A Couple Of Things….

Just wanted to throw out a few thoughts on some items I think deserve some ink. The kind of wonderful distractions from the ‘real world’ that keep me going.

First,

Always a great pleasure to drop in a new track from The Record Company. For your listening pleasure, ‘Life to Fix’:

 

Second,

An introduction to some of the invaluable staff at ChurchHouse Productions. I’d like you to meet our ‘in-house’ Public Relations staff:

Bonnie Blue

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She’s been a wonderful greeter and is a 24/7 studio pup. Bonnie loves to spend time in the mixing room.

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And never hesitates to let me know what she thinks of a mix.

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I believe the feedback was “I’m outta here…”

Samantha

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Besides being the owner of the famous ‘hound howl’ she’s a fanatical lover of David Lynch movies.

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Although the aftermath of her watching a movie puts her in a bit of a ‘Lynchian’ mood (“this bed belongs to me now”).

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Love them both and ChurchHouse wouldn’t be the same without them.

Third,

Shout out to a wonderful, old fashioned record store in Jim Thorpe, Pa, Soundcheck Records. The kind of place I grew up with and sadly are hard to find in today’s world. Let’s cross our fingers that vinyl and stores like this make a big comeback. If you’re up in Jim Thorpe it’s a must to check out.

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Finally,

We’ll be rolling out another song at the end of September. We’ll keep the title a surprise until then but as with the last song, we sort of broke it down and did some rebuild. Gotta have some fun.

 

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Start At the Beginning

Time has a way of passing us all by. Blink and another year passes. Close your eyes and who knows when you’ll wake up……  I felt that I was in the creative equivalent of neutral for a few years. Lots of ideas, not a lot of execution. So at the end of 2017 we decided to try something new for both the writing and recording process. Americana, bluegrass and ‘old time’ country have added a lot to our listening lists for a while now, so the idea of using more acoustic instruments made sense.

The voicing of the variety of acoustic instruments makes all of them very audible in a song mix. Two acoustic guitars might step on each other, but add mandolin or banjo and they stand out. Hand percussion. Twelve string guitar. Fretless bass. Whatever’s laying around. Oh, we’re not abandoning loud, reverby feedback guitars. Just stirring it all in. You might associate the acoustic instruments with bluegrass music but we’re not looking to work in that style. Or maybe yes. Anything’s possible.

So to learn how the instruments sound together, how to arrange the songs, how to do mic placement, what pre-amps to use, what effects, etc, etc, we decided to re-imagine some cover songs we like. Some of the songs will be quickly recorded, some will have more production. We’ll also be starting to work more with video, both ‘live’ and produced. In the mean time we’re writing and recording new original material. Stick around, it should be interesting.

First song up: ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’ by Ween. Did you ever know one of those “I can drink anyone under the table” types. Ween evidently did. Times 100.

We encourage you to listen to the original versions of the songs we cover. Always good to check songs out, especially if you’ve never heard it before. Hope you enjoy it. Back at you soon.

Larkin Poe – Preaching Blues and Mad as a Hatter

Found these two by happenstance – was on my phone cruising around online and this video was a recommendation, so I checked out other videos.  I love the laid back, fun loving attitude they have and their spin on cover tunes that range from Black Sabbath to of Little Richard.  It is inspiring to see a younger generation just have fun with the stuff they create, whether it is original or cover material.  I also am digging the range of decades in music… in short, they are really cool and fun to watch.  I happen to also really like the slide guitarist who plays a unique way – anyway – enough babbling.

Preachin’ Blues – Larkin Poe

The Record Company – Musikfest Cafe

Got to see these guys play a couple weeks back – if you haven’t check out some previous posts here.  This was a great show and they played some songs from there upcoming album (totally PSYCHED) to be released soon.

