Geeks, Movie Buffs & Music Lovers

Hey Wolfpack,

It’s been a while since my last post. Life has been extraordinarily busy for us. We were married, moved, have had to deal with various health issues and rebuilding the studio. So thank you for your patience and understanding. But let us get to the reason we are here.

NEW STUFF…

I was recently tasked by Rob Logan of The Geek Generation with writing and performing an original instrumental piece to be used as a theme song for his new podcast
The Random Movie Club. The song is titled “Okami No Sukutsu”  ( Look it up if you are curious about the meaning)   😉

So I’d like to present that song here for your enjoyment.

I also highly recommend you check out The Random Movie Club podcast. I just did and it’s a good time. You can find it here.
http://www.thegeekgeneration.com/2015/08/rmc-001-indiana-jones-and-the-last-crusade-w-dj-moore/

RMC 1RMC-Random-Movie-Club-cover-art

More as it happens.  Keep Rockin!

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New Album Release.

Hey Wolfpack!

Michael MacLeod & Meredith Bailey are tying the knot soon.  In 10 Days to be exact. To celebrate this momentous occasion they are releasing their first joint effort, an album of cover songs completely produced, arranged, sung, played, recorded, mixed and mastered by just the two of them. It was a huge undertaking and was done on a tight schedule, but it is a fun and amazing album featuring songs from 1957 to 1980. We are only pressing 200 copies (over 100 of which are spoken for already) so keep your eyes here on our blog, our Facebook page and Twitter accounts to pick up your copy. We will also be doing a contest giveaway to be announced soon.

Here is a little teaser of our Album Cover.
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One of the best unknown rock guitarists dies

Today, Wolf’s Den marks the passing of legendary rock guitarist Dick Wagner. Dick Wagner is famous for his work with Alice Cooper (co-writing Only Women Bleed, School’s Out, and Billion Dollar Babies, among others), Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, and Rod Stewart, but he is uncredited for work done on many albums for many bands, including Kiss.Gene Simmons: “Dick Wagner was the consummate gentleman axeman.”

He will be missed.”We here at Wolf’s Den will Miss Dick Wagner as well. R.I.P. sir.
He will live on through his work and his fans.

Check out an interview with Dick Wagner by Alice Cooper Here

Dick Wagner, esteemed Michigan rock guitarist, dead at 71
Wagner, the Michigan-bred guitarist renowned for his work with Alice Cooper, the Frost, Lou Reed and others, succumbed to respiratory failure at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center in Arizona.

Studio Techniques: Gain Staging

pt meter

First off, what is gain staging and why is it important?

Gain staging is the process of managing the levels of incoming audio signals to eliminate noise and prevent distortions or signal clipping as much as possible.

How do I address gain staging in my recordings?

Historically, in the days of analog recording, engineers would try to find a “sweet spot” at which the incoming audio signal was significantly above the ordinary analog noise floor but yet would fall just shy of clipping the audio signal during the loudest parts of the performance.  This spot was often around the 0 db zone.  This would result in tracks that were as hot as possible without clipping.

However, with the advent of digital recording, the recording noise floor has dropped to next to nothing – and the gain stage needed to change with it, too.  Digital recording not only allows for, but basically requires, a far more conservative approach to recording levels.

This technique creates good-quality recordings with, by default, low background noise, and plenty of headroom on the meter.  Often, plugins used during the mixing and mastering phases of recording will use some of that headroom, so if your initial performance was done at too high a level, the addition of plugins can easily push your performance into the dreaded “too hot” zone.  The quality of your sound will suffer.  Far better to record at a conservative level and make a track louder, if necessary, during the mastering stage than to have to over-compress and squash the life out of a good performance that was recorded at too high a level.

For digital recording, the “sweet spot” tends to be around -18 dB.

Proper gain staging also helps in the mixing phase of recording – in general, mixes turn out better when tracks are at low levels on the faders.  If a mix is too quiet for you to adequately hear it, don’t turn up the faders on the board – turn up your monitors!

After recording, mixing, and ensuring that no signal-clipping has occurred in any track, bus all channels through a stereo master fader.  This fader represents an aggregate of all signals being bussed to it from other channels, so it may very well be the case that it will have a very high signal, or may even clip.  If this is the case, group all audio channels and turn them down as a collective unit until the master fader is at about -10 db.  It should not be approaching the -3 db mark – don’t just turn down the master fader!  This only masks the symptom of the issue without resolving the issue itself.

