"I must say, in absolute truth, that I have never met a better bunch of music recording folks"
Bruce Swedien, referring to Gearspace in 2006

It would not be hyperbolic to refer to Bruce Swedien as possibly the GS community's favourite-ever recording engineer. Not only was Bruce a legendary talent - making some of the biggest-selling records of all time with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand, but he was also a genuinely good human who cared very much about the GS community and checked in occasionally even long after his 2006 Q&A was done to give us updates on what he was up to and just say hello. We've transcribed said famous Q&A below with all of "Svensk's" top-tier tips, techniques and tales. Bruce is dearly missed and we hope that you enjoy reading this again as much as we have - it serves as an outstanding memory of his life's work and his long-term membership of GS.

[top]Can you tell us about NU-47 Martin Kantola? - Ortega

WOW!!! What a microphone!!! The NU-47 is an extremely high quality, prototype Microphone designed and built by my good friend Martin Kantola, who hails from the Swedish speaking part of Finland. I first met Martin in 1992 in Helsinki, Finland, when I was doing a Master Class at the Sibelius Academy. Both Martin and I are fascinated by the Art of Microphone Design. The basic concept behind the NU-47 was to make the most capable hyper-fidelity Microphone possible, designed expressly for the recording of featured Solo Sound Sources in modern music recording.

Of course, it’s a fantastic vocal microphone. There have been only three NU-47's made. One was made for Icelandic singer Björk, who absolutely loves the sound of this incredible new microphone. She told us that, "It captures both the small and the big sounds that I make!"

Martin has one, and I have one...

Why would anyone want to build another high-quality large capsule condenser microphone? Hasn’t that been done, many times over? Well yes, to a degree. To be absolutely truthful it has been done, with some undeniable success...

However, we want to use a different approach! For instance, the motto we have chosen for ourselves is “Ears First!” Or perhaps better yet we should say “Music First!”

The NU-47 is a new ultra-high quality microphone that has a real purpose behind it. A microphone that is far more than merely technically excellent. Far more than is just good engineering. This microphone will be a product of the Highest Art of Microphone design.

Music recording is the selective recreation of a “real” acoustic event. Our new Microphone will hear the musical world in the way it was meant to be heard. We're working in the true spirit of the real Microphone Pioneers!

[top]I was at church today listening to the church organ. Now while I was sitting there I was thinking about the stuff you taught me about miking. How the hell would you mic a thing like that? - boosh

The PERFECT choice would be a Blumlein-Pair array of quite closely matched Figure-of-Eight condenser Microphones which will recreate the spatial characteristics of the recorded signal. This system requires excellent mics to work perfectly...the results will be so good you will never be the same...

[top]Where would you place the microphones? High in the air or on the floor? How far away from the organ? Would you just find a sweet spot where your own ears tell youThe sound is right right here? How would you balance direct sound and reflections? - David F

Here's what I would do to get a good recorded image of the sound of that magnificent organ…walk about the Church while the organist plays the music to be recorded. When your ears tell you "this is the PLACE!" put the microphones there! Don't calculate, don't measure, don't over-think this elegant project...LISTEN!

[top]Bruce, what kind of power supply are you using? I hear there's quite some difference in sound between different external power supplies. - Lindell

I had Brent Averill in Los Angeles build special power supplies for all my Neve Stuff. They sound great!!!

[top]Hey Bruce, cool rack you have your 1084's in. Can you shed some light on the person/company you obtained that from? - Dor

That is a solid Oak cabinet that the 1084's are in. I had that custom made by my Studio Furniture guy. Brent Averill made the electronic stuff for that gorgeous package....

Here's a recent photo, in my old studio (that doesn't exist anymore) of me and my Neve 1084's. They sound better than they look! They are my secret weapons for delicious vocal sounds!

[top]So if you're not using compression, or not a lot, I can imagine you'll be having a lot of dynamic range in your mixes. How do you deal with that on the mix-bus? - lawrence_

When my mixes go to the mastering room, they don't need much. They are ready!!! Of course that sounds a bit egotistical, but I always strive for that...If you can, ask Bernie Grundman...

If you don't allow those transients to live, you are destroying the most dramatic element in "Pop" music!!!

Here's what I am talking about...

I am frequently asked to define transient response, as it applies to music recording. Here are some of my thoughts on this very important subject.

First let’s try to define the basic issue.

A - Transient response in electronic recording equipment, is the ability of a device or electronic component, to handle and faithfully reproduce sudden waveforms called transients. A transient is a short duration, high level sonic energy peak, such as a hand-clap or snare drum hit. Any sound source in the percussion family requires excellent transient response in the recording equipment to sound real.

B - To me, a sound transient is the steep wave-front of the sound. In other words, the transient of the sound is the first impact of the sound before the sound falls and begins to decay, or die.

Good transient response is especially important when recording acoustic instruments. This is one case where it’s extremely important for one to have equipment that is able to capture as much of the initial transient as possible, and all it's accompanying delicate details.

In the music that I am normally involved in, I have always felt that good transient response is one of the very most important components of the recorded image. I would even go so far as to say that transient response has at it's core a direct relationship to the emotional impact of a recording. Particularly in the main genres of music that I record...namely R&B and 'Pop' recordings.

Faithful recording and reproduction of sound source transients make the strong rhythmic elements of music much more dramatic. These are the elements that are so important to R&B and 'Pop' recordings, such as the "Kick" drum, the "Snare" drum, hand-claps, percussion... etc.

I think that well recorded transients give R&B and 'Pop' recordings a feeling of tremendous energy.

To me, compression and limiting diminish the drama of sound source transients in recorded music. Along that same line of thinking, I should also point out that I am not a big fan of over-compression and over-limiting anywhere during the recording process.

To me, when R&B and 'Pop' recordings are over-compressed and over-limited they lack the extremely fundamental qualities of both primitive energy and smooth high-frequencies.

The reason that over-compressed and over-limited recordings loose high end energy, is that much of the sound energy in a recording is concentrated in the lower frequencies. These low-end signals will negatively influence a wide-band compressor’s operation, causing higher frequencies to be attenuated during peaks in level, making the music sound dull and lifeless.

Personally, I love transients and what they do to dramatize music. let them live! If a recording is over-compressed, it will always be over-compressed. In other words, it will sound dull and lifeless forever!

[top]So to clarify - you are saying you use NO mix bus compression and leave it up to the mastering engineer? - Brad McGowan

Leave WHAT up to the mastering engineer? My mixes SOUND LIKE RECORDS when I bring them to the mastering room...

What is all this B--- Sh-- about??? ---> At what level do you reference your peaks when working in a digital medium? Do you shoot for peaks at -6 dBFS on your digital mixes? Higher, lower? Maybe I'm being presumptuous in assuming that you even work with digital. ---> What is all this B--- Sh-- about???

What happened to your ears???

[top]I've read before that you designed a kick drum cover and a baffle to put between the hat and snare. Would you mind commenting on the construction and implementation of your hi-hat baffle? Was it effective? - Blackbox

Listen to Michael Jackson's recording "Billy Jean". Was it effective? I don't mean to be a smart ass, but a lot of people have commented very favorably on the drum sound of that recording.

[top]Can you tell us anything about how these baffles were made (i.e. what materials)? - Steamy Williams

The Kick Drum cover is made of a furniture blanket with elastic on the circumference and a zippered opening for the mike. I am thinking of making that cover here and offering it for sale - for a reasonable price, if I can! It's a valuable addition to a recording engineer's arsenal...

Here are two photo's of my technique involving Kick Drums with Omar Hakim…

The Snare/Hat isolation baffle is made of - a layer of Plywood, a layer of Mu-Metal (similar to lead) and a layer of compressed wood...I am also thinking of making that isolation baffle here and offering it for sale - There are some materials much better than Mu-Metal available now to stop sound transfer.

[top]Do you have any pictures of that device to share with us? I also wanted to know if it added any undesirable reflections or colour to the sound. - Rockastle

Here it is...

[top]I heard a rumor that on the earlier Michael Jackson albums you sent your two track mix through a "magic box" that was simply two Jensen transformers. Is this true? Were they input or output transformers? If you did, which models were you using? - jpupo74

No, not true. I do love the sound of really good transformers though.

The rumor was probably started when I was helping David Harrison choose output transformers for the 32 series Harrison Music Desk... It was during the recording and mixing of "Thriller".

[top]Will you continue posting in other sections of the forum with your seemingly bottomless pit of knowledge and if so which section of the forum do you think you will find yourself frequenting most often? - saggsy

I am going to miss my extreme Gearspace.com adventure.

I must say, in absolute truth, that I have never met a better bunch of music recording folks...

I have two major projects that are going to be very demanding of my time and efforts...

Thanks to my Gearspacers...

On Stereo Recording Techniques

[top]I know you're a big fan of recording in stereo - as am I! When you're recording single instrument overdubs, do you record much in stereo, and do you ever move the player 'off centre' in front of the mics, so that the instrument appears 'naturally' either to the left or right in the mix? - Dr Funk

Here's a photo of me setting up my two favorite Royer R-122's in Blumlein Pair...I think I was going to record a small vocal group...If you are further interested in learning about Blumlein Pair technique...We must talk...It's a fantastic stereo mic technique.

About stereo:

The brilliant Alan Dower Blumlein made his first stereophonic recordings in the 1930's. In essence all the details of modern stereophonic microphone technique may be found in the British patents of Mr. Blumlein. His inventive imagination conceived a recording and reproducing system that he called “Binaural”. It was, in truth, a real stereophonic reproduction system.

Stereo microphones:

I’ve heard it said that stereo microphones are too expensive for the average studio to buy. That statement is absolutely untrue! There are many microphone companies today that are making excellent microphones and most of these companies offer extremely well executed stereophonic microphone systems for surprisingly reasonable prices.

I’ll mention a few of the new breed of high-quality stereo microphones. I personally own many examples of these great mikes. I have used all of them.

The Royer SF-12 stereo coincident ribbon microphone...this mike is the most expensive of the new stereo mikes. It sounds absolutely fantastic! It is well worth the price.

The Audio-Technica AT825 OnePoint X/Y is a permanently charged-fixed backplate electret stereo condenser microphone.

The Beyerdynamic MCE 82 stereo condenser is a permanently charged-§fixed backplate electret stereo condenser microphone...for x/y recording.

The Rode NT-4 -Rode NT4 is a stereo condenser microphone. The two 1/2 inche capsules are in an X/Y arrangement, mounted at 90 degrees of each other. This stereo mike is DC-biased, and externally polarized. A true condenser mike...

The Sennheiser MKE-44P is a permanently charged-fixed backplate electret stereo condenser microphone...

The Audio-Technica, the Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser and the Rode stereo microphones are priced below $1,000.00. Definitely within the budget restrictions of a personal use studio. You have no excuse not to own and use one of these incredible stereophonic mikes! Your music recordings will benefit greatly!

My personal favorite Stereo Microphone of all of these is the Rode NT-4. and it is a real bargain price-wise as well!!!

Here’s something interesting...two identical monophonic microphones, properly positioned, will give an end result recording that is virtually the same as what you would get from a stereo microphone. However, the big advantage of using a stereo mike is that the two capsules are sonically matched, and the stereo mike system is very easy to use. Just set it up and away we go!

Of course, some of my favorite, truly stereophonic recordings that I have done, were recorded with two, or in some cases three, separate microphones. These, of course, I recorded with the Decca-Tree technique. If you are interested in the Decca-Tree, let me know and we can talk about it. It is a bit involved...

A good example of one of these, is the overture for the soundtrack album for the movie, “THE COLOR PURPLE”. I recorded this incredible piece of music with my old pal Quincy Jones in 1985 in the beautiful, huge music soundstage at Burbank Studios in Burbank.

What an experience! The gorgeous overture for “THE COLOR PURPLE”, written and orchestrated by Quincy, played by 80 of Hollywood’s best musicians, in one of the world’s supreme scoring stages.

However, the plot thickens! This gets really interesting! My main microphones for this fantastic event were three lovely Neumann M-50 omni-directional (and I do mean omni-directional!) mikes mounted on a large Decca-Tree.(More about that later.) Of course I used many sweetener mikes for solo instruments, but at least 75% of the orchestra mix comes from those three microphones! The Neumann M-50 and the Neumann M-150 are probably the most genuinely omni-directional microphone systems that are available to our industry. One other microphone that is a truly omni mike is the B &k 4006...


[top]Would you say that the Blumlein Pair microphone technique is the cornerstone of your Acusonic Recording Process? - Mark Ettel

Absolutely NOT!!!!

[top]Have you been using delay lines to get the sweetening microphones in correlation with the L-R channels of the Decca? I remember that you used to mike the different instrument groups of The orchestra separately in Stereo on that particular project, or am I wrong? Is the Decca-Tree your favourite main microphone technique? Why? - BoW

Never!!! Delay lines with this technique are for the most part unnecessary. Miking an Orchestra is a huge and complex topic...

Boris asks ---> Is the Decca-Tree your favourite main microphone technique? ---> Bruce answers - Boris, all I can say to that question is that Decca-Tree is ONE of my favorite microphone techniques, but it most definitely is NOT my MAIN mic technique...

[top]Do you use any form of room calculation when you position your mikes (in stereo, that is)? Do you use phase alignment tools? - pabloman

I hope this answers some questions for you:

Stereo Music Recording Technique...

It's always been interesting to me that the beginnings of stereo music recording technique developed as kind of an 'underground', almost 'guerilla' effort, by the more progressive engineers and producers that were thinking 'Stereo' at that time.

Because of the reluctance of the major record company moguls to acknowledge the importance of stereophonic recording of music, and the hesitation of the folks that held the 'purse-strings' to pay for the additional reels of recording tape, the future of stereo music recording came very close to being a strangled 'baby' before it was out of the crib. Those of us that were interested in the future of stereo recording of music proceeded totally on speculation. We volunteered our efforts and the studios donated the tape to record many of these incredible musical performances in stereo. This speculation paid off in later years when many of those recordings have been re-released in stereo, often from tapes from the private collections of people such as myself.

One of the biggest problems for studios was that the control rooms that were designed in the 1930's and the 1940's were designed only for monaural recording and thus were very small. United Recording Studios in Hollywood was one of the first studios with control rooms designed expressly for the recording of stereo music products.

United Recording Studios in Hollywood were designed and built by my mentor, the brilliant engineer, Milton T. “Bill” Putnam. The Capitol Tower studios were completed shortly before the issue of larger stereo control rooms was settled. Those control rooms were re-configured and remodeled in late 1959 to accommodate the new stereo techniques.

I think I was kind of a rebel. I was very young at that moment in the industry, and I wanted to experiment with stereo. I knew there was something truly new and innovative. In my soul I knew that really good stereo music reproduction wasn't merely one sound source coming out of one speaker, and a different sound source coming out of the other speaker. My heart told me that there was far more to the adventure of high-quality music reproduction than just that.

Two Neumann M149 in stereo recording configuration. Image credit: In The Studio With Bruce Swedien
I have always felt that we can reproduce the sound of music plus the feeling of music, more emotionally by using good stereo recording technique. But at that point in time, the people...the recording industry executives, really didn't want to hear about it. The people that ran the record companies at that time, didn't think there was much of a future in stereo. I remember one guy(I won't name him, he was a big executive with a major label). He said that, “Stereo was to him, like taking a shower with two shower heads... and you wouldn’t take a shower with two shower heads would you???...ha! ha! ha!. Shows you what small thinkers they were. They had so little trust in the future of stereo, that they wouldn't even pay for the tape or the extra stereo tape machine to record those priceless musical performances in stereo.

So I did it on my own. (A few other engineers at that time did the same thing.) We built a separate control room just for stereo. And we had to disguise it. We set up the separate control room for stereo in the back part of the studio complex, so that the record moguls wouldn't see the stereo machines and think they were paying for extra tape, or machines, and go crazy on us. Even with this bold guerrilla effort on the part of a few, think of all the beautiful stereo recordings that vanished into thin air, because of small thinking on the part of the narrow-minded people that held the purse strings of the business!

What is Stereo To Me?

