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My Take on Music Recording with Doug Fearn
59 minutes | 8 days ago
Vacuum Tube Fundamentals
Ever wonder how do vacuum tubes actually work? Tubes are one electronic device that you can actually see how they operate. I explain vacuum tube fundamentals in this conversation with Matthew Glosson.Matthew has been working for D.W. Fearn for the past year, mostly with Geoff Hazelrigg on the manufacturing side of the business. Recently he constructed some prototype circuits for me, as part of my new product development.Matthew recently graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a degree in music technology, among other things. He just completed a prototype that was part of an investigation into a possible new product concept, and he was curious about the circuit and why I did certain things.As he was on his way in for us to discuss that, it occurred to me that our conversation might be of interest to you.This is a recording of our impromptu lesson on how tubes work. I really didn’t have anything planned, so this is quite informal. And I would probably explain things a bit better if I had prepared more. But I still think it’s useful.The recording is less professional than I would have liked, but we were on opposite sides of a ribbon mic, far enough apart to be properly social-distanced. You can hear the HVAC and other extraneous noise, including my dogs.A few drawings are available for this episode, under “Extras” at the top of the page on my podcast web site, DougFearn.comAs always, thanks for listening, and thanks for your comments. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
25 minutes | 22 days ago
Theater of the Mind
There is a story from the early days of television. A reporter asked a young boy if he preferred to watch a baseball game on TV, or listen to it on the radio.His answer was immediate. “On the radio. The pictures are so much better!”We work with sound, and except for music videos and live performances, the sound recording is all that people have to experience the work of a songwriter and artist. Part of our job as recordists, I believe, is to provide a rendition of the music that evokes the desired images in the listener’s imagination.In this episode, I talk about that, plus creating sound effects, and musical sounds that we need to help get the message across. Most of us have wonderful audio tools for making all kinds of interesting sounds we can record, either for a musical piece or for a special purpose. It is a chance for us to get creative, and perhaps come up with something that paints a memorable picture in the listener’s imagination.
33 minutes | a month ago
Latency and Delay
We tend to think that electronic signals travel instantaneously, but they do not. They are merely very fast. And the time delay can be perceived by humans under some circumstances. In this episode, I tell the story of hearing my Morse code Amateur Radio signal coming back after circling the Earth, and how there was significant delay in the time it took for broadcast radio network signals to travel through thousands of miles of dedicated telephone lines.Our digital audio world is full of delays of a different type: latency, which is the result of the time it takes for a computer to do its work. This latency can have a profound effect on a musical performance in the studio. Is there a way around this problem?Sound delays are part of our world, and reverberation is an example of a “good” kind of delay, as is short repeats of a vocal or other musical sound.Latency (almost always bad) and delay (which can be good) are two terms that describe much the same thing. Knowing how to use this displacement in time can make your recordings better – or worse.Thanks to all of you for subscribing to this podcast, now carried on over 30 podcast providers.And your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. email@example.com
61 minutes | 2 months ago
Obie O'Brien: A Life In Music -- Part 2
This is the second half of the conversation I had with engineer/producer/mixer/musician/songwriter Obie O’Brien. Obie is best known for his long-time work with Jon Bon Jovi, but as you will hear, he has done many things in his career.In this final part of our conversation, we talk about re-mixing Motown hits, digitizing a thousand reels of 2-inch tape from the Bon Jovi tours, and his latest venture, a vinyl pressing plant. But we started off talking about his own studio in Pennsylvania.I don’t think I know anyone who is more enthusiastic about the art of making and recording music than Obie.Thanks to all of you who have subscribed to this podcast on the various podcasting apps. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and suggestions.
62 minutes | 2 months ago
Obie O'Brien: A life in music
Talk about a life in music! Obie O’Brien has done many things in his musical career, starting with playing drums when he was 12, to building a basement studio in the 1960s, to owning a sophisticated studio in Philadelphia. And for over 30 years, working with Jon Bon Jovi in many capacities.I first met Obie in the early 1970s, at my studio. We hit it off right away with our similar approach to music and recording. But we lost touch for a couple of decades. Now Obie lives not too far from me and has built a wonderful studio for his own projects, where he works with up-and-coming artists.For the last year, Obie has been at home during the pandemic. Previously, he was touring with Bon Jovi almost all the time. This has given us much more time to hang out, listen to what each of us is working on, and for Obie to tell me about the amazing work he is doing, like re-mixing many songs by Motown artists from the 60s.This is the first of two parts of our long conversation, in which we talk about those topics and a whole lot more.
