of your room’s ambience.
Besides your guitar, the microphone or microphones you have for tracking will dictate your decision-making in terms of setup and recording. It is best to take some time exploring your options and determining your budget, as each microphone has its own vibe and characteristics that are its sonic footprint. These footprints are why the microphone ought to be chosen for pairing with the guitar, so that the tone will be there with little left to add or subtract during mixing.
Microphones vary from dynamic, to condenser to ribbon. Each type of microphone has its own inherent strengths and weaknesses. These fine-tooth comb details are worth exploring, as are their individual frequency responses. The inherent frequency response is why you ought to or ought not to pursue using a particular microphone. In general, condenser microphones are the “go-to” for tracking acoustic guitar; their accentuated high end complements the sparkle and definition of the guitar. Large-diaphragm condensers and small-diaphragm condensers each have their place and validity of use. Dynamic and ribbon microphones also have their place and can yield some cool, sometimes unexpected results when used wisely.
A dynamic mic is a tiny “speaker in reverse”. They have strong sound in the upper mids but a slow response to transients like pick noise and a rolled-off frequency response. Ribbon mics have been around forever, and use a tiny metal ribbon in a magnetic field to capture sound. They can be delicate but have a smooth tone with less accentuated highs and very present lower midrange.
Condensers are thought of as having the widest frequency response, mainly due to their clear and present high end. A condenser is a capacitor, and the diaphragm of the mic is a capacitor that turns vibrations into electricity. The sound and performance of a condenser mic depends on the size of its diaphragm; in very general terms, larger diaphragms have a rich and detailed sound but a less even off-axis response, while smaller diaphragms provide more “focus” for close miking.
Next, consider your mic’s pickup pattern. Cardioid has its highest sensitivity at the front, becoming less sensitive on the sides, and rejecting sound coming from the rear of the mic. These mics have a pronounced proximity effect—an increased low-end boost as you get closer to your sound source.
Omnidirectional mics pick up sounds with equal amplitude from all directions, and have no proximity effect. Bidirectional (figure-8) microphones pick up sound in the front and back, but not so much on the sides; these quieter directions are called nulls. The figure-8 pattern is typical of ribbon microphones, but is also found in some condenser microphones; it has the most pronounced proximity effect. Typically, a cardioid pattern will fit a smaller room better than an omni pattern microphone. Omnis often require a room found at a high-end recording studio or professionally treated space.
I will mention some of my personal choices below, but a comprehensive list of mics and manufacturers is impossible to include here. I use mics by AKG, Neumann, Royer Labs, Sennheiser, and Shure on a regular basis, but there are great mics out there from ADK/3Zigma, AEA, Audio-Technica, Audix, Blue, Bock Audio, Brauner, Cascade, Chameleon Labs, Cloud, Coles, DPA, Ear Trumpet Labs, Earthworks, Electro-Voice, Josephson, JZ, Kel, Lauten, Lawson, Lewitt, Manley (shown in the photos), Microtech Gefell, Milab, Mojave Audio, MXL, Oktava, Pearl Labs, Pearlman, Peluso, Placid Audio, RØDE, Samson, sE Electronics, Shinybox, Sontronics, Telefunken, and many others.
As I mentioned before, since the acoustic guitar incorporates a lot of important high-frequency information, using a condenser mic instead of a dynamic or ribbon is rather common. Despite that, dynamics and ribbons most definitely have their place in any recording, whether in a home studio or at a high-end professional studio.
The Shure SM57, a workhorse on snare, electric guitar and vocals, is also useful for acoustic guitar. Most studios typically have at least one 57, so give it a try—it can be useful if you only can afford one microphone for tracking vocals and guitars. SM57s have a woody percussive tone when used to track acoustic guitars. For adding beef to a song or mix via acoustic guitar, the 57 just might do the job.
