Since Jay has such a lot of valuable musical knowledge and tips to relate we are giving
you this page with loads of educational stuff. This will mainly concern recording
techniques but there will also be info on other areas of musical interest. Over the years
Jay has piled up a gigantic supply of musical know-how which he now offers to you, lucky you!
You can read about Jay's studio - Garden Rake Studios - and about his gig equipment
on the Gear & Studio section. Jay also tells you
"session stories" on his own page . From time to time we
will add more info to all of these pages so keep coming back to check it out.
THE PLEK SYSTEM!
Have you ever dreamed of a guitar that was comfortable and easy to play and didn't buzz despite its low
action? Your dream is possible to achieve! Check out Jay's tips on how to deal with "fret outs". He has found THE
solution to this annoying problem and wants to
share with all the guitar players in the world. Fret Tek Rodney Millar has
the PLEK system in his shop in Los Angeles.
Back Ups - Or Life In The Studio According To Murphy. Part 1.
A discussion between Jay and CaptainMik - a colleague regarding Murphy's Law of
backing up tapes. Yea, you all know about that law, don't you....?
In your case (laying in guitar solos onto masters that I'm guessing are usually near
completion), I can maybe understand the value of backing up. I do believe, however, that
it's more standard that the master is backed up *before* it is sent out for overdubs.
That's certainly the norm for remixes, but I'm digressing.
My point is should we really bother backing up unfinished tapes? Suppose a client comes
to my studio to record a song from scratch. After a few days, we've got most tracks
including vocals recorded. All that's left is for the guitar player to come in and put
down the perfect solo. Should I stop and first back up the 2" tape (and include it in the
bill)? How often should I do this and what do I say to the producer who's sensing a
Except when tapes get sent out for remixes (a whole other story), I can't remember ever
seeing someone make a backup of an unfinished 24-track master. Maybe that happens at the
studios where they automatically add an hour to every session for "machine alignment and
set-up", but at my studio, we like to spend our time making music (and the occasional
Accidents can happen, but they can be fixed or redone once the initial anger clears.
Unless, of course, you're being sent some John Lennon masters. . .
"My point is should we really bother backing up unfinished tapes? Suppose a client
comes to my studio to record a song from scratch. After a few days, we've got most
tracks including vocals recorded. All that's left is for the guitar player to come in
and put down the perfect solo. Should I stop and first back up the 2" tape (and include
it in the bill)? How often should I do this and what do I say to the producer who's
sensing a scam? Except when tapes get sent out for remixes (a whole other story), I can't
remember ever seeing someone make a backup of an unfinished 24-track master. Maybe that
happens at the studios where they automatically add an hour to every session for "machine
alignment and set-up", but at my studio, we like to spend our time making music (and the
If the producer has experienced losing information in the past, he should request a back
up if there is an easy way. If ADAT's - way easy. If analogue with ADAT's, way easy. If
analogue multi track formats and 2 of the same machine in the room, the machine alignment
should be done.
"Accidents can happen, but they can be fixed or redone once the initial anger clears.
Unless, of course, you're being sent some John Lennon masters. . ."
Avoiding any possible anger will make for a better recording. Replacing stuff already
recorded is painful for all involved! Free studio time will be asked for in most cases.
99% of the time, the engineer or the studio will take the blame. I would assume the
client may go looking for another engineer or studio for the next project. Bad news
BTW, an old school of thought is to make the analogue to analogue backup "upside down"
meaning playing the master backwards. The concept is that the transients do not get as
This last thought gives me an idea. What if the 1st generation digital source was in
sound tools (or the like) that offers a mode that plays in reverse. If so, why not
transfer to analogue in reverse. This method, theoretically, should allow the transients
to retain a steeper slope.
More about tape backups in Jay's nightmare true story further down below.
Here below some food for thought on the analogue/digital issue. A discussion between
Jay and a colleague:
The colleague's question: Will transfering to ADAT negate the sonic advantages of
anolog tape? Should I save money and just record everything on ADAT?
When forced to work with ADATs, this is my recording method of choice. Cut tracks on 2",
then transfer track to track to ADAT, locking the machines together via SMPTE. Then you
can make submixes and slaves and record all the overdubs on the ADATs. When it comes time
to mix, you can either use just ADATs, use the original 2" for the tracks locked to the
ADAT overdubs, or you can bounce everything to Dig 48 and avoid the lockup headaches
while mixing. The latter method works very well. Transfering from 2" to ADAT will hurt
you some sonically, but not as bad as recording rhythm tracks to ADAT. (I anticipate
getting some feedback about that last statement.) This has been my experience on numerous
albums over the past two years.
