Chatting with Cherney

December 18th, 2012

When I asked Ed Cherney to send me a photo for this blog post, this is what I got from him:

Photo of a monkey at a mixing console.

OK, shortly thereafter he did supply the official picture.

Photo of Ed cherney.

Ed Cherney is one of my heros. Never mind me trying to list the people he’s worked with. Check it out for yourself on viagra his discography page and, better still, read his bio. He’s a founding member of both the METAlliance and the Producers and Engineers wing of the Recording Academy. I couldn’t possibly do him justice in a blog post. Aside from being an extraordinary talent and a vital part of the recording industry, the guy just cracks me up with his wit. On top of that, he’s just the nicest guy in the world and I’m so glad I had an opportunity to do this chat with him for the podcast. I must admit, we did this quite some time ago and I never got around to publishing buy levitra canada it but pretty much everything is still relevant. Hope you guys enjoy it.

Zen and the Art of Producing

December 11th, 2012

cover of zen and the Art of Producing by Mixerman

Last time Mixerman was on the show, we spoke about his book, Zen buy viagra online and the Art of mixing. This time around, we talk about his new release, zen and the Art of Producing. Having read this fantastic book twice, I probably could have asked a dozen more questions, given the scope of the work. It’s the kind of material one can read several times and absorb new things with each pass. It’s available from Amazon as well as brick and mortar cheap cialis online retailers.

cover of The Daily Adventures of Mixerman

I was so incredibly excited to learn about the new Daily Adventures of Mixerman – An Audio Book Dramatization. Even though I read the printed edition several years ago, the audio book version adds a whole new dimension to the story. Rather Buy cialis generic than just Mixerman reading the content, there’s voice talent reading dialog and not just any old actors—you’ve got people like Ken scott, Ron Saint Germain, Ed Cherney, Dave Pensado, William Wittman and many others. Guess what? I’m among the many others! Well, truth be told, I got to do one line but, hey, listen to the credits and weep 😉

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman – An Audio Book Dramatization is available through Audible and coming soon to the iTunes Store.

Check out the first chapter on youtube: Chapter 0 – Supreme Negotiators

And here’s a bit of a trailer: TDAOMM Sampler

So Anyway…

November 23rd, 2012

So anyway… where was I? It’s only been about 23 months since the previous episode. Geez… What can I say? There’s too much to explain. I’ll catch you guys up with the goings on over time but, for now, here are some of the things I talk about in this episode:


Pictured at Avatar studios, from left to right: Frank Filipetti, George Massenburg, Elliot scheiner, Al Schmitt, Slau Halatyn, Phil Ramone, Ed Cherney and Chuck Ainlay.

A couple of years ago, I attended the “In Session” event at Avatar Studios. This was a weekend of sessions with the likes of Al schmitt, Phil Ramone, George Massenburg, Elliot Scheiner, Frank Filipetti, Ed Cherney and Chuck Ainlay. It was a fabulous workshop and one of the most enjoyable events I’ve ever attended. from what I understand, there’s one coming up early next year. If you have an opportunity to attend—do it.

Studio Renovation

Well, I don’t know what exactly to call it. It started out as a remodel, turned into a renovation but ultimately could be considered a rebuild. I’ll eventually do an episode on the whole process but I’d like to do it in a video format. I’ll probably need to enlist the help of somebody to shoot and edit.

Orchestral Recording

Last year was one of those years when I flew to Kiev to record an orchestra for Sulyma Productions. This time, my wife flew out toward the end of our week there and we stayed a few extra days. Again, I’ll probably do a separate episode about that trip. Just catching up a bit for now.

The Seven Little Foys

I did another cast album for Chip Deffaa. This time, it was for a musical called “The Seven Little Foys.” The big dilemma was that I was right in the middle of the demolition at the studio so I ended up tracking most of the recording at Dubway Studios. There are some photos from various sessions at Dubway and BeSharp (where I did the final overdubs) at Chip’s web site.

Although I normally don’t answer questions on the podcast, I did take a few questions via Twitter right before recording the episode. I don’t know if I’ll make that a regular feature or not but I just did it on a whim. I’ve got two interviews in the can so I’ll try to get them out as soon as possible. What can I say? I’m trying to get back on the wagon… or is it off the wagon? Whatever it is, I’m trying to do it 😉

Music featured in this episode includes:

Various excerpts from Olga Vinokur (piano), recorded by slau Halatyn at Systems two, brooklyn NY

“Pro Susidku” and “Shchedryk” by the Kiev City Symphony, recorded by slau Halatyn at dZZ, Kiev, Ukraine

“World War I Medley” by the Seven Little Foys Original Cast, recorded by Slau Halatyn at dubway Studios, New York NY,  mixed by slau Halatyn at BeSharp, Astoria NY

“In the crease” by Branford Marsalis, recorded and mixed by Rob Hunter at Bearsville Sound Studios, Bearsville NY

“What Did You Do?” by Slau, recorded and mixed by Slau Halatyn at BeSharp, Astoria NY, mastered by Don Grossinger at Europadisk, Long Island City NY

“Everything Alive Must Die Some Day” by George Hrab, recorded, mixed and ‘mastered”  by Slau Halatyn at BeSharp, Astoria NY

“I’m the One” by Slau, recorded and mixed by Slau Halatyn at BeSharp, Astoria NY, mastered by don Grossinger at europadisk, Long Island City NY

  • “Felt Memories” by Slau Halatyn from the documentary, “Felt, Feelings and Dreams by Andrea Odezynska,” recorded and mixed by slau Halatyn at BeSharp, Astoria NY

Mixerman Interview

January 10th, 2011

Photo of Mixerman

Mixing is neither a linear process nor a technical one. It’s a musical process, and as such, a mix is some

thing that one performs—like an artist.

—Mixerman from “Zen and the Art of Mixing”

Mixerman (a.k.a. Eric Sarafin) has certainly done his share of interviews in print but when I searched for recorded interviews, I basically came up with nothing. I figured that, with the release of his new book, “Zen and the Art of Mixing,” he might be willing to spend some time talking about it.

zen-and-the-art-of-mixing-coverWe talked about his musical background, education and career as well as his philosophy on recording and mixing. Mixerman also discusses a bit about the upcoming “Total Access Master class” including Ken Scott, Mixerman, Joe McGrath and Wyn Davis.

As Mixerman says, “Enjoy!”

Excerpts featured in this episode (in order of appearance):

excerpt from the Mixerman radio Show Christmas 2010
Mixerman, Slipperman & Aardvark theme by members of the WOMB Forums
The Pharcyde “Passing Me By”
Ben Harper “Jah Work”
David Cassidy “I Think I Love You”
Mammal “Smash the Piñata”
Pete Murray “Opportunity”
Ian Moore “Angelyne”
Ben Harper “Steal My Kisses
Spearhead “Hole in the Bucket”

Warning: Tangent!

November 3rd, 2010

I actually did an episode back in early July but… well, it was just an exercise in Futility. Then, of course, my entire summer and half the fall were swallowed up by several projects and, well… you know how the story goes.

Picking up right around where we left off: I did some vocal sessions with blessing Offor, a singer/songwriter signed to a development deal with EMI through Steven Ivy Music out of Nashville. blessing relocated from Nashville to New York and, fortuitously ended up about a 10-minute walk from the studio. It was the first series of sessions on which I used the DVA DR747 on vocals. What mic is this, you ask? Well, I’m sure I’ll have to include the story in another episode but, briefly, it’s a tube LDC based on a U 47. It was made by David Royer before he started Royer Labs. I’m still trying to get some nice photos of it so I can upload it to the microphone database at Recording Hacks. Soon…

One of my favorite projects this year was an original cast recording for an off-Broadway production of a show by the award-winning Chip Deffaa called “One Night with fanny Brice.” I had the pleasure of recording Kimberly Faye-Greenberg (vocals), Mark Goodman (piano) and Jonathan Russell (violin). It was an intense project because we needed to get it done within a tight budget. Everyone brought their best. Can’t wait to see it on stage.

Oscar-nominated actress Vera Farmiga will will be using a song I arranged and produced for an upcoming film called “Higher Ground” scheduled for release in 2011. It was from an album I produced for Ukrainian-American singer Olya Fryz. It’s a children’s song whose title translates as “I’ll Plant a Pear Tree.” It just so happens that Ms. farmiga is a fellow Ukrainian-American—we all know each other, didn’t you know?

It just so happens that this year, I did another production for Olya. This time, it’s a Ukrainian Christmas album. The project took up several months of my time this summer and fall. Normally, a production might not have taken so long but, as it turns out, I did most of the playing on the album so, needless to say, it was fairly linear. I did get george Hrab to lay down some drums on several tunes. All in all, I’m really happy with everything. I wish Olya had room within her budget for having someone else master the album just for a different set of ears and all. I ended up doing everything from arranging through mastering. Oh, it’s a lonely job…

Thanks to Dave chick of Inside Home Recording for putting together some cymbal roll samples for the production. Guess what? After all that, I ended up using the real thing. hey, can you blame me? I mean, I was trying to avoid going out and buying several expensive cymbals. Lucky for me, George Hrab was generous enough to jump into his car with his cymbal bag and make the 90-minute trek to NYC to lay down the real McCoy.