I don’t think I have ever seen a really good definition of what stereo music reproduction actually is. If we attempt to precisely define the word “stereophonic” , we find in the dictionary that the first half of the word, “stereo”, means solid, firm or three-dimensional. The second half of the word or, “Phonic” means pertaining to the nature of sound. I think that may be as close as we get to a definition of stereo music reproduction. I think a real definition of stereophonic should say that “Stereophonic sound is a reproduction system consisting of two or more microphones, placed in front of a sound pick-up area, recorded discretely on two or more channels of a multi-track recording device, and then played back on two or more loudspeakers placed in front of a listening area.”

This system creates the illusion of the recorded sound having direction, position and depth in the area between the loudspeakers. This playback system produces a sound pattern at the listeners ears which our hearing sense interprets as indicating direction and depth of sound field in the limited area between the loudspeakers.

In most cases, accurate localization is the goal of a stereophonic image. In other words, when recording a large orchestra, the instruments in the center of the ensemble are accurately reproduced in the area midway between the two playback loudspeakers. Instruments at the sides of The orchestra are reproduced from either the left or the right speaker. Instruments half way between are reproduced halfway to one side and so on...this type of a stereo image is what I would call “Basically - an unaltered acoustical event”.

For me, the problem is that this technique totally eliminates “Sonic Fantasy” from the recording process. It is the clinical approach. I find it somewhat interesting, but not very inspiring. Things got really exciting for me when I discovered that I could successfully record sonic images that existed mainly in my imagination.

In other words, since the middle 1960’s I think my philosophical approach to using the "Stereo Space", has been to take the listener into a “New Reality” that did not, or could not, exist in a real life acoustical environment. This “New Reality”, of course, existed only in my own imagination.

Don't try to think out these Stereo Images too much.

DO NOT use any form of room calculation when you position your mikes in stereo,!!!

Your ears will tell you if there are phase problems....

Do you use phase alignment tools? NO!!!!! (That's a lie, I always have an oscilloscope on the Stereo Buss...but that's all!!!)

[top]What was your mindset when you first started? When you bought those U47's. For example, did you say to yourself - I better start knocking on doors? or did you make a plan before you started? What was your attitude towards making a living at music? - skip bitmin

I have never had a plan, as such....

When I first started in this business, in Minnesota, all I could think about was recording Great Music!

You know what...I still feel that way...

[top]Has there ever been a time like the current? By that I mean the ridiculous budget restrictions, etc. I've talked to a lot of people who fear the industry might crash itself. There is so much pirating going on, cd sales are down a bit, downloads are way up, studios are closing left and right etc. - djui5

I wish I could tell you, with some degree of certainty, what the New Millennium has in store for recorded music. What I can tell you with wholehearted confidence is that I am not frightened of the future. Never have been.

I’ve been around the block a couple of times. I’ve seen our beloved music recording business go through some critical changes. What I find most promising now, is that musicians, bands and composers have easy access to recording technology that is far better than at any time in the past. I have a strong belief that the music recording business is going to be put back in the hands of the people that truly love music for music’s sake.

Music has always seemed to be organic in myself. I think it's that way, to some degree, in the soul of every human being. That’s why I’m confident that recorded music in the new millennium will emerge at least as strong and healthy as in the previous.

Don't be afraid of the future. Remember this "IT'S KICK-ASS, NOT KISS-ASS!!!"

Make the best recordings that you can...

[top]I once read in an article that you used to position the choir in a circle around the microphones and that this setup is able to capture even the physical movements of the choir. Before recording, the acoustic environment is 'pre designed' with an array of tube-traps to meet your demands of the right reflection-absorbance mix of the emitting soundfield from the choir.
Last, I think, there might be a little blend of EMT 250 reverb. I don't know that device (we had only a 244 at the Electronic Studio of our Conservatory, that sounded quite different compared to a Lexicon reverb), but, as my sound memory doesn't betray me, I can recall a silvery shimmer in the reverb-tail, that is said, is unique to that device. But please don't nail me to the cross, if I might be wrong. - BoW

EMT 250 Reverb
WOW!!!! Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! You are absolutely right! (Well, almost!) You've been reading, and better yet, reading and remembering!!!

Here's the story...

"Man In The Mirror"...

As far as I'm concerned, the song, "Man In The Mirror" is the centerpiece, musically speaking, of the Michael Jackson album “BAD”.

I recorded the Andre Crouch choir on 'Man In The Mirror' with only two microphones. I used my favorite pair of Neumann M-49’s in the classic “Blumlein Pair” method. One of my unquestionably favorite true, stereophonic microphone techniques.

This is perhaps the best known of all single point stereo microphone techniques.

What is the effect on the choir in “Man In The Mirror”? In my lectures and seminars, around the world, I have often been asked, “What is the effect that you used on the choir on “Man In The Mirror”? Isn’t that something? There is NO effect on the choir on “Man In The Mirror”. Or very, very little! And Yes Boris, there is a little taste of my EMT 250 on the choir.

I try to explain by saying that the recording of the choir on “Man In The Mirror”, is a classic, but simple stereo microphone technique! Of course, in addition, you have the best gospel choir in the world, in one of the best studios in the world! (Westlake Audio’s gorgeous, Studio D, in Hollywood)

This wonderful piece of music has a graceful, natural sounding, dynamic curve to it. From the transparent, burnished brass synthesized bells in the intro, to the Andre Crouch choir that comes in at the modulation and, of course, the music climaxes with the huge ending.

[top]I've always wondered what machine that was (Synclavier maybe), if your fantastic memory allows! - RaGe

Yes, that is a Synclavier. And the burnished, brass bells that I am referring to are a very stock Synclavier sound. Works, doesn't it???

[top]Concerning the re-issues of the "Thriller" and "Off the wall" albums, what do you think of those new masterings some 20 years after the first masterings to CD? - teleric

When we did the re-issues of "Off-The-Wall" and "Thriller" I was present at the mastering sessions with my old pal Bernie Grundman. The re-issue masters were made with my original mixes from the original 1/2" master tapes. I think they sound rather good...

I do think the re-issue CD's reflect what I had in mind originally with my mixes better than the original releases on 12 inch vinyl...

[top]I'm sorry to disagree with ya Bruce but what you say might be theoretically true. However, it's the sound that counts and if I can make a kick e.g. really get out of my speaker to literally kick me in the family jewels when really compressed hard, then I say Hallelujah. Let the compressor kick in! Regards, Lawrence - lawrence_o

I LOVE to be disagreed with!

Which brings me to the so-called rules...

I must tell you at this point that the before-mentioned facts, like many other so-called 'rules in the art of recording sound, are to be understood and kept in mind, but not necessarily regarded as gospel. I do, in fact, frequently break those rules when I am looking for a certain 'sound' or 'sonic image'.

I should, at this point, along this same line of thinking, tell you another thing about the evolution of my 'sonic personality' that I regard as exceedingly important..

I will always sacrifice technical value for production value...

In other words, to me there is no technical rule, axiom, or creed that is so sacred as to make itself more important than a musical value, or production value, in the recording of modern music. If I were looking for a very 'breathy', sensuous, vocal recording 'sonic image', for instance, I would place the singer as close as is physically possible to the microphone, thereby eliminating almost all early reflections. I would even use no windscreen, if possible...

You can hear this technique in action for yourself, as I used it on Michael Jackson’s lead vocal on the song "Earth Song" on Michael’s “History” album.

I recorded Michael's lead vocal on "Earth Song", with one of my Neumann M-49 tube mikes. I used no windscreen. I placed him as close as he could possibly get to this incredible old mike. "Earth Song" is a piece of music that has many different effects and reverbs as part of it's sonic image. Since right now we are discussing mainly a vocal sound, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I came up with a very unusual LEXICON 224XL “Inverse Room” type lead vocal effect, for my mix of “Earth Song”. As an additional point of interest, there is a TC Electronics M5000, highly modified, “Wooden Hall” reverb on the drums.

Recording Michael Jackson and “Billie Jean”

[top]I've got a quick question on how the clean guitar sound on Billie Jean was created, that spanky guitar that riffs in the background and on the break section. - Mark Warren

I think the clean guitar that you are referring to is David Williams guitar solo on Billie Jean...

That fantastic Guitar Solo is actually the David Williams guitar solo from the demo of Billie Jean. We recorded the Billie Jean demo in Michael's studio at his home on 16 track 2 inch, with no noise reduction, of course. It was just after Michael wrote the song I think...

When we did the finished track on Billie Jean, we tried many times to have David re-play that solo and it never was just right...

I have no idea what kind of guitar that David played, or what kind of amp he used at that point in time...I do know it was quite simple and straightforward...

So I figured it would be best to use what David had played as the guitar solo from the demo. There was no SMPTE on the demo 16 track, but there was an open track on that tape. I striped the open track with SMTPE. Then I synced the 16 track demo up to the finished masters, I used 2 - 24 track machines at that time, and messed about with the rhythm syncing of the two tapes and the rest is history!

There you are! There is a bit more to this story....want to hear it????

About "BILLY JEAN"...

Here's the real deal on "BILLY JEAN"...

How Music “Speaks” to Me...

In order for a piece of music to communicate a feeling to me, or to anyone actually, it must first have a "hook"...not simply a catchy phrase in the chorus, but a melody and rhythmic concept, combined with highly interesting sonic values, that instantly arrests our attention. I think that this is true to some degree in everyone.

A piece of music must "speak to me". For me, it's almost like falling in love. I think it is purely an emotional response. It must make me respond instantly. This response in myself does not have anything to do with style or variety of music. The actual feeling varies in myself a little. In classical music, if a piece of music speaks to me, it makes me feel 'jubilant', or 'sad' or it can make me want to cry. In 'pop' music it is usually a more primitive, animal-like response. It can make me want to dance, or 'move'. I think it is much the same in most people. I'm sure it varies with the individual, though. It is the one thing in myself that I hope falls in with this same type of response in the masses. If that is true then it makes it very easy for me to pick records and songs that will appeal to the general public.

I think I have this quality. Most of the records that I have recorded that have been huge hits, are songs and recordings that I have liked very much right from the start. A perfect example of this is Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean". I fell in love with “Billy Jean'' immediately, the first time I heard Michael sing a demo of the song. I call this ability for affection for certain pieces of music, in myself, my "Antenna".

Here's another thing that frequently happens to me when I go out and buy a record that I have heard on radio or TV and liked very much. (I think maybe I should get into this in depth elsewhere, if you are interested.) If I hear a song on the radio and it sounds interesting to me, more often than not, I get the record home and the sonics of it sound like doo-doo! This seems to happen mainly when I hear a record that sounds great on the radio, and that is my main interest in it. Perhaps it is musically not "speaking to me", but the sound of it, on the radio, is interesting. Often when I play these records at home or in the studio, I am very disappointed. Hmmm - interesting...

But, More About "BILLY JEAN"...

The year is 1982. The song is "Billie Jean". The sonic image of Michael Jacksons' "Billie Jean" is a perfect example of what happened, when I sat around dreaming awhile, about combining different recording techniques to produce a unique musical canvas with a tremendous 'sonic personality'.

I recorded the drums (played by my pal N'Dugu) with as tight, and powerful a drum sound as I could come up with. Of course I put N'Dugus' drum set on my plywood drum platform. Also at this time, I had a special kick drum cover made that covers the whole front of the kick drum. There's a slot with a zipper in it that the mike fits through. When the kick drum mike is in place, in the slot in my drum cover, I zip the opening tight around the mike.

Brucie asks - Shall I post a Photo of this beautiful device? I still have it and use it on every session!!!

I brought in my old pal George Massenburgs' spectacular sounding, portable, 12 channel recording console and used it to record the rhythm section. With it I recorded the bass, drums and guitars on my analogue 16 track, with no noise reduction equipment in the way of that fantastic sound!

In my estimation, “Billie Jean” is a perfect example of what I call “Sonic Personality”. I don’t think there are many recordings where all you need to hear is the first few drums beats, and you instantly know what song it is.

Great albums always start with great songs...

“BILLY JEAN” is just such a superb song! Of course, Michael wrote “BILLY JEAN”.

Quincy says that the lyric he wrote is highly personal. I’m sure that’s true. Michael told us...it was about a girl that climbed over the wall at Michael’s house, and was lounging out there, by the swimming pool...she was laying out there, near the pool , lounging...hangin’ out... with Shades on, her bathing suit on.

One morning she just showed up! Kind of like a stalker, almost. She had accused Michael of being the father of ONE of her twins... Is that possible? I don’t think so...


[top]I'd love you to give an example...do you mean, like some sort of 'foundation' in the soundscape that the ear goes to when the piece becomes less busy? - PapillonIrl

Sort of...It has nothing to do with the business of the piece.

If the piece of music I am working on is a "Billie Jean" type of composition for instance, I would have a very acoustic, absolutely natural sounding sound source in that recording, and treat the recording and mixing of that sound source as an absolutely unaltered acoustic sound source, amidst all the great groove elements and synthesized sounds and all.

There is such a sound source, of course, in "Billie Jean". What is it?

3M M79 tape machine and outboard gear used on Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Image credit: In The Studio With Bruce Swedien.

[top]I've got one of Bruce's SM7 (still has the blue Dymo tape label with his name on it) from Fletcher, and once I replaced the chewed up front foam, it sounded pretty damn nice. Didn't realize it had belonged to Bruce until I saw his name on it. For a while, we thought it was the "Thriller" mic, but I think Bruce still has that one. - Harvey Gerst

When we were doing "Off The Wall", "Thriller" and "Bad" I ended up with 6 Shure SM7's. I only have one left. That is a fantastic mike.

[top]It is well documented that Michael Jackson's vocals were recorded with an SM7, how was that decision made? Was it his request? Did you try different mics? - Steve G

I am lucky in that all those equipment choice decisions were left totally up to me. Quincy and I have worked together since 1959 so I think there is a high level of trust there...that is an almost sacred trust.

[top]Do you know if in fact Rod wrote "Thriller" while making the album or was this a pre-written track and Michael just happened to fit the bill? - Loudnoize ent.

Rod had written the song earlier. It was titled "Starlight"...and what happened is history!!!

What you are probably referring to is when Rod wrote the verses to the song "Thriller" in the taxi cab on the way to record them with Vincent Price.

[top]How long do you spend on a large mix like that, 1 day, 2 days? - stevep

Of course, I started over. Actually there is another whole aspect to this very thing. We need to discuss that separately.

How long does it take to do a mix? - UNTIL IT'S DONE!!!

One thing I'd like you to understand. It's much easier to be done than to be satisfied!!

[top]I recall reading an interview with you where you said that you always put keyboards through an amp and then mic them before they get to tape. Mainly in order to get the early reflection. But what kind of speakers do you prefer for this job? Studio monitors (wide frequency) or guitar amps (to narrow the spectrum)? - sedohr

Wow, great memory...I wrote a synopsis about that technique...yes, I'll look for it. Nice that you remembered it...

I use a room of about 40 feet by 25 feet with a 15 foot ceiling...

I use wide range speakers capable of at least 100 SPL...

The best microphone technique for this application is a Pure Blumlein set-up...then during the mix I use a ratio of about 65% of the room added to the mix values...I make no attempt at discrete sound source values during the mix....as you can imagine that's impossible anyway...

[top]What's the first thing you ask the artist, or discuss with him/her/them? Do you have a set approach to preparing for tracking, in terms of rehearsal or your preparation, or do you just dive right in? Every session is different of course, but I'd love to hear how you set the more "psychological" stage so that you and the artist can work most creatively. - Gavin

The first thing that I do is to learn the music! In most cases I will even go so far as to make a sheet music transcription, (By myself) of the recording....

Next I will add SMPTE numbers to the recording DAW or whatever... Here's an example of my part that I made when I was recording and mixing "Billie Jean". It's a terrible scan, sorry...

[top]I'd love to know what's your approach towards creating the right atmosphere during a recording session. Just a few questions:
  1. Do you do some research on the artist's background, such as listening to his or her previous works?
  2. Do you feel the same about recording already known artists and those who are just starting their careers?
  3. Would you share your thoughts with the artist or the producer if you don't agree with their decisions?
- Rockastle

What's my approach towards creating the right atmosphere during a recording session? That question is impossible to answer in this short-form forum...you would have to come and see my studio to get the answer to that one.