Guys, Lynn states,
" Transferring from 2" to ADAT will hurt you some sonically, but not as bad as recording
rhythm tracks to ADAT. (I anticipate getting some feedback about that last statement.) "
This situation needs more input. 2 inch transfers, to ADAT(s), as to make slaves, is
logical if out of tracks on the analogue format. No one will argue this point.
As we know, analogue tape changes with multiple "passes", or just sitting on the shelf
meaning the "top end" starts taking a slight dive and the "bottom end" gets spread out a
Immediately after tracking, transferring to ADAT or any friendly digital format, is a
good idea for archiving and especially for "backing up".
If using the transfer to the digital machine, as to use for mixing, you have a noise
build up. You now have added more wire, more connectors and probably ran the analogue
through the console to "busses" as to get the levels "maxed out". If the song has a wide
dynamic range, the noise floor will be a real disadvantage. The converters are not so
much of an issue since they would be in play if the original material was recorded in the
So the reason most people transfer analogue to digital is to get the "fatness and warmth"
of analogue multi track. If this is what you are after, and have a high end analogue 2
track to mix to, there is a better way to achieve this sound while keeping the noise
floor down. eliminating the extra wire, connectors and console path.
If you stay in the ADAT format for the tracking and overdubs, then mix to a good 30 ips
analogue format, you get the best of both worlds. The ADAT or digital format will sound
smaller than the fat analogue multi track format but this is typically a good thing since
you have more "pan" placement and more room in general. If you want to make the digital
source tracks big, you can add " bottom end EQ" without the getting width of analogue.
An example would be a kick drum. When adding the bottom EQ from an analogue source, it
seems to get wider than taller. In digital land, the kick gets taller and not that wide.
I recorded my last solo album using analogue 48 tk on a few tunes and ADATS for the rest.
I mixed to 1/2 inch analogue. It is hard to tell what was tracked on what format since
the half inch analogue smoothed out the ADAT digital source. This is the best place to
get the analogue help meaning depth, fatness and the "smooth".
Analogue 1/2 inch mixing will smooth out the rough edges and add depth. Digital source
loves analogue mixing! If the mastering engineer has a good analogue machine and good
converters, you will be in good shape!
If you mix to digital from analogue, this is another sound. Since digital does not have
the depth of analogue, and has a less width, the sonic picture is kind of squashed in
from all perspectives.
Analogue multi track to analogue 2 track mixing is most delicious but can be noisy (is
the song has dynamics) without careful muting. This concept is large! If the track is
crowded, mush typically happens. This set up is ideal for power trios/singer.
I hate Dolby's analogue for most situations. More wire, connectors and electronics equal
less punch and squashed bandwidth. Again, careful muting will eliminate the need for
Dolby's. Classical music or extreme dynamics is another story and needs Dolby's.
If you will transfer analogue multi track analogue to ADATS (digital), DO NOT RUN THE
ANALOUGE THROUGH THE CONSOLE FOR THE TRANSFER! Instead, use the individual output levels
on the analogue tape machine cards. Play the analogue and take the time to set all
individual levels under "peak" of the digital machine. When this procedure is complete
and playback is checked, realign the playback of the analogue machine.
After all of this long winded input, no rules as usual. Do what works for you. I have
tried all of the combinations above. In general, my music likes digital source to
Did I hear someone saying "Tough guys don't make tape back ups"....? Well, here is
the true story with a moral about things that might happen that nobody could ever
anticipate. Read and take warning from it!
Back Ups - Or Life In The Studio According To Murphy. Part 2.
Guys, here is a nightmare story that relates to the analogue digital transfer stuff.
I was doing a favor for Joseph Williams (ex singer of TOTO). He asked me to play a guitar
solo on a song for his next album. He brought over the analogue master and split since I
work alone regarding solos.
I put the tape on the 24 tk, set up a mix, set up my RAKE amp (eq'd, etc.) and went to
work. During the first few passes of playing a solo (amp speakers in the studio, yours
truly in the control room with the amp head), I monitor loud as to check that my guitar
sound does not have too much "2k pain". During the 2nd pass, the 24 tk "take up reel
motor" failed and the tape started wrapping around the capstan! I hit stop on the remote,
jumped out of the chair and ran to the machine!
This feeling in my stomach had only happened two other times over 30 + years of
recording. On a freebie for a friend, I am now totally freaked out and need to discover
many things. The first thing I did was wind off the tape very slowly while standing at
the machine. I put up a junk roll of tape and the "take up reel" was failing most of the
time. I warmed up the slave 24 tk and had another problem! This was not my day.