Also, Jon Tidey from the Home Recording Show was kind enough to remove a couple of noises in Andriy Milavsky’s clarinet part on one of the tracks. What did we do before RX? I’ll tell you what: we lived with the bench squeaks and the floor creeks. Man, how things have changed…

I bought a few instruments at Mandolin Brothers for Olya’s production: a wonderful 1910 Gibson “black face Plain A” mandolin, a beautiful Yamaha classical guitar and a Deering banjo. They were a source of much inspiration for many of the arrangements. Yeah, I love buying mics and preamps and all, but buying a musical instrument—well, that’s just a whole different animal. I love these additions to my collection.

On the gear front, I had rented a Universal Audio 2-610 dual channel tube mic pre from DreamHire for the Fanny Brice project and really loved it. I ended up getting one for the studio and pretty much used it exclusively on Olya’s Christmas album. It’s a fantastic pre/DI—not the quietest piece of gear but, hey, it’s tube and that’s to be expected.

I’ve been looking for a pair of Neumann KM 84s for some time. Finding a stereo pair is even more difficult. While keeping my eye on message boards, I saw a post for a Neumann U 47 FET—another mic for which I’ve been on the lookout. Well,  I jumped on the FET 47. I was thrilled to have landed a marvelous specimen. Of course, only hours after having purchased it, a post on the same message board revealed a stereo pair of KM 84s! Just my luck, eh? Well, fortunately, I managed to catch those before anyone else. I neglected to mention another addition to the mic closet this summer but I’ll save that for another show.

The other day I revisited the mic list at Bennett Studios. Two things struck me: 1. I thought it was funny that, among the Neumann and AKG mics, there was the apex 460—not even mentioning the fact that it was modified. Modified or not, it’s still, shall we say, incongruous, at least to many people. With the right modifications, I still think it’s a brilliant mic. My fingers are in my ears, “La-la-la-la…”


2. Bennett has a wonderful collection of mics but when it comes to U47/48s, ELA M 250/251s and such, it’s only through rental rather than straight from the mic closet. Hmm… If a huge studio like bennett chooses to have their clients rent that caliber of microphone, why should BeSharp struggle to acquire better and better additions to the mic closet—especially when DreamHire is literally right down the street? Hmm…

I’m really looking forward to catching up with a bunch of manufacturers and friends at AES in San Francisco and I’m sure it’ll be the subject of the next installment here.

(In addition to the tracks featured by Blessing Offor, the cast of “One Night with Fanny Brice” and Olya Fryz, the last tune featured was Joel Weiskopf entitled “Lonely Evening,” recorded at Sear Sound and mastered at BeSharp.

"Trebuchet" by George Hrab

June 17th, 2010

So, as many of you know, I’ve been recording albums for George Hrab for many years. In fact, this is his sixth album recorded at beSharp. It’s always a blast and an adventure to record an generic cialis india album for him. This one was no exception, of course. I’ll post a sort of “making of” episode soon that will include an interview with Geo. For now, thanks to geologic Records, here’s the album in it’s entirety. If you’d like to support the artist (and I’d encourage you, naturally), it can be found at CD baby and iTunes.

Advanced Audio CM-12 Mod

February 15th, 2010
CM-12 in shock mount

One of the biggest trends in the pro audio world in the last 10 years, apart from the resurgence of the ribbon microphone, has been the modification of lower-end gear to yield high-end results. In many cases, a simple tube or transformer swap can immediately make a noticeable difference in the sound. In some cases, additional circuit changes can transform a good piece of equipment into great equipment that might rival the performance of gear many times its price. Perhaps nowhere is this more prevalent these days than with microphones. Not only are there a ton of sites that offer DIY solutions for mic mods but there are several companies and boutique “mic modders” who offer these services for a reasonable price. Reasonable, that is, when you consider the price of the mics that these modified specimens are said to rival.

For the average project studio owner, spending $5,000 or $10,000 on a microphone is usually out of the question, but spending a few hundred dollars on a mic and a few hundred dollars on modifications is a much more realistic proposition. These modified mics may not have the sex appeal of a vintage Neumann or RCA but they can often hold their own or even outperform their revered competition. Will they help a studio attract clientele? Probably not. Will they get the job done? Judging from my own adventures with mic modding—which I’ll detail in this article—absolutely. Wouldn’t everybody love to have the bragging rights that go with owning a beautiful U 47 in perfect condition? Naturally, but when your clients are paying $50 per hour, it’s not easy to justify a $10,000 mic much less all the other items in the gear lust list. Having an affordable option in the “modded” category is a welcome alternative for a growing number of studio owners on a budget and, let’s face it, these days, who isn’t?

As a studio owner, I’ve rented plenty of microphones over the years. I’ve often fantasized about owning many of the legendary mics that have come through the door. I could easily afford them all if I’d only increase the studio rate to $500 per hour. Need I pursue this scenario any further to illustrate my point?

Putting myself squarely in the category of a studio owner on a tight budget, I began researching the possibility of modifying a few mics that could perform on a high level without the high price tag…

To read the rest of my review of the Advanced Audio CM-12 Mod, please visit

In this podcast episode, I interview Dave Thomas of Advanced Audio Microphones. We discuss their product line as well as details about the various modification packages. There’s a little shootout between a stock Apex 460, the Advanced Audio CM-12 and an AKG C 12. How did the CM-12 compare with the two other mics? Well, naturally, you’ll just have to listen to find out.


If you’d like to compare the mics in your own DAW, you can download a zipped folder containing the 24-bit shootout samples here.

For more information about Advanced Audio Microphones’ products and services, please visit

Audio Podcasters Roundtable

January 23rd, 2010

Here’s a round table discussion hosted by the guys at the Home Recording Show. If viagra online you’re in to audio, you should Generic cialis cheap be subscribed to all of these guys’ podcasts:

If Every Day Were Christmas

December 23rd, 2009

This is one of those instances where I simply don’t know where to start. Trying to write additional show notes for this one has proven to be a bit more than I can handle. There are way too many people and links involved. The best thing to do, I suppose, is to point you in the direction of the web site for Podsafe for Peace at:

There, you can read a little bit about the project and learn more about the people involved with it.

I promise I’ll do whatever it takes to get it into the iTunes Store next year. For now, it’s available at the Podsafe for Peace site.

Happy Holidays!

Pre Post

November 23rd, 2009

I received an audio comment from James Clausen with some questions about microphone preamps. James inquired about my recent purchase of several Grace Design M101s and wonders how they compare with the Millennia Media HV-3D.

As I mentioned in the previous episode, I won a bid on the M101s in an auction of gear from a studio going out of business. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to look for the M101s but they are very nice for the price and especially at the auction price at which I purchased them. I would have probably preferred the John Hardy pres that were originally housed in the studio’s racks but, alas, they were gone before the auction even began…

I sent the pres to Grace Designs for a +10 dB gain modification so I didn’t have time to do a proper shootout. However, when I did bring the pres to the studio, I plugged them in just to make sure they were in working order. I did viagra a very brief comparison to the HV-3D just to see if they were at least as clean. I have to say, they were awfully close. I detected only a perceivably higher noise floor, perhaps 3 dB or so. Otherwise, they really were comparable. The front panel Hi–Z input and high pass filter are welcomed features not available on the HV-3D. I do wish they had an easier option for rack mounting but, with a rack shelf, a drill and two #10 machine screws, it’s not a big deal.

James asks about how the Grace and Millennia pres compare with some other offerings from Focusrite, Manley and Avalon. The thing is, some of the pres he mentions are more along the lines of channel strips that include compression and/or equalization in addition to amplification.

Rather than comparing them to the HV-3D, I’d sooner compare them to something like the Millennia Media Origin STT-1. The Origin is a full recording channel although it also has a feature not found in too many preamps which is a twin topology design that allows for discrete solid–state and tube paths for the preamp, compressor and EQ sections of the unit.

I had to break the news to James that, when recording a drum kit, one could, indeed, easily use tens of thousands of dollars in preamp channels. Of course, one probably wouldn’t find that kind of arsenal in a home studio but it’s par for the course in commercial facilities and higher–end project studios. Think about using 8 channels of a vintage Neve console to mic a drum kit—with a price tag of several hundreds of thousands of dollars, what would you say is the per–channel cost of the signal chain? Yeah, I know, it seems almost depressing, doesn’t it?

But why? It shouldn’t be depressing at all! One can get fantastic results with simple, straight amplification of signals right into a DAW. In fact, that’s what some engineers began doing in the 80s and 90s with preamps going straight into analog multitrack recorders and bypassing the console altogether. These days, it’s possible to find great multichannel preamps with plenty of clean gain to help get several tracks of high–quality audio into your recording platform of choice without totally breaking the bank.