The only other thing to say is that my sessions are not very democratic! We do it my way...

Of course, I always respect the music at hand. If the artist has musical integrity, I will always respect that also...

[top]How much time do you spend on an entire mix of one song? And, if you are able to give averages for time spent on the breakdown of a mix...i.e. time spent on the vocal, the rhythm section, etc. - csiaudio

Sorry, but I have to give you my standard answer to the question--->On average how much time do you spend on an entire mix of one song?--->Brucie's standard answer to that question--->"UNTIL IT'S DONE!!!"

I will also add: "it's much easier to be done...than to be satisfied!"

[top]What about driving preamps? Say an API 512, you can drive these to achieve their own unique compression to tape. I happen to like this effect for certain things...I wondered if you do this ever, or is this just more compression that you steer away from using. - af_analog

Driving preamps? Hmmmm...interesting.

If I want compression or limiting I will plug in a compressor or limiter.

There may have been things that I have used for their overall sonic quality that are as you describe...I have never used a mic preamp for it's added compression ability though, I mean not consciously. I would attribute what you are talking about to part of the sound of the device...

I have many API 500 series mic preamps with EQ. I love the sound of them.

[top]A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of being a "fly on the wall" during one of your sessions. I actually got to assist you on a Saturday when the regular engineer didn't show up. I gotta say it was a pretty huge experience for me as up to that point I'd only made coffee and zeroed consoles after sessions! Anyway, one day, during a break in the session, the engineer asked you something to the effect of, "What's it take to be a great engineer?"

Your answer blew me away and is something I still try to figure out to this day! I'm sure I'm paraphrasing here, but you answered him, "Learn to play the piano." While I think I have a vague idea of what you mean by that, presented with this rare chance to follow-up with you 7-8 years later, would you mind discussing this? - blackbox

Brucie sez--------------->It's true. A good understanding of the piano is absolutely of the utmost importance when it comes to recording music...and mixing music...for instance - C1 on the piano is - 32.7 Hertz - C2 on the piano is - 65.4 Hertz...

And so on...your knowledge of those pitches is very important when it comes time to EQ sound sources and then again when you come to the mix stage.

I have made up an illustration of the keyboard and the frequencies that are represented there. I'll look for it...I'll scan it...you'll find it very interesting...

On converters and digital recording/mixing

[top]I was also wondering if you use digital or analog for recording. And for mixing? - gyom

I use a combination of Analogue and Digital....

My audio mixing desk is a beautiful, old Harrison 3232c. It sounds so good it makes me want to hurt myself!

My digital recorder is Pro Tools.

My Desk feeds my Universal Audio 2192 Master Audio Interface - stereo A->D & D->A converter. (It also sounds so good it makes me want to hurt myself!!!)

My 2192 Master Audio Interface feeds my Alesis Masterlink recorder...I almost always record my mixes on the Alesis at 24 bit-96 kHz...

I think the line between Great-Sounding Analogue and Great-Sounding Digital is vanishing...

I almost always go to a good Mastering engineer for Mastering. Like Bernie Grundman for instance. He is the best...

[top]What converters do you use? - beatbed

Universal Audio 2192
Apogee PSX-100 Special Edition

There they are...the 2192 is head and shoulders above anything else...

Universal Audio 2192

[top]You have been using 1/2" tape for some time now. How do you compare it with the computer hard disk? Would you trade out your Ampex ATR for a computer? - BigAl

Alesis ML-9600
Man, have I got a surprise for you!!!

Check this out!!! For the past year, I have stopped using my Ampex ATR 1/2"! It is too unreliable. It is very difficult to get good analogue media now!

My new Mix-down Machine is an Alesis-Model ML-9600 - MASTERLINK High Resolution Stereo Master Hard Disk Recorder!! (I have several) I feed it from the mix-buss of the desk to my Universal Audio 2192. (I have several) digitally into the MASTERLINK...

I absolutely love it! AND, I absolutely love the sound of it!

[top]In the case of lead vocals, in general, do you prefer delay to reverb or both? Do you mostly use short reflections? Over the years has your approach to this changed? - [email protected]

I use both delay and reverb. I have some very, very elegant delays and reverbs, however…over the years my approach to this has changed, But not a great deal...my new Jennifer Lopez Spanish Language project will be out soon. Check that out...

[top]How do you feel about multiband compression (dynamic EQ) as it applies to a single instrument or track? - structuredloud

Compression IS compression.

In my opinion, multi-band compression is no better than any of the units of that species. Don't do it. That type of compression and that line of thinking is EXTREMELY lazy...it falls into the "Just Plug It In And Sit Back And Listen" category!!


Music Recording is work! Get used to it!

Make great sounding records and people will love you!

[top]“The Dude” has always been one of my favourite albums. I've often wondered about the brass recording on this album, and many others of that era. - Unknown User

Jerry Hey and the Seawind Horns simply are THE VERY BEST!

One thing that perhaps made those albums unusual is the fact that I could make use of all those years of experience that I had with the Big Bands - "Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Hermann, Stan Kenton and so forth, on and on...

[top]I would like to ask how you de-ess vocals? - Eliosound

Wouldn't it be great if the following were TRUE??? -------> "My singing teacher told me that a good singer would not need any de-essing on his recorded voice, as he would not need any anti-plosive filter in front of the microphone." <---------- Well, that statement is NOT TRUE...

Regarding "Human Nature"... Recording Michael Jackson singing vocals in the studio is an absolute joy!!! Very easy and simple...no de-essing during the record process.

When I did "Human Nature" I used my DBX-902 De-Esser.

Here is more info....

Now-a-days, I use my "WAVES" Platinum plug-in De-essing package. The company that makes that equipment makes one of the only plug-ins that my ear allows me to use...

If the people that make Plug-ins, had ears half as good as their eyes, Plugs-ins would be a lot better!

[top]Somewhat tantalisingly, you described in a post on this forum 5.1 and surround in general as being a "big disappointment". I would love to know what you bass this on and what experiences you have had with 5.1 and would you be prepared to give 5.1 a second chance? - The Byre

To me, 5.1 Surround Sound is entirely an equipment driven medium. That is not enough for me. 5.1 Surround Sound is still a very much undecided issue in the entertainment industry. That is not enough for me either.

I have never heard a 5.1 Surround Sound that inspires my emotions like a good stereo mix will...

Have you EVER listened to a 5.1 mix and actually cried because you are so moved by the emotion of the music!

Turn the lights down, and try listening to a good stereo recording of Ray Charles singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green”...see what I mean?

That’s where it is for me now...perhaps tomorrow?

[top]Hi Bruce I have a U67 and U47 short body:
  • 1. Do you have any tips on modifications that would help to get the best out of them?
  • 2. Do you recommend using them upside down or in the upright position?
  • 3. Do you notice any difference with your U47 long body compared to the shot body?
  • 4. Can you recommend the best place or person to get them looked at?
  • 5. Do you mind if I ask what modifications you have made to your U67 & U47
  • 6. Any Photos of them?
  • 7. Do you have your power supply for your Mics modified or have you had them changed? Does this make a difference to the Mic sound if the power supply for the Mic is modified or enhanced?
  • 8. What make of Mic lead do you use?
Bruce you have an amazing gift from god, Lucky man you. - JOHN

You have two excellent microphones.

They do not need to be modified in any way, but they need to be in top condition...

You will have to find someone you can trust to bring them up to snuff...the original power supplies are excellent, if they are in good condition...

WOW! I really love you folks! All of your great questions, they are wonderful, even if they are a bit off-base sometimes...keep it up! That means you are really listening...

Here's a photo of my Bass Boxx...I used this to channel the P.Y.T. bass synth into the desk...

[top]And what's inside that pretty little box? - Chris Parsons

What's inside that box is a Beautiful U.T.C. (United Transformer Company) Model LS 10 X Very Heavy, Super Quality, Audio Transformer....and I use it as a direct pickup and I wire it purposely backwards.

I have tried for many years to duplicate it. HOWEVER...even though U.T.C. still makes that transformer...I ordered a new transformer from U.T.C., made the Bass Box again and it sounded totally different. I was totally bummed! Such is life!

I do have an idea. I am going to make that LS 10X Bass Box again. It ain't goin' to be easy, but I AM going to do it!

[top]It would also be very interesting to find out about those stellar arrangement synths on Thriller. Those massive brassy sounds, are they coming from Oberheim? - dagg

It may have been because those horn sounds came from Jerry Hey and the "Seawind" horns, the very "BEST" that there is! And the arrangements were from Quincy Jones and Jerry Hey!

[top]Today I was with Bernie Grundman working on a new album for the first time and it was a beautiful experience and Bruce...you are the king of that place! I was like a kid looking at all those fabulous pictures of you all over the building.

And Bernie...what a Gentleman, he is a very nice person and he did a beautiful job, it was an honor. Best regards, you are a true inspiration for me. - delcosmos

Armando, Armando Avila...there's nothing to say about Bernie Grundman other than "Bernie is the very best at what he does!!!" and "there is no one else even close to Bernie when it comes to mastering!!!"

[top]How can I train my ear to listen? - mojava

When I hear a record, on the radio, or in a club, that has an interesting music or sonic hook, I am off to the record store in a minute to buy a copy for myself. However, to have an "Audio Personality" that is truly your own you must start your personal sonic development with a knowledge of natural, acoustical sounds.

Let's talk about acoustical support.

To take that line of thought a step further I think I should say that I feel that the best way to develop your ears' 'benchmark' is to hear good acoustical music in a fine acoustical setting. How many of you get out and hear ‘live’ music on a regular basis! It’s very important! Let's talk about acoustical support as it relates to music...all music is conceived to be heard with some sort of acoustical support.

This does not necessarily mean long "Concert-Hall" type reverberation. It can mean very short, closely-spaced early reflections and minimal reverb content. Both of those components comprise acoustical support. Once we know what music sounds like in a natural setting with good quality acoustical support, we can then take that "Audio Benchmark" and through our work, give our sonic images our own distinctly personal touch.

An engineer, or producers’, listening ability does not descend on him in a single flash of inspiration. It is built up by countless, individual listening experiences. So let's make a real effort to hear the music and sound with as open a mind as possible. One of our most important abilities as a professional listener is judging balance. So let's consider balance as the first thing to listen for today. The balance of the instruments of The orchestra in classical music, in a classical recording environment, is the sole responsibility of the conductor. In our work, recording music, that responsibility is transferred to us. It doesn't matter whether The orchestra is acoustical instruments or whether The orchestra is represented by a synthesizer. We must be able to judge balance. Over a long period of time, if we have the native ability, we will develop a seemingly uncanny sense of hearing nuances of balance and sound that would pass unnoticed by the inexperienced.

This ability seems to be acquired almost by osmosis through thousands of seemingly insignificant listening experiences. This random approach is effective and vital. The antithesis of balance is imbalance. When you are at a concert listening to good music in a good acoustical situation, listen for any imbalances that might be there. Think about your spontaneous reactions later.

When you are at a concert ask for very good seats. That way you should be able to judge balance and many other elements with a certain amount of accuracy. Listen for spectral balance. In other words, how well balanced is the frequency spectrum of The orchestra in that specific acoustic setting. See how your ears and psyche react to the overall volume level of The orchestra. Particularly at fff dynamic levels. How does The orchestra sound at ppp dynamic levels?

Make sure that you have a good working knowledge of the different levels of musical dynamics and learn how they are expressed in musical terms. This will help you later on when you discuss these very important values with the musicians and composers that you will be working with.

Here are some important aspects of sonic values to listen for when you are listening to good music in a good acoustical situation.
  • #1-Listen for early reflections in the acoustical support of the hall.
  • #2-Listen for the reverb quality of that specific room. Listen for the reverb spectrum.
  • #3-Listen for the amount of reverb that you perceive in relation to the direct sound of The orchestra. In other words, reverb balance.
It all depends on how dedicated you are...for instance, one of my students lives in Bombay, India and comes to New York at least twice a year to hear the New York Phil in Carnegie Hall for ear training...needless to say he has an excellent career in the Indian Music Industry. Of course he is a great guy...I help him all that I can...

[top]Are you referring to Ashish M.? - kingneeraj

Neeraj...Great to hear from you!

Yes I am referring to my pal Ashish M. I am very proud of Ashish!

[top]When you say "Harmonic balance"...are you referring to the "hall's" frequency response to the musical arrangement (ex. Bass buildups, nodes...)? or ....are you referring to the actual composer's harmonic intentions?...or to the conductor's performance of the arrangement? Is this the emphasis, or lack of it, over the different ranges of the frequency spectrum in a specific Hall? - joaquin

I am referring expressly to the Hall's frequency response. I mean, does the frequency response of the hall itself make the music sound too bright? Or not bright enough?

I have mentioned this before but it bears repeating. A certain amount of information can be gained by listening to other people's records, but my problem with this approach is that one's own "Audio Personality" is short-circuited. In other words, if you try and learn about music mixing by listening to records, in actuality what is happening is that you are hearing the music, or sonic image of the music, with someone else’s' "Audio Personality" already imposed on the sonic image.

What about acoustical support?

To take that line of thought a step further I think I should say that I feel that the best way to develop your ears' 'benchmark' is to hear good acoustical music in a fine acoustical setting. How many of you get out and hear ‘live’ music on a regular basis! It’s very important! Let's talk about acoustical support as it relates to music...All music is conceived to be heard with some sort of acoustical support.

Make sure that you have a good working knowledge of the different levels of musical dynamics and learn how they are expressed in musical terms. This will help you later on when you discuss these very important values with the musicians and composers that you will be working with.

Here are some very important aspects of sonic values to listen for when you are listening to good music in a good acoustical situation. Listen for early reflections in the acoustical support of the hall. Listen for the reverb quality of that specific room. Listen for the reverb spectrum. Listen for the amount of reverb that you perceive in relation to the direct sound of The orchestra. In other words, reverb balance.

Harrison 3232c

[top]Somewhere on Gearspace.com I read that you own a Harrison 32-Series desk with modifications. If this is true, would You share what mods were done to that desk and why? - dan*leclub

I own a recent, 1985, Harrison 3232c Music Mixing desk. To say that I love it is a gross understatement.

I adore it! It tickles my ear! It has the EQ of life! My technician from New York, John Klett keeps it sounding delicious! It has a powerful sound! It has a delectable sound! It can make me cry! It can make me smile! It makes me want to continue to do this forever!!!!!

I love My Harrison 3232c!!! I love My Harrison 3232c!!! I love My Harrison 3232c!!!

Got the picture?

[top]My partner & I recently acquired a Harrison Series Ten, and although we don't have it fully operational as yet, we are very excited about the potential, as we've heard so many great things about Harrison consoles. I realize it's quite a different beast to yours, but I was wondering whether perhaps you may have used one, and if so, have any positive/negative opinions or things to watch out for when mixing on a Series Ten that you care to share? - DanHack

I have done many happy sessions on a Harrison Series TEN. It's quite different from my 3232c. But a Series TEN is a superb console. Get it together. Pay careful attention to the power supplies...best of luck to you....

[top]Would you mind going into detail on why you use the cover? To echo Brandy's questions: does it help keep the kick out of the room mic's or keep other signals out of the kick mic? - Shelton

Listen to "Billie Jean". That's why I made that cover, and the Drum Platform, too...

[top]I want to ask a question about your experience with classical recordings. I want to specialize in this field and wonder if you have any advice on how to do it well. - teleric

Great question!

In 1957, Bea and I were living in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling, just after having moved from Minneapolis. It was almost a year before I was to go to work for my mentor, ‘Milton T, ‘Bill Putnam at Universal Studios in Chicago. Bill had completed construction of big, beautiful Studio ‘A’, at Universal. That fantastic large-scale music studio was a technical and acoustic masterpiece! He told me that when he finished Studio ‘B’ the following year, I would have my job at Universal. In typical Bill Putnam fashion, Bill had helped with my moving expenses, and helped arrange for my job at RCA Victor. In the meantime, this eager, young transplant from the hinterlands of Minnesota, was very happily busy, working for RCA Victor Studios (then located on Chicago’s Navy Pier).

