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In the late 1800s, researchers were seeking a way to amplify an analog signal. The vacuum tube was invented in the early 1900s, but scientists were also investigating the properties of semiconductor materials. A very crude version of a transistor was developed even before the vacuum tube, but the technology of the day was better suited for tubes than transistors, and once the tube was widely available, research into the transistor was largely abandoned for the next 40 years. Tubes became the amplifying device that made radio broadcasting possible – and also ushered in the age of electrical recording.A practical transistor was invented by Bell Labs in the late 1940s, but it took another 20 years before it eclipsed the tube as the preferred technology for analog amplification. Further development of the vacuum tube came to a halt in the early 1970s, and by 1980, transistors had taken over all of electronics except for a few special purpose applications. In the world of music recording, many engineers, producers, and musicians still prefer the sound of tubes for audio.But what if the vacuum tube had continued to be refined? We might have much smaller tubes that might have amazing capabilities. We will never know, of course, because the demand is much too small to justify the investment in improved tubes.In this episode, I look at the history of tubes and transistors, and speculate on what might have been. I also explore the viability of the industry that continues to make high-quality tubes, and the impact on all the current and vintage tube gear we use.Thanks for your continued interest in My Take On Music Recording. Please share it with your friends and on social media. The audience is constantly growing, thanks to your support.
Session Sociology

Session Sociology

2022-04-3037:09

Music recording is a technological process, but it also involves people. The technology exists to serve musicians, and the process of recording must consider the personalities of the people involved.This episode looks at how those human interactions work, from the perspective of the recording engineer.How do you deal with difficult people? Or insecure people? What does it take to provide a comfortable working environment so that musicians can be at their best? How does an engineer facilitate the recording process to keep every happy, creative, and relaxed?This episode looks into those things and provides some practical advice, based on my 50+ years of studio recording.Thanks to everyone for their comments, suggestions, and ideas for future episodes. You can help extend the reach of this podcast by subscribing to it on any of the 30+ podcast providers that carry it. Your reviews help others find “My Take On Music Recording.” And if you find it useful, share the link with others on your social media. Thanks.
There are many different uses for recorded music, and we explore a somewhat unusual application in this episode. My guest is Karttikeya. He only uses one name. He is the engineer and often a musician for Music Together Worldwide, which produces music for early childhood education. Music Together’s goal is to instill a love of music in kids from infants, up to 5 years old. There are similar programs for older kids.You can learn more about Music Together at their web site,  https://www.musictogether.com/And more about Karttikeya and Turiya at   https://turiyamusic.com/ Your questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome. Email me at dwfearn@dwfearn.comAnd your reviews and ratings are helpful for others to find this podcast on any of the 30-plus podcast providers that carry it. Thanks!
Tuning

Tuning

2022-02-0314:02

The instruments on a recording should all be in tune with each other, right? In this short episode, I discuss how instruments are tuned, and why even with today’s remarkable tuning devices, there’s more to tuning an instrument than looking at a colorful display on the head of a guitar.Thanks for listening, commenting, and subscribing on any of the dozens of podcast providers that carry My Take On Music Recording. You can reach me directly at dwfearn@dwfearn.com   I am always interested to hear which episodes you enjoy and which ones you find less interesting. And I am always open to your suggestions for topics.
I take a behind-the-scenes look at a recent recording project I am working on as producer and engineer, explaining the technical details of the session, along with the pre-production planning. This episode has samples from the individual tracks, plus earlier versions and a close-to-finished version. The artist and songwriter is Corrie Green, and this is one song from a 12-song project we are working on.I welcome your comments. You can reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.comIf this proves to be useful to you, please let me know and I will do more like this in the future.Also, be sure to subscribe, rate, and comment with any of the 30+ podcast providers who carry My Take on Music Recording. Thanks.
In the previous episode, I asked listeners to send me their recordings for my critique. In this episode, I play five of the songs submitted and offer my comments.I try to limit my remarks to things that the engineer has some control over, like the mic’ing, amount of room sound, any eq or compression, the mix, the use of processing and effects, loudness and levels, and how the engineer might interact with the musicians to help them get the best recording.Of course, my comments reflect my experience and my taste, so they are not the last word on the work submitted.The songs are embedded in the podcast, but since podcasting uses a low bit-rate MP3, the audio quality is quite poor, especially for music. If you want to hear the full resolution versions of this music, go to my podcast web site, https:\\DougFearn.com. Look under “Extras” and then click on “Critique Audio.” Here is the direct link to the high-res versions: https://www.dougfearn.com/Extras/CritiqueAudio/critiqueaudio.htmlI look forward to hearing from listeners to determine whether this is a useful endeavor or not. If the response is positive, I will do more critiques as an occasional feature. You can send your full resolution audio file to dwfearn@dwfearn.com, using whatever large file transfer service you prefer. Please do not send MP3s or equivalent.This podcast is carried by over 30 podcast providers. Your support is much appreciated.
Recording Critiques

