$80 Harrison Mixing Console

Harrison MixBus Console

This isn’t super new, but still interesting. Harrison Consoles has released a piece of software that gives you the power and sound of a Harrison Mixing Console (the console that mixed Michael Jackson’s Thriller and other huge hits). It’s modeled after Harrison’s 32-series and MR-series consoles. It’s built on top of Ardour and runs on OSX and Linux. It really seems to shine in summing and auxiliary bus routing. Worth a peek if you’re looking to mix your own material.


The $90 Recording Studio

Pro Tools Vocal Studio

Technology has brought music production and sound recording to the masses. About ten years ago you needed a computer and just under $1,000 worth of equipment to start a home studio and record a decent quality album. I’m a fan of this price pressure since it allows more people to create music. Already low, even that $1,000 price point continues to fall. Still, even I was surprised when I found the Pro Tools Vocal Studio. It includes a 16-bit USB microphone, table top stand and 16-track version of Pro Tools. I paid $82 plus tax for a total of $90 at Fry’s Electronics. That’s right – a $90 recording studio! The package has plenty of limitations. And it’s no where near a replacement for professional gear. But that’s not the point. Now almost anyone interested in recording music can do it. It’s sort of like writing a book. Acquiring paper and a pen isn’t the blocker. It’s mustering the creative talent to write something other people want to read (and then finding resources to market it). Movies aren’t quite there, but we’re pretty close with music. And that’s exciting.

I opened up the Pro Tools Vocal Studio package today and recorded this song (listen below) within 30 minutes of plugging in the mic. I’ve used other super affordable systems, but the set up for this thing was the easiest I’ve ever run into. Shout out to Stevie Thunder for the instrumental I used to test out the mic. This is a remix to ‘Live Off Rap Money’, which I thought was appropriate. The song doesn’t sound fantastic, but given some time you could make this thing sing. And for 30-minutes of work it sounds fantastic. For any teenagers or others out there trying to record their first album, this isn’t a bad place to start.

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Download This Song (Free)

Yeah Buddy, We’re Done

Here We Go Again Screenshot

The album is done. I know the word album is an old term, but I like it. And that’s what collections of songs are to me – an album of songs created during a certain period or mood. Plus calling it a CD doesn’t fit since most people will be downloading the project. But what we call it doesn’t matter. It’s done. Propellerhead Record ended up having too many issues to mix with (but I’m still using it for tracking). Some of the programs workflow challenges were related to things I may need to unlearn. Anyway, after thinking about how to proceed I decided not to mix my own material for this project. Christian Cummings mixed it. He’s solid. Check him out if you need a mixing engineer. Joe Goodwin at Capricorn Mastering handled the mastering. He did a great job as well. Madia cut vocals for two songs on the project – including the title song. Thank you. Shout out to my boy Ty who runs TAG Studios in Virginia. He cut Madia’s vocals since I couldn’t make it out there for the session. The photo above is from the intro session. I still can’t believe that roach!

Production Notes:

Editing In Los Angeles

The Standard Hotel

I’ve started editing the tracks. I got started on the plane to LA this afternoon. Exit seat with the entire row to myself. Nice. Started cleaning up sessions and we were landing before I knew it. Seattle to Los Angles is only a two hour flight, but it’s still impressive how productive you can be on a plane when you have space. Got to my hotel (The Standard downtown) and the room wasn’t ready. What’s the deal with these hotels? Check-in was 3PM. I showed up at 3:06PM. Room wasn’t ready. Grabbed an afternoon breakfast at the hotel restaurant called “The Restaurant”. My room was finally ready around 4:30PM. Weak. This hotel is one of those that tries so hard that it comes off fake. Not a fan. Decent size room though. The bed is basically on the floor. Kinda looks cool, but not my style. Went to a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit one time and thought the same thing – do tall people like sleeping on these low beds? Anyway, enough complaining.