If you do a little searching, you’ll find that Rob Hunter (Branford Marsalis’s engineer/producer) often uses Millennia preamps. What you probably won’t find out is that, depending on the client with whom he’s working and their budget, he sometimes uses the PreSonus DigiMAX. The DigiMAX is a wonderful 8–channel preamp with plenty of nice, clean gain. I’ve used it on a couple of projects as well and I think it’s great. I’ve also used the preamps on the Focusrite Control|24 as well as the OctoPre. Apart from lacking a little extra gain for the many ribbon mics I often use, they’re perfectly fine preamps for a wide range of applications.

A recent episode of Ronan’s Recording Show featured a review of several preamps in the $500 range. Among the contenders, Ronan appears to like the True Systems P-Solo which, incidentally, my buddy, Allen (Big Al) Wagner, just won in a Sweetwater Sound Twitter promotion. Congratulations, Biggy!

So, with all these choices, what do I look for in a preamp? Well, to try and keep it simple, I look for three main things: 1) clarity, 2) headroom and 3) reliability. I tend to favor transparency in a preamp. I generally don’t need crunch in my sessions but, if I do, I reach for a tube pre and then I’m not so concerned with the clarity. Ample headroom is a great thing when trying to capture sound with a large dynamic range like an orchestra or even a piano. Reliability is worth every penny that you pay for it. That may not be apparent most of the time because most gear works just about all the time. When you’re in the middle of a session, capturing a never–to–be–repeated live performance of a jazz combo or vocal take and the equipment fails, well…

That’s not to say that the more affordable gear is necessarily more prone to failing. If it doesn’t fail in the first few days, it’ll probably last a long time. Perhaps not as long as a vintage preamp built in 1964 and still kicking but long enough to possibly get you through the next few years until you save up enough money to climb to the next rung on the great gear ladder.

All of this talk about preamps and comparisons made me think of a wonderful collection of discs from 3D audio Inc. Lynne Fuston and company put out a series of shootouts featuring mics, preamps, A/D converters and even DAWs. He brought in a team of engineers to help with these massive projects and documented everything very diligently. I’d highly recommend these discs as a point of reference for anyone interested in comparing gear including many of the classic pieces as well as current offerings.

My two criticisms of the mic shootout, specifically, are:

1) I wish the singers had used a tempo reference to keep their vocal performances consistent. With the files imported into a DAW for A-B comparison, it’s distracting to flip from one track to the next and have it be out of sync with the other tracks only a few seconds into the performance. I think it would’ve been a simple thing to implement and I hope they consider that for any future shootouts.

2) The three examples of ribbon mics in the lineup were horrible. In a phone call, Lynn admitted to me that, at the time, he was fairly new to ribbon microphones and that he had mistakenly chosen to position the vocalists only 8 inches from the mics. This, of course, is fine for moving coil and condenser mics but absolutely not for most ribbon mics. Now, that’s a fair explanation for his own oversight but, my goodness, I would’ve thought that one of the other engineers would’ve said, “Wait a second…”

Anyway, apart from the ribbon anomaly, the rest of the stuff is really quite nicely put together. One of the preamp discs features a DVD with a Pro Tools session that includes multiple performances with various preamps used on multiple playlists for each track. In other words, one could hear an entire performance on several instruments and vocal through one type of preamp versus another or any combination. I believe it was the second in a series of preamp discs and it was clearly more thought–out. I’d highly recommend the entire series as an excellent point of reference.

Aside from the two brief clips from Libby Richman and George Hrab, the background music featured in this episode came from instrumental mixes from an album I produced for Cathy Rose entitled “Soul and Sky.”

The Didge

November 3rd, 2009

Yeah, I know, I know—it’s been a long time. Trust me, it bothers me more than it might bother you. Thing is, I could either cancel sessions and work less often, make less money and then I’d have more time to podcast! Oh, wait… maybe not.

I did have a last minute cancellation which was quite welcomed, given my cold and so I did have an unexpected window in which to record this episode—a kind of “catch up” in the studio.

I have to say, when I started this podcast series, I figured that I would do a few such “catching up” episodes but now I’m thinking I might rather do it in blog form. Hmm… maybe I will. We’ll see.

Sooooooo– since last time, I did go to Atlanta for Dragon*Con which was a complete blast. I met so, so many people who were so friendly and were fans of the podcast. It didn’t hurt that I was hanging with George Hrab ( and Donna Mugavero (@MsInformation) most of the weekend. I was invited to be on two panels in the podcasting track. It was so nice to finally meet derek & Swoopy from the Skepticality podcast. (

I couldn’t visit Atlanta and not give my friend, Brian Stevens ( a call. We went to lunch at one of those Brazilian steak joints. Wow! I like to call our little meet up a “meat up” because, man—bacon-wrapped chicken, bacon-wrapped beef, bacon-wrapped bacon… It was fabulous to meet Brian in person and I really enjoyed the conversation. Hey, Brian: c’mon, let’s have another episode of the Music Pro Show! (Like I should speak about getting a show out…)

A couple of weeks ago, I flew out to San Francisco for a meeting at Digidesign. I’ve been working with them over the course of a few years to make Pro Tools compatible with the VoiceOver feature of Mac OS X. It’s been a long road and we still have a little way to go but we can definitely see the finish line. For more information on the accessibility of Pro Tools for blind users, please visit

As usual, I did attend the AES show in New York. I must say, although they tried to spin it in a positive light, the show is so much smaller than it used to be. Hey, I’m glad it’s still around and I’m confident that it’ll grow once again but it really did seem quite a bit smaller than in previous years.

I tried to attend as many workshops as I could. Of course, there are so many good ones that are scheduled at the same time—it’s impossible to see everything one wants to see at these conventions.
One of the panelists with which I was quite impressed was David Josephson of Josephson Engineering. ( David was so thorough in his explanations and so confident that it made me want to just go out and buy a Josephson microphone. David’s an impressive and knowledgeable man with high standards. . No wonder he’s chair of the AES Standards Committee.

I did get to see a bunch of friends and colleagues—some old, some new. I met Sydney Galbraith who came down from Toronto for the show. I know Sydney through Twitter (@sydneygalbraith)—really nice guy with, I’m sure, a bright career in front of him.

Speaking of bright careers, I got to meet the legendary Bruce Swedien. Wow, what a warm and gracious person he is. I think of him as the Walter Cronkite of the audio world. Man, what a giant in the industry and he couldn’t be nicer.

There were a couple of people I didn’t get to see in person and I was bummed about that. I stopped in at the A–Designs booth to see Ronan Chris Murphy of Ronan’s Recording Show ( but he wasn’t around. I stopped in again the next day and missed him again and it appeared that he wasn’t checking Twitter so I didn’t get to meet up with him this time. Also, John Grant of Granelli Audio Labs ( had a whirlwind of a day on Sunday (his only day at the show) but I had to leave early and missed him. Next time…

One of the engineers on a particular panel just rubs me the wrong way to such an extent that it makes me ill. (eyes rolling) He keeps referring to the Sony 3348 as “the didge” which drives me up the wall. First of all, the format is DASH (for digital audio stationary head) and, if anything, the competing format, Mitsubishi’s Pro Digi should sooner be nicknamed “didge.” Further, the fact that this guy uses a 16-bit machine when most people have been using 24-bit for years and years is just inexplicable. Yeah, right, there was a 20-bit version of the Sony DASH as well. Hmm… I wonder if he broke down and stepped up to 20-bit… Anyway, I can’t tell you how nauseated I was by this guy. Honestly, I’m usually quite easy-going but this guy just manages to irk me so…

Since the previous episode, I’ve mixed and mastered ‘Shay Salhov’s record. I would’ve loved for him to have it mastered by someone like Bernie Grundman or Greg Calbi. Unfortunately, I guess it was a financial limitation that led him to having me master it. Alright, I did a decent job but it’s too bad the project couldn’t have been taken to the next level. It sure deserves it.

I sent Carol Sudhalter’s album to be mastered in Rome by Alfa Records. I’ll have to put together an episode regarding Carol’s project. It was really a great pleasure to work on it and the musicians were all delightful. Can’t wait to hear the final release.

We’re done with the tracking and editing for Libby Richman’s album, “Open Strings.” Mixing begins next week. Again, a wonderful group of players on this album.

George Hrab’s long–awaited “Trebuchet” is in it’s final tracking sessions. We still have a vocal intro to record and a horn section on one tune and then we mix. Having begun this project in the Spring, this is the longest period of time from beginning to end for a Geologic record. George says he’s not even sure of everything he has in the can—it’s been that long since we began the recording. Can’t wait to finish it up and get it out there.

Ah, the really bizarre thing I experienced this month was an auction for a voice-over studio in Manhattan that was going out of business. I had gone there a month before the auction because a friend of mine was going to be bidding on the entire studio. Since he’s in L.A., he asked me to go over and have a look at the gear and the space. They had a really nice collection of mics, preamps, some vintage compressors, computers, monitors, etc. Unfortunately, my friend bid too low and the entire studio was auctioned off piece by piece.