Recording Critiques

2021-11-0411:11

Recently several people have suggested that I do a series of episodes featuring listener-submitted recordings for my critique.At first, I was not particularly enthusiastic about this idea. Sure, I can make lots of comments on someone’s recording technique. But where do you draw the line between technical issues and more abstract creative decisions? I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I’m not sure there is definitive line between the two.After all, we each bring our own aesthetic to our recordings. If we all did things the same way, all our recordings would sound the same. There would be no progress in the art of recording.Despite my misgivings, I decided to go ahead with this and see what happens. This episode introduces the idea, and includes instructions on how to submit your recordings.I don’t know if this will work or not, but I am always willing to experiment!If you would like to submit your recording, use dwfearn@dwfearn.com for your download link. Please send high-resolution files if you can. Avoid mp3s or other bit-reduced formats. Thanks!
Stereo has added new dimensions to our recordings, an effect that is difficult or impossible to achieve in monaural recordings. New immersive formats, such as Dolby Atmos, add even more dimensionality to music.You can achieve a kind of stereo by panning mono recordings of various instruments into the stereo field, but that is not what this episode is about. I talk about how to use a pair of microphones to pick up sound.I provide a very brief history of stereo to get started, and some simple concepts of microphone pickup patterns and why they are important in stereo recording. Then I delve into some of the more popular approaches to stereo recording, including spaced-omni mics, X-Y and its variants, M-S, Blumlein, and binaural recording using an artificial head.Mono compatibility is less of an issue than in the past, but still should be considered. I compare the various techniques and what happens when the two channels are combined in mono.Some other techniques I have used over the years include mis-matched mics in stereo, and what I call “incidental stereo,” which could be from bleed between various instruments and mics, or just recording an unused nearby mic in the studio for possible combination with a main pickup.I conclude with my impression of each technique, which, of course is entirely subjective and will undoubtedly be different than what you find.This topic was suggested by listener Bill Sallak. If you have any suggestions for topics, I’d like to hear them!Thanks for your comments and suggestions. And thanks for listening, rating, and subscribing to this podcast. It is available on over 30 podcasting platforms.
Chuck Anderson, Part 2