I now needed to check the damaged tape on the machine that had the intermittent "take up
reel" problem. If the "take up reel" failed, while doing the check out, I hit stop and
grabbed both reels. Anyway, after soloing each track, the drum tracks were the most
damaged (these were tracks 1 through 10/the high side of the 2" tape). Six beats of drums
were creased history!
I decided to bounce the track to ADATS so I patched the outputs of the 24 tk directly
into the ADATS. I set the individual track output level controls (24 tk), on each card,
just below clipping regarding the ADAT inputs. This took some time but was the best way
to save noise. Tracks like toms, piano, etc. that are in stereo, were pulled back about 2
db below clipping and later played the 1K tone on the test tape (on the 24 tk) as to get
the gain even on both tracks. I wanted to keep all stereo tracks even. I could get into
major detail on this but you get the idea.
After recording the damaged tape on the ADAT's, I now needed to figure out how to save
the track. (BTW, the track was not recorded with a "clix" so the "time" was floating as
to be expected).
First, I made 2 digital sets of copies. I then played one of the copy sets many times
looking for 2 bars that could be eventually "offset" and "flown in" in the damaged area.
This took many hours of experimentation as would be expected. I eventually found the best
2 bar replacement. This was done by using the 2nd set of backup tapes (drum tracks) in 2
other ADAT machines playing around with "offset times" using "rehearse punch in mode".
When close, I would play around with the "offset numbers" by hand. After I thought I hit
it on the money, I subtracted 3 samples from the "in and out" numbers since it takes 3
samples for the ADAT software to process digital information.
The result was ironically better than the original since the drums now were tighter with
the bass than before! I was lucky that the damaged part was in a "hole" meaning not much
happening regarding the rest of the track.
After the fix, I made 2 sets of back ups. I called Joe the next day and told him what
went down. He was cool since he has been in the business for years and understands
Murphy's law from experience. Joe came over and agreed that the fix was fine. He had made
slaves for vocals with DA 88's so he brought over his machines and we checked the SMPTE
for the lock. Fortunately tk 24 was hardly damaged (a slight glitch) so the lock was fine.
This proves that the DA88 does not mind a slight SMPTE glitch meaning it incorporates a
"loose lock" feature.
I eventually played the solo, but a 3 hour gig had turned into a 4 day gig!
Before I wrap this up, you will not believe the reason the 24tk had crashed! The day
after the major crash, I called my SONY MCI tech. After explaining the problem, he knew
what to look for. He pulled out the reel motor power supply and was shocked! A capacitor
for that reel motor was never "soldered in" at the factory! It was just laying in
position making contact. I have owned this machine for 9 years and the control room air
conditioning system never blew heavy air directly towards this area so the machine ran
slightly hot. My studio was totally gutted then rebuilt after the earthquake. After the
rebuild, I changed the routing of the air as to get more force towards the machines. Long
story, but I had not used this machine since the last routing change a few months back.
The cold air must have made the cap slightly dislodge in intermittent intervals.
After the solo was finished on the ADAT's, I needed to bounce back to fresh analogue tape
on the 24tk since this was the medium they would mix from. I was in this gig too deep as
to not discover the sonic difference from the original analogue to the analogue transfer
from the ADAT, so I compared by copying 8 bars of both tapes to DAT.
Before I mention the results, the transfer from ADAT's to analogue did not run through
the console. I used the individual record trim pots on the analogue machine as to match
from the original analogue master, I noted "peak spots" from the original master. Long
story, but I wanted to keep the level integrity regarding the master. No way to be exact
for many reasons but I got close after experimentation. Again, I matched levels regarding
stereo pairs by recording a 1K tone on a blank part of the tape.
The sonic difference was not a disaster. The analogue tape was recorded at +8 so noise
was not a major factor especially since the song never got below mid level. I lucked out
regarding noise! Since I roughed mixed both tapes to DAT, jitter was not noticeable from
the ADAT transfer since jitter is the DAT's worst enemy! This is another story.
Dig this discovery! As mentioned in the past post, ADAT's (digital in general) small
things up. When bouncing back to analogue, instruments did not get overly thick! A gift!
About the same thickness!
The only drag is obvious. A slight "punch" (transient) loss and a noticeable difference
in the top end. A taste more 2k and a taste less 12k and up. All in all, passable to the
In closing, I considered making a back up to ADAT's before doing the solo but thought the
solo would only take a few hours and the source is analogue so why bother. I BROKE MY
MAIN RULE! I WAS A MORON KNOWING MURPHY'S LAW AS I DO!