32 minutes | 2 months ago
Inside the Podcast
As my podcast approaches its one-year anniversary, I look back on what new skills I have had to learn, and share the podcast creation process with you. It’s not a how-to on podcasting, but it might give you some insight. My approach is not for everyone, or maybe not for anyone else but me. My process evolved to satisfy myself and overcome my deficiencies in this area.Early in life, I found that people often asked me to explain things to them. I’ve been doing that ever since. Knowledge is something you can give away, but keep for yourself.Teaching, usually informally, has always been a part of my life. And around 2010 I decided to make some videos for YouTube that explained my products. I always wanted to provide additional background information for the viewer, beyond promoting my products. After I made videos for all the products, I branched out into other areas of recording that I thought might be useful to viewers.But the videos took a lot of time to make, and I realized that for many topics, most of the information was in the narration. After some false starts, I decided in March 2020 that the pandemic restrictions made it the perfect time to launch the “My Take On Music Recording” podcast.I had a lot to learn, and I thought back on influential people in my life who were excellent at sharing knowledge.In this episode, I also go into technical details on the equipment I use and the process that has evolved over the past year to make the podcast as good as I can make. I hope you find it useful, especially if you want to start your own podcast, or listen to it just as an interesting adventure.Thanks for sharing the podcast with others. That is important for building my audience. You can always reach me at email@example.com with your comments, suggested topics, or questions.
39 minutes | 3 months ago
Manufacturing Pro Audio Equipment
Manufacturing pro audio equipment was never really part of my plan, but it has become one of the most gratifying aspects of my career in music recording.It wasn’t until around 2011 when a documentary video about me was made that I realized how all the pieces came together, resulting in my career in recording, and in designing products for the studio. In retrospect, it seems totally logical.In this episode, I talk about some of those influences, including my early experience as a teenage business owner. I explain how my desire to improve the quality of my recordings led me to the design of the VT-1, the single-channel vacuum tube mic preamp that became the first D.W. Fearn product.I talk about how I made the transition from the pre-internet days of mailing lists and magazine ads to my first company web site. I had to learn the details of manufacturing, shipping internationally, and setting up dealers to sell my products.And, of course there were the details of design, beyond the circuit and into the esthetics of gear and user ergonomics.I hope you will enjoy hearing about my journey. And if you are thinking about starting a company, perhaps my story will be helpful to you.Your email is valuable to me, so keep it coming.And as I approach a full year of doing this podcast, I want to ask your help in building the audience. Frankly, I’m happy to do this even if only a few people benefit from it. But producing this podcast takes up about half my working hours, so for me to feel motivated to keep going, I’d like to find more subscribers. If you would share your enthusiasm for this podcast with your social media contacts, or your real-world colleagues, I would appreciate it. Thanks.Technical details for this episode: I wanted to get a better understanding of the RF condenser microphone sound, so I used a newly-acquired Sennheiser MKH8050 Hypercardiod mic. That went into a D.W. Fearn VT-2 mic preamp, VT-4 Equalizer, and VT-7 Compressor. The mic is about 24 inches away, and off axis, since it is easily popped. No pop filter was used. The eq was set for 4dB of shelving roll-off at 40Hz, and 2dB of shelving high-cut at 10kHz. I found that I needed the high cut to reduce the high-end boost inherent in condenser microphones. The low cut compensates for the proximity effect of most directional miscs. The audio went through a Merging Technologies Hapi converter and was recorded using Pyramix DAW at 24-bit, 96kHz sample rate. Of course, the podcast format is a 96kb/s MP3, but the higher resolution capture results in a better translation to the MP3 format.
