Gigging and Touring as an Indie

Playing live gigs is one of the most traditional ways for musical artists to spread the word about themselves, entertaining fans and attracting new ones. And nothing beats gigging as a way to build a band’s musical chops.

Playing gigs also gives you a recurring reason to contact your fan base and promote your act, it’s a great vehicle to collect names for your email list, and it’s the best forum to sell products like CDs and t-shirts. Read more…

Home Project Studio: Parts 3 & 4

Half-round Geometrix sound absorbersPart 3: The truth about isolation booths
We find ourselves immersed in the building of the isolation booth, after a slight delay caused by unforeseen delays.

The room is coming along well. Two dedicated 20-amp circuits have been installed for audio power. Lines have been run for lighting. The ceiling has been insulated and the outer walls are ready to be prepped for paint and wall treatments. Now that the main part of the room is taking shape, it is time to look at the ISO booth design and construction.

I had just ordered industrial felt to “float” the inner framing of the booth when I spoke to Nick Collerian at Acoustics First. Read more…

The $999 Home Studio

A pair of VLA-4 powered monitors makes it easy to mix your project. As the cost of home recording technology has continued to fall, the list of products and their available features continues to grow. So it seems timely to ask the question, “Can you put together a viable home recording set up for less than $1000?” To help answer this question, we turned to pro audio veteran, Richie DeCarlo at Philadelphia’s music superstore, 8th Street Music. Let’s see what gear goes into a prototypical home studio rig and how much bang for the buck can you get with a grand. Read more…

Drum Mic Showdown

p810-fig1-3We took three drum mic packages into the studio for a live showdown.
Although most engineers will tell you they select microphones based on the type of instrument or the tonal quality of a particular instrument, we all have a trusted set of “go to” mics when it comes to recording drums. In the last few years, many microphone manufacturers have grouped sets of drum mics into affordable, easy-to-use packages for both the studio and live performances. This month we put three sets of drum mic packages through their paces to test what kind of performance you can expect. Read more…

Pro Studio: Vocal Mics in the Studio

Fast Forward’s Pro Studio guru puts four mics through their paces

One of the key elements in any popular song is the vocal performance, and an essential part of capturing a vocal performance accurately is the microphone used in the recording. Top recording engineers know how important it is to match each singer’s particular vocal qualities and timbre to the microphone that will best capture the power and subtleties of that voice. This month, Fast Forward brought four high-quality vocal microphones (i.e. list price of $1,000 or more) into the studio and ran each through its paces, recording male and female vocal tracks and some narration. By the end of the session, you’ll have a good idea of which of these mics may be worth the investment for your home recording studio and what you might want to look for in studios near you. The four contenders include: the Kiwi, from BLUE Microphones; the TLM 103 from Neumann; the Black Hole BH-2 from JZ Mics; and the KSM 44 from Shure. I invited my colleague Jeff Crawford, a local producer and engineer over to provide a second set of ears for the evaluation. Two singers were asked to help with the testing, each one bringing a backing track of a song that they were familiar with to use for the test session. Read more…

Five Things to Consider for Your Home Project Studio

If you’re doing home recording, one of the main instruments you may be using for accompaniment is the acoustic guitar. Learning the basics of acoustic guitar recording requires time to experiment a bit to find your instrument’s sweet spots for micing, and also understanding some essentials with regard to your guitar and recording environment. We’ll use the most popular dynamic mics that many musicians rely on for gigs, the venerable Shure SM-57 and 58, to show how to get a good recorded sound from your acoustic guitar. We’ll also recommend two affordable condenser mics that can help you take your guitar’s sound to the next level. Read more…

Monitor Levels and Your Hearing

Fast Forward caught up with two top studio engineers, Joe Zook (whose credits include work with Modest Mouse, Katy Perry, Dashboard Confessional and OneRepublic) and Rich Travali, who has recorded or mixed projects with Nelly, Jennifer Hudson, Gwen Stefani and Robin Thicke. We asked them to share their opinions on how loud is too loud in the control room and what effects high volume monitoring can have on your ability to accurately hear your mix. Read more…

Pro Studio: Virtual Guitar Rigs


Fast Forward’s Pro Studio expert takes some virtual rigs for a spin.

Imagine you live in a house or apartment and are getting ready to record one of your own songs, which will require you to really crank up your high powered amplifier to get the proper tone for a song. For many people, doing so might be an invitation to being evicted from your house. Instead, try out one of the growing number of excellent virtual guitar systems that can provide literally hundreds of guitar, speaker, and stomp box options without ever assaulting the ears of your neighbors. Read more…

Pro Studio: Record and Remix Online

Online recording, collaborating, and remixing has come of age

When world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma offered musicians a chance to record with him – via the internet on indabamusic.com – thousands took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with the virtuoso. Ma offered the opportunity as part of a competition to win a spot recording with him on his forthcoming album in the hopes of making the CD a more interactive experience. Read more…

Pro Studio: Make the Most of Your Songs

Tight Knit, Vetiver's 2009 CD showcases songwriter Andy Cabic's talents.Connecting with producer Thom Monahan took a little doing, since he was halfway around the world in Tel Aviv, Israel, tracking a new album with singer/songwriter Geva Alon. We started our phone interview discussing his background, including his eight-year stint with well-respected songwriter Joe Pernice, during which time they recorded ten albums. Monahan was not only a member of the band, but he also engineered and produced. He has also produced albums by Devendra Banhart, Beachwood Sparks, Lavender Diamond, and Little Joy. One clear lesson Monahan has learned includes the importance of having great songs when you set out to make a record. Read more…