Bottega Louie Pizza

Had a nap and then off to Bottega Louie for dinner. Too crowded for me so I brought my margherita and basil pizza back to the room. BTW, downtown LA is dead. It’s Saturday night and apart from small handful of spots the place is shut down. It’s been like that my last couple of trips, but seemed extra empty tonight. There’s a hotel party on the roof. The DJ is loud. It’s not a private party, but I’m skipping that. I’ve been up there before and it’s mostly people holding fancy drinks and posing for invisible cameras. Pass. So I’m back in the room and I’m in the grove. Editing is going well. Although, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to mix every song with just Record. I’m addicted to Wave’s brick wall limiters (a crutch) and that alone may give Pro Tools a role to play on this album. Progressing well.

Atlanta Day Five

Backpack & Roller

All done. With major tracking at least. Knocked out the last five songs yesterday. Had to manage the noise more proactively in the last session. After this experience, I’m sold on Properllerhead Record. Winner. On a plane right now. Peace out Atlanta. BTW, AirTran coach seats are super cramped. Boo. Direct flight though. There’s still work to do. Will start prepping for mixing later in the week. I’m headed to Los Angeles at the end of the week. Need to learn the channel strip in Record. I’m used to using the Waves L1 Limiter. Let’s see if I can get by without it. All in all, this trip was a success. On to the next.

Atlanta (Still) Day Three

Atlanta Hotel View

Decent day. Worked on a presentation, did a conference panel (on digital marketing), wrote a doc on digital media, and met up with my boy Vern (he used to be in this group). This food thing is still causing problems. Ate a fried fish sandwich and fries for lunch. Did better for dinner – Cantonese noodles with tofu. But I couldn’t stop there could I? Hmph. Added two veggie spring rolls and a crab roll with cheese. I’m walking back to my room and see a place called Marble Slate. Kinda like a Cold Stone Creamery. Yes, I gave in. And it was worth it! So I didn’t do so well on the calorie count tonight, but had much better ingredients. I’m counting that as a win. Was able to knock out three tracks today (I Still Rap, Thank You Internet, and Who’s Your Customer). Have a good pace. Done for the day. Not sleepy, but my mind is wandering. Going to try and rest up today and bang out the last five tomorrow. Loving this new app (Record). The workflow is almost perfect. Even on a laptop. BTW, I’m recording to the internal laptop hard drive (5400RPM) and it seems to be holding up fine. The lack of an auxiliary bus will cause me to change the way I usually mix (tracks to aux busses acting as stem controllers). This is still possible in Record by creating a Mixer 14:2 for each stem (e.g. drums, lead vox, hooks, etc…), but that’s a headache. But hey, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. The way the rest of the app is holding up I might just deal with the inconvenience and keep the master track self-contained. We’ll see.

Hotel Roaches

Hotel Roach

A roach just crawled on my foot! I’m typing away on the laptop and my foot keeps itching. Finally I look down and there’s a huge cockroach on me. Nasty! I shake it off, snap the picture you see there and smash that bad boy. Room 1943 has a balcony and I toss homey over. Peace out. I don’t know how many stars this hotel is supposed to have, but roaches weren’t expected. Back to the music. I’m making progress. The goal was to record twelve songs over four days. I scrapped some earlier recordings (excluding hooks) so I’m basically starting from the beginning. The first day (yesterday) was prep and I assigned the other three days four songs a piece. Knocked out four songs today (The TV Generation, Street Dreams, Green Light, Rain IOUs) and so things are on schedule. Doing better with the food today. Let’s hope that lasts.