While at RCA, I got to work on some very exciting projects (not necessarily always at the RCA studios on Navy Pier). For instance, I assisted in the recording of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Dr. Fritz Reiner. Actually, when we recorded the CSO it was a bit of a team effort. The man in charge of engineering, and in truth, the guy who really did the recording, was Lewis Layton, a wonderful, classical music engineer at RCA Victor. He had a very generous spirit and freely helped me learn my craft. The producer on these sessions was Richard Mohr, another very kind and generous music man.

We recorded the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue. Fritz Reiner was the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1953-1963. He built the CSO into the world-class orchestra that it remains today. I worked at RCA with The orchestra in 1957 and 1958.

Working, watching and learning on those sessions, I remember thinking to myself, “This is why I left Minnesota!”

One recording session, or series of sessions that really stands out in my mind was the Modest Moussorgsky, (Maurice Ravel Orchestration) “Pictures at an Exhibition” that we recorded with the CSO in 1957.

I was particularly impressed by the phenomenal trumpet soloist, Adolph ‘Bud’ Herseth. ‘Bud’ played those trumpet solos on “Pictures” with fantastic skill. The first day we worked on “Pictures' ', when we took a break, I went out on the stage and talked to Bud. What a great guy. I found out that he was also from Minnesota. A tiny, little town called Bertha Minnesota, as I recall. Not too far from Cokato Minnesota, where my family lived. What a small world. Instantly I knew that Bud was my kind of guy. He told me of his desire to play his solos, "going beyond the notes." Made sense to me. I felt the same way about what I do. I worked with Bud a few times doing sessions at Universal. There were other incredible trumpet players that did most of the studio work in Chicago at that time. Bud’s place was with the CSO. ‘Bud’ recently retired after 53 years as principal trumpet with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

I was really fortunate because Dr. Reiner appeared to be quite interested in the recording process. I don’t really remember that Dr. Reiner truly loved the recording process, but he certainly did appreciate its value... Those incredible recordings that I was involved in in 1957 and 1958 are still considered by many to be among the first truly audiophile recordings.

We would edit the Chicago Orchestra tapes bar by bar, sometimes note by note, until it was as perfect as we thought we could make it. One lasting impression of that period of time for me is that Dr. Reiner made me a part of his innovative, new, “INCENTIVE” program.... That remarkable, new incentive program was"One mistake and you’re through!". Under Fritz Reiner’s remarkable new incentive program, I learned to edit analogue magnetic tape accurately, quickly and above all musically. I'll never forget him. What fantastic musical and technical experiences! At that time we recorded the CSO on two, three-track 1/2 inch Ampex tape machines. One tape machine recorded the master tape, the other a back-up, or safety master tape. This 20 year old kid from Minneapolis had never seen anything so high-tech in his life before!

I met and worked with many fantastic musicians that were with the CSO. To name a few that stand out in my memory...Ray Still, principal oboe, Arnold Jacobs, principal tuba. Dale Clevenger, principal French Horn and recording soloist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (since February 1966). Dale is a well-known Chicago studio musician. I got to work with Frank Miller, not only with the CSO but in the studio, as well. Frank, at that time, was called the greatest living orchestral cellist.

My experiences recording for RCA Victor in beautiful, fantastic-sounding, Orchestra Hall extended to musical groups other than the CSO. One project that stands out in my memory is recording Dick Schory's “New Percussion Ensemble” in Orchestra Hall. We recorded an album entitled "Music for Bang Baaroom and Harp!” It was, of course, all percussion.

This project gave me a real insight into the incredible percussion players working in the Chicago recording scene at that time. We recorded titles like... “National Emblem March”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” and the memorable “Duel on the Skins”. (Hmmm...) Many others as well. It was great fun.

The reviews said, “Schory's New Percussion Ensemble is allowed to roam freely in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. This recording captured Schory and his band of lunatics hitting everything but the kitchen sink.” The reviewers must have missed something, because I distinctly remember setting up a microphone on a kitchen sink! The critics said the “New Percussion Ensemble” was the "Biggest Battery of Percussion West of Cape Canaveral"! It was released in 1959 on the RCA label.

Some of the outstanding Chicago Percussion players were Bobby Christian, Bob Westberg and Frank Rullo. In the Chicago studios Bobby Christian was called “Mr. Percussion”. He was a mainstay of Dick Schory's percussion ensemble.

I found out that my Music Recording Personality had one distinct flaw in it...

Perhaps the bottom line for me, is that there's always been something absolutely marvelous about simply messing around with things musical, electronic and mechanical. To this day I still spend many happy hours in my beautiful studio at home installing and checking out some new, or old, piece of equipment or recording gear. I am now, always have been, and always will be, a fanatic about details in my endeavors.

I really love challenges in my life. In my work, whether it is a musical or a technical challenge, if things become too easy I get bored and start yawning and looking around for something more interesting to do.

When I am working on a project, I love to sit and think of combinations of recording techniques, or recording styles, that I can use. In other words, I love to take a piece of music, and with it, create a recorded sound-field, or sonic image, that could not possibly occur in a natural acoustic environment.

This is not quite as simple, for me anyway, as it appears at first, because, at the same time, it has always been extremely important to me to have a bit of stark reality of sound, buried somewhere in my work for the ear to relate to. To ground the ear, so to speak. In other words, a patch of familiar blue sky in one corner of my recording canvas.

By the same token, I think it is of paramount importance to realize, that to do truly unique work, we cannot merely, helter-skelter, throw sounds and recording techniques together on a piece of tape and come up with a sound that makes people remember a recording for a long time, and, equally important, to want to hear it over and over again.

[top]I caught you speaking at an AES show seminar a while back where you told an excellent story from your Universal days. It involved Basie (I think) and a trombone solo. I still tell your story often (as I hold it near and dear) since I worked at Universal til it closed down (a travesty). - Timsplace

Here's the story...

Chicago in 1960...

It was a wonderfully exciting time for me to be learning. As a youngster in my early twenties, every minute of every day was full of new experiences in the studio. The big bands and musical artists that I worked with every day were the likes of "Count Basie", "Duke Ellington", "Stan Kenton", "Woody Herman" (the list goes on and on). All of them were very much in love with the recording process.

Each new idea, each new studio-setup, and each new piece of recording equipment, generated much enthusiasm and excitement. I hated to leave the studio at the day's end and couldn't wait 'till the next day's sessions.

In August, 1960, I did an album with Count Basie and Joe Williams called "Just The Blues" - It was released on Roulette Records and I don't know if it's been re-released on CD, but it's an incredible album. Let me set the scene for The Count Basie and Joe Williams sessions...

This is what it was like...the city is Chicago. The year is 1960. It’s Wednesday, the 24th of August. The weather is hot and humid. The band is Count Basie. The vocalist is Joe Williams. Basies' band was appearing in a Chicago Night-Club somewhere, and to record the band while they were in good shape and all warmed up, we decided to record the sessions after they had played the gig in the club. So the band played the gig, left the club, and headed straight for Universal Recording Studios where we recorded from 2:00 AM until dawn. Center stage is big, beautiful, Studio ‘A’ at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago.

Studio ‘A’ was about 80 feet long, 50 feet wide with a 25 foot ceiling height. One of the best sounding large music studios in the world! Absolutely incredible sounding! We wanted the band to be warmed up and really cooking, so we figured the best way to accomplish that was to record the band after they played the gig.(they were playing at a club locally in Chicago...I guess they would finish at one in the morning, or something like that.) We decided to start the sessions at two in the morning and record until dawn.

Here's one thing that makes those sessions really stand out in my memory. Not only were the wonderful musicians there, but about half of the people from the club followed the band to the studio. I had the band set up as I usually did, when all of a sudden, all these people started showing up. And they appeared to be having a great time! They all seemed to know the musicians in the Basie Band.

I figured I’d better do something, so I set up folding chairs against the outside walls of the studio. I already had the band set up in the middle of this huge, gorgeous studio, with a group of three gobos or isolation flats for Joe Williams to sing in. Joe was there, singing on my own, personal Telefunken U47 tube mic. While the band rehearsed, I got my balance and set my levels. We were having a great time. The saxes were wood shedding a little lick, rehearsing a bit. There was a lot of talking, foolishness and messing around.

I never had a real chance, in those days, to get a good level or anything. There would be a lot of silliness and fun, plus just a few bars by the band for me to get my levels...

One thing, to this day, that I’ve never figured out is that there is not one sound from any of those people sitting on folding chairs! We called those folks that followed bands around - “Band Flies”! The moment we rolled the tape, slated the “take” (announced the “take” number), they all sat quietly down, and did not make a sound. Not a peep!

They were so quiet that they didn’t even squeak their folding chairs! It was magic! But yet, you can really feel the electricity in the room. This was before the days of the vocal booth or anything.

Count Basie would stand up...give the down beat, and boy that tape had better be rolling, because the performances were incredible! Anytime that Basies’ band played in the studio, and Joe Williams sang, you could feel the musical electricity in the air! It was absolutely fascinating!

At this time, I was beginning to experiment with uncommon sonic quality on solos for emotional impact.

I clearly remember one small, but interesting event, that happened during these Count Basie sessions, at this point in time, that has stood out in my mind even after all these years. It illustrates the small thinking of many of the recording studio owners and directors of the time. Actually, I almost lost my job over what happened.

It was August 26th, 1960. It was about 2:30 in the morning, and we were preparing to do a take on the song “Night Time Is The Right Time”.

We rehearsed the piece all the way through one time. I found that the second vocal verse had a beautiful trombone solo, as an accompaniment to Joe Williams' vocals. During this verse there was only piano, bass, drums and guitar playing with Joe Williams singing, of course.

In this piece of music the trombone played an improvised, solo, counter-melody. As we rehearsed “Night Time Is The Right Time”, I thought to myself that this song would be a great opportunity for me to record the trombone solo with a very different perspective. In addition I desperately wanted to add my own “Sonic Personality” to this recording. So I asked the trombone player to very quietly step away from the trombone section, when it was time for his solo, and play his entire solo facing into the farthest corner of the studio, as far away from the band mikes as he could get.

This way the mikes would hear only the reflected room sound from the trombone solo, no direct microphone sound at all. Of course Universal Recording’s Studio ‘A’ was one of the best sounding, large recording rooms in the world. I knew that the marvelous, warm sound of that lovely big studio, would be of considerable advantage to me in this unique situation. As we rehearsed, I went out in the studio to show the trombone player where I wanted him to stand. I glanced back in the control room and noticed that one of the studio owners had stopped by the studio to see what was going on. I thought to myself, “What’s he doing here, at this hour? I’ll bet he’s checking up on me...” When he saw what I was up to, I could see his face redden and his jaw stiffening considerably. He was obviously quite upset with my scheme. When I came back into the control room and sat down at the console to begin the take, the studio big shot came over and yanked me aside. By this time he was shaking with rage! In a hoarse whisper, he said to me, “Are you insane? What on earth are you doing? You can’t record a musician off-mike like that. It just isn’t done! The record company probably won’t pay for the session. I’ll bet they won’t even pay for the tape! Bruce, if this ridiculous idea of yours backfires, YOU’RE FIRED!”. Of course, the off-mike trombone solo sounded wonderful. Bill Basie, Frank Foster the arranger, Teddy Reig the producer, plus all the guys in the band loved my courageous sonic concept.

The microphone I used on Joe was my Telefunken, or Neumann U-47 tube. The mike was only five years old when I made this recording. At that time, most of the musicians in the bands, and the band leaders as well, were so fascinated with the recording process that they would put up with me experimenting with studio set-ups, different sounds and trying different things.

They were definitely into it! They were up for it! If I wanted to try another mike or if I wanted to put a mike in the kick drum or on the high hat or something. They’d all say to me, “Go for it, Kid!”...

I was a very lucky student!!

So anyway...I made those tapes on my own. I keep them all in my own temperature and humidity controlled vault at home. There's some wonderful musical moments in there...

I went on and experimented with stereo music recording technique without the record company moguls knowing about it. I had ambience mikes set up in the studio and I was learning...

To this day I'm so thankful that I went ahead and did that. You know, experimenting with stereo technique, kind of took us forward a bit and of course, a few years later, stereo began to be very important. In the mid-60s we started messing around with a thing called the vinyl stereo record. That development was a big, big breakthrough.

[top]If I remember correctly, we transferred some Thriller stuff from the Mitsubishi 32-trk Digital during the HISory album. Robmix may verify this if he remembers, and Bruce may remember if it was an X-880 or X-850 used originally. Also a hello to you Bruce, Zoe, Samara and I are out here in Vegas now. Hope you and Bea are doing well. -Brent - XSergeantD


Great to hear from you!!! Big, sloppy kisses to you and Zoe and Samara...I'll bet you have that studio slammin!!!

[top]One that has always fascinated me, that is the average volume level of MJ vocals in all his records which, to me, is quite lower than usual, especially coming from the European 'sound culture' (Italy, France) where record companies and public want the vocals to stay 'out loud' in the mix. - stevegalante

Good question. For me, the average volume level of any Musical Sound Source, including vocals, is always driven by the music, nothing else. I never pre-think a vocal volume in the mix and then go ahead and do that... I always react instinctively to the song. I will always try to let the song make its statement.

For instance..."The European 'sound culture' (Italy, France) where record companies and the public want the vocals to stay 'out loud' in the mix." That kind of thinking will hopelessly hold back the evolution of the sound of 'Popular Music Recording'...

When it comes to placing the sounds of the song Right or Left in the sound-field, I NEVER pre-think those mix values. It's always been important to me to carefully consider placement, left to right, of sound sources in the stereo panorama when recording a piece of new music. Placement and localization of sounds are an extremely important part of the relationship of the sound of music to the listener.

I think it goes back to when man would hear a sound, and then instinctively turn his head in the direction of that sound. I imagine it was a protective reaction. If a branch cracked under the foot of a tiger in the jungle, it was a conditioned response of primitive man to turn and face the direction of that sound, to see what, and where, the danger was.

I try to make use of that response in myself, when assigning a sound source a position in the stereo panorama. I want to give that sound source a placement with the most drama possible. I try to do this as early in the production of a piece of music as possible to take advantage of my own gut reactions to the sound sources.

Speaking of gut reactions to the music at hand, we as recording people...we must develop a willingness to follow our instincts. Gut reactions translated to music recordings make the most believable music...

[top]Which mic and compressor did you use to record Vincent's rap? I love how gritty the recording is. It always sounded like some type of ribbon mic to me. Is the short verb on his voice an EMO 250? Sounds like the crazy laugh at the end fades into the ecoplate though. - Philip S Bova

Good question...

When we recorded Vincent Price's vocal for his 'Rap' sequence, Michael had just finished recording a vocal track for "Thriller".

Shure M7
So I used Michael's mike - A Shure SM7. It is recorded through a Neve 1084 and a UREI 1176 , with almost NO compression on it.

Here's the story...

The Vincent Price “Rap” on “Thriller”...

When I begin reminiscing about recording the song “Thriller”, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Vincent Price “Rap”. Quincy’s wife, Peggy Lipton, knew Vincent Price. So Quincy and Peggy got it together and called him. Vincent said he would love to do it. I remember Rod’s idea, at first, was that Vincent would just talk some horror talk from the type of lines he would deliver in some of his famous roles.

Well, the night before the session with Vincent Price, I remember Quincy and Rod on the phone, talking excitedly about something to do with Vincent’s part in “Thriller”. I was getting the track ready for Vincent to overdub on for “Thriller”, so I only overheard bits and pieces of Quincy and Rod’s conversation...

The next day at about 12:00 noon, Quincy shows up at the studio, looking like the ‘Cat That Swallowed The Canary’! Q looked at me and said, “‘Svensk’, (Quincy’s nickname for me... It means, “Swedish Man”, in swedish.) Vincent Price is going to be here at 2:00 pm! Rod is writing Vincent’s ”Rap” lyrics in the taxicab on the way here to the studio!”