31 minutes | 3 months ago
Minimalist Mic'ing for Better Sound
Using as few mics as possible on a recording session often leads to better sound for the project. In this episode, I describe how I went from one mic, to many mics, and back to one mic, over the course of my career.Some examples are truly one stereo mic for an entire song recording, while others use two or three mics, depending on the circumstances.There are high-res audio clips on my podcast web site, https://dougfearn.com/ where you can listen to some of the recordings discussed, plus links to videos that show the actual sessions.In one example, a song with multiple instruments was recorded live in the studio, but with a single stereo mic, and with a typical multi-mic approach. Both have their place, and you can decide which you prefer. Both recordings are from the same take, so they are directly comparable.This approach to recording is not for everyone, nor for every project, but understanding the principles may give you a useful tool.Single-mic recording eliminates the phase differences that can hurt the sound of a recording. And another benefit is that you might just get a more interesting performance from the musicians, since everyone is playing together at once, in the same room. No headphones needed.Sometimes a hybrid approach works, too, combining the minimalist mic’ing with standard mic’ing techniques.You can find the tracks, and links to the companion videos, under “Extras” on my web site.Got an idea that would make a good podcast episode? Or a question that I might be able to answer? Please send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
36 minutes | 4 months ago
Abbey Road Studios: My three days of recording
I’ve had the privilege to work in some iconic studios, but the one that made the biggest impression on me was Abbey Road in London.I spent three days doing sessions there, but since I was working with very competent studio people, there was significant opportunity to explore the facility and ask questions of the EMI engineers. This was in 2008.Abbey Road’s three studios opened in 1931. The largest room, Studio 1, was the largest purpose-built studio in the world – and it still is, 90 years later.Studio 2 is smaller, but still quite large compared to most studios. This is where the Beatles and so many other successful groups and artists recorded their historic records. And it’s where the project I was working on took place.In this episode, I describe the facilities, the neighborhood, and what mics and equipment we used. I cover some of the history of the studio complex. And I provide my personal impressions of working there.On my podcast web site, dougfearn.com, I have posted some of the photos that I took while there. Find them on the "Extras" page.As always, thanks for your comments, questions, and suggestions. I appreciate every one of them. You can reach me at email@example.comPlease tell your friends and colleagues about this podcast. The subscriber list grows daily, and your ratings and reviews help me to reach as many people as possible in my quest to help improve the sound of all of our recordings.
25 minutes | 4 months ago
Cables, Connectors, and Studio Wiring
We all need cables and connectors to tie all our mics and other equipment together. There are many places where problems can be introduced into your recording, caused by improper wiring. Even when everything appears to be working properly, poor wiring and connector practices can cause subtle problems that make your recordings less than they could be.In this episode, I talk about how we came to use the balanced audio lines in our studios, and why we have the connectors we use. I explain why it is vital that we make or buy quality cables and connectors, and why esoteric, very expensive cables are unlikely to sound any better.There are some hints on how to troubleshoot cable and wiring problems, based on the problem you hear. And some practical suggestions to keep your cables in good condition, and how to run them around your studio.Thanks for all your comments, questions, and suggestions. They are appreciated.
62 minutes | 4 months ago
Colin Hay, Singer-Songwriter-Recordist
Even if you don’t recognize the name Colin Hay, I guarantee that you have heard him. Colin is best known for his band, “Men At Work,” the Australian group that had #1 hits such as “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now” in the 1980s. Men at Work sold over 30 million albums during their existence.Since then, the singer-songwriter has worked as a solo artist, touring the world, sometimes truly solo and other times with a band.He has been a “Star” on several tours with the Ringo and the All-Stars ensemble, starting in 2003.Colin has also had an acting career, performing his own songs in movies and TV shows, and even an experience in a Shakespeare touring company.By the way, Colin is originally from Scotland, as you will quickly notice from his accent.This interview is not about his career, although we talk about that a bit, but instead focuses on his recording experience. Colin has had his own sophisticated home studio for decades and uses his space to record his songs.We also talk about the art of songwriting and, well, a life in music.Here are links to a a few of Colin's songs:“Down Under” Men At Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfmxO-HQ5rU“Who Can It Be Now?” Men At Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuFC6ud1cAQ“Maggie” Colin Hay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDuvFz0WQ-g
46 minutes | 4 months ago
34 - All Kinds of Noise
Since the earliest days of sound recording, noise has been a major limitation in audio quality. In early part of my career, tape hiss was usually the biggest challenge. But today’s digital recorders are virtually noise-free in most situations.We still have to battle with noise, but the sources of the noise have changed. Today’s engineer has to deal with noise generated by the switched-mode power supplies that are in our LED bulbs, computer equipment, and even appliances. These sources of noise can get into electric guitars and create quite a racket. But the noise can also raise the noise floor in subtle ways, and we might not immediately recognize the source. Light dimmers, cell phones, and solar panels are other sources of noise.In this episode, I talk about the various causes of noise, and provide some tips on how to identify the source, and advice on how to eliminate, or at least minimize, the noise on your recording.For more in-depth, practical suggestions on how to avoid and mitigate electrical noise, my friend Jim Brown has a wonderful set of tutorials and presentations. Jim is an expert on this topic and has served on AES Committees for decades. Go to his web site, http://www.k9yc.com/publish.htm and scroll down to the section titled, “Hum, Buzz, and RF Interference -- Written for Audio Professionals.” You will find several excellent resources there.There is a transcript for this episode. If you want a written version, you can download a PDF version from dougfearn.comAnd please keep the suggestions and comments coming. Your feedback helps me determine what I should talk about.If there is sufficient interest, I am considering having an occasional question and answer episode. If you have something you would like me to answer, record it in your studio with your best equipment. In keeping with the high audio quality goal of my podcast, you can record your questions at 24-bit, 96kHz sample rate and send the file to firstname.lastname@example.orgSimple questions I can answer in an episode dedicated to answering them. Some other topics may suggest an entire episode dedicated to the topic.Please tell your friends and colleagues about this podcast. And leave your ratings and reviews with the podcast app you use. Thanks.This episode was recorded with a Sennheiser MKH8050 condenser microphone instead of my usual AEA R44 ribbon mic. The MKH8050 is an amazingly clean-sounding mic, although it is probably not the best choice for vocals or voice recording. The preamp is a D.W. Fearn VT-2 and the converters are by Merging Technologies. The audio was processed through a D.W. Fearn VT-4 equalizer and a VT-7 Compressor. The original recording is 24-bit, 96kHz.
