Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mixing tracks for Burt Myers

Today I will be mixing tracks for Binghamton's Burt Myers. Burt came to me on the recommendation of my friend Mark Dann, who owns Mark Dann Recording in NYC and also has a smaller studio in Woodstock. Burt has recorded and edited a bunch of songs in a home studio and has brought them to Wilburland for me to mix.

I am going to set up some rules for myself for these mixes. First, Burt has limited funds to get these mixes done so I will try to spend only 1 hour per song. Second, I am going to set up ProTools like an analog mixing console, with Digidesign's new Reel Tape plugin, then a URS N series EQ and a Massey CT4 compressor on each track. All of the plugins will be the same, just like mixing on a large scale console with built in eq and dynamics. My reverb will most likely be the amazing Altiverb. I'm also going to try to mix through McDSP's AC1 analog channel on the mix buss.

I find that setting up rules like this can be very freeing, partly because you eliminate the "which plugin" debate which is confusing and time consuming. I can just get into the headset of "these are my tools, now do the mix" and this works for me.

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, mixing folks' home recorded tracks is something I do more and more, and it presents a fun and interesting new challenge for me. When I record the tracks here at Wilburland, the sounds and shape of the songs are already there at mix time. I know the songs, I know the emotion that the artist wants to convey, and the mix comes easily. When people bring me stuff that they recorded at home, I get to play with the tracks until the song presents itself, and this discovery process is challenging and exciting to me.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Working with Judy Hyman

Yesterday I was at Wilburland mastering a number of film scores for composer/fiddler Judy Hyman. Judy is perhaps best know as the fiddler in The HorseFlies and Boy With A Fish, but has also been very busy the last few years composing and performing soundtracks and winning awards for documentaries including "John James Audubon: Drawn From Nature", "Through Deaf Eyes" both for award winning film producer Lawrence Hott, and "The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson and Wine" and "Dream Anatomy" for Madison Films.

Judy has also embraced the new recording paradigm by composing all the work at home in Digital Performer. Then I come to her house to engineer the recording of some real instruments on her own home ProTools system which I helped them design and install. Then either she or I can do composite edits of the best performances. When all the tracks are recorded it all come back to me at Wilburland for the final mix.

Technically speaking, my objective in this mastering was to bring the levels up to "pro standards" for film soundtracks without changing the essential sound and dynamics of the original mixes. I feel that limiters can be best suited to this task as compressors tend to impart their own sound. After auditioning all the limiter plugins I have the one I choose was the Massey L2007 Mastering Limiter. This $79 plugin allowed me to make the program much louder without the usual sonic penalty of some other limiters. I was able to push pretty deep into this limiter before I started hearing it crunch up. You can download a free demo it it here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mac Benford and the new recording paradigm

Good morning! It looks like mornings are when I'll be writing most of these blogs. Looks like a beautiful one out there!

Today I'm doing some mixing for Mac Benford and John Hoffman, currently in an oldtime band called UpSouth. Mac is legendary in the the american oldtime music scene, having been a founding member of the infamous Highwoods String Band back in the 70s. The Highwoods helped revive the oldtime scene, and were the first act signed to Rounder Records. Mac did a CD at Wilburland called Willow with The Woodshed Allstars about 10 years ago, with Pete Sutherland, John Rossbach, John Kirk, Doug Henrie and of course the lovely Marie Burns. Mac's musical influence can be heard in many younger bands around here, helping form what we know as the "Ithaca sound"

So anyway, Mac and John have approached the making of this upcoming CD in a way typical of the new recording paradigm, where advances in recording technology have democratized the recording world. Wilburland was there to help them through the complete process. First off, they consulted with me when they were first thinking about putting together a small home based ProTools LE with an MBox2 setup. I was able to save them money on the actual purchase of the equipment and I helped them navigate through the crowded home recording gear market to purchase good quality microphones etc that would work well for their needs.

When they got the equipment and kicked the tires a bit, Mac contacted Wilburland for my ProTools 101 tutorial. Mac was able to start making good recording a lot faster and with less frustration. He came back several times for lessons/consulting as he gained proficiency.

Mac and John then recorded their basic tracks at home, saving studio recording costs. They did preliminary editing to make composite best takes. They did some very good work, not to mention stunning performances! Then they brought their tracks to me at Wilburland to mix in the tuned mixing room, with an endless list of great ProTools plugins.

The end result will be a great sounding CD with Mac and John effectively using their home recording rig.

This is the future folks, and it looks cool.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


It's another totally beautiful day here in Mythaca NY. Hard to get in the car and go to work, but then again, I have the anti-job!