Quincy told me, “I don’t think that Vincent has ever been on a pop record before. This should be interesting...” I get chills just thinking about it!

The next thing I knew, Rod came roaring into the control room with several sheets of paper in one hand, and a Marlboro cigarette with a two-inch ash ready to fall over the floor, in his mouth...out-of -breath Roddy said to me, “Bruce, quick...he’s here! I saw a car pull up, and it was Vincent Price! He’s on his way in!” He thrust the papers in my hand and said, “Give these to the secretary -Have her photo-copy these quick!”...this was done, we put the ‘Rap” lyrics on the music stand...Vincent walked in, sat down on his chair, off he went, and it was all done in about two hours.

Vincent Price had never used earphones in his work before. He reluctantly put them on, and when the music track for “Thriller” started, he jumped up from his stool with a very startled look on his face. I know he had never heard anything like that before. He asked Rod Temperton to come out in the studio with him and help him by cueing him where to come in and speak his verses.

Rod actually wrote three verses for “Thriller”, for Vincent to do. We recorded all three but only used two. I have that unused verse in my tapes somewhere. Vincent experienced a huge resurgence in his career commensurate with the incredible success of “Thriller”.

About six months after the release of “Thriller”, Vincent appeared on the “Johnny Carson, Tonight” show. He talked about being in Paris and walking down the street and having a group of young people recognize him and chase him down the street to get his autograph.

To me, the miraculous thing about the Vincent Price ‘Rap” on “Thriller”, is that Rod Temperton wrote a brilliant ...Edger Allan Poe style spiel...in the Taxi-cab on the way to the session! When the chips are down, that’s when you find out what true genius is all about!

Of course, speaking of unquestionable genius...Vincent’s performance was remarkable! Obviously, Vincent Price was in his element on “Thriller”...timing, inflection...and he did it in two takes! Michael’s vocals are more than wonderful as well... what an experience!

[top]I have noticed that many of the classic and older Jazz recordings from the 40's and 50's, especially Capitol Studios, including Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Others include Decca and Okeh recordings of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. These recordings have so much depth that you can walk around inside them for days. To me many modern recordings, I just bounce off the surface as I approach listening. There's very little or no depth at all. And these recordings still hold up extremely well as audio benchmarks for comparison. What do you think happened? Could it be the room? Could it be everyone playing together? Minimal mic setup? Or could it be a different era in recording practices that will never return? - donnie7

I'm not so sure that I can totally agree with you on this subject of the recordings of the 1940's and 1950's...I am not so crazy about the recorded sound of the classic and older jazz recordings from the 40's and 50's...music recording studios in the middle-1940's....

I have been involved, as a professional in music recording, since the days of the Big Bands, through the present time. During that period, I have seen many fascinating technological changes in this industry. The first, and probably most memorable change I personally witnessed, was the switch from direct- to-disc recording format, in the early 1950’s‚ to magnetic tape recording format.

I'll never forget that day, in 1952, when the first high quality, professional, magnetic tape machine came into my life. I was working at Schmitt Music Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota as recording engineer in their small, but excellent recording facility. A big truck backed up to the loading dock and delivered an Ampex Model 401 monaural tape machine. After trying a few edits, splices, and some other experiments, it was very apparent to me that this wonderous new machine was going to be a big part of my new life in the studio!

We need to study the history of recorded music before we can develop the future. In other words, I think it's very important for each of us involved in the production of recorded music, to understand what happened in the past, in the studio, to be able to move forward today.

Here are some important facts and dates in the evolution of Music Recording Studios and the Music Recording Medium from the middle 1940's. Many of the facts are from personal experience. I will also use details from a paper presented by Milton T. 'Bill' Putnam at the 66th convention of the Audio Engineering Society in May of 1980 (With Bills kind permission). I will try to describe the part that record companies and the allied music industries played in this evolution.

In the mid-1940's, as World War Two ended, 'major' labels dominated the recording industry. They were Columbia Records, RCA Victor, Decca Records and the younger, up-and-coming, Capitol Records. In 1946 Mercury Records(now Phonogram) came into being in Chicago and by 1948 was an important label. MGM Records came on the scene at about the same time. There were a few small independent labels but they had little impact on the record industry as a whole.

In 1947 more and more "independent" record labels came into being. These small labels specialized in certain types of music and their product was aimed specifically at these markets. Here are a few of the areas of music that the independent labels suppliedRhythm and Blues.(frequently called 'Race' records at the time), Country Music, Religious and Gospel music, Spiritual Music.(southern black singing groups.), Jazz and Skating Rink music.

The studios and facilities of all the major record companies were quite similar in design and scope. The studio processes and the internal discipline of the studios was quite rigid. The studio atmosphere and decor was very clinical and institutional. The recording rooms were fairly large but the control rooms were quite small. The operational policies, as far as recording technique, within each label, or company, was quite inflexible. In 1946 the distribution of the recording facilities was as follows:
  • 1- RCA had studios in New York, Chicago and Hollywood. In 1957 I worked for RCA at their studios in Chicago.
  • 2-Decca had studios in New York, Chicago and Hollywood. (In 1947 Decca began using Universal Studios in Chicago.)
  • 3- Columbia owned their own studios in New York. They used the WBBM(CBS) Radio studios in Chicago and then later they used Radio Recorders Recording Studios in Hollywood.
  • 4- In 1947 Capitol Records had its own studios on Melrose, in Hollywood, in the old Don Lee Network Building. Capitol built studios in New York in 1953.
In 1946 there were not very many independent recording studios that were well known.
  • 1- In Hollywood, Radio Recorders was the leader.
  • 2- In Chicago, in 1946, Universal Studios was founded and by 1947 was well known throughout the industry.
  • 3- In New York, Bob Doherty and Doug Hawkins operated the WOR Radio Recording Studios, and recorded for many of the independents of the time. Soon after came Bob Fine Studios and then Fulton and Gotham Studios.
  • 4- In 1956 Capitol Records built the famous 'Capitol-Tower' building in Hollywood. The studios in this historic building represent a distinct advance in the technique of music recording studio design. Mr. Michael Rettinger used the latest "State-of-the-Art" acoustical techniques in the design of these beautiful-sounding rooms. He used a variable room reverberation time treatment with large hinged splays to change the reverb time in the studio.
  • 5- Nashville came onto the scene later as an independent recording center with Owen Bradley's ‘Barn' studio paving the way.
Sound on records

For most of the late 1940's and early 1950's the major labels continued to record most of their 'pop' music acts with their traditional, highly disciplined techniques. The music groups signed to the label were required to record in the labels facilities.

Columbia Records was the first of the 'major' labels to allow musicians and technicians outside the controlled studio environment and attempt to get a more 'live' sound on record. They used the beautiful sounding Liederkranz Hall in New York for some big band recordings. The sound of this elegant, big room on those records was a giant step forward from the 'pinched', narrow, little studio sound of the day.

Some highly successful records were made about the same time in England by pop artists such as 'Mantovani', and The Richard Himber Orchestra. These lovely sounding recordings are fine examples of the large hall 'open' sound.

Not long after Columbia's pioneering efforts to improve recorded sound, RCA began using Webster Hall in New York to record the 'Sauter-Finnegan' Orchestra. These records are outstanding examples of this type of sonic advancement.

Decca followed by using 'Pythian Temple' in New York. I remember visiting 'Pythian Temple' in 1956 at the invitation of Decca Records A and R director Leonard Joy. I did many happy hours of sessions with Leonard Joy, in Minneapolis and Chicago both. In Minneapolis I recorded the 'Whoopee John' Wilfhart Polka Band, for Decca Records with Leonard as producer. In Chicago, I recorded the Jan Garber Orchestra and the Wayne King Orchestra for Decca with Leonard Joy as producer.

I was absolutely knocked out with the idea of recording with a big room sound, but I distinctly remember, in 1957, thinking to myself, that Big Bands were definitely on the way out and that this big room technique was not going to last for long. It didn't.

I think this effort, on the part of band leaders, record producers, musicians and technicians, to record a deliberately more reverberant sonic image played a big part in the development of the 'echo' chamber.

Acoustical treatment of the label studios of the day was fairly 'dead'. My early days in Chicago at RCA, were spent working in recording rooms that were quite typical of that era. Acoustical treatment mainly consisted of drapes, acoustic tile, polycylindrical diffusers on the walls and carpeting on the floors. Some of the music studios had an area of floor that was wood or tile in a half-hearted attempt at some 'live' space. Most of the attention of the acoustical technicians of the era was to 'deaden' rooms with a great deal of soft material.

This made the reverb time in the high and mid-frequency range quite short and gave a fairly 'dead' effect to the resultant sound. Little if any attention was given to the middle-low and the low frequency end of the spectrum. This fact, I think, contributes to the 'muddy' and 'unseparated' sound of many of the recordings of that day. Recordings made during and prior to the mid 1940's had little apparent separation of the instruments in the sonic image for this very same reason.

This deadening of the high frequencies and lack of attention to the low-frequency absorption of music recording rooms resulted in a great deal of secondary pick-up by the microphones used during sessions.(Secondary pick-up is the sound that a microphone picks up of the instruments that are not in it's intended hearing pattern.)

[top]What is your approach to capturing early reflections along with the source? - duane

First let’s talk a bit about Reverberation and Echoes...

Most of the time we are unaware of how much of the sound that we hear comes from reflections from environmental surfaces. Even when we are out of doors, a significant amount of sonic energy is reflected back to the ears by the ground and nearby structures. Even by surrounding vegetation. We only begin to notice these reflections when the time delay is more than about 30- to 50-ms, in which case we become consciously aware of their individual sounds and call them echoes.

Special rooms called anechoic chambers are built as research rooms to absorb reflected sound energy. In an anechoic chamber, in a test situation, only the directly radiated sound energy reaches the ears.

Upon entering an anechoic chamber for the first time, most people are astonished by how much softer and duller any sound source sounds. If reflected sound is so common in an ordinary acoustic environment, I’ve always wondered why these reflections don’t interfere with our ability to localize sound sources. I guess it’s because our binaural hearing sense can quickly adapt to a new acoustic environment. I do know that our hearing system uses only partially understood mechanisms to suppress the effects of reflections and reverberation.

The fact that we localize sound sources on the basis of which signals reach our ears first, is known as the precedence effect. This is not to say that we are unaware of the reflections that follow. Actually, we subconsciously use the subsequent reflections to estimate range, or the distance we are from the sound source. In my opinion, a music producer/engineer is no better than his tools. Our main tools are, of course, a good pair of ears and the wonderful brain to which the ears are connected. If the hearing is faulty, only faulty judgments can result. Please try and remember that good hearing is a rare and wonderful gift.

Now, let's talk about acoustical support.

At this point I think I should say that I feel that the best way to develop your ears' 'benchmark' is to hear good acoustical music in a fine acoustical setting. How many of you get out and hear ‘live’ music on a regular basis! It’s very important! Let's talk about acoustical support as it relates to music...All music is conceived to be heard with some sort of acoustical support.

This does not necessarily mean long "Concert-Hall" type reverberation. It can mean very short, closely-spaced early reflections and minimal reverb content. Both of those components comprise acoustical support. Once we know what music sounds like in a natural setting with good quality acoustical support, we can then take that "Audio Benchmark" and through our work, give our sonic images our own distinctly personal touch.

An engineer, or producers’, listening ability does not descend on him in a single flash of inspiration. It is built up by countless, individual listening experiences. So let's make a real effort to hear the music and sound with as open a mind as possible. One of our most important abilities as a professional listener is judging balance. So let's consider balance as the first thing to listen for today. The balance of the instruments of The orchestra in classical music, in a classical recording environment, is the sole responsibility of the conductor. In our work, recording music, that responsibility is transferred to us. It doesn't matter whether The orchestra is acoustic instruments or whether The orchestra is represented by a synthesizer. We must be able to judge balance. Over a long period of time, if we have the native ability, we will develop a seemingly uncanny sense of hearing nuances of balance and sound that would pass unnoticed by the inexperienced.

[top]Did you ever meet Billy Strayhorn? - brad347

Yes, I worked with Billy Strayhorn in 1960 with Duke Ellington in Chicago...I think it was in 1960 at Universal...fantastic experience!!!

Billy "Sweet Pea" Strayhorn lived a tremendously productive life. He influenced many people that he met, and yet remained very modest and unassuming all the while. For a time he coached Lena Horne in classical music to broaden her knowledge and improve her style of singing. He toured the world with Ellington's band and for a brief time lived in Paris. Strayhorn's own music is internationally known and honored. It has been translated in French and Swedish. Great guy!!!

About Quincy Jones

[top]The story I've read (which I'm sure Bruce can confirm or deny) was that James was the demo/scratch vocalist for "Just Once" used by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who REALLY wrote the song. When Quincy heard the demo he obviously appreciated the lack of need to change the vocalist. - Mikey MTC

Yes, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote "Just Once". And James Ingram sang the demo vocal. TRUE STORY...that's how Quincy and I found this incredible song, and incredibly nice guy, top-drawer vocalist, James Ingram. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil sent us the demo of "Just Once". Quincy and I listened to it, looked at each other and said, "What A Great Song!!!" AND, what a great singer!

Here's a little James Ingram story...

When we were working on "Just Once", in order for James to have uninterrupted time to learn the song properly, and vocalize on "Just Once", he drove his Volkswagen, all by himself, all over Los Angeles with the track for "Just Once" in his cassette player in the dashboard of his little VW, singing his heart out! True Story!!

OK kiddies...pull up a nice chair...get comfortable...I may get a little windy here...

Quincy Jones shows up at Universal Recording Studios...

I first met Quincy Jones in 1959 at Universal Recording Studios In Chicago. Quincy was about 23, I had just turned 22. Quincy was a vice-president of Mercury records. He was the youngest executive with a major label in the industry, and Quincy was the only black executive with a major label in the entire industry.

When we met at Universal Studios in Chicago we were recording a Dinah Washington album for Mercury records. Quincy wrote the arrangements and a guy by the name of Jack Tracy produced the album. So we spent a lot of time together. Probably for the next 2-3 years doing Mercury projects. We did something for Norman Granz and a bunch of different labels.

We think alike and our tastes are alike in a lot of things. In simple terms, we like to work together. So we did a lot of wonderful projects in Chicago.... Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn and several other things too. One of the things that's really important to me is the way Quincy and I work in the studio. We have a lot of fun while we're doing a project - and I think it shows in the music. Also, we both love good food.

Then Quincy went to France, Sweden and a lot of other countries in Europe. After that he moved to New York, so we lost track of each other for quite a few years. In 1975 we hooked up again in Los Angeles. We did a couple of Brothers Johnson album for A & M, and an album with Lesley Gore and George Benson. Also of course, we did a few Quincy Jones albums.

We also did the music for the Hit Television series “Roots”. In 1976 while we were in New York working together on the “Wiz, The Movie '' we met Michael Jackson.

A lot of people comment when they see Quincy and I working in the studio together, that we don't talk much, and I guess we really don't. When you really think about it, we've been together so long that a lot of it is just like a sixth sense. We know how each other's minds work.

Quincy Jones fixes lunch...

Sometimes when we work on a project, if we are really fortunate, Quincy will take it upon himself to personally fix our lunch!!! It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, what a great experience! It takes Quincy 45 minutes to make a chicken sandwich - he'll get the chicken - have it sent over from Greenblatt's Deli or somewhere, and get the butter and the mayo. Then he'll take a piece of bread, and spread the butter and mayo, very, very carefully on every little square inch of the bread. He goes about that just the way he does with his music. Every square millimeter is perfectly covered with butter and mayo! Then the chicken has to be all torn apart in exactly the same sized little pieces, and fitted just right on the bread. So, it's great fun! .. Somehow it’s always made great sense to me, if you’ve had the privilege to watch Quincy Jones make you a chicken sandwich. When you do you will know why his musical integrity is total! It’s all about the details! It's just fantastic!

Want some more???? Let me know...

[top]Your work with Quincey had a profound effect on me. It was the combination of recording quality and musicianship in those tunes that got me hooked on engineering and producing in the first place. .I love to hear about the situations. characters and personalities behind all those great records because as a kid I certainly imagined my own while listening. (Back then, I always had Rod Temperton figured out as a cool young black fella too!) - Allstar

More About Quincy Jones...