I went to the auction to see if I could get some choice pieces. I was quite disappointed to discover that a lot of the gear was already gone even before the auction took place. Apparently, a bunch of it was snatched up by the old employees of the studio. It was slim pickin’s. I did manage to pick up a lot of three Atlas SB36W stands for $90 and four Grace Designs M101s for $225 each. All in all, it was a pretty good deal but, given the amount of time I spent on the whole thing, I’m not sure that it was so extraordinary. Oh well…

I almost forgot—two other things that recently came through the studio door were the Wechter Nashville Elite from Sweetwater Sound and a pair of  Advanced Audio CM-12s.

The Nashville Elite is a really nice, colorful instrument specifically designed for Nashville tuning. I’m not crazy about the glossy finish but I’m really having a lot of fun playing it and I can’t wait to use it on some projects.

The CM-12s are actually fully-modified Apex 460s that I sent to Dave Thomas of Advanced Audio. I did do a quick shootout with a stock 460 and a vintage AKG C 12. I’ll save that one for another episode. For now, suffice it to say that I have a smile on my face 😀

Hey, you know how I’ve said that the show notes can contain some additional/different information than the podcast? Well, here’s a great example of how scatter-brained I can be: I went through great lengths to describe the IAC isolation booths on auction at the ACB voice-over studio and how expensive they are and all. Of course, after all that, I never mentioned the best part—only one person bid on one booth and won it for only $200—a $16,000 booth for $200! Man… I was thinking to myself the next day that I should’ve bid on the rest and simply taken off the doors and interior fiberglass acoustic panels and sold them and on Ebay. Too late. Oh well… next auction.

Don't Be Shay

August 26th, 2009

Most of my clients come to me by word of mouth, which is great. Even better, I often get sidemen on sessions who have their own side projects and, having worked with me, often approach me about recording their stuff as well.

I was working on a project featuring fairy tales and silly songs, aptly titled, “Fairy Tales and Silly Songs.” The author of the stories and songs collaborated with a musician named Shay Salhov. He wrote the music for the tunes and did some incidental music for the stories.

Shay came in a few days before the main session to lay down piano for the tunes. He was OK on piano but nothing special. In all fairness, I’ve worked with some extraordinary pianists and, let’s just say, I wouldn’t necessarily put him in their league.

Everything went well during the piano tracking session and at some point Shay said, “Hey, I have a trio and I’d love to have you record us. I live in the neighborhood and I feel comfortable working with you. Would you be interested?” I said, “Sure, that would be great.”

So I thought nothing more of it because I get inquiries like that all the time from musicians and, until they “book the hall,” it’s all talk. But a few months later I got a call from Shay wanting to book a session.

“OK, a trio session. So, piano, bass, drums? Piano, bass, guitar?” I asked. Shay quickly interrupted me, “No no no—my main instrument is saxophone. I just played piano for that children’s project out of necessity but I’m a sax player.” I told him that I really enjoy sax trios and that I was looking forward to the session.

The setup for the session was really straightforward: a pair of upgraded Cascade Fat Heads  in a Blumlein configuration as drum overheads, an AKG D 112  on the kick drum and a Shure SM57 on snare. For the acoustic bass, I chose a Heil Sound PR-40 and for the sax, a Mojave Audio Ma200. I set up some acoustic screens to isolate each musician a little bit while maintaining line-of-sight between the players.

The guys arrived and started warming up and, wow, they sounded way better than I expected. The drummer, Ronen Itzik, was great, the bass player, Gary Wang, was great and shay was an amazing sax player. Here I was, practically writing him off as a mediocre pianist and the guy was a phenomenal sax player and fantastic musician.

Anyway, I quickly adjusted the mics on the drums and sax while the guys were rehearsing. When I squatted down in front of Gary, the bass player, he said, “Uh, are you sure that mic is positioned right? Isn’t it supposed to be facing up?” Apparently, he wasn’t familiar with the Heil PR-40. It’s a moving coil mic that looks an awful lot like a condenser and one might assume it’s a side-address mic but it’s not. The mic even ships with a paper around it saying, “Note: This is an end-address microphone.” Anyway, I said, “No, it’s an end-address dynamic mic and it’s supposed to face this way,” and he says, “A dynamic mic? Hmm, interesting.” I’m thinking to myself, “What does he mean by that?” I inquire and he says, “I’ve always seen guys use a U 87.” Now, one can use almost anything on an acoustic bass, of course, but the most popular choice has traditionally been an Electro-Voice RE-20, a Sennheiser MD421—moving coils, for sure. I happen to like the PR-40 on bass because it’s a little brighter and helps pick up a little more attack. Anyway, I assured him that a moving coil dynamic was a very standard choice for acoustic bass, especially in a jazz combo setting.

As I buy cialis adjusted the mic to face the f-hole at about 10 inches away, Gary says, “Is that where you’re going to leave the mic?” Now I’m thinking he feels it’s going to be in his way or something. I asked him, “Are you in the position you’ll be playing in?” He says, “Yeah.” And I say, “Well then, it’s right where it needs to be.” And he says something like, “Hmm, interesting, alright, whatever.” So now I’m really wondering what’s he thinking? I ask why and he says, “Well, I’ve seen most guys put the mic directly in front of the bass, pointing at the bridge. I explained that in a classical session or in a live room where space is absolutely no consideration, the mic would, indeed, be in front of the instrument but that this was a jazz session and to try and minimize bleed from other instruments, it’s very common to put the mic in front of the f-hole. There are no rules, of course. The world-renowned, multiple grammy–award-winning engineer, Al Schmitt, once recounted about wrapping foam rubber around the body of a Neumann U 67 (his favorite mic) and sticking it underneath the fingerboard of an acoustic  bass to record it. Whatever works.

Anyway, I was really beginning to feel like this guy just simply didn’t trust me. I don’t often feel like I have to prove myself and, I have to say, it’s kind of an unpleasant feeling and it’s probably the feeling some new clients get when they come into a new studio, a strange place, new people to deal with. I should probably be more cognizant of that fact. and sensitive to it as well.

I have to admit, I kind of played a little game with him and said, “OK, we’ll do it your way,” and positioned the mic right in front of the bridge. I think he might’ve felt like he sort of won that little power struggle or whatever you want to call it. “Sure, we’ll do it your way and see how it sounds,” I said.

So, we did a little test run and the guys came in to listen. They really liked the overall sound but the drummer asked for an extra mic to put on the hi-hat because some details in his playing were sometimes getting a little lost. While I ran out into the live room to throw an AKG C 391 small diaphragm condenser on the hat, I left the take playing in the control room. When I came back and stopped the transport, Gary hinted that maybe we should try moving the mic back where it was to begin with. I suspect he was second guessing himself and by now had started to trust me a little more. I said, “Sure, we can compromise and split the difference,” and he said, “Whatever you think is best. Put it wherever you want.” I thought to myself, “Finally, he’s comfortable.” That’s what it’s all about for some people. Sometimes they have to flex a little muscle, drop a few names, tell a few stories, warm up—whatever. It’s all good. It was just a little unusual for me to feel uncomfortable. that usually doesn’t happen with me. Well, at least now we seemed to be getting to normal.

I made a quick adjustment on the bass and we started recording. These guys were such a pleasure to record once things were underway. I have to say, I absolutely love jazz and particularly like sax trios so it was a real blast. Except for the last tune, everything was original material written by Shay and, for the most part, it was all two takes or so of each tune but they just blew through it one after the next.

Within a few hours, the guys had recorded essentially an album’s worth of material. I made a couple of reference CDs and they took off. I decided to Google Shay and wasn’t surprised to learn that he graduated from Berklee School of Music and has a master’s degree in classical music from Boston University and has played with a whole slew of great musicians.

I was so looking forward to mixing this project but, what’s more, I was excited at the prospect of working with Shay on future projects. I imagined myself like Rob Hunter with Branford Marsalis, developing a long-term working relationship, maybe doing some live sound for Shay—and he was right here in the neighborhood.

So I get a phone call from Shay a few weeks later and he says, “Hey, listen, my wife and I are moving to California.” It was a very last minute kind of thing and they were leaving in just a few days. I was stunned and so disappointed. We discussed doing the mix remotely and I suppose I could do that for his future projects as well. that’s all fine and good, mixing is alright but tracking a jazz combo like that is just simply one of my favorite things in the world. Unfortunately, it appears that I won’t be doing that for Shay unless, of course, his budget will allow for me to fly out to Santa Cruz but I’m not getting my hopes up…yet.

So, that’s the way it is with clients sometimes—easy come, easy go. It’s great when they come and it sucks when they go. The thing about the saying, “easy come, easy go,” is that it ends on a negative thought. Thing is, it’s cyclical and there’s always a new “easy come” after an “easy go” and, fortunately, my experience has been, much more often than not, after an “easy come,” they tend to stay.

As for Shay, yeah, well, he’s gone for now but I’m sure some lucky engineer in Santa cruz or L.A. will get a phone call and will get to work with Shay. Of course, it’s just as likely that some fabulously talented musician somewhere in the world is packing their bags, making the big move to New York City and, who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get a phone call because, well, you know what they say, “Easy go, easy come.”

For more information on Shay salhov and his music, visit

Also, check out the Skeptic Zone podcast for Kylie Sturges’s interview with me about myths in the audio world.