Paul Logus of PLX Mastering has the following to say. “For home projects, my go-to mic for acoustics is a 57. I set the mic at same height as my head, about two feet or so in front of my face, angled down 45 degrees at the sound hole. Also, I sometimes use a Radio Shack PZM [a “pressure-zone” or boundary mic], placed on my right knee, to record my 12-string with a light pick. Best $50 I ever spent.”
An interesting and unexpected microphone choice is the Copperphone by Placid Audio. It sounds like an old AM radio, and sometimes gives just the right amount of vibe for a part. [To learn more, see Paul Vnuk’s review of the Copperphone Mini on page 18.—MM] Another suggestion, while slightly off topic, is the use of a DI or onboard pickup to send your acoustic to an amplifier, which you can mic up. This can be an interesting tool for eliminating bleed or spill if tracking vocals and guitar at the same time, and with the added benefit of being able to drive the guitar amp near or into harmonic distortion for some unexpected crunch and even fuzz on your acoustic.
With the specific microphone type in mind, I think the next thing you ought to do is determine your budget, as the microphones mentioned vary from affordable, to serious money. You get what you pay for with these microphones as quality and tone doesn’t come cheap. On the other hand you don’t absolutely need to spend a lot of money to capture great tone. An old studio adage comes to mind here: “It’s the fool, not the tool.”
In terms of what to buy, I think being hands on makes the most sense. I suggest spending some time and money renting microphones or borrowing friends’ microphones to try out, and get a sense of what works best with your setup and room. Reading reviews and doing your homework also makes sense. With that being said, there is nothing more educational than being hands-on, doing comparisons of microphones to see what works best for you. Again, there is no predefined or “best” microphone to choose, only what is right or best for you and your budget.
There are a few ways that I recommend trying first, as they are tried and true recording methods. Later, we’ll look at less common methods and explore some interesting ideas to try in your studio recording space.
The most common miking technique is placing your mic about six inches to one foot away, somewhere in the vicinity of where the guitar’s neck and body meet. This is where with a single mic you can typically get a good balance of body warmth and resonance, as well as detail and brightness from the strings. This is a great starting place, but fine tune adjustments usually let you dial in the sweet spot. To this end, I suggest aiming somewhere between the 12th and 15th fret, and adjusting from there.
The next mic position to try would be to put the microphone out in front of the guitar’s body, and in line with the sound hole—basically where it was designed to project sound from! With this setup it is important to avoid the resonance of moving too much air via the sound hole and capturing boominess and rumble. This is especially true of cardioid and figure-8 mics with their proximity effect. I would advise against pointing straight at the sound hole, but rather off towards the bridge a bit, to capture strumming and body warmth/resonance. This is especially true if you have a brighter, more narrow-sounding guitar.
Another benefit to placing the microphone off to the guitarist’s right, near the general bridge area, is that it minimizes noise from the guitarist (heavy breathing), headphone bleed (click), fret noise, and rumbling low end from the sound hole. Try experimenting with moving above or below the typical “horizon” (the strings) for even more tone flavors.
Another option is to simply follow your ears. After all, this is engin-“ear”-ing. While wearing a pair of headphones, listen for what the microphone is capturing. This is especially great if you have the luxury of engineering the setup, while a guitarist strums the guitar in your studio space. Get a decent volume level in your headphones and move the mic around and explore what options you have. Once you get a sound you enjoy, I suggest tracking it and listening back on monitors to make sure that’s the sweet spot. After you dial it in, gaffer-tape the ground as to where your feet were, tape the mic stand’s feet down, take pictures with your phone… do anything you can to etch your sweet spot into memory.
David Martinez says that to find the best spot to place a mic on a guitar, his method is to simply stick his ear by the guitar and move around until he finds the spot he likes best. This is similar to the approach mentioned above, but assumes the luxury of having another person playing as you experiment with listening angles and distances. If you are in a large enough space, or by yourself, try moving around the room as you strum the guitar, listening to the sound changes, and looking for a sweet spot where you get an ideal sound in that particular room.