Here's some more. Are you getting bored yet? I have more, that comes to mind now, if you want...

Pull up that nice chair again... get comfortable...I may get even a little more windy here...

I am an only child. I never had a sister or a brother. If I could have anyone that I could think of, for a brother, that brother would be Quincy Jones. I don't mean "brother", in the rhetorical manner. I mean brother in the familial way. That doesn't mean that Q and I have always agreed with each other.

We have had heated arguments resulting from differences of opinion between us. I don't think that brothers always agree either. What has made our relationship last is the fact that true friendship, such as ours, is based on mutual respect. I have the ultimate respect for Quincy, on a musical and a personal level.

And I think he feels the same about me. Quincy Jones is the kind of friend that you could call in the middle of the night, with your most personal problem, either real or imagined, and he would come to your rescue, and your life would be on the right track again. I guess what I am trying to say is that I truly love Quincy. In addition, almost everything that I treasure, that I know about recording good music, I have learned from my pal Quincy Jones.

Quincy Jones once said about music and how it works on emotions...

"To get out of whatever was distasteful, unpleasant, uncomfortable or painful - music could always sooth that. You just crawl in that world and reach into that black hole and grab something beautiful, and it will take you away from all of that."

Quincy is great fun to be with. In the studio or anywhere. For instance, he loves good food. He loves fine wine. Therefore Jones and I have a lot in common without going further. Quincy is an authority on the culinary arts. He can also make the most incredible lemon meringue pie you have ever tasted! I think if Q wouldn't have been a giant in the world of music, he would have been one of the world's foremost chefs.

When you are with Q, there is a constant parade of notables passing through the studio. We might be doing an overdub session and I look up and there is Ray Charles sitting in the corner of the control room digging the proceedings, or Jesse Jackson, or Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie or someone equally famous.

Quincy and I are almost the same age. Actually, Quincy is 13 months older than I am. I have been very careful to point out the fact that I am younger than Q, not only to Quincy, but to anyone else, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Quincy’s approach to his music is Kaleidoscopic...

Like Duke Ellington, Quincy's instrument for musical expression is the orchestra. If I were asked to use one unique label for describing Quincy’s approach to his music, I would have to use the term “Kaleidoscopic”. I would say that the terms “Fluid” and “Buoyant” also come to my mind when I think of the music that we have recorded together. Quincy’s way of taking a single piece of music, and making it appear to the ear a certain way on the first listen, and then having a different element in the music to bewitch one’s ear on the next listen through, is probably ‘Q’s most unique production technique.

Both Quincy and I love the extraordinary personalities that individual musicians exhibit. The musicians that we have had the good fortune to work with over the years are known mainly for their fantastic quality as performers. They are not necessarily known for being timely in their arrival at the studio. For a few years Quincy and I kept a big yellow legal pad with us in the studio, with all the excuses written down, that our musician friends came up with for being late to the session, or not able to get to the studio at all. We were absolutely amazed by the originality and depth of thought that went into these lame excuses.

We were also amazed by the sheer amount of them. We developed an excuse list. We assigned numbers to them. After a couple of years of sessions we were up to one hundred or more. Of course, there could be several variations on a single theme. For those we gave them a number and then a letter. Here’s a couple of outstanding examples:

Excuse number 55A wasThe bus was being robbed in front of my house and I couldn't get out of my driveway."

Excuse number 55B was "There was a parade going by in front of my house and I couldn't get out of my driveway."

Excuse number 55C was"They were fixing the street in front of my house and I couldn't get out of my driveway."

Excuse number 11 was"I can't make the session on Tuesday, because Tuesday is the day I get my jewelry cleaned."

Q and I were in New York a few years ago, recording an incredible rhythm section for one of our album projects. We had the studio and the guys booked to start at noon. I was all set up and ready to go by 11:30 a.m. Quincy got to the studio at 11:45 a.m. We sat around and talked about music, the project, what we were going to eat for lunch, what we were going to eat for supper, all the important things.

2:00 p.m. in the afternoon, no musicians. 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon, still no musicians. At 7:00 p.m. the control room 'phone rang. Quincy answered. It was the drummer, he said "Yo, Q...I'm going to be a little late,(pause for effect)...the weirdest thing happened to me, I had an epileptic seizure, but I'll take a cold shower, and I'll be right over".

Quincy Jones learns to drive a car...

It has always amazed me that Quincy Jones never learned to drive a car. He definitely has tried to learn. Here’s the straight story. When Quincy moved to California from New York he said to all his pals, "I live in sunny California now, where everyone drives. I simply must learn to drive a car!" So Q went out one day and enrolled in a well-known Los Angeles driving school and took driving lessons.

At the end of the 13 week course, Quincy passed the written test with flying colors. In fact, he got a 100% perfect score! Quincy thought to himself, “Wow, piece of cake! I thought this would be tough!” Then came the time for his driving test...he failed the drivers license road test, and nearly gave the man testing him a heart attack. In fact, right after Q’s road test, the gentleman who ran the driving school, took Quincy in the back room and gave him all his money back! He said to Quincy “Mr. Jones, I don’t want you out on the streets trying to drive a car!” , (All the students went through the 13 week course, passed and got their driver's license, except Quincy.) When we all asked Q how he did at the Driving Academy, Quincy said "I can't get it together because the stop lights don't fall on down beats' '. ha! ha! So that's that! Quincy doesn't drive - so I end up driving him home a lot. He hired somebody to drive his car. So he's safe!

For someone who doesn't drive, I think Q really, genuinely enjoys owning a car. As long as I've known him he has always taken great pride in owning an automobile. He always buys his cars himself. He spends a lot of time looking at the automobile brochures. He brings the brochures to the studio and we all pour over them and try to give him advice on which car will be best for him. He is very fussy about the color, the interior, the stereo, and all the things that make owning a car fun.

When we were in Westlake's beautiful new studio recording the Michael Jackson 'Bad' album, Quincy decided to buy a new car. He had been through his four-wheel drive phase, and told me it was time for him to have a nice big sedan again. This time he wanted dignity in an automobile.

He had been to look at various models of sedans, we had looked at all the brochures together, and he finally decided on an absolutely gorgeous big, black, four-door Jaguar.

One Monday morning, at Westlake Studios in Hollywood, just before the session was to start, Quincy came charging into the control room, and announced to everyone that his new 'ride' had just been delivered. He said"Come on guys, I got my new sports (Car). I’m going to take you for a ride!".

Everyone in the control room looked at each other in horror. As I remember it was Rod Temperton (another no-driver), Jerry Hey, I can't remember who else, maybe Herbie Hancock, Craig Johnson and myself.

Of course we were all well acquainted with 'Q's driving history. We followed him out to the studio parking lot and there was his elegant and gleaming new car, sparkling in the sun.

Quincy was jingling the keys in one hand and motioned for us to get in with the other. Everyone got in the car and securely fastened his seat-belt. Quincy started the motor, revved it up, turned on the stereo, cranked up the volume, ran the electric windows up and down, revved up the motor again, opened the electric sun-roof, bounced up and down in the front seat a little, revved up the motor again a couple of times, and then turned off the key. Everything got very quiet. You could have heard a pin drop! Q turned to us and said "Happenin' ain't it!". We never left the parking lot!

Hangin’ With Q

When you’re hangin’ with Q, you will always have a good time. Quincy is one of those guys that when he comes into the room everything changes. His presence is felt without saying a word.

Partyin’ With Q

Going anywhere with Quincy is a real party. Of course Quincy loves good Food and great French wine, I mean what's not to love... I've traveled quite a bit with Quincy, we'd be in New York or wherever, working on a picture, or a record or something, and he's been out to dinner and found some bottle of French wine that he absolutely loves. He holds it in his arms like a cherished baby... I've been with him getting on an airplane and he’s carrying this god damn half-full bottle of wine on the plane with him! It’s embarrassing! You're not supposed to do that, you’re not supposed to bring your own wine with you on an airplane! But of course being Quincy Jones, the stewardesses smile warmly, and pour the wine for him! Soon lunch comes, Quincy smacks his lips in anticipation, and finishes up his treasured wine.

Driving Q and Roddy Home

Rod Temperton, there's another one that never learned to drive a car. You should see Quincy and Rod when we're done with a session, it’s maybe two or three in the morning, and they both put on this sad little face. I call their ‘Waif’ look. These two guys are masters at this... Making you feel sorry for them, so you absolutely have to drive them home. Of course, I'm always happy to drive them home....

Add a little garlic salt to the sound...

I think the way Quincy and I work in the studio is a bit unique - A Lot of people comment when they see Quincy and I working in the studio, is that we don't talk much. I guess we really don't. When you really think about it, we've been working together so long, that a lot of it is just like a sixth sense. We know how each other's minds work. One of the things that's really important to me is that we have a lot of fun while we're doing a project - and I think it shows in the music. The fact that we both dearly love good food is important to the way we relate to each other. Quincy says that all the good food that we have in the studio goes in the music.

A lot of our conversation, a lot of the way Quincy describes musical values, is to use culinary terms...for instance Quincy will say "ok that sounds great...but add a little spice to that sound or add a little garlic salt or something", and instinctively I'll know what he's talking about.

When Quincy asks me to make the sound a little spicy, it means add a little bit of high end, or you might want to add a harmonizer to the sound source, or add a little special effect to it or something. Q has told me that the music will tell you when it need a bit of garlic salt.

Everything good that I’ve learned about recording music, or about the ethics of music, came from my experiences with Quincy Jones. Especially about the esthetics of musical quality.

I’m a very fortunate guy, I went to the University of Quincy Jones! If you think about it - who is there else like Quincy? I mean he's totally one of a kind. There's no one else.

[top]Did it take, til Quincy and Michael said "Yeah, that's it". 5? 20? 50? This question is directed to Thriller and Off the Wall.

And how was the work schedule? Was everything figured out before or did you have to redo certain passages, cause someone had a better idea or wanted to have the bridge 2 bars longer etc? Could you guys react, when a player had a good idea?

And who had the idea with Eddie van Halen? Did he record in your studio or was he sending a tape? Is the solo really cut together?
- by kosi

I'll make this as short as I can...

First item that I want to make perfectly clear, there is no one on earth better to work with than Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and Rod Temperton...

Our work schedule is usually as follows----->I start at 12:00 noon.... Get everything ready to go... Quincy comes in at 1:00 pm... With Rod Temperton in tow. Quincy and Rod almost always arrive together because neither one of them can drive a car.... they both come to the studio with Quincy's driver... Michael comes in when we need him...

It was Quincy's idea to have Eddie play on "Beat It". Eddie Van Halen is absolutely fantastic!!! We recorded Eddie in my studio. I hired Eddie's engineer. Great guy. Can't remember his name, but I do remember he did a wonderful job!!! Also, I didn't want to subject my ears to that kind of volume level!!!

Here's a photo of the first day of "Off The Wall"...

[top]It's an honor to have you here Bruce! Keep posting old pictures - OHA

Here's the story that goes with that photo above...Rod Temperton

I can remember first meeting Rod Temperton like it happened yesterday. It really stands out in my mind. It was in 1978 and we were beginning work in Los Angeles on Michael Jackson’s album “Off The Wall”.

Rod is quite different from anyone else I have ever known. He is an extremely disciplined composer. When he comes to the studio to work, every single small musical detail is on paper or accounted for in Rod’s mind. He won’t take a day off, or even much of a break, until he feels confident that the music he has brought to life, is happy and healthy, and able to breathe on it’s own. He is a giant in the industry.

Quincy asked me to check out the “HeatWave” album that was such a big success at the time. He said that “HeatWave” was Rod Temperton’s band, and that we were going to be working on Michael’s new album with Rod. So I listened to his stuff on the “HeatWave” record. Wow! I simply loved Rod’s musical feeling. Everything about it! It was a good band, but the concept of Roddy’s arrangements, and tunes, was exceedingly hip. Rod Temperton shone through the music on that album like a bright shining light.

Rod is from Grimsby, England. When he first came into our lives, everyone I talked to in the recording business knew of him from his music with ‘HeatWave”. Quincy said that he was amazed by the fact that Rod had all of the urban values, including all the ghetto stuff, in place in his music. He very obviously knew American R & B ‘Pop” music. He’d been hanging out in the American Army camps playing music, and had been listening to a steady diet of “Radio Free Europe.” Rod had been absorbing music style and sounds like a sponge. They all thought that Rod was a black man. When the musicians met Rod Temperton for the first time they all made the comment, “I thought you were Young and Black, why you’re Old and White!”

That first day we met (it was a Saturday morning), I was already at Allen Zentz Recording Studio waiting for Rod and Quincy to come from LAX. Rod had flown all night on the ‘Red-eye” from New York. He was working with our old pal Phil Ramone on a new “Heatwave” album. I think at about the same time he was also working on an album with Karen Carpenter.

When Quincy’s car pulled into the parking lot at the studio, Quincy and his driver were in the front seat. In the back seat was this exhausted-looking dude in a wrinkled trench coat. His eyes were red-rimmed with fatigue, and he was staring into space. A Marlboro cigarette with a three inch ash was dangling from his lower lip. That was my first impression of Rod Temperton. I can see it like it was yesterday.

Rod is Brilliant!

The number of mixes that I do varies greatly with the project. "Thriller" was one that sticks out in my mind. 10 mixes to 110 mixes or more...that really doesn't matter to me.

When I mix with Michael and Quincy and Rod, I am pretty much left to myself...until I have a mix that is ready for "Q, MJ and Roddy" to listen to...

That works really well. "Thriller" was no exception. I called the guys into the control room and played my mix of "Thriller". I thought I had it nailed.

UNTIL...Quincy reached in his bag and gave me this horrible, beat-up looking cassette with no plastic cover, a bunch of chicken-fat stains on it... It was the rough mix that I had done the day we recorded the track for "Thriller..."Quincy said... "Listen to this!!!"

HOLY COW!!! It totally blew away my mix that I thought was so great...and a G-- D--- Cassette too!!!

Altec Lansing 21B

[top]Could you tell us some of the applications where you might use your Altec "Coke Bottle" microphone(s)? - Silvertone

Great Question!!!!! I don't use any of my Altec Condenser Mics anymore. I have four (4) 21b (Coke Bottle) mikes and Two (2) Power supplies for them. I also have four (4) 21c (Lipstick) Altec Condenser Mics and two (2) Power supplies for them.

I used to use my 21b (Coke Bottle) mike as a very close Bass mike. I would wrap the end of the mike holder in foam and then stick that in the Bridge of the bass. This would position the microphone capsule right under the fingerboard of the Bass. Wow what a sound!!!

The 21b was one of the only American-made super high quality condenser mics.

[top]So why, since you seem to like them so much, do you not use them anymore? What do you use now, instead? - Rascal Audio

I LOVE MY ALTEC 21D MICROPHONES, BUT...they desperately need to be re-capped. They are in basically fine condition but much too noisy for me to use as they are now. Someday I'll talk to someone qualified to work on them...(Like Martin Kantola...)

They are FINE AMERICAN-MADE Omni-directional microphones. Their low-end is remarkable!!!
I have many superb omni-directional microphones. Like my matched pair of B & K 4006's, for instance...

[top]What is your scenario when you start a mix? All faders down - all faders up? Is there any specific order of instruments, colors, elements that you follow while building up the mix?What's the typical swedien way of approaching a mix? - denne

Here's what I call "Music Mixing - The Short Story"...

I’ve always felt that music mixing is, in reality, an extension of arranging. I think that gut reactions translated to music recordings are the most believable. Therefore, it follows that music mixing has to be entirely instinctive and intuitive. To be working on a piece of music, and then having to stop the creative flow, to think through a technical function, is absolutely impossible for me.

The comprehensive strength of a powerful automation system enhances my creative energy by providing new working options.

One of the features I always look for in any desk is if it has the capacity to free my creative process. I'm much more impressed by being able to put myself and my imagination into the music, than I am about any specific technical feature on the desk itself.

