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Letters from Our Readers
My wife and I drove 18 hours back from our vacation in Florida to our home in Ohio. We got in at 3 a.m. Our son had put the mail on the floor, and before we went to bed I saw the newest issue of Tape Op. My wife said, "Come on, we have been up for 20 hours." I said, "I will be in there in a little bit." I couldn't put the latest issue down! I read it from beginning to end, and finally crawled into bed at 5 a.m. Honestly, that was my favorite issue yet, and I am going to do some recording tomorrow. Thanks for the inspiration!
On the one hand, I completely agree with Mr. Baccigaluppi's recent back page. I am constantly ranting that I want Cubase and Pro Tools finished, goddamnit! I want them to be like real musical instruments: perfected. Sure, one violin or piano sounds different from the next, and there's always room for improvement; but they all work the same way. Same goes for everything, from Stratocasters to drill presses. At some point, the consensus was, "This thing is fully baked." On the other hand? I can't stand where DAW is today. None of them are what I imagined when I started 15 years ago... which is a desktop music publisher. None of them are as flexible as video or desktop publishing programs, in terms of simply manipulating objects the way Word, InDesign, or Finale let one cut/copy/paste. None have particularly great undo. None have version control. None have an import/export worth a shit. And none offer any reasonable guarantee that you'll be able to open an older project cleanly. I think we are still stuck in this mental paradigm (which your magazine promulgates) of "mixer," "engineer," and "musician." Sound is acquired in one discrete step, mixed in another, and then mastered in a third. No author in any other medium thinks in such a formal way anymore. We're all constantly creating and editing, all at the same time. But DAWs continue to be modeled after tape recorders and mixing desks. In short, I look forward to the day when there is a simple DAW that allows me the same flexibility with audio, MIDI, and notation that I have with words in Microsoft Word; something that isn't held back by the look and feel of a mixing desk.
While I too dream of a DAW that needs no upgrades and stays stable for decades, I disagree on the criticism of the "mental paradigm" that you believe we "promulgate" with Tape Op. I think that many times the division of labor on a recording project can be a good thing. Sure, a blurring of the lines constantly occurs (I regularly engineer, produce, mix, and perform on my studio sessions); but when it comes to the tasks involved in record making, often hiring an expert can vastly improve the project. Bringing in a better guitarist than myself is an obvious win. Hiring a mixing or mastering engineer with more experience than oneself can improve tracks immensely. Sometimes records are made in isolation by a single person, and this can lead to some fantastic, unique results or it can result in an unbridled mess. Some records are made by selecting the proper group of talented individuals. But even inferring that there is only one way to record music is to miss the point of all the opportunities that are out there.
Issue #102 showed up in my email yesterday. I love your gear reviews, so I went there first. In my latest project I have been struggling with two guitars recorded through a Line 6 Pod 2.0 amp simulator that seemed okay when I cut the tracks, but are harsh sounding as I mix. I can barely tame the sound with compression, EQ, and de-essers. It's either too harsh, or too dull, plus the rhythm and lead guitar have the same frequency range of splatter and were tough to balance. I read the review on bx_refinement and within the hour it was downloaded and in operation. Even my wife could hear the difference. While I'll be wary of using the Pod in the future, I now have a valuable tool that can really clean things up. Thanks for the heads up on a great product. It came along at the right time to rescue my mix.
I adore this plug-in, and have been using it a lot to help my recent mixes, even on some tracks I've cut myself. I'm very happy to have turned anyone on to this fine product. I recently met bx's developer, Gebre Waddell, at Summer NAMM, and am glad to report that he's an awesome and interesting person to boot. Expect more miracles from him in the future.
I read several issues ago about Larry Crane wishing that CDs came with credits in the metadata for the engineer, producer, studio, etc. When I create a PMCD [PreMaster CD] for pressing purposes there is no place except the comments block to add this information, which is character limited, so only a fraction of the info I edit in is retained. Also other info, such as publishing, copywriter, etc. is not retained after burning the PMCD (I use MediaMonkey). Is there any other way to add this info to the metadata that will be retained after burning the disc? Or am I just pissing up a rope?