Once settled on a location, it’s time to adjust the mic. By moving the microphone around the guitar, you can capture or augment specific tones. Want more beef? Try moving closer to the sound hole for warmth and richness. Alternatively, move away from the sound hole and towards the neck to brighten those darker, fatter tones. Try moving the microphone closer to your guitar for a drier close-miked sound. This sound will be the direct sound of what’s nearest to the microphone, but without the room and the more distant parts of the guitar, it could be that you are missing the big picture of what your guitar actually sounds like. If you want to do close-miking and prefer that sound, experiment with an omni pattern mic so as to pick up more room ambience.
An interesting mic set up is to capture what you are hearing, literally. I like to think of this as akin to what overhead mics are for a drum set. Set up one or a pair of microphones at shoulder or head level to capture the guitar’s tone from above. In terms of direction, experiment by placing the mics downwards towards the guitar, or try pointing them towards hard reflective surfaces.
Remember, it is always best to work with what you naturally have between your guitar, microphone(s) and room. Relying on EQ and trying to make your sound like something it’s not will ultimately never be as convincing as the “real” thing. The core sound ought to come from you, the guitar and the mics.
Another option is to mix and match different microphones and different styles of microphones in a two mic set up. Try a small-diaphragm condenser near the 12th fret, with a large-diaphragm closer to the sound hole, bridge, or even the shoulder/overhead area—with the latter, you may be able to get some convincing room sounds to go along with your closer/direct mic.
Using several microphones while tracking is definitely preferable to using a single mic. This path allows you to blend tonal and distance options—say, a bright mic and a dark mic placed strategically for desired tones—and lets you spread your guitar across the mix in varying ways to paint a stereo picture.
Panning your guitar tracks gives a fuller, more accurate 3D representation than just a single mic in mono. Most people prefer a subtle widening with a little bit of left/right panning, but if the song calls for a dramatic hard left/hard right panning, go for it.
As I mentioned above, it is important that you take a look at a given microphone’s frequency response to understand what you’re getting with each mic. One of my favorite small-diaphragm mics for acoustic guitar is the AKG C451, whose frequency response seems tailored for the acoustic guitar. It has a gradual rolloff at 200 Hz and below which helps lessen the impact of the proximity effect when close-miking. The 451 adds brightness, air, and top end with a healthy 4 dB bump at 12 kHz. Here you can really capture the sound of the strings, the pick, and that really present top-end sound which could help your acoustic tracks shine and cut through in the mix.
On the other hand, perhaps you want a less bright, warmer microphone as a sonic pair for a brighter, more present-sounding guitar. A microphone with a flatter or more natural frequency response could give you the flexibility to track your guitar’s natural tone and then adjust and tailor the EQ in your DAW—manually rolling off the bottom or adding top, while still retaining the warmth of your natural signal. A microphone for just that task could be the Neumann KM84 or its successor the KM184. Warmer yet is the use of a ribbon microphone, say a Royer R-121 or AEA R84, on your acoustic tracks. A ribbon paired with a bright-sounding guitar can be an interesting thick and rich sound.
Barry Conley enjoys using condenser microphones on acoustics. “The condenser mic gives me the ‘sparkle’ and ‘chime’ I like in my acoustic guitar sounds. I often use an AKG C414 or some sort of large-diaphragm condenser, behind the bridge and pointed towards the sound hole, plus a small-diaphragm condenser (preferably a Neumann KM84 or AKG C451) pointed at the upper bout of the guitar above the fretboard. Blending these two mics usually gives me the flexibility in sound to fit in most genres of music. I avoid pointing a mic directly at the sound hole (this is where there seems to be a lot of boominess occurring) unless the guitar is ‘thin’ sounding. I also generally avoid room mics on the acoustics unless the arrangement is sparse.”
Jeff Gartenbaum (The Village Recorder) preps most of his acoustic guitar sessions with an AKG 451E and a KM84. He also keeps a Shure SM57 ready in case he is tracking really heavy acoustic strumming, such as what might be found in a rock song.