Beyond the technology and the studio environment, is the love of music itself that defines my approach to my projects. I think music is really the only true magic in life. If I can't put my imagination into the music and create a sound field that exists first in my mind, and is not necessarily pre-thought, I will most definitely have a difficult time with a project. If the technology gets in the way of my imagination, I get very quickly bored and I’ll frequently start yawning. For me, as you can see, reacting to the sound of the music is enormously important.

Of course, that's the SHORT STORY...

[top]What advice would you give to budding engineers given the current state of the industry: downloads, cheaper recording mediums and corporate music models. Have you been through a similar period that we are currently in or facing? - TML

Great question...I wondered when it would come up...

Music Recording In The New Millenium

What’s music recording going to be like in the new millenium? That's pretty hard to say without a high-resolution, digital, Crystal Ball. I wish I could tell you, with some degree of certainty, what the New Millennium has in store for recorded music. What I can tell you with wholehearted confidence is, that I am not frightened of the future...never have been.

I'm excited about the future of digital recording as it applies to music. I think the line of distinction between digital and analogue recording methods when used for music recording is fast beginning to fade. The new Digital Audio Workstations offer not only incredible flexibility but the sound quality has improved tremendously! That's exciting!

I’ve been around the block a couple of times. I’ve seen our beloved music recording business go through some critical changes. What I find most promising now, is that musicians, bands and composers have easy access to recording technology that is far better than at any time in the past. I have a strong belief that the music recording business is going to be put back in the hands of the people that truly love music for music’s sake.

Music has always seemed to be organic in myself. I think it's that way, to some degree, in the soul of every human being. That’s why I’m confident that recorded music in the new millennium will emerge at least as strong and healthy as in the previous. However, I do think that recorded music will always be a wonderful area to work in, in the future, as long as we keep the melody in focus. The song is the important thing. Keep that in mind and we can't go wrong.

HOWEVER - Don't expect it to LOOK like it did last year or the year before!!!

[top]Would you care to let us in on how you approached mixing “Liberian Girl”

1. the background vocals (thick, present, powerful yet unobtrusive, not getting in the way)

2. the many layers of synths and how you usually deal with those. - RaGe

I LOVE LIBERIAN GIRL!!! There is something very special about that song!!! “Liberian Girl” is one of my absolute favorites of all the music that I've done with Michael. Who could think of a thing like that, except Michael Jackson...it’s astounding...the imagery, and everything else in it, it’s just an amazing fantasy.

I love the intro...Quincy had Leta M’Bulu say, "NAKU PENDA PIYA - NAKU TAKA PIYA - MPENZIWE", in Zulu, in the intro and in every turn-around...I think that sexy, little speaking line gave the “Liberian Girl” an identity in this wonderful song...really nice...Michaels vocals on “Liberian Girl” are absolutely stellar! The lead, and the big, block background harmonies. Wow!!!

I am one lucky Dude!!!

Of all the music I have recorded, over the years, I am proudest of Michaels’ albums. Not only "Off The Wall", "Thriller" and "Bad", but “Dangerous”, “HIStory”, “Invincible”, and all the rest of the fantastic music that Michael, Quincy and I have recorded together. Am I a lucky dude, or what???

JBL 4310

[top]I saw your JBL 4310-11 monitors in your Book (page 158). Which Album & song are you mixing in that picture with them? - Lexicon200

Great!!! You are actually reading my book!!!! Wonderful!!!

Don't EVER confuse a JBL 4310 with a JBL 4311. Very different! The 4311 is pure dog-doo...on the photo on page 158 that is one of my JBL 4310's. I had at least three pairs of JBL 4310's at the time. I eventually wore them all out!

Of course I had two on top of the console at the time...

By The Way - That cute guy behind me in that photo is none other than Ed Cherney...he was working as my assistant then...fantastic young dude, by the way...

[top]Will you please give us your word on the haas effect and using effects like stereo spread by panning the same mono sound left and right and pitching one side up and the other down. - vaesion

Good topic! HOWEVER...I see a definite tendency here in folks trying too much to come up with something unique with the Nutz And Boltz of our craft and far too little effort is placed in the uniqueness of our own imagination in music recording!!!

To continue...

The Haas Effect

The Haas effect can be used to overcome directional masking. Haas says that, in general, echoes occurring within approximately 40ms of the direct sound become fused with the direct sound. We say that the echo becomes "one" with the direct sound, and only a loudness enhancement occurs.

A very important corollary to the Haas effect says that fusion (and loudness enhancement) will occur even if the closely-timed echo comes from a different direction than the original source. However, the brain will continue to recognize (binaurally) the location of the original sound as the proper direction of the source. The Haas effect allows nearby echoes (up to approximately 40ms delay, typically 30ms) to enhance an original sound without confusing its directionality. We can take advantage of the Haas effect to naturally and effectively convert an existing 2-channel recording to a 4-channel or surround medium. When remixing, place a discrete delay in the surround speakers to enhance and extract the original ambience from a previously recorded source! No artificial reverberator is needed if there is sufficient reverberation in the original source. Here's how it works:

Because of the Haas effect, the ear fuses the delayed sound with the original sound, and still perceives the direct sound as coming from the front speakers. But this does not apply to ambience--ambience will be spread, diffused between the location of the original sound and the delay (in the surround speakers). Thus, the Haas effect only works for correlated material; uncorrelated material (such as natural reverberation) is extracted, enhanced, and spread directionally. Dolby laboratories calls this effect "the magic surround," for they discovered that natural reverberation was extracted to the rear speakers when a delay was applied to them. Dolby also uses an L minus R matrix to further enhance the separation. The wider the bandwidth of the surround system and the more diffuse its character, the more effective the psychoacoustic extraction of ambience to the surround speakers.

Of course there's more to the Haas effect than this simple explanation. To become proficient in using Haas in mixing, study the original papers on the various fusion effects at different delay and amplitude ratios.

May I first caution you!!! Something like The Haas Effect, IN NO WAY surpasses what you can add to your music mixing and recording, by developing your "SONIC PERSONALITY"!!! It should be understood, but don't think that it's a big deal in music recording!!! The Haas Effect is available to essentially everyone on the planet!! Your own "SONIC PERSONALITY" is YOURS AND YOURS ALONE!!!

Haas' Relationship to Natural Environments

We may say that the shorter echoes which occur in a natural environment (from nearby wall and floor) are correlated with the original sound, as they have a direct relationship. The longer reverberation is uncorrelated; it is what we call the ambience of a room. Most dead recording studios have little or no ambient field, and the deadest studios have only a few perceptible early reflections to support and enhance the original sound.

In a good stereo recording, the early correlated room reflections are captured with their correct placement; they support the original sound, help us locate the sound source as to distance and do not interfere with left-right orientation. The later uncorrelated reflections, which we call reverberation, naturally contribute to the perception of distance, but because they are uncorrelated with the original source the reverberation does not help us locate the original source in space. This fact explains why the multitrack mixing engineer discovers that adding artificial reverberation to a dry, single-miked instrument may deteriorate the sense of location of that instrument. If the recording engineer uses stereophonic miking techniques and a liver room instead, capturing early reflections on two tracks of the multitrack, the remix engineer will need less artificial reverberation and what little they ad can be done convincingly.

Using Frequency Response to Simulate Depth

Another contributor to the sense of distance in a natural acoustic environment is the absorption qualities of air. As the distance from a sound source increases, the apparent high frequency response is reduced. This provides another tool which the recording engineer can use to simulate distance, as our ears have been trained to associate distance with high-frequency rolloff.

An interesting experiment is to alter a treble control while playing back a good orchestral recording.

Notice how the apparent front-to-back depth of the orchestra changes considerably as you manipulate the high frequencies.

AWWWW....Big Deal!!!!

[top]I watched your video and observed you using some very expensive Neumann condenser microphones, as well as some probably lower priced Audio-Technica condenser mics. I recall you referring to one particular AT pencil mic as "fantastic". Would you be so kind as to recommend a comprehensive set of microphones that someone recording rock and pop music on an "AT" budget could benefit the most from? - Slap Back

I believe that most of the time, No All The Time... The words affordable and Good don't relate, I know this sounds elitist, but I firmly believe that is how it is!!! I don't think that money can talk to music..yes, I am a spoiled old foof!!! Big Deal!!!

I have NEVER compromised my ideals when it comes to music recording. I always buy or build THE VERY BEST!!!

In 1954, when Bea and I were first married, I told her one day, "Honey, we have to buy two Telefunken U-47 microphones so I can continue progress in my work... The problem is they will cost $390.00 each" (that was an absolute fortune then). Of course she asked me "Why Two???" and I explained to her how excited I was about the future and most of all STEREO! She said, "Of course, let's do it!!!"

When we were first married on January 9th, 1953, we had $35.00, and a 1939 Dodge Sedan to our name. That was IT! We bought the two Telefunkens, and...read my BOOKS!!!


[top]Dear Bruce, you're absolutely right, but don't you think there are some pretty neat sounding 'budget' mics out there? - Han

Thanks for reminding me. THERE ARE a couple of great low-cost microphones out there. I can only think of one right now. I'll keep on thinking...

Here's my vote for a really great low-cost microphone...the RODE NT-4. Frequently it is my FIRST CHOICE for acoustic Guitar and similar. It is an X/Y Stereo Multi-Power Studio and Location 1/2” Condenser Microphone.

[top]But you mentioned Shure SM7B as one of your favourite mics, and that one is not very expensive. - Henrik

I NEVER SAID THAT I LIKE OR WOULD EVEN USE A Shure SM7B! One of my favorite vocal mics however IS a Shure SM7! There's a big difference...

[top]Looking at the way the industry works now, what do you think you would do if you had turned 18 this year and were just starting your career? - Im That Guy

Well, I am the same guy, basically, that I was when I turned 18. I am also a very happy guy. I am doing what I really love to do. I am MAKING MUSIC!!!

I don't think there is anything else, or anyone else, that I would want to do or to be!!!


[top]Is there any use for the Blumlein pair technique in a surround (5.1) recording (front L+R)? And if, how would you combine it with the Side (Rear) Microphones? - vandertone

Sorry, but I am not a big fan of surround. I think it is a big disappointment...

[top]I read you own a pair of the newer M149 microphones. Where do you find yourself using them mainly? - syra

The M149 will work beautifully on lead vocals. I recently recorded an excellent Jazz big band in Norway. I used my M149's in a Blumlein pair on the saxophones. Excellent! I used them exactly as I had used my Neumann u-48's in Blumlein Pair on the saxes in Basie's Band in the 1960's. With the saxes in a circle around the mikes!!!!

The Neumann u-48 is exactly the same as a U-47, except that it is Cardioid and Bi-Directional, where-as a Neumann U-47 is Cardioid and Omni Directional...thus two U-48's in Bi-directional, one above the other make an absolutely superb Blumlein Pair....the result with the M149's was surprisingly similar to the U-48's in sonic character...if my memory serves me right!

[top]Placed in a circle? Don't you get a problem with the saxes on one side leaking into the other side out of phase, and vice versa? - Henrik

Absolutely! And I love it!!! If the microphones are in polarity they will always be in polarity with Blumlein Pair.

You are overthinking an already perfect technique. The sound of the saxes in a circle around the two microphones in Blumlein Pair is as close to perfect as I have ever heard. Other musical sources as well...even the acoustical support heard by the two mikes is perfect...

Total isolation of the two mikes is NEVER good!!!

Try it, you'll LOVE it!!!!

[top]Can you please explain a little bit about your monitoring setup and your process when mixing? Levels? How much time between different sets of monitors?
How has your choice in monitors changed over the years and why? - MJGreene Audio

Michael...here's a start...Audio Speakers & Amplifiers and volume levels in the control room...

Over the years I have been very fussy about the volume levels that I use in the control room. I have always tried to observe the American OSHA sound exposure standards.

I like to test my mixes at a variety of volume levels, and on a variety of different speaker systems. This will make sure that the mix will sound good anywhere. If a mix sounds good at a low SPL, it will sound great at higher levels...save your ears, we only get two!!!

Westlake Audio Lc3W-12
For both recording and mixing I currently use Westlake Audios Lc3W-12 speaker systems. Glenn Phoenix of Westlake Audio called me one day and said that he had just finished a new speaker design. He suggested that I give it a serious listen. I was a bit skeptical at first about trying any new music-mixing speaker, but I should have known better than to underestimate Glenn when it comes to an audio-design issue.

Glenn brought a pair of his new speakers to the studio, so I could check them out. When I sat down at the console to listen, I was absolutely amazed! I have never heard speakers with more points of sound-source definition in the left-to-right panorama. In addition, the low end is spectacular! The scale of the soundfield is flawless.

To me, the mixing phase of my music projects is very personal and can get a bit intense. Mixing is the last phase of a project where I can make an artistic contribution to the sonics of the music, so the speakers are extremely critical to the success of the project.

Of course, any discussion of hyper-fidelity loudspeakers would be incomplete without an in-depth look at the amplifiers that drive those loudspeakers, and the wire or cable that connects the amplifiers to the speakers, and the wire, or cable that connects those amplifiers to their source. In most cases that source would be the monitor output of an extremely high quality mixing desk.

Here’s an interesting little story that explains how I found the monitor amplifiers that I have used for music mixing for the past few years.

Early one morning, my good friend Trond Braaten called me from Fredrickstad, Norway and said that in a week he would be coming to the USA and he was going to hand carry on the plane, a very heavy Norwegian made power amplifier that was going to change my life! I thought to myself, “Yeah, sure.” Up to that point in time, all I knew about Norway could be summed up in four words! “Beautiful Boats, and SALMON!”

I Learned something. Don’t ever underestimate the Norwegians!

A few days later Trond arrived on my doorstep, huffing and puffing, carrying an obviously extremely heavy box. They don’t call Trond Braaten the “Norwegian Sherpa” for nothing! “Sherpa” means mountain-climber from northern India, able to carry very heavy objects great distances”.

That heavy box contained a power amplifier that did change my life! I stared at the lettering on the box, and thought. “Electrocompaniet, Holy Cow! What a name! Almost impossible to pronounce”.

We hooked up the amplifier to my speakers. Great sound! Trond was right, my studio life has not been the same since! Wonderfully musical sounding amplifiers! Those amplifiers go with me to every recording project.

Here are the standard monitoring settings that I use for all my sessions. To set these values I normally use my Simpson [Type 2] SPL Meter. Or a Radio-Shack Sound Level Meter Catalogue #33-2050....

A-Mid-field monitoring - > Westlake Audio Lc3W-12s...placed on top of the over-bridge meters of a mixing desk.

1- To adjust the Westlake speakers for an SPL level of approximately 93 SPL -(Sound Pressure Level).

A-Set SPL meter.
1-'A' scale (OSHA).
2-Speed-'slow' (OSHA).

B-Play wide-range complex program material.
1-Set playback for +3 buss peaks on VU scale.
2-Observe SPL results. (+3 buss peaks = 93 SPL peaks)

C-Make mark on monitor level control...

Note: this will result in a good loud level for mixing Popular music. It can be used for a total listening time of 4 hours of mixing per day. When I mix at this level for 2 and 1/2 hours and then take a 30 minute break, I don’t experience any ear fatigue when using my Westlake Lc3W-12’s.

NoteIf lower record buss levels are to be used, adjust SPL resultant peaks accordingly, e. g.- if absolute '0' VU buss peaks are to be recorded, then add 3 dB of monitor level before marking the monitor level control.

B-Near-field monitoring - > Auratones...placed on top of a meter bridge on the mixing desk.

1-To adjust the Auratone speakers for an SPL level of approximately 83 SPL.

A-Set SPL meter.
1-'A' scale (OSHA).
2-Speed-'slow' (OSHA).

B-Play wide-range complex program material.
1-Set playback for +3 buss peaks on VU scale.

2-Observe SPL results. (+3 buss peaks=83 SPL peaks)

C-Make mark on monitor level control.

Note: this will result in a good Auratone level for mixing Popular music. It can be used for a total listening time of 8 hours of mixing per day. If lower record buss levels are to be used, adjust SPL resultant peaks accordingly, e. g. - If absolute '0' VU buss peaks are to be recorded, then add 3 db of monitor level when marking the monitor level control.

