All Posts by Kevin Ward

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All mono


I’m on a return flight from Los Angeles where I was recording some live concerts.

I was listening to the in-flight music. Classical, jazz, country… All mono. Have I mentioned how important it is to mix (or at least reference) in mono?

(I’m writing this at that awkward time after the plane pulls up yo the gate, the beep goes off and everyone stands up, but no one goes any where. I love my iPhone.)


Live Recording process in Stockton California

Hey Guys ‘n Gals.  I’m doing some remote recording Today, September 29, 2011 through Saturday.  I wanted to include you in on what I’m doing.

This is a live recording.  The Front of House engineer (Tony Rhode) is using a Digico DB-8 console.  It has tons of DSP built into it, but the coolest thing is that it has a MADI output on it.  You can tap into the board in several places… Before the board (I’d have to use my own pre amps), or after the mic pres (that’s what we are doing).

I rented a Pro Tools rig from the kind folks at Blackbird Audio rentals.

  • RME MADI interface-Takes a MADI (one BNC cable that can carry up to 64 channels for 2miles!)
  • 3 Avid 192’s receiving lightpipe signal from the RME
  • Apple G4 running Pro Tools 7.4.2
  • Headphone amp and headphones
  • HP Monitor
  • 200′ BNC cable that we are receiving from the Front of House console

If you guys are interested in hearing more, I can keep you informed… I’ll judge whether or not you are interested by the comments section.

If you are in California this weekend, give me a shout.  I’d love to meet you.

I hope you enjoy this VERY last-minute video.


If you can’t see the video, it’s on YouTube too..just click this link


Click here to see Day 2

Building Trust: Have an opinion, but don’t always express it

Trust is not necessarily gained by expressing “how you think things should be handled”.  Many times, especially if you are new, you will be wrong anyway.

It’s a good practice for a good engineer to be doing 2 things:

  1. Imagining how you would treat a situation in the studio – Let’s say there is a problem getting a certain overdub done.  You should know your role in this situation.  If you were hired to be “an engineer” then do that for the time being.  Your job is to make people NOT think about what your responsibility is.  You should have enough future site to try to head off awkward situations.  If you hear that the producer MAY be unhappy with a certain mic or preamp, then you should be devising a plan to switch mics, preamps etc. in the most ninja-like fashion possible.
  2. Practicing NOT voicing your opinion too much – Restraint is key.  When you are new to this job or new to this client, you should listen twice as much as you speak.  This is why we have two ears and just one mouth.  When someone asks you your opinion, well, this is where rule #1 pays off big.  It looks like you are smart and not just opinionated.

Just because you have an opinion, doesn’t mean that everyone needs to hear it.

You should always be paying attention to what’s going on so that if someone asks you, you won’t look like you don’t care.

Building Trust: Knowing your gear

It’s tempting when you get a new piece of gear to want to use it on your next session. But be careful and don’t let the new gear trump what needs to be done that day. If you spend all of your time “tweaking” and not enough time getting things done you may be slowly losing trust.

Gear always sounds better than it actually is the first time you ever use it. With that in mind, don’t brag about how everything else is terrible before this piece of gear came into the studio. You may end up doing everything over that wasn’t cut on this new mic, pre, compressor…

Let’s say you get Melodyne and you realize that it’s the best tuning software known to man. Be careful not to take lesser performances just because you know how to correct them.

You may spend the rest of the time in the studio defending everything else you’ve done on the record ‘pre-awesome-gear’ days.

It’s okay to get excited about new gear… but don’t let it take away from the task at hand and don’t over sell it.

Building Trust: Have a Plan

The recording studio can be a confusing place to be sometimes. Especially if there is not a plan in place. Part of being a leader  (and you are if you run a recording studio) is making a plan if there is not one.

simple plan

Here's the plan...

I have a client who gives me a hard time because even before we start, I’m always asking, “What are we trying to do here?”

I need to know this because I need to know what the client wants out of the studio experience. “Do you want to sing vocals on this one song or are you expecting something more?” If you are expecting something more, how are we to know if we are on the right path to do so?

If you don’t have a plan, you run the risk of not meeting the client’s expectations.

If you know what he will consider a good day in the studio, then you can continuously strive to achieve that desire or make him realize that it’s  just too much to take on that day and start changing his expectations for the day.

If you are the guy who “always gets what needs doing done” then you are gaining trust.

I’d love to hear your thoughts

Building Trust: Easing Tension in the studio

Time out!

Sometimes, as the engineer or studio owner, your responsibility goes far beyond getting the performance on tape. Sometimes you act as confidante, referee, maid, counselor, mother..

I’ve often said that a degree in psychology would be as helpful as the right microphones.

Artist’s core egos (good and bad) are called into check when they have to perform in a studio. This is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road” as far as their ability goes.

Since we know that egos are exposed, why not take on the role as diplomat when its appropriate?

If you have two singers in your studio… one’s behind the glass trying to make magic happen and the other is in the studio with you verbally beating up the other singer, step in if you need to and call off the dogs.

Not much good can come of one artist bashing another artists when you are trying to get a good performance.

If tension gets high, here’s a couple of things you can do to get things “back on track”:

  • Take a break- sometimes all you need to do to break the tension is to call a lunch break, a bathroom break, take an important phone call… anything to get the singers ego out of harm’s way
  • Take the blame for it – when the singer misses their cue, just say, “Sorry, that was my fault. I didn’t give you enough pre-roll. Let’s try that again.” Sometimes, this is all it will take to give them the confidence they need to get through the take.
  • Do full takes instead of punching in parts – Most singers are used to performing songs, not punching lines. Sometimes before you realize it, trying to get that “perfect line” by punching in will kill a singers confidence. Try to notice if this is taking a toll on the singer and opt for comping vocals instead of punching.

Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to stay on track and sometimes it just takes a good engineer paying attention to the tension.

Question: How have you broken the tension in the studio before?

Building Trust: Pre-Roll can establish you as trustworthy

Pre-roll? You can gain someone’s trust by having the right amount of pre-roll.

Even something as simple as how much pre-roll you give a musician or singer in your studio can build trust, little by little.

It actually goes a bit deeper than 1-bar versus 8 seconds. It has more to do with how much you are paying attention.

If you have rolled the song back 3 times now and the singer has missed his cue all three times, YOU need to ask yourself, “Is there something I can do to make them come in on time without roughing up their self-esteem?”

Almost every action in the studio will build a client’s trust in you or tear it down a bit.

If this is the third time they’ve missed their cue, how do you think they are feeling about their basic ability to come in on time? Do you think that a singer ever doubts whether or not they “deserve” to be recording at all?

How would you feel if a basic skill were called into question?

How would you feel if you corrected their problem and they didn’t even know there was a problem?

This is your job… to correct problems before it’s apparent that there is a problem.

Do this often enough and you will establish yourself as, “The only studio that I ever want to sing in because it just feels right!”

It’s a culmination of hundreds of little things like this that make you good….

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