Vocals and guitar at once
If you want to record vocals and acoustic guitar at the same time, you face a unique set of hurdles. Obviously, the goal is to get great sounds for both, and the most straightforward way to do that is to use the same mic. This takes careful positioning, though, and balancing of the two concurrent sounds. In these sessions, be careful to have the right guitar, one that naturally pairs with the vocal and vocalist. In this case a single omnidirectional microphone can be just the ticket.
Although simple and straightforward, the one-microphone setup is not as common as using individual microphones for the guitar and for the vocal. Really, the biggest factor here is control over the source sound and its eventual processing during mixing.
In this case, David Martinez has some experience. “What has worked best for me is to make the room as dead as possible. Then I just put the mic there. It varies from guitar to guitar. If I am also recording vocals, I will look for a mic that is very directional on the guitar and a better one, if available, on the vocals.”
With two microphones set up on the vocal and on the guitar, experiment with deadening up your room, or keeping it neutral if you had the need to introduce additional hard surface paneling. The lack of natural reflections will help tighten up both source recordings and avoid spill/bleed. One alternative is to try a DI on your guitar in addition to what you can capture with the microphone. Another alternative is to try a ribbon mic on the acoustic and a dynamic on the vocals.
Jeff Gartenbaum notes that while tracking vocals and guitar at the same time, he sometimes uses a figure-8 microphone on the guitar. Remember these mics pick up from front and back, but have nulls (areas where incoming sound is minimized) on their sides. He aims the mic so it picks up the guitar but the vocalist’s head is in its null. Barry Conley goes further and uses two figure-8 mics: one on the guitar, adjusted so its null point is aimed at the vocalist’s mouth, and one to pick up the vocalist, angled so the guitar is in its null. Ribbon microphones work extremely well for this purpose, and can give the acoustic a good sound. Remember that they’ll also pick up a fair bit of room sound, so this technique works best in a nice, lively room.
The preamp, compressor, EQ, and DAW
After the guitar and microphone(s) you’ll need to think about and invest in a preamp. As with guitar and microphone selection, your budget will dictate your options in regards to the preamp. A good preamp will only sweeten the tones you have going on with your guitar and microphone(s), so be careful, do your homework and use your ears. Remember that renting is often an option. You can track with that timeless Neve 1073 and not have to spend very much money owning it.
Besides the preamp, a good compressor is essential. While there are many great choices, you cannot go wrong with a Universal Audio/Teletronix LA-2A or 1176. They flavor your recordings, catch your peaks, even out your dynamics for consistent volume, and are very useful in mixdown too. During mixing, experiment with more than one compressor, in parallel or in series; this can radically alter your tone depending on how you choose to use it.
EQ is also obviously essential, and can be done in hardware (some preamps have EQ built in). Look to possibly filter out some lows, search out problem areas/rumble in the very low mids, maybe boost that present and “vocal” mid to upper mid area between 1 and 2 kHz, and add air up top with 12 kHz or higher.
Lastly, you have the final stage of your DAW of choice. I use Pro Tools and find that it comes with some helpful basic plug-ins for problem solving in even the most well-thought-out tracking sessions. Specifically I recommend the Avid EQ3 and BF76 for your basic EQ and compression needs.
Try adding reverb if you have a dull-sounding room, or need additional size. Jeff Gartenbaum prefers to track acoustic guitar in mono and add depth and width via a stereo reverb. He tends toward this method unless the acoustic is going to be featured and he wants it to take up a lot of room in the mix.
Beyond that, again it’s what your taste calls for and your budget allows. The sky’s the limit!
Finally: some potential mistakes to avoid
When using two microphones, be careful of the phase relationship between them. When setting up, try to get a good sound from one mic before you dial in the second. Once you are dialing in the second mic, try flipping its phase to see which combination sounds better, and eliminate any potential phase problems before tracking. If you’re really serious about killing phase problems, invest in a fine-tunable phase box that lives between your mic and your mixer, like the Little Labs IBP or Radial Engineering Phazer.