The Record Company – Bethlehem PA

They played Sabotage by The Beastie Boys – or their rendition – which was pretty rockin’.  This was a video of it I found from December when they played another place…

The Best Non-Advice

We’ve often shared studio set-ups and ideas on our blog and on YouTube videos. I’ve never considered what we do as ‘giving advice’. ‘Advice’ has a connotation of being an expert at something and passing along that expert knowledge…………yeah, no. We try different things and share the ones that work well for us. The important part for us and anybody who’s recording or writing music is try different things. See what works in your space with your equipment. A small change in mic placement can open a whole new sound.

I recently had the pleasure of working with three young musicians from Ohio. Very talented and very enthusiastic about doing music. Working with people you haven’t recorded with before is always exiting – falls under ‘try different things’. Had a great day recording and the mixing and mastering process worked out pretty well. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And it got me thinking about ‘advice’ again. If someone asks for ‘advice’ about what I think you need to make a good recording:

Tip # 1 (see, still not ‘advice’, just a tip)

Tip # 1 – Record a good song

Tip # 2 – Work with talented people

And there you have it. Pretty simple. I’ve heard good songs with lousy recordings – they’re still good songs. So as an engineer you try to not screw it up. When you mix, highlight the song, no tricks needed. Keep the dynamics when you master. Our recording set-up was even simple. One mic for the vocals and two for the guitar.

So in the spirit of recording good songs with talented people here’s the song we finished that day. The musician is Matthew Bock and the song is ‘Standstill’.

 

I certainly hope to be working more with these guys in the future. I would guess they have a lot of music in the pipeline.

Pictured below at ChurchHouse Studios Matt, Jared, Grant (l to r).

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Good reads and good tunes

I stumbled across this song from a book I read called Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine – good read and the music she lists at the end is awesome.  So check it out.

This is one of the titles I particularly liked – and of course, the lyrics are way cool – the beat is catchy.

Lo Fidelity All Stars – Battleflag (came out around 2008, um, where have I been?)

So on to serious business… I have a great surprise coming out next week from the studio.  Got to work with a really great guy and had a great time recording with him.

Until next week, hit play and turn it up!

Ride The Pink Noise

We recently changed the placement set up for monitoring with our Yamaha NS10M Studio monitors. They were placed further away from the listening point and sound panels were placed at equal distances beside and behind the monitors. The idea was to get a wider stereo feel and to equalize the reflection surfaces around the speakers.

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We do use other monitors during the mixing process but I like using the Yamahas for the initial mixing. For quite a while you couldn’t see a picture of a recording studio without seeing a pair of NS10s by the mixing console. Some people love them and some hate them. I like them but you have to know their strengths and weaknesses and use them accordingly. If you’re interested in more of their history, here’s an article from Sound On Sound that has a good discussion of their background:

http://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/yamaha-ns10-story

Since the placement was changed, that meant it was time to redo the room tuning for them. Ahhhh yes, the joy of a night of listening to pink noise. So I broke out the real time analyzer and got to work. Make sure that the mic for the analyzer is positioned in the spot where you’ll be sitting – near field monitors have a tight listening field and accuracy matters. The sound from pink noise will fluctuate, so you have to study the levels while it is running then review the peak capture when you turn it off. Here’s the running sound and peak capture when the EQ going in to the monitors is flat:

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NS10Ms tend to be weak at the low end, so the EQ is adjusted accordingly. The process takes a while since when you adjust one frequency it effects the frequencies around it. The final EQ setting looks like this:

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Here’s the running sound afterwards (remember running sound fluctuates, so a snap shot at a particular time will not look flat):

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The final shot of the peak captures gives a good representation of where we ended up:

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I’m pretty comfortable with the flatter EQ at the end of the process. One other tip is to make sure you are hearing equal levels from both speakers so you don’t overload one side when you’re mixing. The real time analyzer should let you get actual equal volumes for both sides. I have some volume hearing loss in one ear – the result of playing in bands for a lot of years (fortunately it is not frequency loss). To check on this take one channel of the song you’re mixing and run it straight down the center of your stereo field while sitting in your perfect center listening spot. If it sounds like it’s coming more from one channel or the other, make the adjustment on the volume of your reference amp. It’s at the end of the sound chain so it equalizes volume for your ears without effecting the balance in your actual mix. I also check the final mix of songs through the Real Time Analyzer so I’m using sight as well as sound to get the frequencies where I want them.

