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.
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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

Free Plug-in

Hey engineers and home studio enthusiasts,

For a limited time get your free Delay Plug-in

You’ll need this reference code, 218-6016-237, as well as a Soundtoys account and an iLok account. Here’s the link: https://www.soundtoys.com/sxsw2014/
Just go to the link, follow the directions and enter the code above, and you’ve got a free delay plug-in modeled after the classic Prime Time digital delay!
This is a free limited time offer from Soundtoys that we just wanted to make you aware of.

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.

VB1 VB2

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

VB3 VB4

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.

VB5 VB6

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

VB7

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

VB8

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.

VB9 VB10

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

VB11 VB12

A recent Interview with Michael MacLeod

501NEG Blog: Member Snapshot, with Michael MacLeod

March 9, 2014 at 8:11am

**story written by Jodi Marmonti-Anderson**

Michael MacLeod is not only a member of the 501st Legion but is also a highly experienced and accomplished local musician.  Michael has sung lead vocals and played guitar in numerous bands, and has taught music lessons to hundreds of students.  He is the owner of Wolf’s Den Music.

As soon as Michael could stand he was dancing to any music playing in his vicinity (even TV jingles).  He states that “the bug really bit me at about age 7, when I saw a teenager down the street with an electric guitar and knew I just had to have one.”  Though his parents were struggling financially they bought him a guitar and amp and the lessons began.  Through his lessons he met his mentor New Bedford, MA musician Jim Tavares.  “Upon first sight of seeing Jim with his long hair, ripped jeans and chucks (sneakers) I knew I wanted to be a rock guitarist!”  At the time Jim was only accepting adult and advanced students, but after a lot of begging to the music store owner (Gary “Boz” Bosworth of Boz’s Music) Jim decided to take Michael on as his first child student.  Michael would continue to study music and hone his craft, later studying under the famous song writer Adam Mitchell.

As a huge Kiss fan, Michael auditioned for a tribute band when he was 15 and was thrilled to learn that he had been selected for the group.  He started touring and missed many days of high school to keep up with his gig schedule.  Performing as Ace Frehley, Michael toured the east coast for almost a decade in two different Kiss tribute acts: Rock & Roll Over and Destroyer. He was a featured performer with Destroyer on the internationally distributed “KAOL 2 Creatures of the Net” album (Kiss Army online).  All proceeds from the album were donated to cancer research in Eric Carr’s (former Kiss Drummer’s) name.  He has performed at many official Kiss conventions with past members of Kiss, including Ace Frehley.  Michael’s biggest show played was at the Bangor, ME Civic Center, where he performed to a sold-out crowd of around 3000 fans.

Michael has enjoyed his career as a musician.  “I get to share music with people, which is a chance to connect to people on a whole different level.  I love playing in front of a large crowd and the energy exchanged between myself (the performer) and the audience. It’s a feeling that is amazing because you go out there and give it your all and get ramped up then the audience gets excited and gives all that energy back to you so it’s this great synergy.”  He loves writing and creating original music, which is currently his focus as he works on his first solo album. “It’s an amazing journey from getting the germ of an idea in your mind to creating a fully realized song, [and] then sending that song out into the world and hoping people get something out of it.”

There are down sides to working as an artist, of course. Financial challenges (particularly in the age of internet piracy) can make it difficult to make a living as a musician.  There are some people who believe that musicians should give their music away for free.  Michael also notes that sometimes people don’t respect the kind of work he is doing.  “Many people don’t realize the amount of hard work it is to be a full time musician: the years of studying and practicing, the sacrifices made to excel at your craft, the thousands of dollars invested in gear and instruments and the list just goes on.”  Despite these setbacks, he enjoys being his own boss: “At the end of the day I’m completely in charge of my life and that is what Rock and Roll is all about to begin with. Freedom!”

Outside of music Michael is a big science fiction and comics fan, which lead him to join the 501st Legion, as well as becoming one of the area’s more well-known Green Arrow costumers.  One little known fact from Michael’s past is that he won a DC Comics contest as a kid and they used his design as the new version of a Parademon. “You can see the Kiss influence in the eye make-up design and bits of his costume.” The only Parademon ever to have a name in comic books was named Michael (possibly due to his redesign of said character).  Michael received a 10 speed bicycle from the contest, which he still has to this day.

After completing his solo album along with a few other musical projects on the table, Michael would like to compose a film score.  Be sure to check out his sites at https://wolfsdenmusic.wordpress.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wolfs-Den-Music/251584701558005?ref=hl .

Let’s Talk About Music

Hey,
Musicians, Engineers and Music Fans.
Here is where You can enter the Wolf’s Den and become one of the pack by following our music blog.

We will be giving regular tips & advice on playing, recording, mixing, mastering, getting your music heard & finding music from other talented artists. We will post reviews on equipment and software and our experiences with them. We will also talk about instruments (vintage and new) Whats going on with artists we love and anything else in the world of Music.

We hope you’ll find this blog educational and fun!