I hope this helps with your next mix. Good luck!

Free Eventide Plugin

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Hey, Wolf pack!  Get your Free plug-in! Now through July 8,

 

Wolf’s Den Music loves to help fellow engineers and musicians get new gear and software whenever possible. Especially when it’s FREE.

Eventide is giving away their UltraChannel plug-in for FREE – a $249 value! Head over to Eventide.com and use the access code 0C4BA949 to claim your free plug-in. Share this post with your engineer friends – Like our Wolf’s Den page here on WordPress and our FaceBook page to show some love.  Who wouldn’t want an awesome channel strip plug-in for free?

Enjoy,

Wolf’s Den Music

Should I bother with acoustic treatment?

Hey Wolf-pack,

We here at Wolf’s Den Studios are back from a brief hiatus out to Las Vegas.
I want to start getting into the tips and tricks portion of our blog and I thought a good place to start was with a question I hear often: “Is acoustic treatment really necessary?”

My short answer?  Yes, otherwise I would not have just spent two weekends taking care of exactly that!

To answer this question properly – that is, my long answer – let me first discuss what acoustic treatment is, what it is not, and what conditions it works best under.

Let’s start with what acoustic treatment is not.

  • Acoustic treatment is NOT soundproofing.
  • Acoustic treatment will not stop sound from leaking into your studio.
  • Acoustic treatment will not stop sound from escaping your studio.

The only way to “soundproof” your studio is the same way big pro studios do it: Floating floors, floating ceilings, and multi-layer walls.  Unless money is no object – and less face it, money is definitely a object for most of us – these sorts of structural changes are just not feasible for a home recording setup.  But just because you are not in a big pro studio does not mean you can’t achieve a big pro sound – and that is where acoustic treatment comes in.

So what is acoustic treatment, anyway?

Acoustic treatment is something that will reduce audio reflections.

  • Acoustic treatment will reduce reflections in your instrument recording environment.
  • Acoustic treatment will reduce reflections in a vocal booth.
  • Acoustic treatment will reduce reflections that affect your mixing room sound (and therefore your mixing decisions).

These audio reflections create uncontrolled reverb: undesirable echoes that can make a recording sound tinny, dull, or muddy.  Getting rid of uncontrolled reverb is a key component of recording a clean, rich tone.

The point of acoustic treatment is absorption and diffusion of sound waves.  Hard, flat surfaces, like walls, ceilings, and floors, will reflect almost all sound waves back into the air space of the room, where they will be recorded by an active microphone.  By breaking up and softening these surfaces, sound waves can be “soaked up” to prevent their continued reverberation around the studio.

What can be used as acoustic treatment?

Here at Wolf’s Den Studios, our preference is for Auralex acoustic foam.  This is sold in tiles or sheets, and can be found for reasonable prices online.  It is a high-density, fire-resistant foam, with the fronts sculpted in triangle or wave shapes to eliminate flat surfaces.  It comes in thicknesses ranging from half an inch to over 3 inches thick.  The thicker the layer of foam, the better its properties for sound absorption, particularly of low frequency, bass-y tones.

Auralex can, however, get pricey: even a small room, when treating 4 walls, a ceiling, and a door, can add up to a surprising amount of square footage that needs to be purchased.

Some may opt for using egg-crate foam, of the kind that is commonly used on beds.  While this is better than nothing – marginally – bedding foam often is not dense enough or thick enough to provide adequate absorption and diffusion of sound, so it wouldn’t be our first recommendation.

Very heavy drapes such as those used in theatres or the light and sound blocking drapes used in high end hotels can be an option, if you are fortunate enough to be able to acquire these cheaply at an estate sale or auction. If appearance is not important to you old mattresses will also be effective.

What should I treat, and where?

This depends on the function of your studio space.  For recording vocals, a room that has 100% acoustic treatment coverage is best – which is one reason why vocal booths are often so small!  For recording instruments depending on your room you can start with about 50% coverage.

For mixing and mastering, a good place to start is treating the surfaces immediately to the left and right as well as behind your studio monitors. I would also recommend treating the ceiling above your listening position. One method to determine acoustic treatment placement in your mix room is to use a hand held mirror held at the level of your studio monitors and place foam anywhere you can see a direct reflection of your monitors. More may be necessary but this is a good place to start.