41 minutes | 5 months ago
33 - All Kinds of Distortion
Distortion is present in all electronic audio equipment and on all recordings. Sometimes it is part of the sound, such as in an electric guitar.But distortion is usually something we try to avoid.In this episode, I go through the most common types of distortion, their impact on the listener, where the distortion comes from, and what we can do to minimize it.This is somewhat technical, but I try to keep the explanations simple. Learning how to identify the sources of distortion, and how to mitigate them, should help you make better recordings.I’ve recently added a new feature to the dougfearn.com web site. You can now read transcripts of many of the podcast episodes online, and download them is you like. Not all episodes have transcripts, just those that are scripted. Let me know if you find the transcripts useful.Thank you to all of you who have subscribed to My Take On Music Recording, left reviews and ratings. The podcast is available on dozens of different podcast platforms. And thanks to those who have written to me via email. I will try to answer all of them. You can send email to email@example.com
36 minutes | 5 months ago
I never did any disc mastering, but I did cut thousands of lacquer discs. I explained how I learned this art, and describe the process of cutting a disc. The medium imposes a lot of restrictions, not only in the disc-cutting process, but also going back to the recording and mixing.In addition, I include some thoughts on the vinyl record medium. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with records.
39 minutes | 6 months ago
31 - My Recording Career, Part 2: From 1973 to 2020
This is a continuation of the story of my recording career, starting where Part 1 (Episode 30) ends in 1973 and covers the following years, up to 2020. During that time, my studio went from 8- to 16- to 24-track, more sophisticated equipment was added, and I moved to a much larger building. After my studio-ownership days, I continued recording, on location or in other studios. In 1993 I introduced the first studio product I designed, the VT-1 single-channel vacuum tube mic preamp.Since 2007 I have been recording in a studio carved out of the D.W. Fearn parts storage space, which has been continually revised, upgraded, and refined.Throughout this two-part series, I describe not only the equipment and facilities, but also the recording techniques I used, which reflected the type of music I was recording, and the evolving technology.Many elements of this story could be expanded into an episode of its own. If you would like to hear more about an aspect, please let me know.Thank you for all your great comments and feedback. This episode was the result of listener feedback. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions for future episodes, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis podcast was recorded with an AEA R44CXE microphone into a D.W. Fearn VT-2 mic preamp, into a VT-4 Equalizer and VT-7 Compressor. The converter is a Merging Technologies Hapi and the software is Pyramix. The original recording was made at 96kHz sample rate, 24-bit PCM.You can subscribe to this podcast through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and many other podcast providers.
45 minutes | 6 months ago
My Recording Career, Part 1: Early influences and first studio
My Recording Career, Part 1: Early influences and first studioThis two-part episode tells the story of my life in recording. It starts out with the musical and electronic experiences that shaped my career and then describes the process of learning about recording and the many disciplines required. I explain how my first studio was constructed and the challenges I faced and mostly overcame. I trace the steady increase in track count -- this was in the days of tape, of course -- and the transition from analog to digital.Throughout, I describe the experiences that changed my approach to recording.Part 1 ends in 1973, when my studio was 8-track.Many elements of this story could be expanded into an episode of its own. If you would like to hear more about an aspect, please let me know.Thank you for all your great comments and feedback. This episode was the result of listener feedback. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions for future episodes, please contact me at email@example.comThis podcast was recorded with an AEA R44CXE microphone into a D.W. Fearn VT-2 mic preamp, into a VT-4 Equalizer and VT-7 Compressor. The converter is a Merging Technologies Hapi and the software is Pyramix. The original recording was made at 96kHz sample rate, 24-bit PCM.You can subscribe to this podcast through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and many other podcast providers.