After the NS10 mixing is completed we’ll make any mix adjustments and also do the mastering through the higher end monitors set up in a different listening station. It’s always important to take your time, ‘put the mix down’ and come back to it later for review to get the best results possible. A great song will shine through no matter what, but a great mix will always improve your song.

And because I like to leave a little music for you……..

Father John Misty – “Ballad of The Dying Man”

 

Once More With Feeling

 

One of the great things about music is the way it can generate emotions and trigger memories and feelings. I’m particularly drawn to songs that bring out feelings of melancholy. Although melancholy is usually defined as sadness, often with no obvious cause, I also consider the feeling as nostalgic, flooding back memories from days gone by. Do you have any songs you listen to that can bring you to tears? Or bring flashbacks from past experiences? If you really analyze a song that does that for you, is it the chords and notes played? the chord progression? the vocal style? the lyrics? I’ve included three songs I really enjoy that do this for me. Different styles, even different eras, but they wash over me like a river and do what music does best: bring out feelings and memories.

First a song from Kurt Vile, ‘Pretty Pimpin’, that has all the things I love, great finger picking chord progressions, lyrics that make you ponder about your day to day life and a nostalgic feeling of what is my life about and what could it be?

 

Next a song from Wolf Alice, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’. Ever feel different, like an outcast? Personally I strove to be an ‘outcast’ in my younger years. I love the feeling of being part of something that most people don’t connect to. Being part of a tribe. Great shoegaze style guitar in the song. Also love the videos of the these songs. I think they do a great job of matching the visuals to the music.

 

Finally, a song by The Replacements, ‘Unsatisfied’. This song came out at a time my life was in turmoil and seemed to encapsulate everything I was feeling. If you’re not familiar with The Replacements and the album the song is on, ‘Let It Be’ I highly recommend taking a listen. The entire album is a gem. It was the soundtrack of my life for a few years. Listen to the lyrics and tell me you haven’t felt this way at some point in your life.

 

As a songwriter I live to compose songs that carry this kind of weight. Hope these songs strike a chord in you. Fell free to share any songs with us that do this for you.

 

The Record Company – Give It Back To You

Might be a little late for this train, BUT…

This is off their above-titled release, but I gotta say the whole CD is good listening. CD photography is cool and the design was done by the drummer Marc Cazorla and the mix was done by the bassist Alex Stiff. Hard work, good rewards. So on that note (see what I did there?)… you can laugh now. Turn it up, I dare you not to start bobbing your head- seriously.

More Kudos:
Segar – the pup and well, yeah because animals rock.
TRC Studios – Alex Stiff
Concord Music Group – Paul Blakemore

Hoots And Hellmouth

Well another holiday season has gone by. A very busy time of year in both a wonderful way and “I’m ready for the end of the holidays” kind of way. I wanted to get in a post about a band we saw back on November 20, Hoots and Hellmouth. Another band I’d highly recommend seeing if you get the chance. High energy and greatly entertaining, they play a combination of Americana, rock ,country and a bit of folk sound rolled together. Their show held my attention from start to finish. I’ve added some pictures from the show and a video to give you a taste of the show.

I’d also like to add how much I enjoy seeing shows at the Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem. The views of the stage and the sound are amazing. The people who work there are helpful and friendly and the crowds are attentive and enthusiastic. Really look forward to seeing another show there in the near future.

As for ChurchHouse Productions, 2016 ended up being a somewhat slow year for us. A lot of outside distractions, both good and bad kept us out of the studio a lot more than we’d like. But there are a lot of irons in the fire for 2017, recordings being prepped for release, videos being finished and the hope for some collaborations with other artists. 2017 looks to be a strange and unsettling year for America, but sometimes that type of atmosphere produces the best art. Hoping the best for everybody this year.