But does it really make a difference?

I’ll let you decide for yourself.  Here is a recording in our vocal booth prior to giving it acoustic treatment.

And here’s a sample of a vocal recorded after treating the vocal booth with 100% coverage of Auralex.

No effects have been added to these samples.  The difference you hear is solely the result of acoustic treatment.

Is acoustic treatment the magic bullet that will instantly solve any problem in the studio?  No – but proper acoustic treatment is a critical step in achieving a pro studio sound.  With proper acoustic treatment, you are one step closer to getting a clean, professional sound in a home studio environment.

VB11

Letter to a young songwriter

I came across this letter to a young songwriter written by singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier and thought it worth sharing. She really hits the nail on the head.

“Nearly everything that matters is a challenge, and everything matters.” — Rilke
You’ve watched your musical heroes take the stage to thunderous applause, adulation and love, and you burn for that, for yourself, and you want to be a professional writer of songs. The songwriting call has whispered in your ears for years now, and you’ve decided to answer it. You are ready to embrace it, to begin your journey as a songwriter. I congratulate you, and would offer you a few considerations (if you are open to hearing from someone who has trudged this path for decades now).

Warning: a songwriter’s life is not what you think it is.
Music is more than a bouquet of sweet vibrations; it is something from a higher world, which we humans have been given the power to invoke. Artists are alchemists, with our hands in the holy. The Sacred. Yes, there is great power in creating music, but also great danger. The journey of the artist is filled with pitfalls. Where there is great beauty and the power to move millions on this path, there is always great risk.

Songwriting is a noble calling that requires more than talent and perseverance. It requires courage. If you are willing to face yourself and honestly reveal in your songs what you’ve seen in that unveiling of yourself, then you have a chance of writing songs that will outlive you. What can we gain by walking on the moon and planets if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages, and it is the job of the artist. The object of art is not to make salable products. It is to save one’s self, and to be a part of saving us all. Either we tell our story, or our story tells us.

And know this: A half-truth is a whole lie. Character, like integrity, is much easier kept than recovered. So write from your true self, not the self you think you should be. Do not try to impress us, and do not hide behind thin walls and smoke screens. It will only bore us. Brutal self -honesty is your challenge, and will reward you with much more than you can yet imagine.

You must learn how to reject acceptance and accept rejection. People’s opinions of you and your work are irrelevant. The search for love and applause has no place in the creative process. Here is what I know: thriving artists suffer from a feeling of inferiority, a feeling of reaching for something that keeps being just outside our grasp. We make contact with it, and then it turns to smoke. It cannot be held. So our work involves a constant striving. Those that don’t know this feeling are pretending to be close to art and live in secret fear of the aloneness of the deep creative process. Art requires audacity, and if you are not afraid, you are not taking risks. You will simply skim the surface and offer the world nothing new. Ultimately, your songs will not matter.

An artist’s job is to reach communion with truth, and bring that holy light into the world in order to soothe souls trapped in dark places. It is exceedingly difficult work and most who attempt it fail. That said, there is no safety in success either. In fact, triumph brings a greater danger, because the intense light of success is a wick that draws in darkness. Stars burn up. Flame out. Stars overdose, suicide. Some become oldies acts that create no new magic but simply repeat what has already been done over and over again, not for beauty’s sake, but for cash. And they suffer this as a humiliation and become bitter. A deep grounding in solitude is necessary to remain vital and creative. Solitude courts the muse. So know this: you have chosen a lonely path.

As you work, you will have to learn to embrace each failure as an unavoidable part of the process. There will be many false starts and errors, and even though it is terrifying, you must continue to err, and to do so on the bold side. Have the audacity to lose face, don’t worry about saving it, and embrace each glorious failure as a necessary part of the journey. The chief danger in songwriting (and life) is taking too many precautions. There is a very real relationship between what you contribute and what you get out of this life, but satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. The point of the work is the work. Being vulnerable in your work will bring you strength.

And here is a final warning. If you do succeed and people come to know your name and your songs, the creative process gets harder, not easier. Fame and success attracts parasites, clingers on, and wannabe’s. These non-creators will do everything in their power to attach to the light around you thinking it will bring them out of their own darkness. It will not, but they do not know this. If you let them in, their hungry mouths will suck the light from you and when you are emptied they will simply move on and attach to someone else’s glow. You must rid your life of these people, or suffer their debilitating and soul crushing manipulations.