If you’re in Atlanta for Dragon*Con, I’ll be on a couple of panels in the podcasting track Saturday morning and Monday morning. Otherwise, just walk up to me and say the secret word 😉

Superstition Multitrack

August 2nd, 2009

I know so many people that have either met or dealt with Stevie Wonder in some capacity. I had the pleasure of meeting him once, many years ago (almost 20), at a pro audio retail shop in Manhattan. We spoke briefly and I mentioned the fact that I was legally blind which didn’t seem to make a big impression on him. I guess he meets blind musicians all the time. oh well.

The coolest part of the whole encounter was when I walked around to the keyboard opposite where Stevie was trying a new Ensoniq sampler and I got to hear him singing quietly while playing the keys. Without copper, electrons or speaker cones between us, it was the most incredible thing to hear him move the molecules of air that separated us, only a few feet apart. I’ll never forget it.

So, it was with great interest that I unzipped the file that “Big Al” from the Project Studio Network ( sent me a while ago. It was a set of WAV files from the multitrack master for “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder from his  “Talking Book” ( album released in 1972. It was a 16-track recording that featured mostly Stevie singing as well as playing drums and keyboards along with some horn players.

The original recording didn’t sound all that spectacular to me. I guess, for that time, it sounded alright but, by today’s standards, well, let’s say it wouldn’t win the grammy for best engineered album. The track list is:

1. kick drum
2. drums (left)
3. drums (right)
4. vocal 1 (final take)
5. vocal 2 (unused)
6. keyboard delay 1
7. keyboard delay 2
8. clavinet 2 mic 1
9. clavinet 2 mic 2
10. clavinet 1 mic 1
11. clavinet 1 mic 2
12. clavinet 1 mic 3
13. clavinet 1 mic 4
14. horns (left)
15. horns (right)
16. synth bass

If you dig around the “InnerTubes” you’ll find these multitrack files along with other ones from various artists. I absolutely love going through multitrack masters and checking out the individual tracks. It’s fun to piece together what happened, trying to imagine what the engineers were thinking, what production decisions were being made, etc. Most of all, what strikes you is that all one needs to do most often is simply bring up the faders and there’s the song — no automation, no plug-ins — it’s just all there. I think multitrack masters, especially ones by some of the legendary acheter viagra artists and bands from the 60s and 70s, should be used extensively in audio education. Actually, not only should they be used in audio programs in schools but they should also be made widely available to those aspiring to learn the craft of engineering and producing. I could just hear the RIAA preparing the documents for the lawsuits…

“Superstition” engineered by Austin Godsey and mastered by George Marino

The Fetish Stiletto

July 18th, 2009

I recently posted something on Twitter that seemed to strike a chord, judging from how many retweets it seemed to generate. I said, “Sorry for the generalization but, microphones are to audio engineers what shoes are to women.” It’s an analogy that seems to work on several levels. Well, you can say I have a mic fetish but, I say, “What good engineer doesn’t?” I think I should start my own brand of esoteric, boutique mics called Fetish and the flagship model can be The Stiletto. (Shhh — don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our exclusive little mic.)

There are some mics you don’t necessarily reach for all the time and there are the work horses. You’ve got your Manolos of the mic world like the Neumann U 47 and then you have your 9 Wests like the SM57, MD421 and fat Heads.

So, in my search for the “black pump” of tube condensers, I happen to call Dae Bennett (Tony Bennett’s son), owner of bennett Studios ( in Englewood, New Jersey. I had heard some good things about the Audio-technica AT 4047 and, specifically, that it was used on all of the vocals on Tony’s “Duets” album. Now, I know it’s not a tube mic, but I was considering buying it but simply had to confirm that this mic was used on all of the vocals on that album. I had my doubts because I know that some of the vocalists on that recording like Sting and Stevie Wonder happen to use the Sony C800G a lot of the time. Dae confirmed that the AT 4047 was, in fact, used on all of the vocals except one. Turns out, what I heard was true — Bono always seems to use a Shure SM58 Beta in the studio.

Anyway, during our conversation, Dae mentioned the Apex 460 ( I hadn’t heard much about the mic so, when I learned that someone had modified a pair for him, I was intrigued and began researching the mic. I was amazed at the differences of opinion this mic caused.

I wish I had known about ( at that point. It probably would have saved me a lot of surfing time. Matthew McGlynn does an amazing job with his Microphone Database ( It has tremendously useful links to the manufacturers’ web sites, spec sheets, owner’s manuals, etc.

At a certain point, I found Dan Richard’s side-by-side comparison ( of the R-F-T Telefunken M16 and the Apex 460 on ( Turns out that, apart from three resistors, the mics are identical. Of course, the $1,400 price tag for the M16 seemed a little steep as compared with the $229 cost of the 460. Telefunken re-released the mic as the M16 Mark II with the same price tag but allegedly upgraded components.

So, further research revealed that the Apex 460 was just a rebranded Alctron HST-11A ( which is a Chinese-made multi-pattern tube condenser that seemed to appear under many names including Nady and Carvin, among others. There seemed to be a number of modifications that some folks were doing like transformer swaps, changing the capsules, capacitors and tubes. There were some guys like Dave Thomas, whose company, Advanced Audio (, offered highly modified versions of the HST-11A and branded them with their own names like the CM12 ( In some cases, third party “mic moders” were using the Peluso CEK-12( as an upgrade from the stock capsule. Further, I discovered that Peluso themselves offered a similar mic known as the P12 (

All of these mics were essentially based on the legendary AKG C 12. Not being in a position to justify the cost of a vintage C 12, I found the Apex 460 at Full Compass Systems ( for only $181 at the time and ordered several. I compared the stock 460 to a pair of 460s I had modified by one of Dae Bennett’s friends. The moded mics were ever so slightly darker but, apart from that, all of the mics, even the stock models, sounded quite nice.

I always wanted to compare the moded 460s to an AKG C 12 so I called Chris Dunn at DreamHire ( and he personally dropped one off at the studio —  not because I’m such an important client but, rather, most likely because I’m literally down the street from them since they’ve moved to Astoria (woohoo!).

These shootouts almost always reinforce what I’ve come to realize: the great Neumann and AKG mics of yesteryear were absolute marvels and achieved an enormously high standard even 50 years ago — a standard that is still strived for today. At the same time, there are plenty of new mics today that technically out-perform the vintage offerings. Thing is, almost none of those mics sound like they did the day they were made and many of them have been so heavily modified and repaired that, for all intents, they’re practically new mics.

I don’t know if I would ever buy a vintage U 47 or C 12. i mean, it would be great to own a piece of history, yeah, but in almost every shootout, I’m reminded that the vintage models, as nice as they are, aren’t necessarily the winners and are sometimes, quite frankly, the losers. I think I’d rather invest a little less money in a contemporary mic like the Peluso 2247LE ( 47 LE.html) and be content owning an extraordinary, modern microphone. People will always covet the historic Neumann, AKG and Telefunken mics and they’ll always be collectors items for some. I’ll always respect and revere them but I think I’ll stick to, umm… the black pumps.

background music for this episode is by Sarina Bridget Bach from her debut album, “All Except One.” Recorded by Slau at BeSharp, June 6, 1999.
Sarina Bridget Bach – piano, Patience Higgins – tenor sax, Jesse Andrus – tenor/soprano sax, Hugh Fraser – trombone, Steve Roane – bass, Richie DeRosa – drums

Additional excerpts from: Joel Weiskopf, Marty Mabin, Libby Richman and Carlo Barile, Vinny pedulla and Slau.

Orchestral Recording

June 12th, 2009

Think about how worked up we get as engineers and musicians over which mic to use, placement, the acoustics, etc. Think about how much time and energy is exerted in these endeavors. Now, imagine multiplying that by a factor of 60 to record an orchestra. That’s where I was about 15 years ago when I was asked to record an orchestra for the first time. I had recorded several ensembles up to that point but nothing at all on the scale of 60 or so musicians. Like any good engineer would do, when asked if I could handle such a project, I naturally said, “Of course, no problem, piece of cake.” Man, was I ever flying by the seat of my pants.To be completely honest here, as is often the case, I was referred to the executive producer by a mutual friend and the only reason I got the gig was because the orchestra we were going to record was located in Kiev, Ukraine and, since I’m fairly fluent in Ukrainian, I got the gig.

Late last year, I got another one of those phone calls informing me that another orchestral project was coming up. I can’t tell you how excited I get whenever these projects come up. First of all, they really take good care of me, make all the arrangements, book the flights and hotels, provide meals, transportation—I essentially have nothing to worry about except capturing the performance of the orchestra. Further, it is an enormous challenge but I love that challenge and I have a team of people to rely upon to get the job done. It’s really a completely different sensation to be involved on a project with a hundred people than one with a few people in a room.

In the past, we used to record these orchestras at the Dovzhenko Film Studio, the largest film lot in Europe. It’s a very old and sort of run-down place that served the purpose, I suppose but, this time around, we were going to be using a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Kiev known as DZZ, short for “Deem Zvukozapis” which means house of sound recording.