Chuck Anderson, Part 2

2021-09-2350:52

My conversation with jazz guitarist, composer, writer, and teacher, Chuck Anderson continues in this episode. We talk about recording his early albums, his trio, solo guitar compositions, and practical advice to aspiring musicians.We discuss the value of silence, why we both rarely listen to music, and details about the recording of his latest album, “Spontaneity.”You can learn much more about Chuck Anderson at his web site, https://chuckandersonjazzguitar.com/?v=757e5b5109edwhere you can also find links to all his social media outlets.Thanks for listening, and please subscribe to this podcast, using any of the many podcast providers that carry it. Your subscription helps others find my podcast.
Chuck Anderson is an amazing musician. Not only is his technique on guitar remarkable, he is also a solid businessman who has made his living from music since he was a teenager. Over his long career, Chuck has worked with the top singers in the music business.But his steady passion is teaching. Since he was 16, he has taught thousands of students. He instructs them not only on the technique of the guitar, but also how to pursue their musical dreams, whether it is becoming a rock star, a studio musician, or just playing for a lifetime of enjoyment.In addition, Chuck has written 26 books, the first when he was 21 years old.I first met Chuck in 1974 when we recorded his first jazz trio album. That was my introduction to the serious jazz idiom. Since then, we recorded a couple of other albums, and recently we did a session where Chuck recorded an entire album of wonderfully improvised compositions in two hours. It’s called “Spontaneity” and it will be available soon after you hear this.You can hear a sample from the album (24-bit/96kHz) on my podcast web site, www.dougfearn.com   Look under "Extras"   https://dougfearn.com/Extras/extras.htmlIn July 2021, Chuck called me to ask if I had any photos from the first project we worked on, a jazz trio album called “Mirror Within a Mirror,” recorded at my studio in 1974. I didn’t, but after talking for a bit, we came up with the idea of recording a new album of solo guitar, entirely improvised in the studio.Chuck came in late one Saturday afternoon in August, after a full day of teaching, and we produced the entire album in about two hours. Setup took minutes, and we were ready to record almost immediately. Chuck played the Gibson L-5 guitar he has used all his life. I used an AEA R88 stereo ribbon microphone on the studio Vox AC-30 amp, with a pair of Coles 4038 ribbon mics out farther in the room. It sounded great right from the first note, so I never changed anything.There were no retakes, no punches, and no overdubs. The recording was done 24-bit, 96kHz sample rate, using D.W. Fearn VT-2 and VT-24 mic preamps into a pair of VT-4 equalizers on the main pickup, with a bit of bass roll-off to compensate for the close mic’ing of the guitar amp. No other eq or other processing was used.The session was recorded with a Merging Technologies Hapi converter, using Pyramix software. During the mix, a bit of Bricasti M7 digital reverb was added.A week later, we recorded this interview, using a pair of AEA R44 mics. For Covid safety reasons, we were well separated in the studio.In this wide-ranging conversation, Chuck talks about his career, his philosophy, and why he still works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, teaching, composing, and exploring the world of music. Our conversation will continue in the next episode, where discuss his early albums, the beauty of silence, and some practical advice for people who want to make a living in music.You can learn more about Chuck Anderson at his web site, https://chuckandersonjazzguitar.com/?v=757e5b5109ed There you will find interesting information, samples of his music, and links to his social media.
John O’Reilly Jr. is a studio drummer who spends most of his time recording drum tracks for clients in his studio. He talks about his experiences leading up to his business, “Boom Crash Drum Tracks.”Our conversation covers much more than that. We talk about his philosophy of drumming and music, the challenges and rewards of providing drum overdub tracks, and his commitment to teaching. We discuss the state of current music, and music of the past.https://www.boomcrashdrumtracks.com/We started off talking about John’s long-time collaboration as a member of the Hazelrigg Brothers Trio.Thanks for listening, and please tell others about this podcast if you think they would find it useful.You can subscribe at any of over 30 podcast providers who carry My Take On Music Recording, including Apple Podcasts. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Send me email at dwfearn@dwfearn.com
Direct Stream Digital (DSD) is a different way to record music in a digital format. The concept goes back to the 1930s, and it has been used to record music for at least 20 years. But DSD has not been widely accepted in music recording because it has some serious limitations, which require changes in our normal workflow habits.This conversation with George and Geoff Hazelrigg is a continuation from the previous episode on audio quality. We do not get into the technical details of how DSD works, which will be the subject for a future episode.Your comments, questions, and suggestions are always interesting and helpful to me. You can contact me at dwfearn@dwfearn.comIf you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe through any of the 30-plus podcast providers that carry it. Leave a review if you like. Reviews help new listeners find podcasts they like. Thanks.
Geoff and George Hazelrigg are not only my business partners, but also superb musicians with decades of studio experience.We seem to always agree on what makes a compelling recording. In this informal conversation, we talk about how artifacts of any kind will detract from the listener’s enjoyment. We share what we have discovered to be the best combination of gear and technique to make recordings we are pleased with.The second part of this conversation, where we discuss DSD high-resolution recording, will become an upcoming episode.Your comments, questions, and suggestions are always interesting and helpful to me. You can contact me at dwfearn@dwfearn.comYou can find extra material for many podcasts, as well as links to every episode, at my podcast web site, www.dougfearn.comIf you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe through any of the 30-plus podcast providers that carry it. Leave a review if you like. Reviews help new listeners find podcasts they like. Thanks.
Major record labels and other music providers are committed to adopting Dolby Atmos and other immersive audio technologies. There is a huge amount of work available to re-mix a label’s entire catalog in the new formats.Dale Becker, of Becker Mastering in Los Angeles, has become an expert on the practical aspects of Dolby Atmos. You may remember Dale from Episode 16 last year. Dale is a sought-after mastering engineer with decades of experience. He masters many of the most important recordings of our time.In this new episode, Dale explains Dolby Atmos, the advantages to the music listener, his experiences in starting from zero and learning all he could about the format, and he explains how the new immersive audio formats are changing our job. Dale explains the basics of Atmos, and the challenges and rewards of setting up a control room for the format. He also gives us insight on how we might change our recording habits with Atmos in mind.I started by asking Dale to explain in practical terms what Atmos is and how it benefits the listener.
Robin Eaton is a songwriter, musician, vocalist, and studio owner based in Nashville. I’ve known Robin for over 40 years, since he lived in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. He came into my studio around 1980 to record demos for several songs and I was blown away by the quality of his compositions.In this informal and wide-ranging conversation, Robin talks about his early influences, such as writing poetry when he was five years old, his adventures in the music business in the U.S. and Europe, and how he eventually settled in Nashville and now owns two very successful studios.We talk about some of Robin’s songs. There are links to the songs on my podcast web site, https://www.dougfearn.comAs a songwriter, Robin as has a long-time collaboration with Jill Sobule, and many others.Thank you for your continued support of this podcast. My aim is to pass along my experience in the world of audio, music, and recording. If you find this interview useful, please share it on your social media and tell your friends who might be interested. Thanks.
In the days before tape recording, records had to be made “live,” with the performance going directly to a master lacquer disc. In the 1950s, when recording to tape became possible, the mastering step could be detached from recording, but the performance was still captured live.When multitrack tape became universal in studios in the 1960, the concept of mixing after recording emerged.In the decades that followed, many engineers chose to specialize in one of the three steps made possible by the technology. Some were tracking engineers, who captured the performance. Mixers specialized in creatively combining the tracks, and a mastering engineer did the transfer from the master mix tape to lacquer disc master.This specialization has only increased in the digital age. And, for the most part, it is beneficial for our profession. It works because some of us love to capture the music, but have no interest in mixing it. Others find working with artists, which can sometimes be very stressful, unappealing and prefer to work on their own, just mixing.And with the rise of digital formats for the consumer, what need was there for a mastering engineer? Well, the mastering engineers re-invented their craft and used their talents to enhance the recording.The mixing and mastering steps also became opportunities to fix imperfections that should have been addressed in the original recording.In this episode, I suggest that perhaps some of us should consider returning to the original concept of making a record with one engineer doing all three steps. This is likely to be a small segment of our engineering community, but “mastering” all aspects of recording might make better recordings. 
Harpischord Recording