Air conditioners, street noise, talking, cell phones, pets, and many other things are potential problems for generating noise and unwanted artifacts while tracking. Look to add isolation from bass traps and gobos. Also, be sure to wear closed-back headphones or in-ear monitors to help eliminate click bleed. When possible, record a scratch track and listen back for clicks, pops, noise and any other crud before digging into the recording. The following piece of advice from Paul Logus also makes sense: “If something sounds bad, move the mic, or play in a different part of the room… or a different room!”
In conclusion, to quote my friend, David Martinez, “When the best isn’t available, then what’s available is the best.” Good luck and have fun!
(Reprinted by permission of Recording magazine)
Brian Marshak (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Los Angeles-based producer, engineer, and guitarist/composer who does music for bands, television, film and scoring. Learn more at brianmarshak.com. Brian would like to thank Barry Conley, Jeff Gartenbaum, Paul Logus, and David Martinez for their insights. Photos by Alice Moore.
For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
IAMA Winner Hits #1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts
They laughed when she entered and won. But, when she hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, heard her Multi-Platinum selling song on the radio, they were left completely stunned and speechless. The entrants of IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) were surprised and even angry when a 16 year old girl won 4 years ago, completely unaware of the incredible success she was going to achieve.
Meghan Trainor has stunned the entrants, winners, judges of IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) and now the music world. An incredible success for a debut artist and a music awards entrant. “IAMA is so proud to announce that Meghan Trainor is currently the most successful artist so far in the history of the International Acoustic Music Awards. What her hit song has achieved is so incredible for any music artist, even a superstar like Madonna would love to have”, said Jessica Brandon, artist relations of IAMA. IAMA has been around since 2004.
If you have been listening to Top 40 radio, you wouldn’t have missed her song. However, few people know that Meghan Trainor was discovered by IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) and she won Best Female Artist in the 6th Annual IAMA (International Accoustic Music Awards) in 2010 when she was just 16 years old with her songs performed in acoustic format. She is the most successful artist IAMA has to date.
BEATING SUPERSTAR TAYLOR SWIFT
Meghan Trainor has been #1 for the past 5 weeks since September 10th. “All About That Bass” debuted at #84 with a meteoric rise to the top. The pop newcomer’s debut hit dethrones superstar Taylor Swift’s song ‘Shake It Off’ after Taylor Swift spent two weeks on top. Also, beating superstars such as Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj is an amazing feat that most music acts dream about. She also beat Iggy Azalea.
Other highlights of Trainor’s Hot 100 coronation: “Bass” is the second debut No. 1 by a lead female artist this year, following Iggy Azalea’s seven-week reign with “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX.
INTERNATIONAL HIT & GOING MULTI-PLATINUM
It is now also an international #1 hit, topped the charts in other countries such as Australia, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and more. Her album “Title” debuted #15 on the Billboard Album charts. The song has become phenomenally successful selling over 4.2 million copies worldwide at press time (Double Platinum in United States alone). Her music video has over 112 million views at press time.
This is an incredible fairytale story that most music acts dream about: hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Hitting #1 on Hot 100 charts is equivalent to climbing to the peak of Mount Everest. However, only less than 1% of all music acts will ever achieve this glory.
“Bass” also brings acclaim to Trainor’s label, Epic. It’s Epic’s first Hot 100 leader since Sean Kingston’s fellow debut hit “Beautiful Girls” in 2007 (which Koch co-promoted with Epic). “Bass” is Epic’s first No. 1 by a woman since Shakira’s own ode to seductive shaking, “Hips Don’t Lie,” in 2006. The last lead female artist on Epic to take a debut hit to the top of the Hot 100? Minnie Riperton, whose soul classic “Lovin’ You” led the April 5, 1975 list. (The late Riperton’s daughter is actress Maya Rudolph.)
Trainor additionally makes her home state proud, joining other Massachusetts-born acts that have led the Hot 100, including Donna Summer, Bobby Brown, Aerosmith, Extreme and New Kids on the Block. (The latter group reigned 25 years ago this week with “Hangin’ Tough.”)