51 minutes | 7 months ago
The D.W. Fearn VT-7 Compressor
The VT-7 Compressor has an interesting backstory, including a Nashville dinner with my friend, Cranesong’s Dave Hill back in 2003.In this episode, I tell the story of how the VT-7 came about, and explain how a pulse-width modulator (PWM) compressor works and why it is an excellent way to create a versatile compressor/limiter. I also go through the history of the compressor and the various methods used over the years.The operation of the controls on the VT-7 are described, with some ideas on how best to set them for a given compression task.The VT-7 has become an indispensable tool for many of the world’s top recordists, mixers, and mastering engineers. It is often used in conjunction with the VT-5 Equalizer, on the mix bus, or in the mastering chain.If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I always appreciate hearing from you. Send me email at firstname.lastname@example.orgAnd if you have friends who would find this podcast interesting, please pass along the link to them.Don’t forget that you can use a podcast app, like Apple Podcasts and many others, to automatically notify you when a new episode is available, and/or automatically download each episode.
74 minutes | 7 months ago
Tony Maserati, Mix Engineer
This conversation with mixing engineer Tony Maserati is a little different from most of the other interviews I have done on the podcast. It is mostly just Tony and me having a very informal chat about the things that are important to us, both in our professional lives, but also in life in general.If you want to see the impressive list of artists that Tony has worked with in his career, go to tonymaserati.comYou will see artists ranging from James Brown to David Bowie, Queen Latifa to Beyonce to Lady Gaga, that Tony has recorded, produced, or mixed.He is best known as a go-to mixer at the highest levels in the music business. Tony is also noted for his appearances on Mix With the Masters.Our conversation is unstructured, and a bit longer than most of the podcast episodes, so you might want to check out specific sections, like:03:17 Moving back to Upstate NY from LA and living in the country22:46 Recording today with remote musicians adding parts26:43 Recording and mixing are two different skills39:47 What problems Tony finds in the tracks he is sent to mix43:40 Advice for people who want to get into the recording/mixing business58:24 Tony’s approach to mixingYour comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. You can email me at email@example.comThank you for all the comments you have sent me. I appreciate them all. And thanks for passing along info about this podcast to your friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.
43 minutes | 8 months ago
The VT-5 Equalizer: Design and Use
In this episode, I describe how the D.W. Fearn VT-4 and VT-5 Equalizers came about. I start with some history of equalization, and then my experiences with various eqs and how that influenced the design of the VT-5.I talk about the design process, including the reasoning behind the choices I made in the frequencies and the curves, and the design of the amplifiers in the VT-5. Then I explain how I use the VT-5 on the sessions I do, which is not meant to be a tutorial on equalizing, since everyone has a different style, but as an illustration of one approach to using the equalizer.In 2020, we made some internal changes to the VT-5, which does not change the sound of it at all, but did allow us to eliminate the small, low-speed cooling fan.A plug-in version of the VT-5 is available from Acustica Audio, and I explain the design process behind it.The VT-5 has become an indispensable tool for many engineers, mixers, and mastering facilities. I originally designed it to fill I need I had, and it has been very gratifying to see the acceptance it has gained in the music recording world.
62 minutes | 8 months ago
Joe Tarsia, founder of Sigma Sound Studios
Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia was responsible for a huge number of hit records, starting in the 1960s and continuing into the 21st century. Eventually Sigma had two studios in Philadelphia and three in New York.Joe Tarsia founded Sigma in 1968 but his career as an engineer goes back to the 1950s at Cameo Parkway Records. He started in a mono studio, using very few microphones, hardly any outboard gear, and recording to tape. He has lived through the evolution to stereo and multitrack tape and from mono vinyl records through the CD and into the digital age.I sat down with Joe in January of 2019 at his home and recorded our conversation using a Flea M49 in the bidirectional position, to a Tascam DR-100 portable recorder.A slightly longer version of this interview is available on my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMwTQ8XhY9cThe video includes many still photos taken at Sigma, thanks to former Sigma engineer Arthur Stoppe.This is an important part of our recording heritage, and I urge any of you who have access to pioneers like Joe Tarsia to take the time to capture their history.Thank you for listening to this and the previous 25 episodes.Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.orgAnd if you find this podcast useful, please share it with others that you think would enjoy listening. Thanks.
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