Do not monitor at extremely high speaker levels. You should be able to carry on a conversation in the control room while you are mixing. If you have to shout to be heard, turn down the speaker level. You will only get one set of ear drums in your lifetime, treat them like the precious things that they are. Who knows, they might be worth a million dollars some day. Go easy on your ears. Permanent hearing loss can occur very quickly in a control room, especially with some of the new, super high-powered monitor systems in use in modern studios today.

That's a start...

[top]Have you got any viking blood in your veins? - Ruudman

100 % Viking blood here...in the recording industry here in the States I am known as the Platinum Viking!!!

[top]The title of this thread caught my attention, because that phrase ('It's All About the MUSIC") is often followed by someone's diatribe about 'the gear doesn't matter', that it's all down to the music, and perhaps the person working the gear.

As someone whose personal craft, or art, is revered by so many, (and as someone who has posted eloquently on many different topics) what would be your reply to those thoughts or concepts; that thinking about and discussing gear is somehow a waste of time; that the only things that matter are the talent and the engineer; that a good engineer can make great sounding records using "a Mackie and SM57s". - pegleg

Anyone that tells you that "the gear doesn't matter" is absolutely and totally full of 100% HORSE CRAP"!!!! That person is probably SO DUMB that he/she can't figure out the gear anyway!!!!

Of course, "THE GEAR DOES MATTER!!!!!! HOWEVER - > I was talking to Quincy one day a while back, and we came up with the conclusion that "IT'S ALL IMPORTANT"!!!!

Anyone that says otherwise is not with the art of our craft.

Thinking about and discussing gear is NOT a waste of time; BUT it is only part of the adventure...IT IS IMPORTANT!!!

The music, the talent and the engineer IS IMPORTANT, BUT it is only part of the adventure...

[top]Tomorrow, I have to record a session with a balafon and a vibraphone. What is your advice? (The both would like to play together.) - julien_a

First off, what microphones do you have????

If I were doing this session I would go for a pair of ribbon microphones on each instrument...on the vibes, the two mikes I would choose would be a pair of Royer 122's. In x/y set as an ORTF pair.

‘XY microphone technique’ requires two identical microphones angled at 90º. ORTF the acronym for Office de Radiodiffusion Television Francaise (French Radio and TV) requires two microphones spread by 17cm to emulate the width of human ears, angled at 110º. This will make a very natural sounding pick-up on the vibes…

As I recall the Balaphon is the West African instrument that resembles a small xylophone. So...basically the same mike set-up as the Vibes...

When and if you can record these lovely instruments this way, I would like to give you a little mixing tip!!!

[top]Bruce, you said "In x/y set as an ORTF pair" ...did you mean either or? Why in this particular situation did you decide to advise an ORTF layout instead of a Blumlein pair or a standard XY with cardioid mics? - syra

I meant to say "In X/Y, OR, set as an ORTF pair"...the ORTF is probably better. It IS wider...

In this application the ORTF can allow the microphones to be placed wider, so that the mikes hear more of the individual notes of the Vibraphone or the balafon....

[top]If you were starting a microphone collection (enough to record a pop/r&b/rock album) from scratch, selecting new microphones on the market today, which ones would you purchase? - Slap Back

Brucie sez--->Hand me my Neumann Catalogue please...

[top]You've clearly stated your thoughts on tracking with compression. What are your thoughts on tracking with EQ? - dtucker

I think EQ is EQ. It is frequency specific volume control. AS WITH COMPRESSION, I don't think of these devices as being used for one specific area of what we do.


To flawlessly reproduce a sound, all frequencies in the audible spectrum must be reproduced with the same INTENSITY in the reproducing system, so that the balance of the spectrum coming from the loudspeaker is the same as the balance of the spectrum going into the system from the microphone.

This means that all the components in the signal path, from the microphone to the loudspeaker, must have a flat frequency response. This is, of course, \not possible in the real world of music recording studios.

The role of the equalizer is to control the gain, or volume, of one or more parts of the audio spectrum while leaving the other parts relatively unchanged. An equalizer is in actuality a frequency selective volume control. To me equalization is purely a matter of personal taste. The tone controls on your home stereo are a good example of using a control to change the tonal balance of music to suit our personal taste.(Or lack of the same!)

To me there are really only two groups or categories of equalization use in music recording.

#1-Corrective equalization.
#2-Creative equalization.

Both can be overused and can be either helpful or detrimental to the emotional impact of the music involved. The trick is to use as little EQ as possible to achieve the desired result. Extensive use of EQ to correct a bad sound invariably sounds artificial. Heavy EQ, and/or Filtering, is used to create effects, such as a telephone-like voice quality. That is a valid reason for using a lot of EQ. That is a distinct example of creative EQ.

I see many engineers simply reach for the EQ without first really listening to the sound, or thinking about how it might be improved by thinking the situation out first. The real aim of equalization is to either overcome variances in the tonal quality of the sound sources, or to "Hype" the sound to achieve an emotional effect in the music. The real trick with EQ, to me, is to use it "gracefully", to enhance the music and make the sonic image more entertaining.

Equalization is probably the most abused and overused tool in music recording. It is most often wrongly used in an attempt to correct faulty mike choice or placement. If the sound from an instrument is not pleasing, try changing to another type of microphone. If all else fails, use the equalizer. Don't be afraid to get a bit of exercise in the studio changing mikes.

A truly fine final product can only come from good basic recording. I do not believe in "don't worry, we'll fix that later in the mix-down." Most times you cannot fix it. You can improve it a bit, perhaps, but if it is a really bad track it never will sound right. Do it right in the beginning and you will never regret it.

[top]How much your Electrical Engineering degree influenced your recordings? The reason I ask is because I remember that someone had asked you the question "Bass Guitar DI or mic on bass cab" and your answer pointed out the length of the bass waves. - bit mangler

Wow!!! Great Question...

It has helped me get started in the industry that I Love so dearly...

But, here is the real deal:

Formal Music and Technical Training

It has always amazed me that traditionally, many in our industry have little respect for formal music or technical training.

A-I personally think that most people in our industry are too lazy to really study an absolutely fascinating subject like Music Recording!!!

B-But I personally have a lot of respect for formal musical and technical training.

C-I identify with totally involved musicians. Totally involved musicians are well educated....

D-Totally involved musicians are discriminating listeners and they have highly developed critical listening skills.

There you have it! Let me say that I am very happy that I went to the University Of Minnesota, and studied my ass off! I would do it that way again in a heartbeat!!!!

[top]Here is the monitor that was blown during the EVH session. - Level

NO!!! NO!!! NO!!! That burned up monitor, in no way, happened during the Eddie Van Halen recording. It was a totally separate event....

[top]Do you recommend recording voice in stereo or must it be mono? Which instruments and why do you think they must be mono? Do you use matched mics? - Pepe Ortega

Good questions! I NEVER RECORD A LEAD VOCAL IN STEREO!!! Why? Because of a little known music recording phenomenon called "Wandering..." "Wandering..." is what happens when a point-source recording is recorded in stereo and it moves to the left and right on it's own. It is very disconcerting and detracts from the mix. This is the very reason that I frequently use point-sources in mono in a wide stereo mix. That is when point-source sources are most effective dramatically in a really good mix...

[top]Yea...I've been wondering about this since I read this post...I always thought that having a bunch of stereo tracks panned hard left and right creates this thing called the BIG MONO...what's the scoop on this ? Please explain how using stereo tracks doesn't make it harder to visualize where the instrument is in the stereo field ? I could understand better if you used the ms mic technique on most sources, but to use two mics on a bunch of sources seems like your asking for trouble... BUT..."You Da Man" so please elaborate! - lukejs

Good thought!!! BIG MONO!!! No Way!!! Here's how I look at it....

First let's take a look at the M-S stereophonic microphone system.

The late H. Lauridson of the Danish State Radio System discovered the M-S, or "Mid-Side" stereophonic microphone technique while contemplating the possibility of compatible monophonic/stereophonic broadcasting. What he found was that by taking the sum and difference from the signals derived from Alan Dower Blumlein's original concept of coincident-pair compatible stereo mike technique, one could concentrate the main sound source, the sum of the two channels, into the main transmitted band, and the difference in the multiplexed band.

In the M-S system one microphone with a cardioid characteristic handles the overall sound picture, exactly as does the principal microphone in a monophonic pick-up. A second microphone having a bi-directional characteristic is placed very closely above or below the first mike and it is turned so that it's null plane(dead side) contains the principal axis of reception of the cardioid microphone. If the two microphone outputs A and B are interconnected so that the sum A + B and the difference A - B are formed, two channels result, in each of which one-half of the pick-up area is preferentially received. The M-S system relies on the fact that the principal axis of a pressure gradient microphone correspond to voltages of opposite polarity.

The significant advantage of the M-S system lies in the fact that one channel-namely the mid channel-carries a satisfactory monophonic signal. The decision as to whether a two-channel recording or a monophonic reproduction of the sound source is to be used can be decided at a later time. The original source must be recorded on two tracks of the multi-track, of course. This one advantage cannot be obtained with a classical X-Y microphone technique. With X-Y technique both channels must be used for achievement of good reproduction.

With the M-S technique you must use the M-S matrix system. These sum and difference boxes are done basically three ways.

#1-using amplifiers...

#2-using transformers...

#3-using a resistance bridge...

Obviously calibration of the M-S systems matrixes must be done and verified frequently.

The additional electronics or transformers necessary for the matrix has always made me a bit suspicious of this technique. It just makes the microphone system a bit too complicated electronically for my taste.

In the early 1970's I did a series of recordings of Bela Bartok compositions with the strings of the Chicago Symphony. At that time I was messing around with the M-S technique. I remember that I found that I could use anything from a cardiod to an omni mike for the M(or middle) channel of the system, and it worked fairly well.

I also remember that I eventually abandoned the M-S system, for that project, in favor of an A - B stereo mike technique, with the mikes about 36 inches apart. I used a few sweetener mikes also.

One problem I've had with the use of the M-S technique is that many years back recording people would use the system and think that it would automatically give them a new and wonderful sound when recording The orchestra. I'd like to emphasize that the use of the M-S technique in no way replaces good judgement and knowledgeable microphone choice and placement.

I have never found the M-S system a valuable tool in my work. It seems to be really a technique from the early days of FM stereo broadcasting and the early days of stereo phonograph records. I think it is safe to say that it was an honest effort to remove the "Stereo Sweet Spot" or "Stereo Seat" in orchestra recording and reproduction.

>Using the Stereo Space<
First, I try to think of the "Stereo Space" as a piece of musical reality. Once we have acquired that concept, we can conversely, also think of the "Stereo Space" as a piece of musical fantasy. Whether or not it could exist in nature, or in a natural acoustical environment, is irrelevant. Most of the "Stereo Spaces" in my recordings began their life in my imagination...

I think of my stereo sound-field as a sonic sculpture...

I always try to make my stereo sound-field far more than merely two-channel mono. In other words, I always try to make my stereo sound-field multi-dimensional, not merely left, center and right. For me to be satisfied with a sound-field, it must have the proportions of left, center, right and depth.

Since the middle 1960’s I think my philosophical approach to using the "Stereo Space", has been to take the listener into a “New Reality” that did not, or could not, exist in a real life acoustical environment. This “New Reality”, of course, existed only in my own imagination. What I mean is, that before what I call “The Recording Revolution'', our efforts were directed towards presenting our recorded music to the listener in what amounted to an essentially unaltered, acoustical event. A little “Slice of Life'', musically speaking. This “Recording Revolution'' took place from 1950 through 1970.

This was not true just of myself, but was also true of many of the people that were interested in the same things that I was. We all experienced this same “Recording Revolution”. After that change in our basic music recording objective, along came the “New Reality” in using the "Stereo Space".

[top]Can you name an example of music, where I could listen to your "no-compression"-approach (I need new records anyway ) - studjo

Try "This Is Me...Then" and "Rebirth" by Jennifer Lopez...of course there was a lot of compression done in the mastering.

Try "Gershwin's World" by Herbie Hancock...actually I like the sound of that one a lot...

[top]So are you saying that using compression while mixing leads to transient destruction and dullness while using "a lot of compression" during mastering has no such side effects ? - van Overhalen

Definitely I would not say that! What I said is that I am not invited to the mastering sessions on my Jennifer Lopez projects! Perhaps now you know one reason why!

Nice question...I LOVE Gearspace.com...

[top]I would like to know how much importance/time you spend when tracking and mixing determining proper phase (can I also say polarity?) relationships, and I would like to know any tricks that you have found for achieving it rather quickly. - mojava

Your ears will tell you all you need to know about polarity or proper phase in sound. Tune in to your instincts...

As recording people...we must develop a willingness to follow our instincts. Gut reactions translated to music recordings make the most believable music...

This may be more true in music recording than in any other field of endeavor. If we have good instincts to begin with, we must learn to listen to that little voice in the back of our heads, or behind our belly buttons, or wherever it resides and do what it tells us is right. I have always felt that I must maintain a pursuit of the innovative, the experimental. I don't mean only in the technical aspect of what we do but, in the musical and production techniques as well. In order to be truly innovative, I think we absolutely must have at our disposal a thorough working knowledge of the technical tools of our trade. This aspect of the industry is in a constant state of change, so a great deal of daily reading and experimentation must be a part of our life.

Skill, generally speaking, means using the tools at our disposal, both natural and technical, in combination to influence our technique. Development of our recording technique, as individual recording people, then, it would seem, ultimately results from our recording "philosophy" but also, it actually evolves into philosophy as well. In other words, aren't the two, Technique and Philosophy, in music recording, actually dependent on each other?

To clarify the issue a bit, to me, in music recording, technique is philosophy put into practice, but at the same time it is also the practical display of the elements which produce our own individual recording philosophy. If you consider these things in the light of your own natural gifts and situation you will see how they can help to make you a unique recording person. An individual with your own special 'Sonic Personality'. Not just another average, bored, dead between the ears, Producer/Recording engineer.

[top]Are you still a fan of B&O ribbon mics? - Gravity8058

I LOVE my B&O mikes. They are not in very good condition though...nowadays I always use my Royers instead.

[top]Off the Wall has always been one of my favorite albums to listen to for music and its mixes. In particular, "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "Working Day and Night"...those two had a lot going on in the mixes yet everything was extremely clear and audible. It was like there was not one ounce of mud to be found in the music...the separation was....perfect. What tips do you have for mixing busy mixes and still preserving every piece of action in the music, sonically? Thanks in advance and it truly is an honor to receive advice from you. - Big 3rd

This is how I look at it....to me, the overall "Musical-Sense" of a piece of music is the most important thing to consider. I like to let the music tell me what it needs in the way of recording and mixing values.

A good song, or piece of music, seems to have a life of it's own. Let the music "Tell us what to do next". In a mix-down session, if we work for hours to try to make a 'gated reverb' on the snare drum sound good, and in our heart if hearts we know it sounds awful, the fact is; the song doesn’t want a 'gated reverb' on the snare drum. Don't try and force it. I don’t think we can ever win out over the personality of the song. The music will always triumph.

[top]What was it like working with Tommy Dorsey? My grandfather was Paul Whiteman's Lead Trombone Player and when he decided to start his own band he wired Tommy Dorsey the money to come take his place. Thanks in advance for any stories about Tommy Dorsey as he and my grandfather were the best of friends. - ljmax

I worked with Tommy Dorsey in 1953 in Minneapolis, at Schmitt Music Company's Recording studio. I still have an autographed photo from him. You can barely read the inscription any more...

My strongest memory of Tommy Dorsey is that he was an incredible musician, and a royal Pain-In-The-Ass!!! In 1959 I worked with Tommy's brother Jimmy Dorsey at Universal Studio's in Chicago...he was also a wonderful musician and not such a Pain-In-The-Ass! Great sessions with both the Dorsey brothers though...

[top]Do you ever check your mixes in mono or on a radio? Or is the great mono compatibility simply an effect of doing everything right in stereo? - doorknocker

I almost NEVER listen to anything in monaural! However, I am very fussy about the polarity of my stereo tracks.