Fame and success also bring laziness, and ego swelling. With success comes the confusion of believing you are doing great work, backed up the reassurance of people on your payroll, when you are not. It is easy to become delusional and get lost. Fame is a full time job. So is songwriting. A choice is often required. Choose wisely.

So then, again the point of all this work is simply the work. Struggle is the path, and there is no destination, only the path. We do not get “there.” There is no there. There is only here, now, on the path, in the struggle. We all must face the daunting blank page in front of each of us each morning. In this, we are all alike. I wish courage and perseverance for you as you embark on this life’s work of writing songs. You will need it.

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This is a free limited time offer from Soundtoys that we just wanted to make you aware of.

The uphill battle for song writers and artists

This is why we as song writers and artists can’t have nice things.
Groups like Pandora, Spotify and Big Record Labels constantly picking our pockets and leaving us for broke. This just makes me sad.

Original article here:  http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/03/pandora-emerges-mostly-unscathed-in-legal-showdown-with-songwriters/

Pandora emerges mostly unscathed in legal showdown with songwriters

Royalties for streaming radio service will stay at 1.85 percent through 2015.

by Joe Silver – Mar 17 2014, 7:05pm EDT

COPYRIGHT LAWSUITS
On Friday, a federal judge ruled that the streaming radio service Pandora will continue paying the same royalty rate it was previously required to pay to songwriters through 2015.

In her opinion, US District Judge Denise Cote wrote that Pandora must continue paying the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) 1.85 percent of its revenue from the years 2011 through 2015 to use ASCAP songs on its streaming music service.

The 1.85 percent figure Pandora will pay is higher than the 1.7 percent rate that Pandora hoped for—1.7 percent is what terrestrial radio stations are required to pay for digital webcasts. Still, Cote’s ruling is much closer to Pandora’s suggestion than ASCAP’s; the songwriters’ group wanted to see a rate that started at 1.85 percent, then rose to 2.5 percent in 2014 and three percent in 2015.

Despite failing to convince the court of their desired rate, ASCAP nevertheless declared victory. “We are pleased the court recognized the need for Pandora to pay a higher rate than traditional radio stations,” said ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento.

Sony/ATV Music CEO Martin Bandier was less eager to declare this outcome as favorable for artists. “This rate is woefully inadequate and further emphasizes the need for reform in the rate court proceedings,” he told Billboard. “Songwriters can’t live in a world where streaming services only pay 1.8 percent of their revenue. This is a loss and not something we can live with.”

This small victory for Pandora won’t fundamentally change its long-term business concerns, which center around copyright payments. Pandora pays out about half of its revenue in copyright license fees, with the great majority of that going to record labels, not ASCAP.

Big Changes for a Little Room

We’ve had a busy time of it of late here over at Wolf’s Den Studios: renovations!

One of the biggest “to-dos” on our projects list has been to create a vocal recording booth: a space dedicated to and engineered for recording as crisp and clear a sound as possible for singers.  Without controlling a recording space for unwanted reverberation and echo, a singer’s tracks can sound muddy and dull, no matter how fine their voice or how skilled they are.

One of the easiest ways to create a vocal booth is to work within the structure of your own building: convert a closet!  This is a common tactic; there are many video tutorials on YouTube describing different approaches.  We opted to line the entirety of the closet – 90 square feet of wall and ceiling space – with Auralex acoustic foam tiles to absorb uncontrolled reverb.

First, however, we had to empty the closet.  It was amazing how much was crammed into 60 cubic feet.

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Next, the shelf had to come down – for obvious reasons!

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After removing the shelf and shelf supports, we had to patch the wall (horsehair plaster – great 120 years ago, terrible today), then sand and wash the walls.

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We installed new shelves, higher up, to retain a little bit of overhead storage space, and put up new lighting.

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This is a little less than half the foam to go up in the vocal booth.

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We wanted to avoid cutting tiles if we could, plus we had foam of several different thicknesses, so a lot of careful planning was necessary first before any tiles went up.  Rather than using spray glue, we opted for velcro tabs that will enable us to rearrange, move, or replace tiles easily at a later date, if necessary.

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It took two weekends, but the end result is pretty killer.  We’re ready!

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