Composer Yuri Shevchenko and Chumka artisitc director, Gordon Gordey

Composer Yuri Shevchenko and Chumka artisitc director, Gordon Gordey

Allow me to give you a brief explanation about the purpose of these recordings. You see, there’s a dance ensemble in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada named “Shumka,” ( which means whirlwind. This year is their 50th anniversary. This ensemble used to tour with a live 30-piece orchestra. In the late eighties and early nineties, it became prohibitively expensive to tour with a live orchestra. So they decided to use recordings of orchestras for playback in the venues where they were performing. Thing is, these recordings didn’t seem to sound all that great in the large venues where they danced.

In my discussions with Michael Sulyma, the producer of the Shumka tours, I explained to him that the main problem was that the recordings they were using probably had natural or synthesized reverberation in the mix and, when being played back in a large venue, the auditorium itself was imparting reverberation, resulting in a wash of unfocused, muddy sound. I explained that the recordings needed to be as dry as possible and, in addition, the individual tracks for spot mics needed to be delayed to compensate for microphone distances according to the speed of sound. All of this, of course, made sense to Michael and I’m sure I impressed him with my knowledge and confidence. what he didn’t know was that I was essentially talking out of my ass. Well, not exactly, but most of what I was saying was theory and I had no actual proof or experience. Oh well, I guess I was taking a huge risk and could’ve failed miserably but, honestly, based on my experience thus far and my research (and imagine: I didn’t have Internet access back then!), I was confident that I could pull it off.

Anyway, in the end, as you might have gathered, I did, in fact, pull it off quite successfully, such that I’ve been invited back to do it several more times. This time around, it was to record several pieces for their 50th anniversary show to be held in Edmonton.

As I mentioned before, I’m always very well taken care of on these gigs. While I’m usually put on a direct flight from New York to Kiev, this time around, I was flown to London to meet up with Michael Sulyma, Shumka’s producer, Dave Ganert, Shumka’s Co-Artistic Director and choreographer and Andrew Scholotiuk, my assistant and Pro Tools operator for the sessions. We would have one day and one night in London where we could finalize our plans, set up some gear to make sure everything was working alright and have an opportunity to perhaps rent equipment in London in case it was necessary. You see, going to Kiev is kind of like going to a desert island of sorts. Actually, it’s really different these days and much better than it used to be. You can pretty much buy or procure anything you’d like in Kiev. that is, if you’re looking for an Armani suit or a Bentley. I was even surprised to see an unofficial Apple store in one of the underground malls. But, if you need a Digidesign 192 I/O or a Millennia mic preamp, uh, you’re pretty much out of luck.

Slau in the control room

Slau in the control room

So, we had a nice day and fun evening in London before heading off together on a flight to Kiev where we were met  at the airport by Yury Shevchenko, the composer of Shumka’s music, Victor Litvinov, one of Ukraine’s finest choreographers and Oksana Solovyova, an interpreter and Michael’s right hand man, err, woman in Kiev. They drove us to a corporate apartment where we would stay just down the street from the studio.

Once we settled in, we had a chance to sit down and catch up with Yury, the composer, and talk about our game plan for the next few days. If I recall correctly, there might’ve been some vodka involved but I’m not sure…

After our brief meeting, Michael, Dave, Andrew and I went out for a walk on the town and a bite to eat. Of course, a beer run was in order and we were successful in our quest. We sat around, watching the Simpsons dubbed into Ukrainian and had a good night’s rest before our big first day at the studio.

Deem Zvukozapis is a purpose-built recording facility with four studios, one of which is specifically designed for orchestral recording. It’s an impressive building with grand steps leading up to its main entrance. It’s pretty much the Ukrainian equivalent of walking into Abbey Road Studios. Its echoey hallways added to that impression. We arrived a couple of hours before the session to set up our equipment in the control room. Andriy Mokrytski, the house engineer for Studio A had not yet arrived so we went in to check out the live room.

The live room was really quite impressive and wonderful sounding. Of course, as I mentioned, the main consideration was that we have a dry sounding recording, without too much ambience and, frankly, this hall was purposely designed to give a bunch of ambience, as much as 2.5 seconds worth. There was one other live room that could accommodate an orchestra but they weren’t equipped to handle the amount of inputs we would need for the number of microphones we’d be using for the recording. As usual, one simply improvises and makes decisions based on circumstances, weighs the pros and cons, takes a deep breath and proceeds.

Andriy Mokrytski finally arrived to let us into the control room. He was a tall, bald man with a somewhat serious expression. I was hoping he’d be cool and easy-going. After all, here I am, an outside engineer, coming into his house and, you know, some guys can get kind of territorial about things. That was the kind of thing I had to deal with at Dovzhenko Studios with the previous engineer the first time I worked with him. Well, this time around, it was apparent that things would be different. first of all, the facility was on a completely different level. It was actually staffed with a bunch of assistants and the rooms themselves were a lot more comfortable. After he directed a few assistants, Andriy asked me if I needed anything, to simply ask. It looked like things would work out well.

We had a bunch of auxiliary equipment to set up, both in the control room and live room. You see, these guys are normally outfitted to do 8-track recordings of orchestras—maybe a stereo pair or two on the orchestra with some ambient mics or perhaps a Decca tree array—not 32 tracks like we were planning on.

OK, so since we’re talking about gear, let me tell you what we brought with us and what we used for the recording. I’ll get to the mics later.

Yuri Shevchenko standing behind Slau and house engineer Andriy Mokrytski with Producer Michael Sulyma and assistant Andrew Scholotiuk in background

Yuri Shevchenko standing behind Slau and house engineer Andriy Mokrytski with Producer Michael Sulyma and assistant Andrew Scholotiuk in background

So, since we were shooting for around 32 tracks of input, I decided to use a portable Pro Tools HD3 system. Actually, I took the HD system from my studio in a Magma expansion chassis which would be connected to a pair of Digidesign 192 I/Os that the boys would rent in Edmonton and bring with them to Ukraine. I brought my MacBook Pro to run Pro Tools but we also had a backup PowerBook G4 which we actually ended up using instead. We didn’t need much horsepower at all since the PCI cards were doing all the hard work.

I brought my Millennia HV3D ( for 8 channels of super clean mic inputs and was told that the studio could provide 8 more channels of tube pres as well as their Yamaha 02R. I figured I’d use the Millennia for the main stereo pair and a few ribbon mics I brought with me. The studios tube preamp, which, by the way, I couldn’t really get a straight answer about exactly which brand of preamp we were talking about, would be used for the string section and the 02R would be used for things like piano, harp, woodwinds and other miscellaneous sources.

Andriy and I consulted on which mics we would put on each section or instrument. While he dispatched the assistant engineers to set up mics in the live room where the orchestra was slowly gathering, we continued to set up and connect the gear in the control room.

At a certain point, Andriy introduced me to an engineer named Genadiy (or Gene) who appeared to know who I was. I thought he might’ve known me from Dovzhenko Studio but he told me he worked for Hand Crafted Labs. (

So, Hand-crafted Labs is a company based in Kiev that makes pro audio gear like preamps and compressors. I had learned about them and contacted them by email, inquiring about perhaps visiting them while I was in Ukraine but I never heard back from them. So, Genadiy is like their main designer and builder. As the name implies, their stuff is all handmade and Genadiy is the guy that does it all.

Turns out that the 8 channels of tube pres we were  going to be using were HCL Affinity pres. ( So, I was totally excited to have a chance to use these pres first hand. You see, HCL has no distribution outside Ukraine. While they do accept orders and ship outside the country, it’s via regular postal service and, uh, would you trust the post office to deliver a tube preamp from overseas? Uh, I don’t think so.

As I mentioned before, the orchestra was gathering and rehearsing the material in the live room while we connected the gear and set up mics. The stuff we record for Shumka isn’t like your average orchestral session where you’re recording a Beethoven symphony—this is all original material, specifically composed for the choreography and the musicians have never seen this music before. Now, these musicians are among the best players in Ukraine. They come from the Kiev Symphony, Kiev Ballet and Radio Symphony orchestras. You put anything in front of them and they can play it. The level of musicianship is ultra high but the music is sometimes challenging and these guys might get one pass as a rehearsal and we’re laying it down so the pressure’s on.

Yuri Shevchenko (seated) L-R: Andrew Scholotiuk, Andriy Mokrytski, Slau, Oksana Solovyova, Michael Sulyma, Sergei Malovaniy, Dave Ganert, Gordon Gordey

Yuri Shevchenko (seated) L-R: Andrew Scholotiuk, Andriy Mokrytski, Slau, Oksana Solovyova, Michael Sulyma, Sergei Malovaniy, Dave Ganert, Gordon Gordey

When we were ready in the control room, us boys from out of town were invited to greet the orchestra in the live room, exchange greetings and get the recording session underway.

At this point, the conductor, Sergei Malovaniy, began to rehearse the orchestra. I went out into the live room once again to get a sense of the ambience and the sound of the room.