This 3 hour freebie turned into 4 days of major work!
All the people that post saying, "I HAVE NEVER HAD A CRASH WITH THE MEDIUM I RECORD ON"
are fools if they do not back up! Hard copy this input and tape it on a wall where you
store your tapes as a reminder to back up!
Here is some very important advice for you to consider in a recording situation:
Save Your Hearing!
Recording with "cans" (studio jargon meaning earphones) may cause you ear damage if
you wear the cans "totally" covering your ears.
Never forget the fact that you may get "zapped" with a zillion DB of feedback gain
from a "loop patch" accidentally performed by the engineer or 2nd engineer. A fast power
failure "off/on reboot" may also cause a similar problem when the console powers back up.
During "power up", most consoles go to a default mode that could cause a loop.
There are a few ways to avoid this horrible possibility.
1. ALWAYS POSITION THE HEADPHONES SO AS TO ONLY COVER ABOUT 70% OF THE EAR CAVITY.
Pull the "cans" back towards the back of your head and find the spot that will allow you
to hear the track and vocal/instrument slightly acoustically. This also may help pitch
especially when recording vocals. Regarding doing vocals, if you will only use one side
of the cans, have the engineer "mono out" the send to the cans for "track pitch"
reasons. In brief, instruments recorded in stereo, with one side de-tuned, will now be
heard in mono which will now give you the true picture regarding track pitch.
2. Remind the engineer or 2nd engineer, at the beginning of the session, to "mute"
the "console headphone send" before making "any patches" or mode changes.
3. If you do not hear anything "in the phones" after asking the engineer if they
should be working, take the phones off until the problem is discovered.
4. A good rule of thumb for engineers, when using a console with "dual in line
faders" (big faders on the bottom and little faders above), is to NOT assign the " buss
fader" (above or below, depending which fader will go the buss) to the buss number that
corresponds to the same channel return module fader.
Example. Let's say the source signal is assigned to the little fader on module #1.
DO NOT ASSIGN THIS FADER TO BUSS #1 IF TRACK 1 "NORMALS" OR IS PATCHED TO BIG FADER 1.
If you pull the "source patch cord" ( bad connection or the like), a feedback loop will
occur if the tape machine is on input. If the patch is pulled while the tape machine is
recording, or in "record ready", when you hit stop, the tape machine will go into input.
This could cause a feedback loop.
The way to avoid the loop possibility is to never use the buss number that
corresponds to the track/fader number. Some consoles "bait" you to use the same buss
number as the module/track return number by offering a direct buss out. This feature
eliminates the "buss summing amp." If you would like to use this feature, use a module
for bussing that will not be the same buss number and then patch the "buss out" to the
desired tape machine track input.
During my years as a studio guitar player, I have had my ears toasted way too many
times! The following was one of those times.
The 2nd engineer made/or pulled a patch that caused the feedback from hell! All the
musicians tossed off the "cans" as fast as possible. It was 10 in the morning during the
first 10 minutes of the session. I ran into the control room and politely explained that
when making a patch, MUTE THE CUE SYSTEM! I mentioned that the control room will get the
same feedback if a loop is happening so check the patch before un-muting the cue system.
I went back in the studio and the guy fried our ears again by making the same incorrect
patch without muting the "cue" system! At this point, the musicians are not thinking
about the music but are thinking about a possible sonic explosion.
This was the last time I had the cans totally covering my ears.
No matter how much you may trust the engineer or 2nd, a sonic explosion may be around
the corner. The loop will not be totally hateful if the cans are "back" on your head.
On a similar note, the following may toast your speakers and scare the crap out of
Lets say that you have made a routing patch and do not hear the track. You solo the
track and start turning up the monitor volume to a point that would kill your ears if
hearing audio. While the monitor volume is up, the 2nd changes the patch, or an
intermittent connection becomes complete. Other possibilities exist as well. Why do we do
this? Every experienced engineer will admit that they have been in this situation.
So when not hearing audio after patching, turn down the monitor volume to a "low
volume" while hunting down the problem.
Perfect Pitch And Relative Pitch.
In 1964 (14 years old), I met a bass player named Jim Allen. He helped my early
musical growth in a big way. Jim has "perfect pitch" which is the ability to immediately
recognize any note played, sung, or otherwise sounded. This has nothing to do with
singing "perfectly in tune" meaning singing the "exact" center of the note pitch, but is
the automatic recognition of a note(s). He would listen to a record and write down the
"chord voicings" on the first pass. I am talking about "standards" like Misty with many
chord changes. More on "chord recognition" in part two.