She has written two songs for Rascal Flatts’ Rewind album with Jesse Fraser and Shay Mooney. She has been performing her hits song “live” on most national TV shows such as “The Today Show”, “Tonight Show”, “Ellen DeGeneres Show” and more.
WITH JOHN LEGEND
Meghan Trainor is one in-demand artist at the moment, which isn’t surprising since her hit “All About That Bass” is sitting pretty at #1 on top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Meghan Trainor is‘Freaking Out’ because she Has John Legend On Her Album.
From Nantucket, Massachusetts, She wrote “All About That Bass” this year with hit Grammy Award-nominated songwriter and producer Kevin Kadish. Her publishing company told her that many artists might be interested in recording the song. Music mogul L.A. Reid heard Trainor’s demo of the song and signed her to Epic Records, where she was able to release the song as a solo artist.
Berklee College of Music trained Kevin Kadish has written and produced for the biggest names in today’s pop music such as: Jason Mraz, Miley Cyrus, Michelle Branch, O.A.R. and many more. Trainor is also a successful songwriter and has had songwriting cuts with Rascal Flatts, Sabrina Carpenter and Macy Kate.
ABOUT IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards)
IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) promotes the art and artistry of acoustic music performance and artistry. In it’s 11 year, IAMA has a proven track record of winners going on to hit the Billboard Charts. 2nd Annual IAMA winner Zane Williams’s winning song was recorded by country music star Jason Michael Carroll, that song hit #14 on Billboard Country Charts and #99 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Jeff Gutt, finalist at the 9th Annual IAMA was a runner-up on X-Factor USA. For more information on 11th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
The Song As A Script
by Ralph Murphy
Your song is finished.
You were eloquent.
The melody flowed.
You are fulfilled, complete.
You resound with satisfaction.
You said everything you wanted to say.
How could anyone fail to rush to record your song?
Well, not so fast… Your songs may be your little lambs, but when it comes time to send one of them to the market, keep in mind that some people hate lamb chops and others are allergic to wool.
So before you proceed, think back…
back to before you entered the music business;
back to when you were the audience and went to see singers for fun;
back to when you thought those singers were singing songs they had written about their own lives;
back to when you thought you were catching a glimpse of their inner souls. You were unaware that those inner souls had been crafted for them by Bacharach & David or Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Well, just as your favorite TV and movie stars do not write their own scripts, luckily for songwriters, neither do a lot of singers write their own songs.
The major difference between actors and singers however is that most actors can change characters from film to film whereas successful singers rarely depart radically from the image they have chosen.
That presents the songwriter hurdles that require investigation before rushing into pitch mode.
Not only must the song/script be in keeping with the artist’s image but a few music business executives must be persuaded to gamble a million dollars on it. Figuring in the cost of the sessions, (studio, production, musicians, etc) the video, tour support, radio school, stylists and of course radio, you are at a million big ones.
Your script has to function on a lot more levels than just entertaining your friends and family.
It is a script for a performer to stand on stage and have a linear, lyrical conversation with his or her audience (in my case is that audience is women!).
In my opinion, if you are a stand-alone writer – not a performer, not in a band – and you are not writing for women, you are decreasing your chances for success! Our world of entertainment is always ultimately about “The Woman.” With rare exceptions, it is men singing to women and women singing to women. So, the mantra for the songwriter parallels that of the restaurateur. When looking for a restaurant to invest in, there are three factors to consider: location, location, location. Likewise, to be a songwriter, there are three things you should consider: What’s in it for the woman? What’s in it for the woman? What’s in it for the woman?
So, when you see the word LISTENER in any of my articles, mentally substitute the word WOMAN.
So let’s focus on their perception of your song.
Aside from the work being right for the artist, is it a potential hit?
Do you get the listener involved in the song quickly? How quickly? Well, try 60 seconds, including introduction. I call it getting the listener to invest in your song. If I am drawn into a writer’s invention, it requires me to identify with (or ideally become) the hero, victim, winner or loser in the piece.