Atlanta Day Two

ATL Hotel View

Back from the snack hunt. I had good intentions to get something healthy, but I blame Mr. Sugar Pop and the lack of choice in downtown Atlanta after midnight. One of the employees in the front of the hotel points me to the liquor store. He’s says that the only place open and even they close in three minutes (11:45PM – odd time to close). I hustle over. Sure enough they are closing when I get there. The guy lets me in and I grab a quart of Smart Water (actually 33.8 ounces; strange size) and a Blackberry Boylan soda (already falling off). Problem though. The only food they sell are nuts. No chips. Nothing. Seems strange. I leave with my water and pop looking for something else. Walk around and find a Hard Rock. Open ’til 2AM the neon sign flashes. Hmph. Oh well, I’m hungry. I sit at the bar and quickly remember that there are a lot of options at the Hard Rock if you like pork. Vegetarians? Not so much. I work with the onion rings. Not bad (tasting) with BBQ sauce. I make my way back to the hotel and see a 24-hour junk food area in the corner of the lobby near the bar. Why didn’t the guy in the front tell me about this? I immediately gravitate toward the Krispy Kreme doughnut display. I ask the cashier how if the doughnuts had been there since 5AM yesterday. In a very matter of fact tone he replies, “Probably”. I grab one anyway. And a bag of $0.99 Cool Ranch Doritos. Yes, judge me. The guy looks at that pitiful doughnut and says, “That one is on me”. So there’s dinner. Onion rings, Doritos, and an old Krispy Kreme doughnut. A shame. I told myself on the way up to room 1943 that I’m not going to let this get totally out of hand. Going to find some proper food tomorrow. Now, back to the music. I need to get started right away, because once this junk food wears off I’m going to crash hard.

Atlanta Day One

Hyatt Atlanta

Just touched down in Atlanta. Well, about two hours ago. Pulled up to the downtown Hyatt on Peachtree and there’s a Maybach parked in the front. No, it wasn’t waiting for me. I took the shuttle. $16.50. I check in using the kiosk in the lobby and get my room key. I didn’t read my receipt and take the elevators to the sixth floor. Where’s room 653? Not here. It only goes up to 640. Back downstairs. Another guest who was in line because her key wasn’t working. I tell her I can’t find my room. “You’re probably in the other tower,” she replies. Hmph. Should have read my kiosk receipt. Alrighty then. The other tower seems more modern (think a W Hotel). That’s a plus. I get up to 653 and insert the room key. It works. But there’s someone inside. Not good. Fortunately he’s fully dressed. I tell him I’ll square it away in the lobby and so off I go – back to the lobby. The lady in the front desk works it out. Meanwhile another person at the front desk is on the phone with a guest. Turns out it’s the guy in 653. Mr. B-something. He’s salty someone (that would be me) walked in his room. They assure him my key no longer works. They still can’t get him off the phone. That took over their attention in the lobby and Shaneese (think that was her name) handed me a reprogrammed room key. I’m all set and off to a much better view. Room 1943. A bit of an inconvenience, but that worked out well. As I’m walking to the International tower I realize something. I’ve stayed at this hotel before. The NAB conference in 2006. I should have remembered there was a second tower. Then I might have remembered to actually read my check-in receipt. However, that still wouldn’t have stopped me from walking in on Mr. B. All this and I’m only here for one night. Switching to the Renaissance tomorrow. Anyway, looks like things are settled. Headed out and find some water and snacks. The main task tonight will be importing Reason sessions (all the pre-production is done) into Propellerhead Record and prepping the master sessions. Here we go.

Properllerhead Record + Hotels

Hotel Synth

The next project is underway. I’m trying something new with this album – recording in a hotel room. The following notes cover the process along that journey. In addition to sorting through the portable recording process, this will be the first full-length album I produce fully Properllerhead Record. The equipment list below is what I’ll be using the cut the album. This should be fun. BTW, I took this photo with my phone in a hotel lobby. Nothing special about it, but I thought it looked cool.

Equipment List:

  • Computer: Lenovo ThinkPad T60P w/4GB RAM
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate (RTM)
  • Software: Propellerhead Reason v4 & Record v1
  • Audio Interface: Digidesign Mbox2
  • Mic: Rode NT2-A w/Stedman Proscreen 101
  • Headphones: Sony MDR-7506
  • Monitors: None