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Music Production and Recording

Background and approach
Examples of my work
Facilities and gear
A few more words about gear
One last demo: One way to record a song

I only do a few production jobs these days, and mostly in connection with arranging projects. I no longer have a full studio with iso rooms. I do have a project studio where I can do things that don't require a whole lot of isolation. I'm still happy to produce a project if it's something I'd be good at. If it requires an iso room (drums, or several people playing at once) I can do it at a larger studio. Of course, a real horn section and real strings, if you want those, would also have to be recorded in a bigger studio.

This page has some samples of work I've done in recent years, in my studios in Arlington and Herndon, VA

My background and my approach to recording/producing

I did my first commercial recording way back in 1975, of Harbison Bond and Goddard, a DC area acoustic rock trio.  We recorded at a bar, after closing, with a Tascam 1/4" 4-track.  One cut, "Thank God it's Friday" was still a steady on WHFS in the mid 90's.

I've recorded and produced a lot of music since then.  The gear has gotten better, but what I learned in those 6am sessions in the Pour House Pub still holds:  Recording and producing is, first, about getting the best possible performance, and you adapt the recording process to the performer, not the other way around.

An experienced producer, besides knowing how long it takes to do this or that and which session players are good at what, has to know about countless things, large and small, that can affect the performance. First on my list is the headphone mix.  I work on that constantly.  If we're using session players I make sure the charts are flawless.  Also, everyone has a talkback mic, and it's always on.  Especially during playback.  Clear communication, keeping up the pace and keeping focus, even the lighting and the coffee.  They're all the producer's concern.

So... here are some examples of my work. (You'll notice that they are all in what you'd call the Acoustic Singer/Songwriter genre. That's the music I know best, from 30 years of performing it, and I like to stick to what I know.)

How this thing works: It requires the Flash plugin. If you don't have it and don't wish to install it, you can still download mp3's on the Listen Page.   Assuming you have the Flash plugin: Click a "Listen" button to select a demo. It will start playing as soon as it's downloaded. You can listen to one demo while you are downloading another. Blinking red means it's downloading, green means it's downloaded and Amber means it's the onecurrently playing (or stopped).

Some notes on the cuts above and my part in making them: The Tom Prasada-Rao cuts are from his CD, "I Hear You Laughing," recorded in my old studio in Herndon, VA. The Lea cuts are from her third CD, "Great big World," recorded in my studio in Arlington, VA. The Lisa Taylor cut is from her 1st CD, "Sibling Rivalry," recorded in Herndon. The Sara Landymore cut is from her CD "Corner of the World," (Herndon). Tom Prasada-Rao made all the musical decisions on his project. Some people you produce by just staying out of the way. Sara Landymore didn't require any musical decisions. She just sat down and did twelve first takes, then had John Previti do a bunch of first takes. Lisa Taylor gave me sole production credit but she was actually at least as responsible for the music as I was. Lea's CD was a true collaboration. She had the last word, as she should, but she gave me a lot of latitude and trust. (In fact, many of the sessions happened while she was away on tour.)

Facilities and gear             [ top of page ]

Most of the above was recorded in my old studio, with three isolated rooms. These days I have a smaller one-room project studio suitable for recording an acoustic solo or duo, or one instrument at a time. Drums, sure, but nothing else at the same time, except direct ins. Three people (including me) can work at once, but that's about it.

I have a few good mics that I've found do the job: Neumann KM84i's for guitars & such, AKG C214 for vocals (although sometimes I use an old CAD Equitek E-200. Cheap, but a magic mic!) Crown PZM's for percussion (one tabla player I had in the studio went out the next day and bought a pair for himself.) Plus assorted other mics, including some specialized ones like Crown GLM 200's for mounting directly on acoustic guitars, when I record vocals and guitar at the same time. (Many people simply perform better that way. Mounting the mics on the guitar gives you more isolation from the vocal and lets the player move around a little. Like I said, you adapt the recording process to the performer....) A couple of Klark Teknik and some FocusRite preamps. The "console" is just for routing and monitoring. It's not in the signal path before the recorded file. I use a Focusrite interface, Steinberg Nuendo for tracking and mixing and WaveLab for mastering, with assorted Waves plugins. If the client wants pitch correction I use Melodyne.

For monitors I use Yamaha HS-8's. In the closet I keep some Event 20/20's and Yamaha NS-10m's, if you like those. (Some folks like the 10M's because above 90Hz they're very flat.) With any of these you can hear OK everywhere, but the sweet spot, with true EQ and image, is only at the console. For a reality check while mixing, I switch between the Yamaha's and a pair of Presonus E5's. Those don't sound nearly as good but they are closer to what most listeners will be using in the wild.

A few more words about gear:            [ top of page ]

The best thing any producer can say about his recording gear is that he doesn't think about it during the session. I have a clean signal path and I know my rig very well, which means I give full attention to the music. You have to have a clean signal path and good mics, but it's all useless without (1) a good ear and (2) the ability to get the best performance out of this artist. If you hire me to produce your project, it will be for my ear and my experience, not my equipment.

One Last Demo: "One Way to Record a Song"

Here's a quick demo of how I put together one recording. Hope you enjoy it...

Like the other demos, this one requires the Flash plugin. If you don't have it and don't wish to install it, you can download an mp3 of the audio on the Listen page. It won't have the comments, but you can hear how the song was put together.


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