Microphone Love

RCA 77 ribbon mic
RCA 77 ribbon mic

I have come to realize that a healthy lust for classic microphones is something to be proud of.   It shows an appreciation for the quality of a time gone by. It indicates a romantic desire to hold a beautiful sound in one’s hand. It is one of the affinities that separates men from apes. When I was a teenager I used to enjoy listening to the crusty old local jazz pros debating the relative merits of various models of RCA ribbons like some would argue sports cars. I am afraid I was never the same. My favorite mic site:


The Many Mysteries of Rudy Van Gelder

analog tweaking
magna tweaking until the cows come home

Rudy Van Gelder is considered to be the vital ‘fifth Beetle’ on a zillion of the best jazz records ever made. Though he considers himself strictly a recording engineer, the Van Gelder sound is as signature as any great musician’s. Have you ever mucked about trying to get his sound or even kinda sorta his sound on a direct to 2 track session at home? I have and it has not been pretty. I have come to the conclusion that there are 3 main reasons for my failure:

  1. I don’t have his mikes and it is almost impossible to find out what his mikes are. He uses decoys in photos.
  2. I don’t have his room nor do I have his understanding of room acoustics.
  3. I am not Rudy Van Gelder.

If anyone can help me overcome any of the above please get in touch and I will try again.

Here is a 2008 NEA jazz interview of the man himself.

In praise of the Juno 106 Librarian

In praise of the Juno 106 Librarian
Juno 106 Librarian Screengrab

The Roland Juno 106 is a true anolog-digital hybrid swiss army knife that invites deep experimentation like few other synths I have messed with. The single DC0 per voice makes a thin reedy sound on its own but boy can you fatten it up with lowpass filter and the ridiculously fat internal stereo chorus. I have been enjoying the Juno 106 Librarian and I have to say that it is a very well coded tool. If you can run Java on your computer you can run this little app. It uses MIDI SysEx to gain full control of your 106 from the computer. The Juno 106 is one the first MIDI Rolands and one of the last synths to have a really nice gadgety control panel but I don’t have space in my little studio to have it at arm’s length at all times. Over the years I have created a bunch of libraries on tape and now it is possible to maintain these from the editor. You can prototype a bunch of sounds for a song and not worry about over tweaking them and loosing your way back -the editor can act as a version control system for the library revisions.

Sounds and Scores – Mancini

Sounds and Scores - Mancini
Sounds and Scores: Henry Mancini

This is Henry Mancini’s famous book on orchestration. Every musician should own a copy. It has been around for many years in many formats but exists now as a book with accompanying CD. Sometimes I just like listening to the example CD and reading trough the score like it is a very cool story album. Mancini is great at describing the textural effects that can be achieved with different unconventional big band/orchestral instrumentation and how that could map to certain moods or visual cues in a soundtrack. He describes the philosophy and uses of some of his signature colors like alto flute + alto sax. He also walks through single pieces with different voicing and instrumentation structures so you can hear the result of certain decisions. There are extremely cool, useful tricks to be had here that could apply to almost any style of music and this type of knowledge is also highly applicable to jazz piano voicing/comping.

PZM live piano miking

PZM live piano miking

I decided a while back that it would be fun to record my steady piano gig. I thought it would be good for my playing to listen to what I was doing after the fact and I also hoped that I just might capture the odd moment. I have a nice portable DAT machine but the problem was figuring out how to set up a couple of mikes. This is a pretty suboptimal recording situation to say the least. The room can be pretty loud. I came to the conclusion that the best way to deal with this was the trusty Realistic PZM. These were inexpensive mikes made by Crown for Radio Shack in the 80s that have maintained a loyal cult following because they sound amazingly good. I had one lying around from when I was in High School and just grabbed another one on eBay. They really do an amazing job isolating the piano if i record with these guys taped onto the lid and the lid closed. Things do sound a little “boxy” but the stereo separation is good and I think I can do some postproduction to make it sound a little less like I am playing in a coffin. Apparently you can convert these things to run on Phantom Power but I haven’t done that yet.