In order to lure me/the listener in, it’s better that you speak to me, not about me. Though I dealt with the pronoun (the little big word) in a previous column, let me remind you that when it comes to the song as a script, it is the little huge word. You’ll get my attention faster if the song is about You, I, Us or We, because if it’s about Her, Him or Them, it will be much harder to capture and keep my interest. However, if the song is using the first-person pronoun (you, me, I, etc.) and the central figure is too old, too young, not cool enough or just not the image that the artist, management or label wish to project, you might consider changing to the third-person pronoun (even though the odds are higher for your song not being #1). That way, the artist can sing the song (about being homeless a drunk perhaps) without it reflecting personally on him or her.
Next, you must create an expectation and then fulfill that expectation. Pull out some of your favorite songs and look at the titles – pretty average stuff, mostly words or phrases you use every day. However, those titles are the fulfillment of the created expectation. The genius is in the creation of the expectation. Making something commonplace eye-catching – or in the case of the song, ear catching – is your job.
I don’t know how many of you have seen an uncut diamond, but they look remarkably unremarkable, rather boring in fact. Only in the hands of someone who has absorbed the craft and mastered the skill of making the mundane sparkle does the seemingly dull come to life.
So, surprise me with interesting information, by asking a question with a different twist or by describing a condition, place, person or circumstance using words and phrases that make the ordinary extraordinary.
Well, I guess we need to have a checklist for this song that you have chosen to be a script for a specific artist.
High on that list is accessibility. How easy is the song to sing? Are you trying to fit three-syllable words into a one-syllable spot?
Singer/songwriters do it all the time and get away with it because they are the artists. You cannot.
Does its range span three notes or three octaves? Remember that a lot of “artisteests” may have an abundance of charisma, personality and sex appeal but honestly can’t sing very well. Send them the story songs because the more detailed the story, the less melody you need. Remember, the human animal is not very good at hearing more than one moving part at a time and given its preference will always defer to melody.
Now, if you’re pitching to divas or vocally well-endowed males, then be big on melody, heavy on monosyllabic words and open vowel sounds (A-E-I-O-U-Y!) and minimum story.
What is the song about? Will this artist’s audience identify him or her with this situation or circumstance? Does the artist use this language? Remember all that changes from genre to genre, aside from attitude, is vocabulary and technology. Vocabulary especially is a bond between the artist and the audience. That, by the way, is a huge obstacle for writers crossing to cultures and genres that they are not intimately connected to or understand personally.
And finally, have you told the whole story – beginning, middle and end? Have you created an expectation from the opening line, fulfilled that expectation in 60 seconds, added information/detail in the next verse, and spiced it up by adding conflict or calming it down? Have you made the listener laugh, cry, question, cheer, feel any (or all) of a whole range of emotions or just plain old fall in love?
Then take it to the artist – job well done!
Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter and expert, has been successful for five decades. He wrote huge hit songs such as Crystal Gayle’s “Talking in Your Sleep” and “Half the Way”. Consistently charting songs in an ever-changing musical environment makes him a member of that very small group of professionals who make a living ding what they love to do. Add to that the platinum records as a producer, his success as the publisher and co-owner of the extremely successful Picalic Group of Companies and you see a pattern of achievement based on more than luck. Achieving “hit writer” status has always been a formidable goal for any songwriter. Never more so however than in the 21st century. Catching the ear of the monumentally distracted, fragmented listener has never been more difficult. Getting their attention, inviting them in to your song and keeping them there for long enough for your song to become “their song” requires more than being just a “good” songwriter.
*His new book Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting “The Book” arms the songwriter for success by demystifying the process and opening the door to serious professional songwriting. Hall of fame songwriter Paul Williams said in his review of the book “If there was a hit songwriters secret handshake “Da Murphy” would probably have included it.” To get the book, enter 3 or more songs at the 11th Annual IAMA and receive this exclusive book for FREE»