Harpischord Recording

2021-06-0415:50

In this short episode, I describe the process I went through on a recent recording project. We were recording a harpsichord, an instrument I had some experience recording, but never before as a solo instrument in the studio.We were recording a Bach Fantasy and Fugue piece, played by George Hazelrigg. George has been playing harpsichord all his life, although the piano is his main instrument these days.It took us about ten hours of experimenting to get the sound we wanted. I describe the process.Although you may never have occasion to record a harpsichord like this, you might still find the process I went through useful.In the podcast, I mention a video we did that describes our technique for recording grand piano. Here is the link to that video:https://www.facebook.com/DWFearnProfessionalAudioProducts/posts/2837669519662094Thanks for subscribing to this podcast. And if you have any comments, suggestions, or ideas for topics, please let me know. You can reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.comAnd please share this podcast with anyone you think would be interested.
Location Recording

Location Recording

2021-05-2320:41

Most of us record in studios of various types. But sometimes it is necessary, or advantageous, to record on location.I’ve had a studio most of my career, but in the early days, I recorded entirely on location. More recently, before I built my present studio, I did quite a few location recordings, in many types of venues. Some were concert halls, theaters, or sports arenas, but many were in churches, community spaces, outside, or even in people’s homes.Those location recordings taught me a lot about acoustics, mic placement, and dealing with unforeseen obstacles.Although location recording will most likely be of a performance, sometimes it is desirable to record in a area that has more room, or better acoustics for a particular piece of music. Or maybe you just need a larger/better space to record horns, strings, or a choral background vocal.In this episode, I share some of my experiences of recording outside the studio. If you have any suggestions for future podcast topics, please let me know. I am sometimes surprised by the response to a particular episode. Predicting what you like is a bit of a challenge. So please let me know what interests you.And any comments or suggestions are always welcomed. Please subscribe to this podcast on any of the 30 providers that carry it. Thanks.
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 dwfearn@dwfearn.com
Theater of the Mind

Theater of the Mind

2021-04-2625:03

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.
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