While the musicians took a brief intermission, Andriy came up to ask me what I thought of the studio. I told him that it was certainly a wonderful studio and that I felt bad that we weren’t really going to be utilizing its true sound, its acoustics because the application in this case was so specialized and we actually wanted as little of the room character as possible. At any rate, I told him how impressed I was and how comfortable we felt. In a few minutes it was time to take levels.

Moving as fast as we could, we took levels on what ended up being 27 mics. Not the easiest thing to do with an orchestra because you want to get levels in the context of playing but everybody isn’t playing at the same time so, you solo the tuba and he’s not playing those bars and, when they are playing, maybe the percussion behind them isn’t playing and when they kick in, it’s a whole different story. Well, it’s a challenge. In this case we’re dealing with a 24-bit depth with a dynamic range of 144 decibels which is well within the range of an orchestra. Thing is, the orchestra can go from whisper quiet to enormously loud so it’s a bit of a challenge. I try to get things as loud as possible while leaving enough headroom. We usually aimed for average levels around -20 dB FS. When levels were set, the orchestra did a quick tune-up… and we were ready to roll.

So, recording original orchestral music isn’t at all like recording a Beethoven Symphony which the musicians have heard or even played many times. Even when the material is quite well known, pieces are often recorded sections at a time, maybe doing 32 bars or so several times before moving on. In this case, with new music, the orchestra is sometimes just concentrating on 8 or 16 bars at a time, depending on the complexity of the pieces.

Let me take this opportunity to go over the mics we used on the various sections and instruments.

Overhead—Neumann SM69 (
First violin—1 AKG 480 (,id,225,pid,225,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html)
First violin—2 Neumann U89 (
Second violin 1—AKG 480 (,id,225,pid,225,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html)
Second violin 2—Neumann U89 (
Viole 1—AKG 480 (,id,225,pid,225,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html)
Viole 2—Neumann U89 (
Celli—AKG 480 (,id,225,pid,225,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html)
Celli 2—Neumann U89 (
ContraBass—Neumann U89 (
Piano—Neumann TLM170 (
Harp—Neumann U89 (
Tsymbalum—Neumann TLM170 (
Flute—Neumann TLM170 (
Oboe—Neumann TLM170 (
Clarinet—AKG C391 (,id,230,pid,230,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html)
Bassoon—AKG C391 (,id,230,pid,230,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html)
Trumpets—Cascade Gomez (
Trombones—Cascade Vin-Jet (
Tuba—Cascade Fat Head (
French Horn—1 Neumann TLM170 (
French Horn 2—Neumann TLM170 (
Percussion & Overhead drums—Cascade Fat Heads (
Kick drum—AKG D112 (,id,261,pid,261,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html)

Conductor Sergei Malovaniy rehearsing the orchestra

Conductor Sergei Malovaniy rehearsing the orchestra

We continued the recording session for around 4 hours to complete the special anniversary “Hopak” which is an 11-minute long dance. So, around 4 hours to record less than 12 minutes of music. Sounds like a lot? More than you expected? Less than you expected? Well, if nothing else, you can appreciate the amount of work that goes into a project of this scale.

When the session was over, we took a taxi to a restaurant not too far from our apartment and had a late dinner. More importantly, we managed to buy an enormous amount of beer.

The following day, we met at the studio with Yury and Sergei to listen back to the previous days takes and select edit points for the 11-minute Hopak. Later, the orchestra arrived and, having had set the levels the previous day, we were rolling in no time. We went through some other new original material written by Yury shevchenko for Shumka.

When we had completed the tracking sessions at DZZ, we dismantled all the gear that we brought with us that was in the control room. We left all the mics in place so that we could measure microphone distances. The reason for this is so that I could later slip the tracks to maintain a more accurate relationship between the arrival times of sounds at the various mics. For example, when timpani are struck at the back of the orchestra, their sound is picked up by the microphone overhead a millisecond or so later but the same sound is picked up by the violin mics perhaps 30 milliseconds later because the sound has traveled some 30 feet. So, in order to make the sources more coherent, the timpani mic would be delayed by roughly 30 milliseconds to match the sound being picked up by the other mics. Yeah, it’s all a bit theoretical but engineers had been doing it for a long time  with delay processors on spot mics so it wasn’t such a crazy idea years ago when I started slipping ADAT tracks during mixes and it really seemed to work. With Pro tools, it just got even easier to do it. Michael swears that FOH engineers in the venues where Shumka performs always comment on how great the music sounds and how realistic it comes across so, for what it’s worth, I’m sticking with this program.

Anyway, we took the Pro Tools system back to our apartment. The following day, we took the rig to Yury’s house and set it up to listen back to the rest of the session takes and choose further edit points. In fact, we did a very quick edit of everything without devoting any time to getting the edit points smooth and accurate. I would do that later in New York.

Sergei running low on vodka. "Another bottle, please."

Sergei running low on vodka. "Another bottle, please."

So, as has become a little tradition, on the last night of our stays in Kiev, Yury and Sergei like to take us out for a nice dinner at their favorite home-style restaurant in kIev called Harbuz. The last time I was there I got so smashed that it still makes me shiver and cringe. You see, people in Ukraine really like to make toasts and drink vodka. And it’s kind of a tradition that everybody takes a turn making a toast and when you have about 12 people making toasts and then even taking second turns, well…

This time around, I learned that, after drinking a full glass after the first toast,  it’s OK not to drink the entire glass of vodka after the subsequent toasts so I was able to pace myself. In fact, I was absolutely determined not to get plastered.

At a certain point, I asked Andriy Mokrytski how he came to be an audio engineer and how he got into perhaps the best studio in Ukraine. He told me that he was in the Army and got involved with the army chorus and band. He began working as a sound engineer during their concerts and tours. He pretty much just learned on the job with nobody teaching him anything really. He had heard about DZZ and visited them while he was still in the army. They told him to come back when he was done with his service. He came back a few years later and said, “Do you remember me? You told me to come back and apply for a job here.” The guy at the studio said, “Oh, yeah, sure, just fill out an application.” A short while later, he was taken in as an apprentice. Sort of reminds me of Geoff Emmerick getting into EMI studios at Abbey Road with virtually no experience. Anyway, Andriy worked under a well-known classical engineer for nine months and eventually got behind the console and began engineering by himself and has now been there for 20 years and has recorded hundreds of classical cDs.

It was great to have a chance to hang with Andriy, a real kindred spirit and, of course, we got to geek out over gear and all. He spoke very highly of the HCL stuff so I was truly happy to hear such a testimony from a third party about the products from HCL. I have no doubt that, next time I’m in Kiev, I’ll be sure to return with some authentic Ukrainian hand-made tube gear.

So, while Andriy and I traded studio war stories, Dave and Andrew chose to drink at full throttle and, actually, they didn’t even slow down when we got back to the apartment. In fact, we still went out for beer in the middle of the night. Ah, my kind of gig…

When we got back to the apartment, I had a sort of morbid thought. You see, the guys from Edmonton and I would be flying on the same plane from Kiev to London for a two-day layover before we took our separate flights home. Normally, we’d fly straight from Kiev to our final destinations with full backups of the sessions on FireWire drives with each party. Since we were traveling together, in case our luggage got lost or, even worse, if our plane went down, there would be no record of the sessions. So I made a quick copy of all the files and gave them to Yury to hold onto and bring with him to New York in January when we were to mix the recording.

Assistant engineer placing a cascade Fat Head ribbon microphone on drum overhead

Assistant engineer placing a cascade Fat Head ribbon microphone on drum overhead

The next morning we flew to London for a relaxing two days. I took Andrew to see the West end production of Avenue Q ( which was my fifth time seeing it. Man, that was a complete blast. I also had a chance to catch up with some old friends and hang out at some of my favorite London pubs.

On the flight back to New York, I had that feeling I usually get when returning from one of these orchestral projects. I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of such unique projects on such a large scale. It’s not often that your average engineer gets to record an orchestra. And, yeah, I know that the reason I got the gig was not because of my engineering chops but I have managed to rise to the challenge. It’s like George Hrab ( says, “Talent won’t get you the gig but it’ll help you keep the gigs you get.” I thought about how Andriy Mokrytski was lucky enough to get the job at DZZ. I suppose I could’ve chickened out of that first gig with as little experience as I really had but, well, I’m a confident person and, like Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

So, a month or two later, Yury Shevchenko and Michael Sulyma came to New York along with Kim Nahachewsky, Michael’s right hand man, err, woman at Sulyma Productions ( in Edmonton. Yury and I spent two and a half days mixing everything for the big show. The challenge in mixing this music is to make it sound as natural as possible for playback in a large theater and making sure each part is heard well enough to support the dance cues and leit motifs. Also, there’s a considerable amount of bleed between the various sections. In other words, with the brass right behind the viole, if you raise the level of the strings and the brass is blaring at the same time, you’re going to get bleed no matter what. It’s not just a matter of setting levels and bringing them up or down. At any given point, you have to consider what’s going on all around the orchestra.