You are not alone in wondering about metadata on CDs. Although it is possible to add credits in the comment section, there are some limitations to this approach. First, CD Text data is only seen when a disc is played in a CD Text-enabled car or home player. Portable players and computers do not read information from the disc (they pull data from databases, such as Gracenote). The second, and perhaps more important concern, is that there is no guarantee that a disc manufacturer will "carry forward" all of the metadata from the submitted master. While many plants do pass CD Text through to the production copies, it is not a universal practice. Even if you manage to stuff all the comments in, it may not make it to the finished copies. Presently there is no ideal solution. This explains some of the recent attempts to launch album credit sites. The best advice I have is to find someone who is a Gracenote partner and have them enter the data for you. Some labels, mastering engineers, and publishers have enhanced access to production fields in the Gracenote Database. While anyone can submit song titles and artists names, via applications like iTunes, Gracenote Partners have enhanced access to data fields (e.g. native language, band website, record label, sub- genres, etc.). In particular, we can enter musician, engineering, writing, and production credits for entire albums, or even individual songs (very useful on a compilation release). I believe feeding production credits into Gracenote is currently our best bet. Even if AES, NARAS, or some other body manages to push standards through, online vendors such as Apple, Pono, or Streamer- du-Jour will more than likely want to pull from an established data source. In summary: not only are you pissing up a rope, but you have to get in line to do so. But so do the rest of us.
As always, I was delighted to get the latest Tape Op [#102]! Right away it flipped open to that super-sexy shot of Tom Werman standing in front of those [3M] M79s.Hell yeah! But I'm really writing to express how impressed I am to see the cover of Family Fun In Tape Recording used with your opening editorial! This was an extremely important book for me - please see attached the review I wrote in 1965 inside the front cover.
"This is a great book! Given November 15, 1965 on my 11th birthday."
I'm not in the music industry, but my husband is. Needless to say there is always a copy of Tape Op around. Being a hairstylist, this should make me run in the other direction (no fashion or beauty articles?) but I have to tell you that I find it almost as interesting as he does. I think a testament to good writing and content is that it can be understood and enjoyed by anyone. So I had to write, because who knew you had a secret fanbase of non-industry "insiders." Keep up the good work; I'll be reading!
In your articles, the interviewer (always well- prepared and familiar with the interviewee) will ask about certain songs/passages of music, to find out how the engineer got a particular sound. It's a perfect way to present a question because then the reader can listen to the specific song/passage referred to in the question. Perfect! But I am almost always unfamiliar with the songs/music referred to, so I can't put the response in context to fully understand it. I wish it was possible for you folks to have a snippet of the music [indicated in the articles] posted on your website (just enough for reference), so that people like me could listen. What an amazing educational benefit it would be!
We do put links to YouTube videos in the online, or bonus versions, of our articles. But we're reticent to host any music on our site due to probable copyright and ownership issues. In this day and age isn't it fairly easy to hear snippets of music via iTunes or Amazon's stores? And many songs seem to be up on YouTube, no matter what copyright owners may wish. The music is out there; enjoy the search!
My name is Gerardo Montoya. I'm from Mexicali, Baja California. Mexico. I'm writing to you because I'd like to thank you for every story Tape Op brings to us. I've been recording bands in my town as a profession since 2007. I would like to share what I do with you. Thanks for every story and honest advice you write, or decide to publish.
John La Grou's article, "The Future of Audio Engineering," [Tape Op #100] was excellent, and I'd love to see more forward-looking thought pieces in Tape Op. In my opinion, the recording community has a tendency to fixate on the past. This fixation borders on nostalgia, and it seems to pull our interests, as well as the work of our technology developers (who respond to our interests), in rather conservative directions. Do we need yet another U 47 or 1073 knock-off? And, on the digital side, wouldn't it make sense to build new processors, rather than to focus on getting plug-ins to imitate vintage gear? It shouldn't come as a surprise to us that, as John notes in his article, the innovation in audio is not coming from the audio community, but from the gaming, TV, and film industries. All of these fields have stayed on the cutting edge of technology and, not coincidentally, are thriving, while the music industry continues to sink into an unprecedented financial and artistic devaluation. Please continue to bring us articles such as John's, so that we can collectively imagine, and help create, a future that's as innovative and exciting as our past was.