Since I was not born with "perfect pitch" (a genetic gift), I asked Jim if there is
way as to develop a similar tool. Jim was kind enough to teach me how to develop
The first step was to learn the relative step numbers in the "major scale". In the
key of "C" (all white notes), "C" is 1, D is 2, "E" is 3 and so on. I would play a "C" on
the piano or guitar, think (imagine) the 5th degree of the scale which is "G" and then
sing the note. I would check to see if I was correct by playing the "G". I would
practice this routine with all of the 7 degrees of the "C" major scale.
After embedding all of the 7 major scale intervals in my brain, I went on to Dominant
7'th, minor shapes, diminished shapes, augmented shapes and all of the "mode" scales as
well as the "altered chord scale shapes". The chromatic scale became easy in a short
period of time and is very helpful with all scales that have alterations.
After practicing the above for months, it was time to figure out a way to immediately
recognize the name of a pitch without any help from musical instruments.
I discovered that the lowest note I could sing was an "E". I would sing the "E", then
sing "E" up one octave. "E" is the major 3rd interval of a "C" major scale. I would now
mentally count back 2 whole steps and think/sing "C". I would play a "C" on the piano as
Lets assume that someone is testing me (using a piano) and I am not looking at the
keyboard. The reason I want to think "C" is because this is the easiest key "think in".
I would compare the "C" I am now thinking to the note played and would easily relate to
the "interval". Lets say that the interval played is a major 6th from the "C" which is
"A". I would go up the scale (mentally count and or sing intervals) to "A" which is the
6th degree of the major scale so the name of the note is "A". I would then think of "C"
again and ask for another note as to continue the practice.
After discovering the first note "named" is correct, "interval thought" is not a
problem. After a short period of time, I could name the note as soon as I heard it. I
would practice in all keys meaning singing/thinking the low "E" and immediately
transposing this note to any key. An example would be to sing the low "E", think up a
"5th" which is "B". I would then think in the key of "B" while having random notes
played on the piano or any instrument.
BTW, I have discovered that a "cold" seems to throw off the ears which is
Since I was typically working with a piano when performing the tests, I would
mentally see the piano keyboard when hearing the notes which lead to the next stage of
development. In time, I realized that if I looked a piano, I could pick out (think then
sing) any note without going through the "first note (sung "E") set up. Example. I look
at "F" and then sing the pitch.
The only problem with this concept is that I need to actually see the piano and not
just imaging the keyboard. This is something I could fix this with practice but no need
since I developed a concept that requires little thought and is very fast. The highest
note I can whistle is a "C" which allows the use of the key of "C" for the interval
Visualizing the piano keyboard requires a mental picture which is more work. With
experimentation, you will discover a "find the first note" method that works for you.
The next stage is to learn "chord shape recognition" meaning the structure of notes
within the chord. This will become easy in time. Most of you will know the names of many
chords so you will have an advantage. If you can hear the difference between a major
chord and a minor chord, you have the ears to learn all the alterations. More on this in
The work above grew into fairly accurate "relative pitch" which is very important for
playing, arranging, remembering songs or "parts" (thinking and remembering the first few
intervals) and more. If playing a live gig, and you do not know the song being performed,
using relative pitch will help teach you the song.
I have been told that "Perfect pitch" is a blessing and possible nightmare. The
blessing is, "no work regarding the note recognition process" since the brain will tell
the person the name of the note "automatically". This also may be a nightmare if the
piano (or any instrument) is extremely "out of tune" meaning that the pitch is "flat" and
stuck "between pitches". Other possibilities include a cassette machine that plays a
tape at a slower or faster speed than the machine it was recorded on which may create
the "between pitch". Transposing while "reading music" in the original key may also
cause the brain to be confused. I have been told by Jerry Hey that this problem can be
overcome with work.
A few other tricks have been realized over the years when listing to recordings. If
you are a guitar player or bass player, "open strings" have a different sound than
fretted strings. This will allow immediate note recognition. Any player that plays an
instrument which utilizes" open and fretted strings" will relate to this concept.
Guitar "open chord vocings" such as a "D chord" has a distinct sound which is easily
recognizable. A "CAPO" on the guitar may fool you. Always check using your "first note
discovery method" along with relative pitch as to be sure.
The thought process of "relative pitch" needs practice as to maintain and grow. You
can practice anywhere without an instrument which makes practicing easy and fun.
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