Slau and Michael Sulyma toasting at Harbuz

Slau and Michael Sulyma toasting at Harbuz

So, the whole project from preparation to final show spanned six months. That’s, of course, only my involvement. All the choreography and everything, I’m sure, took way longer than that. And now it’s over. I can’t believe how quickly the time passes. I spoke with Michael Sulyma earlier today. He just got back from Beijing yesterday and is flying to London tomorrow. He’s opening a show in London this summer with another group for whom he’s producing a show and Shumka will be doing more shows this summer and there’s talk of a tour in Brazil next year. Ah, what a jet setter he is…

So, I can’t wait until the next time Michael calls me and says, “Wanna record an orchestra?” Each time I do it, it’s a brand new challenge with new problems to solve and new ways of solving them. As I sometimes mention on Twitter, I’m the luckiest person in the world to do what I love doing. Yeah, sometimes I have sessions where things get a bit tedious or even frustrating and sometimes even exhausting. But these orchestral projects, as truly exhausting as they can be are truly rewarding and I come out of it each time feeling that I’ve grown some and learned a bit, perhaps. I’m always thinking about how I can improve upon what I’ve done in the past. So next time I go to Ukraine, it’ll be in pursuit of bettering my best. Oh, and to buy some Hand Crafted Labs tube gear as well.

 I should register

I should register"

Geo Vocal Mic Shootout (repost)

April 24th, 2009

I’ve used a few different vocal mics on George Hrab over the years. Most often, I’ve turned to the Audio-Technica AT4033/SE. Now that we’re in the middle of recording his sixth album, I figured I’d do a little vocal mic shootout and thought it might be fun to get some opinions of the listeners. Now, of course, in this mp3 of the podcast, the differences between the mics will be less pronounced but, for those who wish to download and import files into their DAW, 24-bit WAV files can be downloaded below. They’re all in sync so one can just line them up and A-B.

In alphabetical order, the mics featured are:

AKG C-1000S, medium diaphragm condenser

Apex 460, large diaphragm tube condenser (modified)

Audio-technica AT4033/SE, large diaphragm condenser

Cascade C-77, ribbon

Heil PR-40, large element moving coil

Mojave Audio MA-200, large diaphragm tube condenser

Neumann TLM-103, large diaphragm condenser

Oktava MK-219, large diaphragm condenser (modified by Oktavamod)

If you’d like to play along at home, the individual WAV files are available on this page:

We’ll tally up the results of listeners’ preferences and announce them on next week’s Geologic Podcast. In the meantime, if you’d like to know the identities of each microphone, I’ll post a comment revealing them in the next few days.

Nady RSM Mod

March 25th, 2009

The Nady RSM-3 is a ribbon microphone sort of, kind of, almost resembling, well, very much resembling the legendary Royer R-121 ribbon microphone. It’s now discontinued but, while it was on the market, Royer was compelled to send Nady a “cease & desist” letter due to its uncanny resemblance to the R-121 and its incorporation of the R-121’s asymmetrical polar pattern response.

I found a pair of RSM-3s on EBay for around $99 each and decided to have them modified by Michael Joly at Oktavamod ( He re-tensioned the sagging ribbons and swapped out the stock transformers for Lundahl 2912s. The results were quite impressive.

I mentioned the fact that it’s sometimes possible to hear a sagging ribbon touching the mesh in a damaged microphone. I neglected to say that this is true only when wearing headphones. To test a microphone for such a symptom, plug the mic in and turn up the preamp gain. While monitoring through headphones, gently sway the mic back and forth on axis. Normally, you should hear nothing more than a low-level rumble from air movement. If you hear a metallic clanging, chances are you have a sagging ribbon. It is, of course, possible to remove the grill and protective material to examine the ribbon visually. Of course, one should be extra careful when undertaking such an inspection. Take extra care to avoid the slightest blast of air and keep the ribbon motor and magnets clear of any surfaces that might contain dust or iron particles.

BTW, although the RSM-3 is no longer available from Nady, they can certainly still be found on EBay. The original RSM-3 with the offset ribbon (yielding the asymmetrical frequency response) came in a wooden box. Nady later changed the design to be symmetrical and shipped in a plastic box. Currently, the RSM-5, which is the same as the RSM-3 but with a different body, is still available from Nady. Oktavamod offers a modification for the RSM-5 as well.

Royer R-121Keep in mind, Royer offers an extraordinary warranty on their products which come at a premium but, nevertheless, they are phenomenally great microphones. With Nady, well, let’s just say that one should check the product immediately to verify that it works. Yeah, it’s pretty much hit or miss some of the time. I believe Nady has a policy of replacing defective microphones within a limited time (possibly 90 days or so). In my opinion, however, if the intention is to obtain a Nady ribbon mic and have it modified by Michael Joly, well then, a sagging ribbon need not be of concern.

If you can afford an R-121, by all means, go for it. If you’re on a tight budget, a modified ribbon microphone might just be the ticket for you.

The RSM-3 product page from Nady:

The R-121 product page from Royer:

“Far” by George Hrab

March 9th, 2009

I tore myself away from Twitter long enough to put this one together… (tweet, tweet)

My dear friend, George Hrab, called me to book a quick session to record a song called, “Far.” This was an expanded version of a jingle that he had been asked to write for the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. We banged the whole thing out in a few hours and he subsequently made a video of the tune which you can find either on YouTube at:

or on Blip.TV at:

Belated special thanks to a few people on the show:

Donna Mugavero of Sheerbrick Studio (a.k.a. Ms. Information) for designing the Sessions With Slau banner and for insisting that the site be neat and clean. You can find her on Twitter at @MsInformation or check out her blog

David Jackson of Cooler Websites for helping me put together the podcast through his Podcast Fast Pass program which allows me to concentrate on just creating the content and slowly get my feet wet with the whole WordPress and RSS universe.

Tony Corso for his voice-over on the podcast intro. We recorded a bunch of stuff so I’m sure you’ll hear more of him in the future.

Audrey Farolino (my lovely wife) for doing the “Sessions With” tag at the end. She insisted that I let her do another take but, I swear, her first take was perfect.

Thanks so much for the comments and e-mails. You can always reach me at:
slau { at } sessionswithslau { dot } com
and you can often find me tweeting by following

Watch the George Hrab Video “Far”

Shootout at Legacy Recording

February 25th, 2009

I was looking around for a new vocal microphone for myself. Of course, anything I’d buy for my own purposes would undoubtedly benefit my clients as an extra option when acheter cialis recording them. I always wondered whether it would be worth a $10,000 investment to find a used Neumann U 47 or something in that class of mics. Would it be impressive? Without question, it most certainly would be. Would it sound better than what I already had at my disposal? Hmm… I guess you’ll have to listen to the episode to get an idea.

I booked some time at Legacy Recording (which has since closed its 37th Street location). We recorded 7 mics into a Pro Tools HD system through a Millennia Media HV3D. The tracks were unlabeled and I had the engineer make a list of the tracks and their respective mics on a piece of paper. I didn’t know the results of the shootout until having heard the tracks at the end of the session.

Back at BeSharp, I added a few mics to the shootout using the same accompaniment track and recorded the additional mics through an Hv3D. So, the second round of mics weren’t recorded in the same room (actually, a bigger room than at Legacy) but it was all done in relatively close proximity in cardioid mode on all mics.

The lineup:

Neumann U 47

Neumann U 87

Sony C-800G


Rode Classic II

Audio-technica AT 4047

Mojave Audio MA-200

Rode K2

Apex Electronics 460

Studio Projects T3

Cascade Microphones Elroy

Yeah, it’s a little “apples & oranges” but I was just curious how a $1,000 mic would stack up against something ten times the price. Very interesting…

Hey, believe it or not, I’m finally on Twitter. If you’d like to follow me, search for


I promise I won’t tweet too much — just studio and audio-releated stuff.

Jordan Potter and Matthew Conrad

February 6th, 2009

Jordan Potter (originally from Texas) had recorded at BeSharp a few years ago with his two Sisters, Lauren and Leigh. He was referred to me by the John Marshall family and I guess he was a satisfied customer because I got a call from him again, , booking some time to do two albums in just one week. He was bringing his friend, Matthew Conrad, a trumpet player from Baltimore. Matthew and Jordan would each do their own solo albums with Jordan accompanying Matthew on his album and Matthew making a guest appearance on Jordan’s solo piano album.

I had a pair of Neumann TLM-103s on the piano (which I had used on Jordan’s previous project. For Matthew, I set up four mics and we did a quick shootout while soundchecking. I set up a Mojave Audio MA200 (large diaphragm tube condenser), an upgraded Cascade Fat Head (ribbon), an Apex 205 (ribbon) and a Heil PR-40 (large element moving coil). Without telling Matthew which one I preferred, I soloed each trumpet mic and he picked the Fat Head (my choice as well — surprise, surprise).

We actually managed to get through all of the material in just over four days. I was practically editing as they were walking out the door but we did complete the project on time. I mixed it and uploaded files for them to approve before mastering both CDs.

Jordan released “Jesus Paid It All” and Matthew released “Send the Light” independently. I’ve seen it around on a few online retailers like Sacred Music

and Hyles Publications

Unfortunately, neither Jordan nor Matthew maintain web sites that I know of. For more information about them and their projects, write to:

pianopraises [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com

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